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FILMMAKER: Brittany Nisco
STORY: Making Your First Feature Film, Part 1: Getting the Idea, Your Team, & Celebrating Wins
It’s July 2015 and I’m on my way home from shooting a music video. Driving out of NYC, my mind wanders while waiting for the construction traffic to clear out. And that’s when I decide I’m going to make a feature length movie.
Now, before I go into this, a little bit about me. I’ve never made a movie over 15 minutes. I worked in TV in NYC for a couple years at a few different networks. I was a PA for a documentary company, made a couple shorts that were in small festivals, and presented a panel at the BEA festival. I started my own production company a couple years ago making music videos, shorts, and corporate videos.
Ok great. A feature. Got the idea. Now what?
Wait, What’s This Movie About?
The movie we’re working on deals with family dynamics when faced with a crisis, specifically siblings who are still holding onto decades of tension. Their past continually creeps in while they try to understand not only what has happened to their parents, but who they are now and who they thought they would be. Their parents, on the other hand, are obliviously blissful…and nowhere to be found.
Getting Into The Thick Of It
I knew I had to do two things: research ultra-low budget movie production and get my team together.
I don’t get nervous about things, but I was super nervous to ask these five guys that I’ve worked with for years now, to make this movie with me.
They’re no strangers to my nonstop ideas for videos; the majority of my texts are the ramblings of an idea followed with, "is this a good idea or I am going crazy?" But I believed in this new project and hoped they would too, ignoring the tiny voice in the back of my head saying “I don’t know if you can pull this off.”
The first meeting with the team was in October 2015. I didn’t even tell them what I was getting them together for exactly. I just said I had a new idea for a movie. After a few hours of talking the project out, everyone agreed to be in.
To say I felt relieved would be an understatement. I am continually grateful for have such an amazing team of guys who always believe in me. I also have a young lady who is interested in movies, working on this project. I believe if you can impart knowledge to someone younger, who is willing to learn and wants to learn, then you need to. I am so happy to have her along for the journey as well. My first big win.
I was researching a lot of what I needed in the script. But I also started researching first time ultra-low budget filmmakers who were successful with their first feature.
Success in these terms meant someone who got their film into one of the major festivals and/or got a VOD deal and/or limited release in major cities. I emailed a bunch of these directors who I found and was lucky enough to get a few responses back. One in particular explained to me his entire process of where he started and where he ended up, including all the good and bad in-between pre and post production. Win.
A big piece of advice was to get interns. I went to my alma mater and met with the head of the department and got the information I would need for having interns on set. This felt like a big win and at that point felt that this movie could really get made. That was a win.
On to sound. I knew it was too early to hire anyone for sound, but wanted to get some insight on who/what I should be looking for. None of my team does sound, and if you don’t have sound, you don’t have anything. Once again, cold-contacted someone in the field who’s been working for awhile and has been very successful, and who spoke with me and answered all the questions we had. Another win.
The next step was finishing up the script. To be honest, besides the script I had to write in college, I never wrote a feature length script. So the first draft was written and sent to the team. I heard nothing back. I worked on the second draft and sent that out. Then I heard some not so great feedback and that’s exactly what I needed. Now I’m currently in a big overhaul of the script and so far everyone seems to like it better. Just as life, it’s a work in progress.
Getting An Early Audience
We just had a soft launch of our movie’s social media on Facebook, Twitter, and our website. We’re figuring out ways to gain a bigger audience before doing an official launch of it all. You need to build a rapport with your audience before asking people for money. Never go straight to asking for money.
Now that some of the ground work was in motion, it was time to concentrate on the Kickstarter. Originally it looked like we could make the movie for around $50,000. More and more things got added in and now we’re looking at around $100,000. Woah.
We’re still on track to launch our 30 day Kickstarter in April 2016 and film for approximately 15 days in September 2016. The biggest pro so far has been a team who I can rely on for everything. The biggest con so far is that we’re all working other jobs right now. I donate every single free second to working on something about this movie (and sending texts to my team at 3am asking them what they think about my ideas for some aspect of the movie).
There’s your overview of the past seven months. We’ll get more in depth as time goes on because there’s a lot to talk about and a lot to happen (like the LLC registration, the budget, investor meetings, the ongoing script rewrites, and us maintaining our sanity while trying to raise $100,000).
The more we do for this movie, the more there is to do for it. I’m happy to take you along for the journey so we can all discover what worked, what didn’t, and why.
Remember to celebrate every small win throughout the process. It’ll make your day-to-day better. You’ll realize you’ve made progress. And it’ll motivate you to keep going for more wins.
Good thing there’s an extra day in February, we’re going to need it.
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