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Just make films

Filmmaker Mark Duplass gave a rousing keynote at the SXSW festival in Austin. He covered a lot of ground in the speech, as reported in Indiewire here. The key one is number 1: make a three dollar short film.

“Technology is so cheap. There’s no excuse for not making short films on the weekend with your friends. We had a film we shot on an iPhone at Sundance this year that sold to Magnolia [“Tangerine,” directed by Sean Baker]. Our first film starred me. It was called “Vince Del Rio.” We spent $65,000 on this movie and it was a steaming pile of dog diarrhoea. We almost gave up making movies. [Jay] was depressed. I was slightly less depressed. All we had was our parents’ video camera, which had a dead pixel in the middle of it. I said, “I’m gonna get a tape.” Twenty minutes later, Jay said he couldn’t get his answering machine message right and recorded it a hundred times. I said, “That’s great. It’s us.” So we shot one 20-minute improvised take. We edited it down to seven minutes. Our friend David Zellner said, “You should just submit this around to festivals.”

That three-dollar movie was our first to get into Sundance. It changed everything for us. We realised that it doesn’t matter what your movie looks like. I recommend making one of these every weekend with your smartest group of friends. They don’t have to be film people, just charismatic. It should be one scene, five minutes, and ideally comedic, because those program well at festivals. Your first ones are going to suck. Probably. They’ll be like a little nugget you can show your friends. Then you hone in on that little giggle. Somewhere you’re going to discover you have something unique to offer.”

It’s really valuable advice. Just make films. So many people are obsessed with getting funding to make features when they haven’t really learnt the ropes. And so many people think they can’t shoot anything unless they spend thousands on a camera. It’s not technology or money that matters: it’s ideas.