indie filmmaking


After last week’s pointedly inflammatory ‘rant’, (when measured but pointed jabs count as rants what do we call true invective these days? Fuck knows.), here’s something closer to home.


What is the fear exactly?

It happens when you reach set for the first time on a big job. It happens when you first turnover. It happens when you call wrap.

It is the gaping chasm between knowing what you wanted to deliver and what you now believe is the likely end result. It’s the gaping chasm between the architectural wonder your mind sketched miraculously into your imagination and the fragile house of cards production’s real world engineering predicts must fail.

Here lurks the fear.

Robert McKee, he of STORY fame, barks relentlessly about the gap between expectation and result in his three day seminar. It is the fundamental tension at the heart of the dramatic experience. It is also the fundamental tension at the heart of the filmmaking experience.

If you have never experienced the fear then you are not a good filmmaker. Filmmaking demands knowledge, demands understanding, demands intellect. It is impossible to free yourself from the fear if you have developed these.

Some directors like to plan everything in advance, storyboard relentlessly, tie down every unknown, every variable, to a glittering tapestry. I would argue that their work can sometimes feel stale and unspontaneous. But that is a matter of taste. Personally I like to feel as if I’ve built a vast high dive platform. It takes a lot of effort to get up there but once up there you have to take a leap. How artfully and creatively you return to the ground is about your ability to manage the Fear.

This year, and only this year, I’ve learned to truly embrace it. To know that the Fear is my friend. The Fear is where my best work is to be found. Staring down problems and using them as creative spurs. I like the Fear because when I feel it I know I’m taking risks, I’m doing things where there is no best practice, there is no easy answer and that means I can make it entirely mine.

All I see on Vimeo is copycat filmmaking these days. Somewhere in oversupplying tutorials, reviews, blogs and how-tos we’ve ripped away the dangerous, hideous, self-destructive furnace of unknowing that resides in the Fear. It’s just too easy to get an identikit parrot ready supply of just-like him/her. Switch it off. Switch it all fucking off.

Take away the Fear and we take away originality, honesty and quality.

Embrace that chill-fingered wraith for he is your friend and when you dance the tango of first cuts, audience screenings and intransigent cast, remember that if you really are as good as you think you are, those moments will drive you to greater exploits than you have ever known.