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Screenwriting Goals & Plans

What is the Filmmaking GOAL?

The first step is to ask yourself the simple question: Why am I doing this?

  • To have some weekend fun?
  • To express myself artistically as an independent filmmaker?
  • To make a living as a filmmaking professional?
  • To live a rich and glamorous life?
  • To change the world by making films with a message?

Look into your heart and think about the things you really care about. There is no wrong answer and your goal may change over time but it is important to try to come up with an answer to this simple question. Then post it somewhere that you will see it often.

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Becoming a filmmaker requires dedication and you aren't going to do it unless the goal is something you really want.

You might want to write it out as a "mission statement" as some filmmakers recommend.

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What is Your Filmmaking PLAN?

Now that you know where you want to go with filmmaking you can start to plan how to get there.

On this site I assume that you want to learn how to be a successful independent filmmaker making films that are both artistically satisfying and financially successful.

I am about to describe the simple plan that has been used in some variation by most of the successful independent filmmakers in the business. You can use it as a starting point to develop your own plan. (And now there's an even easier way that I'll let you in on very soon.)

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The Truth About Filmmaking Success

4Filmmaking.com

I would be dishonest if I didn't warn you that a lot of people who say they want to be filmmakers don't succeed. The difference between those who make it and those who don't isn't talent, it isn't connections, it isn't university degrees. The difference is persistence. People who fail are the ones who don't want success enough to take action.

You will have to pursue your filmmaking goals, make the most of your talents, keep going despite occasional setbacks and maybe have a bit of luck along the way.

The Traditional Plan to Success as an Independent Filmmaker

Step 1 is to create a series of very short films while you study, take classes, read books, meet other filmmakers and generally do everything you can to get smart and find filmmaking collaborators.

Your films will be three to ten minute short films that you can film in a day or two on a weekend, starting with just your friends and the bribe of free food and drink at the end of the day.

Making movies involves many skills and many people working together. That's why you need to be looking for collaborators, other smart and talented people who share your filmmaking dreams and compliment your skills.

The first step is all about learning the nuts and bolts of filmmaking.

Step 2 is to create better and better short films until you have one good enough to get you film festival exposure.

This will begin to get you noticed, give you more opportunities to network with fellow filmmakers gaining more collaborators, and get a sense of audience reaction to your films.

You'll observe that acquisition agents follow the festival circuit to buy the best indie films from the most talented filmmakers.

This second step is about expanding your artistic filmmaking horizons and learning how indie films get marketed.

Step 3 is to keep developing better and better story ideas until everyone you know is convinced you have a Great Idea.

The Great Idea has to be a story that can be filmed inexpensively. You write it into a compelling feature length screenplay.

You will also create a brilliant short version drawn from the feature screenplay that can be made for what you can pay out of your own pocket. You will show this short version at festivals and to anyone who might consider financing the feature length version.

This short film is a calling-card, a teaser and marketing tool to convince investors of how wonderful you are so they will pay you to turn your Great Idea into the Great Movie.

Step 4 is to make the movie, show it at festivals to great acclaim, sell it to distributors, and watch it become a huge success.

At the same time you will need to be developing additional ideas so you always have an answer to the question, "What's the next project?"

After step 4 you will be on the map and you will get phone calls from people who wouldn't have given you the time of day last week but now they want to talk about financing your next project.

A variation on this plan is to skip making the short film version by coming up with a brilliantly clever feature film that can be shot so inexpensively that you don't need big financing.

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Does This Plan Work?

If you look in the Internet Movie Database you will see that George Lucas began by making five very short films that almost nobody has seen.

Useful Sites for Filmmakers
Must Have!

The Internet Movie Database has more basic information for filmmakers on movies than any other source. Searcheable info on full cast/crew, plots, reviews, ratings, new movies/DVDs, best movies by genre, advice to filmmakers and a whole lot more. This one needs to be in your bookmarks.

Then while in film school he made a 15 minute science fiction short called Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB. The film won first prize in the National Student Film Festival.

That helped him win a scholarship to work with Francis Ford Coppola at Warner Brothers. They became friends, formed a company together and the first film they made was the feature length version of THX 1138.

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The small success of this film helped him get financing to make American Graffiti. The larger success of American Graffiti got him financing to make Star Wars.

Now George Lucas is the most financially successful independent filmmaker in the world.

Here are some other examples of filmmakers who used the same plan for success:

  • Steven Soderbergh created his short film Winston to gain financing for his first hit film Sex, Lies and Videotape.
  • Wes Anderson create his short film Bottle Rocket to gain financing for the feature length version of Bottle Rocket.
  • Jared & Jerusha's short film Peluca got them $500,000 in financing to expand it into Napoleon Dynamite.
  • Christopher Nolan figured out how to make the feature film Following on a tiny budget which only had limited distribution but got him financing for his hit film Memento.
  • Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez made the feature film Blair Witch Project on a minuscule budget, but didn't have a follow-up plan to take advantage of their first enormous hit.

In a nutshell The Plan involves learning how to be an independent filmmaker on a very small budget until the quality of your work convinces others to invest in you so you can make the bigger movies that bring bigger success.

The New Plan to Success as an Independent Filmmaker (updated 2015)

Step 1 is to learn the few basic skills necessary to understand how films are made and marketed.

Step 2 is to write or find a great story idea and turn it into a screenplay.

Step 3 is to plan the production, find your actors and colaborators, and put together a great crowdfunding proposal to get the money you will need.

Step 4 is to produce your film.

Step 5 is to distribute your film using any of the myriad of options available for today's indie filmmakers.

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