As I close my eyes before I go to sleep, the hours of footage I studied earlier that day replays in my head over and over again. The interview sound bites are imprinted in my mind as I piece them together on an imaginary timeline. The time codes continuously keep moving like the opening title in the Matrix. The characters come to life, but this time, in sequence. Little moments, tucked away in the footage, pop into and out of my mind while a Thomas Newman movie soundtrack plays on my make believe shuffle. The story is now a part of who I am, and I've accepted my new identity.
Each and every filmmaker out there is a dreamer. We live in reality, but in our minds, we live in an array of make believe worlds where our wildest ideas are not impossible. Our characters come to life and they act and think exactly how we want them to. We are able to explore these worlds without the burden of budgets, contracts, and deadlines. The mind is the pathway where our films cross over into reality.
In 2014, I went out with a few of my friends and made a 12-minute documentary film called, "To Be Strong", about a young man named Anthony Daniels who is fighting Lymphoma for the third time while training to be a boxer.
At the time, we had a barely had any money to support ourselves, let alone enough money to make a film so we crowd funded $2500 from friends and family. We knew right off the bat that we had a great story; we just needed to go out and make it happen.
We shot most of the interviews in my living room and basement when my mom wasn't home. Production equipment such as tripods, lighting stands, and cameras were placed on bath towels, inches away from fragile china cabinets that have been in the family for generations. If my mom knew that her home was being turned upside down into an interview set, she would not be happy.
It's easy to lose sight of the end goal when you are in the midst of making your first film. No one knows who you are, you are fighting against the grain, and it feels like all of the elements are working against you. It took us three months to get the film in the can and another three months to storyboard, script and edit. We didn't have a fancy editing suite; we had a laptop and a room in my basement that I turned into a makeshift studio.
Knowing that most people get their content from the web, we decided to put the film on YouTube. Our main goal was to get America's eyeballs on the film. We spent the next 6 months emailing every news organization and sending press packets to every company that we thought would get behind the film.
Before you go on reading, watch our short film, "Flying Under the Radar". It will give you a behind the scenes look into the social impact of our film, "To Be Strong." Our goal was to motivate and inspire young filmmakers to go out, grab a camera and tell a story that they are passionate about.
I am currently co-directing and producing a feature-length documentary entitled, "Epidemic H" about addiction in America. What I've learned during the filmmaking process is that when you are making your film, you really end up making three films. The one you think you're going to make, the one you shoot, and the one you end up with. Right now, we are on film number two.
I firmly believe that there is no "right way" to make an independent film. Everyone has a different story, a different workflow, and different ideas. The creative mind has the ability to work in very unorthodox, yet brilliant ways. Whichever way it works for us, we have to embrace it.
Go out and make your film.