There are lots of books out there on no-budget film making. They all say pretty much the same thing. Write for what you’ve got. If you have access to a cool location, use it. If you have an awesome actor friend, base your story around them. Keep it simple, stupid. – As I take this advice to heart I also have a few ways that I am facing the up-hill-battle with my own strategy. First of all, instead of keeping it to one location, I’ve decided it’s better to break it up into five locations. Why? Simply because you should never put all your eggs in one basket. Especially when you have a film crew and a ton of gear trampling through said basket for several weeks.
Keeping the cast small – all the books tell you this is the most appropriate way to make a feature for no money. The less people the better. While I definitely agree with this, the best part about living in Los Angeles is that everyone here is an actor. There are many many talented actors in my circle of friends. So while I wouldn’t advise shooting a scene like the battle from Braveheart with no money, if you can assemble a great ensemble cast who knows up front what they’re getting themselves into, take advantage of that. That’s my plan at least!
My last little tid bit of advice (which at this point you can take with a grain of salt) is: Don’t rush it. Write. Rewrite. Get notes. Take constructive criticism. Read it aloud. Ask yourself questions: Is the audience ahead of me, behind me or are we going at the same pace? Does this feel fluid? If I didn’t write this how would I feel about it? You’re not the best writer in the world, even if you are. Take. Your. Time. If your script isn’t solid, your film won’t stand a chance.
Now that’s out of the way let me tell you a little more about my project. It’s still untitled as of right now. After much thought and consideration I decided to work in a strange, rarely explored sub-genre of neo-noir and horror combined. I am a sucker for the classics; „Scarlet Street“, „The Postman Always Rings Twice“, „The Maltese Falcon“ etc. I am an extremely visual director and I felt that shooting a noir inspired film really suited my style and abilities to create dynamic images. All while creating my own world so that I don’t have to adhere to the rules of traditional storytelling (helping me save money while giving myself a lot of production value in front of the camera).
But of course, my heart is always in horror. There have been some wonderful cross-overs into these two genres namely the early work of my hero, Dario Argento and especially in Korean cinema with films like „Oldboy“ and „I Saw the Devil“. Beyond that, my inspirations going into this project are „Irreversible“, „ Memento“, „Brick“ and „Drive“.
Above and below: Ama and John trying to come up with something.
I am not the strongest writer in the world. I will be the first to admit that. Therefore I tend to almost always work with a partner. I am a good collaborator and come up with the atmosphere and a lot of the plot in my films but I know very well that there are people out there who are a lot whittier with the pen and paper than I. For this film, I knew that a good friend of mine, John Humphrey, was a hardcore noir writer. He just kills it with the gritty stuff.
So I turned to him and asked if he wanted to go for a ride on this crazy train. He obliged. We’ve spent weeks so far getting the details worked out. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t still many kinks left in our chain but we’re getting there. So here’s to all of you who are doing the very same thing right now – late night cups of coffee, running over dialogue in your head until you turn blue, and tap tap tapping away on those lap top keys. I wish you all success in your own journeys. Thank you for following me as I venture on mine!
I leave you with a little snippet of what’s to come:
“Judging by that coat in the distance, lady liberty’s not too keen on me stretching my legs again. Ain’t been an hour and she’s already scuffing up my boot heels lookin to tan my behind. Baby you can have it, but at least do me the courtesy of putting in a little effort. Gimme a chance to fall in the mud before you run in to hose me down.”
Read all of Ama Lea’s adventures so far – and more:
- Catching up with Ama Lea: Introduction to a filmmaker’s diary
- Ama Lea’s Production Diary, Day 1
- Ama Lea’s Production Diary, Day 3
- Boobs! Blood! Lesbians! Ama Lea goes Giallo
- Unsettling first trailer for Ama Lea’s Neo-Giallo
- Ama Lea puts the M in Mermaid
[Photo Credits: Ama Lea]