A concept can be the hardest part of a film.
A concept can be the easiest part of a film.
I’ve always loved owning notebooks. There’s something about them I find pleasing and I have countless of them filled with ideas. Some are fully fledged and planned, some are a simple idea or scene that could spark a film, some are even just a couple of lines evoking an atmosphere. It’s hard to force yourself to come up with an idea, an experience I found very frustrating while studying. Without wanting to sound pretentious and arty, it’s often better to let the ideas come to you and it’s generally what I do. Something I see, hear or read might get me thinking of a new idea and send me down a new route. Most of these ideas don’t make it past the conception stage; sometimes because I don’t know where else to take it, sometimes because I see something similar and sometimes, well, just because in the cold light of day, it’s downright crap. Plus, I very much fall fowl of not writing as many ideas down as I should. I’m hoping I haven’t forgotten any masterpieces along the way.
Money makes the world go round. This is reality for an independent, low budget filmmaker. You’re always battling to stretch every pound and push what you have beyond the limits of how far it should be pushed. The realism is that people aren’t queuing up to give money to early twenty year old filmmakers so they can make short films that aren’t going to make anybody any money. Shocking, I know. There are funding bodies but, understandable so, they have strict criteria and agendas as to who and what is going to get their money. Writing a screenplay is hard. It’s sometimes hard to motivate yourself to write. A screenplay is a blueprint for a film, it isn’t the finished product, it’s simply the fist step, although an integral one. You can make a bad film from a good script but you’ll never make a good film from a bad script. So writing without any prospects of getting your film made, any prospects of getting money that is to say, can be difficult as there’s never a sense of full completion. It’s a shame that money is such an issue. There are ways to make films without it but it’s also painful to compromise your ideas because you can’t afford to do what you intended. It’s a balancing act, yet generally, at some point, you are going to need a few bills in your pocket to make what you’ve got in your head.
Sadly, this is where letting concepts come naturally to you can be a bad strategy. If you’re going to wait around for an idea to present itself, that also happens to appear at the same time a funding organisation happens to be taking applications for a piece of work around the subject matter of your concept, then you’re going to be waiting rather a long time. Sometimes you have to force the concept.
And it’s hard. It doesn’t feel natural and it can lead to some really really bad writing. It can lead to jumbled, incoherent stories. It can lead to messages getting lost. But, hopefully, at the end of it all you’ll have an idea, a concept, that is worth it. A concept that can become a script that, in turn, can become a film.
A concept can be the easiest part of a film. Sometimes it simply presents itself to you on a silver platter, it comes out of nowhere and you can ‘see’ it right there in front of you.
A concept can be the hardest part of a film. Sometimes you know what you want to say, you just have no idea how to say it.
I had an idea of what I wanted to say with my latest film, it would take me weeks to realise the best way to tell it. It would take a couple of ideas, several drafts of each, debates over story with my Producer and some wild fantasies thrown in for good measure, but now I think I’m on to the best thing I’ve ever written.
This is my story, my experience, of getting a film made, from conception to (hopefully) completion.
You can find me on twitter at @MJHall94