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Making an Indie Film Doesn’t Have to Be Miserable

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I am not crazy. Okay, maybe a little. Anyone who produces indie films has a tinge of crazy. Otherwise, they would work at a bank instead, right? It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s really fine.  I have accepted my lot in life to attempt many impossible things and succeed at maybe a couple of them. It’s a challenge I willingly accept. The adventure in making a story come to life is something that will never get old.

One of the things I love about indie filmmaking is the creative teamwork. I am knee deep in production on Mama’s Eggnog right now and every day is a new uphill battle. But you know what? I am loving every second. Although tiny (we’ve joked about a single credits card with all of our names at the end of the film), this team is nimble, smart, wildly ambitious and chock full of creativity. The amount of gratitude I have for them is hard to quantify, but falls somewhere between mammoth and mammoth².

My Indie Filmmaking Strategy

When everyone is working at low rates, I try to make sure I take care of the crew in every way I possibly can. It is super important to me. And I think it makes a huge difference.

If the crew is happy, I am happy, and right now, we are making a totally inappropriate, dark holiday film that I can’t wait to cut together. Here are just a few of the things that can go a really long way to making your  indie film crew want to stick around to day 18.

5 Things to Make an Indie Film Crew Wanna Keep Working With You

  1. Protect the people. Cast and crew should be on payroll. It protects employees if they get injured, if the production loses funding (some states will even pay for lost wages), and enables the crew to file for unemployment when the job is done.  If payroll is too daunting for you small business, try using a loan out. Makes things much easier.
  2. R-r-r- rates. This is always tricky. It is also heavily dependent on where, when and who is making your film. However, I try to take the time to understand the dynamic of the department heads and then build from there. Sometimes on an indie film, I’ve done flat rates for the entire crew. That way everyone shows up ready to be equal and all put in the work together. That  being said, I am also a firm believer in finding a way to compensate those who are pulling more than their own weight on the film. But, that seems like a whole other post. 🙂 Coming soon. No matter what try to make things fair and be transparent about how you are doing that.
  3. Food makes friends. Do whatever it takes to keep the crew hydrated, fed and thoroughly snacked. Every crew member has a different expectation of lunch and crafty, so do the best you can to spread the love across everyone. Keep hard boiled eggs and jerky aplenty, while also making sure the vegans have some fruit leather and non-dairy cheese. For lunch, find sponsors, donors, or ask for a group discount on something that may be a little out of your price range. You’ll be surprised what restaurants will do for a little repeat business. The crew loves a tasty hot lunch.
  4. Celebrate the small things. All the time. Celebrate a quick turn around. A great effort on a single take. When a crew member goes out of their way to make work better for someone else. Just making the day on a really tough one. I know a shoot is going well when at the end of the day the people who have already spent 12 or more hours together, still want to grab a beer.
  5. Communicate like it is the apocalypse. I have always found the more upfront you can be the better. Don’t shy away from being real with your crew –  they want the details and if they have them, they are more apt to do the best they can to help you make it work no matter how little moolah or how much bullshit is involved.

The bottom line is this: the more you show the crew you are committed to making things easier for them, the more they will respect and enjoy working with you. Making an indie film is by nature adventurous and fun, so whatever you can do to boost morale also elevates the level of creativity.

I’ll be sure to give you all more details about Mama’s Eggnog soon. War stories, victory stories and pitfalls abound. Next time!

If you want to stay up to date on my latest projects, follow me on Instagram @pdxalyssa – see you soon!

Alyssa Roehrenbeck

About Alyssa Roehrenbeck

Alyssa Roehrenbeck is a get-shit-done type person with a fun loving, goofy side. She believes in working hard and playing hard – at the same time. As an Actress and Producer, she began at a young age by adapting and organizing neighborhood plays based on the popular American Girls collection (yes, really). She and her pals rehearsed, constructed hodge-podge costumes and then charged parents for admission and popcorn. After graduating from studies in Theater and Business, she’s honed her skills as not only a writer and actress, but as a smart and fearless Producer. She has Produced feature films like Seaside (starring Ariana DeBose from Broadway’s, The Donna Summer Musical & Hamilton), OK KO Game Jam for Cartoon Network, Misfits (starring Paige McKenzie) for Disney’s Free Period, and loads of web series and viral content, including The Drunk Show. For more information and current projects, head over to Deep Sea Pictures.