Things I Learnt: The Dos and Don’ts of an Indie Filmmaker


Raindance Film Festival

28 Sept – 9 Oct 2011

Apollo + Cineworld Haymarket, London

Raindance website

British supernatural-tinged gambling neo-noir Flutter screens at the Raindance Film Festival on October 5. It is director Giles Borg’s second film, following last year’s bittersweet indie comedy 1234. Below he shares his tips for surviving the life of an indie filmmaker.

I had been working making TV, commercials and shorts for 15 years before I made my first feature but still nothing prepared me for what that first week was like. I felt like I’d been hit by a train, every day was just a barrage of questions and decisions to be made and it never seemed to stop. At night I’d dream I was on set so I’d wake up tired, feeling that I’d already done my day’s work. Even though I knew it was coming it was pretty much the same on my second film, Flutter, although the bigger budget did mean I got a lift to set every day rather than taking the bus as I did on 1234. Having said that, I’d do it all again in an instant, it really is the best fun I’ve ever had, but here are a few things I discovered during what seemed like the longest weeks of my life.

Look calm. Even if inside you’re screaming, outwardly look relaxed. If you look calm, everyone else relaxes. If you start screaming, so will they (probably).

Prepare. The more preparation you do before going on set the better. When you’ve nailed all the mundane stuff beforehand you’ll be in a much better situation, mentally, to react when it all goes tits up. Because at some point it will.

The director and the DoP are quality control on set. Let the 1st AD worry about keeping to the schedule, let the producer worry about the budget, you and the DoP are there to make sure everything that goes on film is the very best it can be, the shots and the acting. Just think about making those amazing and let other people worry about their jobs.

Without actors you’re nothing. If there’s a close-up on your actor and the audience looks in his eyes and doesn’t believe what they see then you might as well have not bothered. Spend time with your actors, they’re your greatest resource. Work on ideas with them, take their input, they’re going to live these characters on screen for you, make sure you let them own them. Give them the space they need and they’ll reward you handsomely.

There are no such things as stupid questions. Those two leather jackets may look pretty similar to you, but costume have been thinking long and hard about it and they need you to make a choice, and that choice will affect how the rest of the wardrobe looks. Lots of other people have work to do that can only be done when you’ve made your choice, so give it some thought. And if you get it wrong it’ll only annoy you every time you see it on screen. And it’ll be your fault.

Be nice to everyone. You could shout at people and not bother learning anyone’s name and they’d still work really hard, but really, you’re only making a film, not bringing peace to the Middle East, so try not to act like a twat.

Flutter screens on Wednesday 5 October at the Apollo. More information on the Raindance website.