Indie Film – What we can learn off Alfred Hitchcock.

January 21, 2013 by · Comments Off on Indie Film – What we can learn off Alfred Hitchcock. 

On Saturday Night I saw the film “Hitchcock”.   I learnt a few things about the making of Psycho which of course became Alfred Hitchcock’s most successful film.  Yes Psycho was made rather like an indie film is made today.

At the start of the film, Alfred Hitchcock has just completed North by Northwest. As he has just turned 60, he was seeking a fresh challenge. He read a book about a ruthless psychopath who killed his mother and decided to take on the challenge of making a film that replicates this story.

However, everyone including his wife thought that it was a bad idea to make the film. No studio wanted to fund the film even thought at the time of the story, he is one of Hollywood’s best directors.

He decides to put his house up as collateral and funds the film himself for around $800,00 with Paramount agreeing to distribute the film at the end.

Back in 1960. why was there so much resistance to the film? Because Alfred Hitchcock decided to kill off his leading lady half way into the film. Nobody ever had done this before. The experts all said that Hitchcock should not kill off his stories hero half way through the film. The experts all said the film would be a flop.  Yet the film became a mega hit film.

The experts of course got it wrong. There are many experts out there particularly in the script area who like to make scripts into mathematical  formulae.  Ironically, some of the biggest successes are films that break all the rules. Think of Pulp Fiction, Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now and just recently The Life of Pi. The Life of Pi takes place on the ocean with a tiger and one man for most of its narrative. Try pitching that particular story.

Breaking the rules and creating something passionately fresh seems to be a risky strategy worth perusing. Not only that , its lots of fun. That is why Indie film and the online marketing strategies of VOD are opening up the opportunities to create fresh original material.  For the audience, fresh films remain in the memory a long time.

The Studios hated Psycho so much that they only opened the film on two screens in Los Angeles. Hitchcock gathered his troops and created one of the best marketing campaigns. He went on the radio, started controversies related to the film. The whole country heard about the film and when it opened, there were lines around the block. The first screening was such a massive success, the expert suits at Paramount had to eat humble pie and expand the film to a major release. Of course the film became a massive success and the defining film of Hitchcock’s career.

Yes there is a lot to learn from the now late master film maker. He still had an indie heart at age60.

Hitchcock’s Rules

1 When you believe in a story, go for it and ignore the naysayer

2 Decide you are going to make the film and attract the resources like a magnet.

3 If you heart feels the story needs it, break the rules and create something fresh and original.

4 Market outside the box. Make sure the world hears about your film and get as many eyeballs to see your work as possible.

One of the directions we are taking at Australian Film Base is encouraging Film Makers to go for different material that they are passionate about. Learn film the indie way at one of our Four Month Film Schools or our One Week Film School in the Gold Coast.

One Action you need to take if you want to write great screenplays.

January 14, 2013 by · Comments Off on One Action you need to take if you want to write great screenplays. 

Sometimes I hear certain script gurus say.
“If you have a great screenplay, you have a great film. Just point a camera now and the rest is easy”
For those of us who actually make films, we know this axiom is not true. Making a successful film requires an inordinate amount of diligent work, talent and commitment.

However, it is true that if you start with a  bad script, you will never make a great film. This will be the case even if you have the best cast, a huge budget and every film making tool available to you. Look at Jack and Jill, one of Adam Sandlers efforts and you will see a prize example of this.  Without a great script, you are dead in the water with no chance of making a film successful.

What I am going to advise now is very important for Film Directors Producers and Writers and the emerging film maker. I always recommend reading screenplays. If one reads a screenplay a week from a successful  film, ones screenwriting skills will dramatically improve. Even if you do not intend to write scripts, by doing the above you will recognize and discover awesome screenplays. This will in turn set the foundation right to make a great film.

People are often skeptical when I mention this technique. They seem to think that reading great scripts can not improve your screenwriting skills.

What do great novelists recommend to up and coming writers?  Read novels. Read as many as you can. So for the budding screenwriter producer or director, read screenplays This will improve your screenwriting  ability.

I have seen it with many past students who have started with very weak screenplays and then improved significantly after reading five screenplays. Their dialogue is stronger and the language they use to make the reader want more, works vicariously.

It is also fun to read famous movie screenplays of movies that you have not seen. Then watch the film after you have read the screenplay. This is a great exercise as you imagine the movie and then actually see a Film Directors interpretation of the screenplay after you have read the screenplay. You see who they have cast how they have shot it, edited the film and how they have added music. All up this is a wonderful training for any up and coming film maker.

How much does this cost? Nothing. It’s free.

There is a film site called Drew Script O’Rama. They have thousands of  free screenplays. However the site does have annoying adds so you will have a job avoiding pop ups and in your face adds. I have no affiliation with them, but it is a great site to get free screenplays, download them and read them.

So what makes a great script. It is  an area that we intend to create an awesome workshop this year. We will at some point have a 12 week screenplay workshop where you write a screenplay as you attend the workshop.

Woody Allen

Generally if you set a page schedule of 3 pages per day 15 pages per week, you will have a completed screenplay in 7 weeks. So with 5 weeks preparation and 7 weeks writing the screenplay,  this workshop will be a very productive 12 weeks. The workshop will teach you so much about writing screenplays while at the same time giving you focus discipline and a writing network. So keep an eye out for the workshop later in the year on our International Film Base

Till next week, have a great one

Colm O’Murchu – Director