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How to Direct a Micro-Budget Feature with William Dickerson
Today on the show we have an author, filmmaker and screenwriter Willaim Dickerson. William is the author of the book DETOUR: Hollywood: How To Direct a Microbudget Film (or any film, for that matter). In “DETOUR: Hollywood,” Dickerson puts the making of his “Underground Hit,” Detour, on display for all to see. He will teach you what you really need to know about making a microbudget film, or a film of any budget for that matter, from the nuts and bolts of directing, to getting your movie made and out into the world, including:
The Director as the sole defense for the story
- Understanding the two main ingredients of filmmaking: Subtext and Point of View
- Beating out a script
- The template for creating the perfect Director’s Binder
- Action Verbs: How to adjust performance through severity and mildness
- Avoiding the trap of “style over substance”
- The importance of Theme
- Detailed “behind-the-scenes” of the Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production, and Distribution of Detour
- How the distribution model has changed…for the better
William and I had a great conversation on how he put together his micro-budget feature. We go deep into the process so get ready to take notes.
Enjoy my conversation with Willaim Dickerson.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- DETOUR: Hollywood: How To Direct a Microbudget Film (or any film, for that matter).
- No Alternative
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Netflix for Filmmakers and Screenwriters)
- IFH Store (Indie Film Hustle Merch Store)
- William Dickerson – Twitter
- William Dickerson – IMDB
- Soundstripe.com – Find the Perfect Song for Your Project (DISCOUNT CODE: IFH – 10% discount off of a membership)
- BlackBox – Make Passive Income From Your Footage
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Indie Film into a Moneymaking Business
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Alex Ferrari’s Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
REAL-WORLD STREAMING FILM EDUCATION
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Film Education)
- Hollywood Film School: Filmmaking & TV Directing Masterclass
- Filmmaker in a Box – Learn How to Make an Indie Film – 18 Hours+ of Lessons
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
- Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
Alex Ferrari 0:01
Now today's show has William Dickerson, the author of detour Hollywood how to direct a micro budget film. Now why don't have William on because he wrote this awesome book about how he directed his first micro budget film. And I wanted to get in the weeds a bit to show the tribe, what the nuts and bolts of actually shooting a micro budget film actually looks like. And William has an amazing perspective on it as well. He's done multiple movies like this. And he did it because he was tired of waiting for other people to give him permission to make his movie. So I thought it would be extremely inspirational, as well as extremely informational for the tribe. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with William Dickerson. I'd like to welcome the show William Dickerson. Man, thank you so much for coming on the show.
William Dickerson 4:16
I'm really happy to be here.
Alex Ferrari 4:18
Thanks, man. There's, there's there's few other micro budget gurus out there that I like that I can talk to. So thank you for hopefully coming in and dropping some bombs on the knowledge bombs on the tribe today.
William Dickerson 4:30
I hope to drop a few.
Alex Ferrari 4:32
So first and foremost, why in god's green earth did you get into this business?
William Dickerson 4:36
Oh, gosh, I mean, you know, I don't think it's that uncommon. My my rationale. I mean, I've just loved movies and I grew up in a time you know where I was talking to someone the other day about how lucky I am to while I'm 39 years old, and as a kid I grew up with, you know Steven Spielberg movies and then in my teenage years It was the explosion of you know, an alternative and grunge rock and I then became a musician. So it's like these two tremendous art forms that informed my life music and movies, I felt that I just sort of was there at the right age at the right time to be influenced by these waves. And from that point, I was like, I have to, I have to express myself through through art. And it's through primarily through through movies that that sort of hooked me.
Alex Ferrari 5:27
And then what made you jump into the micro budget world of filmmaking and kind of doing things outside of the Hollywood system? Did you ever try to get invited to the party and got kicked out?
William Dickerson 5:38
Oh, yeah, I mean, yeah, I indeed, I did. I mean, I went to grad school. For film at the American Film Institute. I graduated in 2006. Very fancy, very fancy. Yeah. Well, you know, but then, of course, I thought, well, I got the good world in my hand. Good.
Alex Ferrari 5:58
Good. I have a fire on my resume. Where just Where's the money? I just where's it come on?
William Dickerson 6:03
Exactly. And I haven't got it, you know, quote, unquote, a hot short film, and they come out of there. And literally, as I'm trying to say, you know, assimilate myself into the into Hollywood. The writer strike happened.
Alex Ferrari 6:15
Oh yes. I remember that very, very well.
William Dickerson 6:18
Yeah. which lasted? I mean, I think about two years. I mean, it was really a tough time.
Alex Ferrari 6:23
It was it was a we call that the dark times it gives seriously It was a rough rough time in Hollywood. Yeah,
William Dickerson 6:28
It was and I was you know, I wasn't in a any guild but what happened was like my scripts, no one would look at them just like well, we can't is complete shutdown. So as far as trying to get yourself a job in the industry is really difficult to get me as writer. So that that was sort of like, Okay, I'm sitting on my hands for a year, I got to do something. And that's where the idea of micro budget film came into play. Because like, you know, what, I got a, I know how to do this. But how can I can I do it myself? Is that is that actually realistic? And so my writing partner, I decided to write with budget in mind, which you know, film professors tell you to never do. But we're okay. What can we do with like, one, one guy, one location. And that's what that's how a detour came about, which is my first film about a guy, an advertising executive who was trapped in his car during a mudslide. So logistically, manageable, right, very, but But of course, to go back to your question, it turned out to be a pretty decent script. And it could be done for nothing by nothing. I mean, what 1015 grand if I you know, beg, borrow and steal, but this person liked it. That person like suddenly Hollywood sort of put its put its hands around its throat and said, okay, we can give you a million dollars. And we have this famous person who's interested in that famous person. So, of course, I was tempted, I was like, you know, I could make this movie for nothing with you know, my friends, or I can tread down this path of enticement and see where it leads. And what it led to was three years of, you know, deals that went nowhere.
Alex Ferrari 7:59
I'm absolutely shocked. I can't believe that has happened. It's so rare in Hollywood. I get I've did that for 20 years. I'm not I'm not even joking. You I did. I wasn't as smart as you. I kept chasing the carrot, and chasing the carrot and meetings and meetings. And yeah, and there's like, it's just around the corner. It's just around the corner. And it I decided no always is.
William Dickerson 8:24
I mean, it's, it was tough, because, you know, I mean, again, it was right out of school, he felt similarly like, oh, man, this person's interested. And that's great. And having these great meetings, everyone loves it, but I'm sure sure, sure, sure. Yeah, it just the money's just doesn't come through, or they pull out at the last minute. And you spent all this time working for nothing, by the way,
Alex Ferrari 8:42
Of course, obviously, obviously, no one's gonna pay you for development. That's no, no, of course not. That's so you went down this whole road and you you figured out after three years that this is not
William Dickerson 8:54
About time you know, I better either I'm doing it or I'm not doing it I'm and the good thing is that I wrote, I always knew that I wrote this thing to make for nothing. And that gave me a lot of courage and strength to say, you know what, I don't I don't need Hollywood to do this. It's it's fun and interesting that these people are interested but I'm just gonna, she's gonna do it all at once I made that decision. Everything fell into place. You know, we made a made a proof of concept for the film, which is just myself, the actor Neil Hopkins and my dp Rob Creech, who I went to ephi with and we just shot it in his garage in his car. So I took it around to some, you know, a small financier's or just people who are just in the film, like this is what I'm what I can do. This is the actor that I want. He's, you know, very compelling in the role, and we're able to raise just a little bit of money by a little bit of money for 40 grand.
Alex Ferrari 9:43
I mean, look, in my world, that's a lot of money.
William Dickerson 9:45
Yeah, no, seriously. Yeah. I mean, I look, I intended to make this thing for 10 grand. So for two grand is like, Oh, this is a big budget movie.
Alex Ferrari 9:51
This is like we can eat every day.
William Dickerson 9:54
Yeah. And we cobbled it together and we made a movie, and we're Just to be mindful of everything, and we ended up a year. Well, let's see, that was 2010. And then took, of course, we ran out of money and post.
Alex Ferrari 10:09
Again, you're just throwing shots. But let's back up for a second. This is 2010. So I remember when I did my $50,000 short film, let's not get into that. Around 2011. So the technology around that time, if I remember, the red was out. Did you shoot this on the red? What did you shoot? I did, yeah, I run the one. red one. And the post workflow was fantastic, wasn't it? It was great. So you're actually doing it at a time where you know, like, today, in today's technology in today's world, 40 grand will go a lot, lot a lot farther than it did in 2010.
William Dickerson 10:47
Yeah, I mean, you know, technology is in such a place where if you're smart, even at a consumer level, you can make a real quality looking film.
Alex Ferrari 10:56
Yeah, no, absolutely. Alright, so you got a lot. So you run out of money and post I'm assuming because of workflow issues and other things.
William Dickerson 11:03
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I mean, so we basically, we got to a point where we had a picture lock, but there was no sound or color, post sound color. Right? Right. You know, so it didn't quite look like a real movie and
Alex Ferrari 11:15
And you shot in 4k, your hard drives probably were like, yeah, Bremen.
William Dickerson 11:19
Exactly. But the thing was, we had it, we had something to show people. And then and then I was a this is when I was able to use my, the Hollywood meager Hollywood contacts that I had acquired. And I took it around to people who have been turned me down or whatever, or like, you know, weren't interested at first. And I said, Hey, here's let's screen the film. This is a movie that can, you know, have legs, we can shoot it for that much. So we just need a little bit more money for posts. And I ended up taking it to this company called level one entertainment. And I know that I had one of the best meetings I've ever had. we screened the film, and Meanwhile, the the owner bill tab, and he's got a moaning and groaning throughout and like, oh, man, is that a good sign or bad size? film? And at the end, he's like, Man, that was, that was a rush. And he said how much you want for and my producer? I won't say the sum, but it was a lot more money than what we made it for. Like, we'll do it for this. I was like, oh, who do I write the check to? Like, really feel
Alex Ferrari 12:13
It was a different time. It was a different time. Yeah, that would never happen today. That would never in a million years after today. Right now. Like if everyone listening, this is 2010, which is honestly, I can't believe it happened then. Because you were still during the crisis. It was only a couple years after the crisis after the financial crisis. Yeah, but it's tasty in today's world. No, not as easy.
William Dickerson 12:37
Not even close. So it was it was, it was a lucky moment. But the thing was, you know, you got to be lucky moments occur. But you have to be prepared for those moments. Yeah, you got to have your material, you got to be prepared. And we were. And that sort of launched my careers as an as an indie filmmaker.
Alex Ferrari 12:53
Now that I want to just kind of highlight something and your story here, you went through this three year process, which was a waste of time you learned I'm sure a lot of lessons, the way you met. Some people may be here and there. But overall, it was just a lot of spinning your wheels, and a lot of waste of time. But when you actually made something, did you find it easier getting in those doors? Because you are then basically at the the 1% of the 1%? Yeah, you know that actually do something. And don't allow yourself to stop because it didn't have every perfect thing that you were looking for. You're like, screw it. I'm gonna go do this. Yep. Is that basically true?
William Dickerson 13:35
Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I knew, you know, to become a feature filmmaker, you have to, well, it's, there's a catch 22 How do you become a feature filmmaker? Well, you have had to have made one before.
Alex Ferrari 13:49
Our business is the only business that could we literally give our own titles to like, you get a business card, and like I'm a director. But even worse, the producer because everyone's a producer. But a directors like you need to show that you've directed
William Dickerson 14:02
Exactly. So that was the thing, like I had to make this feature. So once I did, yeah, I mean, it elevated me to a much more marketable level. I could take, you know, meetings with bigger companies, or people that took me more seriously because it was no longer and I got this question a ton. You know, I would get this question all the time before I made the tours like, well, you made short films, how can we trust you to make a God with such as?
Alex Ferrari 14:28
Look, I'll even take you one further. I had I did commercials and I did commercials that just happened didn't happen to have anyone speaking in them. So when a commercial came along that said, Hey, this has dialogue, can you handle that? I'm like, oh, boy, are you it's 30 seconds. They're gonna say, oh, and we're done. What's wrong with you? People just don't have reminded There are so narrow minded the division you know why and I think you would agree with this, that the entire business is run on fear 100% it's run a completely on fear and Because the budgets are so big sometimes, you know, you make the wrong move, you're done. So yeah, I kind of get it from a certain perspective, but you've got to kind of have some balls sometimes.
William Dickerson 15:09
And you know, it's all it's especially now it's all about, you know, risk assessment. Very specific strategic demographic research. There's no, there's no, you know, taking chances on filmmakers anymore. I mean, maybe here and there, but it's really rare those days are
Alex Ferrari 15:25
Yeah, taxi drivers not being made today. Now, that's not even close. Not even close to being made today. Like it's, we would have never seen a taxi driver today. Easy Rider. Oh, all those movies from the 70s. You know, all those great movies that they've made would never have been made today. Some of the stuff that gets made in the Hollywood system back then I was like, how did that get? How did that get through?
William Dickerson 15:48
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I can only hope that things are cyclical, right? Because, you know, the hopes that that revolution, like the golden age of cinema in the late 60s and 70s, that kind of came about because the studio system, those movies that have crashed got so stale. Yeah. And they were making No, no money.
Alex Ferrari 16:04
Then that was it. They gave the keys to the lunatics.
William Dickerson 16:09
Exactly. They didn't know what else to do. So okay, well, you guys try it. And look what happened. Yeah, exactly. And so maybe, maybe something like that will happen in the in the future. I mean, I'm not, you know, I'm not a big fan of these huge tentpole movies that are sort of regurgitating this. I mean, there there, there are some good ones, but they're all very formulaic, same thing you've seen before a million times. And I think people will at some point get a bit bored.
Alex Ferrari 16:33
I think I think you know what Spielberg said, really importantly, it was that you know, there is going to be an implosion, Polly will will implode on itself, because they are taking larger and larger risks. And as soon as, you know, if avatar two comes out, and does not perform, it couldn't it can literally crash a studio. Yeah. And that's scary. You know, that's literally, you know, when you have half a billion dollars on the line, you got one or two of those, and you're done. You know, you know, that's a big, big risk. And that will happen. I think it will happen eventually. I don't know, I think, you know, the we're getting off topic a little bit. But I mean, generally speaking, I don't know if these big temples I mean, I do enjoy going to the theaters, you know, to see a Marvel movie because I'm a former Marvel geek, and, you know, then the occasional, you know, dark night shows up or logon shows up where they, they sneak in and insanely good movie, that would be good with or without a superhero in it. Exactly. And they happen every once in a while as well. But these other things that keep coming out, you know, the I'm not gonna throw out the names, but you know, but movies are just like, are so formulaic, and people are tired of it. And that's why people I think, are going more towards due to serialized storytelling, which is Netflix show Stranger Things. The Americans, you know, Game of Thrones, that's where people are getting a lot of their entertainment from that's why Hollywood is kind of starting to hit feel it a little bit, or at least the feature world is.
William Dickerson 18:08
Yeah, yeah. And that's, you know, I like serialized television. I mean, I think that's it's brand new territory. And there's so many so much good content out there. But the The question is, how is that? Is that negatively affecting the feature film world? I think, to an extent, it is. And I wonder, is there is there a happy medium? Can these two art forms live together happily, or is one going to destroy the other?
Alex Ferrari 18:33
I'm not sure. It's going to be interesting, because we have generations being raised. Like that, like my children, you know, who are young kids, they're watching full seasons of cartoons on Netflix, like they just like, you know, I just let them watch this series that was like, spirit, like the horse, a horse, cartoon, whatever. And it was six seasons. And they just sat there and watched the binge to the entire massive amount of series over the course of a week or two. And I was just like, sitting there going, Oh, my God, I waited for Saturday morning cartoons. You got one then maybe, you know, you got something in syndication? Like he man, you know, or thundercats or something like that. Transformers and that was it. Yeah. So there's a generation being raised on short chunks of, of entertainment, that is serialized, as opposed to watching full features. Yeah, it's interesting. This I'm curious to see where it all goes. I don't think features will die. I think they'll always be a place for them somewhere. But yeah, I don't really.
William Dickerson 19:38
I mean, I think you know, the great. What makes them different, you know, I think is, you know, a good feature film has a conclusive ending where you're able to have this emotional journey and feel some sort of catharsis at the end, right? Whereas the problem with serialized television is the reason why people were binge eating is because they want to get to that conclusion, but there is never Inclusion because it's television the app to keep people on a hook to get to the next season. Right. While that, while that is interesting and makes you want to watch, it's not, it's not really the better emotional experience. I might argue that the, the way the feature film is constructed is the more emotionally cathartic and is the inner experience.
Alex Ferrari 20:20
Yeah, if it's done right apps, I would agree. But like, even now, when we start a new show, my wife and I, she's like, how many seasons? Is it? Yeah, well, yeah, cuz you have to commit to it. It's like you're dating and then we're getting married. It's like, Oh, she's like, how many season? How long are the episodes? Oh, how many? How many? You know, that's the biggest like I showed her like, I binged the alias, that also Jennifer. Yeah. I watched but that was an old network show. So it was 24 episodes, a season and there was like six seasons, seven seasons. And she was like, I can't do that again. So now now there are more seasons or more like 1012 episodes, but she'll ask before she ever jumps in. I was like, it's so funny. How we look at things. It Yeah, it is. It is. Alright, so we went off a little bit of a tangent, but she wanted to get back to where we were going about micro budget filmmaking. What is the biggest thing that stops filmmakers from moving forward in their career, besides not having money, and connections and things like that? But just that mindset, what is that thing?
William Dickerson 21:22
Boy, you know, I think what I've seen is I've seen people who have an idea that write the script, but are not realistic about the budget. You know, and I think you kind of have to write scripts now if you want to make them to make them. You have to put limitations on yourself. Like we did with with the two okayed minimal characters have minimal locations, what costs, what costs the money? Because I think taking the leap from the page to production, I mean, that's always that's the giant hurdle. Because, you know, so many people that I know are inhibited by, okay, well, I haven't found the money. We're looking for money. And it almost becomes an excuse not to do it. Like how we're still looking for money.
Alex Ferrari 22:08
Isn't it great, though? Seriously, I find so much. And I did it. You hide behind? Oh, I don't have that camera. Oh, I can't get that actor, or I can't get the money and you hide. Because it does take tremendous amount of Kahunas to do what you did with your movies to do what I do with my movies. You know, it, you put yourself out there. And that's scary.
William Dickerson 22:29
It is scary. You know, but if you write it in such a way, we all can make a movie, it just takes sacrifice of time. Yeah, you might have to take a part time job or, you know, a year
Alex Ferrari 22:41
Crowdfund or save some money
William Dickerson 22:42
Yeah, your husband and wife hopefully will will, you know, be able to take care of you for a few unemployed months. But you got to go all in
Alex Ferrari 22:50
Don't mortgage your house though, please. It's no No, no, please. I've had I've spoken to filmmakers, like, don't do it. Yeah. Although Scorsese's parents did it did it for him for main streets? And also that was the 1970s. Yeah, of a different world with a different Yeah, it's a bit different. I mean, and they knew he was going to be a huge star. But anyway. But I would agree with you, I think, I think hiding behind. Yeah, those excuses are what stop filmmakers. And I'm sure you and I both included in that conversation. It stopped us for a while.
William Dickerson 23:26
Oh, yeah, absolutely. You know, and I think, you know, the you, they will find filmmakers will find other like minded people who will get on board, that train, but it's really up to you to pull that train out of the station, you know. And money is, yeah, of course, it takes money and infrastructure to make a movie, but it doesn't have to take a lot. I mean, you know, if you have the time and the passion and the people around you, you know, who will all benefit from a movie being made and get it, you know, getting put out there, you can do it, right? Just Just do it, stop putting limitations, you know, put limitations on yourself and just do what just make it
Alex Ferrari 24:05
Now what advice would you give a filmmaker thinking about making a micro budget feature film?
William Dickerson 24:12
Well, I think well, the the, the commercial part of my brain would say well, you want to have something that is marketable scaleable. So an idea that can be made for not much money, but you can already see the trailer for and the poster for because you're going to have to sell this thing afterwards. The artists part of my brain is saying, you know, screw all that, you know, make what you want to make, say something because i think i think there's a lot to that. I mean, if you're going to be putting so much time and effort into a micro budget film, because this is you know, once as you know, you know, Alex, I mean you when you make a movie you this is like birthing a child raising this child For the rest of your life and see it in the world, and you're going to keep trying to put it out there. So it's a huge commitment. So while you want to be aware of the commercial end of it, how will you sell this? If you're not saying something, and it's not personally meaningful to you, then don't do it? Don't bother doing it. No. effort is involved.
Alex Ferrari 25:18
If you're chasing it for the money, forget it know, exactly. You don't go into the film business to get rich guys.
William Dickerson 25:26
No, no. Yeah, I mean, if the money comes great, but really, it's about, it's about saying something and, you know, connecting people emotionally to, to your point of view, which I think is a really beautiful experience. So that would be my first sort of word of caution to people who want to make a make a micro budget movie, but like I said, before, you have to set limitations on yourself, I mean, at least, you know, 123 main characters. If you add support and characters here and there, but don't go over, you know, four or 511 location for 65% of your movie, just the same location, at least 65%. And then I wouldn't go two or three, additional, more than two or three additional locations. And if you can do it, you know, non union great, but you know, sag will, will work with you on an ultra low budget agreement. Is is the reasonable. So, you know, those would be the initial guidelines that you would have to stick to while writing the script.
Alex Ferrari 26:30
I think the the analogy of giving birth, which has been said many times like it giving making movies like giving birth to a baby. But the thing that the filmmakers don't understand this, yes, making a movie is like giving birth. But after the after the birth, you need to raise the child. Yes, you need to you can't just throw the child out into the wilderness and hope for the best, which is what every filmmaker, yeah, again, you've got to raise it, you've got to market it, you've got to take care of it and nurture it through the next year of getting it out into the world. Would you agree?
William Dickerson 27:05
I agree completely. And yeah, and I suggest filmmakers really, you know, think about that and do the research on how what that entails post making the film because it entails a lot. It's a whole different journey. And if they don't, they'll be reminded by the fact that they have to pay taxes on their LLC. Oh, perpetuity
Alex Ferrari 27:24
Oh. Oh, God, my friend, LLC. I just did on my mind you ever especially in California, oh, you live out somewhere? That's not California, it might be a little bit easier. Yeah. No, it's tough. It's California is tough. $800 a year? Yeah. $800 a year and non stop.
William Dickerson 27:43
And likely you won't be making money on the movie for a while. So you're like, why am I paying these taxes, but you gotta you got to keep it open. That's your, you know, business. That's where the money is going to be coming in.
Alex Ferrari 27:51
So ridiculous. You know. So now, because a lot of times, filmmakers will try to go into a micro budget film, thinking like a traditional filmmaker thinking like, what they taught them in film school, thinking like, I have $20 million. What does what has to change in the mindset when you're making that micro budget feature?
William Dickerson 28:15
Well, you know, I think the way you do it, the way you direct to film has to be extremely efficient. I think a lot of money. You know, I mean, filmmakers complain that they never have enough money, but even it's a micro budget, a micro budget to make a budget, right. But the way you shoot, it has to be extremely efficient, and you have to be disciplined in your directing approach. And what I mean by that is, you know, don't cover everything, because coverage takes time, right? I mean, yes, we don't burn film anymore. So someone's shoot digital, you save a lot of money. Well, you can shoot one shot or do 12 takes, but all of a sudden, you're spending all your, you know, up until lunch, six hours of your day on one shot, and then you've wasted a ton of time. So what you have to do is really go through the script and beat it out. Right? What what are the essential beats that I need to film here? And how can I film it specifically, so I'm not shooting the same thing over and over and over again, and it's okay not to cover the whole scene like scene from beginning to end to end, you can just get a little close up here for a couple of lines or this little moment, with their hands touching on a table. Maybe you don't want to cover their faces all about their the subtextual behavior that's going on just film that you really have to pre edit ahead of time, because that's what's going to save you money. And also, it'll, it'll force you to think about what's important. What do I have to shoot? Absolutely, because every day I will be forced to cut shots that's without set. You know, you will be doing that because you're going to be running out of time. So if I only had the time to shoot it this way, how would I shoot it and if you force yourself, put yourself The deposition ahead of time, that will save you a lot of money ultimately on this this micro budget film.
Alex Ferrari 30:06
Now, in your opinion, what are two of the main ingredients of filmmaking?
William Dickerson 30:12
Well, I mean, I think they're subtext and, and point of view, I mean, those are the two things. A director really needs to, to understand and execute during production, and just briefly what they are, you know, subtext, the idea of the word subtext, right, it's underneath the text. So, say there's dialogue where someone is saying something, right. Typically, in a dramatic scene, that behavior will undermine what they're saying. Because, you know, in real life, we don't really, we don't really say everything that we mean, right? When say, hey, Alex, how are you doing today? I'm doing great, really, you You spilled coffee on yourself, this Moore's you know, not telling you that stories, you're, you're okay, but you're dealing with like a, you know, minor burn on like, these things that we don't talk about in life that we filter all the time. Right. But that's, so what we're saying. And what we let people see is the text, right? But the subtext is really what's really going on what's really going on, underneath the surface, right? So for instance, if you know, there's a great scene in Mulholland Drive, right, where, you know, Naomi Watts is auditioning for four roles. And we see the scene done twice. right one, it's her practicing with, with her friend play by Laura herring, and then the actual audition, she plays it two different ways. It's kind of a masterclass in subtext, the whole scene is is really cheesy scene about, you know, her having an affair with her father's best friend. And because of this the situation, she says that he that she hates him, right. So the first the first way the text is all about, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. But she's, she's playing the hate. So there's no, there's no subtext, it's all on the surface, which makes it very boring to watch. It's very on the nose. But then the next scene, she plays it, you know, she's still saying the same dialogue, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. But underneath, she plays it as though she loves this man. And the behavior is that she loves him. And that is interesting to watch. That's conflict, you know, dramas conflict. So we're watching the text conflict with the subtext. And to make to make a long story short, that's what equals a good scene. So ideally, when you're writing the script, and then directing it, you want to achieve that, you know, that conflict between the text and the subtext. And look, if the if the dialogue saying the same thing is the behavior, maybe you don't need the dialogue, you know, it might be more interesting to watch the scene without dialogue. It's what the behavior play out. Right? So having, having a firm understanding of subtext is the first ingredient. The second ingredient is a point of view is how do you who's whose eyes? Are we viewing the scene through who scene is it? So we have to make that determination? Like you talked about taxi driver before? That is probably one of the best examples of First Person point of view and filmmaker? Absolutely. Right. You know, Travis Bickle. This is all filtered, his stories filtered through the way he sees the world, right, which is a world where he's dealing with at the time undiagnosed, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from Vietnam. And the way he sees the world is very, very different from the way quote unquote, normal or unaffected people view the world and we see that through subjective, the subjective filmmaking of Bart Scorsese. You know, there's this great moment in the movie where there's a scene because Travis is in every scene. That's how we that's how we know even when other characters are talking. He's president in the scene to couch it in his point of view, however, the one thing that isn't he isn't there is the scene with Harvey Keitel and Jodie Foster, where Jodie Foster wants to not, you know, get out of prostitution and wants his blessing. And there's slow dancing and his Harvard guide tells apartment he's sort of coercing her back into the business. And that wasn't originally in the script. What happened was Keitel went to Scorsese. Like I have really great idea for scene. Can we do it? And Scorsese was like, well, that's outside Travis's point of view, so we can't do it. But so Kate tells I really want to do it. Like I liked the scene. So let's just shoot it. So they shot it. And what happened was Scorsese really liked it. He's like, this is really great. See, but how do I make it work within Travis's point of view? So they what they did was they reshot a moment with dinero in a taxi, pulling up outside of cartels apartment and looking up at the window. And then basically, he in the movie, he framed it that way. So he shot that moment, then cut from De Niro's look inside the apartment, and then after that scene is over, he comes back out to the bureau looking down from the window and driving away, so we can kind of we might assume that hey, that maybe that scene is what De Niro was thinking. What you have is Travis pickles idea of what was happening in that apartment. It leaves the question open as to whether it is review so it works and the rest of the film. So you know, you want to have that you have to make a decision. Whose scene is it? And how subjective is your filmmaking going to be? But either way, you have to weigh the scene towards someone's point of view. So those those are really the two. The two big ingredients.
Alex Ferrari 35:12
Great answer. Great, great answer. I've never heard it push specifically put that way. So I really, that's a really good way of laying it all out. Now, can you discuss something called style versus substance? Because there's a rarity of both? Yeah, I would, I would argue ventures work, Nolan's work. Kubrick's work and many of the of the great masters are able to do it. But can you discuss the differences and the whole topic?
William Dickerson 35:47
Sure. Yeah. I mean, I think I think young filmmakers there's, they get themselves caught in a trap of trying to embrace a style before they've actually before they've actually formed their own personal voice as a filmmaker, right? They say like, Oh, I like Tarantino's movies, or I like Scorsese's movies. So I'm going to go for that style. And I think that's a terrible mindset. It's detrimental, it ultimately be detrimental to the film, what do you want to do is, when you write a script to read a script and plan to direct it, you have to find out and figure out what are the best directing choices for this film, and that might not necessarily be a style that you like, right? You know, the great filmmakers, like like you mentioned, who have noticeable recognizable styles, they have mastered, they have mastered taking their voice, their personal voice and master transforming that to to the screen. And what I mean by that is like you look at Scorsese, any interview with Martin Scorsese, the way the way it looks the way he talks the way he behaves. Just if you watch him and listen to him, then you watch one of his movies. It's the same feeling. It's like that's Martin Scorsese. Like that's his personality. Same with Kubrick. Right, reclusive cold. Those are his movies saved with David David Lynch, sort of like on the outside was sort of happy boy scout, but there's something really dark and disturbing going on on the surface.
Alex Ferrari 37:17
He is Yeah, he's the definition of text.
William Dickerson 37:20
So but but you know, a good to become a master filmmaker, you have to first delve into what is your What is your artistic voice? What is your personal voice inside of you, and how do you translate that to the screen? And I think, you know, style over substance is a good way to, to sort of delve into that into that arena. And the way I the way I delve into it is okay, I think about theme instead of style. I read something but what's what's the what's the theme here? And I think the great artists really, they focus on theme first and everything else. Second, right now, there Francis Ford Coppola has this great quote, which I, I recite a lot where, you know, some aspiring filmmaker went up to him and asked him like, if you had to give the filmmaker, an aspiring filmmaker, one piece of advice, what would it be? And he goes, find your theme, and answer every question you can with it. He's like, Well, it's interesting. What can you explain that? Okay, well, as a, as a director on set, you're gonna get 500 questions a day, okay. And you may or may not know how to answer them all. But if you know your theme, you can answer any single question. And he gave his he gave his main example, as the conversation, which was the movie did between godfathers one and two was a wonderful movie. Gina Yeah. Gene Hackman plays a professional eavesdropper he plants bugs on people and he tapes them and then he gives the tapes to clients and what happens is that he you know, he's very objective at first just does his job but then there's this one thing that he records that affects him emotionally then his flaw is his fatal flaw is that he gets personally involved in the case he's never done before. So for for coping with the theme was privacy, but Furthermore, invasion of privacy, right. So he's the invader privacy, and in the end, he gets his privacy invaded upon himself. So okay, so then his costume design with that in mind, his costume designer comes up to him he's answering this question that question this question. Costume Designer comes up and had probably her most important question, which was what's going to be the hero coat? Right so we have a regular tan sort of Burberry trench coat. We have a black hat, a camel hair coat. And then we have a see through transparent rubber coat. And he goes up, see through rubber coat, invasion of privacy. Moving on to it all. It all stemmed from the theme because it was this invasion of privacy. The see through code worked and he would for every answer, go back to the theme. Now if you make your directing choices based on the same theme that you have figured out ultimately, a style will bubble up, right? It'll just it'll just occur. And I write and talk a lot about Paul Thomas Anderson and who I find is he is interesting case study because most of his movies look totally different style is very much so you know like Boogie Nights versus punch punch drug lovers is the master. If you didn't if you weren't familiar with his work, you probably wouldn't be able to tell us the same director. However, his theme is very much the same. And I think his theme is finding order amidst chaos. And if you focus on that, it's really stunning how, how strong that theme is in all of his movies, but what he's doing is he doesn't care about Okay, I have to maintain my style is Paul Thomas Anderson. No, I care about the theme because the theme is what's universally relatable to people that's, you know, what get gets butts into the seats of at least indie movies, because, hey, we want to relate to this universal theme. This is something that you know, can transcend language or regional barriers, and everyone can understand it. And if the director could really harness that theme, then you will have a cohesive movie because you're making all the directorial choices based on this one thing and then the some result is the style.
Alex Ferrari 41:17
Fair enough. So yeah, like with with what I said earlier, like having someone like Nolan, you guys, you know, I always I use the Dark Knight constantly as an example because it's such a masterwork there's so much style in that movie. Oh, yeah. I mean, it's up there with heat as just a good heist movie. You know, regardless of
William Dickerson 41:39
The story. Yeah, the world that's the you know, he needed those stylistic flourishes in the world, he was creating right
Alex Ferrari 41:47
Substance underneath. Yeah, it's so deep in Oh, in depth and goes on for miles.
William Dickerson 41:53
Exactly. Right. Because that's, that's what people connect to, right. I mean, look, you can make a great spectacle film, like, you know, big, huge comic movie, and it can be a fun watch. And, you know, exciting. But sometimes those movies, when you walk out of the theater, you don't really remember it five minutes later, the movies that you remember, are those movies that while it might be a spectacle on the surface underneath, there's a real thematic thread, and it's actually a character movie, you are relating to the characters. That's what you remember, because you see yourself in it. But that's the only reason you remember these movies is because it connects to you on a personal level.
Alex Ferrari 42:29
Iron Man one. Yeah, no perfect example is that was a character piece of character in the movie hidden inside of a comic book.
William Dickerson 42:37
Exactly. You know, and I think good filmmakers can the best filmmakers can do that and get away with that, you know, I think, you know, Brian, early mid, Brian depalma is a really good example. Like that, you know, like, Carrie, like, yeah, it's it's a horror movie. But really, underneath the surface, it's, it's a coming of age story about a girl living in a repressed home,
Alex Ferrari 43:01
Just happens to have powers.
William Dickerson 43:03
Yeah, exactly, exactly. But that's what's so great. Because if you have a genre movie, that is a metaphor, like people it can reach, it has the potential to reach a much wider audience. But underneath as the director, you are really focusing on this character movies, you're, you're kind of sneaking in this emotion is emotional connection inside of this bigger genre. And I think that's very smart to do. And that's, you know, one way that you can work with Hollywood and kind of have your cake and eat it too, if you're smart.
Alex Ferrari 43:31
Now, if you have any advice for working with actors, I know that's a big thing that filmmakers have a problem with, because they've never really taught that in film school, if they even go to film school, but they're never taught those things. And it is a nuance to work with actors, especially on a micro budget, which is a completely different mentality than working on a big budget.
William Dickerson 43:51
Yeah, I mean, it that's, that's, you know, always nebulous terrain, and probably the weather filmmakers will admit it or not, the the biggest thing filmmakers are afraid of is talking to actors because, you know, unlike lens you put on a camera, they can talk back to you.
Alex Ferrari 44:08
And give you attitude. Yeah. And tell you to call their agent.
William Dickerson 44:11
Yeah. And they have they have quote unquote, opinions. But, yeah, but at the same time, right actors like can and should be the most fruitful relationships you have on a production because they're, they're the physical manifestations of, of emotion in your film, and you need to be very careful and do your do your homework before you you talk to actors. So you know, but like you said, on a micro budget there are there are a lot more limitations because you don't have a lot of money. So you might not be able to afford rehearsal time, which I really think is essential is to have some rehearsal time. But you know, the long and short of it is that 95% of the time you won't have that luxury because you can only afford to get them on the day. So you know, I've had times where I've been actors for the first time on set? No, yeah. And you're about to shoot. Imagine that like all the time.
Alex Ferrari 45:06
I've done that I've done that. Oh, yeah. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. My first two features are exactly that every, almost every new every actor in the new system, like I've never met you before it, let's make a movie. You know, but think about it, you know who they are. And you've seen their work. And yeah, and you're more than you are more than confident that they'll do the job, right. But you don't know how they're going to show up on that day. You know, and there is something about working on a micro budget where for a lot of actors and people in general, it's hard for them to wrap around their mind that it can be done. And then if you get the wrong actor who has the mentality of working on that TV show that they've been working on for the last five years, and they're doing this little indie movie to kind of stretch themselves. And they're like, Oh, my trailers, not big and like trailer, dude. There's no trailer here, brother, I hate to tell you that there's a car, which is my car, excuse the child seats in the back. That's how we're rolling. And that is, that's one of the biggest and most crucial places, I think that you need to go to when you're casting because just because there might be a big name, if they don't, if they're not on board with what you're doing, or just very good point or thinking differently of what you're doing. It's a nightmare. And it's done. And I'm sure you've had with as well as I have had nightmare actors on set who just want to act up or want attention or are not on on board with what they're what you're doing.
William Dickerson 46:50
Yeah, you're 100% right. And I've learned my lesson about that, too. You know, I mean, I think, because at first you just assume when you start doing you assume that just Oh, they read the script, and they get it they know the deal. But yeah, I mean, they get to set and sometimes what they're used to is not there and that can be a big problem. So now what I do is you know if I have an actor of note interested, okay, I would tell that person straight up. Look, it says a micro budget movie, this is a no frills. Are you have you have you done a movie like this before? And are you okay with that? You know, just to make sure so they they know what they're signing up for? I think that's very important to to get that out in the open at the start.
Alex Ferrari 47:28
Absolutely. And sometimes they'll say, Sure, sure. And then they still act up. What do you mean, there's no sushi? What do you mean, there's no sushi? I cannot work without my dragon balls. Yeah, those conversations I've had had have had it unset before?
William Dickerson 47:45
No, yeah, absolutely. But, but you know, I see, I'm lucky. For the most part, you know, the people I've worked with, were used to that kind of lifestyle. I mean, they've, they've been nothing but kind of an understanding on the set. I mean, not to say that they wouldn't have their moments here and there, but they were far, you know, few and far between, right. But it's just about being as honest and open as possible. And I think for, you know, a movie, like micro budget expect, ask for rehearsal, but expect no rehearsal. So that means you have to be even more prepared in pre production. So what I do is, you know, I write pretty, you know, pretty detailed character, BIOS, just the facts, no emotional, you know, input at all, you know, where they, where they grew up, you know, love life, any sort of, you know, cultural or ethnic background, religious background, etc. So they have the bones of the character, and then then they do their own homework, you know, and do all of it for them, because they have to find the character to, and they kind of put the flesh onto the bones. And then I have my directors lookbook, which, you know, I sort of, I have a master document of the lookbook. And then I, I make little altar alterations where I have, you know, one for the producers, one for the investors, one for the actors, you know, so they're kind of more focused to their, what to their tastes and what they're looking for. So they know exactly, okay, this is the character arc, as I see it. These are my directorial choices on a macro level. So, you know, part of the point is, so when you get to set there are the least amount of questions as possible, because if people read your material and get your vision beforehand, they won't. Every minutes, okay, well, why are you doing this? Why are you doing that? Like, you want to avoid that? Not that you don't want to answer those questions, but you want to have those questions answered before you get two seconds. As you know, time is money on set. clock is ticking. So the less the less talk, the better.
Alex Ferrari 49:38
It's interesting that so you most of your micro budgets or all your micro budget films are done with a script you you've scripted everything out, correct? Yes. Yes. See that and then my process has been for my last two features to be improv. Wow, based off of a scriptment cool. And if you've ever if you ever because I've done the screen thing and i and i will do the scripting again, depending on the price, like every, every project is, you know, different, different process. It depends on what the story you're trying to tell and, and the limitations and things. But if you ever want to try to go down that road, I tell you something, it is the scariest. But the most exhilarating, yeah, that process as a director, as an artist, as a filmmaker you could ever achieve. You've got to be at a certain place in your life to be able to go and do that. Because you are literally on a tightrope with no one to catch you. Wow. And it's so cool. It is so cool. I just I love that process, developing the characters with the actors on the day, but we've talked about it a whole bunch. It's not like we just, I don't make it sound like we just show up. And here's a camera. Let's make something up. No, it's there is a style. There's a structure to it all, but it is a fascinating way of making a movie. Yeah, that sounds incredible scares the crap out of me. But everyone has their Everyone has their way of doing it. I always tell people like, Look, if you give Pollock, Van Gogh and Dolly, a paintbrush and a canvas, you're gonna get different styles. But at the end of the day, you're still gonna get a painting. Yep. And same thing goes with filmmaking. It's not just what a film school textbook teaches, you
William Dickerson 51:20
You're right. And you know what I mean? So much has to be said, you know, about hiring the right collaborators be correct. You know, I mean, I think people kind of wrongly think of indie film as sort of like this, oh, well, everyone's an artist, or tour or whatever. Okay, you you're This is his complete his or her complete vision. I mean, yeah, there has to be an initial vision. But it's, it's a guideline, I think, for everybody else, who you hire your dp and your production designer. And, you know, you want to hire the maker to make sure there's a singular vision being executed, but you have to kind of let them do their own thing. And I'm sure you've had those moments on set, doing improv where all of your collaborators sort of start to vibe with you and come up with ideas on the spot, but they're amazing.
Alex Ferrari 52:02
Oh, absolutely. Are you kidding me that last movie that I just did on the corner of vehicle and desire? That's exactly what happened. I mean, we were literally running around Sundance, shooting a movie about filmmakers trying to sell a movie, which is great. And then on the day, we're like, hey, let's go shoot over there. Hey, why don't we do this over here. And we just would literally go as long as it stayed within the theme. It stayed within the, you know, the, what I needed to tell the story, so I had certain scenes laid out. But once you get past that, once I caught what I needed, everything else was like short, let's try it. Sure. Let's try. Why not? It's like, we're running around, let's have a good time. It's not costing us a lot of money. You know, absolutely. You know, I wouldn't say you know, if you give me half a million bucks, the improv way of doing things might be a little different. Because I have a responsibility to recoup that money.
William Dickerson 52:52
But I think there's something there where you know, when you're, when you're on set, and even though you know, I, I, I pretty much storyboard everything. And I try to have everything sort of as, as rigidly laid out ahead of time as possible. So for me, what that allows me to do is that allows when opportunities to improvise, come about, I'm ready for it, right? And in a beautiful idea happens or a very happy accident occurs. And you're like, Oh, I have to take advantage of that. And like you said, those moments. That's what you live for, like, oh, man, you've made this happen. You put all these steps together to get to this point for this beautiful accident to occur and to get it on film. Because that sort of it's like catching lightning in a bottle.
Alex Ferrari 53:35
Yeah, usually. Lightning, right.
William Dickerson 53:37
Yeah. And those are really amazing moments. So I think, I think that is pretty similar, is different, but a little similar to what you're talking about. Because you've you have set up guidelines and prepared yourself to make this thing happen, even though you don't not clearly sure what that thing is. But once you're there, he's beautiful. It allows these beautiful things to occur, and you capture them on on film. And that's, that's an amazing thing.
Alex Ferrari 53:59
Yeah. And I think, you know, to go down the road of trying to do a film like that, like an improv based film you've, you've got, I mean, I've got 25 years behind me. So I've shot a lot. So there's a lot of instincts, it's ingrained in you. Yeah, it's you know, if I'm 20 it's gonna be a little bit different than it is now. So there is that to be said about it. But I challenge you, sir, I challenge you to go. I know you're deathly afraid of doing this. I challenge you take a right take five grand and just go out three grand and go out and make a movie like this. I'm telling you, so and you'll be like, wow, that was heisting me. I mean it did if you want to talk more OFF AIR I can. So let me ask you how, how is the new world of distribution changed your whole filmmaking process? How you make movies, how you get the movie, your movies out into the world?
William Dickerson 54:48
That's a really good question. Because you know, distribution. And it's it's evolving every day. You told me about it. Yeah, they're more and more platforms. You know, I just probably 100 100 or 200 blackboards? I don't even know of that, you know? Just Just Yeah, I don't know. But so okay, I think I'm dealing with with distribution right now my new movie, no alternative. We have we have a deal on I can't tell you the distributors, I can't talk about it, we do have a deal on the table. It looks like it's going to be released in April of 2019, which is very exciting. You know, but, you know, for independent filmmakers, digital distribution is is where it's that doesn't mean the astral doesn't occur, we may or may not be doing a limited theatrical, it's still up for debate. But even if you do with the actual it's still all in service of the digital distribution. It's a marketing ploy. Yeah, exactly. Because what you're able to do is you get it into a few theaters you can get it becomes higher profile, you can get bigger reviews and bigger publication and you're also able to a price of higher on demand for in theater now prices, which actually works for you know, the bottom line. So like you said, yeah, it's all it's all marketing, of course, you know, as a filmmaker, you want to see it on the big screen. But you know, I mean, I've it's the you know, an alternative playing at festivals and you know, so I have I haven't will be able to see that the big screen so I'm that's less important to me, then it is getting it out to do as many people as possible in even if they're washing their homes, people's home systems have gotten so damn good. Yeah, it's just like, it's almost it rivals. If you go to you know, in our house, God bless art house movie theaters, but a man that the theater super experience might be better at home,
Alex Ferrari 56:34
There's no there's no doubt about it. There's absolutely no doubt about it when you've got an 85 inch 4k monitor mounted on the wall with a six surround sound system. Yeah, I mean, to do you need much like anything else. Yeah, you got a nice recliner got some popcorn, your you know, dark room? I think you're you're good, you know, for the most part unless you're going to IMAX and then that's a whole other world. But you're not seeing in the art houses in IMAX. Oh, yeah. And their character movies. They're not big spectacle. So Right, exactly. What's the point? I think filmmakers also don't Would you agree that they get caught up with this whole dream, especially our generation? About the feet that the theatrical release?
William Dickerson 57:16
Yeah, I think, you know, like I said, it's nice to see it on the screen. But you shouldn't, should not let that be, you know, a major factor in your distribution, because it could really, actually waste a lot of money, and resources and marketing where you could could have spent that money or time elsewhere and in a more efficient place. So yeah, I think that's becoming less and less important of a goal. I mean, it's nice to have a premiere, where you have to you can you know, have your cast and crew there. So so that's a good thing. festivals are good, because that, you know, builds momentum and buzz for the movie. But I think, you know, it's not a major factor anymore, and people should should not consider it. So
Alex Ferrari 58:01
It's just, I mean, you're talking about real estate, very valuable real estate. In the theatrical world where, you know, you are competing with Avengers, you are competing with these big giant tentpole movies for you know, asses and seats. And the theater is going to go well, if I put your movie in, will I make more money with your movie for that one showing? Or if I just put Avengers back in there? Will I make more money?
William Dickerson 58:26
Yeah, exactly. You know, so it is a tough task. And we might not even do it with our film. It's up for debate. You know, because it'll, it'll take some investment. But as far as distribution as a whole, I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is on an indie level, even if you sign with like, a fantastic distributor, any distributor, you know, I mean, they'll be doing their their own marketing and, and advertising outreach. But by far the most important outreach and advertising that you can do for the film is you doing it for the film through social media, like it's, it's all about building your social media contacts, building that network, personally, interacting with people online and being your own promoter. So you know, like, like you said earlier about giving birth to a child like they're raising it like the birth part. You thought making the movie was hard. But now the heart It's actually hard, in many ways harder to raise the kid in the world. Like,
Alex Ferrari 59:27
It's not the it's not the fun part. You know, that's the thing that filmmakers don't get, like, making a baby really fun. on all aspects, making a baby super fun. But raising the baby. Yes, I'm going to ask kids very little harder.
William Dickerson 59:45
Yeah, and you can't just wing it, man, you gotta have you got to have a plan the strategy, you know, so I think filmmakers really have to keep that in mind before they even begin production on the film. You need to you need to build your social media audience in network. Make sure there's Brant that he'd say brand awareness already out there. So you know, when the movie movie finds a place in the world that people can actually click on something online and buy it, right that they've already heard about it.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:14
Man, it's tough. It's so tough to get that brand awareness for an indie film.
William Dickerson 1:00:18
It's very hard, but it just comes down to grassroots The good thing, like the positive thing is that, like, grassroots promotion, it's become so much easier with the internet, right? I mean, but you have to be, you have to be relentless. That's
Alex Ferrari 1:00:32
That's the thing. It's become easier, but it's not just easier for you. It's easier for everyone. Yes. So it's easy to get lost. And, you know, that's the trouble. Now, can you tell me a little bit about your book? Detour Hollywood?
William Dickerson 1:00:45
Yeah, sure. Um, so, you know, we touched on a little bit the making a detour. And as you can imagine, I, I had a lot of stories. Again, I gained a lot of insight, made a lot of mistakes, did a few things, right, I think, but you know, had a lot to talk about. So I decided to, and I took notes all throughout that process. And during a rough cut of the movie of one of my professors, old film professors, you know, watch the film, and he gave me notes. I started telling me stories years, have you been writing this down? It's like, yeah, I have. So you gotta write a book about this. I was like, yeah, that's, that was that was the start of it. And around the same time, the detour came out, I started to teach filmmaking too. And I, you know, always, always liked being taught, I like academia. And I thought, you know, I've learned a lot, maybe I can teach, so that the platform of teaching made me learn a lot about how to communicate this stuff to people and to new filmmakers. And I started writing this book. So basically, it's a, it's called detour, detour Hollywood, how to direct a micro budget film. And it outlines you know, the making of D two, or what I learned throughout that process and kind of dispels, you know, bits and pieces of practical wisdom, like, Hey, this is what I did it. And this is how you can learn from it, or how you can do it, either the same way or differently. I also break down my approach to directing which we talked a little about a little bit about earlier, like the the ingredients to directing some testing point of view, the importance of theme. So it's, it's a handbook that can be dog eared and underlined and something that I keep on set and I think other filmmakers can keep on set if they need to, there's a handy list of action verbs and Quick, quick directions for actors in it. So you know, I was wanting to write a book that is like, the, the you know, what Strunk and white is to English literature, I wanted some sort of small book that they can give you quick tips on how to make a movie or the right way to make a movie. Quickly and easily.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:44
Very cool, man. Very cool. So I'm going to ask you a couple of rapid fire questions. I asked all of my guests totally. What advice would you give a filmmaker wanting to break into the business today?
William Dickerson 1:02:56
Be okay with not making much money and living on a burrito a day? Give or take?
Alex Ferrari 1:03:04
That's very, very dire, sir. It's very well, but it's very true. In many ways. burritos are filling that if you get the good organic stuff, you know, like, Baja fresh style, I talked to Taco Bell. baja fresh style. Yes. But don't quit. Don't quit your day job. You know, if you can, if you have a day job to keep it.
William Dickerson 1:03:23
Yeah, the thing is, it's easy to get bitter about it. Like I don't like this. But you know, it's a means to an end. And I think you know it yeah, it will take some investment on your end at the beginning of this process. But, but you don't have to be a filmmaker, you're putting material out into the world that you love that hopefully other people will love that will exist after you spring off this mortal coil. And that's kind of amazing. And you got to sit back and really think about, you know, how how wonderful that is?
Alex Ferrari 1:03:49
Yeah, I mean, look at I mean, Dennis Hopper, who passed a few years ago, he made easy writer. Yeah, and among a million other things he made. But you know, he's that will live on for for many, many, many years to come until the world ends, which is looking closer and closer every day, inevitably, which is coming closer, closer. Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?
William Dickerson 1:04:16
Wow, man, that's a good question. Boy, life or career? Well, I mean, you know, a recently I mean, I love I love Blake Snyder, save the cat. I know, it's a very popular book. But I reread that before, every time before I read a screenplay every time because again, very practical. And sort of I say the cats kind of a good model for what I did with detour in fact that the I the editor of my book was worked on worked on Save the cat because I felt like it's very practical thing I can go back to it. So from just from a technical side of things, I would say that that book, I go back to it all the time. A boy Just creatively speaking. I mean, jeez. You know, again, an easy answer might be Ernest Hemingway. But what I like about Ernest Hemingway's books, particularly the Sun Also Rises is that he utilizes subtext in a very cinematic way. Like it's his iceberg theory, right? Where you only he strived in a very efficient manner, to only say what he needed to say the dialogue really has nothing to do with people's behavior, and that you only see the tip of the iceberg. But everything else, the real crux of the story is happening underneath the surface. It is so imbued with subtext that I would recommend any filmmaker to read that book. It's just as as a as a lesson and how, how to write subtext and actually how to visualize it as you're reading it. So I mean, those two books are up there.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:50
Now, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
William Dickerson 1:05:57
Well, I think it comes down to, I think editing because I think the hardest part, the hardest, the thing I took the longest to learn about filmmaking was that the shorter, the better. And editing yourself, like, you know, I look at my early short films, I would edit the heck out of them now, right? Because you know, when you're, when you're new filmmaker, it's harder for you to be critical about yourself and be objective about your work and say, oh, and like
Alex Ferrari 1:06:30
I said, five hours on that shot.
William Dickerson 1:06:32
Yeah. Yeah. But now I've come and I really like this place that I'm in now. Because I, the more I cut, the more I feel good about it. Like, I feel better, I cut something out. It makes me more relieved. Whereas before I was like, Oh, God, I can't cut that. And I think so many filmmakers experienced that. But once you've been through it a lot, and you've made a lot of material and you go back and you you're at a point where I can't do anything about that short film again, or that feature film again, but I would do something, you know, that's a bad feeling. You know what I mean? And it always comes down to I should have cut it more should have trimmed it more. And so I am just brutal. Now to the point where just take it out. Take the seat, take it out. Take it out. Take
Alex Ferrari 1:07:09
Oh, yeah, but that takes time that takes two does.
William Dickerson 1:07:12
That's really it. But that takes time. You cannot teach that right away. Even if you objectively understand that. Yeah, emotionally. You can't do it.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:20
No. Yeah. I mean, I that, you know, my first feature like I cut full scenes out, like that's not working. God spent half a day shooting that done work. Gone, gone. It just didn't work for the movie. And that's, I was like, Wow, I can't believe I did that.
William Dickerson 1:07:34
Yeah, yeah, no, that's good. That's a good feeling. But, you know, ultimately, the, the Edit of the film is the final rewrite of the script, right? Yes, of course. Even though you spent a lot of money on something or you spent a lot of time it should not matter at all, because like you said, if it doesn't work for the story, it should not be there.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:52
Absolutely. Now three of your favorite films of all time.
William Dickerson 1:07:56
Last highway by David Lynch, Mean Streets by Martin Scorsese. And throw in a relatively recent one, diving bell and the butterfly by Julian Schnabel.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:11
Very nice. Very nice. Good, good choices, good choices. And where can people find you online?
William Dickerson 1:08:17
Well, people can find me on my website, which is WilliamDickersonfilmmaker.com. I can also be followed on Twitter and Instagram, @WDfilmmaker. My new movie no alternative, which is premiere to dances with films in Hollywood a few months ago, and it will have its new york premiere at Yokai Fest, which is the Yonkers Film Festival in New York. Yes, in November. You could find out more about that movie by following it at no alt film, and just look out for for no alternative, which is also based on a novel I wrote a few years ago, which is also available on Amazon.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:57
I will put all of those links in the show notes. So it will them thank you, man so much. You did sir drop a few knowledge bombs on the tribe. Thank you very much. Thank you so much for taking the time. We could talk for another hour. I'm shy.
William Dickerson 1:09:09
I had a blast, Alex. Thanks for having me on.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:12
Thank you, William for coming on and dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe. I truly, truly appreciate it. And guys, like like I always say there is no excuse for you not to go out and make your movie right now. If you've got challenges, go over them figure it out. Just got to keep hustling. Gotta keep going. And William is a perfect perfect example of that. If you want links to Williams book or anything we discussed in the episode, just head over to the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/276. And guys, thank you so much for spreading the word on IFH and IFHTV, and everything I'm doing here at indie film, hustle, please, please, if you can teach somebody else something you've learned while listening to a podcast or watching a documentary or taking a course do so pay it forward and get as much of this information out into the filmmaking community as humanly possible. take credit for it. I don't care. Just get it out there. I want filmmakers to be as educated and have the eyes wide open as much as humanly possible. So thank you guys, you are my foot soldiers out there, getting the word out on indie film hustle, and I truly, truly appreciate it. And that is another episode of the indie film hustle podcast. As always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.
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