IFH 176: How to Become a “Jack of All Trades” Indie Filmmaker

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In today’s episode, I want to discuss the need for indie filmmakers to become a “Jack of All Trades.” As you travel down your filmmaking path you need to be adding tools to your toolbox. You have to be adding new skills, knowledge, and experience to your toolbox every day.

I go over not just the basic skills you need to know but some tools you never thought you needed to add to that box. The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more dangerous of a filmmaker you become.

Keep Hustlin and enjoy it!

Alex Ferrari 1:10
So I'm jacked up today, guys, I told you that I was redesigning indie film hustle. And I am proud to say that indie film, hustle 2.0 is now up online. It's been taking me weeks to to redesign the entire website from scratch from the bottom up. And I'm super excited to share it with you guys. I wanted to make it more user friendly. I wanted to I wanted to organize all this insane content, I just realized, I have over 450 articles, podcasts and blog posts on the site. And there was just so much information that a lot of it got lost in the old design. So hopefully, in this new design, you guys will have access to be able to get the information you need that I have on there. And as I continue to put more content on there, become a resource for you guys. And also there's easy links to courses, to books, to instructional videos, as well as highlights of each individual category, which I've broken up into six categories, which is screenwriting, directing, film production, post production, and marketing and distribution. And it's really clear, really clean, I would love for you guys to check it out. Just Of course, just go to any film, hustle calm. Let me know what you think message me, email me. Again, the emails at ifH [email protected] And let me know what you think if you guys find any problems anywhere on the site, anything's dead or dead links, I am going to be going through a site audit soon, which is meaning that I'm going to go through all my content, re up all my content, get rid of old content that's not relevant anymore, and just doing all sorts of stuff. I'm trying to make the indie film hustle experience for you guys as amazing as possible. And I want to give you an update on Meg. First of all, I had the LA premiere at the Chinese theatre, we have video coming out soon of it. And it was so exciting and surreal to be showing my little film this little film that Jill and I did last year, and we're playing it at the Chinese Theater, the world famous Chinese Theater, it was it was pretty amazing and very humbling. And we had a great crowd. Everyone really loved it. We had a wonderful q&a, which we'll be posting up on YouTube soon. And the sales of Meg have been coming in and they've been doing well. I've got some big news. I can't tell you yet because contracts haven't been signed. But there has been a big wonderful development with Meg. And I think you guys are going to be super excited. And I can't wait to share the information with you. But I can't say anything just yet. Because some contracts have to be signed first. But stay tuned for that. And then as the months go on, I will let you guys know what our numbers are in regards to sales. And I'll give you some generalized numbers and what platforms are doing better for us. But I haven't forgotten about you guys internationally. I know you guys been hounding me to get a get access to this as Meg. We are similar. We've already submitted to Vimeo pro Vimeo pro should be up and running. Hopefully this week. As soon as it is. I'll mention it on the podcast and I'll send it out to everybody so anybody outside of the US or doesn't have access to iTunes and Amazon for video, you'll be able to get it on Vimeo Pro. So thank you guys so much for your patience. Now today's episode is all about being a jack of all trades and how important it is. And I think this is something that filmmakers especially newer filmmakers coming out don't really grasp. Because film schools don't teach this film schools are very old school in the way they teach things. It's all you know everything segmented into departments, and in the bigger system and the bigger studio system that makes a lot of sense and I've worked on big projects, and you need to have that kind of, you know, organization with head of departments. And working with different crews, you have to have that the bigger the movie, the more you have to do that. But for the indie filmmaker, the micro budget filmmaker, the filmmaker, that's just coming up the ones that are making their own films, from scratch with five grand, 20, grand, 50 grand, and can't afford to have all of those crews, you have to have a skill set, you have to have a bunch of tools in your toolbox. Now I've, I've amassed a bunch of tools that I have in my toolbox that I pulled out when I made this is Meg, without those tools. Without that knowledge and experience, I would have not been able to make this as Meg on such a small humble budget, of course, under $24 million. But you know, without those tools, I wouldn't be able to do it. So I wanted to impress upon you guys and talk a little bit about skills that every filmmaker should have some knowledge about. Now, I'm not saying that we all have to be Robert Rodriguez that go out and make and do everything themselves. He runs this steady cam, he he composes the music, he sound designs, he does all of it. I'm not saying you have to do that. But having knowledge in every aspect of the business and other aspects of things that you might not associate with needing to know right away as a filmmaker. Because the more knowledge you have, the more dangerous you are as a filmmaker. And that's a good place to be, you know how wonderful it is for me to wake up in the morning and go, you know what, I'm gonna go make a movie in the next month, and I have everything I need to go make the movie, and I have the skill sets that I need to go make the movie. And if I don't have those skill sets, I'm going to learn it exactly what I did with Meg, I had no idea how to record audio from Meg. And I taught myself how to record decent audio, I'm not the best. It's not like you know, Oscar winning kind of audio recording. But it's good. It's good enough. It's a high quality. And that's all I could ask for. So some of the things that I think you guys need to as a filmmaker. And for all those screenwriters out there listening, these are things that you guys kind of do as well, if it's not on the production side, some of the stuff I'm gonna talk about later, is something else you guys are going to need as well. So first and foremost, if you're going to be a filmmaker, you need to learn directing, and that's the easy thing. Everybody wants to be a director, everyone thinks that they're good directors, until they get on the set. And they're like, Oh my god, what the hell am I gotten myself into? It's happened to me early on in my career, it happens. So directing, obviously, producing, understanding where to get your money from, how you're going to get your money, how you're going to organize a crew, how are you going to do call sheets? How are you going to do your first day DS job? How are you going to do all of those jobs that help in the actual producing of film locations? How to go get locations on the cheap? How to get permits? If you need to get permits? How are you going to go steal stuff? Can you go steal stuff, legally, all these kind of things, these are skills that you really need to understand and know, cinematography, you have to understand basic cinematography, you have to understand the basic camera that you're using the basic lenses that you're using, like what lenses or what, what focal lengths can do to your image and how you can tell your story. As a filmmaker, you also have to understand the camera you're using. If you don't if you know, I was talking to someone the other day, and they were like, Oh, yeah, we're shooting this thing on this cannon something or other? I'm like, how can you be that way? Like I looked at him, I'm like, Are you crazy? Do you not understand you're just trusting someone else to just give you a camera and I saw the stuff they were shooting. And it looked like, you know not that good. Because it didn't, you know, they didn't know what they were doing. They didn't understand the capabilities of that camera. They didn't understand the workflow all the way through post production. I'll get to that in a minute. But you have to understand this kind of stuff. If you're going to if you're going to succeed at this low budget at this no budget world. If you don't understand these basic things, you will fail. How I cannot tell you how many filmmakers I've worked with over the years that didn't understand this basic concept that they just trusted a dp or someone who called themselves a dp. And all of a sudden they get into posts and they're like, Oh, my God, everything doesn't look good, or the lighting is not great. All because you didn't know what you were doing it you have to understand the basics of it. You have to understand basic lighting not you don't have to be as you know, an ASC cinematographer, you have to understand basic lighting. I've never directed Well, I've never DPD a feature film before. I've done commercials and things like that. But I never did Pete a feature film before. And I just took it on with Meg as an experiment. I'm like, Well, you know what, I think I can do this. I taught myself as much as I could. I did a lot of testing on my own. And I figured it out. And I made and I made it look decent. But I understood my camera. I understand what the capabilities of my camera was. I understood the capabilities of the lights I had, and then I make mistakes along the way. Absolutely. There was a lot of mistakes I fixed in post, but why because I also had that tool set of colors which I'll get to in a minute. These are certain basic things that you need to learn. Another thing you need to understand is production design, just basic production design. And I know Production designs a very big word, and you know what it is on bigger movies. But when you're doing a low budget movie, you've got to be able to understand production design, James Cameron was production designing Titanic with his production designer, he was the one telling them what to do. James camera is one of those filmmakers who knows more about the other person's job than they do. Because that's how intense of a filmmaker it is. And you can tell him the work that he puts out. When we did broken, I didn't I never production design the thing in my life, but we walked into a hospital that had floors, and I'm not exaggerating floors of old, just equipment and gnarly looking stuff. And my producer and I just sat down and grabbed the bunch of stuff, and production design the entire movie ourselves. And when we needed we needed furniture to fill up an apartment, what did we do, we went to rent a center, I cover that entire Odyssey on episode 102 of the the podcast and I talked about how we just basically rented all of our furniture and had them deliver it, install it for us, and also pick it up a day later. And we didn't have to even worry about it. So these are little things you have to understand. So when you're talking to a production designer, you know, these little tips, you know, how you know how they can do things on the cheap, maybe. And you know, when we made up a guacamole gun, you know, which shoots blood out so you can get a really realistic blood hit. We built that ourselves why? Because we taught ourselves how to do that. These are things you need to understand. Now. Another big thing that all filmmakers need to understand is screenwriting. writing a story, being able to construct a story, story structure. These are basic things that all filmmakers need to understand. If you're a director and you don't understand story structure, and you're just relying on a writer to give you a script and you're just going to shoot it. You're just you're not going to do well. And God knows Hollywood is full of those, aren't they? People who don't understand the basic concept of story. And I understand that it can be a little intimidating. Like oh my god, Alex, you want me to be a screenwriter as well as a director. Look, do what I did. I took Meg and we did a script for it. You know, that's what the duplass brothers did. That's what Joe Swanberg did. That's what Lynn Shelton does, all of these guys just grab a really big scriptment, which is basically an outline of the entire movie, and then just have actors improv their lines. And it works great. It depends on the kind of movie you're making. But it's a way of doing it. Don't let any of these things stop, you just keep going pick up the knowledge you need to go. The next thing, huge thing that all filmmakers need to understand is post production. In today's world, post production is so crucial to all of your films, you are all going to go You're all going to visit me You're all going to go through me at one point or another understanding, editing, understanding color grading, understanding, post production, supervision, understanding online editorial, your deliverables, understanding what editing system, you're going to be using understanding post production workflow, all this information is out there, a lot of it's on the website, you could definitely check it out. But understand a little bit of all of this. So if you're a filmmaker, which I've worked with many who is a producer, and they walk into a post suite, and they're like, Oh, I just shot a $200,000 movie. How much money do you have proposed? Oh, we've got $5,000? I'm like, Are you mad? Like, why would you do that you have a $200,000 movie? And you're basically just chipping cheeping out on post your movies gonna come out horrible, you know, it's not going to do well. So you have to understand all of that, going forward. Another huge aspect of the film business that I guarantee you 99% of filmmakers don't understand is distribution, understanding how you're going to get your film out into the world? How are you going to make money with your film, understanding revenue streams, understanding how to either self distributor film or work with a traditional distributor and there is times to do both. The smaller the film, the less risk you're taking, you can self distribute. If you have a bigger film, you're gonna have to probably go to a traditional distributor, unless you're able to do the next skill that you have to understand audience building, crowd funding and crowd sourcing, you have to understand audience building, you have to understand how to get an audience how to market to an audience, how to get them to be excited about your project. These are crucial skills, crowdfunding if you want to start crowdfunding your movies. And that's also a form of audience building, crowdsourcing, which is another form of audience building. I'd go into so much detail about all of these things I'm talking about in the web, on the website and past podcasts, and sections of the of the website. So you really have no excuse. There's so much information that you can go through indie film, hustle, and find out all of these just type in the search bar. Exactly what what I'm talking about, and there's probably an article For a podcast discussing this, educate yourselves even at the basic level, so you understand it. And if you want to go into it more, you should definitely go into more, explore more and put more tools in your toolbox. So those are the big, big things that you really need to understand as a filmmaker, but I'm going to tell you a few things that you really should know and really should learn, that are not taught in schools, and are not generally things that filmmakers say that they have to do. Now everything I'm going to talk about coming for going forward, you know, you can hire people to do it, and that's fine. But when you got no money, you gotta gotta do it yourself. And I've worked in I've worked with other people trying to do these things that I'm going to talk about. And it never works out for me, because I know, I know, I guess a little too much about those sections. So I want things certain ways, and they can't, they can't do it. So I just end up just doing it myself. Now, a few things you need to learn web design. Oh, I know web design. Alex, I'm not a web designer. Why should I know what web design because every single movie you put out, you need to create a website. Every production company you create, you need to create a website, your personal page, you need to create a website. All of these things have to create a websites. Now it doesn't have to be hard, you can use Squarespace, I don't get paid by Squarespace. I'm not I'm not affiliated with them at all. We go to Squarespace and build a website up in five minutes, a nice looking basic website. If you want to take your site up to another level, then just I'll put a link in the description for how to build a site like indie film, hustle, not nearly as complex or anything. But the tools I use, I use WordPress, I use Beaver Builder, WordPress, Beaver Builder, and I host with Bluehost. And those three things, combined those things you have drag and drop design, it's super easy, super simple. And if you have basic graphic design skills, you should be able to do without a problem. And even if you don't, there are services out there that can help you. Another skill, branding, understanding branding, you could pick up simple books on just understanding branding, or Gary Vee a Gary Vaynerchuk has a ton of them, one's called crush it, you should definitely read that book. It's amazing. I'll put a link in the description, branding, understanding how to sell and yourself, your movie, your company so important. If you want to succeed as an independent filmmaker in the world today and moving forward. Also social media, social media marketing, understand the power of social media, how to build a social media following how to build a Twitter following how to build facebook, how to build YouTube, how to build Instagram, how to understand those platforms, these are things you have to learn. And I said before graphic design, basic graphic design skills, understanding Photoshop, understanding how to be able to put all things together in Photoshop, again, basic stuff I'm not talking about, you have to become a Photoshop expert. Hell, I'm not a Photoshop expert. But I know enough about Photoshop to get the job done. And if they asked me to do something a little bit more enhanced, I'm like, sorry, I'm out. So that's not a skill set that I have a deep, but I do enough, I know enough of that skill, to do what I need to do and move forward. So as far as web, web design, helping with web design, graphic design for posters, graphic design, for social media posts, and so on, that's what I have. That's what I use Photoshop for, you really have to also understand marketing and PR, understanding what it could be done for you where to spend money, where not to spend money, is traditional media even make sense anymore to like, spend money on a front, you know, a full page ad on in variety or something like that to promote your movie? Or is that money better spent on Facebook ads, you know, things like that you really have to understand these things. Now, I know I've thrown a lot at you guys. And there's probably a bunch of stuff that I have not even covered. But these are basic sets of things you have to understand enough to understand basic knowledge have to move forward as a filmmaker. I know it's immense. But you know what, that's what this is. That's what this business is, if you are trying to come up from the, from the street, where I am, you know, we're you know, just coming up, you know, just starting and building your career, that long play career that I've told you about not the one year plan, but the 10 year plan. This will take time. But I'm not saying you have to learn all of these today. Take the next year, and take a month and every month learn a new skill set. Why not? Because at the end of the day, when you have that skill set, guess what, guys, when you understand web design, and things are not going that well in filmmaking, you can maybe get a little side job doing web design, or graphic design, or branding or PR or do other sorts of things. Because the more skills you have in that box, the more things you can fall back on as you're moving forward in your filmmaking or on your filmmaking path. That's what I did. I learned editing, editing was my skill. That's where I learned that's what I made my living on. For the first part of majority of my career was editing then I jumped into color grading, then I jumped into post production supervision because it was just an extension of edit, edit editing and editorial, creative editing. And I was like, can it kept growing and growing and growing my skill set to the point now, where I don't edit often now for pay, I don't do it often I, I rather do color grading, but I have that as a backup. And I could always, you know, people hire me and try to hire me all the time to do creative editorial. And I say no, I really rather not, because I have more fun. And it's faster for me to do color grading or online editorial, or post production supervision or some other areas that I like to do. So the more tools you have in your box, the more successful you're going to be not only as a filmmaker, but in life, you know, I have a lot of tools in my toolbox. And if I wanted to, I can go off and do other things if I wanted to, because of all the skills I've gathered over the years. And that's what it's all about. It's about what life's about guys. And I don't want to be all hunky dory and you know, Kumbaya, but life's about building that toolbox, building that toolbox, making it full of knowledge and skills and experience that you can continue taking with you on your path on your filmmaking path or on your life path. And that's so, so important. Now, again, a lot of things I've talked about, is scary to jump into right away. Specifically, like, like, for me, cinematography, I jumped into cinematography, on mag. And I probably will do the same thing on my next feature. Now I understand I'm not the added level of cinematography, as my friend Suki who's an ASC dp, he has been training for 30 years as a cinematographer, and knows all things, cinematography, I don't, I know, just enough to get me where I need to go. And I have, as I have knowledge in color grading that helped me with that. So I had a really good feeling that I could do the job. So I leaned on my other experiences, I leaned on other things. So if you if you are a carpenter, and you're coming into the film business, chances are that skill set you can lean on if you're going to be a production designer. If you're going to production design a set, you feel really comfortable like Well, you know what, I've built houses, I've built tables, I've built other props, the other furniture before, why can't I do props, so you can lean on that experience. And that's what I'm trying to have you do is build that toolbox, build that toolbox full of tools that you can use, not only in filmmaking, but in life. And that is something that a lot of people don't understand, and people don't get that, Oh, I'm just gonna learn that why am I gonna learn that I could just hire someone to do that. But if you know it, you become dangerous. You become someone not to be trifled with, you know, no one's going to take advantage of you. And in this business, I hate to break it to you guys. But not everyone is really that scrupulous sometimes, and I'm not trying to paint that everybody in the film business is out to get you they're not but like in any place in any any business in any industry in the world. They're good, and they're bad. So the more knowledge you have, the more defense you have against people who are trying to take advantage of you. And any aspect of the business, specifically distribution. Because that's one place that a lot of filmmakers, like I said 99.9% filmmakers don't understand distribution. And I just want you guys to understand something that a lot of the skills I'm talking about right now I've learned over the last two years. I didn't understand social media before. Before I opened up any film hustle I had no I didn't have I just had a Facebook, my own personal Facebook. That was it had no understanding what Facebook had an understanding about Twitter had no understanding about distribution. I'd never knew anything about distribution. But from working on indie film, hustle, doing all that content, interviewing masters, and professionals in every aspect of the film business. I've picked up skills along the way. And resources along the way, that have made me a much more dangerous filmmaker, and a much more capable filmmaker. I couldn't have done this as Meg two years ago, before I opened up indie film, hustle, I needed indie film hustle to learn all the skills that I did not know in order to make it. And that's the same thing moving forward. There's so many things else I'm going to be learning. Moving forward, the more books that I'm going to read more courses that I'm going to take. I take courses all the time I'm reading all the time. That's why I always listen to audiobooks wherever I go, I always have an audiobook playing. Sometimes I'm learning about things that have nothing to do with the film business, because I want to experience other aspects of life. And I bring those experiences into my filmmaking, as George Lucas said, if you want to be a filmmaker, the first thing you have to do is live. Go out there and live get those experiences, bring them back into your filmmaking, into your writing and so on. So I hope this episode was helpful to you guys. You know, I wanted to kind of put together this and just put a little bit of a spotlight on the need of Being a jack of all trades, and like they say, oh, you're a jack of all trades master of none, I you know what I might not be a master of all my tools that are in my toolbox, but I know enough to get by. And I know enough about those aspects to move me forward in my journey in life and as a filmmaker, if you want to check out the show notes, they are at indie film hustle.com forward slash 176. And I just want to make sure you guys make sure you guys know that this is Meg is available not only on iTunes, but also on Amazon for rental or purchase. So please head out and if you guys have seen the movie, please leave me a good review on either Amazon or iTunes. It really helps us with the rankings and in getting up higher and getting more people to see the movie. So really, man, thank you so much for all the support guys and head over to indie film, hustle calm. I want you guys to see all the hard work I've been doing the last few weeks and see what you think. And I just I'm excited to keep bringing you guys more amazing content and helping you guys on your journey. So and as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

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