In Case of Emergency - Status Update by Stefanie Sparks

Well, we shot quite a bit in October over about 9 days. It was intense and amazing and I don't think any of us are recovered from it yet. We did some really interesting, creative things with this film so far. We're working on a trailer/teaser and we'll be doing pickups over the next few months. It was the best crew I've ever worked with. I'm having a hard time adjusting to "normal" life. It's always hard after a film shoot but when you finally get what you've been trying to find for years in terms of a crew, it's just that much harder to wake up the day after and get on with your life. Those kids kinda become my temporary family and I get attached to them, the chaos and the way it never ceases to amaze me that when people share a goal and a vision amazing freaking things can and do happen.


Fundraising, Day #10 by Stefanie Sparks

We’re fundraising right now. Day #10. We’re at 5%. I’m so humbled by the people that are reaching out to me trying to help in any way they can (more than just donations). I’m meeting some of the coolest people as I’m out scouting for locations or looking for crew people that are ballsy enough to sign on to this project. It’s been, so far, an amazing process. But it’s hard to raise money.

I prefer to not try to get money from other folks for my projects and I’ve always worked grueling day jobs to fund my films but when I put the cast together for this film, I said, not this time. This time, I’ve got the best possible cast I could ever ask for. I’ve spent three years working on this script. This is going to be an amazing film and I want people to be a part of it.

I keep thinking if we could just get everyone to donate $50 and then they get a download of the film, we’re changing the way films are made. We’re cutting out ALL of the middlemen. The festival directors who some times get it but often times don’t because it’s about money, butts in seats, corporate sponsors and Hollywood. I keep thinking, let’s change things! Let’s make this about the cast and the crew and the content and SCREW everything else. But I don’t know. It’s August and people are raising boat loads of money for Burning Man. Which I guess I get but man, we’re making a film that your mom, your sister and some day your daughter is going to watch and be like…”oh, wow, this is how things in film started to change”. Because things are changing. We’re creating the content we actually want to see rather than waiting in line and paying $20 to see a truncated version of what someone else thinks we should be, usually some blonde, with a large bosom who functions as a wife or a girlfriend while the dudes get all the relative story lines. Forget it. That’s not what the future is about. The future is about complex narratives revolving around women and people of color and women of color.

Fear not, this film is happening. It’s not about how much money we have. It’s about how many people get to become a part of this film. We’re trying to give people a way to access content they believe in now rather than waiting around for it to show up on Netflix. Because you know what, folks, some times the best content doesn’t make it to Netflix or Amazon. Some times it’s up to us to make this content available to ourselves. And thank God we live in a time when that’s possible.

We are the future. And the future starts out at just $15. :)

How to be a no-budget filmmaker and NOT be a douchebag. by Stefanie Sparks

It’s hard to be a filmmaker and not be a douchebag every once in a while. There I said it and let me be the first to admit that I myself have fallen victim to douchbaggery when attempting to make my vision a reality within the constraints of modern day capitalism and the explosion of production in NYC.

What can I say? I’m no Lena Dunham, heck; I’m not even one of those girls from Broad City (Abbi and Ilana, yeah, I know their names). There isn’t some magical Judd Apatow-type (there’s really only one Judd Apatow) waiting to discover me and legitimate me overnight. For the rest of us, it’s a grueling, uphill, heartbreaking battle every single day to get our films made and there are so, so many of us. Okay. That’s the state of things. So what? As Sinatra would say (the documentary I watched about him a few months really got me into the guy), “That’s Life”. That doesn’t mean we don’t all deserve to tell our stories but I think the key to it all is learning how to support one another. I’m working on this myself. It’s hard.

The best no-budget films I have seen in the last few years: (let me list them here: Foxy Merkins, Red Flag & Tired Moonlight) were all made with crews of less than four people! Four people! These are all such emotionally honest, brilliant in their own unique way films and they were made by four, count that, 1-2-3-4, people. Hmmm.

So what does that mean for the rest of us chumps? I don’t know. Tread carefully, friends.  I went through a tough time, to put it mildly, after my first feature film project. I spent a LOT of time searching for answers from other no-budget directors and I questioned everything I had done up until that period in regards to how I made films. Events that unfolded during Cathy Coppola forced me to. Trust me, I’m no fan of self-reflection and I prefer to think if there’s anything I might know something about it’s got to be filmmaking. But I had to reflect. I had to talk to other directors. I needed answers.  I got them.

Be wary of those who question your filmmaking “chops” because you only have 10k to make a feature film and you want to work with a small crew. Chances are, these folks are super talented but they aren’t the ones to help you make your little no-budget film. You see, there are many, many reasons why people chose to work on other people’s films and only about 1 out of 100 people you might meet through a Mandy or CL ad actually give a rat’s patoot about your little no-budget film or your vision.

Some folks go to work on film sets because they don’t want to work in an office. Yeah, it’s that simple and it is a legitimate alternative to cube life. Some of them are working on sets so they can get into one of the unions. Some of them just want to prove that they have huge cocks and that they can hang with the big boys (most of these folks are women, actually) and of course there are some that are simply working on films for the money. None of these folks will be happy on your film set. That doesn’t mean they aren’t awesome filmmakers. They just aren’t the ones for you.

But I still haven’t gotten to the part about how you, as a struggling no-budget filmmaker can avoid douchbaggery when making your own films. That part is simple, in theory. If you promise to pay people for their work on your set, pay them. Pay them the amount you told them. Take five minutes and print out a deal memo and have them sign it. Have them send you a receipt (you will get audited by New York State at some point so be prepared, keep your receipts and don’t let ANYONE tell you that it’s not necessary). 

Be nice to people. Just because they don’t get what you are trying to do or don’t understand how you could possibly make a film for less than 200k doesn’t make them a bad person. It just means they aren’t a little crazy which you have to be to make no-budget films.

Find good interns and treat them well. Nothing makes the process of no-budget filmmaking better than a couple of eager film students that really, really want to get some experience and work on your project. Try to pay them, even if it’s just $50 a day and a Subway sandwich. If you seriously can’t pay them, find out what they really want to do (edit, art direct, etc.) and let them do it on your film AND give them a cool title.  Titles are free. But be careful; don’t go making your intern the executive producer. I could tell you about the time I made a Russian Lit professor a “producer” on one of my films but that’s a whole other blog post entry.