“I’ve always wanted to make a movie.”
Great! Fantastic! Art is life or something!
Despite the popular doctrine that everybody has a movie idea, most people do not. Worse, if they do, it’s usually something hilariously dumb. You’ll know if it’s dumb because it’s so much more fun to listen to than it would be to watch. Cowboys with Samurai sword-hands on Mars. Revenging chicks in a post-apocalyptic nuclear dick-kicker. Cats driving forklifts. It’s all great stuff, but probably not fun when you force people to stare at it for more than a few minutes.
I’m personally not against bad movie ideas. I’ve always had a lot of bad ideas, myself, so I’m certainly understanding if not appreciative of kitschy crap. My favorite filmmakers are the alchemists who turn crazy bullshit into solid gold art, but even they sometimes trip on the dumbness. The 5th Element is one of my favorite films, but I can’t remember the last Luc Besson movie I enjoyed. I feel sad just typing that.
Since one hot summer night when I was seventeen, watching Chow Yun Fat gun down gangsters while sliding down a bannister with a toothpick in his mouth, I’ve wanted to make movies. and for me it was now or never. I just had to decide what I was going to do.
Don’t waste anybodies time. Especially your own.
I have to say that before anything.
Having been to a good deal of short film festivals and hung around the amateur film scene far longer than any hygienic person would like to, I can say the overwhelming motivating factor behind the idea process for most amateur filmmakers is as follows:
“How cheap can I make this?”
It’s so common it’s depressing. There’s nothing quite like that metaphysical drowning feeling that comes a couple minutes into one of these movies. Maybe you go get some popcorn but then you come back and it’s still going. In film, few things are as big a sin as wasting somebody's time. Not just the audience, but the time the crew spent on your sets, the actors spent learning your insipid dialogue and trying to make it work, even your parents for having raised you only to now suffer this travesty. In the excellent Boaz Yakin film “Fresh,” Samuel L. Jackson’s character says this:
“Anything lost can be found again, except for time wasted.”
But that’s just how most people make movies. They have a location already so they build the idea around that location. They had a script written but it seemed to expensive to do, so they just took out the expensive parts rather than try to improvise an alternative solution. There are all sorts of reasons why people set the bar low when it comes to their approach and for me that’s the quickest way to wasting everybodies time. Filmmaking is about problem solving and creativity, so I’ve always believed in writing what I want to do and figuring out how to do it later. It’s more challenging, for sure, but it means I’m not wasting anybodies fucking time.
I made a Godzilla movie about depression.
I wanted to make a movie that was ambitious and fun, so even if people hated it they would still have something wild to look at. I was going to do a short film based on a weird dream I had a couple years earlier where I was a Power Ranger in my own personal Megazord, battling a creature that was the embodiment of my own self-destructive desire to be loved. My mom would call in to support me in my battle, an ex-girlfriend would chime in with some nonsense. It was all a very strange dream.
I took this idea and made a few changes. The dream didn’t make any sense, but I liked the concept and wanted to make a narrative out of it. I wrote one or two versions before I settled on my final concept and once I did that I knocked out a script after only one or two revisions. It was a tight 15 minute rock-em sock-em monster movie about dealing with the doldrums of day to day anxieties. I had been going through some depression of my own and felt I could talk about a topic like that without making it as exciting as an antidepressant commercial.