If necessity is the mother of invention, perhaps inexperience is the father. In which case, the cry from the Film Industry should be "Generation Next, Please". A call for filmmakers who are unfettered by the politics of Hollywood. Filmmakers who are not predisposed to do things ‘the way they have always been done.’ Filmmakers who follow not textbook technique but instinct. Filmmakers who bring not pages and pages of credentials but oodles and oodles of enthusiasm. Perhaps the only filmmaking requirement should be: "Those without vision need not apply."
Enter Brandon Fowler. A 20-year-old filmmaker from Jacksonville, Florida, who has just lensed his first independent feature film, 18. Writing, producing, and directing a 35mm feature film is a noteworthy accomplishment. Fowler must have worked on tons of movies before this endeavor. Well, not exactly. Fowler’s only professional film experience came as an office intern on a movie of the week entitled Sudden Terror: The Hijacking of School Bus #17. "I made up my mind maybe 2 days after the internship began that I was never going to work on another movie until I was making it," said Fowler.
Did no one tell this pie-eyed youth that one must first slave over a hot set 16 hours a day for years before running off to make one’s own film? Not to mention sneaking in a few years and thousands of dollars on film school first. Apparently not. Nor did anyone inform Fowler that a producer must stress over the business details for months before exposing film. "As soon as we got our money, we just started shooting," said Fowler. "If anyone had told me how much business preparation needed to be done beforehand, I never would have made this film."
However, Fowler did manage the basics of film prep: arranged financing; cast talented actors; hired an experienced crew of 25 strong; acquired good and plentiful equipment; established an ideal location; and focused on the vision. As luck would have it, most of the basics came easily and, in many cases, free or pretty close to it. "I had good luck. Even our bad luck turned out to be good luck."
For example, a last minute casting change scared away three of the five investors, just two days before principal photography began. "We are still playing catchup because of that, but now investors are calling us." Fowler could have tried to woe back those investors by any means necessary, but, instead, he relied upon his instincts and stayed his course with the casting decision. The decision paid dividends to Fowler. "If I had millions of dollars to do this film, I’d still use those actors," said Fowler. "They were amazing, amazing actors. We could use any take; they were all great." In fact, Fowler budgeted enough film for six takes of each setup, but found he averaged only three.
No procedure was followed in solidifying the key location. Having just moved from his apartment, which was to double as film set, Fowler found himself without his primary location. However, while driving down the interstate one day, he noticed a particular apartment building. He took the next off-ramp to what would become his location for the movie. The apartment complex management not only gave the production two unfurnished models, free of charge, but did not charge them a dime for any utilities. In exchange, they wanted only an autographed picture of 18 actress, Joyce DeWitt.
When asked about the most valuable lesson learned, Fowler responded: "You really have to stand up for what you want to do. A lot of people say ‘if you are inexperienced, get the best crew you can.’ But, then, when you want to go against the grain, they say ‘well, this isn’t the way it’s done.’" Perhaps the lesson here is this: if you are not making a movie of titanic disproportion, a clear vision, people who share your vision, and good luck will do ya.
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Tyme is a filmmaker and freelance writer.
Copyright (c) 1998 Tyme
Published in Behind The Scenes Magazine, 1998.