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By Doug Brunell | September 30, 2004

A friend of mine, let’s just call him Master Thief, is trying to write a true-to-life romantic comedy/drama. The only problem? He’s never written a movie before, and his biggest weakness writing-wise is dialogue. Obviously he’s hit a major roadblock.

Watching him struggle with his movie has given me plenty of insight into the world of independent cinema. Not only is he trying to come up with a cohesive screenplay that utilizes realistic dialogue, he’s also stressing about money, equipment and the skilled people needed to operate it. Then there are the actors. He’s got some friends he wants to use, but few of them have done anything even remotely like a movie. Just about every person he knows is throwing ideas at him, too, and I believe he’s probably in for a mental breakdown. This has become his passion, however, and he doesn’t want to give it up.

Master Thief isn’t alone. I imagine that there are countless numbers of people out there who want to put together a movie, but just don’t know how to make everything fall into place. They see something like “White Chicks” and say, “I can do something better than that bullshit.” Then they realize their biggest obstacle: How?

You follow Hollywood’s example. You knew that place was good for something, right?

First you need a script. Where do you get the idea for a story if you Don’t already have one? You steal it. Find a movie you like, change the names and setting, tweak a few key plot points, and there’s your script. Think that never happens? Remember all those disaster movies from decades ago? Bingo.

If you already have an idea for a script, but don’t know how to write the dialogue, do the same thing. Take a movie that is similar to yours and change the names and conversation subjects. Remember all the Quentin Tarantino clones that came after “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction”? Same process.

Next you need money. How much? I don’t know, but I do know that you can never have enough. Problems arise on a daily basis when it comes to a film shoot. Actors get busted for sodomy. Houses catch fire. A DP may accidentally release Ebola. You need dough, and lots of it, so what do you do?

Drugs, women and wheels. You sell drugs, you become a pimp, and you steal cars. Or you get someone to do all these things for you. Sure, you could find backers, but that is a lengthy process, and they always want a scene that involves them and a naked lady, or they demand that their cousin — the one with the limp and a lisp — have a co-starring role. You don’t need those jokers crapping up your stolen ideas, so you got to raise the green yourself. Hollywood has been doing the same thing for years, only Spielberg gets a slightly overweight made man to do the work for him.

After you raise the cash, you need equipment. Now you can either buy or rent the stuff you need with the money you raised, or you can save your money for emergencies and steal the cameras, lights and mics. How do you swipe that stuff? Hey, I’m no expert, but where there’s a will there’s a way. (In the early days of Hollywood, everyone borrowed each other’s equipment. There were actually only three cameras in all of Hollywood until 1967, when drug money enabled studios to purchase more.)

At this point, almost everything is in place. All you need now is actors. If your friends suck, and your local playhouse is full of idiots (as most are), you’re going to need to recruit your talent. For this, I say stay away from the sleazy example Hollywood has set with the semen- stained casting couch and go a totally different route. Hire drug addicts.

Drug addicts, especially heroin and crack junkies, will do just about anything for a fix. I know. I got a few of them to repair my mom’s car, and they weren’t even mechanics. My mom didn’t seem to care, bless her soul. You can use the same principal. Remember all that money you saved by stealing your equipment? That can buy a hell of a lot of drugs. All you need to do is place the junkie in front of the camera and make them act the parrot. Since you’ll be doing an indie film, their strung-out appearance will only lend you more credence.

I hope these suggestions help. I can’t give you the courage or energy to go out and try this, but I think I may have made the whole process seem a little less mysterious and painful. It’s not rocket science, people. It’s motion pictures, and if Hollywood has shown us anything, even a monkey can do it. Now go make art!

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