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Lesson 18 from: Producing An Independent Film From The Grassroots Up

Michael Gottwald

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Lesson Info

18. Watch Movies & Read Books

Lesson Info

Watch Movies & Read Books

The last thing that I'll say is like in this deserves to be said a lot like watch movies read things like the only way to engage like I sometimes think the best way to be a good producers tio know what the dialogue is about all the different stories being told in the world and like I make it part of my job to watch movies and read as much as I can in fact, this is extremely dorky but this is my gmail inbox this is a whole section called to read this is a whole section called to watch this is my tasks where I said all these different things I wanna watch um I make it then like like a lot of people's I think my inbox is sort of the starting place for how I do all my work so if I see this up there very, very much organizes people my mind to say get in, get in on this like this what read this watch this it's part of it's part my job so I'm not saying you have to be associate dia's me about it, but but, you know, like prioritize watching it and I feel like that's probably not a problem from...

as many as many people as it is for me but I have to remind myself to like, stop working and watch stuff you know I mean tv is going to be a focus this year I really want to start watching more tv, so um so anyway, I would love to just right now just because we only have a few minutes just any questions about anything, um I'd love for everybody at home toe like look back at what they've what they've written down so far on that note pad that was next to them what things that have been percolating, maybe questions about anything but they want to ask and just now is the time, um and given, given everything that I've said what's one thing that you can do right now, tio, bring yourself towards being a better producer or being a more proactive producer or finding some somebody you want to work with. So any and all questions, this is no, I'm working on this documentary film right now, and this is my first time I'm being a producer um, uncle producer and ah, we are in the stage, we are still like developing stage and we applying for grants and we don't have any funding yet, and we had it took I had a talk with the director recently that if we don't get any funding, do we wanna keep shooting or we don't we want to forget about it like I'm passionate about the project it's about, you know building a zen temple in the kony in northern california and I think you'll be a amazing documentary film about the same time it's my first time to be a producer and I don't know if I can take on to raise money or just, you know, put my money into production and so I don't know where to draw a line of like, passion and money well, this is it I mean this is a very key question is and this is sort of the like psychics sort of problem that not psychic book psychological sort of balancing act that everybody has to do is like the one hand if your director has a camera and there's this thing happening then what are the real barriers cost wise to them going and filming it if the barrier is like I actually I'm so broke that I don't have money to get to where I need to go to film it I don't can't afford tape stock that's one thing and that means that it sounds like you guys can't actually film until you have more money if it's like well, I'm I uh I just want tio I really wish that we had money because I feel like this is a valuable prop project yeah, I understand we all you know, we all feel like our art should be supported and be granted and everything like that but if you have the tools that's the crazy thing about right now if I'm making a documentary and the thing is over there across the street that I want to make a documentary about and I have a camera, I kind of have what I need to have like you should just go out and do it, you know? I mean, we all want to feel like yes, we're valuable people want to give us money, but at the end of the day the tools air are increasingly cheap and I'd like it it's not true that anybody can make a film but it's increasingly easier and we have high and we have more access than ever before so I'd say it sounds like the director just doesn't want to make the film you know if unless there's money coming in but that's not really about the money that seems like it's probably about time and energy, which is valued look if if you don't have the time and energy to make a film it's fine like don't don't make the film. So have you worked on like projects that didn't hold any money? Yeah, completely I mean, the first two films by the guys that the documentary filmmakers should the kickstarter of I didn't come on board until post production of the second one and they just were sort of scrapping by I mean they just started filming they never they did what they could for money, but they never waited around to get grants I mean, they certainly took it upon themselves to apply for grants and all that, but I think some didn't come in they were using panasonic tvx is it's not really like the best format or most export expensive format, but they said it was something I really respect about them there said let's get out there and shoot you know we have these cameras and like then they had the monitor that bill edits on is the monitor that he got from winning like, uh from winning a prize of ebert fest with their first film, you know, so like they've been able to piece together the artillery that they use but it's very, very cheap artillery, so yeah, they just started filming they didn't wait around and say this is important people should be giving us money they just started shooting not everyone has that privilege it's very, very true, but they just thought it was their project, you know, is there passion project? They wanted to make it happen so they did. We talked earlier a little bit about when you were university and declared film studies and I'm just curious about ah very briefly how what your goal or goals were at the time that you declared film studies and how those goals have changed since then no idea what my goals were like it didn't really I knew that I like this's the thing I like to say is I went to a liberal arts college because I knew I liked movies but I didn't know that I wanted to even major in film or do film at all I just I wanted to have the option to explore other things while I college and it just so happened that the thing that I had the most interest in that amounted to the most number of classes was phil right? And so then yeah, so I ended up with a film major, but I also didn't get to take all the best film classes because I did have an interest in japanese history and culture or like, you know, like american literature eighteen sixty five to world war two you know or whatever like I wanted to go out and take those classes and uh and as a result, I didn't take every possible film class that it could have um and then after college I really don't know what I wanted to any I mean, I had direct I had directed a senior thesis film, right? But I sort of came out of that being like, I don't know if I really like being a director there's all these people they're like waiting around for me to make a decision and like I'm tiring them and I'm frustrating them I don't know if I could deal with that right? So I came out of it thinking again being like well I don't know what to do I really like making movies uh and being amongst people who make movies but I'm not the director myself I don't know if I'm a writer it could be an editor if I'm comfortable being in a cave for a long time working with this computer screen but the experience of glory etc and then later beasts told me that if you're enthusiastic and you're the guy who was enthusiastic about the director's film and are willing to do whatever needs doing in order make it happen you you can become a producer I mean that's what a producer sort of is that the most essential level so this has come up in various forms throughout this course but I would just want to get your take on we talked a little about compensating actors and compensating anybody who's not really professionally used a lot of amateurs but this was originally posted by new chase a we had nine people vote on it they want to know about the compensation that you did maybe once the film takes off do you ever have any compensation lined up where you have people agree to do work for very little for free saying well if this movie does get picked up by this festival or this then paying them later is there any kind of compensation that you've done in that way that you could help out with people sure sure you can talk well, there's two things that come to mind there's deferred payment okay, but that's a little tricky because you're you're sort of saying I I will pay you later if money comes in now that should be an ef and not a win because if they think it's a when you're going to get into trouble if you don't actually get money uh for the film or or as the films out there you know, being consumed, the other thing that we do is that we did on beasts for sure was I've talked about this a little bit and talk about the financial mechanisms but you have a filmmaker pool and you have the financial pool right that gets split fifty fifty after the investor sees there they're pre their premium are their recruitment in the premium rate that filmmaker pool you have points and yes, it would be easy for you as the producer or the director to just sort of take all that of that pie. But really, I think if you're serious about everybody who worked on your film having a little bit of ownership then give them points on the film, you know, this documentary that we just took the sundance I mean we have about twelve to fifteen two different people who have points on the film and that's about the whole number of people who help make the film happen you know what I mean and on beasts we certainly did that too with actors and actresses and it just sort of is a thing that says look if we really d'oh if a miracle happens with this film and we do make a ton of money than were you were all in it together you know and if we don't make any money were all in that together all right so that's those are two things you can do you know I lied one last question came in here that we really need to ask this one's great but this is from joe bob and they want to know how did you educate yourself before you went out to make peace and how much of it was just experience I didn't really educate myself I mean any education I got was every films that I think I learned a little bit more um it was good that I have had the experience of assistant director on ben's film ben's senior thesis film well in college because they've got to learn what that was about and you know a really the best producers are always the ones that have come through various various roles on film sets who have been the pia or have been the line producer then the first assistant director or been in situations where they have to wear all those heads together all at once. Those people know films integrally like from, you know, like every single thing that could be going wrong or right on a film, they know it, and those producers are extremely powerful. And if they can marry that kind of real life experience two creative kind of sensibility, they are unsolvable, and they're the best kind of people you're gonna have on your team. Um, so, you know, every film set experience, I got a little knew a little bit more, but, yeah, you just got to go out there and do it. All right, well, I think that's a good way to end things. Any final words from you as we wrap things. Oh, just thank you guys for being an attentive audience here and at home. Thank you for, uh, for listening to me, and I hope that this was helpful for everybody and thank everybody. I think everybody a creative life for making this happen.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 1.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 2.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 3.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Keynote Part 4.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Call Sheet - Filled Out.xls
Michael Gottwald - Sample Low Budget Documentary Excel Budget Total Budget.pdf
Michael Gottwald - Sample Low Budget Documentary Excel Budget.xls

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

A top-notch presentation on indie film making. I learned a lot from this course which I hope to soon put into practice as I'm about to embark on my first indie film - as a screen writer for the first time out, but eventually I hope to write, direct, and produce my own film. Very easy to follow the presentations in this course, and the handouts I received when I purchased the course are quite useful.


Such a great course! Being an indie "Grassroots" filmmaker in the middle of three projects, I found what Michael shared to be very valuable. The way that he described the different aspects of producing and illustrated with examples was very clear and fresh. The course really opens you up to examine your own processes, what works / what doesn't and stirs up some new ideas on how to move forward. Thanks CreativeLive team for making the class happen!


This is a tremendous introduction to grassroots filmmaking. Michael takes you step by step through the various elements of film production and offers those so inclined a cursory understanding of what is required. Because filmmaking is a creative pursuit, the direction the individual filmmaker takes from there is entirely up to each. I would highly recommend this course to any one starting out in filmmaking. Well worth the cost. David W. King, Michigan Movie Magazine

Student Work