“What can you do when you’re absolutely nowhere but feel like you are full of magic and ideas?”
Filmmaker Mark Duplass
“There’s one thing that keeps coming up to me over and over in my career–this very simple phrase—and I’m going to take a note from motivational speaker Tony Robbins for a second—and were going to have something to really focus in on and that is the simple words, ‘The cavalry isn’t coming.’ And I’m looking around like Tony, and let it sit. Then Tony repeats it, ‘The cavalry is not coming.’ And I say this because we’ve all heard that amazing tale abut this 21-year-old kid who had a script and his cousin worked in the mail room at Warner Brothers and he gave it to him and the script got up to the head of Warner Brothers they loved it and bought it for a million dollars and got it made. That’s an exciting story, but a super dangerous one, because I don’t know anyone who that’s happened to —maybe that’s happened once—but I had a very different career trajectory.”
Producer/Director/Actor Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, The Mindy Project)
2015 SXSW Keynote talk
Somewhere between starting out as a filmmaker with little assets and selling the golden goose screenplay, Mark Duplass offered these points from his 2015 South by Southwest talk:
1) The $3 Film—One scene, two actors, five minutes in length. Aim for comedic because film festivals are looking for humorous short-shorts. Shoot it on whatever camera you can get your hands on—including an iPhone. Don’t just make one, make one ever weekend. Don’t worry if the first ones suck, you’ll get better and find your voice.
Note: Mark and his brother Jay made the short This is John in one 20-minute take that they edited down to 7 minutes. The little experiment was the first film they made that was accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.
2) Once your short-short plays in some festivals and wins some awards an agent will approach you and tell you “The cavalry is coming”—but it’s not.
3) But you will have a handful of friends you’ve met along the way who will help you make a $1,000 feature film. (As in one thousand dollars.) Between time at your day job, your 5-8 person crew put together a feature film that you may or may not have a script for using whatever’s available to use in your town. It takes you a year or two to finish this film but you get it into film festivals where you’ve made inroads with your short films.
A agent tells you the cavalry is coming—but it’s not.
4) You make another $1,000 film, but this time you have a rich but sad name TV actor who wants to do something creative with his talent and teams up with you because you are a rising indie filmmaker. You will sell this film to a video on demand (VOD) group for between $50,000-$100,000. You’ll finally pay your crew some money.
An agent will tell you “The cavalry is coming”—and they may be right if that means you will take meetings in Hollywood for the next year but nothing will come of it. You might even sell a TV pitch that will end up in turn around, which at least puts money in your pockets.
5) But instead you decide to take you name TV actor (and perhaps a second TV actor) and you shoot two episodes of a two-hander TV show and license it (and the season you’re going to produce) to a cable or online group for $500,000. Now you’re finally making money.
And an agent tells you, “The cavalry is coming.” And they may be right, but as you look at the offers coming your way you realize that you may not want to be a part of that cavalry. You realize you are your own cavalry. You are your own studio. Your creating projects that you own and that are finding distribution.
6) You then help others became their own cavalry, by investing in their $1,000 films.
So the bad and good news of Duplass’ talk is the cavalry is not coming, and you are the cavalry.
Who cares if it’s garbage?—Edward Burns
The Ten Film Commandments of Edwards Burns
How to Shoot a Feature in Ten Days
It’s a Good Time to Be a Filmmaker
‘Don’t Try and Compete with Hollywood’
Freedom of Limitations