Indie Film-Making Is Not For Everyone?

When I was a teenager the way I saw my future changed from week to week.

If I was acting, I wanted to do that. When I was singing, that was my dream. Film-making one week, acting another, songwriting or some other type of writing the following week. And of course, I wanted to be a wife, mother, etc…

By my late teens, I had pushed aside film-making and acting for the world of touring as a contemporary Christian recording artist/songwriter. From the age of seventeen to twenty-four that was who I was. Then I met Jay Liner, and I became a wife, then a mother. And for the next fifteen years I loved being Jay’s wife and raising our six kids. After thirty years – I still do. (You can read more about me HERE).

My husband and I have a lot in common.

When you meet that someone who rocks your world, yes, I just said that, you usually will find that you have some things in common.

Still understanding and misunderstanding each other after thirty years.

We were no different. We were both creatives. Not long after we met he literally asked if I wanted to see his sketches (thankfully there was nothing sketchy about him). My husband, Jay, and I do share many things. A passion for Jesus, family and expressing those passions creatively. But the last part about creativity is approached by each of us in very different ways.

Embrace Your differences.

Jay has a degree in Environmental Design. His expertise is typography and layout. He is artistically visual.  He is also a pastor at heart who loves people and wants to make them feel valuable. I, on the other hand, am a storyteller. Even the songs I wrote were stories. Ironically, stories are usually about people and I am not a people person. Something that Jay couldn’t understand.  But that was meant to change. When I started writing scripts I discovered that I wanted to see them brought to life. So I produced some of my plays. However,…

Producing the scripts forced me to get out from behind my laptop and interact with humans.

Jay liked this new side of me. So, when I mentioned my desire to write screenplays and start a production company with my son, Stefan, who was an accomplished commercial producer already, Jay got behind it 100%. In spite of the fact that it’s “not his thing”. In fact, Jay switched jobs to assure that his family members who were pursuing creative outlets professionally would have the margin to explore those careers without the added worry of finances. Jay is my hero.

Believing in what someone is doing and enjoying it are two different things.

The further I go in indie film-making with my son Stefan the clearer it becomes that it isn’t for everyone. I can write for hours. Brainstorm for days with the team at Liner House. Work on set for weeks made up of 14 hour days or longer (because for a producer the work doesn’t stop when the camera does).  Okay, I may not be able to edit – very well, storyboard – at all – that’s Ethan’s forte’, or create fabulous lighting. But I love working with the people that do.

Jay will occasionally come on set to lend moral support but he doesn’t like it. Waiting around for forty-five minutes to get a one minute shot isn’t his cup of tea. I can’t fathom why it isn’t. I love it. Even when things aren’t going the way we planned. I still love it.

Preparing to shoot the last scene of Season 1 of When Fact Met Fiction.
That being said, before you go into indie film-making – be very sure of a few things.
  1. You must be willing to do things you don’t like in order to do the things you love.

    Indie means low or no budget. When you can’t afford a craft services supervisor guess who makes sure everyone is fed? Yep. You got it. you do. What this means is you may have to write the script, and be the director or 1st Assistant director. Then you will be the caterer, pick out wardrobe and so on. Stefan has written, produced, directed, edited, handled audio and more – all on the same project. You are often the only people you can count on to get things done. This isn’t because everyone else who are a part of the project are heartless. It’s because they have other parts to play on other projects. Therefore, the final product is in your hands.

  2. You must have a strong emotional armor.

    You will be exhausted. You’ll deal with people who are having a very bad day. You will have to be able to stand your ground when people want you to approach things differently than you want to. You will have to be true to your vision when others don’t understand it. Trust me, an actor doesn’t always understand what you are going after. You have to write it off as a lesson learned when you realize you should have approached something differently. You must be able to know you have grown from each project and then stretch yourself again the next time. Because there has to be a next time.

  3. You must be very very very stubborn and determined. 

    Some people may have overnight success. But most of us will work on many projects honing our craft, learning lessons and growing in confidence.  Someone asked Stefan, “Why film making?” without hesitation he replied, “Because I can’t not do this.”

    I agree. The thought of not telling stories especially through film or video just isn’t an option. It is what I am wired to do.

For me indie film making is a great experience.

You may be asking,

“If indie film-making is such a hassle, what makes it a great experience?”

That’s a question I’m going to answer in three words,

We finished it!

This is no small feat. Finishing a movie or web-series or two-minute sketch is something worth celebrating. I can watch just about anyone’s indie movie or web-series that obviously could have been improved on (like every project we’ve done or ever will do) but because I’ve been there in the trenches I can see beyond the flaws to the commitment it took to complete it. Anything can be better with more time, money, talent, etc … But if a project is completed?… Well, I can respect that because I know what goes into it.

Below is something we finished. I’m very pleased about that. And there is nothing quite like watching something that came from inside you with other people. Hearing them laugh and sigh or say, “Ah” at the appropriate time. It’s a great feeling.

Summing it all up.

  1. Indie film making is not for the faint of heart. You will have personality clashes and extremely long days. Sometimes it will be emotionally draining yet energizing all the same. You will learn a lot about who you really are (which can be scary). It will show you where you need to grow or adapt if you want to continue in this business. It will make you a better person if you let it.
  2. We humans are capable of so much more than we give our selves credit for. Sticking with a project to the end is proof of that. Just when you aren’t sure how to make something happen good old human ingenuity kicks in and you figure something out. And that feeling is indescribable.
  3. We love this! I know it’s not for everyone. Producing is a huge job even on a small project. But we are wired for it and it doesn’t get old.
Some of the cast from When Fact Met Fiction at the season 1 premiere. Left to right: Madison Garris, Rebekah Babelay, Jeff Alexander, Josef Liner, Miles Rice, Karen Covington-Yow, and Carol Anderson.

If someone asks you, “Why indie film-making?” and you can answer without hesitation, “Because I can’t not do this.” You are on the right path. Get ready to work hard, grow a thick skin, be undaunted, and love what you are doing.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Robin
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