Sometimes You Have to Punt a Production

The Conflict of Schedules and Indie Productions

Long time no post. Got busy with a production I’ll be posting about here soon. I also had a bit of existential grief that I wasn’t just writing watered down platitudes, and what not. But I’ve got a good one, today: The conflict of  a tight filmmaking schedule and no budget.

Why, ‘Punt?’ Besides the extra point, the cherry ontop after a touchdown, sometimes in football you’re not where you want to be, and the First down is looking doubtful. So you kick the ball for better field position.

Now there’s the old saying, “If you don’t plan, you plan to fail,” and that’s totally true when it comes to filmmaking. Filmmaking is at least %60 planning, and Indie Filmmaking is even more so. But it’s easy to put things on your schedule, and decide two or three weeks out, “We’re going to shoot December 1st!” Now this is a great pie in the sky notion, but you’ve got to keep an asterix on that date until November 31st, because everything is based on a contingency, and things will fall apart.

I remember my first production I had to punt on: My DP got a paid gig, my lead actor got sick, and the location that had been iffy decided to charge me a ridiculous rate instead of just saying no. With 12 hours before call time, I couldn’t find another Free DP, I didn’t have an extra $400 and my actor was still sick. I fell into the worst depression I had in years, and a fellow filmmaker was kind enough to take me out to pizza for lunch and buy me cocktails until I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. And that’s about what I needed. But I drank my own cool-aid; I told everyone I could get it together… and when I didn’t, I couldn’t understand what went wrong.

A recent FilmRiot installment where they had to postphone a production they’d planned to video blog about, reminded me that you need a certain amount of overconfident hubris in this craft, making something from virtually nothing, but you also need the humility of realism… it’s not going to always work out. This is pretty close to how it feels if you haven’t been there….


I think the ultimate issue is the schedule. There’s a project manager tendancy to plan a production by putting a target on a calendar and planning backwards what you need to do, collect, borrow, and beg to get this production going. And you get going, and you save some time here, cut some corners there…  but performing minor miracles is no guarantee the major one will come off great.

So when you’re scheduling a production do yourself a couple favors:

  • Realize it’s better to shoot something great, than ‘just shoot something.’
  • Fast… Cheap… Good. You only get two.
  • Who’s your audience? Youtube? It doesn’t really matter. Hollywood? Punt until the stars align, because good ain’t good enough. A client? Don’t overpromise to a client.
  • Find people who are enthusiastic about your project to help you. Willing and able is not enough.
  • Your first couple times, double the time you expect to take to get anything done – You don’t know what you’re doing, and that’s OK long as you have time to learn.
  • Plan, plan, plan and plan. The film is made in pre-production. A plan will also help you when things go wrong… if you know where you’re going, you can figure out how to get back on track.

At the end of the day, go easy on yourself and realize, it’s just a movie. No excuses to lose friends or endanger anyone over this. Absolutely no reason to spend the rent money either. You can only do what you can do. And the more you do, the more you’ll be able to do.

Gambatte! (Japanese for, “Fight! Win!”)

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