Someone asked me recently what the most important thing is when considering production on a short film. Was it cast, was it the budget, was it the camera? I thought about it for a while and then came to the conclusion that all of those things were equally important when making not just a short movie but a film of any size. You can’t make a movie without some sort of budget, without some sort of camera, and without some actors. You just can’t do it, impossible, I dare you to try.
I suppose since I look at these things as a given, that I consider them all part of the calculus that must be done in order to pull of any sort of production, that they aren’t hard. That’s not to say that getting an awesome cast for nothing or scoring great gear on loan isn’t hard; it can be really tough. But these things are also essential, there is no movie without them.
For my money, the hardest things about making movies are the details that pop up that most folks don’t even consider or, worse, consider them granted. The best example of this that we’ve run across in making our flicks has been locations. You need a place to shoot, but a lot of budgets I’ve seen either assume that production will find space for cheap if not free OR they omit location expenses all together.
Big mistake when you are trying to shoot anything in a city as film savvy as Los Angeles. Everything we’ve shot with the exception of the Return of Anubis has had significant issues associated with the finding and maintaining of locations. Yes, it is possible to get some kind soul to donate an apartment or a house, or sometimes a bar or restaurant that they might have a hook up with. But in my experience more often you are going to find yourself on the phone talking with managers, homeowners, and shopkeepers. Some will take an nominal fee under the table, others will insist on insurance and security to be present at all times or limit your ability to use the space (such as painting a wall, dusting a library with stage-dust, or covering the place with fake blood). Finding locations can be a pain and dealing with the owners can be a bigger pain. The best advice I can give is get everything down on paper and make sure that everyone – the crew, the owner, the manager, whatever – is aware of what can and can’t be done well in advance. As with all things on a film set, short or otherwise, it might be a royal pain in the ass, but as long as you are aware of it you can manage it and producing (again, this is in my limited experience) is all about managing fires before they burn down the whole production.