Five Friends Films

Five Friends Films

Earlier this month, I was traveling between New York and Philadelphia to work with the actors of Temple University, SAG-AFTRA, and AEA through the SAG Foundation. My traveling companion and I were talking about this phenomenon we’d witnessed in self-producing (something y’all KNOW I celebrate enthusiastically), where the result is something my colleague calls “Five Friends Films” — projects that are only entertaining to you and your five friends.

Yikes. You go through all that work, coming up with a phenomenal concept, writing a script, crewing your first baby, securing locations, getting all your paperwork in order (budget, signatory paperwork, performer and crew contracts, insurance, payroll, workman’s comp, permits to shoot, permit to employ minors, day out of days, shotlist, callsheet, etc.), you shoot, you edit, you painstakingly work to add music and sound effects and graphics and all those finishing touches that make it feel REAL… and it’s only entertaining to a half-dozen people?

Well, not so fast on the sad trombone sound effect.

If you’re really excited about your baby, that’s plenty. Especially if your goal in creating your own content is to create some kickass demo reel footage to show buyers exactly how to cast you, it’s plenty. Everything that happens outside of THAT is a bonus.

But how can we gear you up to have a finished product that is appealing to more than “five friends”?

Start with the script. Get others to read it. Not just your friends. Not just your family. Not just your classmates. Not just your power group members. A mentor — someone whose writing has yielded produced projects that have gone beyond “Five Friends” status — is great, if you can secure such a person. If you can gather a group of actors together to do a live read-through of the script in front of others, that’d rock! Even an informal read in a living room is better than nothing, but audience with groups like Naked Angels’ Tuesdays @9, Second Sundays, Writers’ Boot Camp, Tasty Words, Red Table, and the like will help you find the holes in your script and punch up your dialogue.

Next, your team. Just because someone is free next weekend doesn’t qualify him or her to be your DP. Just because someone has a cool living room in which you can shoot does not mean he or she is the best choice for your romantic co-star. This is where you need to get a handle on friends vs. colleagues, in your life. While it will sting to NOT employ your closest buddies, it’ll sting far worse to create something — sinking money and time and passion into it — that is unusable because you assembled a sub-par cast and crew. Your true friends will be happy to run crafty or do PA services at your shoot, knowing they’re still contributing to your baby. Remove ego from the equation and come up with the best possible team.

If you’re going to attempt to get your footage out into the world, whether online or in film festivals, spend some TIME doing the same sort of targeting work that I recommend regarding casting directors and talent agents to get very clear on the right fit for your project. Don’t bother submitting your bloody zombie short to the “Feel Good Film Fest,” and don’t get your feelings hurt when Funny Or Die rejects your stylized, dramatic webisode.

Arm yourself for content creation that not only showcases you in your most castable light, but that also entertains more than your five best friends. Strive to have the most professional shoot possible — even as you’re learning — and be sure you research its potential destinations outside your reel, because you never know when you may have a hit on your hands!

Start from a place of passion, rather than a place of need. Sure, you need footage, but be passionate about your story. And if you’re not there yet, get on board with a fellow creative who has a great story you’re excited to be a part of, and be in service of that story, as you build your network of collaborators. If you’re worried yours may be destined to be a “Five Friends Film,” so be it. Start anyway. If you start from a place of passion and at least have an eye on the bigger picture, there’s a chance your creation will do more than land on your reel.

But get creating. As Dom Hughes of Rookwood Films says, “Self-producing is always a good idea. You want to make something of yourself? Make something yourself.”

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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