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The 5 Rules for Making an Outstanding Indie Film

These days, it’s easier to make indie films; more than ever, almost anyone can access filmmaking technology, even on their smartphone or tablet. New platforms on the Internet allow indie filmmakers to present their creations to a worldwide audience at the click of a mouse. The number of first-time filmmakers grows each day. As a result, competition is hard, and it’s almost impossible to stand out.

Of course, not everyone can make a good film; especially if you have no experience, knowledge or passion. But if you’re passionate enough about your story, and believe in its message, you can create a successful film, and start your path on a career in the filmmaking industry.

But what about the budget?

Yes, the budget affects the film’s chance to set itself apart from the others, but in most cases it won’t be the main component when the jury selects their winners.

We’ve all been in the cinema, watching a big budget film, not knowing how we just wasted two hours of our lives. It’s NEVER about the budget. It’s ALWAYS about emotions. If it scared us, made us laugh or cry – we would love it.

As a festival director (Top Shorts, Festigious and Los Angeles Film Awards), and a documentary filmmaker, I’ve been reviewing thousands of short films a year. I’ve been watching films from everywhere, in every possible category, and of all kinds of productions: from first-time works and low budget indie films to award winning feature films.

So how do you make your indie film stand out? Here are my five rules:

Rule #1: Watch more indie films

You can’t watch a Hollywood blockbuster and then go filming. Indie films look and feel different. Many times, these films impress me much more than those Hollywood films, for one simple reason: their creators have dealt with many more constraints than top directors who have the studios’ back.

Behind the scenes of Captain America: Civil War. Not exactly an indie film.

It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t watch Captain America, for example. But you’ll learn much more from films that had a lower budget and simpler stories.

One short indie film that I can recommend is Sleeping Death (״La Muerte Dormida״), directed by David Casademunt.

"This film moved me deeply." -Ms. Melissa Jo Peltier, Festigious Premier Judge, on Sleeping Death

The film won the Best of Fest award at Top Shorts 2015 (selected by Academy Award- and Emmy-nominated Director & Producer, and Top Shorts premier judge, Mr. Mike Tollin) and the Best of Fest award at Festigious 2015 (selected by two-time Emmy Award-winning writer and producer, and Festigious premier judge, Ms. Melissa Jo-Peltier).

The film is now available online, and you can watch it for free:

Sleeping Death - Full Short Film

While it always helps to watch other indie films, and become inspired, there's no need to "imitate" these films. Tell the story you want to tell.

Another Festigious winner, Diana Galimzyanova (Inspiring Woman in a Film, "February 28"), shared her point of view about storytelling: “Be yourself and try to find a story that only you could tell, even if it’s gonna be a story that only a few people would get, those few people need stories too”.

Diana Galimzyanova, director of February 28

Rule #2: Improve every day

Not all indie filmmakers have a full-time job in the filmmaking industry. Even those who do are required to learn the craft and try new things every day.

Even when you don't have a big budget, famous actors or three assistant directors, you can still make a good film. You are the only one who can create your reality.

Laszlo Barbo is an Italian filmmaker. After his short film Light Games ("Doppia Luce") won the Best Thriller award at Top Shorts 2015, I asked him to think about three tips for indie filmmakers, based on his experience.

His answer was:

"1. Just

2. Do

3. It"

"If you have an idea, write the script and then write a very short teaser of the story and shoot it", Barbo said. Yes, it's that simple.

Laszlo Barbo on the set of Light Games

Do something today, that you’ve never tried before. Explore new compositions, try a different way to tell a story and most importantly, listen. The creative minds around you might have brilliant advice.

Light Games - Official Trailer