DIY. Apply it to anything. Get things done and stop waiting for the “right time”. There is no “right time” and today’s guest blogger, filmmaker, Steve Yager is here to tell you about his wake up call to ‘Just Fucking Shoot’. As DIY filmmaker Robert Rodriguez inspired him to stop talking and start doing, maybe Steve’s work will inspire you to do the same.
Rodriguez has inspired a generation of filmmakers to make no/low-budget films. His DIY style has evolved from shooting his first film, El mariachi for under $10,000 to his current From Dusk Till Dawn TV Series premiering on his new El Rey Network in 2014.
The only way to get good at filmmaking is to make films. So, as Robert Rodriquez says, “Get your ass out there and make a movie.”
About two years ago I fell deeply in love with a short script I wrote and really wanted to direct. I fell hard. I rewrote her about 15 times, workshopped her with friends and started thinking about casting, color schemes, shot selection, and shooting style. She was going to be my festival movie, my calling card. I decided it was time to take it to the next level with this film and get it budgeted. That’s when we broke up. If I wanted to continue this relationship, it was going to be expensive, and I didn’t have the money. And frankly, I was nervous about committing to raising the amount of money I would need to shoot it since I still felt a little unproven as a director, even though I had shot four other shorts, two web series, a ton of sketches and a few music videos. So I said, “it’s not you, it’s me.” Then I proceeded to cry and gain weight.
I didn’t make anything for a while. I felt like if I were going to make something it had to be a festival movie. It had to be a calling card. It had to further my career. I became completely frozen, just thinking about the money, time and manpower required to create a film that I thought my next film had to be. Eventually I became so depressed and upset with my life as a director that I couldn’t bear it anymore. I needed to create something.
Long ago, I realized the only thing that can sustain my happiness is constant creation. It’s built into my DNA somewhere, and I think that’s true for a lot of filmmakers. We dabble in all sorts of creation until we land on the one that we think we can make a career out of. Even then we never completely shed the crafts we enjoy. I have yet to meet a filmmaker that isn’t also a writer, actor, musician, artist or photographer. And most the time they’re at least two of those. So why did I lose sight of what’s really important, which is to just create? This thought, that the next thing I touched had to be a huge career propeller, was ridiculous. Because even if I make four shorts in a year and none of them go to festival, I’ve still put in the hours to write, make decisions about shots, color schemes and character backgrounds, edit, compose music, maybe learn a new visual effect or two, and none of that time is wasted.
I remembered how inspired I was when I watched the behind the scenes for Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Rodriguez is the epitome of DIY. His credits in that film include Director, Writer, Producer, Cinematographer, Composer, Production Designer and Editor. Having those credits in most of my projects, I identified with his jack-of-all-trades style. Plus he makes a mean Puerco Pibil and teaches you in the DVD! That movie got me into his book, Rebel Without a Crew, in which he details making El mariachi with a shoestring budget. I felt like I needed to start harnessing my inner Rodriguez, use the skills I’ve learned and just get out there and shoot. He says in his book, “Every director has at least 10 bad films in them.” I needed to start making as many movies as possible. I needed to start making more movies now to get the terrible ones out of the way.
I was talking about this with a good friend of mine, who’s a talented writer/director, and an idea started to form. Let’s create a filmmaking accountability group where everyone shoots something every couple of months and then we get together, get drunk (at least I do), and screen them for each other. We invited our filmmaker friends to join, and we had our first and only non-screening meeting over breakfast, where we decided on the rules going forward.
1. The film has to be original. No editing old footage and calling it new.
2. It has to have a story (no pet videos or YouTube vlogs)
3. It has to be created within the given time span. For now, we’ll say two months.
4. If a filmmaker doesn’t screen, they have to pay the group $100. The filmmakers that screen, split the pot.
5. Invite friends to the screening – bring food and drinks.
We named the group ‘Just Fucking Shoot’, because that’s the point — to JUST FUCKING SHOOT. We’ve been going strong since February and are having our fourth screening this Sunday. Here are the trailers for my first two J.F.S shorts, Gene and Gennifur & Dinner Party.
To make movies, even little ones, on a regular basis, is monumentally important for my success and my mental health. The only way I’m going to get to the level I want to be as a filmmaker is to make films. And if I have at least 10 bad films in me, I better keep at it. And for now, that means writing, directing, composing, editing, camera operating, Rodriguez-style, getting my ass out there and making movies. So far, I’ve written and directed four projects for J.F.S. and I have no plans of stopping. One day soon I’ll come back to the script I was in love with, armed with new experiences and a fresh perspective. Perhaps she’ll be my next J.F.S. screener.
- The students get undeniable evidence to back up Casey's theory about aliens invading the school through its faculty. In this scene: Stan Rosado (Shawn Hatosy), Stokes (Clea DuVall), Casey (Elijah Wood), Delilah (Jordana Brewster), Zeke (Josh Hartnett), Marybeth (Laura Harris), Prof. Furlong (Jon Stewart)
- When Santanico Pandemonium takes the stage for her snake dance, all eyes are on her and her hypnotic curves. In this scene: Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek), Razor Charlie (Danny Trejo), Richard Gecko (Quentin Tarantino), Seth Gecko (George Clooney), Kate Fuller (Juliette Lewis), Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel)
- The day before his forced retirement, a weakened detective Hartigan needs to tie up some loose ends. In this scene: Hartigan (Bruce Willis)
- Marv finally finds the answers he's been seeking. Meanwhile, Jackie Boy and Shellie have a falling out. In this scene: Shellie (Brittany Murphy), Jackie Boy (Benicio Del Toro), Dwight (Clive Owen)
- Rival spy kids Gary and Gerti Giggles track Carmen and Juni to the mysterious island. In this scene: Carmen (Alexa Vega), Juni (Daryl Sabara), Gary Giggles (Matt O'Leary), Gerti Giggles (Emily Osment), Romero (Steve Buscemi)
- The Gecko Brothers get themselves into a fiery altercation at a convenience store. In this scene: Seth (George Clooney), Richard (Quentin Tarantino)
- After nine years and two children, former spies Gregorio and Ingrid are back in the spy game. In this scene: Gregorio (Antonio Banderas), Ingrid (Carla Gugino), Ms. Gradenko (Teri Hatcher)
Steve played basketball in 124 degree heat once. Oh also, his directorial work has been official selections of the New York Television Festival’s independent pilot competition for 2009 & 2011, SketchFest NYC, SketchFest Seattle, the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival and NATPE’s Next TV Awards. Steve likes most people and chances are you’ll get along great, especially if you try his baby back ribs. He lives in Los Angeles with his über talented wife, Shanna Micko and his two dogs, Chili and Sasha.
Photo Credits: Jennifer Strauss
Top still from the set of Gene & Gennifur with actor Bill Heck and Director Steve Yager