Does your Indie film suck? 5 Tips from Mainstream Directors

 Most Indie films suck because they look and ‘feel’ Indie.

The term ‘Indie’ or ‘Independent’ in the filmmaking context has a lot of connotations – Not studio produced(Independently produced), Non-mainstream, Subject driven, Made with a truly Independent spirit, Not dependent on external factors except a filmmaker’s will to shape it however they want it, Minimal characters & locations, Niche audience etc. But generally, it is associated with Low or No Budget filmmaking or filmmaking with limitations. And rightly so, most Indie films are visually dull, amateurish, tension-less and un-evocative.

But just because you have a Low or even No budget doesn’t mean your film has to look and ‘feel’ low/no budget in terms of concept, aesthetics and the overall making.

So, how do you elevate your Indie film?

Considering your writing/script is ‘good’(That is a default, which I’ll write about in a more detailed article – what constitutes a good script), what can Indie filmmakers learn from mainstream filmmakers.

Here are 5 Indie writing/filmmaking tips from 5 mainstream directors to up your game.

1.      Quentin Tarantino – He has fun with his writing.

It’s a no-brainer that when you pick a Concept or Idea for your film, it has to excite or frustrate or move you emotionally in some way.

When you look at Tarantino’s writing(which has a unique narrative voice) in most of his films, you can feel his excitement for his story, characters and his storytelling.

You’ll note that every scene he writes, it pulsates with life because he infuses his excitement into it. That’s because, he writes films that he loves writing and making.

So, write cinema that you love, that you want to watch and enjoy. Make it personal enough so you feel embarrassed to share it. That is the kind of writing that connects and pulsates with life. And you don’t need a budget to do this.

2.      Coen Brothers – Paying attention to detail. 

After picking the right concept or idea, go DEEP. By deep, I mean, delve into the nitty gritties of your story. Don’t just skim over your ideas. Avoid surface level narratives.

The Coen brothers are meticulous in their attention to detail, and this is evident in their every scene. Every shot, every piece of dialogue, every prop, and every costume is carefully considered and chosen.

The more detailed your narrative, the more engaging is the response.

Fiction thrives on details – so use it. Detailing in writing and execution is key to elevating an average film.

3.      David fincher – Don’t hesitate to get as many takes as possible.

While shooting your film, if something doesn’t feel right, just re-do it. The flexibility of Indie filmmaking is that you can do whatever you want, however you want.

Fincher is known for his 50+ takes on a shot while filming a scene. If you don’t get what you want, go for it again. No need to doubt yourself or fear being judged.

Be meticulous during the production/filming process without feeling embarrassed.

Additionally, I love his low-light aesthetic which adds to a sense of suspense and sets a mood/atmosphere for the film.

So get that shot, exactly how you want it. Your vision is what translates onto the screen.

4.      Dennis Villevue – Creating tension with realism.

Life is conflict. Film is conflict. Scene is conflict.

Conflict is what drives an engaging narrative. And a subset of conflict is Tension.

Not just with sets but situations, choices, and circumstances.

Cause tension(in the scene thereby in the audiences’ mind) by making these all feel relatable and by allowing the audience to connect.

Sicario is a big movie but it contains high tension scenes between the characters that pulls you deep inside the narrative.

A simple 2 character, single location film(aka Indie) can contain a lot of tension in how it is made. Use that narrative power to elevate your film.

5.      Chris Nolan – In his early works, he embraced limitations.

It feels very counterintuitive to cite Nolan as a beacon for Indie filmmaking. But when you actually look at Nolan’s body of work, especially his early works, his process embraces limitations.

Using cheat-codes like shooting in B&W to suggest a stylized or more ‘artistic’ approach to your subject rather than simply a cheaper way of doing things.

Use your Indie style, to make your aesthetic unique. Make your low budget your aesthetic. Elevate your style, by embracing your limitations.

And 6th Tip. Yes, I lied. There’s a Bonus tip from a 6th director.

6.       Ridley Scott – Act like you know what you’re doing.

Filmmaking is one of the most challenging art forms – be it Indie or mainstream. But operating Independently can really scare you and make you hide behind your fear. Best thing to do is, to act like you got it all figured.

Ridley Scott’s mantra regarding this, is, “Even when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, give a direction to the crew, then go into your trailer & say to yourself “What the fuck am I going to do?” It’s ok to acknowledge your fear, but then you also need to face it. So stand up to it by just doing it even if you fail.

There you go.

So, to sum it up. Amp up your Indie filmmaking skills with these elements in mind. Your ‘Indie’ can look and feel great. Filmmaking is hard. But for a passionate, aspiring filmmaker, not making your film will be harder.

But hey, try your hardest.


If you are an Audio-Visual Creative who’s just starting out, I am pretty sure you are wondering about what and how exactly you want to start creating something. And if you are one of those who are interested in Filmmaking while also being drawn to Content Creation, (yes, they are both different & the same) then this article might just be for you.

If you look closely, filmmaking and content creation are quite different, but they also share some or a lot of similarities, as both involve the process of producing visual and/or audio content for an audience. Often times, the lines are blurry between the 2, sometimes making us wonder which is a better career path.

However, let’s first focus on the key differences between the two since that will help you ascertain which one, you are really interested in.

1. Scope and Scale

Filmmaking typically refers to the creation of traditional, narrative films that are intended for theatrical release or distribution through other traditional channels. This involves a larger production scale, including a professional crew, actors, and often substantial financial resources.

Content Creation encompasses a broader range of visual and audio content, which may include short videos, web series, vlogs, tutorials, and other forms of digital media. Content creation can vary widely in scale, from small-scale productions created by individuals or small teams to larger-scale productions.

2. Purpose and Intent

Filmmaking often has a storytelling or narrative focus, with a goal of creating a cohesive and engaging narrative that resonates with the audience. The intent is often to entertain, educate, or provoke emotions.

Content Creation can have a more diverse set of purposes, including entertainment, education, marketing, and more. Content creation is often driven by a desire to connect with a specific audience or community.

3. Distribution Channels

Filmmaking traditionally involves distribution through theaters, film festivals, and other established channels like OTT platforms. The focus is often on reaching a wide audience.

Content Creation has a more flexible approach to distribution, often utilizing online platforms, social media, and streaming services. Content creators may have a more direct and immediate connection with their audience through digital channels.

4. Production Process

Filmmaking typically follows a structured and well-defined production process, including pre-production, production, and post-production phases. The roles and responsibilities of various crew members are well-established.

Content Creation can be more flexible and agile, with creators often wearing multiple hats throughout the process. The production process may be more iterative, and creators might handle various aspects of the production themselves.

5. Budget and Resources

Filmmaking often requires a significant budget for equipment, talent, and post-production. Filmmakers may seek funding through studios, investors, or grants.

Content Creation can be more cost-effective, with creators often using consumer-grade equipment and relying on digital platforms for distribution. Content creators may be more self-reliant in terms of funding and may use Branding, crowd-funding or other monetization strategies.

6. Turn-around time

Filmmaking often has a long turn-around time, usually months or even years, because of the longer production process involved. So there is delayed gratification.

Content Creation usually has a quick turn-around time, usually daily, weekly or monthly, because of the shorter production process. So there is immediate gratification.

So these are some of the factors that differentiate Filmmaking and Content Creation. While some may argue that ‘film’ itself is ‘content’, in some cases they mutually complement each other or can be even mutually exclusive. Now that we‘ve seen what sets them apart, here’s the next big question.

How do you decide which one is right for YOU?

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, certain personality traits may align more with either filmmaking or content creation. Keep in mind that these traits are generalizations, and as an individual you can often possess a combination of qualities. Here are some characteristics that might be associated with each:

Personality Traits Suited for Filmmaking

1. Visionary: Filmmaking often requires a visionary mindset, as filmmakers need to conceptualize and bring a unique vision to life on screen.

2. Collaborative: Filmmaking is a highly collaborative process. Individuals who work well with others, value teamwork, and can effectively communicate their ideas tend to thrive in this environment.

3. Detail-Oriented: Filmmakers need to pay attention to details, from scriptwriting to shot composition and editing. A meticulous approach to the craft can lead to a polished final product.

4. Resilient: The filmmaking process can be challenging, involving setbacks, rejections, and long hours. Resilience and a willingness to persist through difficulties are crucial traits.

5. Storyteller: Successful filmmakers are often skilled storytellers. They understand how to craft compelling narratives that engage and resonate with audiences.

Personality Traits Suited for Content Creation

1. Adaptable: Content creators often need to wear multiple hats and adapt to evolving trends and platforms. Flexibility and openness to change are valuable traits.

2. Self-Motivated: Content creation, especially in digital spaces, often relies on self-initiative. Those who are self-motivated can consistently produce and share content without external pressure.

3. Authenticity: Authenticity is key in content creation. Individuals who can express their genuine personality and connect with their audience on a personal level tend to thrive.

4. Tech-Savvy: Content creators frequently use digital tools and platforms. Being comfortable with technology, social media, online tools/apps and various creative software is advantageous.

5. Entrepreneurial Spirit: Many content creators operate as independent entrepreneurs. Having a business mindset, understanding branding, and being able to market oneself can contribute to success.

6. Engaging Personality: Being able to capture and maintain audience attention is crucial for content creators. An engaging personality, whether through humor, relatability, or expertise, can make content more compelling.

To summarize, if you are a visionary, collaborative, detail-oriented, resilient, story-teller then you are likely to fare well as a filmmaker.

And if you are adaptable, self-motivated, authentic, tech-savvy, engaging(personality-wise) with an entrepreneurial spirit, then you are better off being a Content creator.

Another important thing to note is that the process of Independent filmmaking is very closely associated with Content creation in the way you operate. They both require you to be entrepreneurial, iterative and wearing multiple hats by handling various aspects of production yourself.

It’s also important to note that there is overlap between these traits, and you may or can excel in both filmmaking and content creation. But ultimately, passion, dedication, and a willingness to learn and grow are essential characteristics for success in either field. So it is better to make a decision with respect to what resonates or aligns with your core value as a person.

Either way, whatever you create must be able to resonate emotionally at some level. If you are able to do that, then you are on your way to becoming a valuable creator.

7 Essential precursors to becoming a Screenwriter

Becoming a screenwriter happens way before you even realize you can write. There’s a general perception that you have to learn to be a writer to be a writer. Yes, of course, you can learn the craft to be a better writer but essentially writing is about living life in all its dimensions. You have to have the lived experience that acts as a raw material for your ideas and how you articulate your thoughts.

In that context, there are 7 essential factors or precursors that I consider pivotal to developing into a solid screenwriter —

1.      Travelling a lot, I mean, a lot. Going way beyond your comfortable geographical zones. Travelling gives you a bird’s eye view exposure to life and how you look at the world around you. Travelling forces you to think differently than the context you grew up in. It adds layers to your understanding of how the diversity of  life functions which can be a great stepping point to how you write layered characters and stories and avoid falling into the trap of the danger of the single story.

2.      Not being too quick to judge others. We are often told not to judge others with good reason. Because if we judge everything at face value, then we lose the value of looking deeper into things and learning life lessons. But of course, considering human nature, we are by default in a judgmental mode. If that’s the case, then judge yourself judging others i.e, see things from the others’ POV. Filmmaker David Fincher says of writing characters – that every character is/must be right, from their own perspective, if we are to create great drama. Which brings us to the next point – self-awareness.

3.      Having a keen sense of self-awareness. Knowing the right balance between your potential and limitations as to where you stand in a creative domain. Talking to yourself and practicing a healthy dose of critical thinking does wonders to our self-awareness. Self-awareness is also a way to keep yourself grounded and be humble which in turn makes you always open to learning new things.

4.      Engaging in a lot of creative, intellectual, philosophical, spiritual interactions both online and offline. Especially observing and learning from them. Most writers are apparently introverts but that should not stop us from engaging in a critical debate. It sharpens our critical and analytical thinking and helps hone the way we articulate thoughts.

5.      Practicing some form of visual or performing art. Sketching, painting, dancing etc. Other forms of Art especially involving the physical body or senses open up our minds. If a simple walk through the woods can open up your senses, imagine what a physical performance can do to your psyche.

6.      Connecting with people aka Being in a lot of relationships – friendly, romantic, familial, professional, whatever that adds to your sense of people psychology and dynamics. This is one of the foundational ways of understanding how people/characters’ minds work. This helps in developing characters that are multidimensional.

7.      Reading. Of course, one of the most foundational blocks of being a writer/screenwriter. You can create only if you ingest words, thoughts, perspectives, minds and ways of thinking – all of which come through reading fiction(novels), articles, poetry, comics and non-fiction or anything you can get your hands on. Your writing is directly proportional to your reading. Reading opens up new worlds in your head without ever stepping into one.

 In essence, having a wide and deep life experience can greatly influence your maturity as a screenwriter. If you already are practicing any or all of the above, then you are already on your way to developing into a solid screenwriter.

Casting the Right Actors

Casting is a fine art. It’s an art by itself. As a filmmaker, if you cast the right actors, half your battle is won. Of course, considering you have a good script.

Developing a good eye for casting requires developing an important skill – a unique observational ability. In film, it’s not the actor’s ability to be loud and expressive in a theatrical sense that is important. It’s how the nuances are portrayed, the subtleties, the subtext, the pacing and rhythm of the dialogues, the intonation and the pauses. Mainly, the ability to convey a particular kind of emotion that is required for the scene.
So as a filmmaker, it’s our responsibility to make sure that your actors work at an instinctual level…from a place of deep emotion. And that can make all the difference.

Youtube Shorts Link:

Why Storyboard – For Indie Filmmakers

If you have a short film/scene you want to shoot, and you are not sure of what kind of shots that you need for it(whether it’s a long/Wide shot, a MS or a CU) then the best way to do it, would be to create a storyboard.

A storyboard is a pre-visualization stage where you roughly create/translate visual frames/shots from your mind onto paper or the computer, literally shot by shot to create a scene.
3 Reasons for storyboarding:

  1. It conveys your vision/frame to your team while planning so that your camera team can decide what frame to compose, what lens to use and the action involved in the scene.
  2. You can reduce the time it takes to shoot your scene in a live location because you know exactly what you are going to shoot.
  3. You can time your scene depending on the number of storyboard frames or shots you need for the scene.
    Here’s a sample storyboard sequence for a small 2 character scene that I am working on. I checked out a location which I’m not sure I may get permission for. So I have tried to pre-visualize the scene so that I know the exact breakdown of the shots I need.
    Hope this gives an idea as to how you can plan your scene with a storyboard sequence.

Youtube Shorts Link:

3 key things before you make your Independent Film

If you want to make an Independent film, like I am in the process of doing now, there are 3 things to consider before you even start.

  • Pick a concept you really resonate with (Loss, relationship, crime & a bit of action)
  • Pick a cast/crew who you’d love to work with (People that match with our artistic/personal sensibilities, professional, people with integrity and a killer work ethic)
  • Remind yourself why you’re making this film in the 1st place (For this film, I am making something that I want to see on screen as an audience).
    I’m documenting my entire process of making this film with a small team, a tight budget and a guerilla spirit.

YouTube Shorts Link –