Recently, we had an opportunity to sit down with Paul Feig, famed director of Spy, Bridesmaids, and the recent re-launch of Ghostbusters. Feig is also an actor, producer, and screenwriter. He’s worked every job there is in the industry. We asked if he had any advice for students at the New York Film Academy and this is what he had to say…
- Now is the Time to Start
Paul Feig: “If you’re starting as a filmmaker now, you are doing it at the greatest possible time. Coming up, when I was trying to do it, just to shoot a movie was prohibitive because you had to get film—and film costs a ton of money—and how do you get all this stuff together? And then, if you were lucky enough to have enough money to make it, how do you possibly distribute it? Even just post-production costs a fortune, and then you’ve got to distribute it.”
Unless you choose to shoot on film, which you absolutely should try at least once, you may never know the struggle of perfectly timing your shots, so you don’t run out of footage. Today, with the advent of digital filmmaking, you do not have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars just to shoot your idea. There’s no better time than right now to begin your career because…
- You Already Havethe Materials
Paul Feig: “Now, with this cell phone sitting on the desk, I can shoot a high definition movie. All of these takes [can be] downloaded into my computer. My computer comes with non-linear editing software.”
If you buy a computer or touch screen phone, chances are you’ve got all you need to make a short or even feature film. Both Tangerine and 9/Rides were shot on iPhones. Both films had major festival releases and helped launch their director’s career.
- The Internet is Your Friend
Paul Feig: “And then the INTERNET. You can literally distribute your movie to the entire world by hitting an upload button.”
In other words, don’t take for granted the easy access to potential fans. The Internet is all around, and it’s easy to forget what a valuable resource it is. In fact, the UN just declared the Internet a human right, which means more people than ever are using it. Shouldn’t they be using it to watch your films?
- No Disclaimers
Paul Feig: “The fact that you’ve made it doesn’t mean it’s great. Hopefully it will be, but you’ve got to be really hard on it. You’ve got to let people around you be hard on it. You’ve got to work it; work it because once you put something out there, you want it to be your calling card. You don’t want to have to go, ‘Oh yeah, well it would be better, but we didn’t do this or that…’
No disclaimers. That was the biggest lesson I learned when I was at film school. We would show our student films and you would get up and say ‘Oh, no, the reason [was] we didn’t have this…’ And my teacher wouldn’t let you talk. He’d just say, ‘No disclaimers. The audience doesn’t care.’”
Your audience doesn’t know you or the blood, sweat, and tears you put into making your film. All they know is they came to be entertained. So, when you screen your film, don’t tell viewers about the struggle, and try to get people who can be brutally honest. By putting your film through a rigorous screening you’re helping to ensure its success in the real world.
- Story First
Paul Feig: “What they care about is a great story with great characters. They don’t care if it looks professional. If you capture them and intrigue them with a great story and great characters then you are a filmmaker and you will be found.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about the story you’ve told. Do the characters pull on the heartstrings? Is the audience pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong? If you can create that kind of magic then you can truly call yourself a filmmaker.