Director, screenwriter, producer and actor Mark Duplass (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) at a conference at the SXSW Film Festival described how he managed to transform from an independent film writer to a screenwriter and producer of a project on the HBO channel.

Mark works on a large number of projects, releasing several films a year with his brother Jay. They recently signed a four-picture deal with Netflix.

Ten years ago, their debut feature-length film “The Puffy Chair” became an unexpected festival hit, which brought the brothers to Los Angeles, where they directed two feature films and continue to release films. Now they also work in television.

Despite his success, Duplass assured that there were many problems in their lives:

“I lived in a terrible apartment and thought, ‘I have ideas, I want to make a movie. I have no connections. Everyone says you just need to grab your camera and shoot, but how do you do it? What can you do when you are completely in the dark?”

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So, talking about films, not everything is so simple too! During the half-hour presentation, Duplass shared an impromptu success plan based on his experience.

  1. Three-dollar short
  2. The equipment is very cheap today. If you don’t shoot short films with your friends over the weekend, you have no excuse. This year we showed a film shot on an iPhone at Sundance and sold it to distributor Magnolia.

    In his first film, Mark himself played the main role. It was called Vince Del Rio. He spent 65 thousand dollars on it, but the result was disgusting. Then they practically abandoned the cinema. All they had was a parent camera with a dead pixel right in the middle of the frame. Mark said he was going to buy a cassette. He shot one impromptu take and edited a seven-minute film from it. His friend David Zellner said he should try his luck at film festivals. It was this three-dollar movie that made it to Sundance and changed everything.

    “I would recommend everyone to do one of these films every weekend with friends. They don’t have to be professionals, just charismatic personalities. It should be one scene every five minutes, comedy is best because they do well at festivals. Your first films will most likely suck and you will only show them to your friends. But at some point you will realize that you can say something of your own,” says Mark.

  3. Make a feature film for less than a thousand dollars
  4. The first film you shoot should indulge your every whim. This will be the beginning of your career. Whenever you send it to festivals, chances are you will get noticed. Maybe someone will say that you are close to a breakout. This is most likely not the case, but you will write a script that can be filmed for less than a thousand dollars.

    It will take you a year to remove it using whatever means you have at your disposal. You will ask everyone who can help you in some way to participate in the filming or to borrow something.

    When Mark and his brother rented The Soft Chair, they had an apartment in Brooklyn. Mark had a van. They bought two armchairs from a gradually ruining furniture store, which was very handy, since Mark planned to burn one of them in the frame. They went with a group of five or eight people and bought lights and extension cords. They could be returned within 30 days, so they filmed the movie for free. There are places where you can buy a camera and return it. Or shoot a movie on iPhone. Probably some professional agent will tell you that you shouldn’t. If you listen to him, you will not film anything, so rely on your strength.

  5. Show your movie to celebrities
  6. There are many famous people at the festivals. You can show your film to one of them, or send it to a large company. Many will say that you do not understand what you are doing, but someone will answer. Perhaps it will be an actor who last starred in some bad TV series, who is in deep depression. You will say that you have seen this series and you are sure that it is capable of more, that you want to write a role especially for it. He will love you with all his soul and will walk with you through fire and water.

  7. Make another cheap movie
  8. And now it’s time for the incredible: you will shoot another cheap film, but now with a real actor. Perhaps it will go to Sundance and you will sell it for a million dollars. Most likely, this will not happen. Nothing wrong. Surely the film will become popular in online cinemas, as it was played by a recognizable serial actor.

  9. Don’t despise online movie theatres
  10. Don’t try to promote your movie in theatres, you will only waste extra money. Let some online service take it. You may even make some profit. More importantly, the industry is likely to take notice of you.

  11. Try working on television
  12. Mid-budget cinema is dying; it has moved to TV. If you’ve made a good movie with a serial actor, you will have an edge in pitching. You may even be trusted to direct a show. But most likely they won’t. However, you can try to shoot several episodes independently and then try to get a contract with the company. You will call your favorite actor and his friend, film two episodes and briefly describe the rest. You can probably convince someone to take your show, which is made by an experienced director like you.

  13. Produce your friends’ films
  14. All your acquaintances will start to climb up to you and say that they have a cool idea on the basis of which they want to make a film. You give them a thousand dollars and say, “Go ahead. If you spoil anything, the costs are yours.”

  15. Embrace the hard truth
  16. So, you are at a crossroads: you can make money, but you are not rich yet, your friends are hanging on you. They will probably tell you that the breakthrough is now definitely close, but you look at what you have achieved and you will realize that you are very tired, that you are tired of being the creative centre of every project, and it would be great not to work so hard.

However, the truth is that even now, having achieved a lot, I understand that the breakthrough is still far away. I managed to shoot two micro budget films, several short films that were well received by the audience, and even sell the idea of ​​my series. Why hasn’t the breakthrough arrived yet?

The good news is that you don’t need it. You have friends who need your support. When they are successful and you make a stupid movie, they will help you. You will be quitting. You have a friendly team, and most importantly, you are in your own sandbox. Nobody can stop you from doing what you want. This gives you the chance to be happy.

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