I always hear that you should do a horror film. I have often given this advice myself. I still think it is good advice but the world is changing. With the rise of the little to medium platforms and the requirements of nearly every film doing a multi-platform release. That advice may actually no longer be as accurate as it was in the past.
I think much of what is right really depends on what your personal agenda is – Now all of this is assuming you have already made at least one. Your first film need only serve the purpose of being a first film. The only advice I would give on a first film is how long should it be. Don’t be in the situation where you almost have a feature. If it is a short great, if it is a feature it has to be at least 70 minutes long. Also, if you think you do want a chance at getting it out into the world, do not include logos, copyrighted images, copyrighted music etc… in your film. If you do and you are doing it for artistic reasons, don’t expect anyone else to be able to get your film out.
Now you have made your first short or feature (remember 70 minutes minimum), you want to make another movie. I think it is now about where your heart is. There is making films for business reasons, and then there is making ones to show you are a director/write or producer. Both Business and the heart can now lead you to becoming a studio director. Passion will always lead you to making a better movie – assuming you know how to make a movie. If you do not know how it will lead you to getting through the process.
I know what I see when I view directors films and as a partner in Continuum Motion Pictures I review many films. I look for something that says this persons vision is special, he sees the world differently. Things like angles, effects and sadly even story can be fixed by bringing other people in. It is about that little quirk that exist in every great director discovered or undiscovered.
I love horror and science fiction films. It is my go to place. I think the genre allows for a lot of latitude and creativity. Dramas require a real understanding of the story as you are showing people the lives of other people and they have to be believable. I have seen very few well written dramas on the indie side of things. It is hard to fix it on the set with a drama. Additionally the actors need to be top notch. They have to transform. In horror and other action based genre’s much of the time your actors just need to react. Now when you do get a great horror film it is always acting plus story and great directing.
Coming of age films: Hmm love them most are really bad. Why? The person who is telling them rarely has come of age. I almost think you need to be over 35 to even have a chance to make one of those work from scratch. Though I have seen exceptions. And in those cases the directors and the writers have been over 40 in their hearts. What ever you do in this genre, do not be cliche and that is hard.
Your personal story: Probably not interesting. I don’t even think mine is and I am over 50 years old. Lots of people think their lives would make a great story. Yes if you fictionalize it. Some of the best bio-pics have very fictional moments to capture the essence of someones life. Also very few people can truly hide their personal story in a fiction environment.
I was once told that nearly everyones first films were about their sexuality or their politics. I have found this to be consistently true. It is probably best to avoid both and explore the world as an astronomer explores the night sky. There is so much out there why would you want to stare a the ground. Have fun with life and its possibilities.
Now Shock and Awe: After the 60s and early 70s it becomes a little hard to shock. Oh you can gore it up and their are many people who love that. You can surprise people by putting someone in a shocking position and it can work. But it only works if the story is solid. Gross out is easy at every level. Put your efforts into a solid story.
These are just my opinions of course. Let no one dissuade you from the film you want to make. Sometimes it really is this is the only film you could make. It is always better to be making a movie than not. The suggestions I am making are if you actually have a choice. Shoot within your resources and never apologize for that. If all you have is one room, hell make it the best one room film you can. I have seen some. It can work.
Next, keep track of reality. If it is your first or even second film, well it is only your first or second film. Just keep working to get better. Watch great films, it will help. And most important BELIEVE.