Screw up your film with 5 easy steps!

Actor mark extreme

Want to make a bad film? Sure you do! Everybody sets out to finance, write, shoot, and edit the worst project they possibly can. Who can resist the draw of being a real filmmaker? The promise of stardom and bottomless digital festival laurels, what’s not to love? You can see it now: a viewing experience that puts your audience to sleep or even better, generates anger and vitriol as they realize they’ve wasted hours of their time on your masterpiece. Get ready to screw up your film!

But wait, there’s the pesky details of actually making the darn movie. Details, details. The devil’s in the details, so they say, right? Well none of us want to tangle with the devil! So here are five ways you can make the worst film possible:

5. Treat your actors like crap (or don’t cast any)

Uwe Boll insulting his fans
““For 150 euros apiece, they would be naked and do what they were told.” – Uwe Boll, on hiring real prostitutes for extras in Bloodrayne.

Acting is a skill. A talent that can be cultivated, a discipline that can be developed. By developed, I mean forged. Acting is fake. You don’t want anything fake in your film, right? Besides, the guy at the deli has always wanted to be an actor, why not give an underdog a chance? So go ahead and screw up your film by giving your main character to an “actor” that hasn’t studied acting but saw a movie. Once.

Actors are also expensive. $124 per day would break your no-budget indie! Never fret, I have the perfect solution for any would-be producer facing this dilemma. The secret weapon is something called credit and copy. Offer to put their name as a credit on your film’s IMDb page, and give them a free DVD copy of the film! Only when it’s finished, of course. That always goes without saying and they should be grateful for having the opportunity to be in your film.

As a last resort, offer incentive points on the back end of your film’s release. What this means is they will get a percentage of the profits from the domestic and international release when you strike it rich. Now let me save you a major screw up: don’t worry about what percent you need to surrender to get someone to act for you. 90% of $0 is still 0. You can offer anything you want! Genius!

If you do end up casting actual actors, be sure to know how to direct them effectively. Actors are dumb. They get paid to recite lines other people wrote! So try to give as little information as possible when directing, so as not to confuse them. Precise, clear directions are best, something along the lines of “be more happy” or “not like that!” should work.

4. Poor (or better yet: no) Pre-Production

Why bother to plan what you could do today?

Pre-Production is expensive, both in time and energy. You don’t like to write, right? Budgets and schedules, that stuff is so stuffy. We’re artists, damn it! Not accountants. There’s no accounting for how often “the system” ruins good art! So there’s only one solution: don’t have a system. Best to just screw up your film.

Your movie isn’t too “serious”, anyway. At least that’s what you told me when you asked me for “help” and “advice”. So my advice is don’t take it serious! Plans are complicated and gross. Pressing the big red button and capturing magic, that’s where it’s at. You have a buddy with a camera and a bunch of fake guns in your toybox, so why not just go outside and make the next Heat? Who cares if the tips of the guns are orange? You’ll fix it in post.

3. Capture uninspired “cinematography”

Average shot in indie film
The average frame of an amateur film.

Of course it goes without saying that your neighbor Caleb is going to run the camera on your movie. He has an uncle that will let you borrow a camera, so who else are you gonna get? You need that camera and somebody to operate it. Who cares if he’s never used the thing? We’re all learning here.

Lighting and color theory come naturally so don’t worry about studying. Same with motivated composition and movement – just do every shot hand held. That’s what real Hollywood movies do, anyways. Exposure, you ask? Sure this film’s getting a ton of exposure, it’ll be the darling at Sundance!

Since you wisely skipped pre-production, make sure the director of photography has never seen or used any of the equipment on the shoot. Fresh, spontaneous magic happens when you are forced to solve problems creatively, and there’s nothing more creative than bungee-cording an $80,000 camera to a piece of lumber at the top of the stairs.

And while we’re on the subject of planning, you don’t really need a storyboard or shot list. These just stifle your creativity: better to make things up while you’re on-set. Don’t worry, your crew and actors are patient.

2. Mutilate the edit

You’ve birthed and grown this cinematic child. You’re not a surgeon but you have the scalpel. Time to cut this baby up!

Jaws 3 – some of the worst VFX in movie history.

The vision of the completed film is in your head. If only you could get the computer to do what you want. You had no idea there’d be so much geeky tech…stuff involved with editing a movie. I have great news. Everyone knows as technology gets better, companies take the thinking out for us. So just leave everything at default in your editing program. Most people won’t care, and you certainly don’t. Smash that render button and there you go, instant movie file! Isn’t technology great?

Digital filmmaking means there’s no need to wrangle lengths of actual celluloid. No need to examine individual frames with laser-guided precision to make a splice. Hack away! It’s free and quick, and you can always change your mind down the road just as easily. In fact you probably will, even at the last minute! Your sound editor, composer, colorist, and visual effects artist will appreciate the rapidly changing “final cut” they receive every six hours leading up to the release date. Film is an iterative process, so iterate as much as possible.

Protip: never tell anybody what you’re doing but expect them to know your intent.

1. Have really shitty sound

The best, sure-fire way to make the experience of your film as excruciating as possible: have really shitty sound. Nothing comes close. Your audience will fall asleep and you’re guaranteed to lose the room in under five minutes.

Screw up the sound of your film
Typical sound department negotiations.

Make sure none of the dialogue is audible (this will compliment your excellent writing skills – you did write your own film, didn’t you?) and the sound design is uninspired. What’s sound design? Well just fire up and steal every cool sound effect you find. Don’t forget music! You can rip that off from YouTube.

Don’t bother to equalize or mix anything, either. I suggest checking your audio on iPhone earbuds only, since most people only watch movies on their phones. What to go a more au-naturel route? Don’t put ANY post production sound into your picture. Wouldn’t want to cheat the audience with Hollywood fakery: its a slice of life film, after all.

On-set, don’t let the sound mixer have any say in anything. Tell him to just record the actors, jeez. Some people are such divas. Be sure to pick locations near diesel generators and freeway traffic, as well as concrete floors and other reverberant surfaces. Never mark or slate anything, cut each take as fast as possible, and always forget to skip room tone.

Bonus points for making the cinematographer also run sound – this ensures a key member of your crew can’t focus their attention on either job. I can smell the Oscar buzz already.

Ready to screw up your film?

Now that you’re primed and ready to fire off, there’s one final consideration. In order to screw up your film as hard as possible, you HAVE to have the right script. But who needs a script, right? You’ve got this!

Author: Karland Paez

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