Samuel Fuller said, “Film is a battleground.” Similarly, Filmmaking is War. But is it always that the guy with big guns wins the battle? War is about tactics, and one of its tactics is Guerrilla Warfare. Anyone who hasn’t heard the term before, Guerrilla Warfare is a form of tactics adopted by small groups of people against an established system. It is a hit-and-run tactic where your wit is your most lethal weapon. Adopting this technique in Cinema, filmmakers coined the term, “Guerrilla Filmmaking.”
Guerrilla Filmmaking defies the conventional form of filmmaking. It takes pride in its stealth and creativity. A form of independent filmmaking where filmmakers use small crew, budget-friendly scripts, and real locations to shoot their films. The shoot in these locations often takes place without a permit or any notice, it’s about a film crew shooting in stealth mode.
Why is Guerrilla Filmmaking used?
Often aspiring filmmakers fail to generate money for their scripts from financiers or Studios. Sometimes, due to creative issues, a filmmaker opts out of the project and decides to fund his film, himself. When the zeal is at zenith and resources limited, a filmmaker resorts to the final call, that is Guerrilla Filmmaking. It is a tactic of Rogue filmmakers who have a fire burning within.
“Guerrilla filmmaking is driven by passion with whatever means at hand”Mark Hill
Aids to Guerrilla Filmmaking
Filmmaking is the costliest art form so far. Technology is upgrading pretty fast to lower the cost of filmmaking. The advancement serves as a boon for the filmmakers of today, who can shoot the film on mobile without worrying about big cameras or rushes (filmstock used in old film cameras). It is easier to make a film in the 21st century than it was in the yesteryears. The Internet has become a sanctuary to filmmakers and provides aid to Guerrilla Filmmaking. Let’s figure it out.
- Equipment – In the modern century, a mobile phone camera can deliver 4k footage. The quality isn’t a match for the big film cameras, yet films aren’t about the quality of your footage but the quality of your narrative. Earlier, to shoot films, one had to hire a big camera and buy rushes to shoot a film. Today, we are proud and digital. With modern equipment, like a wireless-collar mic, foldable and battery-operated LED lights, editing software at your disposal, making films is the easiest. In the case of Guerrilla Filmmaking, hiding the camera just needs a pocket today.
- Screenwriting – Writing is the skeleton of all filmmaking. It is the ultimate weapon for a quality yet budget-friendly film. When writing your own film, try to be as personal as you can. Pick stories from your memories, something you connect with. While making a Terminator movie could be a goal, starting low isn’t bad either. Remember, it is the frame that constitutes a shot, and a collection of shots make a scene. Make your frame worthwhile before going for the bigger picture.
Tips – Try writing a film about fewer characters. Make it more location-friendly and focus on characters, story arc, and message rather than stunts and VFX. The story is thy weapon.
- Location – Guerrilla Filmmaking with its small and stealth cast/crew gives an advantage to the filmmaker. They can move steadily from one location to another, minimizing the cost of logistics and attracting unwanted attention. With an independent setup, it is always friendly to shoot in secluded, barren terrains like mountains, or deserts where you will see a large canvas on your screen. Filming indoors is also cost-friendly but you will have to arrange lights to lit up your frames. Again, you can be experimental and creative on that part. Check Darren Aronofsky’s Pi and Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi for indoor and outdoor budget-friendly shooting techniques, respectively.
- Creativity – Wit, and creativity is something, money can’t buy. Yes, they can hire professionals, but they can’t buy a person’s creativity altogether. Use your creativity while making your Guerrilla Film. Try to experiment with shots and scenes. Pull off something incredibly wild and generate your own style. Remember Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity (2007). A major portion of the film uses found-footage to tell a story. Don’t let the low budget stop you, instead lookout for inspiration and create your own ways to make a film.
- Editing – Youtube is your online film school. You can learn all about film editing and filmmaking through it. Got stuck with any feature, just google it. The Internet is there for you and you are not alone. Today, even an affordable laptop can run basic video editing software. Even phones have free video editing apps. What is stopping you now?
- Color Grading – VFX and Grading are two things that act as a major difference between big-budget films and no/low-budget ones. Getting your film graded isn’t easy or budget-friendly. It might be something you will have to arrange a budget or learn complex grading techniques. But hey, there is another way out. Why not opt for the colors? Make a monochrome film that requires no-to-less grading? VFX and Chroma shoot can be heavy on your pockets as well, and the quality without a proper studio set-up could be unsatisfactory.
Through Guerrilla Filmmaking tactics, a filmmaker can go to Indie. But always remember, cutting the cost, doesn’t mean limiting your vision. Dream big, but be creative simultaneously. To stimulate your creative nerve, learn from the film auteurs and Avant-garde filmmakers, like Jean-Luc Godard, Jonas Mekas, Robert Rodriguez, and Spike Lee, to name a few famous ones.
Before making Breathless, Jean-Luc Godard made a short narrative, Opération béton. He worked as a laborer at a cement camp and shot visuals, adding voice-over to it. Godard was a master of dialogues and from the first film, he flaunted his skill. Explore what stronghold you have and use it in your narrative, wisely. That’s what independent filmmaking or Guerrilla Filmmaking is all about.
“It is better to know what you can do and do it like Hercules.”Stella Adler
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