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Horror movies are popular fare these days. Actually, for most of us, they have always been, but for the mainstream (ie: studios) they are a new edition. Movies are being made for peanuts by the little guys and picked up by big-time conglomerates for millions. These movies are getting sequels, t-shirts, action figures, and turning nobodies into overnight horror celebrities. Now the question is: how do I make a movie and make all that happen?
Well it’s for starts kinda like winning the mega millions, you have to be from the middle of nowhere, undeserving, and really f**king lucky. So if you don’t have any those 3 magical things going for you, don’t give up hope. I, Tiffany Shepis, have compiled a little list of things NOT TO DO ON YOUR FIRST FILM. A guide to success.
1. Do not tell people your script is the most original, craziest, script of all time. *Fact… it’s not.
2. Do not rely solely on the opinion of your significant other or parent *If you’re even remotely charming they will not want to hurt your feelings, ie, refusing to tell you that your script is a pile of crap.
3. Do not assume there is a huge audience for your sick, perverted fantasies in which you, a fat, unattractive, cretin, from Arkansas are able to lure an attractive woman into your basement.
4. Do not write a script about you and your best friends. If you were that interesting, you would be dating and not have time for script writing.
5. Do not cast your part-time girlfriend as the lead. *She will bang the dolly grip and not return for your much needed reshoots. **Wait, you can’t afford a dolly grip, you may be safe.
6. Do not assume that you can cast a scream queen for free because the part doesn’t have nudity. *Fact …you’ll shoot without a scream queen AND have no nudity.
7. Do not think you can forgo using lights cause you‘re making a spooky movie that takes place at night.
8. Do not make a movie about army men being attacked by space aliens that turn in to werewolves when your entire budget is five hundred dollars. *However I’d like to see it!
9. Do not make a movie cause you think it’ll get you chicks. *Fact 1 800-SLUT will get you chicks too and be cheaper than filming.
10. Do not, under any circumstance, cast yourself… in any part.
11. Do not fall in love with your lead actress. She’s just a small town, 5th place runner-up beauty pageant contestant who’s one paycheck away from stripping on Wednesday mornings at the local skin shack. *She’s only with you, STUPID, because movie directors are suppose to be rich. After a year of you trying to scrounge together fifty bucks to finish your movie, she’ll go back to her meth dealing fiancé.
12. Do not assume that everybody else is willing to work 24 hours because your dumbass is excited about a shot of the sunrise.
13. Do not shoot in the middle of the desert, forest, mountains with no running water or bathrooms and say “uhhh, I hope somebody brought toilet paper”.
14. Do not shoot in your parent’s home or anybody else’s home that you want to ever talk to again. *You WILL get blood everywhere and it WILL NOT come out.
15. Do not shoot a nude scene and have a nude chick stand around nude while you discuss tomorrow’s shots. *It’s just douche-baggy and pervy.
16. Do not assume Cheez-its are a wholesome nutritious meal substitute. *Unless you cast me, I love those lil orange things.
17. Do not think you can and will fix the shit sound you got off your 2 dollar camera in post. *You can’t and you won’t.
18. Do not hire strippers to play real people. *Do I have to explain that one?
19. Do not ask an actor to fill out their own rates on paperwork. *My rate on many is $1,875.14 per minute.
20. Do not assume that everybody was laughing cause it was nervous tension. *They were laughing cause the script is dumb and it’s high time you change it to a horror comedy.
21. Do not shoot without a shot-list *Would you try to make a lemon supreme bunt cake without a recipe to follow? If you answered yes, then STOP filmmaking and get in the kitchen, WOMAN!
22. Do not hire SAG actors *You will just be pissed when you’ve gone into overtime and couldn’t afford their day rate to begin with.
23. Do not assume your film will be the next BLAIR WITCH. *Instead, assume it will be the next THORNES FROM A ROSE, a film I’ve been attached to for 12 years that will never see the light of day, like yours.
24. Do not make a monster movie… without a monster.
25. Do not hire old bald guys to play teenage love interests *Don’t hire bald guys period…too much shine!
26. Do not ask actors to do a stunt you are afraid to try yourself. *You’ll look like a pussy and lose the respect of a crew that already hates you.
27. Do not post an ad on Kickstarter looking for finishing funds when all you can offer is a signed poster of your film that has nobody in it.
28. Do not make a movie that involves children, old people or anybody famous. *Children have no filter and will tell you your movie is dumb. Old people have experience which you have none of and will make sure you know it. Famous people, well, who am I kidding, you won’t get a famous person, unless you think Tom Sizemore is a box office draw.
29. Do not assume just because you’ve been watching horror films since you were a prepubescent dweeb and came up with a nifty way to kill a zombie in your backyard, that it makes you a Goddamn filmmaker! *Take a class or read a book! If you claim to love this genre so much, then show some respect for it and don’t make a shitty movie. *Gospel
And finally, do not under any circumstances use this as your bible. I’m a horror actress, not a movie mogul. I don’t care how you make your movie. I don’t care how good or bad it does. I don’t care how your executive producer stole all your footage, or your money, or your girlfriend. In the words of the great Lloyd Kaufman, “Make your own damn movie.” Just please don’t cast bald people or have shitty sound.
Tiffany Shepis - Film critic, actress, filmmaker, sound designer, and supporter of the arts.
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