How to make an indie flick in Brooklyn without going broke: Lessons from a pro

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From Inside You. Photo courtesy of Heather Fink

In 2017, plenty of people struggle to wrap their heads around the concept of dedicating the time and energy to finishing a film, let alone making one. Yet, plenty of people are also familiar with the drive and motivation that plants itself in your gut and demands you continue emptying your savings account until you’ve turned the script inside your head into a real live movie.

Inside You was such a work of love. Brooklyn resident Heather Fink, “wrote, shot, and everything’d this movie into existence,” in our fair borough on a super low budget. Her dream achieved, her money spent, we spoke with her about tricks for indie directors, tips for those many of us with big dreams and little budgets, and the big question of was it worth it (spoiler: she feels it was).

So before you start shooting, here are some non-glamorized tips from a local who’s been there.

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What advice do you have for individuals trying to produce low-budget films on crazy tight budgets?

With many moving parts and unpredictable elements coming together, filmmaking is a lot harder than anyone anticipates and even when you anticipate it, it’s still hard! But here’s a practical bit: Hiring someone skilled at an indie rate is much better than hiring several inexperienced people for free. And if people are working for you for free, take the time to teach them things and help them out. No matter what always treat your cast, crew, and locations as respectfully as possible – and get any jerks off your set. Jerks can be costly, we got kicked out of a location because of one!

Was making the movie worth it – do you feel self-actualized, or at least closer to feeling as much?

It was worth it. I had so many obstacles in the way of making my first feature film and it took years to get off the ground. When I think how nice it would be to keep the money I put into the film I remember how depressed, empty, and hopeless I felt when it seemed like the movie wasn’t going to happen. I need this. I need to prove that I can do what I’ve set out to do in life. The movie isn’t perfect, but I think it captures my voice, is fun, funny, coherent, and is about something! I try to push my feminist agenda through all the work I do. The film explores the nature of gender and attitudes on marriage via some pretty silly situations.

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From Inside You. Photo courtesy of Heather Fink
From Inside You. Photo courtesy of Heather Fink

Are there any good resources in Brooklyn that helped you through the process?

Brooklyn is such a huge part of the film from start to finish. The movie was written here, shot here, and most of the post production happened here too. Editor Nathan Floody and VFX artist Ed Mundy worked from Park Slope, Colorist Erik Choquette worked from Downtown Brooklyn, Sound Editor David Forshee and Sound Designer Laura Sinnott worked with their team from Bushwick, titles designer Colleen Kwok worked from Williamsburg. One of my Producers, Elisabeth Durkin, worked from Park Slope. Edge in Greenpoint is a great place for renting and storing your truck and Kickstarter is headquartered in Greenpoint. My Director of Photography Matthew Mendelson runs Eastern District Camera rental from Bushwick. I recommend them all! Really the biggest assets in Brooklyn are the diverse filming locations and the people. Notice I listed people as the best resources: If you’re making a movie, I know a gal or a guy in Brooklyn for most everything you need.

Oh and one night after a tough day on set, a kind bartender from the Levee was very generous to our crew at around 4am when we were done filming on that block.

Where is your favorite place to go cry / feel motivated / get inspired in Brooklyn when you feel sad / discouraged?

My bed is great for that but when I was writing the script I would visit Bushwick Inlet Park at the Williamsburg waterfront and sit at the top of the amphitheater thingy looking out into the skyline.

Hot tip: You can sled there on the side away from the concrete pathway.

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From Inside You. Photo courtesy of Heather Fink
From Inside You. Photo courtesy of Heather Fink

What inspired the film’s premise? Are you a big Freaky Friday fan?

First and foremost I was born in the 80s and love the fun of movies from that era. I rewatched all body switching movies for research and Freaky Friday is among the best in the bunch, but I remember seeing Switch with Ellen Barkin when I was young: a man wakes up in the body of a total babe and is amazed by all his bits and bobs. As a woman, with people always reacting to your looks and body, it’s easy to objectify yourself. Like, oh yeah, I got these boobs, or this butt, aren’t they neat? I can do a sexy lady walk and put on lipstick, but it’s not like any of us are born this way. It’s kinda goofy. And I honestly do have penis-envy and am very curious what it’s like to pee standing up and all that. I think most women are. I also explored my anxieties and fears about marriage through this script. We have a wedding obsessed culture that’s extremely negative on marriage. Finally, I think it’s especially important to explore sexuality from a female perspective because most of our cinematic history only depicts sex from the male eye.

Did you learn a lot about gender roles from producing this?

I did! I did my research and asked couples what they would do if they could switch. I especially had to ask men about things that ladies might not know – did you know that when men pee after tossing their milky magic it can get stuck in there and make a split stream?! There were several more things I wanted to explore in the film but couldn’t fit in. One friend of mine told me he’d be excited to leap around in a tiny body and I loved that idea and had my character doing that immediately after the switch – as well as the newly male character who was overwhelmed with their new size and strength. But that was all cut because we ran out of time to film.

Side note: They were lighting with the camera on me (couldn’t afford stand-ins) and I was slashing lines from the script for the next scene – some of my favorite moments gone! I recommend both acting and directing to no one, but for this project – it’s what was needed to get it made.

Favorite New Yawk movie?

Most recently, this wonderful Brooklyn-based indie comedy People Places and Things. Otherwise it’s a toss up between Big and Escape From New York.

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