This site serves to be an account of my efforts at filmmaking – guerilla style. That is, making affordable movies with a zero budget; shooting as cheap as possible but looking expensive on the screen. And in doing that, bending what is allowed (even the law) or possible, or acceptable, if necessary. Herein I will honestly present my trials and errors in learning the trade, in the hope that the reader may learn from my mistakes and become inspired by my more successful results. I do not profess to be a “professional” filmmaker, that is, I do not make a living out of filmmaking. Nor have I taken any courses in the arts of filmmaking or gone through any formal film school (although my wife has, which I benefit from somewhat). My name is Tomas Stacewicz and I am a Swedish film hack or self-made maker of films, or rather a would-be filmmaker in the making, with lots of personal opinions and subjective preferences of what constitutes good filmmaking – this blog constitutes my film school journal.
I profess to be a “guerilla film soldier” (pronounced ‘gorilla film soldier’) also in that I refuse to be a part of the larger film industry or big production. For this purpose I have founded my own independent film studio together with my wife – which tongue-in-cheek is called Gorilla Film Studios (formerly referred to as MasterPlan Productions) – where we are working off the grid in creating movies at the borderline or twilight zone where arthouse meets grindhouse. This blog is about filmmaking do-it-yourself style. This is for filmmakers that want to make professionally looking films with a high production value and retaining their freedom at the same time. Being a guerilla filmmaker is about being a screenwriter, producer, director, cinematographer, props maker, special effects maker, editor, and perhaps a sound technician and composer, in one and the same persona – the auteur.
Thus, this blog will cover topics that capture all aspects of guerilla filmmaking, the technical “hard” aspects (such as cameras, rigs, dollies, lighting, sound equipment, software, etc.) as well as the artistic “soft” (such as sreenwriting, storyboarding, directing, cinematographing, editing, grading, sound design, etc.), and also practical aspects (such as auditions, production, budget, schedules, production design, props, costumes, special effects, stunts, etc.), as well as the more shadowy or criminal aspects of guerilla filmmaking, such as organizing a shoot at a location without a permit, breaking and entry to make that perfect shot, etc. Everything from the outlook of making a film production on a shoe string budget and with a minimal (or rather micro) film crew – i.e. you and your equally enthusiastic soldiers in arms covering it all with resourses from your own pockets and your own hands, only limited by your imaginations.
And to help me and possible inspire others to take the necessary first steps on this venture, I will use the following eleven points as a general guidline in my guerilla style filmmaking, constituting my own dogma to keep me on the straight and narrow pathway of truly independent zero budget film production, or in other words, making film outside of the private or state sponsored film industry, working fully off grid from the professional film business and system. These guidlines will help me to make my own movies with no consideration taken to any others, especially movie industry executives and state sponsored movie consultants. This set of dogmas are written to affirm the filmmaker as the sole owner of his or her own creative work. It is somewhat inspired by and partly a confirmation of, but all the more so a reaction against the defunct Danish Dogme 95 project.
Herein is contained a total of eleven dogmas, together constituting a cinematic manifesto, to be used by the filmmaker as a means and guideline to uphold his or her true freedom to create a representation of his or her own vision, using as small means and resources as possible to excecute his or her project:
- Shooting should be done on location, (preferable) with or (if necessary) without formal permission of the proprietor. Although props and sets are allowed to be brought in, especially if a particular prop is necessary for the story, as much as possible of the props available on set should be used in the frame, arranged as dictated by necessity, provided they fit the story. Costumes aquired specifically for the production are also allowed, if necessary for the story, although actors should be encouraged to bring with them their own cloths that properly fit into the story. Controlled environments, or studios, are allowed only if necessary to tell the story, in particular when doing special effects shots.
- The sound (and in particular dialogue) should be recorded digitally on location together with or adjacent to the footage taken, using either in camera recording or double system recording. Ambience or background sound may be recorded at a different time and location, if necessary for the story.
- The camera can be stabilised using any means available, such as tripods, dollies, steadicams, gimbals, booms, cranes, vehicle mounts, etc., or it may be hand-held, either freely in the hand, or braced against or placed firmly on the shoulder. There is no virtue inherent in shaky footage, although allowed if deemed important for the story or to create a special feeling.
- The filmmaker should use as much available light – natural and practical light – as possible, augmented with reflectors. Although special lighting is allowed when required to tell or enhance the story, or to create a certain look, including the use of dedicated cinema lighting filtered with gels or diffusers, he or she should try to limit its use, minimising it to a four point lighting set. Optical filters are not only allowed but in certain cirmumstances required, such as using ND filters and IR cuts, as well as polorisers. There is no virtue inherent in ugly cinematography, although allowed if necessary to tell the story or when creating a specific look.
- The filmmaker is allowed to use any means necessary that are at his or her disposal, in the postproduction workflow, including colour grading, compositing, and visual effects. However, no look-up tables created by any others than him- or herself are allowed to be used with colour correction. He or she is also adviced to use special effects and optical effects work done as much as possible in and in front of the camera. Computor generated imagery, whilst allowed, should be used sparsely and only if it serves the story. The filmmaker is admonished to shoot real objects instead, either true size or miniatures, and to create composites using green screen or other techniques in postproduction. There is in fact a inherent virtue in using old-school visual effects.
- The film should preferably be told as a visual story, with as minimal dialogue as possible, containing essential action and movement that pushes the narrative forward. Voiceovers should be avoided, nay shunned. There is no inherent virtue in verbosity. The filmmaker should preserve film as foremost a visual medium, and to defend it against the talking heads syndrome. The filmmaker is also free to use temporal and geographical discontinuety if necessary to tell his or her story and to create the necessary illusion.
- All money and resources necessary to the fund the movie must come from the filmmaker’s own pockets, to retain his or her creative control over the project. The filmmaker should own his or her own shooting equipment and postproduction workstation, i.e. cameras, lenses, filters, tripods, stabilisers, recorders, mics, lighting, and all the various tools and accessories needed to tell the story properly, as well as computer, monitors and essential software. However, he or she is allowed to receive donations for his or her project, as well as to borrow equipement, as long as these are granted to him or her unconditionally.
- Genre movies are preferable for the filmmaker to shoot, although not required, as their particular setting is easy recognisable by both the audiance and the filmmaker, and their typical codex easy to follow by the latter. However, the filmmaker is not only allowed but encouraged to break any rules attached to a certain genre, to be able to freely tell his or her story, and to push the particularly choosen genre forward.
- The filmmaker should base his or her cinematography on the Super 16 or equivalent digital format, freely choosing from using any black and white or colour photochemical emulsion film, or digital film, or any combination thereof. However, for principle footage shot with emulsion film, regular 16mm or Super 8 is also allowed besides Super 16. Shooting principle footage with digital sensors, the size must be 8.8 x 6 mm (2/3) as a bare minimum and 19 x 10 mm (4/3) as the maximum limit, the minimum digital resolution allowed in camera 1080p and 4K as the maximum, and the only digital format allowed CinemaDNG RAW, either uncompressed or losslessly compressed. The maximum postproduction workflow allowed is 4K. Anamorphic adapters or lenses are allowed to squeeze out as much resolution as possible from the native film gate or sensor. Any aspect ratio is allowed to properly tell the story.
- The filmmaker must be credited as the sole owner of his or her creative work, from start to finish, as the original author, writer, producer, director, cinematographer, sound technician, props maker, special effects technician, model maker, make-up artist, composer, editor, sound mixer, colorist, special visual effects designer, and distributor, although one or two exceptions to this rule could be deemed to be excusable, if not untoward. The proper title should be Filmmaker. Any helping hands are credited as assistants. Crews should be kept to an absolute minimum, not more than a total of three or four assistants at any time during the project.
- As a token of his or her creative freedom, the filmmaker is admonished to break any one of the dogmas contained herein, of this manifesto, including the eleventh one. This is in recognition of the truth that all dogmas contain and shackle the free spirit of the artist, that there exist no laws that governs filmmaking, and that this manifesto only serves to be a guideline, not a absolute rule. These eleven dogmas serve to be an aid, not an obstacle, for the filmmaker. Each filmmaker has the power in him or her vested to be his or her own judge in all matters pertaining to the creation of cinema.
The filmmaker is free to use any means available, within the boundaries of these eleven dogmas and his or her own conscience, to create a visual impression of high production value. This visual impression should unfold according to the filmmakers own tastes and preferences, putting his or her personal hallmark or style over the finished project. This manifesto of eleven dogmas is a confirmation of the filmmaker as a free artist, in total creative control of his work, as the auteur. The supreme goal of the filmmaker is to create the perfect magical illusion, to effectively trick his audiance into suspending its disbelief. In following these eleven dogmas, he or she undertakes to use all means available and if necessary at the cost of what is considered to be good taste, aesthetically pleasing, and morally acceptable.
To these eleven dogmas I, Tomas Stacewicz, pledge my faith and legiance, without any equivocation or any mental reservation whatsoever. From this day, 17 February 2017, forward, I will faithfully follow this set of cinematic dogmas to the utomost of my abilities when making any documentary or narrative work, the exceptions being producing test shots or test movies which cannot be deemed to be serious narratives or documentaries in the first place; Dogma 16 is solely reserved for narratives and documentaries, however short or long. As a confirmation of my desire to follow this manifesto in my work, I will make a notification in the opening titles by stating “Dogma 16 No.” followed by the numerical sequence of the film according to its chronological order. I will also make a statement during the end creadits to this fact, that the movie in question is in compliance with Dogma 16, with a link referencing to this particular web site.