I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, the devil is in the details? Recently, in the most perfect way, I heard it flipped. God is in the details, and honey God is love.
Sometimes in these posts, I can go off on a tangent starting with one letter and ending, with another, but details are so important that I could spend days talking about them. When you think about film genres which ones come to mind? Action, comedy, drama, romantic comedy? Due to budget restraints most independent films stay away from action. Its hard to have a high speed car chase culminating in an explosion, followed by a helicopter scene in which the bad guy still gets away….all on a shoestring budget. It’s hard because you can’t fill in enough of the details to allow the audience to suspend reality while they are on this journey with you.
Some details are huge, like okay, we need a bakery, and a school, we need school children, we need cast and we need crew. There are just no getting around these. Its easy when you are an indie producer to only focus on these and say, hey the smaller details “we’ll figure it out”. I actually once worked with a producer who made that line his fall back line, “we’ll figure it out”. Roughly translated: “we shouldn’t worry about those details because we will just make due while we are shooting by throwing some of anything or anyone in the scene to ‘make do.” Your level of comfort with this approach will depend on many things. As an investor in the film, this made me incredibly uncomfortable. What the f*ck do you mean, we will figure it out? As the lead producer in the film, it infuriated me. Yes, we will figure it out. NOW. BEFORE WE GET ON SET!
Listen, the small details may not seem like a big deal, but they can really make it or break it. If the script calls for a picture car. It is not enough to say, we will just use a car of a crew member. That might be possible, that you are able to use a crew car, but its better to figure out which one sooner rather than later. I was on set recently and a scene in a car, took an incredibly long time to light because the producer handling this detail left it until the last minute. He chose a car with black seats and tinted windows!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! Of all the freaking cars, why in the hell are we using this one? Because not enough thought and time went into this detail. Whose car? What is the make and model? Can you snap a few pictures and send them to me? Oh boy, those windows are tinted. Let’s get the DP to weigh in on this. What do you think? Agreed, we need an alternative. Simple.
But if you leave the “smaller details” to figure out until the day of, you will undoubtedly suffer and your project will suffer. I know, I know. It’s a lot of work. Filmmaking is hard. Suck it up. You can take shortcuts, but they really only appear to be shortcuts. You will pay either on set or in post, but the deficit is always paid. Its the way of the world my friend.
Think about some of your favorite movies, they created a magical world that allowed you to suspend reality for those 90 or 120 minutes. Everything came together like magic. The magic is in the details.
As an indie producer you have to ask yourself, will I be forced to wear so many hats that the details will suffer? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider waiting until you have more help. Details can make it or break it, don’t sleep on their power.
Next up? E stands for: Excuses, F*ck Those.
The Black TV & Film Collective a 501c3 organization that operates as a NYC film collective. In our work, we support all artists of color including but not limited to black filmmakers. We are a collaborative platform that represents diversity in film and supports inclusion in Hollywood and TV. Our professional network of New York City filmmakers gives knowledge to those who want to learn how to produce film, how to make a web series, how to budget film projects and more. We host NYC film workshops that welcome a variety of experience levels from first time filmmakers who are either students in film school or to notables within the television and film industry. See how you can make a difference in the world of cinema by becoming a member of our NYC film collective.
Huriyyah Muhammad is the Founder of the Black TV & Film Collective and Managing Partner of Infinite Wings Media. As an independent feature film producer, she has led the production of multiple independent feature films from development to market, and most recently completed filming projects in Nairobi, Kenya and Madhya Pradesh, India. Her documentary,Bulbul: Song of the Nightingale is currently in post-production, while Soko Sonko, Swahili for Market King, continues to win awards. She has over 20 producing credits, and will make her narrative directorial debut this winter with the supernatural suspense Keloid.
Huriyyah is an avid writer, director and producer who is passionate about creating long-lasting opportunities for people of color within the film, TV and digital media industries. She holds an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business and a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Computer Science from Spelman College.