Independent filmmaker and famed musician Mike Trebilcock has worked on a variety of media-related projects for the last few years, including his first ever movie production. Originally pitched as an Indiegogo fund project, Trebilcock’s CHEWED had finally wrapped up its post-production following its 2016 shoot.
The film, despite only being 15 minutes long, had an estimated production cost of $5,000 CAD. Most of his expenses were donated through an Indiegogo page that he created. Trebilcock had previous experience composing original music for television and short films as well as the score for George Romero’s stage production “Night of the Living Dead -Live!” but moving into the role as the director and producer was a big jump.
Trebilcock’s attributes much of his creative visions to the way he writes songs:
“Whatever the words might be, they suggest a rhythm, like the way you speak. Speech has melody to it, so if you follow that natural melody, or natural rhythm, you’ll get something that flows well”.
Budgeting an indie film
Small independent projects such as this means that film locations have to be accessible to both the Trebilcock and his film crew. A limited budget meant that every resource had to used to its full advantage including props, people and location, with many scenes being shot in Binbrook and Hamilton, Ontario.
“Exciting, but expensive to make a short movie. Especially on a low budget scale, just squeaking by, while, directing, editing, composing the score, and producing it myself. An example of the risks and challenges of working on a short film was having to borrow a jeep and having to race it (carefully) up and down a narrow trail in the “jungles” of Hamilton.
The Corporate Setting
Tom Pope, an industry veteran of television and movie-editing says that the media has made video editing and alterations look so easy. But in fact, production for corporate clients differs vastly from independent films:
- Production managers give the project
- People like Pope work with a team of creative professionals
- A meeting is held to decide who is going to film, often shooting is done with very little notice
- Not given much creative freedom to experiment with ones own style, normally the production heads have an idea in mind for their vision
“The main difference is the number of people involved in the production. Freelance projects usually have a very limited crew and are generally done by one or two editors. With corporate productions, you’re dealing with a lot of levels of interaction. If there’s an agency involved, it gets even more complicated, and you’ll find that people will be very picky about things that don’t affect the overall quality of the production. When I worked in commercials, there were times where an agency representative would ask me to move text literally one pixel up or down. You definitely have more freedom when you’re dealing with freelance productions. That being said, monetary stability is a little riskier with freelance work, so choose your poison.”
Many corporate productions that are based on the client’s expectations, rather than ones own vision. Popes line of work includes commercial work where the clients are expected to see what’s on the storyboard.
Passion vs. Pay
Like many independent productions, one way to keep the project on-budget is to use volunteers to contribute time and labour in exchange for the experience of working on a movie project. In the case of CHEWED, the cast and crew was a mix of paid professionals and unpaid volunteers. So why do people pour so much time and energy into these small independent projects?
In Trebilcock’s case, it is clearly an outlet for his creative passion. While for Tom Pope, he has managed to strike a balance between the creative and the commercial.
“In my line of work, I have a lot of freedom. I work for a company that wants us to push limits, so if I suggest we try something, there’s no reason I can’t try it. When I worked in commercials however, I had very little freedom. Clients expect to see what was on the storyboard.”
Last year, Trebilcock’s production premiered at the Hamilton Film Festival in Burlington Ontario. CHEWED has since made the rounds at several other independent horror festivals, and is featured on the Roku indie horror film channel. It’s a promising start to a new career as a filmmaker for Trebilcock and it is a sign of the future of independent filmmaking with the rise of online distribution platforms.