A Six-Step Guide For Beginner Indie Creators

Latest posts by Natalie Polanco (see all)

So You Have An Idea…Now What?

So let’s say you have this idea. A true passion project. You know it could be the next big thing — but you have no idea where to start. Is it a film? TV show? Web series? Music video? Podcast? Blog?

The options for content creation are endless and overwhelming, especially if you have no experience and no one to show you the way. That was me three years ago, when I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker.

I had absolutely no background in film. All I had was an idea for a show about pyramid schemes that I thought would make for a hilarious web-series. The problem was, I had never written a script before, let alone produced one. My first thought was to reach out to some old college buddies who had just graduated film school to ask them for some help. Within three years, those friends helped me grow my first story into a full-fledged production business that has allowed me to bring not only my own passion projects to life; but has also helped me teach other beginner creators how to get their ideas off the ground as well.

How do I do it? I sit with my client over coffee, get to know their needs, and together we go through the same steps my friends helped me go through when I was first starting out. Now let’s get your passion project produced with these six steps!

1. Get Your Mind Right!

First, it’s important you know what to expect. Get used to the idea that no matter how “simple” your idea sounds, it will still take some investment from you. Nothing involving a camera or a microphone is going to be cheap, easy, or quick. But if you put your all into it, eventually the investment will pay off. Once you get comfortable with this, it will become infinitely easier to stay patient and positive to all the ups and downs of content creation.

2. Get to Know Your Idea

Now let’s talk about that passion project. Before you move forward, you should be able to answer these questions about your idea.

  • What do you want to say?
    Spend some time getting to know your idea. Brain dump all your thoughts into a notebook. Then boil it down to its simplest, most concise form. Your mission statement. Think of your idea like a product or a brand. You should be able to describe it in one sentence to anyone you meet — like an elevator pitch.
  • Why do you want to say it?
    What’s the point of all this? What’s your why? Everyone’s motivation for creating is different. Some have a specific message they want to spread, some want to turn a profit, and some just want to make cool stuff with their friends. (Spoiler alert: you probably don’t want to be creating purely for profit, especially if you’re just starting out.)
  • Who do you want to say it to?
    The biggest mistake I see content creators make, is they talk because they like the sound of their own voice. They are creating to vent, or to tell their “inspiring life story”. This kind of “me-centric” mindset is only okay if you don’t care about accumulating a following. But if you want your content to resonate with people, you should know who you’re talking to. Create to serve them and add value to their lives.
  • Is there anything like it?
    I used to think finding shows out there that were similar to mine was a bad thing — until someone told me that there are no purely original ideas in entertainment anymore. This is because investors and audiences love to see that your idea has worked before. Of course, you never want to copy someone else’s idea. But you should be studying those similar concepts. How are they structured? What worked? What didn’t? Use these as a basis to pitch your work.

Now that you know your idea inside and out, it’s time to do some homework.

3. Work for FREE

I know you think your idea is brilliant. It probably is. But before you start, you should really have some experience on some other projects first. When I went to my college buddies to produce my web-series, they suggested I try a short film first. They also recommended I get on as many film sets as possible, even if that meant working for free on my days off from work.

Get your hands dirty! I cannot stress enough how important this is when you’re just starting out.
Content creators everywhere are constantly looking for production assistants to produce their projects. Not to mention, most are eager to teach you what they’ve learned so you don’t have to make the same mistakes they did. Spend as much time as you can building up your experience until you have enough notches on your belt to do your idea the justice it deserves.

4. Plan. Then Plan More.

Now that you know more about your industry, you’re ready to plan your shoot. In the film world, the planning stage is one of the most extensive parts of the process. This is because when you produce anything, TIME IS MONEY. The same is true for any kind of content you create. Plan every minute of every production day well in advance.

You should also know up front about how much your project will cost, and who will be footing the bill. Don’t just “figure it out as you go along.” There are lots of funding options out there — crowdfunds, private investors, online pitch contests, etc. But chances are, the person footing the bill will be you. This shouldn’t scare you. Think about it. If you’re not willing to invest in your own ideas, what makes you think a stranger will? But do not let this deter you from creating, even if you feel like you don’t have much cash to spare. Just save up until you hit your projected budget. If you plan correctly, your idea may not be as expensive as you think.

5. Build Your Team

Want to lower costs? Famous showrunner Issa Rae (HBO’s Insecure) said it best. STOP trying to beg “gatekeepers” to give you a shot or help you with your idea. This is called networking “up” for a reason. It’s an uphill battle. According to Issa, the better way to get help producing your ideas is by networking sideways. Remember those content creators you helped out during your “sponge” phase? Reach out to them again. Offer to barter services. I used to write scripts in exchange for editing and camera equipment. It saved me thousands on production costs without feeling like I was begging for favors.

If you keep good relationships during the barter stage, those people will inevitably grow into your team. You will all grow up together, which is so much easier than trying to go it alone. Be servant-based and the right people will treat you with that same respect. Pool funds. Leverage contacts and resources. Just grow with your people. Then, once you’ve “made it”, reach out a hand and go help someone else.

6. Go Mode

And yet, even with all the advice and mentorship in the world, your first few projects will probably suck. That’s okay. Put them out anyway. Stop waiting for it to be perfect. Just GO. Get feedback, fail forward, and don’t let a month go by without putting some new content out.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Leave a Reply