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How Guerilla Filmmaking Works

Tips for Making a Guerilla Film
This is the wrong way to shoot guerilla-style: large crew, conspicuous behavior and the presence of a big boom mic.
This is the wrong way to shoot guerilla-style: large crew, conspicuous behavior and the presence of a big boom mic.
© Michael Scott/Demotix/Corbis

So, you've decided to become the Billy the Kid of the film industry -- now what? We've rounded up a list of tips for would-be guerilla filmmakers, but bear one thing in mind: You're responsible for the risk, not us. With that little disclaimer is out of the way, here's what to do:

Scout your location in advance: Take note of security patrols and environmental factors, like traffic and lighting. You're not going to have the luxury of waiting around all day for just the right light [source: Artis].

Be prepared: Blocking and rehearsing will just draw attention. Have actors prep elsewhere (maybe at your house) and make sure everyone shows up ready for shooting. Equipment, the shot list and a shooting schedule should all be double-checked before hitting the "set" [source: Guerilla Film].

Know your rights: Know what is and isn't considered a commercial production. Certain types of equipment are allowed in public, so as long as you're within the law it's technically a no-harm, no-foul situation [source: Fera]. Some directors will even keep a college student on hand in case they need to say it's a student production!

Be a minimalist: Have a crew of only a few people (typically a sound person, camera operator and a producer/director) using a small handheld camera and hidden sound equipment. In other words, be as inconspicuous as possible. A boom mic is a dead giveaway [source: Artis].

Or totally overdo it: Kroll knows filmmakers who take the "more is more" approach, flaunting a large crew, tons of equipment and a whole lot of nerve. "A colleague who shot a film that way literally went into Hollywood Boulevard, blocked off the street and shot all day long," recounts Kroll. "He looked professional and confident, so no one said anything." He cautions filmmakers to avoid forming crews of five to 10 people because that's too small to be professional. "Stick to one of those two ends of the spectrum."

Have a Plan B: Your "perfect" site might have a water main break on shooting day. Or the po-po may show up and you need to make a quick getaway. Unless you enjoy getting behind schedule, it pays to have a backup plan in place.

With enough savvy, creativity and planning and your film will be in the can before you know it. Remember to thank us at Sundance!