We recently re-watched the great Steve Martin movie Bowfinger. Not only does it still hold up (except, maybe the late 90s cell phones) it actually got me thinking quite a bit about making movies and creating things in 2014.
For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, it’s about a down on his luck producer, played by Martin, who happens into a “great script” from his accountant. After being told by a high profile Hollywood producer he would only need the biggest action star in the world, played by Eddie Murphy, to be in his movie to receive distribution, the movie is a go. Sort of.
Of course, the action star won’t do the movie, Martin’s producer has no money (as seen in the GIF above), and all the scenes with Murphy’s movie-star are shot in secret with the various actors hired for the movie just walking up to him (which include Eddie Murphy playing another character in a second role – this and Coming To America are his best dual role movies).
Bowfinger is a hilarious take on Hollywood, making movies, and even Scientology. If you haven’t seen it we highly recommend it. If you haven’t seen it in a while, it’s worth another viewing.
The things that jump out to me today, creating our own movies and shows, is that Bowfinger has good takeaways for making things 15 years after the movie premiered.
It’s not about the money – When starting out on the movie, Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) has just over two-thousand dollars on hand. But he rounds up non-union actors, including a girl literally just-off-the-bus played by Heather Graham, about the rag-taggiest crew a movie can have, has his cinematographer
steal borrow gear and film from the studio he works at, and somehow pulls together a movie. As much as a send-up as this movie is, I think that’s still a good lesson. For a couple thousand dollars (mostly in equipment) you really could produce a movie today if you have the gusto.
Rag tag works – While the crew that Bowfinger puts together may not really have been able to pull off a Hollywood feature, the idea that you can make it happen with a small crew that may not have deep IMDB pages is definitely what we’re dealing with in today’s digital world. People who want to be part of the production are going to be just as good, and certainly willing to learn on the fly, as any expert crew. We learned this with Startups, when we requested people who wanted to be part of a production to help us, even if they had no experience on set.
The idea is key – It could be debated whether or not the script “Chubby Rain” is in fact good (though it probably stands up against a lot of the blockbusters that have screened the last 15 years) but a good idea for a movie can probably propel it into production. If enough people can get behind the idea, can really be invested in the characters and the story, it’s likely going to find enough help along the way to make it to a screen.
Let me know what you think about Bowfinger as a template for indie filmmaking. And I’d also love to know your favourite scene or quotes from the movie.