Paul F. Ryan and Erika Christensen
Paul F. Ryan with Erika Christensen on the set of Home Room.

Fight for your film.

Fight for your film. Fight for a bigger budget,
your favorite actor, the best locations, the best distributor
and the best theaters
to show in. It doesn’t matter if you win these battles; it only
matters that you fight them. No one cares about your movie as much
as you do, no matter what they say or how much they’re being paid.
I’ve stayed deeply involved in every aspect of Home Room‘s
production and distribution for this very reason. Fight for your
film. If you don’t, who will?

There is no “easy” part.

For a handful of people, I guess the path might be easy. For Home
however, there were obstacles at every turn. Raising
money, casting, crewing, post-production-these were all difficult.
I expected that. But we continued to encounter major hurdles
throughout the festival phase, the acquisitions phase and now
the distribution phase. Don’t fall into a “grass in greener” mentality:
I’m not sure most of these things would have been especially
easier even if Home Room had been selected to Sundance.

Independent = Alone

“Independent” is just a nice way of saying “alone.” And
making a movie alone (or with very few people) is always going
to be difficult.

Don’t be over-prepared.

On an 18-day shoot, you definitely need a game
plan. But don’t
stick to your plan or shooting schedule so rigidly that you miss
great opportunities with actors on camera. We fell behind almost
immediately on Home Room, but I was comfortable in knowing
we were getting great footage, and that I would find places to
catch-up later. I was unwilling to accept that after putting all
of these resources in place, that there just wasn’t any time to
do the actual “filmmaking part” of making a film.

Let people make mistakes.

Filmmaking is an art, not a science. The whole
point of casting a particular actor or crewing a specific position
is that you want
that person’s point of view to be added to the greater whole. Sometimes
people go off in a direction that is different than your own artistic
vision, and you should be willing to give them the time to explore
that path even if you initially think it won’t work. If it’s a
disaster, reign them back in. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll discover
something you never thought of. This is why film is a collaborative

Never serve turkey.

People always ask me what the most difficult
day of the shoot was. That answer is simple: the day we served
turkey for lunch.
I was as guilty as the next guy: I piled my plate high with mashed
potatoes, stuffing, gravy and turkey. About 30 minutes after we
got back on-set, the entire crew was comatose. They say that a
well-fed crew is a happy crew, but if we all end up sleepwalking
through the rest of the day, no one really benefits. I can’t stress
this enough: no turkey!