By Marc Loftus
Issue: June 1, 2004


For many, independent films are an entry point into the production and post industries. Others use them as an opportunity to take a break from their normal commercial or corporate workload. Independent productions' lower budgets require filmmakers to be incredibly resourceful and many sign on to such projects as an opportunity to stretch their creative muscle, more so than for what they'll be paid.

A commercial editor might take on a documentary or film for the chance to work on a longform project. The same goes for commercial composers who envy the opportunity to really develop musical themes.

High-quality digital video formats and low-cost software tools are allowing independent filmmakers to do even more on their own these days, without the need for major financing and post house support.

Filmmaker Cody Jarrett, for example, took advantage of Apple's Final Cut Pro running on his Mac G4 to cut "Frog-g-g," a '70s/sci-fi-inspired film about a frog that is chemically mutated to man-size proportions. Jarrett was totally going for the '70s look. No digital characters here, just a guy in a frog suit, menacing a small town's women.

The film was shot on Super 16, requiring processing by FotoKem and transferring at Crest National in Hollywood, but Jarrett handled the edit himself. This, on top of writing, directing and producing the film. He had a team helping him, many of whom came on board because they themselves were inspired by similar '70s drive-in classics. "Frog-g-g" was more a labor of love than financial pay dirt.

Composer Doug Hall of NYC's Propeller Music & Sound Design also participated in an indie project recently. Splitting the job with fellow composer Len Miller of DreamScape Music, the team created the score for "Steve Phoenix: The Untold Story," an indie "mockumentary" about a public access TV show host in search of the big story that will make his career.

Hall created around 30 tracks using MOTU Digital Performer, running on a G5, and used an FTP site to send tracks back and forth to Miller.

"For me, I wanted to do more longform stuff," he says. "I hadn't done any in a while and it was an opportunity to work with Len. I'd like to do more films. It keeps me fresh and, from a business point of view, it's smart to diversify."