On Saturday Night I saw the film “Hitchcock”. I learnt a few things about the making of Psycho which of course became Alfred Hitchcock’s most successful film. Yes Psycho was made rather like an indie film is made today.
At the start of the film, Alfred Hitchcock has just completed North by Northwest. As he has just turned 60, he was seeking a fresh challenge. He read a book about a ruthless psychopath who killed his mother and decided to take on the challenge of making a film that replicates this story.
However, everyone including his wife thought that it was a bad idea to make the film. No studio wanted to fund the film even thought at the time of the story, he is one of Hollywood’s best directors.
He decides to put his house up as collateral and funds the film himself for around $800,00 with Paramount agreeing to distribute the film at the end.
Back in 1960. why was there so much resistance to the film? Because Alfred Hitchcock decided to kill off his leading lady half way into the film. Nobody ever had done this before. The experts all said that Hitchcock should not kill off his stories hero half way through the film. The experts all said the film would be a flop. Yet the film became a mega hit film.
The experts of course got it wrong. There are many experts out there particularly in the script area who like to make scripts into mathematical formulae. Ironically, some of the biggest successes are films that break all the rules. Think of Pulp Fiction, Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now and just recently The Life of Pi. The Life of Pi takes place on the ocean with a tiger and one man for most of its narrative. Try pitching that particular story.
Breaking the rules and creating something passionately fresh seems to be a risky strategy worth perusing. Not only that , its lots of fun. That is why Indie film and the online marketing strategies of VOD are opening up the opportunities to create fresh original material. For the audience, fresh films remain in the memory a long time.
The Studios hated Psycho so much that they only opened the film on two screens in Los Angeles. Hitchcock gathered his troops and created one of the best marketing campaigns. He went on the radio, started controversies related to the film. The whole country heard about the film and when it opened, there were lines around the block. The first screening was such a massive success, the expert suits at Paramount had to eat humble pie and expand the film to a major release. Of course the film became a massive success and the defining film of Hitchcock’s career.
Yes there is a lot to learn from the now late master film maker. He still had an indie heart at age60.
1 When you believe in a story, go for it and ignore the naysayer
2 Decide you are going to make the film and attract the resources like a magnet.
3 If you heart feels the story needs it, break the rules and create something fresh and original.
4 Market outside the box. Make sure the world hears about your film and get as many eyeballs to see your work as possible.
One of the directions we are taking at Australian Film Base is encouraging Film Makers to go for different material that they are passionate about. Learn film the indie way at one of our Four Month Film Schools or our One Week Film School in the Gold Coast.