Patrick Soltysiak

Tom and Lukasz Antos, partners in TLA productions, debuted their first short film, The Assistants, at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2001. 

Since then, the brothers have produced more shorts and a feature-length WWII film called Under Black Skies.

While shooting the film, the brothers met actor and writer Jeff Sinasac, and in 2005 Back for Revenge Productions was born. The three are currently at work on a post-apocalyptic vampire epic and shooting will likely commence next summer.

Culled from their combined years of experience, here are some of the guys’ tips for making an indie film.

Focus on the script.

 "Don't make excuses for the script,” Tom says regretfully. “Make sure everything works.”  Thinking back, Tom says he would have waited until 2003 or 2004 before filming Under Black Skies—or at least until the script was perfect.  “Some things were worrying me, I didn't think it was 100 per cent."

Always remember your budget.

Tom advises not putting anything in the script that you can’t access for free. “All the sets, make sure that they are pre-existing, all the vehicles, you have them. That way you minimize your cost,” he says.  When a filmmaker is limited, he adds, it’s amazing how much creativity is enhanced.  “You know what your constraints are and you work within them."

Plan, Plan, Plan.  

In the making of Under Black Skies, Tom recalls one scene of an actor running and getting shot.  It worked fine when he and Lukasz did the tests on a stationary subject. But on set, they realized that the blood cable was too short.  "If you can do a rehearsal, go for it.  Act out the scenes so you have an idea how it's going to look.  Obviously you can't plan everything, but do as much as you can."

Do it for love, not money.

"If you just want to make a movie to make money then concentrate on tits and ass or get a big name,” says Tom. “If you want to go and do a movie that you like and have fun with in the process, don't expect to make your money back."  Finding a sponsor, someone who’s willing to put up money for the film’s production and distribution, can ease a filmmaker’s money woes.

Think cheap.

“Don't shoot films the Hollywood way. If you can do it for cheap, do it,” says Tom.  With digital cameras as good as they are today, there’s no need to waste money on film, developing and processing.   "You've got to treat it like you're throwing your money away.  Don't think ‘oh, I'm going to get that money back.’  Basically do it for as little money as possible so that it doesn't hurt you in the end."

Try a short.

Lukasz says he’s happy to have had the opportunity to shoot Under Black Skies, but a filmmaker can get a more varied experience shooting shorts. “Once you’re confident that you can make a feature, and you have the money, then try it.  Getting the experience from short films is invaluable.”

Actors are key.

"Make sure you find the right actors for the roles," says Lukasz.  The guys put ads in several magazines and papers and rented a studio for casting. As an actor, Jeff was impressed. It was unlike many of the independent auditions he’s been to—in the basement of someone’s house.

Don’t expect too much.

 “It's a kind of sad truth,” Tom says. “You can make a cool film and people will say, ‘We like it.’ But that doesn't mean it's going to sell.  There are lots of not-so-good films out there, he adds, that ‘suceed’ simply because of  big names and budgets. 

Keep it dry.

"If you're going have alcohol, leave it till the end of the day," says Tom. Someone brought weed and beer on the set of Under Black Skies and it really hindered production, he adds. “The last few hours were kind of a drag.” 

Keep an open mind.

 Jeff says that while shooting Under Black Skies, he felt free to make suggestions concerning script revisions. “I loved it,” he says. “On other productions I've learned to keep my mouth shut."  But Tom was open to the actors’ ideas, which completely won Jeff’s respect.