What Is Guerilla Filmmaking?

Guerilla filmmaking allows films to be made without subscribing to the rules and regulations of the movie industry.
Independent films are typically cheaper to produce than commercial movies.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 April 2014
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Guerilla filmmaking is a term used to describe low-budget films that do not meet the typical production values of a studio film. Films made in this process are usually made for less money, with a smaller crew and less equipment. Although many see the lack of resources as a detriment, supporters believe that freedom from oversight common to guerilla films is worth the hardships, at least on an artistic level.

A film is typically considered "guerilla" if it does not subscribe to the rules and regulations of the Hollywood film industry. In a studio picture, cast and crew typically belong to unions that enforce specific rules regarding the treatment of their members. Moreover, the producing studio and any invested affiliates maintain a degree of control over the finished product.

Guerilla filmmaking creates a different animal altogether. Films are typically funded by members of the creative team or private investors. This gives the team considerably more control over the finished product, as they now must only attract a distributing company to have their film released in theaters. With the advent of the Internet, guerilla filmmakers gained even more control over their product, as they can release and distribute online fairly inexpensively and without a distribution company.


Job descriptions for crew members may also become a little murky in the guerilla process. With less money or status at stake, cast and crew sign on primarily to enjoy the project or help out friends. Without the strict regulations of the unions, members of the crew may find themselves filling whatever positions are necessary for any given scene or day.

An additional, though less publicized, part of guerilla filmmaking can include some illegal activity. In most places, permits are required by government officials before allowing film crews to shoot in public. Some guerilla and independent films will simply ignore these requirements; able to sneak shots in by using only a single small camera so as not to attract attention. In Sofia Coppola's Lost In Translation, the crew used guerilla tactics to shoot a wide shot of Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo by sneaking a cameraman into a nearby coffee shop that featured a view of the street. These tactics may save a production much-needed money, but can be dangerous or costly if a problem should occur or if officials take notice.

Although guerilla filmmaking avoids the trappings of the Hollywood machine, well-made films can still be created. Many famous directors have gained major media attention through self-made films shot in the guerilla style, including Darren Aronofsky and Spike Lee. Many proponents of this filmmaking style insist that the lack of micromanagement from studios allows the creative freedom to explore ideas that many studios reject. An "art of the people" in some respects, guerilla filmmaking can allow the production of controversial, thought-provoking films that might not otherwise be made.


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