Indie Film Producing with Terri Dwyer and Dean Fisher

Giles Alderson is joined by the producers of his latest feature, The Stranger in Our Bed, on this week’s episode. Terri Dwyer & Dean Fisher discuss making the film, indie filmmaking, in general, and producing.

’I hope that the UK audience is as supportive as the US. Any independent film that gets into production is nothing short of a miracle.

You just hope that people love it as much as the energy we’ve put into making it.’

How The Stranger In Our Bed Came About

Terri ‘set up a production company at the height of the pandemic because that seemed like a sensible idea. We optioned USA Today’s bestselling book The Stranger in Our Bed and the author of the book wrote the screenplay as well. I’ve known Dean for 20 years, and he’s been very generous in mentoring me in the producer world.

I asked him to come on board and produce Stranger with us, but it was challenging shooting a film in the restrictions that none of us understood. It added onto the budget and in independent film, every pound really counts.’

Giles was invited by Dean and Terri to pitch as a director for hire.

Restrictions on Filming

Not only were they having to pay to have the cast and crew tested regularly for COVID, but they were also restricted in terms of crew size and locations.

‘We chose that place in Northampton to turn into a studio. We COVID tested everybody three days before and then we were in a bubble – none of us left during the two weeks.

Dean was doing all sorts because we had to keep a really small crew; which meant, as producers, we were in every department. By the time we left Northampton, we had half the film in the bag.’

Collectively, they also wanted to avoid using too many locations, including a hospital in London because of the pandemic. 

‘We built a set in the barn at the house and utilised every space. Even the little outhouse was made into a restaurant, just whatever we could do to make it work.’

Producing Indie Films

The art department completely recreated the same space for the hospital and photography room scenes, in a short space of time.

Giles thanked Terri and Dean for how hard they worked, taking on many jobs. 

‘Because we had to have fewer people, I never saw you stop. A lot of people in many industries don’t know what producers do, but what they do is sew everything together. They make sure fires get put out before they happen. And you two were incredible.’

Dean responded by saying: ‘it makes our jobs easier if a director’s got the right vibe on set. If people complain all the time that they’re having a hard time with the director, then that comes back to the producer. And our job is obviously very difficult.

The actors reacted well to you, the crew reacted well to you and that definitely makes our job easier because then we haven’t got that other layer of politics.’

‘That’s what is amazing about independent film. Indie film is a real family thing. We work really hard. But there’s a real sense of family. 

Ben Lloyd-Hughes did this beautiful video on social media, and he said, what I love about indie film is the effort that people are willing to go to tell this story and be part of that.’

The Future of Indie Film

‘It’s a really difficult time in indie film at the moment. And I think it’ll be a shame if those big conglomerates or studios don’t start supporting us; because if they don’t start looking after us, we are going to lose a really important part of the film industry. People are able to tell the type of stories that studios wouldn’t put money behind.

Streamers are doing well but what you’re seeing is a disconnect. How many people will go and watch an independent film in the cinema? We are really going to have to rethink the strategy of how we go forward.

All the screens are taken up by big studio films. Where does that leave us to go? There’s no place for us in theatrical at the moment because theatrical are trying to recoup the money they lost during the pandemic.’

Dean also believes that ‘the appetite from the audience has changed. People have got very used to watching content at home and not going to the cinema. There are only very few films that people will come out, in masses, to go and see and that’s what we’re fighting against.

As producers, we’re having to think a bit more outside the box to connect with our audiences. You have to find an extra edge or create a movement where people want to come and see your film.’

What did Terri Learn on Stranger?

‘Every film that you produce, you prep within an inch of its life and feel like you have ironed out the creases that you had in the last film, but it’s like a child, you can never predict the problems that it’s going to have. And they’re always different from the last one.’

For more from Terri, Dean and Giles, listen here.

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