Make a Hip Indie Flick in Ten Easy Steps

By Steve Berman and Richard Schwartz

So you've made next year's "Godzilla" but you can't get your film shown in Director's Fortnight. A-ha! With Cannes looking more and more like Park City these days, perhaps you need a refresher in making a hip, cool, Gen-X indie flick.

RULE 1: THE GOLDEN RULE - Pop culture references are the very backbone of "hip." Reference pop culture at every juncture. The shorter the fad, the stronger the reference. Dropping pop culture references are to hip movies what identifying local towns are to stand-up comics - instant (if not cheap) recognition applause. Let's view an example. In your film, a bunch of twentysomethings start tinkering with Rubik's Cubes. An audience member's reaction is, "Hey, I remember the Rubik's Cube! This film resonates strongly with my generation. Awesome, dude!" It's that easy.

RULE 2: THE "ASS" RULE - When characters address one another, let them say "your ass", "his ass", "their asses" etc. Let's see this in practice..."So, she dumped your ass, huh?" In the '90s, it's all about ass. Feel free to combine this with Rule 1 and then you'll really be kickin' some (ass). "So, she dumped your 'Brady Bunch'-watching ass, huh?"

RULE 3: WE WANT A VERB - As you're choosing a name for the film, try to employ an active verb in the present tense. It's simply a matter of tradition. "Chasing Amy," "Scream," "Kicking and Screaming," "Walking and Talking," "Swimming With Sharks," "Living in Oblivion," "Spanking the Monkey."

RULE 4: THE MTV RULE - Just like a brand new season of "The Real World," make damn sure that one character is gay or lesbian.

RULE 5: THE 'SEINFELD' RULE - Or the striking absence of gravitas. Write your dialogue so that your characters talk for hours about nothing important, often in monologues. Nothing says "hip" (literally) like someone analyzing mundane, everyday activities. Or, better yet, take a page from the Tarantino guide and combine with Rule 1. Gosh, grown men discussing the sexual undertones of a Madonna song or the homosexual overtones in "Top Gun."

RULE 6: LEAVE IT TO CLEAVAGE - There's an old saying in film about seeing every dollar on the screen. Well, silicone ain't cheap folks. We want to see what these young girls are buying over at Dr. Rosenberg's office. We're guessing that Jennifer Love Hewitt had a head in "I Know What You Did Last Summer," but we just never noticed it. Keep those tight sweaters coming.

RULE 7: WAKE THE DEAD - Any given character in a hip movie should drink enough coffee to make a dead horse gallop. Since these characters usually just sit around and talk anyway, they really do require all that caffeine. Besides, there is something inherently cool about a substance that keeps you up, makes your breath stink and gives you loose bowel movements. Java is the poor man's cocaine.

RULE 8: THE BABYFACE RULE - Before you pen your script, make sure you have either Smashing Pumpkins, the Goo Goo Dolls or Usher committed to recording a song for the soundtrack. If you can get Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds to contribute (and produce), then the actual film is just a formality. Just hope the soundtrack will linger on the charts long enough to spike video rentals. And, oh, don't forget to throw in something so velveeta that it's cool. Maybe a selection from the canon of Burt Bachrach or Perry Como or Barry Manilow.

RULE 9: THE THREE C's - Comics, cartoons and cannabis (See Kevin Smith).

RULE 10: CASTING COUCH POTATOES - It's time to cast. We need slacker girls who reek of quirky and slacker guys who can wear a goatee like nobody's business. In order to rule the world of hip, you really need two people - Ethan Hawke and Janeane Garafalo. Janeane's "I could give a shit" attitude and pixie skater look make her the Venus to every Sony Play Station owner the world over. And Ethan? This cat is so suave he's got cappuccino in his veins.

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