If you want to know how to make movies – especially independent films, then you should be watching as many indies as you can. Thankfully there’s a lot of awesome gems out there. Including What If, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan.

Originally titled The F Word, What If is the story of a med school dropout and the quirky cute animator he falls for at the wrong time because she’s got a boyfriend.

I stumbled across this film the other day and I was kicking the couch in frustration. It was that good. Mostly I was just frustrated that so many years have gone by since it’s release in 2013 and that I was only just discovering it for the first time. Clearly, I’ve been living under a rock somewhere.

This film is so good. It’s generation x, y and whatever else’s When Harry Met Sally. But I think it’s even better. Here’s why:


The thing I love most about this film is how genuine the storytelling is. They don’t go for the typical boy meets girl flick cliches. One scene in particular comes to mind of Radcliffe and Kazan’s character’s stranded on a beach, naked, with only the one sleeping bag. The typical rom com would have this be the moment things finally happen for these would be lovers, but it doesn’t. Instead it uses it for an epic obstacle that made this storyteller so happy.

What it reminded this independent filmmaker was to fight against the cliches and think about what really happens in life when these types of situations pop up. I encourage you to think about that too. How can you flip that cliche scene into something dynamic and awesome?

“In fairy tales, love inspires you to be noble & courageous, but in real life, love is just an all-purpose excuse for selfish behavior. You can lie & cheat & hurt people, & it’s all okay because you’re in love.” – Wallace played by Daniel Radcliffe in What If

Another honest and awesome moment (oh gosh there’s just too many to choose from) was a scene between Radcliffe and Adam Driver. It takes place in the aftermath of the scene on the beach in which Radcliffe’s character, Wallace, rebukes Driver’s.

So many films use this moment to say cheating is ok when the significant other is a jerk but not in What If. It actually goes against this stereotypical plot to talk like real humans, not the over dramatised, lets appeal to the romantics heart and cue the epic lovey dovey music. Again they use this moment to further the story with great obstacles for the characters to think on and climb over.

In my humble opinion, the theme of this film is unlike any rom com out there. It’s about being selfless in love instead of just doing what you want and to me that’s one of the most beautiful love stories ever.

Which leads me to what the rest of us indie storytellers can take away from this film. Add obstacles when you want to appeal to your rom com heart. It moves the story more and will have your audience leaning forward in their seats waiting to find out what happens next. And pick a theme you haven’t seen in the genre before.

I am a huge fan of What If. It’s innovative storytelling makes it equal parts creative and new while appeasing to the rom com genre – watch it and apply what you can to your independent films.


  • Charis Joy Jackson

    Producer, Director, Writer, Actress

    Charis Joy Jackson is a writer, director, producer and teacher working with The Initiative Production Company. During the day she makes movies and in her spare time writes short stories and novel. She's a self-proclaimed nerd who wishes she could live in Hobbiton. You can follow her on Instagram @charisjoyjackson


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