Yesterday, I told you how Listening to ’so called’ experts could destroy your film career before it even starts. Today I’m going to share with you the few principles you really need to know. If you’ve ever dreamed about being a director, then this post is a must read for you.
The 9 things you need to do if you really want to be a film maker.
- Shoot the damn thing – Stop obsessing over what gear you need, stop worrying about raising money, stop obsessing over every little detail. If you can’t raise the money you need, then figure out how to do it with less money. If you can’t find the location you need, rewrite the script for a new location. Rewrite until you have a movie you can actually do right now then do it right now!
- Three takes and go – Ok, so its digital video. You can have as many takes as you want right? No! Shoot three takes and move on just like you were shooting 35mm film. Only on the really really important scenes, or really short shots are you allowed to go up to five takes, but after that move on. The actors aren’t going to do it any better. Deal with it.
- Get coverage first, then do the fancy stuff – Do a wide establishing shot, do a medium close up of each character, then do some inserts. If you are positive the scene will edit together, then you can start doing some more fancy stuff. But even then…if that “fancy stuff” you want to do doesn’t add to the film, maybe you should just move on to the next scene.
- Get good sound or learn to ADR – It’s imperative you get excellent sound. If you can’t do it while shooting, then you will have to ADR. This can be very expensive, if you don’t have access to a post production audio suite. Try to capture the best sound you can during production, but be sure to budget and plan to do a little ADR as well. It’s probably a good idea for you to start trying to figure out how to ADR dialog right now. It is a skill you will definitely use later.
- Learn to edit – Regardless of whether or not you intend to edit your film yourself, you need to learn how to edit. If you don’t know how to edit, then you’ll never know if your movie will cut together at all. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ll shoot way more coverage than you could possible use and your editor will have to sift through hours of pointless footage. This is also a bad thing because if the editor gets bored while sifting through useless footage, he is more likely to half ass his way through the edit. If you’ve directed the thing right, the edit should naturally evolve from the footage itself.
- Finish the film – Above all finish the film. If its your first film, it will probably suck. Deal with it. But you have to realize that no matter how bad, a a finished film has value but an unfinished film is worthless. Go to best buy and search for some of the action or horror four packs and watch them. It will likely be the best $7.99 you ever spend. Many of these movies aren’t just bad…they are laughably horrendous. Everything is out of focus, the story makes no sense, and fifteen year olds pretend to be mob bosses. It’s utterly ridiculous…but they have one thing going for them: They were finished. Not only that…they were sold. There are distributors who make it their business to pick up extremely terrible movies and sell them in retail stores like best buy. Typically, a producer of these types of movies can make between $5000 to $10,000 selling 100% rights on one of these masterpieces. Not going to put you sipping Champagne in Beverly Hills…but at the very least you can say you’ve sold a movie. The reality is very few people can actually finish a film. It’s a difficult, if not nearly impossible task to do even when you have millions to spend. But if you’ve finished a film, you can approach real investors and pitch yourself as a real producer. Let the entire movie fall to pieces, frame every shot poorly, stay out of focus the entire time…but finish it. Your career has to start somewhere. It starts here…with one crappy (yet finished) film.
- Nail one aspect – Hopefully I’ve convinced you by now that you are not going to make the next big hit movie shooting DV with your friends and editing on your iMac. And also, I hope that I’ve convinced you that its still worth doing regardless of the fact that you aren’t hitting theatres anytime soon. How do you go about making sure you build the most momentum towards achieving your real goals in your filmmaking career? Well, as I’ve said, the persuit of a perfect film is a fools errand…but that doesn’t mean you can’t be perfect in one regard. Make at least one aspect of your film really stand out. Ok, so maybe it doesn’t have the best acting…but maybe you have the skills to make the cinematography really wow the audience. Maybe you know someone with an epically beautiful location that you can use to make your little movie seem larger than life. Maybe you and your friends are black belts in karate and you can put together a killer fight scene. The idea is that you want at least some aspect of your film to really stand out. Lets say you do put together that killer fight scene. Maybe you will never make another film again, but you and your friends are noticed at your film festival premiere by a producer looking for a stunt team for his next action flick. Two years down the road you are now a professional stunt and action choreography team. Maybe not the goal you were chasing in the beginning, but certainly not a bad result.
- Nail one scene – Make at least one scene in your film really highlight the one aspect that you want to show off. Maybe you need to expand the fight scene and make it more epic. Maybe you can do one scene as a single continuous take to show off the skill of your actors and your direction. Above all you need one really solid scene that you can use to show off your talent in the future.
- Make a badass trailer -Without a great trailer no one will want to see your film. The secret to a great trailer is to build curiosity…and on that note, stay tuned for my upcoming article: Thirty seconds to a successful film: How to make a good movie trailer.