DISCLAIMER: If you’re working on your first short film, ignore this list. Enjoy yourself and learn all you can just by doing it. If you’re an aspiring cinematographer with a new camera, then by all means ignore this list and go shoot. Just bought some editing software? Go ahead, shoot and edit until you get the hang of it. Think you might want to direct? Find a couple of actors in a local drama department and ask if they’ll let you direct them in a scene on camera. To all student filmmakers: learn your craft and enjoy the learning process. That involves trying a lot of different things without any make or break pressure.
But if you’re thinking about making a feature film and you’re going to sweat your family and friends with a Kickstarter campaign — take heed to this list. If you’re hoping your film is going to storm into Park City in January, culminating in a bidding war involving anyone named Weinstein, then you’ll do well to take this list to heart. Before you start planning your behind the scenes features, designing the one sheet, putting together a killer business plan that suggests your film is going to perform like NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, please — for the sake of your investors — read and ponder this list. Whatever you do, don’t do any of these:
5 Really Bad Filmmaking Habits:
- Thinking about production when you don’t have a script. You can’t budget, schedule or cast an idea.
- Thinking a good script is an easy thing to come by. It is not.
- Making too many promises and attachments to the project early on. It’s easy to sabotage your movie with a promise made in haste.
- Building your script and/or production around a lot of “have to’s” — there should be as few non-negotiables as possible.
- Building a whole story around one cool idea for a set piece. Sure, Alfred Hitchcock did it. Here’s a tip: you ain’t Hitchcock.
The thing is, you might be the next Hitchcock. But we’ll never know if you fall into these bad habits. In terms of technology, it’s never been easier to make a movie. The downside is it’s never been easier to make a bad movie. Forget about what kind of camera you’re going to shoot on until you know what you’re going to shoot (and if it’s worth shooting). It’s possible to overwork a script. In the Indie world it’s more likely to find one that’s under-worked.
Making a film takes so much effort, time and money, that it really should be entered into as itelligently as it is passionately. You can write a novel, paint a picture or compose a song without raising money and wearing out a crew. Making a movie that will get seen involves a lot of people — from development through post, from the distribution team and ultimately to the audience. If you’re going to marshall that kind of manpower, shouldn’t it be in service of a good script that’s well produced and finished with an eye toward connecting with people who care about your story?
You don’t have to be a seasoned filmmaker to get one of these done. Andie Redwine is a writer/producer who got her first script, PARADISE RECOVERED, produced and distributed. She collaborated with Storme Wood, a talented, experienced director. They didn’t spend a fortune (SAG Ultra Low Budget) but they spent their money wisely. They brought passion and intelligence to their production and it worked.
The Miller Brothers (my former business parter, Josh and his brother, Miles) roll cameras next week on their first feature, ALL THE BIRDS HAVE FLOWN SOUTH. They’ve patiently worked their script for a couple of years. They’ve put together a great cast (Joey Lauren Adams, Paul Sparks) and a top notch local crew with feature experience. They brought on a producer who knew what to do and how to do it. They’re making the film at a budget that makes sense for the genre. I like their chances and I know I’ll like their film.
I’m working with two smart, talented filmmakers right now on a feature we plan to shoot this year. GUTTERSNIPES was written by writer/producer Joe Aaron. It will be directed by Shuchi Talati. Both are AFI grads who’ve worked hard to preserve and protect what is unique about their film while being flexible on everything else. They are the kind of Above the Line leaders that inspire others to work hard for their vision.
There are a lot of ways to get your film made right but they all involve patience, intelligence, passion and hard work. Talent alone won’t get it done. And bad habits will kill you.
(Pictured: On the set of my directorial debut film in 2006 – composing the first draft of Bad Habits for Filmmakers in real time.)