5 Important Lessons About Filmmaking

Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee.
— James Cameron

I like this mantra. I wrote something similar on this blog early last year about taking advantage of the present and being an artist right now. The more we as filmmakers create, the more we learn about ourselves and the process.

I've worked on close to 25 short films in the past ten years and through each project I've gained some new understanding about my craft. Here are some of the lessons I've learned. Your experiences and opinions may be different. If so, I'd love to hear from you in the Comments section.

  1. View every project as an opportunity to improve. If you as a filmmaker haven't increased your production value, your eye for composition, or your sense of story, then you haven't been paying close enough attention. Go into every project with your eyes wide open and never buy in to the belief that you've learned all there is to know.
  2. Be confident in yourself. Have a strong sense of vision for your film. If your cast and crew sense that you doubt your own abilities, then it will bring their confidence down as well. It also means that others might try to force their own vision upon you, causing you to compromise your original intentions.
  3. Surround yourself with a talented crew. You cannot do everything by yourself. I recently finished shooting a no-budget short with a skeletal crew. Since I had no line producer on set, I had to be the one to be mindful of the shooting schedule. And let me tell you, it's challenging to give due diligence to the performances when you are also concerned with making your day. Even if you are working with the smallest of crews, I recommend you definitely hire the following:
    1. Cinematographer
    2. Assistant Director
    3. Line Producer
    4. Boom operator
    5. Gaffer
    6. Script Supervisor
  4. Be collaborative and listen to others. Each film has its own singular vision, but that vision is achieved through teamwork. Be open to suggestions. When a problem arises on set (and a problem will arise), you will need your core team to help brainstorm solutions. Many times what makes a film even better are the spontaneous ideas that happen on location. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck said, "If two men agree all the time, then one is useless. If they disagree all the time, then both are useless."
  5. Try again. Your film won't be perfect. Either during the shoot or during the edit you will think of things you could have done better. Keep those lessons in mind and apply them to your next project. 

As a post-script, let me encourage you to stretch yourself creatively. Try something new. Here are some ideas to help inspire you.

As always, leave your thoughts in the Comments section.