March 11, 2015

15 Common Mistakes Amateur Filmmakers Make (& How to Fix Them)

So, you're a noob filmmaker, huh? Well, that essentially means you're a walking mistake factory.

That's okay! Making mistakes is part of learning and becoming better -- which, if we're smart, we never stop doing. But, it's always nice to learn how to avoid pitfalls before its too late, which is where filmmaker Darious Britt comes in. He has compiled 15 common (though not altogether obvious) mistakes that filmmakers make when they first start out and not only gives examples to learn from, but he also offers some excellent wisdom on ways to fix them in the video below:

Here's a written list of all 15 common mistakes from the video:

  1. Weak story
  2. Undercooked scripts
  3. Bad sound
  4. Poor casting choices
  5. Poor shot composition
  6. White walls
  7. Poor lighting
  8. Unnecessary insert shots
  9. Lingering
  10. Too many pregnant pauses
  11. No blocking (movement)
  12. Too much chit chat
  13. Action for the sake of action
  14. Clichés
  15. Generic music

We can all be honest here and admit that we're all guilty of making at least 95% of these mistakes (if we're really honest, 100%). Darious offers so many great tips on how to not only avoid these things, but also how to fix them after we've made them.

What common mistakes have you made as a beginner filmmaker? Which ddo you notice in the films of other beginner filmmakers? Let us know in the comments below.     

Your Comment

60 Comments

Is there any way to get a transcript of the video, or, even better, subtitles added? Thanks!

March 11, 2015 at 10:55PM, Edited March 11, 10:55PM

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Jason T
Video technician
81

I'll have to see what I can do when I get time Jason. Thank you.

March 12, 2015 at 12:23AM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

it takes 2 secs if you use the youtube free service

March 12, 2015 at 6:23PM

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I don't know if it's Australian accents but the YouTube auto subtitles are hilariously bad,. But the timings great. If you edit/correct the automatic one done by YouTube, timing is all done and it's quite a fast process.

March 12, 2015 at 9:10PM

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Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
643

Thanks 4 sharing a very interesting and very informative article!

March 11, 2015 at 10:59PM

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Jeff M.
Director/Writer/Editor/Cinematographer
155

Thank you for commenting Jeff!

March 12, 2015 at 12:23AM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

Lots of good stuff in here! I'd highly recommend this for everyone starting out. Wish they would of screened something like this in my first film class lol.

March 11, 2015 at 11:09PM, Edited March 11, 11:09PM

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Stephen Herron
Writer/Director
1306

Glad that you enjoyed it Stephen. Thank you for commenting =)

March 12, 2015 at 12:24AM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

While I agree with all of the listed mistakes, it should be noted that many can be avoided with a healthy budget. Something usually not available to first time film makers.

March 11, 2015 at 11:52PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
664

Very true.

March 12, 2015 at 12:24AM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

A lot of these mistakes are about a lack of experience and under developed sensibilities. I dont really see how a healthy budget could fix that unless you are paying for an experienced crew.

How does money fix too much chit chat? Undercooked scripts? Weak story? How do you throw money at those problems and they are magically fixed?

Darious dont be so quick to roll over!

March 12, 2015 at 3:24PM

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I don't think he was implying that money solves everything but I do notice that first timers who can afford to hire professional crew and great script readers/Doctors to give them feedback on their scripts tend to make work of a different quality.

March 15, 2015 at 2:13PM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

"Who can afford to hire" well if that doesn't mean money can circumvent the issues you outlined I dont know what does.

Unless they are being paid in gumdrops and fairy farts.

March 21, 2015 at 10:45AM

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The budget is less important than the mundane legwork that is a part of great art. It doesn't take money to walk door-to-door in a nice neighborhood looking for a location that beats your bare apartment or networking to find quality actors and crew who are willing to trade work. How many beginners visit a location more than once to plan scenes or do a Saturday's worth of test shots in preparation for the shoot?

March 14, 2015 at 7:49PM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
268

Emerson, what would you recommend as the best way to earn/get/win money so that a new filmmaker could have a budget?

March 20, 2015 at 11:43AM

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Daniel Howell
Creative Director of StanDan Productions
88

Well Daniel, from the looks of it you've already got a pretty good start with your production company (nice reel by the way). Aside from that, unless you have wealthy relatives or consistently win contests, you're pretty much stuck with finding a second job to fund your projects. After you make some successful works, hopefully you'll get recognized and the madness can begin. Best of luck!

March 23, 2015 at 6:39PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
664

Thanks Emerson ... I've been trying to ask more successful people than me to know how they did it (or are still doing it). We've tapped into a commercial market that has gotten us some good income, but I never want to assume that I have it made. I always want to be learning.

March 25, 2015 at 4:45PM

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Daniel Howell
Creative Director of StanDan Productions
88

Great philosophy to live by!

March 25, 2015 at 8:46PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
664

Thank you all for commenting

March 12, 2015 at 12:14AM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

Your videos are excellent.

March 12, 2015 at 12:39AM

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Caleb E. Carrow
Director of Photography,
98

Thank you Caleb.

March 15, 2015 at 2:15PM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

Very informative. Made quite a few of these. Thanks for posting.

March 12, 2015 at 3:51AM, Edited March 12, 3:51AM

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Nigel Trellis
Writer/Director
81

Thank you for watching and commenting Nigel.

March 15, 2015 at 2:16PM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

Excellent tips Darious. They all really strike a chord - and as I see it, many of them boil down to the fact that as a filmmaker, you simply have to make motivated choices. If something in your movie isn't motivated, audiences will usually pick it up.

I also love the way you seem to avoid making most of these mistakes yourself in the video. You present a great story, funny monologue, perfect sound, so-so-casting (just kidding), interesting center-weighed composition, cool walls, not so sure about the catch lights but the lighting in general works, kind-of-necessary insert shots, fast-paced editing, no pregnancy, uh-uh no movement!, no chit-chat, motivated action, (Youtube)clichés (but only the good one's, like making a list) and some pretty good music. Overall, I'm very impressed!

Thanks for the video, keep it up!

March 12, 2015 at 4:30AM

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Alexander Kinnunen
Filmmaker
81

Thank you Alexander. You really put me to the test to see if I practice what I preach LoL. No pressure.

March 15, 2015 at 2:19PM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

I once shot a short in film school where, for the entire two days of production, we completely forgot about the 180 degree rule. We didn't realise until the edit...there were tears.

March 12, 2015 at 6:30AM

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I just shot a short film with intentionally breaking that rule haha.

March 12, 2015 at 1:23PM

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Sometimes you can fix 180 degree rule mistakes by flipping the shot in the editing software. It can make the actor look a little different as nobody is completely symmetrical. Also if they have writing on their clothes it will be backwards.

March 13, 2015 at 5:35PM

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Anton Doiron
Creator/Filmmaker
510

I know the feeling lol. We've all been there lol.

March 15, 2015 at 2:21PM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

Haha! It was so embarrassing! Lesson learned though, haven't done it since.

March 16, 2015 at 5:59AM

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Love the video - really well done. One small note - (I'm a proofreader by day, so I apologize for the nitpick) the title card (at 9:30) should read "Too Many Pregnant Pauses", not "To". Not the end of the world, clearly, but again - I'm a nerd :)

Thanks again!

March 12, 2015 at 6:33AM

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Matthew Swanson
Actor/Writer/Director
179

There are certainly some good reminders here and I wasn't going to post anything as I never do but since it was mentioned, the misspellings were obviously very clear, including the ring lights. I work in TV shooting this content everyday and the (in your face) rings were very distracting for me.
Thanx!

March 12, 2015 at 8:29AM

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Thanks for the video:)

March 12, 2015 at 8:30AM

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Thank you Matthew. I posted this video after an all-nighter of editing and didn't even catch the misspellings until after I'd published the video. Unfortunately with YouTube you can't make any changes or re-upload a different version of the video without losing all the views and audience engagement in the process so I just had to take that one in the shorts.

March 15, 2015 at 2:28PM

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Darious Britt
Director/ writer/ actor/ producer/ youtuber
179

Absolutely enjoyed this.. being a film maker myself.. its still great to watch things like this... a little reset every now and then helps start fresh.. cheers dude.

March 12, 2015 at 8:38AM

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Darren S Cook
Director, Editor, Photographer
74

Very nice video, thank you for sharing your knowledge, but I believe you miss one important thing... A weak graphic post production. Even you put some pixelated and bad composed images in this video. Im a chilean designer and I see all the time bad uses of graphics and animations. For me its equal of important than a good light or casting. (sorry for my english, i speak spanish!)

March 12, 2015 at 9:29AM

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Tomás Velásquez
Creative Director
74

This is VERY useful, and entertaining at the same time. Here is one quick tip for the white wall problem. Color key it in post, change it to another color and you can also add pattern or texture. Easy, fast. I have done this with success a number of times, so much better than white walls. Paintings, decor, for sure are the first fix, but if you have a bland flat wall, keying and adding texture can fix that. thanks for this vid!

March 12, 2015 at 12:01PM

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Fun video.

Bad sound is the worst mistake to make for me.

Bad dialog is the second worst mistake to make for me.

Bad acting is the third worst mistake to make for me.

...Not sure where shooting people wearing glasses with ring-lights would be. :-)

March 12, 2015 at 1:24PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32136

Very well done and informative. Thank you for sharing this with us.

March 13, 2015 at 6:54PM, Edited March 13, 6:54PM

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Bill Roufs
Camera operator, producer, editor, animator
81

It's as if we share the same mind. Thanks for this.

March 13, 2015 at 7:50PM

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Chris Santucci
Cinematographer
227

I feel like Darious must have watched all my stuff to come up with this list. I am guilty of them all.

March 13, 2015 at 10:16PM

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Derek Olson
Directomatographeditor
381

Mistakes are acceptable in tiny budget 5-20min videos made with friends and fellow aspiring filmmakers. But if someone is attempting bigger without knowledge of above he would be left drained psychologically and financially.

Being aspiring director I should not burden up myself with extreme technical details of other fields, rather I should be knowing details of possibilities of camera work, editing, script analysis and how to avoid result direction etc etc.

Telling a good story on screen with actors tends to involve all of above 15 mistakes and I am learning how to avoid them. I am learning to avoid them by repeatedly watching good movies, reading, watching videos from you people. Then again trying something with camera.
Thanks Darious

March 14, 2015 at 2:48AM, Edited March 14, 2:48AM

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Fantastic video buddy, a nice quick checklist before you get down the lane. Thanks for the post and in case we meet in the future, the beer is on me :)

March 14, 2015 at 3:50AM, Edited March 14, 3:50AM

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Arun Meegada
Moviemaker in the Making
485

Absolutely agree...!

March 14, 2015 at 7:06PM

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Tico Rodríguez
Filmmaker
93

Lots of good stuff in here! BUT what with that catch light, I had to just listen to the video in most parts as the catch light in the eyes was so, so very distracting it became anointing.
By their vary nature, catch lights are specular highlights that will often “blow out,” meaning they will be pure white.
These days most people prefer round catch lights to square or rectangular catch lights, " round appose to a circle/ring light."
Look, It’s simple, catch lights in the eyes should always try mimic the most natural lighting there is, last time I checked, the Sun was still round, hence if the light source is round it more closely mirrors what nature has to offer.
your "circle/ring" catch light and it's positioning off, is unflattering, unnatural and so very distracting.
square or rectangular catch lights still have there place and use on should pay close attention the environment and it's unnatural light sources, windows come all shapes, sings come even more shapes and other light sources are around too.
Video and film lighting is not the same lighting for portrait photography.

Big Up and keep up the good work, Bless.

March 15, 2015 at 4:31AM

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i agree completely...the white oval in his iris is insanely distracting. i couldn't concentrate on what he was saying at all.

darious- just position it slightly off center from your lens and you'll avoid that 'chronicles of riddick' look in your eyes. or just don't use a beauty light, simple as that.

March 19, 2015 at 9:52AM

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matthew david wilder
Director/Cameraman/Editor/Colorist
164

Loved watching this video, really helpful and informative!

March 16, 2015 at 11:11AM, Edited March 16, 11:11AM

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Riley Whitcomb
Director, Cinematographer, Editor
77

Unfortunately, most of these aren't my issue. I have the primary problem of getting bad performances. And while I could certainly chalk that up to bad casting, I just don't know if I have that ability to spot mediocre performances. Any thoughts?

March 19, 2015 at 5:19PM

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One way that I spot mediocre performances is by giving the talent a range of directions ... if they show little change then I don't use them. If they are too extreme, I might consider them (only if they can bring it back down). It really depends on the role I'm looking for ...

March 25, 2015 at 4:50PM

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Daniel Howell
Creative Director of StanDan Productions
88

Agree. When I cast my last film, during every audition I gave directions to try to get a different performance each read even if I really liked their first one. It was specifically to see if they could change their performance if necessary, or if they were always locked into their first choice.

April 4, 2015 at 12:26AM

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Darious ... where can I get more of your delicious material? Is YouTube the only other place you hang out?

March 25, 2015 at 4:47PM

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Daniel Howell
Creative Director of StanDan Productions
88

Listen to this guy, he just made a movie no one wants to see!
-True story

April 3, 2015 at 11:01PM

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Johan Salberg
Actor, Writer, Director, Editor
120

His 25,000 subscribers would probably disagree with you. Especially considering that film "nobody wants to see" won three awards at three festivals in the last two months, including Best Director.

April 4, 2015 at 12:23AM

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Pure repect for Darious Britt, I really admire your passion for sharing your own experiences with all of us and helping us to be on a more productive and safe path. Thanks.

I am a 40 year old guy who is about to quit his day job, go through self learning process of filmmaking (through Internet) and make short movies or documentaries with in my limited means.

I don't know if I will taste the fruits of success and glory though seeing awesome guys like you makes me feel that I ca do it.

Thanks.

April 4, 2015 at 12:21AM, Edited April 4, 12:21AM

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S M Sabir
Filmmaker in MAKING :)
350

A big mistake I see also is wardrobe...directors just let actors wear what they are wearing the day of the shoot.

April 4, 2015 at 6:04PM

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pablo schmitt
director
81

This was a really nie one. Thanks fo posting.

April 5, 2015 at 11:30PM

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Sergio Clavijo
Editor
79

how can start online film distribution

January 7, 2016 at 7:00AM

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Godwin Nosa
i am a filmmaker
88

how can open my film distributions company online

January 7, 2016 at 7:08AM

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Godwin Nosa
i am a filmmaker
88

Perhaps one mistake could have been lighting placement, especially when working up close to the camera using ring lighting as it makes you look like you have crazy burning circles in your eyes like some kind of freaky demon monster. :)

Thanks for the vid.

June 28, 2016 at 3:44AM

2
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This was actually really good info....thx you..

charles

July 20, 2016 at 2:51PM

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charles Anthony gallardo
director, producer
81