Check out 7 Filmmaking Tips from Indie Film Icon Kevin Smith

Kevin SmithWhen you first became interested in independent film, which movie did your friends tell you that you just had to see? For a lot of us, myself included, it was Clerks. After that and several other indie cult successes, including Mallrats and the Chasing Amy, director Kevin Smith became the go-to guy for inspiration, education, and hope for making films independently of the studio system on a shoestring budget. Now Smith shares his 7 Golden Rules of making movies for filmmakers. Check them out after the jump.

Outspoken, unapologetic, and one of the biggest advocates of independent film today, Smith shared 7 filmmaking tips with MovieMaker Magazine that may help you as you gear up for your own project. Here are a couple from the list:

Edit while you’re still shooting.

This is definitely something that varies from person to person. Woody Allen's editor of 15 years, Alisa Lepselter revealed that she and Allen don't edit until they have shot all of the footage. However, shooting and editing simultaneously can have its advantages, like saving time and money, as well as noticing if you need to do a quick pick-up. Smith says:

Whenever I’m not shooting, I’m in the editing room with my footage. While the crew is taking 15 minutes to an hour to set up the next shot, I’m behind the Avid, putting the flick together.

Elaborating on editing while shooting in his next tip, he shares:

More than twice over the course of Clerks II, I was able to grab cutaways or re-shoot coverage a mere 48 hours after wrapping on a particular scene, thanks to chopping while rolling. Two days after wrap, I had a fine cut of the flick because I’d spent the entire shoot editing whenever I wasn’t on set (during production I average three hours of sleep a night).

Include the cast (and crew) in on the editing process, too.

This is a practice I've done since day one -- not necessarily for the reasons Smith describes (I get too excited and want to show what I've put together to everyone.) However, the input I receive from cast/crew, friends, or innocent bystanders has saved me from a sloppy or confusing edit too many times to count.

Of course, this all depends on individual personalities and how savvy your viewers are about editing and storytelling, but having another set of eyes there will help give you an idea of how engaging the material is, if it's making sense, or relaying unwanted messages to your audience -- lingering a half a second longer on a close up of an actor's face can mean leaving the audience with a feeling of "mystery" instead of "resolution."

Smith says:

I’m not saying they should all ride shotgun at the Avid, but once you’ve got scenes cut, roll ‘em for the cast and crew. In some cases, they might provide insight you hadn’t thought of yourself. At the very least, it will convey how collaborative you can be and foster good will amongst the people who are already eager to help you realize your vision.

Check out the full list here.

What do you think about Kevin Smith's tips? What problems/advantages have you run across while editing during production or involving others in the editing process?

Link: Wisdom Wednesday: Kevin Smith’s Seven Golden Rules of Moviemaking -- MovieMaker Magazine

[Kevin Smith photo by Flickr user norcrossmedia]

Your Comment


Cue people complaining about Smith not being a "real" filmmaker or the folks who are going ot slam this article just because it features Smith in a non-negative way.

In all seriousness though, he's got some good advice.

August 2, 2013 at 3:58PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I can't wait for his Walrus horror film: Tusk.

August 2, 2013 at 5:55PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Ol Kevin Smith rocking my hometown team colors, The Oilers. I can't say I care for his films but he's a great guy and a legit indie filmmaker. On another odd coincidence... He went to the same film school as me... Before dropping out and exploding with Clerks, that is. (I understand many people have famous alumni or dropouts from the big film schools, but we really only have two notables at my school; K Smith and Neil Blomkamp (District 9/ Elysium ))

Odd world.

August 2, 2013 at 7:20PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Rule #5 "If you’re shooting a talky picture, spare no expense on the sound recorder" is spot-on. I think it holds for both talky pictures and for not-so-talky pictures. Few elements in an indie project cry out AMATEUR WORK more loudly than bad sound quality.
- Christian B

August 3, 2013 at 3:39AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


We desperately wanted to fut while we were shooting on my first feature film this year but were so exhausted by the time we started principal we only really picked it up on the rest day six days in. After that we were cutting everything as we went and reaped the rewards of knowing the pickups we needed. It's an absolute must.

August 3, 2013 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Oh man, no one mentioned Rule #7 yet? Don't schtup any fellow crew members or talent until after production wraps. Makes total sense but seems anti-climactic. Then again, the film should be a Director's first love.

August 4, 2013 at 3:23PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

mister monkstrap

Can someone explain me "dont do jersey girl" means ???

August 5, 2013 at 6:46PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Pablo Saldana

He means don't make the movie "Jersey Girl". It was a joke at himself, as I took it. He made it and it bombed.

August 7, 2013 at 5:35AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


can anyone explain me what does dont do the jersey girl means??

August 5, 2013 at 6:48PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Pablo Saldana