Filmmaking Tips for When Times Get Tough from Director Mike Newell

Mike NewellWith nearly 50 years of experience in the entertainment industry, director Mike Newell surely has plenty to say and plenty to share in terms of how to make and keep making films. Newell has helmed a variety of different genres, from Donnie Brasco to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fireand one of the most important lessons he shares in an article for MovieMaker Magazine is how to obtain an unwavering resolve when times get tough while making your film -- no matter what the genre.

Establish a clear and inspiring idea -- a spark

This "idea" doesn't necessarily mean a good overall story structure or single plot point. It may not have anything to do with the story in a straightforward way. Newell explains grabbing hold of something that gives you an "immediate little jolt of excitement". For me, it has been a single line of dialog that encompasses the whole film, a pivotal scene that expresses the despair that fuels my character's change.

When I first read a script, book or treatment, I’ll get an immediate little jolt of excitement if the thing has something to say to me. I have to nail that idea before anything else. If you have a big, clear idea of what you want your audience to feel and think—and above all, what you want—then, even in the times of darkest chaos (which will quite certainly be upon you), you have a rock to hang on to.

Hold on to the spark

The process of making a film is a strange animal. It's a lot like a romantic relationship. In the beginning, you're so excited about learning and growing with this new idea, but as time goes on, issues start popping up that you never expected to experience. You start to wonder what attracted you to it in the first place, and unless you have a firm grasp of what that was, you risk trashing a perfectly good project.

The process of making a film feels like being pecked to death by pigeons. A thousand tiny bites will slowly remove your reasons for starting in the first place. You will forget why you are there. That’s when you must fall back on that initial spark of excitement to get you through.

Wear comfortable shoes

This is one of those things many of us, myself included, have learned the hard way. Since most of us aren't making films from a cozy director's chair, you're going to be on your feet the majority of the time. A good pair of socks and shoes can go a long way when hour 11 or 12 starts rearing its ugly head.

Be sure to check out the MovieMaker article and read the rest of Mike Newell's filmmaking advice.

What do you think? Do you have any advice to share? Let us know in the comments.

Link: Mike Newell’s Golden Rules of Moviemaking -- MovieMaker Magazine

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Your Comment


What a delightful read. Pecked to death by a hundred more invisible cuts. Shoes and socks are so refreshing. Thick soft socks do the job.

November 16, 2013 at 12:17AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Derek Wallace

Oh, yeah. Shoes help heaps. Not just shoes though, comfortable clothes in general. The only exception being Nolan of course, with his suits on-set.

November 16, 2013 at 2:04AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Nolan likes the pain. Seriously.

November 17, 2013 at 12:43PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


I had to laugh when I got to the paragraph in which Mike said that writing a screenplay is like romantic relationship. I am working on a screenplay and just last night I hit what I think is a road block and I felt just as he described.

November 16, 2013 at 12:56PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Wow, the comment about shoes was brilliant, awesome advice!

I use grandmother-like knitted wool socks that are great, they are warm and I don't have to change them as often as normal socks, they don't take on sweat that easily. Highly recommended. Addidas breathing shoes as great and comfy as well. Perhaps any other brands anyone can recommend?


November 16, 2013 at 1:08PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


nike air max or the nike runners shoes or asics, those shoes are the saving grace of most people that stand long hours during work. Plus if you are slightly proportioned oddly, body wise, or slightly overweight you need to protect your knees and wear proper shoes

November 17, 2013 at 11:34AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

thadon calico

Mike Newell took a very thin "Four Weddings and a Funeral" script and turned it into a very enjoyable two hours of entertainment. It was where he "made his bones" ... not "Donnie Brasco".

November 16, 2013 at 11:47PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM