Filmmaking Advice from 7 Directors with Feature Films at Sundance
Filmmaking is tough. Who doesn't need a few words of encouragement?
From "shut up, and start already" to suggestions on reverse-engineering your film to fit your resources, here is a list of advice from seven different directors of all genres whose feature films played the Sundance 2015 Film Festival.
Guy Maddin: Every now and then, someone would ask for advice and I would regurgitate the Nike slogan, “Just do it,” but that’s got a lot of dust on it right now. You hear a lot of young, aspiring filmmakers just talking all their energy out into the night air at a café. All their best ideas — if they had any. It’s just like, start writing something. You really only have 1 or 2 sentences in your head at any given time, and you’re not going to get the 3rd and 4th sentences out until you write those first 2, so just start already. Shut up, start, and see where it takes you! I guess that’s my advice, and I hope it takes most of you nowhere.
Watch our full interview with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson here.
E. Chai Vasarhelyi: You have to really want to tell your story because you have to live with it. If you're making a long-form documentary film, you have to live with it for a long period of time. You have to be patient with it, kind of grow with the subject. My advice would be make sure you really like it and you're dedicated to the story.
Jimmy Chin: Yeah, expect to work harder than you think you're going to work. It's going to cost more money and it's going to take twice as long, but behind that, that's okay and that's what it requires. Know that it takes just good, old-fashioned hard work.
Watch the first part of our interview with Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi here.
Jenni Olson: I don't know if it's good career advice, but for your soul, stay true to what you want to say, and don't worry so much about the marketplace. That may actually be bad advice, but that's what I want to do.
Read our full interview with Jenni Olson here.
Daniel Junge: Don't wait for somebody to say yes. I mean, pick up a camera -- don't wait for anyone to say yes, because invariably they won't. You have to pick up a camera and start making your films. That's what I did. You'll make mistakes. I did, I still do. You'll learn from those mistakes. I think a lot of people put up these self-imposed barriers like I need this certain team collaborator, I need this amount of money, I need this amount of access. I mean obviously access helps with documentaries, but go out, find a story and start shooting. That's all you can do to become a filmmaker.
Watch our full interview with Daniel Junge here.
Jennifer Phang: It’s not easy. To make Advantageous as an indie wasn't easy. First of all, you have to be prepared for the technology. If you're going to start out [in sci-fi] without any collaboration with people who understand visual effects, you really have to become that Jack-of-all-trades. Be prepared to spend five to ten years becoming amazing at visual effects, an incredible director, great at working with actors, and an incredible writer. I'm not saying I'm all of these things -- yet! But I know that's the objective for filmmakers with high ambition.
Watch our full interview with Jennifer Phang here.
Patrick Brice: I would say, look at the tools that are available to you in terms of friends that can act, how much money you have, that would make sense to spend on a project. Maybe look at that and say, "Okay, I can make a film that's this big." This is a crazy way of reverse-engineering things, but maybe take a step back and say, "What's an interesting story that could be told within these constraints? How far can I take this?"
Watch our full interview with Patrick Brice here.
Kenny Riches: I didn't study film. I studied painting, and I just made films with my friends. It started as skateboard videos, and it turned sort of making stupid films with just filming each other being idiots, to writing a story, and really diving in. I think you just have to do it. You evolve as you go. You learn just from doing it. That's the best thing.
Watch our full interview with Kenny Riches soon.
Thank you, Sundance 2015 filmmakers!
Stay tuned for releases of these films in the months to come, and in the meantime, hopefully this advice helps you on your own films.