February 13, 2017

10 Common Mistakes Made by New Filmmakers

Marina BrunoCredit: Marina Bruno - Twitter
No filmmaker is perfect, especially when you're just starting out. 

The mistakes you make in the first few years of your filmmaking career are as plentiful as they are embarrassing, but if you know what kinds of things to look out for as you work on your projects, it'll help you avoid these common blunders. In this video from Indy Mogul, filmmaker Marina Bruno shares 10 mistakes made by beginner filmmakers. Check it out below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSMXuzrI534

Here are the 10 mistakes Bruno mentions in the video:

  • Lack of preparation: It's incredibly important to be prepared when making a movie, but oftentimes new filmmakers make this mistake because they don't know what to prepare for. The list is long, but the most important things are: have lots of charged batteries, account for your gear/costumes/supplies, check the weather, finalize any permits/permissions, and wear comfy shoes.
  • Bad sound: Any seasoned filmmaker will tell you that having good sound is more important than having good images. So, if you're in the market for a new, fancy camera, you might want to consider funneling some of that investment into audio instead.
  • Not enough sound effects: This is a classic mistake (and one I made plenty of times in my first years). Sound effects help convince your audience that what they're seeing is real (not a staged exercise in filmmaking) and add depth to what should be the lush soundscape of your project. Add rich, appropriate, and high-quality sound effects to your film. 
  • Underdeveloped story: This should be numero uno! Story is absolutely everything, so if you go into a project with a bad script, you're going to be left with a bad film. Garbage in, garbage at, y'all. Take the time to write a decent story.
  • Bad casting: Stop casting your college roommates to play detectives and middle-aged dads. The fake mustaches and wigs aren't fooling anyone and make your project look amateurish.
  • No dialog: This is the one thing on the list I don't fully agree with, because how much dialog you put into your project depends on the kind of project it is. Comedies, for example, can have a ton of it, while dramas have a lot less. As a general rule, I advice writers to not include too much dialog, because new writers/filmmakers tend to over-explain and over-write, which leads to these ham-fisted and clunky expositional scenes that get people's eyes rolling pretty quickly.
  • Long credits: Guilty. I used to include super long credits in my early work, frankly because it looked cool and it made me feel like a real filmmaker. But, you know, when it's just you and your buddy making a film, you probably can just get straight to the point.
  • Clichés: Your early years of filmmaking are sometimes the best, because you get to discover who you are as a filmmaker. You get to experiment and try new things without worrying too much about clients, opinions, or staining your filmography forever. This is why you might want to avoid repeating anyone else's style, regardless of how much you want to be the next Aronofsky. (Only Aronofsky can be Aronofsky. You be you, boo.)
  • Not compromising: Filmmaking is like a marriage: it's messy and crazy and chaotic until one day you die. But being open and willing to compromise is not only super mature of you, it's also a necessity if you're going to be working and collaborating with others who also have opinions and expertise and experience.
  • Talking too much: Stop talking about making films and just go make films. Don't have any gear? Grab your phone, go outside, and shoot a time-lapse of the setting sun, or an artsy fartsy black and white montage of nature, or a short film shot entirely in POV shots.

There are plenty of resources out there that highlight the many, manymany mistakes noob filmmakers make at the beginning of their careers, so you should definitely click on those links to learn about some other things you could work on before you start your next project.     

Your Comment

24 Comments

#11

February 13, 2017 at 10:45PM, Edited February 13, 10:46PM

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#11: wearing those pants.

February 13, 2017 at 10:46PM

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IDK theyre lookin pretty good to me

May 9, 2019 at 2:55PM

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Tom
97

I think getting tips from folks in the union in IATSE or DGA or which ever other might be better for the nofilmschool audience than social media celebrities....no?

February 14, 2017 at 1:06AM

10
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Word.

February 14, 2017 at 10:11AM, Edited February 14, 10:11AM

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Richard L
Camera assistant, DIT, DOP
256

I'm afraid increasingly this is what is wrong with this site.

All these videos showing "how Kubrick uses blah blah blah in his cinema" are written by people with no authority or equity.
Often spreading misinformation.

February 15, 2017 at 5:27AM

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So agree... a 21 year old with limited talent. Sorry, but I watched her short film, See How Easy That Was ... See Mistake Number 4 .. then again maybe all short films suck... not sure. The good news, she is cute has passion and family in the business, and doesn't have to "work" for a living ..... it would / will be interesting to see what she is up to when she turns 30.

February 15, 2017 at 4:16PM

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i dont like her style, but the tips she provided was on point :) good stuff!

February 14, 2017 at 1:42AM

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The plethora of youtube indie filmmakers that nofilmschool have posted with their tips, i have never come across someone commenting on their appearance. Don't be so vain.

February 14, 2017 at 4:47AM

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I don't want to speak for John, but I didn't like her style either... and when I say style, I mean her presentation, not her appearance. The constant touching of the hair, hands flailing (especially towards the wide angle lens), etc. It creates more distraction than anything. I'd also agree that the content is good, I was just overly distracted by her presentation of the content (again, not her appearance/clothing/looks, but her style of moving around a lot and touching her hair too often and such, especially as her b-roll, instead of showing b-roll that has something to do with the content she is speaking about). Again, this is my perspective, I can't speak for John, but don't be so quick to equate the word "style" with "physical appearance". It can mean many things.

February 14, 2017 at 3:20PM, Edited February 14, 3:21PM

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#12 Overcomplicating things making you believe you need a ton of gear and 50 shooting days to blast your way into Hollywood with your first short.

Take baby steps, test the water, keep it simple, fail fast and learn faster.
The more elements you bring into anything you have no experience with, the less likely you'll grasp what elements interfered and what elements contributed to success.

#14 Gear hoarding that stops you from shooting.

It is an easy trap to fall in: thinking that once you have this or that you can finally shoot your first masterpiece. That will lead to eternal delay. Use what you have now to create something now.
Gear you really need: you can buy it or rent it in the future. Shooting will also teach you you might not need all the stuff you thought you needed.

February 14, 2017 at 8:00AM, Edited February 14, 8:00AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9257

Gear acquisition and hoarding are major time sucks, especially for lenses. Get a matched set of affordable lenses covering your four primary focal lengths and ND filters, and use those until you NEED better/different lenses (Nikon Pre-AI lenses are great starter set for narrative work). Don't hold off shooting until buying every conceivable accessory that you may need. Develop a relationship with your primary camera so intimate that you can fine tune it to dial in image quality matching your personalized aesthetic.
If upgrading cameras doesn't cause pain, you probably weren't maximizing your old camera's potential. And as Troy Landry would say, get out there and "choot".

February 14, 2017 at 10:30AM, Edited February 14, 10:36AM

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Marc B
Shooter & Editor
732

#15 Perfectionism as an excuse for procrastination.
Wanting the best result possible is great. Mind the word 'possible'!
So called perfectionism as a disguise for procratination will get you nowhere. You will always need to compromise on something. There will always happen something you did not expect (which can be both positive or negative).
So, get out of your comfort zone of "I'm a perfectionist" and get your hands dirty, have fun, do the best you can, but don't fear making mistakes.

February 14, 2017 at 8:04AM, Edited February 14, 8:05AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
9257

Oh God I am so guilty of this. Every time I review my so called final edit sequence I end up finding some things to change. I had a project file named myfilm-finalcut-locked23!!

February 14, 2017 at 9:36AM

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Ayan Banerjee
Film Maker
225

children teaching children

February 14, 2017 at 9:22AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1811

Please give a warning before posting videos where people say more than 50 words per second.

February 14, 2017 at 9:37AM

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Ayan Banerjee
Film Maker
225

Worrying about if your DSLR records 4K internally before you fix all of the others listed.

February 14, 2017 at 11:14AM

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Zan Shin
427

To be fair, posting generic content while making duck lips at the camera is what got this girl 150,000 instagram followers.

Perhaps there is a lesson here.

February 14, 2017 at 12:12PM

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BD
790

Why does this irk me so much. Why? I want to congratulate her, and applaud her for trying to help others, but I'm just so against everything here. One side of me feels like, sure, these are basic things to think about (do I have enough... lights), and sure, someone just starting out might benefit from hearing that. I also feel like it's a dumbed down version of information, and that people just starting out should hear the best advice from people making solid films. I guess if you want to learn how to fingerpaint ask a child. If you're into modernism, better ask a professional.

Also I have to admit I stopped at #3 when she said "everything that makes a sound on screen has to have a sound effect always". There is so many things wrong with that statement, mainly that it's just not true.

But yeah, go ahead an follow all this advice... just giving me job security in the end I suppose. Make sure you have enough lights now. You definitely will need lights.

February 15, 2017 at 5:10PM, Edited February 15, 5:10PM

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Roberto Serrini
Director • Editor
547

Sorry.
Had to come back to this one more time.

What she is saying has validity but...

I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate and double hate the way it's being presented!!

Holy f-in' shitballs!! Is this what people want to see and hear?
I don't think I know anyone who would want to watch this.
I hope I don't, anyway.

She's got how many Instagram followers?!!

I just... uh... I dunno... I gotta have a fuckin' whiskey

February 15, 2017 at 8:23PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
1811

I'm with you man. No country for old men, indeed. This is that thing that happens to us old farts: the world shifts out from under our feet. Jebus Christo, she's driving a friggin' tractor.

February 17, 2017 at 12:12AM

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Mistake #11 shooting with an arbitrary shutter angle.

February 16, 2017 at 2:04PM, Edited February 16, 2:04PM

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Josef Lorenzo
Director
386

I was about to disagree, until I realized that I didn't know what arbitrary meant! Haha! This was one of my biggest things when I was starting, and had no idea how much it impacted shots.

February 16, 2017 at 10:56PM, Edited February 16, 10:56PM

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Craig Douglas
Editor/ Videographer
1915

jump cutting too fast . . .

February 17, 2017 at 4:47PM

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