February 14, 2018

5 Mistakes We All Make as Filmmakers (That We Can Easily Avoid)

We all make mistakes as creatives, but here's how to avoid making some of the more common ones.

Filmmaking is like diffusing a bomb. You're there holding a wad of wires in your paw, sweating bullets. Time is ticking away as you agonize over critical decisions: do you cut the red wire or the green wire, hire that actor or this one, invest in some cine glass or invest in top-notch lighting? One wrong move and *boom*, your production is toast.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little melodramatic (it is Valentine's Day after all), but it's true. There are so many mistakes that we can make that can mess up our film projects and despite our level of experience, we tend to make them—repeatedly—even when we know better. So, what are they? What are some of the most common, yet most damaging mistakes we can make as filmmakers? Here's a video by Creative North that shares a handful of them.

Waiting for Luck

We've all heard the axiom, "It's not what you know, it's who you know." While this is kind of true and kind of depressing, it's also kind of—untrue. I mean, yeah, you can't just stroll onto the lot of one of the Big 5 studios and be given a job, but just accepting this adage like it's the one divine truth of filmmaking is not only shortsighted, it's deadly—to your creative spirit, I mean. If you're sitting there waiting for people to make important connections with and waiting to meet VIPs so they can take your career to the next level, you're not only gambling with your future against really shitty odds but you're not taking the lead in your own destiny. If there is no way, make a way.

Not Finding a Strong Story

Story is everything and we all know that story is everything but so many of us disregard that and make films that, you can tell, have had very little thought put into storytelling. Okay, sometimes it's not our fault. We know it's important but we don't really know what we're doing, so we write some crappy, derivative monstrosity and hope to glorp that audiences will dig it. 

How do you change that? Well, I'd say:

  • Let go of your ego: If your response to other people not liking your story is that "they don't get it," you should probably check your ego.
  • Be open to criticism: Find people that you trust to tell you the cold, honest truth and let them tear your script to shreds with constructive criticism.
  • Write: Practice makes perfect. Don't stop just because you wrote a baker's dozen of bad scripts.

Not Spending Time on Research

Now, there are "bad scripts" and there are "bad scripts written in total ignorance." This is why it's important to do your research. If you're writing about something you know nothing about, like medical protocols or astrophysics, learn about it, become an expert, and then sit down and write. Your research may take months or years but I promise you it's worth it.

Settling for Bad Filmmaking

Simple filmmaking errors, like poor focus, bad composition, and noisy audio, are going to absolutely kill your production value and label you an amateur. Don't settle for subpar. Be a perfectionist. Take the time to learn the craft. This doesn't mean that you'll never make any mistakes, it just means that you'll be able to recognize them when you do make them, learn from them, and avoid making them next time.

Getting Stuck in the System

You don't have to do what every other filmmaker is doing. You don't have to enter your project into film festivals. You don't have to fund your film through the same avenues as everyone else. Find out what works for you and your film and then blaze your own trail, because while other paths are well-trodden, they're also heavily populated. The one you create may be narrow, unfamiliar, and scary, but you may be one of the few who are on it, adventurer!

What are some other common mistakes filmmakers make? Let us know down in the comments.      

Your Comment

3 Comments

Another mistake is like the opposite of the 2nd and 4th advice: so afraid the story isn't good enough and so fearful of mistakes that you never make anything.

So number 6:
Remember your first drawing? Your first steps?
They were not perfect.
Allow yourself to learn the craft and don't be afraid to fail when you start your journey as filmmaker.

February 15, 2018 at 4:55AM, Edited February 15, 4:55AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8734

Really liked your final statement.
I can't appreciate less the procedure of making something better through feedback and constant self-assessment. However, optimisation is a "necessary evil" because drawing a line on 'where and when' to stop is more of an experiential learning. So, one may end up extending long enough the production timeline of a decent project merely by sticking to amend the nitty-gritty aspects.
Undoubtedly, that act of "letting go" works beyond dialling-down an overly cautious nature and even puts momentum into "moving on" to better things.

February 28, 2018 at 4:34AM

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Tanay Chaudhari
Film Appreciation, Reviewing, Screenwriting (in that order)
410

I think we can count even more, it depends from the level of filmmaker

February 19, 2018 at 6:06AM

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Jeremy Brown
App Developer
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