Jim Cummings Gives 10 Tips for Filmmakers

Thunder Road BTS Credit: Medium
Sometimes a little advice goes a long way. 

I don't know about you, but I really love Jim Cummings. He's such a generous filmmaking personality who really seems to understand the deep connection between audiences and the moving image. His works like Thunder Road often mix genres and tones to really be evocative of the human experience.

And I think the thing I love most about him is that his process is no secret. 

He spends a lot of time giving away free advice online and encouraging younger filmmakers to break in and to take a chance. 

Well, Cummings recently launched a bit of an advice YouTube channel and dropped his first video. Inside are 10 helpful tips or suggestions that filmmakers can use to inspire their work and progression. 

Check out the video, and then scroll down for the written-out tips.  

Jim Cummings's 10 Tips for Filmmakers

  1. Try to impress the audience through the craftsmanship of the film.
  2. Make sure the DNA of the project compels the audience at all costs.
  3. Read and watch great short fiction.
  4. Cut everything superfluous.
  5. Attacking a serious subject with complete austerity almost always fails.
  6. Evergreen subjects like life, love, legacy, grief, and happiness are important to discuss. 
  7. Ask yourself while you’re shooting: “Is this how this actually happens in real life?”
  8. Directors’ visions are often mirages. 
  9. It’s not a sketch.
  10. Keep the credits short.

What I love about this list is that it contains tangible advice for not only making things but also the ideation and inspiration behind them. Coming up with movie ideas and brainstorming is the hardest part of filmmaking. This feels like a free pass to go to the library, attend some readings, and really experience the world. 

I also love how much these tips respect the audience. He wants you to push your ideas one step further. Keeping the reality of the film intact, seeking the answers to life's big questions, and challenging yourself to be better are all amazing things to strive for in your work. 

What did you learn most from the list? Let us know in the comments.      

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1 Comment

You know what's missing from this advice? Technical specs.

You'll notice not a lot of made filmmakers and even DPs drone on and on about this camera, that light. Instead they tend to talk about the nuts and bolts of good story telling. It's almost like they've figured out through time and experience that it really, really matters to the success of a film.

May 14, 2021 at 1:24PM

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