Thursday Morning Rant: On Filmmaking Tips

Buy a camera and shoot! Actually, just find somebody with equipment and shoot. A tight script is the alpha and omega of good filmmaking. If you don’t have one, go back to your desk and polish it until is shines like a gleaming Hollywood smile. On location, try not to be a stickler for detail-you can’t afford it. So what if your 18th century costume drama sports a building site in the background? You should embrace limitations and work through, not around them. But remember, most famous filmmakers were relentless perfectionists and micromanagers. Kubrick went as far as sending letters to projectionists with bullet-point instructions on how to show his films. In his 1931 film City Lights Charlie Chaplin had Virginia Cherrill repeat the famous line “Flower, Sir?” no less than 342 times. Speaking of the classics, if you hurry you might catch the retrospective screening of Bergman’s entire filmography at the cinema across town. See as many films as humanly possible, study them until your eyes bleed and analyze them shot by shot. Scorsese did it. The vast knowledge you’ll acquire will make you more critical towards your own work and will free you up to examine it objectively. With every new insight you’ll develop a healthy dose of humility which will, instead of crippling your ego, bring an empowering awareness of the greater scheme of things.

James McAvoy Giving the Finger, Filth (2013)
James McAvoy giving the finger in Filth (2013)

Network, network, network! Rub shoulders with producers, board members, festival directors, distributors, the movers and shakers of the industry. Become a social predator and learn how to pitch your ideas by weaving them discretely into conversations. Don’t be afraid to label your new project as a buddy movie, even if it’s a slow-paced story about a reclusive washed-up novelist with a writer’s block. Embellish. Reduce all the poetic complexity and existentialist premise to three attention-grabbing sentences and, for God’s sake, throw in some college humor. It is imperative that you suspend all self-doubt when pitching and project competence without sounding overconfident. Nobody likes a show-off.

However you decide to prepare for your first filmmaking experience, make sure to read up on some online advice. When in doubt, go back to the “golden rules of scriptwriting”, “the dos and don’ts of directing”, all conveniently summed up in precisely five, seven or ten bullet points. If, by the end of it, you don’t get a nose bleed, you’ll certainly feel the urge to get your hands on a shotgun, put a hole in your monitor and give them all the good ol’ one finger salute.

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