In about a week, I begin shooting my first feature-length film. This is a project I’ve been trying to get going for a little over a year, and I’ve overcome many obstacles, missteps, and false starts along the way. The following list contains my advice for anyone embarking on a similar path.
10. Attitude > Experience
The crew I’m going into this with is, for the most part, completely unexperienced in regards to filmmaking. But though their resumes may be empty, their spirit is full. I’ve chosen people that are eager to listen and learn. There will be no arguments over camera placement, lighting, or any other factor; no onset mutinies due to clashing egos; just trust, diligence, and obedience to the best of their ability.
9. Know Everything
However, in order to manage a crew this way, you must first know how to do every single job yourself. Don’t assume everyone knows what they’re doing. Make sure they do. If a whole day’s sound is unusable because your sound guy had the gain way too high, yeah it’s his fault, but it’s also yours for not staying on top of everything going on onset.
8. Burn Some Bridges
Some people say ‘burn no bridges.’ I say burn some. In assembling cast and crew, you may encounter people along the way that royally screw you and your production. Think very carefully about giving said people a second chance. Depending on how royally you were screwed, one chance might be all a person deserves.
7. Audio > Video
Great sound is far more important than great video. It is what elevates a film into a truly immersive experience. Most viewers will put up with lackluster visuals if the sound is great. However, most budding filmmakers place little to no emphasis on getting sound right. Just check out the Duplass brothers film, Cyrus, which came out this year. Due to badly recorded sound on set, DNR is employed so heavily that most of the dialogue sounds as though it’s underwater. In addition to this, there is little to no room noise whatsoever, leaving stretches of complete and utter silence when no dialogue is spoken. It is probably the least immersive film I’ve ever seen in theaters. Watch it to learn everything you shouldn’t do, sound-wise.
6. Buy > Rent
Buy the equipment you need. Don’t rent it. For one thing, you’ll always need to use equipment for longer than you think you will, which means your rental costs will always be closer to the cost of the actual item than you think it’ll be. Also, if you buy the equipment, you can rent it out to others, which will offset the cost of the actual item. Finally, people always take better care of their own things than they do others. There’s a much greater chance that you’ll break a camera you rented than a camera you paid full price for with your hard-earned cash.
To be continued . . .