Did I get your attention? I know people love secrets and “top five” (or ten) lists so it made sense to combine the two. Just good marketing….which is another blog topic altogether. So without further ado, here is my top five list of things to keep in mind when you’re producing your next movie:
Be Organized – This may sound obvious but I would say that most filmmakers, especially beginners, begin production without being truly organized. There is an old adage in filmmaking, “pre-production = production.” What this means is that the more you prepare BEFORE you start shooting, the better the shoot will be and the better the film will be. Make sure your shot list and shooting schedule are detailed and real. If you’re trying to film 10 locations in two days or get 50 shots in one day – you’re fooling yourself. Do your homework and have a plan that is doable and will lead to success. And really sweat every detail. Scout your locations at different times of the day and decide when the light is best, and know where the best parking is and, if you’re shooting outside, where the closest restroom is located. Create overhead diagrams of camera and lighting set-ups for every scene. Maybe use the phone on your camera to create a digital storyboard. If the scene calls for an actor to throw red wine in another actors face, make sure you have at least three sets of the same clothes for the lucky actor getting his face drenched so that you can do multiple takes. Good filmmaking is in the preparation.
Have GREAT Food on Set – Students of mine always laugh when I say this to them, but it’s true. Food is a major part of film culture – look at Mr. Coppola – and having good, nourishing food on set shows that you respect the crew and the work they are doing. Nothing will irk a film crew more than lousy food, or no food, on set. Bad food will cause a film crew to grumble and not do their best work. I’m not saying you have to provide gourmet meals (though I do this as much as my budget allows), but making sure your crew is well fed will more than pay for itself in hard work and loyalty.
What Can You Get for Free? – Every one of us has certain things we can get for free. A friends sail boat he doesn’t use or your crazy uncle who has all that WWII memorabilia. Maybe you worked as a waiter all through college (I did) and you know the manager of the restaurant who’ll provide a couple of free lunches. Do you need special clothiers for a scene? Do some research and maybe there is a local designer looking to get their clothing in a movie and will give you your entire wardrobe for free. Explore your options and don’t be afraid to ask. The worst anyone can do is say “no.”
Hire the Best Crew Possible (especially Sound) – As filmmakers we are often blinded by the latest, coolest piece of equipment, especially cameras. Yes, use the latest, coolest camera you can get your hands on, but more importantly find crew people who know how to use it! Film equipment is only a tool. The artistry come from the person wielding that tool, not the tool itself. So take your time and find great people to help you make your film. And don’t skimp on the audio. Sound is as important as picture. If you can only pay one person on your crew, pay the sound person and you’ll be saving yourself a ton of headaches in post-production.
Say THANK YOU – I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – filmmaking is a privilege and every opportunity we get to bring the dreams in our head out into the world through motion pictures is a blessing. At the end of every shoot I make sure to thank every member of the cast and crew for their hard work. People who dedicate their lives to making movies do so because they love films and want to part of the magic. Saying thank you shows that you appreciate them and the contribution they are making to realizing your vision. It’s the least you can do!