Guest Blog Written By Steph De Palma
I’m going to start off by saying that everyone works differently and their Bible is going to be different than the guy next to her, him, they..at least a little. The most important Do for me is, well, Do! If you don’t Do, you don’t create. No creating, no film. Be brave! Finding the courage to Do, is the difference between making a film, and a lot of talk about making a film.
Do take Risks! That’s half the fun, but also be careful to do so within your budget. Tell the story in your own way, even if said story has been told a million times. It hasn’t been told by you. A rather universal Do, I must mention, is Show rather than Tell. Whether we are talking about long or short form filmmaking, we need to tell our stories visually, not rely on a drawn-out explanation of what the action is. If Mary wants to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, let the audience see Mary making herself a delicious PB&J, not have Mary explaining to the audience that that is what she intends to do.
Do think about the mood and tone of your film ahead of time, way before you put pen to paper or, more likely, fingers to keyboard. Do plan, plan and then plan some more. This will go a long way and hopefully save yourself a lot of headaches in the long run. Pre-production and buckets of it is essential in the success of a film.
Do ask yourself: What story am I trying to tell? What characters are in my story and what makes them tick? How can I make them as layered as possible? Who is your audience? How long will your film be? Who will need to be involved from production to casting? What do you want the look of your film to be? What equipment can help you achieve that look? What would you like the soundtrack to sound like? (Yes, do this in the very early stages of your filmmaking process..this will help you determine how your baby will look, sound, move and feel!). Now go and make your own list of questions and don’t be shy. There isn’t a formula for how many questions and answers there may be. Filmmaking is a process. So, now that I’ve told you that you MUST plan your life away to make a film…..so sorry for this, but I’m going to say it anyway….remember that things will inevitably change! Yes, I said it. Forgive me. But it is very true. And sometimes drastically. You must roll with the changes and make it work!
Don’t be rigid – if you have planned to have your location as the Louvre and the lovely French gatekeepers say ‘Oh yes, absolutely! Please do your film here!’ But at the last minute, the deal falls through, well, you must go with plan B, and MAKE IT WORK! Your producer’s mind must kick into gear and soon you’ll find that using your 8th grade school gymnasium with artwork other than the Mona Lisa will also work just as well. For that one, you might want to adjust your script a bit, but so what? Be flexible. If you have a fantastic throughline that you are passionate about, you will make it work. Stick to your original ideas concept but allow room for your project to breathe.
Don’t get stuck in your own head! You want to be able to organically grow with your project whilst keeping the integrity of your film and its original concept. A Big Don’t for me is Don’t plan to make a film that is beyond your means. If you have $500 in the bank, with no funding options (*tip – try to find funding options), don’t plan to make a film that entails a bank heist in London with Daniel Craig as you’re your lead…Look around you. Plan the film around what you have available. Get your friend that looks like Daniel Craig to daydream about how he might pull off the ultimate heist, have him try to get his mates on board, and have him do so…in his living room.
Do pay your cast and crew. Or make sure that you have an agreement in place prior to that in which you and they are satisfied, like you will clean their houses for a year. Your crew might be your Daniel Craig look alike, mates doubling up on sound and camera, but that’s ok. Their rooms will all be spotless, and you will have made yourself a film.
And finally a big Do and Don’t combined – Don’t give up and Do have a good time. Filmmaking can be very stressful. It can also be the best time of your life. Until you make the next one that is. But above all else, DO. Because if you don’t Do and learn, with all the scrapes and bruises that come along with the process, you just won’t. And that, from a filmmaking POV, is the biggest Don’t of all.