Annoying Habits Filmmakers Need To Break In Order To Advance

I spend hours on Skype these days with many of our online Postgraduate Film Degree students. I guess I have many annoying habits. For example, I wear headphones and engage in all sorts of debates about independent film-making in all its varied and changing forms.

I’ve just hung up with a prospective student in Thailand, glanced around the office and noticed that everyone is wearing headphones. Was it, I wondered, that they were heads down watching festival submissions?

I have just done a quick verbal poll and was told that the reason they were wearing headphones is that my Skype conversation was so loud they couldn’t hear themselves think.

I did some quick research on Google and found myself typing in ‘when you wear headphones does your speech sound as loud to you as to others’ and found to my dismay that in fact, it sounds much louder to others.

From now on, I vow to make my Skype calls from the loo, or out in the corridor on a bench.

Now is the time to ask yourself: Are you guilty of any of these annoying habits? If so, maybe you better start to cut these out.

13 Annoying Things Filmmakers Do

1. Bitching about anything and everything

Here’s the routine here in London. Meet a filmmaker, they ask if you have time for a coffee, you agree, sit down and then a big ‘Cheese Us – that person at [name the government organisation] is a real dick.’ And soon there’s an outpouring of venom against a public body that funds films. It usually ends with a comment like ‘I’m gonna kill those bastards.’


Talk like this is futile and pointless. It creates bad karma around you and your project. Besides, if your project really is as good as you think it is, why do you need public finance at all? Let these organisations fund the Ken Loach and Mike Leigh films of the next year while you go out and get some real money without the taint of a freebie from the tit of public funding.

Don’t confuse the role of public funding with your ambitions as a filmmaker, and don’t ever take it personally or make it personal by slagging an individual off. It could come back to bite you in the butt.

2. Asking people to do things on their days off

Most people work like stink. Off days are glorious and rare for just about everyone in the working world. Don’t you just love getting emails that say “I know it’s your day off, but could you just do this one small thing?”


So, I’m on the Raindance tour last month, and I’m in New York and I let everyone I work with know that I am taking a Wednesday off. What do I get? A dozen emails from the same person!

Stop calling or emailing people on their day off!

3. Not thinking ahead

So I know it’s pretty scary getting a film off the ground and trying to plan for everything in advance. But you need to think ahead. When you screw up and forget something you need to be able to recover and decide how best to rectify the damage. Panic will get you nowhere.

Last year I was in Rome giving a lo-to-no budget filmmaking class when I get an (expensive) call on my cell from someone who was using our rehearsal rooms who had forgotten the key! How the hell could I possibly help? I was in flippin’ Rome!


Start thinking about what you need BEFORE you need it. Don’t assume anyone else is there to help you!

4. Asking a mate if you can “pick their brain.”

What is this? A horror movie? Or a version of a cannibal’s tribal ritual? What right have you to go and plunder others’ ideas and input. Especially when you don’t say even the quickest thank you in return?


Don’t call in favours until you have given your mates a reason to let you ‘pick their brains.’

5. Not cleaning up

Ever shared a flat or room with someone who was a total slob? Have you ever found yourself picking up after someone else?

The number of times I have had to clean up after lending a space for a shoot would make you retch. Or the stories I hear of the horror genre, about filmmakers who have trashed a location, would make you shun all filmmakers forever.


Think nobody knows it’s you? Trust me, people can always tell.

6. Sending movie links without a note

How many times do you think busy people get emails in a day? I get dozens and dozens. You send me a link without a one or two-liner contextualizing the link and a reason why I should click on it and I am pretty much going to ignore it. I am also going to be perturbed at you for wasting my time.

Even worse – an email asking me to waste time watching your film or trailer. Why should I give up a slice of my life for you?


Make a clear and easy-to-understand reason why I should click on your link. Pahleez.

7. Talking privately in public

If you have to make a personal call, leave the premises. Go somewhere quiet. I don’t want to hear your booming voice. And it’s just weird to talk on your phone in a screening. (That’s one of those things I’ll never understand.)


Stop taking personal calls in public.

8. Eavesdropping is another annoying habit

Don’t you just love it when you are talking to someone when a near stranger barges in and adds in their two cents worth?


I know filmmakers especially can feel awkward about jumping into a conversation that’s happening halfway across the room. You need to brush up on your social skills and know when to read the social cues of when it’s OK to join or not.

Sometimes your conversational gems are going to be best kept to yourself.

9. Asking questions easily answered on Google

I can’t believe how many calls I get from well-meaning but, erm, lazy screenwriters and filmmakers asking questions like ‘Have you the telephone number for the BFI?’


While you are at it, do a quick Google on anyone you are about to meet or call. Find out something newsworthy you can weave into the conversation.

Think before you ask. Can you find the answer yourself before you waste a silver bullet on something obvious?

10. Replying all on email when it’s not necessary

How many emails do you get in a day? And how many group emails? And of the group emails, how many times do you get copied into a private comment that has nothing to do with you?


Don’t add to the barrage of emails.

11. Working when you’re sick

Working with others when you are sniffling or complaining of a headache wins you no points in my book.


Raindance London is in a basement where ventilation is barely above the legal requirement. Come in here when you are ill spreading your lurgy to those here will make earn you a big black mark.

Everyone gets ill sometimes. Don’t spread it around!

12. Tapping your foot

… And chewing gum, chewing pens, and humming, and breathing loudly. Basically, any repetitive noise you make can and will drive your fellow team members crazy.


I have a really bad habit of chewing on a pen in meetings. I don’t even realise I am doing it unless one of the team points it out. If you realise you have a bad habit, stop it.

If someone tells you to stop, don’t be offended. No one likes being distracted.

13. Being late

You’ve arranged to meet someone and they are late. And they are late for every single meeting.


Of course, there are times when there’s traffic or other disasters. But keep someone waiting twice and you will get labelled as frequently late, and perhaps unreliable too.

Leave plenty of time to get to meetings.

What are your pet peeves? Share in the comments below!
And what of your New Year’s resolutions?



Photo Credit David Martinez / BIFA 2018

Few people know more filmmakers and screenwriters than Elliot Grove. Elliot is the founder of Raindance Film Festival (1993) and the British Independent Film Awards (1998). He has produced over 700 hundred short films and five feature films: the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead (2006), Deadly Virtues (2013), AMBER (2017), Love is Thicker Than Water (2018) and the SWSX Grand Jury Prize winner Alice (2019). He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance BREXiT trailer 2019

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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