Month: June 2019

5 Award Winning Directors Who Got Where They Are

Every director once had the dream to make movies when they were younger, and decided to go and chase after it. Starting out as a filmmaker can be terrifying and difficult. Getting your name out can be a long process that takes a lot of effort and patience to get your big break. Every award winning director have gone through this process, but each story is different. Here are some famous film directors who got where they are in the film industry.

Kathryn Bigelow

Before becoming the first woman to receive an Academy Award for Best Director, Kathryn Bigelow started out at the San Francisco Art Institute as a painting student. Before she enrolled in Columbia University’s graduate film program, Bigelow was living in New York as a starving artist for a few years. She began her career with the short film, The Set-Up (1978) that was submitted as part of her MFA at Columbia. Her fascination with manipulating movie conventions and genre began after directing Near Dark (1987), a story of a man who becomes involved with a family of nomadic vampires in his small midwestern town. Most of her films were rated poorly by critics and did not receive much box office revenue until her big break in 2008. Bigelow directed The Hurt Locker, a film that follows an explosive disposal team in the Iraq War and their psychological reactions to combat. The film received much positive feedback and resulted in her winning the Academy Award and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Director. She won the same Critics Circle award again in 2012 for Zero Dark Thirty, making her the first female director to win this award twice.

Damien Chazelle

Although filmmaking was his first passion, Damien Chazelle started out as a musician in his teenage years. After high school, he realised that he did not have much talent as a musician and started to pursue filmmaking again. The French-American director went on to graduate from Harvard University with a filmmaking degree in Visual and Environmental studies in 2007. He wrote and directed his debut feature Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench as his senior thesis project at Harvard. The film premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival where it received various awards. Chazelle moved to Los Angeles after graduation to work as a “writer-for-hire” in Hollywood. His writing career in Hollywood later led him to direct his film Whiplash (2014), which depicts the relationship between a jazz drumming student and an abusive instructor. The film was submitted to the 2013 Sundance Film Festival where it received numerous awards as well as earning five Academy Award nominations, and winning three.

Due to the success of the film, Chazelle was able to attract people to help finance La La Land (2016). The story is a musical about a jazz pianist and an inspiring actress who fall in love while trying to pursue their dreams in Los Angeles. The film opened at the 2016 Venice Film Festival in August and began its release in December of 2016 in the United States. The film received many great reviews and led Chazelle to receive both the Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Director, making him the youngest director to win both awards at the age of 32. Chazelle gave some advice in a 2015 interview for aspiring young artists. “Hopefully, there’s a sort of simple message: Don’t give up. It takes fifty or a hundred or a thousand ‘No’s’ before you hear a ‘Yes.’ Certainly, that applies to both music and my experience as a writer/director”. 

Alfonso Cuarón

Being the son of a doctor and a pharmaceutical biochemist, Alfonso Cuarón travelled a different career path than his parents. Cuarón studied filmmaking at Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC) in Mexico. He later began working as a technician for television in Mexico, which later led him to be an assistant director for many film productions in the country. Cuarón landed his first big screen film as a director with Sólo con Tu Pareja (1991). After his success in Mexico with the film, Alfonso was hired to direct an episode for the Showtime series Fallen Angels (1993). Cuarón’s success in both the US and Mexico in the 90s lead him to directing the third film in the Harry Potter Series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004). A few years later, Alfonso directed Gravity (2013), a story of medical engineer and veteran astronaut getting stranded in deep space with no hope of rescue. This film resulted in Cuarón receiving both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Director. He also won the Academy Award for Best Director again for Roma (2019). In his acceptance speech, Cuarón says “As artists, our job is to look where others don’t. This responsibility becomes much more important in times when we are being encouraged to look away”.

Tom Hooper

British-Australian film and television director Tom Hooper knew he wanted to get into filmmaking since his teenage years. His first professional short, Painted Faces broadcasted on television when he was just twenty years old. Hooper directed plays and television commercials during his time as an Oxford University student, and continued to direct television episodes on British television after graduating. His father introduced him to television producer Matthew Robinson, who gave Hooper his first TV directing work and became his mentor. Hooper began to direct many television shows for BBC over the years, but made his debut with Red Dust in 2004. His debut led him to work for HBO, where he directed the British miniseries Elizabeth I (2005),which covers the final years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Hooper also directed the film Longford (2006), which demonstrates the failures of Lord Longford to secure parole of Moors murderer Myra Hindley.

The success from both of these productions led Hooper to be selected by Tom Hanks to direct the miniseries John Adams in 2008, which won many Emmy awards that year. After directing and releasing The Damned United in 2009, production for The King’s Speech began that same year. Hooper discovered the play from his Australian mother who attended a reading in London. The play covers the relationship between King George the `Sixth and his Australian speech therapist and decided to take action. The film was completed in August 2010. Hooper won the Director’s Guild of America award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures and the Academy Award for Best Director for the film. In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, Hooper states, “The funny thing about being a director is that you are not seeking your own pleasure. Your own pleasure is beside the point – it is deceptive. A lot of the time when you shoot, you are pained. It is quite masochistic – you have to be in touch with your unhappiness because that is part of the early radar system that tells you when something isn’t working. So you go between unhappiness and joy. It is what is in the frame when you turn over, that is all that matters.”

Christopher Nolan

At just eleven years old, Christopher Nolan aspired to be a professional filmmaker. The British-American film director started making films in college while earning his bachelor’s in English literature from University College London. In 1998, Nolan personally funded, wrote, directed, and edited Following. His success with the film resulted in his directing of Memento in 2000, which received many award nominations and was later selected by the Library of Congress in the US National Film Registry in 2017. Nolan became more successful as the years went on, later directing the Batman series Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). This trilogy has won many academy awards, made record breaking box office records, and are considered some of the best superhero films ever made. The success of The Dark Knight  led Nolan to direct Inception in 2010, which ended up grossing over $820 million worldwide. After the end of the Batman trilogy in 2012, Nolan directed, wrote and produced Interstellar (2014). The film won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and received nominations for Best Original Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Production Design.

Filed under: Directing, Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, ScreenwritingTagged with: , , , ,

How to Create the Poster to Sell Your Feature Film

A poster is probably the most crucial element for selling a film to its audience (not to mention potential distributors). It’s also one of the easiest things for an indie filmmaker to overlook.

But for non-Hollywood films that don’t have the luxury of trailers widely shared across all media – they’re crucial. Before even a second of your film has been watched, your film has been judged. And it’s the poster that is setting the tone.

With all this in mind, it’s essential to be aware of what’s out there. Before you (or your designer) start work on your film’s poster, make a Pinterest board. Collect together images of posters for movies similar to yours and observe the trends. Ask questions: What kind of colour palettes do they use? What kind of images do they lead with? What fonts do they use?

Then it’s time to get cracking…

Know your Genre

Consider the Visuals

Whichever genre your film belongs to, there will be visual elements typically associated with it. You can use this to your advantage to communicate what your film is offering your audience. Colour palettes are a great example of this – for instance, sci-fi films often use blue and green tones because they have a futuristic, high tech feel. Think about older sci-fi films like The Matrix, Minority Report and Inception – then look at the examples below to see how they’re using the same visual language.


Examples of sci-fi colour palettes

Title Font

Think about fonts – certain fonts are associated with certain genres. Don’t try to be clever with these, embrace the conventions and don’t underestimate the subconscious messages they send. Think about how superhero films always make use of bold, confident sans serif fonts that match the heroics of the characters, or how horror films often use thin, gothic-feeling serif fonts to suggest a creepy atmosphere or ancient setting.


Examples of the types of fonts typically featured in horror posters

Tag It

Taglines can help focus and reinforce what type of film you are selling.  Less is always more. Think about some of the greatest film taglines, and how they convey so much about the film with only a few lines:

  • Alien – ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’
  • Highlander – ‘There can be only one’
  • Jaws 2 – ‘Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water’

Know Your Selling Points

The Single Image

Your poster should give a feel for your movie, not necessarily depict a literal scene from it. Make the most of what you have – if your film features a haunted house, you’ll probably want this to feature prominently on the poster. If it’s an action film with a heist, you might want to show armed men with masks, or suggestions of a high-speed getaway even if these scenes don’t literally happen in the way presented.

Stars

If you’ve got any known actors in your film – even if they only have a small role and are only on set for a day – make sure you get decent pictures of them. Don’t waste the opportunity to put a well-known actor front and centre on your poster – your film will instantly jump ahead of the competition in terms of credibility and marketability.

Get High Quality Assets

Make things easy for yourself or your designer. Get photos of the cast. Photography can often be overlooked in all the planning around shooting a film, but you’ll really regret not having good photos when it comes to marketing it.

It is possible to work around not having these assets, but you’ll limit your options dramatically and why would you want to do that? Before the shoot, have a chat with your on-set photographer and bear these points in mind:

  • Try to shoot against a neutral background with good light – this will make it easier for the designer to cut out when they’re compositing your poster. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can rely on screen grabs from the film – these will never be as high quality as stills shot on a DSLR.
  • Get shots of your actors in character – capture key poses that give us an idea of their personality and/or the film’s scenario.
  • Use dynamic poses and facial expressions to make sure your characters look exciting. Look at the Avengers Endgame poster below – you can see how each character is posed in mid-action, or is standing heroically. Every pose gives a feel for that character’s role in the movie.


Examples of dynamic character portraits

Be Flexible

Always be open to different interpretations of your film, and try not to get too attached to any one particular idea. If it’s a project very close to you, you may not be the best person to think objectively about the best way to sell it, so talk through your ideas with a designer or a producer and see what they suggest. You never know what they might come up with!

Filed under: Filmmaking, Promotion, Marketing and Distribution

The Democratisation of Video Effects and Where to Find Them

Indie filmmakers face an Endless Supply of Challenges

It takes grit to make things happen. Once you cut through all the red tape, budgeting, scheduling, logistics and finally start filming you’re hit with another wave of problems. Through all of the ups and downs you have to maintain your creative drive. Independent filmmakers have become adept at handling and often bypassing these roadblocks entirely. The film industry has been changing rapidly in recent years, from the DSLR revolution to streaming content. Creators are finding new ways of making and sharing their work on a level never seen before.

Filmmaking is Accessible for the First Time Ever

Filmmaking has gotten easier, cheaper, and more accessible for countless creators. Online databases for rental equipment, both warehouse and local vendors, make it easier to find the best deals. Forum writers, Youtubers, and bloggers are eager to share what knowledge they have. Commercial digital cameras can produce unbelievably high quality images. Festivals like Raindance offer the exposure your film needs. Software allows you to edit, color, compose, grade, composite and build your film from anywhere in the world.

VFX for Everyone

VFX is a field that many independent filmmakers think of as out of their reach, something limited to high-budget films. That’s no longer the case. Freelancer compositing artists, 3D animators, motion designers and generalists are more than happy to work on your project. Software like After Effects will let intermediate and even beginner users create amazing video-effects. If you need to create a better title animation, add muzzle flashes and bullet impacts, composite realistic fire or a sand storm you can do it with a limited budget. That’s why I fell in love with Visual Effects, and that’s why I founded ProductionCrate.com

10 Years and Counting

ProductionCrate has been around for 10 Years. When my college roommate first showed me the power of Adobe After Effects I was absolutely stunned. I had no idea that that level of VFX was achievable by anyone outside of a Hollywood studio. I was hooked.

I devoted all my time and effort to developing ProductionCrate. The team that joined me kept the mission alive, to build a comprehensive, massive, ever-expanding library of video effects. We have since added Music, Sound Effects, Graphics, 3D objects and more. Our incredible community of over 550,000 users all share the same passion as we do, to make the best content possible.

We offer a free membership option to anyone in the world. No is payment required, just sign up and download some content to use in your projects. For those with bigger projects we have exclusive content and thousands more items for just $49/year. We do our best to keep the membership fee small, no creator shouldn’t be able to tell their story just because they can’t afford it.

We have seen our content used in amazing short films, indie flicks, commercials, Youtube videos, vlogs, and so much more. Working at ProductionCrate and helping the filmmaking community grow is the most fulfilling I can do with my time. If you’re interested, check us out. If you have any questions just shoot us an email support@ProductionCrate.com.

 

Filed under: Filmmaking, Promotion, Marketing and Distribution

How Live Streaming Can Influence the Future Marketing

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[et_pb_column type=”4_4″][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text”]The world of marketing is constantly evolving when it comes to new ways of spreading brand awareness and reaching customers. Thanks to Facebook live and snapchat, live streaming has become an essential strategy change in social media marketing. You might have probably noticed that almost all social media platforms one by one launched Live Streaming Solutions.

Live streaming is no longer limited to entertainment, it involves daily life of normal users, social events of brands and more. People record their everyday activities, share experiences and talk about the things they love. Live streaming also helps brands to engage more audience and to raise awareness. It is the prime time for live streaming, and if you miss the deal, you could miss out on huge traffic figures and the chance to create a viral buzz.

What live streaming platform should you use?

So now you know live streaming has a potential impact on your brand growth. But, what are the different platforms to live stream content? Facebook live is the supreme and one of the most watched live streaming platforms on social media. Yes, it even surpasses YouTube when it comes to living streaming content. However, brands also use Twitter and Instagram to build an audience and to gain traction. If you are on Facebook, then at some point today you will be most likely receive notification that someone is live.

Strategy for live streaming

Brands utilise live streaming in different ways to connect with their audience in real time. From social campaigns to product launches, they broadcast important events in a way we haven’t seen before. This give viewer a chance to react to the event, giving marketers immediate response of a product or a campaign. As live streaming is more ubiquitous, the brand is inventing new ways to stream live videos. Viewers can react and share their experience, express their opinions, ask questions when an event is happening, giving marketers immediate response for a product or campaign. Many companies and brands are entering the market and some even use drones to live stream giving a whole new dimension to the future of live streaming video.

How Does Live Streaming Impact the Market?

According to the live stream, about 80% of people are more likely to watch a video than read a blog online. An average adult consumes over 2 hours on digital devices and more than 5 hours of video each day. As you can see, major social networks have been rolling out new features and products around live streaming to drive revenue and strengthen the relationship with their social media users.

Live streaming is bringing in a very important thing – accessibility. It gives an average online user a way to easily broadcast their life and to monetise the video as the number of viewers goes up. Users can watch live broadcasts anywhere, anytime. Whether on their PC or smartphones, or any mobile device, in a matter of seconds.

To create a successful live streaming strategy, you should have a unique offering like a theme or an event. You can even live stream customer reactions to new products in your store. Think of live streaming as a window that gives your customers a glimpse into your business or your own world.

Here are the primary reasons why live streaming is the future of marketing.

1. Smartphones make live streaming simple

The future of smart devices and smartphones along with the live streaming is promising hence the market is wide open for new applications. The availability of 4G and stronger internet connections let users to broadcast real time videos in high quality almost from anywhere they want. Live streaming applications are constantly making efforts to work on combining optimal performance with minimum data. All of these would enable the future of live streaming.

2. Reach a large audience

Every brand aims at reaching a larger audience on a global scale, and a decade ago this wasn’t easy. But with now with all digital advancements and tools like video streaming, it becomes easy. There was a time when email marketing was one of the most common and effective way to reach a large number of customers but times have changed, so has the technology. While email marketing is still useful to reach your customers with new products and services, it reaches only the people on your list. But with growing video marketing trends, live streaming can draw leads you haven’t targeted through other marketing methods. That is exactly why big companies are betting big on Live Streaming Solutions.

3. Offers new opportunities for advertisers

Live stream offers marketers brand new opportunities to reach a massive audience no matter what their niche is. With live streaming, it is possible to gather both demographic and geographical data and to know what users are doing at a given moment. Social media also let advertisers to better understand their audience by the help of contextual targeting. Summing up, streaming also brings in a human element to your marketing efforts. It is a more natural way to communicate with an audience which also offer you real-time feedback.

Conclusion

The future of live streaming video is truly bright. Live streaming is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal because of its ability to offer real-time content that is interactive and more engaging. There is a reason why major brands like Buzz feed, Chevrolet etc. have launched live stream campaigns designed to engage their new and existing customers. Getting to know the benefits of live streaming will help you develop the right strategy to utilise it to boost your leads and convert them into your customers, followers and long-term clients.

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Filed under: Filmmaking, Promotion, Marketing and Distribution

Here’s How This Year’s Cannes Winners Started Working in Indie Cinema

The 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival ended last month, awarding a lot of brilliant actors and filmmakers. Many of them began their career by making or acting in indie films. Some of them still enjoy short films and make them a part of their current work. Among these talented people, we have chosen four of them and studied their link with independent cinema.

 

Emily Beecham, Best Performance by an Actress

The Best Performance by an Actress Prize was awarded to Emily Beecham for her role in Little Joe (2019), directed by Jessica Hausner. When Ms Beecham was 23 and freshly graduated, she was cast as Joanna in Jan Dunn’s The Calling (2007), the story of a young woman who decides to join a religious order against her family’s advice. The independent feature film found success and she was awarded the Best Actress Prize by the London Independent Film Festival and the Trailblazer Award by the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2009.

Nearly ten years later, Emily earned the main role in Daphne (2017), playing a character who lives in a superficial world to protect herself. She was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress category at the 2017 British Independent Film Awards, offering her international recognition. Emily Beecham is synonym of three awards and one nomination out of nine films between 2007 and 2019. Who could say she hasn’t known success thanks to indie films?

 

Ladj Ly, Jury Prize

For this 72nd edition of Cannes, two films won ex-aequo the Jury Prize – Bacurau, directed by Kleber Mendoca Filho & Juliano Dornelles, and Les Misérables, directed by Ladj Ly. Let’s talk about the latter, who has always experimented with independent short films during his career: Go Fast Connexion produced in 2008, but also a first edition of his awarded film from two years ago.

The synopsis is relatively similar for both version of Les Misérables. A French Anti-Crime Squad works on a deprived estate, between drug dealers, violence and children living in this zone. But in the last (feature) film, things are much more developed: the children stole a lion cub, the policemen make a blunder, and the situation is almost becoming out of control. And do you know what the best thing is? The awarded film is really the evolution of an indie film!

 

Bong Joon-Ho, Palme d’Or

Mr Bong’s film Parasite was awarded the most prestigious prize at Cannes Festival: the Palme d’Or. Nowadays known as the most famous south-Korean director and screenwriter, Bong Joon-Ho started his career with a short independent movie in 1995. Titled White Man, the story begins with a finger found by an ordinary man on his way to work. This 16 minutes drama – winner of a Shin-young Youth Movie Festival prize – truly launched Bong Joon-Ho’s career. In 2014 he directed Snowpiercer  – adaptation of a French comic  – where the last survivors of the planet are confined in a train, while all people outside died due to a climate change which made the planet freeze. This Korean-American film adaptation was chosen to be part of the top 10 Independent Films of the National Board of Review Awards in the USA the same year.

Dardenne brothers, Best director prize

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne won this year the Best Director Prize for their last work Young Ahmed, dealing with the societal problem of radicalisation. The main character is played by a 13 years old teenager, growing between religious principles and a dawning love. The Dardenne brothers are film directors and also screenwriters and producers.

The Belgian brothers have been working together since 1975. They decided to create their own production company the same year, giving it the name of “Dérives” in order to be independent and to be able to finance themselves their cinematographic projects. The Dardenne brothers are probably the most complete Europeans authors. In 1996 they produced La promesse thanks to the funds of their own company and some public aids. The central themes were conscience and family. Six years later, Le fils, written, directed and produced by the Dardenne brothers – making it an independent film – put social issues and family at the center of the storyline.

 

To conclude, we hope this article convinced you about the importance of indie films. Almost all of the most famous and talented cinema players started with independent films. Long life to indie cinema!

 

Filed under: Acting, Directing, Festivals, Filmmaking Career, NewsTagged with: , , , ,

On Agnes Varda – Photographer, Filmmaker, and Cat Lover

Agnes Varda was a tiny woman with dimming eye-sight who left a huge mark on the world cinema through her career that spans over 60 years. The Belgian-born filmmaker and the so-called “Grandmother of the Nouvelle Vague” (a term she despised as it was first given to her in her early 30s) embodied the idea of radical cinema in both her life and her work, and her vital solar energy kept her going strong well into her 90s.

Agnes Varda died this year, on March 29, at her home on Rue Daguerre, Paris, only a few months after releasing her last film, Varda par Agnes. Her seminal cinematic work contributed to the birth of the Nouvelle Vague, but Varda wasn’t only a filmmaker, as her passionate spirit could not be contained and it spilled into many other art forms. Both her career and her life are worth exploring and admiring.

Photographer & Filmmaker & Installation Artist

Before becoming a filmmaker, Varda studied photography in Paris. Her fondness for photography eventually manifested itself throughout her entire career in various forms, be it cinema, or later in life, visual installations.

It was during this period that she became interested in trying her hand at making a film, although she was in no way a film buff, she had only seen around 20 films by the age of 25.

Her first film, La Pointe Courte, a drama with the aesthetic of a documentary, became the precursor of the Nouvelle Vague, the French New Wave.

The experience of embarking on this ambitious project without any previous film training shaped Varda into a relentless powerhouse who fearlessly delved into any artistic field that attracted her.

Thanks to the success of this first film, edited by her friend, Alain Resnais, she could skip the mandatory years of working as an assistant and work alongside her male counterparts as a film director from the very beginning.

Her filmography includes fiction films, shorts,  documentaries, and everything in between. In 1961, she released her most famous work, Cleo from 5  to 7, the story of a beautiful and successful pop singer who awaits the results of a biopsy. Varda follows Cleo through the streets of Paris in seemingly real-time for two hours, and we see her as she struggles with her own mortality.

Many of her films explore the theme of illness and death (Vagabond, Le Bonheur), but none more than Jacquot de Nantes,  her homage to her late husband, fellow filmmaker, Jacques Demy, who died of AIDS in 1990. The film lovingly recreates Jacques’ childhood in Nantes.

The Little Old Lady Who Loved Life (and Cats)

In her most recent interviews, Varda often called herself “a little old lady”, but one who is still alive and loves to work. All her movies are infused with a joy for living, adventure, and the common people, but none as much as Faces Places, the 2017 documentary she directed along with French muralist, JR.

The film explores their trip through rural France in JR’s van, a van that is equipped with a photo booth that prints photographs on the spot. The unlikely pair, Varda, an 80-something icon, and JR, a 30 something muralist and street artist, form a friendship that is heart-warming, sincere and full of child-like candor.

They are both driven by an unstoppable love for their subjects, the men, women, and children they meet along the way, and an endless curiosity for each individual’s story.

The film earned Varda her first Oscar nomination, and also the title of the oldest person to receive a nomination. The film didn’t win, but she received an honorary Oscar the same year.

“I received my honorary Oscar [in 2017] with joy and modesty. It was interesting to know that I exist as a film-maker in Hollywood, even though I never made a blockbuster.” – Interview with the Guardian

Varda didn’t care much about distinctions and accolades. She was determined to follow her passion for the common people, her cats, the beautiful beaches she loved, and even heart-shaped potatoes she used to create her surrealist installation, Patatutopia. She filled entire rooms with potatoes, and even came dressed as one!

“I see myself as a heart-shaped potato—growing again.”

She was very amused by the fact that she was a “beginner” installation artist in her late eighties, and she rejoiced in the freedom she found yet again through a new artistic pursuit.

What You Should Remember

Agnes Varda left behind a body of work that is worth exploring and (re)discovering. She was a feminist icon, trailblazer, and rebel who generously shared her unique worldview, enriching the cinematic experience with a sense of poetry and fun. She never lost her undying curiosity for the world of the mundane which she infused with a magical touch and an overflowing feeling of love.

Although she never became a household name and she never directed a blockbuster, her films are loved and shown all over the world. This mattered to her more than any award. Agnes Varda may have died, but her irreverent, punk cinema still remains. Goodbye, grande Dame Patate!

Filed under: Film History, Filmmaking

8 Mistakes Filmmakers Make That Kill Their Careers

When I wrote this post about the mistakes filmmakers make way back in 2009 I had no idea how many would comment. I also thought today, in May 2019, that many of these points would have changed.

But no. Here we all are ten years later. If anything I think the political, socialogical and ecological changes in our troubled world have made these even more important to consider.

Independent film and independent filmmakers matter more than ever. I’ve republished this in the hope that it will guide you to be stronger, more resilient and more productive.

Have a read, and please let me know if you agree, or disagree!

Happy Filmmaking,

Elliot Grove, Founder Raindance | British Independent Film Awards

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As your filmmaking career starts to grow, it’s crucial that your actions don’t strangle it in its infancy.

By avoiding the mistakes that so many filmmakers make you have a far greater chance of succeeding well beyond the first 2 years of the launch date of your career.

1. Doing Too Much Yourself

Business owners as well as filmmakers fall into this trap as they attempt to minimise costs. It can mean that you will get bogged down in the day-to-day nitty gritty, keeping you from stepping back and taking a good hard look at the future. Future planning, and with it, the ability to anticipate problems, are two important areas successful filmmakers have to keep control of. Doing too much can mean that the fire-fighting cycle just keeps repeating over and over again.

Coupled with that is the guilt associated with neglecting family and personal relationships. This often leads to exhaustion and collapse.

Why not call for extra help before you need it, and not after the cracks have begun to show, and usually, it is too late.

 2. You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Most independent filmmakers start their career because they are really good at something. Some are really good at directing action, others have a flair for working with actors, and others are just good solid all-rounders.

What many filmmakers forget is that it is a business which involves a host of different skill sets. They forget that filmmaking requires the basic business management skills such as: sourcing new clients and work, marketing and publicity, recruiting new crew and staff, and managing the cash flow questions that any small business has. Add into this the creative mix and you have the potential for a meltdown.

Running and more importantly, developing and expanding your movie career, is like growing and developing any type of business. It is unlikely that you will have the expertise to do everything needed yourself.

Successful filmmakers learn to recognise their own skills and knowledge and take action to fill the gaps in their career plan.

3. Quitting The Day Job Too Quickly

A filmmaker or screenwriter’s passion in what they are doing is usually so high that they enjoy some initial successes and revenues. They then quit their day jobs and hire premises and staff – only to face psychological and financial ruin when their early successes have been a minor blip on the long hard haul to a successful career.

Everyone needs money in order to survive. Make sure you are able to cover your monthly expenses before you ditch your day job. Often people try to get film work, but don’t know how to get work without experience.

Done correctly, you might be able to apply for funding or enjoy certain strategic tax benefits depending on your personal profile and the geographical territory you live in.

4. You Haven’t Got Anyone To Talk To

Filmmakers have career issues which often require discussion and debate. The difficulty facing most filmmakers is that they find it very difficult to find anyone they can relate to.

Certain legal and technical challenges can be discussed with an accountant or lawyer. But issues of creativity are not the issues you want to discuss with inappropriate people.

Having no network is potentially very damaging. Discussion with a trusted advisor or friend is where one finds new ideas and perspectives. Having your project and ideas endorsed is also nourishing for one’s ego. Lukewarm receptions can indicate that your ideas are not developed enough.

A small network of trusted people able to ‘get’ you and to listen and discuss ideas with you is an essential part of a filmmaker’s success. If this is your first visit to Raindance’s website, why not subscribe to our free weekly newsletter – it’s a great way to share ideas.

5. Working With The Wrong People

Filmmaking is a passionate business. It is also almost always very last minute. Add on top of that, the chronic fatigue. Under these circumstances it is tempting to hire people for production and other jobs quickly without properly interviewing and checking references.

Remember, no matter how good someone is, if there’s a difference in values, then the only questions that matter are “When will the row happen?” and “On what subject will it be?”

Always be asking yourself: how much real experience do they have? Is it relevant to what you need? Are their skills and experience complimentary to yours? Do you have mutual respect? How important will you be to them? Do they know their own limits? What networks and contacts do they bring? Will they let you talk to their previous employers/collaborators to get a feel of how they work?

As always, don’t agree to work with anyone until you feel comfortable. Make sure you don’t fall for one of the cons filmmakers fall for. And make sure you have written contracts in place for any creative collaboration.

6. Lack of self awareness

Many filmmakers are afraid of admitting their fears and inadequacies because they don’t want to lose the mantra of praise that they want to follow them everywhere. They won’t take any criticism from anyone because they don’t trust them and because they believe they know better. When confronted they usually nitpick ridiculously fine details and refuse to entertain the creative or practical suggestions from anyone else.

This makes it very difficult to develop a team, and as the word spreads, they find fewer and fewer people willing to collaborate with them.

Successful filmmakers are brutally honest about themselves. Get some vital feedback from that special and trusted friend.

7. Staying In The Comfort Zone

Most filmmakers work with the same team members over and over again. There is nothing wrong with this – except – who is challenging and testing you and your ideas?

It’s an easy trap to surround yourself with ‘yes’ men. Working with people who challenge you may be uncomfortable, but it’s a whole lot easier then attending a disastrous screening of your movie because no one around you had the courage to say “hang on a minute – what about XYZ?”‘

Hip, innovative filmmakers pick up those cool ideas from outside their conventional thoughts. They learn to accept constructive criticism and learn how to deal with negative criticism.

Mixing with others will increase your chances of doing this. The more diverse your contacts (whether by sectors/age/ethnic group/gender), the more you’ll also be able to “narrow the angles” on potential incoming problems. Someone in your group will have had experience of issues that you haven’t – better to learn from others’ mistakes than get extra battle scars yourself!

8. Not Knowing Why You Want To Make Movies

Filmmakers make movies for many different reasons. It doesn’t really matter why you want to make a movie. Some make movies because they want to make money. Others make movies to get a message across. Others make movies because they are attracted by the allure and glamour.

Decide what your ambitions are before you head off and attempt a career in filmmaking. Realise that your real reason for making movies will predetermine much of what you try and achieve.

By avoiding, at least to some degree, these eight common mistakes your filmmaking career has a much more decent chance of success. Analyse each of these eight areas and take appropriate action.

Best wishes!

++++

Great article, it makes me now feel “cornered”

– Eman Assef

Very good article, Elliot – right on the button. I recognise all those mistakes (and then some…)

– Charles Harris

Hi Elliot..I read this 8 Mistakes in line by line..word by word..its simply magnificent to know the world of film industry..and survive..  thanks a lot

– Martin Chowdhury

Hi Elliot
I chair a couple of Leaseholders’ Associations in Stratford, East London. As I was about to remind members of the need to delegate, I noticed Elliot’s “8 mistakes that kill a filmmaker’s career” post, so I’ve forwarded that instead as an anecdotal analogy. How apt! Particularly the first point. I enjoyed and agree with the rest that I posted the lot! (with the appropriate credits – of course…).
– Arbind Ray – Filmmaker

Elliot,
Having made ALL these mistakes at one time or another, I speak with the voice of experience……all true!!  Do yourself a favour and pay attention to this little list of wisdom.  Will save you an immense amount of backtracking. Thanks.
– Margaret Dane, Wayward Women Films

Dear Elliot,
Thanks for sending us a mirror now and than! Still growing into it … Had
to laugh with myself this morning telling my wife, while I was walking out
the door to the office: let’s make another filmpie today!
Cheers, Wiet Proesmans

If one views a reality check as negative, then it is possible that one will remain in cloud cuckoo land. Fine, if you want to kid yourself.
Chris Perkins

Hey Elliott,
I took your filmmaking course in Toronto not long ago–the most recent one. You opened with some questions that they don’t ask in film school or if they do, they usually frown on the answers from those of us who want to make money and live off our craft. Anyway, after the questions, you jumped right into the business side of things (another thing they do not teach in film school) then you started to lose me but not because you were boring but because I have read so many books on all aspects of filmmaking that I was beginning to wonder if my 300.00 was well spent. THEN you got to distribution and marketing and incorporated the twist of online PR and social networking and everything CLICKED. You re-arranged my entire thought process for the better and since then you’ve continued to send me things to keep me informed and focused on my path. Now I know I’m gonna make another film. In these 8 mistakes, you’ve touched on everything I’ve done wrong in my career until the day I spent that unaffordable 300.00 on my visa. Best investment I ever made. Now I can put that 17,000.00 I spent on film school behind me.
Thanks bro
Antonio Kreem Joyette

READ THIS BLOG POST!
This is one of the most important posts I have ever read. I almost didn’t read it, with 18 years in the business, I thought I would know what you were going to say. But this is among the most valuable and least discussed advice I have ever seen. I will be forwarding it to everyone!
Thank you Elliot!
Jendra Jarnagin, DP
www.floatingcamera.com

Filed under: Filmmaking Career, In Our OpinionTagged with: ,

Making a Film Together: Your First Steps and Things to Keep in Mind

Every filmmaker has to start somewhere. If you have a lot of creative ambitions you will soon realise that it’s very hard to achieve what you want by yourself. And so you will start involving other people in your projects. You will build you own crew, put together a team out of so many different individuals and make others believe in your vision and understand it. It will probably be low budget or no budget at first, you will have to involve your friends to participate, ask around for help from everybody you know…. And if you are doing it for the first time, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Believe in your creative vision

Something has pushed you towards your idea. There is a reason you are making it into a film and there is a strong creative force that is guiding you through the process. Trust it. Allow yourself to be passionate and share your passion with others. It’s your film, your project and you are calling the shots! It could go in any possible direction, but you are choosing its shape. Sometimes you will feel that it’s the idea that’s guiding you, so trust it – allow it to grow and make strong creative decisions. If you don’t trust your own vision – why should your crew trust you?

2. Trust your team

In order to make your crew and cast trust your directing decisions, you have to trust them first. Trust that they will do a good job and show that you rely on them, meet your colleagues 1 to 1 to explain the value of the their role for the film, show that you are expecting them to carry out their tasks with creative freedom and responsibility of meeting deadlines. And share your thoughts and inspirations with your colleagues – it’s important for them to know why you are making this film.

3. Build the connection with your cast

Your actors are the soul of your film. They will bring it to life and it’s through them that you will channel your creative ideas and connect with the audience. But first you have to establish the connection with your actors yourself. Everybody has their own way of doing it and you will find yours eventually. When you don’t know where to start – ask yourself if there is a mutual understanding between you and your actors. Do you trust them to deliver their roles? Do they trust you? Do they believe in the project? Can you connect with them? It’s extremely hard to motivate somebody who doesn’t trust your vision. And you can gain their trust by showing your commitment to the project, explaining why you chose them for the part, discussing your personal attachment to the characters. Being responsible, organised and respectful also reassures actors that they are on the right project. This is extremely important for an unpaid cast.

4. Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to show your need for help or support – people will contribute when they know that you rely on them and their actions are valued and important. Make sure that everybody feels safe to express their opinions and ideas and ask others for feedback and advice. Never show that you doubt somebody else’s ideas or decisions and don’t be judgmental. It’s important to create a safe space for everybody to work in, so schedule in extra meetings, trainings and even personal time together in order to achieve a better result.

5. Allow the doubt

Doubt can be helpful. It allows you to improve more than confidence does. It allows you to create the space for changes and improvement. Of course, it’s important to make strong creative decisions and stay by them. But allowing just the right amount of doubt is crucial if you want to keep on building your idea and improving. Don’t be stubborn and fixated on achieving a certain point – you might not notice something spontaneous and magical that appears in the process.

6. Practice the art of listening

Listening is probably the key to everything, but especially to filmmaking, since it’s a very collaborative process that depends on mutual understanding. Take your time to REALLY listen to others, to hear their ideas, suggestions and concerns. It shows that you care and respect others, that you want to build a team rather than make your film. People will listen to you if you listen to them. Listening also means being attentive on set and watching your colleagues as they work: sometimes your teammate might not vocalise their concerns, but if you make sure to check on them you can avoid misunderstandings.

7. Pay attention to little things

If it’s a low-budget or unpaid production, you are probably surrounded by people who truly believe in your project and they genuinely enjoy being part of it. Being nice to people who invest their time and energy in your passion project is crucial, and you can do so many little things to show your team that you appreciate their help. Choose your food carefully, ask if anybody has preferences or allergies and make a good effort for your team – food can really be a dealbreaker for unpaid productions. Bring blankets and hot drinks for the shoots outdoors – it will ALWAYS get cold especially for the cast who often have no choice of a warmer costume. If there is a setback in the production, something that always saves the situations is a tasty cookie break!

8. Deal with it

The way you deal with issues on set changes the atmosphere of the entire shoot. Technical difficulties, medical emergencies, weather conditions, creative disagreements, tiredness on set – all of this will most likely happen to you and the only thing that is relevant – your attitude and the way you deal with it. Even the slightest issue can turn into a disaster if you overreact and show your irritation, but with a calm and structured approach everything can be solved.

9. Prepare for the worst

Get ready for rain, wind, road closures, noise, technical difficulties, emergencies, unpredictable inconveniences, etc. You can never be fully ready for everything, but you can try. If you shoot on location, always go for a location recce before the shoot. And if you can – go there with crew, show it to your cast. Not doing a recce beforehand causes many difficulties during filming – it can be time consuming, tiring and (especially if it’s outdoors) uncomfortable for the entire team. It’s very unfair for the actors as the technical difficulties might be frustrating and distracting – there is suddenly no safe space to talk to your cast as it’s all about getting a good shot in these impossible conditions.

10. Have a backup plan

When something goes wrong on set – all the heads will be turned to you. What do we do now? You probably have no idea. But you are the one who has to make a decision – so have a backup plan, always. Be that person who is innovative and can make quick decisions when put on the spot. And keep up a good attitude, in most cases that’s what matters the most.

11. Find your own way to say thank you

Do you realise what you’ve just done? You’ve gathered around yourself creative individuals who all believe in your project. They were here for you and they made it possible. They invested their precious time only to make your film a reality. They are your film. And you can never thank them enough. But you should thank them as much as possible. Don’t forget to say it and really mean it. Throw a party or a small gathering to celebrate the end of the project. Go for a meal together. Bake a cake. Have a big thank you speech. Write thank you cards. Post an emotional Facebook post. Tell your team how much their efforts mean to you. Show your appreciation. You’d be surprised how much it means to others.

And when you lose your balance there are two things that can help you regain your strength:
Stay true: to yourself, to others, to your vision, to your idea and everything that you believe in.
Trust: yourself that you can make it, but also – your collaborators, cast and crew. Only when you fully believe in them you can achieve the best results together.

And everything else – will fall into place by itself.

Filed under: Directing, Filmmaking, Filmmaking Career, In Our Opinion, Producing