Every month young filmmakers who want to learn a golden nugget of information approach me. They ask for secrets of the trade that they can use to boost their filmmaking skills to the next level. But, most of the time they are not ready for a higher level of skill and need to focus instead on what not to do – those things that stop them from being successful.
I’ve decided to share a list of items that make their films ineffective. The six items are common among many young filmmakers and I hope that this list will bring new insights to bear.
1. Kill Your Dreams
It’s far easier to pull a cast and crew together and make a movie when filmmakers compromise their work. In doing so, they quickly build a team of eager friends, but soon find that compromises weaken their original concept. The short film becomes an image piece instead of a story – Something that excites others, but rarely gets a second viewing.
Having judged in many film festivals, I’ve learned that teams with selected cast and crew based on each individual’s skills made the awarded films. Compromise was limited to ideas that strengthened the story, rather than appeased people to ensure their involvement.
2. Focus on Yourself
First-time filmmakers always talk about a great idea and how he plans to make an award-winning film. The conversation is all about the filmmaker placing his mark on society, but the end result is typically a movie that doesn’t make sense to the audience because it’s void of a beginning, middle or end.
Maintaining an audience perspective allows directors to work and test the imagery of his story with those outside of his inner circle. This unbiased feedback forces more creativity and demands a visualization of the story that can be received by people who know nothing about the synopsis or the director’s original vision. To survive, the story is forced into having a beginning, middle and end.
3. Try to Keep Everyone Happy
When a filmmaker needs to please his great aunt who funded the short film, or his mother who wants to make sure his short film is respectable, or his friends demand the film is cool, the filmmaker loses his passion and creates such a watered-down story that nobody cares to watch it.
Creating a story with universal appeal that holds true to the director’s heart becomes a powerful tool of passion that captivates even the greatest skeptic. Since film is an emotional medium it is critical that the director’s passion shows up in the story. This can only happen if it is his story and not one dictated by a board of investors.
4. Make Mediocrity Your Standard
Producing the exact same kind of story over and over again brings blandness to the theater experience that is sure to reduce the audience. Never expanding the budget to include higher-quality elements within a show, or experimenting with how the story is expressed, will lead to a show that is unworthy of a second viewing.
Experimentation is at the forefront of bringing a unique story to an audience in a new and refreshing way. While audiences like something that feels familiar, they also demand something new that they’ve never seen before. Every story requires a set piece that drives the story out of mediocrity and into the spotlight.
5. Treat Every Film The Same
Filmmakers that think genre requires repetitiveness of story will likely kill second viewings and possibly future viewings. Only those living in denial will continue to put up with a director that produces the same ole thing with every release.
Audiences love to work for their entertainment. They like their thinking to be provoked, without any part of the story being handed to them on a silver platter. People want to be able to figure out what’s happening in the story just before its revealed, not during the opening act. Responding to this audience need requires a director who is willing to differentiate his titles from his previous work and his competitors.
6. Make It Obvious Who You Don’t Like
Films that preach to the proverbial choir and avoid relating to the general public will quickly deflate the film’s potential reach and life span. Making the film for such a tight niche that even like-minded people with a different vantage point can’t relate to will surely shorten the film’s release window.
Universal stories reach millions of people with a film’s specific message. The more open the film is in relating to various people or interest groups, the more powerful the message shared.
Film is a social media that is driven by emotional appeals. Any use of the medium in other capacities weakens the message and the film’s power to trigger change within its audience. By working around the above mistakes, a filmmaker can influence his ideal audience along with millions more.