Making a film can be difficult at the best of times. There’s usually not enough money, not enough time or not enough crew members. It can be stressful. But it can also be fun and enjoyable, it all depends on how your approach it though. So here are a few tips of mine to make the process the best it can be.
I had a teacher who was obsessed with the phrase ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. It annoyed us on an almost daily basis, but she was right. As long as you do all your preparations, the process will be a lot smoother and you’ll be able to deal with problems (because, yes, there are always problems) much more easily. ‘Preparations’ generally mean paperwork, so get busy with your scene breakdowns, risk assessments, call sheets and lists!
2. Get the Right People
So, on the surface, this might seem pretty obvious. However, you’d be amazed at the number of people I see hiring crew members because they worked on the last Bond film. Personally, I don’t take much of that into consideration. I’m honestly happier if that person has only done one other short film, but gets along with everyone. One of the biggest problems a film can face is the crew not getting along, so make that your primary focus when hiring people.
3. Make Sure the Script is Realistic
Now I don’t mean ‘would they actually be in that café? I mean, really?’ I mean make sure the script is realistic to what you can do. If it’s got a dream sequences that features the lead floating through a world made of sequins, you have to think realistically. It you can’t make that happen with your budget, then you’ll have to change it from the very start of the process.
4. Know Your Crew
Find out where they’re travelling from, their likes and dislikes (working, not just whether they like Love Island or not), any health issues and any allergies. Make sure you keep a list of all these things, and factor them in when planning the shoot. If you’ve got three vegan crew members then you’ll need to think about that in advance. If you’re buying meal deals from the local Tesco, there might not be any vegan options and you can’t afford to chance it on the day. *Fun fact: a vegan crew member told me that on one shoot, he got half an avocado for his lunch. The other half went to the other vegan crew member*. Plan meals ahead, trust me.
5. Don’t Forget to Factor In Post
It’s an easy mistake to make, which is why I don’t want you to make it. So you’ve got your budget, you’ve got enough money for everything, it all seems to be going well. Until you get to post-production. Sometimes this isn’t an issue, but sometimes the white balance was slightly off for one day, or the sound isn’t right and you’ll need to do ADR. Sometimes you don’t realise how expensive or time-consuming a certain special effect will be, so research it! Don’t just presume that you can pay an editor £150 and that will be it. Think about the whole script, and then think about the whole post-production process. Don’t get caught out. There’s nothing worse than a film’s completion being delayed because you’ve had to go over budget on post.
6. Think About the End Goal
I don’t mean the goal of having a finished film. I mean the goal of where you want the film to go after you’ve finished it. Do you want a festival release or an online release? Which is best suited to this film? If you want a festival release, which festivals will you submit to? It’s no use generalising, or saying you want to submit to ‘all the BAFTA qualifying festivals’, because your film won’t suit all of them and you’ll be wasting money. Let me put it this way: would you apply for a job when you were not at all suited to it? They’ve specified a graduate with expertise in Excel spreadsheets, and you’ve got three A Levels and and an ICT GCSE. Not only are you under-qualified, you’re just wrong for the job. You wouldn’t apply for that, because you won’t get it and you’re wasting time. It’s the same with festivals. They have different audiences, different themes, different things they are looking for, so you can’t just blanket them. So find the festivals that are best suited to your film’s themes and target audiences. Then total up the submission costs, and add it to the budget. It may seem weird to think about distribution before you’ve even started making the film, but you always have to be thinking about the end goal.
So there you have it!
Those are my 6 unavoidable tips to help you make the best film you can. I learned some of these the hard way, so hopefully you won’t have to. What are some of the things you’ve learned the hard way? Let me know in the comments, and we can get a whole ‘here’s what I learned’ discussion going!