DON’T NEGLECT THE BASICS. Audiences will forgive a lot of technical flaws in your film if your story is compelling, your actors are engaging or your jokes are funny—but there’s still a threshold point where the technical mistakes start to get in the way. That point is usually when they’re no longer able to clearly see, hear or follow what’s going on. So get to know your equipment, and practice with it. Learn the basics of shot composition. Do your best to record quality sound, and if that’s beyond your means, make a silent movie—there’s too much talking in most movies anyway.
EMBRACE LIMITS. The limitations of teenage filmmaking can often be discouraging. How the hell are you supposed to make a great film when all you’ve got is this crappy camera and your stupid friends? Well, the first step is to change your attitude. There’s an old French filmmaker named Robert Bresson who said, “Someone who can work with the minimum can work with the most. One who can with the most cannot, inevitably, with the minimum.” In other words, you should be celebrating the fact that all you’ve got is a crappy camera and some stupid friends: that means all your solutions to the problems you encounter are going to have to be creative ones, and as Robert Rodriguez wrote, “that can make all the difference between something fresh and different and something processed and stale.”
DON’T GIVE UP. If you haven’t failed at filmmaking yet, then you probably weren’t being ambitious enough. If you have, congratulations; you’re on way to becoming a great filmmaker. Just keep at it, and as Beckett put it, “fail better” next time.
Finally, the über-rule which contradicts all the other ones:
DON’T LISTEN TO ANYONE. Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman famously said of the film world that “nobody knows anything”; and it’s true. That doesn’t mean you should ignore everything anyone tells you, but if you’re really passionate about a project, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Make the film that you want to make—not the film you think people want to see, or the film your teachers or your parents want you to make. Most of all, don’t listen to people who say that you can’t do something, or that what you’re aiming for isn’t possible. I’ve argued above that limitations are your friend, but the types of restrictions that really get in the way are the ones that you let get stuck inside your own head. Who says films have to cost a certain amount, look a certain way, be made a certain way, or contain this element or that one?
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