Sunday, September 7, 2008

filmmaking tips

1.Write or obtain a great screenplay

The story is vital and is at the top of this list for a reason. Without a good story all your filmmaking efforts will be fruitless. Beautiful lighting, creative camerawork and smooth editing are pointless if the story isn't compelling. Why else would anyone want to watch the movie? Read more about screenplays.

2. Film lighting

The way you light your film significantly affects how your audience perceives it. Using moody lighting with dark shadows in a teen comedy is not advisable; by the same token, your film noir is unlikely to work if there are bright colors and flat lighting. Imaginative and tonally appropriate lighting is crucial to successful filmmaking. Read more about film lighting.

3. Good camerawork

There is good camerawork and there is poor camerawork. Your filmmaking will suffer if your camerawork is poor. Good framing techniques will work wonders for your film. I am convinced - and there is evidence of this in every film - that imaginative camerawork will increase the connection between the audience and your story, whereas weak, bland or unmotivated camerawork will actively hamper the story. There is so much mediocre camerawork around that you may as well err on the side of unusual angles - just make sure that your choices are motivated by the characters and the scene, not by a self-defeating lust for wacky camera angles. Read more about camerawork.
4. Camera movement

This is closely related to the camerawork issue and is in fact a part of it. As with imaginative camera angles, camera movement should be used to draw the audience into the story. This means that camera movement should be motivated by the action and by the characters, not simply by whether the actors are moving or not. Read more about camera movement.

5. Using zoom lenses

Zooming has been much maligned in recent years, but in my opinion this is an over-reaction to its excessive or incorrect use. There is still plenty of use for zoom shots in filmmaking and they are far from obsolete, as demonstrated by the masterful zoom shots of Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg, among others. Read more about the use of zoom lenses in filmmaking.

6. Record good production sound

Poor sound is a major weakness - maybe the major weakness - of independent films. Some professionals claim that audiences can put up with poor image quality if the story is good, but they will never put up with poor sound. I am inclined to agree with this. Accordingly, you should take the sound recording issue seriously. Read more about recording good production sound.

7. Casting

Casting is another issue you cannot afford to get wrong. Casting can be a royal pain, but it is worth the effort as the actors are supposed to breathe life into your characters and miscasting your film can irremediably compromise its success. Read more about casting films.

8. Continuity

Continuity refers to static elements (such as an actor's clothes in a given scene) or dynamic elements (such as a cigarette becoming progressively shorter during a scene). Continuity supervisors ensure that these elements are controlled in such a way that they are consistent with the story when the film is edited - this can be a major issue if the film is not shot in chronological order. Read more about film continuity.

9. Production design

The world of your film must be conceptualized in advance, right down to the color scheme, props, furniture and costumes. You don't turn up to a location and put up with whatever's there - you must decide in advance what color everything should be, what style the furniture should be in, and so on, and prepare accordingly - that's real filmmaking. The reason for this is that the appearance of everything in your movie will affect the viewer's perception of it, and tells the world about how you see things as a film director. Read more about production design.

10. Film editing

Editing - the assembly of different shots aimed at creating a coherent sequence - is an artform that is unique to filmmaking. As a film director you should be totally on top of how film editing works, because if you're not, the film will be a nightmare to edit and will be full of inconsistencies, jump cuts and other distracting mistakes. If you don't understand film editing, the way you shoot scenes and move your actors is bound to cause major difficulties in the editing room. Read more about film editing.

11. Technical directing tips

Follow the 180° rule - don't cross the eyeline unless you know what you're doing. Make your actors walk in and out of shots. Make shot sizes match. Read more about technical directing issues.

12. Role of the 1st assistant director

The director cannot worry about temperamental generators, the actor who is stuck on the 405 or the neighbors who are fed up with your generator's noise. You need an ultra-competent 1st assistant director who will schedule the film shoot according to a sound rationale, push the crew to keep its momentum, and manage problem-solving during the shoot. Read more about the importance of having a good 1st assistant director.

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