Four Lessons in Filmmaking

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I’m currently wrapping up editing on a new short film. Here are four lessons I’ve learned over the years from making movies.

Work with the best people you can afford. And if you can’t afford a great Director of Photography, call in favors and plan to trade services in return. You’ll have to work around others’ schedules but nothing can ever replace working with talented people.

Feedback is critical. And there’s never a shortage of opinions. As the saying goes, everyone’s got one. It may be tempting to seek out as many opinions as you can. But doing so often leaves me at least feeling like I’m drowning in conflicting ideas. I’ve had more success seeking out the advice of two or three trusted friends who understand what I’m trying to do. In the end though, I think we have to learn to trust our own vision, even if others can’t quite see it yet.

Creative endeavors are about crafting something from nothing. This makes them both thrilling and frightening. It’s easy to become unraveled by the unknowing. As I’ve said before, my panic is in direct relationship to the emptiness of my timeline. But being uncertain can also be helpful. It’s in that tension that creative choices are made; it’s here that the brain works out solutions. It’s a hard lesson to relearn each time, but I think that being open to this creative frustration is not only beneficial, it’s part of the process and not a reflection of one’s lack of skills.

Time is your most valuable commodity, particularly when working on a personal project without a deadline. Use it to your advantage. I usually work in bursts, first getting things on to a timeline then waiting a week or two to revisit my work. That way I have the advantage of distance to measure what I’ve done. I keep up this pattern until I finish.

But no matter how you work, it’s important to realize that in most cases with personal work it doesn’t matter if you release your project this month or next. With time on your side, make sure you’re efforts are ready for the world. But more importantly, make sure you are as satisfied as you can be.