As there is really no clearly defined path to success in this business anymore, learning, even a little bit, from someone else’s, or more accurately in this case, ‘my’ mistakes, can be extremely valuable, and it will hopefully help you avoid a lot of the more obvious pitfalls and arrive at your destination, namely - a completed film, relatively unscathed and even a bit triumphant.
So here is a little of what not do do, based upon my encyclopaedic like experience in doing things wrong.
Don't believe anyone other than yourself.
That sounds a horrible doesn't it! But what I really mean is don't believe that anyone else will be as passionate, driven, inspired by or excited about your project as you are. It's all very wonderful when your friends or colleagues sit googley eyed listening with seemingly obvious rapture to your pitch, but even though they nod and smile in all the right places, they may well be thinking about their dinner plans, or the next Instagram pic they are planning on posting rather than really falling in love with your idea. You can and should only put your faith and energy in your project, not other people. Because when the poop hits the borrowed fan, it is your project and yours alone, and you can hardly blame them for wanting to sleep in on a Sunday rather than show up at dawn on long beach break water to hold a broomstick boom pole.
Don't spend a lot of money.
People always tell you that you have to have the latest camera, or hire a cinematographer, or pay a script doctor or heaven forbid, pay for a permit!
Don't listen to them. They are wrong.
You can make a film with the change in your sofa, or for the price of a frappuccino, or how much it costs to go to the cinema, buy stale popcorn, watery soda, see something disappointing and get gut ache. You might not be able to make something that is two hours long and have flying saucers or dragons actually on screen, but then that's so last decade! What you need most of all to make a film is the absolute love for it.
Don’t think you can do without…
Without rehearsal, without the best actors you can muster, without a shot list, without lights, without locations, and especially without time.
The biggest mistakes are made when you don’t care enough about what you are doing.
This is your film, your project, your time and effort and vision.
Make it as important as it should be. Rehearse, be organised and whatever you do don’t cheat yourself of the most valuable asset you have, time. Give yourself plenty of it, don’t rush anything, there’s no need to. I am so guilty of this myself. After all the planning and writing and casting and arranging, when you finally get to the day of shooting, it’s so easy to say, “that will do” when you know deep down it won’t. I am not sufficiently qualified to tell you why we do this, I’m a filmmaker, not a psychiatrist, but we all do. We short change ourselves where it counts. So, take it from someone who has done this over and over and did exactly the same thing again last weekend, don't rush it.
Don’t give up. Sounds trite I know, but it can be a lot easier to say “what’s the point,” than keep the momentum going after a while. But there is a point, and it is that you can make something wonderful, something that you will have the time of your life working on and once you make your first something wonderful, your first film, the next one will be a lot easier I can promise you, and probably a lot better too!
Picasso also said “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.”
Some of the most authentic and perfect films are the ones most childlike in their naivety and honesty. This works brilliantly for low budget filmmakers, and especially for the inexperienced. So embrace your beginnings, shake of the paralysing concept that you don’t know what you are doing, and do and do and do.