I heard today that some people were looking to do some independent film work over the summer. That is awesome. I used a large chunk of last summer working on a script to a feature I am someday looking to put into production. And after seeing 30 films yesterday with varying degrees of success, I would say the weakest link in all of them was story.
My advice? Take two or three times longer working on a story. Develop your characters. Read "Screenplay for Dummies." Anything you can do to become a better writer will only help you. Then, once your story is complete, plan plan plan. Plan some more. And then plan again. Schedule. Make phone calls. Have back ups. Have back ups for your back ups. Then when you have it all figured out, everything will go wrong.
It's inevitable. Even the best laid plans go foul right? It happens. It's almost part of the Hollywood process. But get through, and finish. Once it's in the can, you go back to your schedule. Your pace. Your speed. Take some time off before you start your edit. But take your time with it. If something is going to bother you now it's going to bother you every time you watch it. Re-shoot if you need to, and if you can't, well then hope that all your planning lends itself to a solution that allows you to fix it with what you have on hand.
Promoting is it's own entity and I won't touch upon that here. But show it to as many people as you can. Put it on vimeo. Not youtube, vimeo. Share it with facebook. Tweet the link 1,000 times. Then when you absorb all the positive feedback, analyze the negative feedback. Your parents are going to love it. Your best friend who talked you off the ledge during shooting will love it. Filmbuff95 online will say terrible things. Decide if they're being a jerk for the sake of being a jerk, or if they really have criticism. If they do, learn from it. And when you go to start your next project, you will be astonished at how much you have learned on your own, just by doing.
I started making films in middle school, with an old clunkly VHS camcorder I found in my parents basement used only to capture terrible footage of my brothers and I as babies. I looked at this device, this machine....this tool. I looked at it and wondered why this has only been used to capture a moment in time. Then I thought, "why can't I use this to tell a story?" A story. The heart of all films. So I told stories and in retrospect, terrible ones. But they got better. And better. And better. Once you learn how, you need to learn why. And you will see, every new project you take on, will end up being the best thing you make.
Filmmaking is an art, but a learned art. You can learn it, and you can apply it. Only by doing so as often as possible will you get better. The path of a filmmaker is not easy. It requires a lot of hard work both on the creative side, and the business side. The payoff is only worth it if you enjoy the journey. The artist who makes it big, or has a hit film won't return to the craft if hates the process.
My goal as a teacher is to share this process, and hope that some of you take to it, and love it in your own way. And for those who haven't, no hard feelings. For those who have, awesome! I hope you feel you've been taught well. And what's wonderful, as I heard some of my students say this about 10-Day, is that it was the best video they have made all year...
All I could do was smile, and say, "yeah....until your next one."
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It's Mr. Leonard. Teacher, Videomaker, Professional Goofball