Last year, I got tired of calling myself an aspiring filmmaker; I got tired of staying in my comfort zone; I stepped out and made my first film. It was scary at first, I mean, aside writing scripts, I knew nothing about filmmaking. But with the help of some friends who were amateur filmmakers, we were able to create something.
You can watch my first film here
You see, even though I made a lot of mistakes while shooting the movie, I finally moved from being just an aspiring filmmaker to an amateur filmmaker. And now, I can comfortably call myself a filmmaker.
As an upcoming filmmaker, making mistakes is not the end of your filmmaking career. It’s only when you make mistakes that you can learn. So, be free to make all the mistakes you want and learn from them. You know why? Because making mistakes is part of the creative process of the learning experience.
You know what they say, “Practice makes perfect”. Just be consistent in what you do. But then, sometimes it is better to learn from the mistakes of others and avoid it at all cost. From my experience, I will share some of the serious common mistakes that amateur filmmakers make. This is your chance to be smart and learn from it.
1. Weak Story
You know what they say, “Story is king”. Without a story, there is no film to be made. In filmmaking, getting your story ready is usually the first and most important thing to do. Bearing in mind that story is everything, if you delve into a project with a bad script, there is no doubt that you will be left with a bad film. So take your time to write a good story. No rush. I know you are done with your first draft but most of the time; your script needs a second or even a third draft and then the final polish. So sit your butt down and craft that story very well. Make sure your story has a good structure.
2. Bad sound
Have you ever tried watching a movie without the sound? If yes, were you able to understand anything? Did the movie make sense to you? Did you feel the intensity of the movie? I doubt if you did because sound is as important as visuals. A veteran filmmaker once told me that having a good sound is more important than having good images. So first things first, make sure that your actors are being heard. And the best way to do this is by using an external microphone. Remember, bad sound, makes the film annoying.
3. Poor casting
This was one of the mistakes I made in my first film. Because I lacked the funds to hire professional actors, I had to call my friends to come act for me. Though it was fun but they didn’t really pull off their role well. They ended up making the project look amateurish. I wouldn’t want you to repeat this mistake.
See, I know it is easy to get your friends and relatives to come participate in your movie and it might sound fun but you should seriously consider getting real actors. I mean, people that are passionate about acting. There are many actors out there that are in dire need of these opportunities and trust me; most of them are ready to volunteer in order to get a good demo reel in exchange. Professional actors are much better than your siblings, cousins, and friends. Trust me!
4. Too much dialogue
Don’t just have your characters chit chatting. It kills the vibe in your movie. One important rule in screenwriting is “Don’t tell, show!.” So, don’t just have your characters talking endlessly, it will probably get your audience rolling their eyes. Always set your characters in motion. But remember not to overdo it. not all scenes require action.
5. Poor shot composition
Cinematography is as important as sound and lighting in filmmaking. Having poor shot composition means having dead spaces which are areas in a particular scene where no activity is taking place. Having much dead spaces makes the scene lack depth and balance. Perfect and professional shot composition means having a perfect framing for each shot and the best way to do this is to focus your visual attention on the centre of interest in your pictures. Make sure that the backgrounds you are using do not steal attention from your subject.
6. Bad sound effect and using the wrong music;
Sound effects help convince your audience that what they are seeing is real. It equally adds depth to the scene. When a sound or music does not match a scene, it makes the scene uninteresting. So, make effort to add rich, appropriate and high quality sound effects to your film.
7. Lack of preparation
This was one of the mistakes I made when I made my first film. I was so much in a hurry to make my film that I didn’t do enough preparation. I didn’t print out the script, or study my story to know which shots I should use in a scene. So, when I got to the movie set, I was totally confused on where to start from. To all amateur filmmakers out there, make sure you do enough preparation before delving into filmmaking – print out your script as many copies as you want, study your story, visualize it so as to have an idea the camera angle to use, get your props and equipments ready.
8. Talking too much
Most amateur filmmakers just keep talking about how they are going to make their movies without doing anything. Stop talking about making films and just go make films. Stop daydreaming about making big budget movies – you can start with what you can afford.
The truth is that no filmmaker is perfect, especially when you are just new to the field. But, the experience of making short films is one of the most effective ways to grow out of these mistakes. The best way to get good at anything is by constant practice. So, make more of short films and enter them for festivals. That way, you are putting yourself out there.
That said, I wish you the best in your filmmaking career.