10 Steps to Becoming a Better Filmmaker

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Whether you want to pursue filmmaking as a hobby or want to be the next Spielberg, getting started can be difficult.  Here are some tips that might help you ease into starting to become a great filmmaker.

1. Writing is Your Best Friend

Filmmaking begins and finishes with the writing process. It can be a simple idea as any, but make sure you write it down. It’ll be the first and necessary step to take it. In addition, when you write your ideas down you give them room to breathe and grow in what will hopefully become the final idea for the film. Writing is a space you create for yourself as a filmmaker to experiment. Think of writing as your lab, and you’re able to afford and resolve most mistakes there as opposed to experience them on the field.

2. Story First, Gear Second

One of the most common mistakes beginner filmmakers make is worrying more on what gear they are filming with rather than the story itself. If you have access to a nice camera, it will definitely raise the quality of the cinematography, but if that’s a luxury you cannot afford, don’t worry. What makes a great film is the story it’s telling. So don’t concern yourself so much with trying to spend a lot of money on expensive gear over actually having a good story. Even if you just have access to a phone or a point and shoot camera, that’ll be everything you need to begin filming. Remember, story is king.

3. Build Your Team

Making a film is one big collaboration. Get your friends, family or even the old lady at the grocery store to act in your movies. Get comfortable with getting people to help you make your film. If you don’t have any friends or family who can help you, reach out to your local high school or college. For the most part, educational centers will have some sort of artistic program, and even hopefully a filmmaking department of some sort. Find people and explain your idea in order to get them excited to work with you. If all else fails, you can be your own team. There are always ways to tell the story you want to tell with the resources you have available.  

4. Choosing a Location

Now that you have your story, camera and crew all ready to go, you might be wondering, “Where can I shoot this?” There are a couple of different factors that you should consider when choosing a location to film. Here are some of them:

  • Weather – Make an effort to find a location where there aren’t any extreme conditions. Even if you’re OK with harsh weather, your film equipment and crew might not be on your side.
  • People – If you’re shooting a film about a man’s battle against nature, and you accidentally capture a family in the background having a picnic, it might hurt the integrity of the film. Being aware of your surroundings will greatly help you avoid small problems that will essentially grow into big problems.
  • Lighting – Having good light for a film is a must. Daylight will be the best type of lighting you can get. However, if you chose to film under low light conditions or at night, make sure to bring any form of lighting equipment. You won’t be able to shoot any quality content without good lighting.  
  • Ease of Access – Choose a location that won’t require too much effort to carry your gear and if necessary travel with your crew. With only so many useful hours in a day, not worrying about how you’ll get there will relieve pressure.
  • Cinematic Place – On top of having the basic needs in a location, choose an interesting location. Find places that will add value to your production. Whether it be a landmark, buildings, nature or another element that makes the scene more attractive without compromising the story, pursue it.

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5. Choosing Your Video Editing Software

At this point you will have finished shooting your film and are ready to begin editing the footage. There are a lot of reputable video editing software like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas. You should begin editing your footage with easy, user-friendly software before diving into the professional editing software. At first glance it might be intimidating looking at these if you haven’t used them, but with time you’ll get familiar with the format. Below is a list of beginner’s video editing software that will help you ease into the final step before publishing your film:

  • Windows Movie Maker
  • Adobe Premier Elements
  • Corel VideoStudio Pro X6
  • Sony Movie Studio Platinum Suite 12
  • CyberLink PowerDirector 11 Ultimate

 

6. Jack of All Trades, Master of All

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Filmmakers are almost like secret government agents. You need to know many skills, quickly adapt to new situations and develop resilience for the harsh environments you are put into. The biggest responsibility when directing a film is to make sure everything the audience sees and hears is to the highest quality it can be. In order to do so, you will need to inform yourself on everything that goes into making a film. This will ultimately shape you into a better filmmaker. Knowing more about things like acting, lighting, writing, costume design, make up, sound and every other aspect of film will lead you closer to mastery of this art.

7. Taking Control

When you begin filmmaking there are going to be a lot of things that will take away from your control. Climate, gear malfunction, crewmembers and many other elements might work against you. How you deal with that is going to be a determining factor in the completion of your film. Having a good attitude is something that will help you execute properly whenever being confronted by a big problem. You need to adapt and be willing change the script, picking up all your gear and going to a different location or even reassign roles in your crew. With any resistance being met, you need to think of how that will affect the overall project as opposed to a temporary solution.

8. Film Everything

When you don’t know where to start, start everywhere. This isn’t a rule, but it should be an exercise in order to give you momentum. There will always be different ways to tell a story, so if you get stuck in the process of filming, go back to the basics. One of those basics is filming everything. By doing so, it’s like dribbling a basketball, even though you don’t know where or when you’ll shoot for the basket, you’re at least dribbling. It’ll get your creative juices flowing and help you develop discipline to pick up a camera.

9. Edit Every Single Day

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When you complete shooting and directing your film, you still have post production to tackle. One of those tasks is the editing of your footage. Forming a habit of editing every single day, even if it’s a very small video, will make you a better storyteller. Having many good ideas, but in a bad order will essentially ruin the story. It’s imperative to learn organization and composition as a filmmaker. Without it, the stories will not drive the audience forward and you will notice people losing interest.

10. Fun is Good

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The last, but most important step to becoming a better filmmaker, is to remind yourself to have fun. If you don’t have fun while doing all of this, you won’t be able to sustain the tedious and tiring processes that you have to go through. In order to maintain the integrity and quality of work, especially around your crew, you need to express enjoyment. Falling into a full on work mode, although many times necessary, can also be detrimental to the final product. Enjoy doing it and your story will come from a real place causing your audience to have a genuine connection to your creation.

 

Finishing Statement

Finally, you will always have many options to choose for video editing software, camera gear or shooting location, but the most important step is to begin the journey. Instead of focusing on your limitations, create through your action and capabilities.

 

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