My Filmmaking Laws…
For the last eleven years we, at Berry Productions, have been making films of various subjects, lengths and success. Starting out with short, slapstick, silent comedies starring just ourselves, to our most recent film ‘Wonderful’, which has professional actors, lighting, sound, costume, make-up and all the fancy bells and whistles that come it.
Although our films and our skills have progressed, some things always remain the same. I like to think of it as my own Filmmaking Laws. Like the laws of physics, they cannot be changed. Some things are just meant to be.
So here they are. My Filmmaking Laws (as they currently stand – for new laws are added all of the time!)
If it can go wrong, it will go wrong!
Prepare for the worst… but hope for the best! No matter how much planning you do beforehand, no matter how many people with the highest possible skills you have on-board, it is inevitable that something will go wrong. These are things that are usually beyond your control.
Someone is sick so can’t make it. A vital piece of equipment will suddenly stop working. That location that you had until midnight, is suddenly closing at eight. It pisses it down with rain.
You cannot change any of these things. If they happen, they happen. You need to find a way to work around it and do the best you can. Problems occur. It’s how you deal with them that make you a genius!
There’s no I in Team.
It’s a group effort.
Everyone has great ideas to bring to the table. Be it the sound person having ideas for interesting shots, or an actor expressing thoughts about how their character should move or react. You might not agree with them, and it might not work for what you want in the film, but you still have to take their ideas into consideration, be happy that they had the idea, and let them know nicely why it wouldn’t work. On the other hand their idea might blow your mind and you snap it up in an instant.
And remember that no one on set is better than anyone else. This should be the same in all lines of work. Equality and respect. Peace and love guys. Peace and love.
That Damned First Shot!
One thing we’ve noticed on every film set – the first shot of the day takes the longest to set up! Of course it does. Your actors are warming up, you’re trying to get the right camera angles and light the location. Be prepared for this. It eats up time that you may not have, but you can’t rush it. Once you have that perfect first shot, the rest start to come a little easier. But not too easy… that would be far too… well… easy!
Food + Drink = Happiness.
Film shoots are long and can often be quite boring as there can be a lot of waiting around. There’s nothing that can be done to speed up those long days, but there are ways to make them a bit more bearable. Food and drink are perfect distractions!
Tea, coffee, biscuits, crisps, fizzy pop… anything that isn’t really that good for you will be your best friends on a film set. Breaks are needed, people need to refuel, everyone works better on a full stomach. Don’t forget dinner and lunches as well. Even if it’s just a few sandwiches, people will appreciate it and therefore go the extra mile to help you out.
People are very interested in what you’re doing.
I’m not talking friends. Usually friends couldn’t give two blue monkeys that you’re making another film and shouting about it on Facebook. It’s strangers who will be intrigued.
Most people never come across a film being made, so be ready to answer people’s curiosities when they stumble upon you in the middle of the woods with a group of actors wearing robot costumes.
Your edit will always go over your desired film time.
Making a ten minute short? Your first edit will be a twenty minute masterpiece. We always go by the general rule of one page of script = one minute of film. However, when you start adding action into the scenes, this always changes.
The big question is, do you allow your film to be as long as it tells you it is, or do you tell it how long it has to be. It is very tricky to cut things out of your film, sacrificing that brilliant shot, or that section of oscar-worthy dialogue. But sometimes it is necessary. Look back at your scenes. Anything that isn’t 100% vital to the story you are telling? Maybe it’s time to get rid.
We had this problem when we allowed our 25 minute horror film ‘The Field’ run over to 45 mins. As great as it turned out, we had trouble with many film festivals as it was too long for their scheduling.
You’ve made your film. It is the best thing you have ever seen. Your mum loves it. Yet no bugger is accepting it in any festivals. “Why?” you scream at the heavens, “whyyyy?!?”
Unless you have made something so brilliant that people cannot possible turn it away, or you have jedi mind control, your film will get rejected by someone. It might be that the film doesn’t fit into the festivals criteria that year, or that there is a lot of competition. Or it might just be shit.
No matter what the reason, try not to let it get to you. Shrug it off and move on. Try the next festival and the one after that. If no one wants it, go and make another film and make it even better than the last. Just don’t let it put you off altogether. At least your mum loves it.
Someone will make the ‘porno’ joke.
“What is it you do?”
“Oh I make films.”
Cue predictable blue movie joke. Grin, maybe even chuckle, move on.
I have an auntie who makes the joke every single time she sees me. Admittedly, she’s a bit weird, but she isn’t the only person to ever say that to me. These days I just respond with, “Yes… and I’m looking for actors. Fancy it?”
Needless to say, my auntie probably finds me a bit weird too…
So there you are, just some of my filmmaking laws! Of course there are many more. Any you can think of, pop them in the comments and they too could become part of my law!
Written by Joseph Monahan – writer/director at Berry Productions
Download Joe’s comedy sci-fi book, Intergalactic Terrorist.