Learning from Your Filmmaking Mistakes

I remember when I made my first film with an actual crew of like-minded people. Other people who shared a passion, or at the very least an interest, in filmmaking. I was a sophomore in college.

It all came together. I got my crew and my actors and we got to set early one morning and worked all day long to get the right shots. We filmed another day for exterior shots and also had a couple of sessions of voiceover work. My editor and I worked many hours in a small cramped dorm room. Then came the day when we screened the filmed. I was very proud of the piece. It had all come together and now I had an audience.

At the time of the screening I thought the film was great. In retrospect and further reflection I have come to the conclusion that it was not. It is filled with continuity errors and poor direction from myself. I take full responsibility with how the final product came out. Why? I was trying to do too much at once. I was the camera operator and the director. Now since this experience I have gotten better at multi-tasking, but at the time I had no idea how to do both at the same time. I wasn’t paying attention to the actors’ performances. Instead I was paying more attention to how I was framing the shot or how I was moving the camera. I neglected the important things. I was neglecting what was actually happening in the shot. The result? Errors. Lots of errors.

Despite the fact that I can no longer watch my first film, (I cringe too much at my rookie mistakes), I am happy I made those mistakes. I learned from them. Each film I’ve made since then have gotten better. That is what every beginning filmmaker should grasp. You’re going to make mistakes right out of the gate. Expect it. Don’t dwell on it. I could’ve easily thrown in the towel after that first short film. I didn’t. I saw it as a challenge to keep going, to make more films and to get better. I realized that I had to pay just as much attention to what was going on in the scene as I was to how the framing was. A couple of films later I even had someone else operate the camera. In fact, I highly recommend you get someone else to operate the camera for you so you can focus most of your attention onto the actors.

Even if you’re not multi-tasking on your first film like I was, you will make mistakes. I still make them and I am still learning. The mistakes are of a lesser extent now and I am growing as a filmmaker. Take each mistake as a learning opportunity and move forward. Correct the mistakes and progress forward as a filmmaker. Don’t expect to be perfect right away. Of course there is a possibility, anything is possible. The likelihood, however, is that you’re going to screw up some aspect of your first few films. The great thing about screwing up? It gives you a reason to keep creating, to keep trying to top yourself and to keep getting better. That should be every filmmaker’s goal.



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