Behind the Screens Diary of a Student Filmmaker
By Clinton Little
A Few Guidelines…
If you’re a writer and don’t have children of your own or even a smallish furry domesticated animal to project your procreative instincts upon you come may to regard your words as your babies. You will need to get over it. And fast. Sometimes a favourite scene or a treasured line needs to be sent to the cutting room floor for the sake of expediency. And though it may seem like a cruel exercise in infanticide, as a student filmmaker you are limited for time and resources and if you go over your allotted time limit you will be marked down. Your tutors are not going to sit through a three hour epic, no matter how lovingly crafted, when they have specifically asked for a five minute short.
Have a fall-back option. Say hypothetically you are working on a documentary about a collection of vintage… (let’s call them cars). You have spent countless hours travelling, filming and editing until the owner of said collection decides/realises your preliminary results are unprofessional (though what did he really expect?) and removes access to your subject material before crucial aspects of filming is completed. What do you do? Always have a plan-B in place.
Actors are vain, insecure, and needy; they have huge egos/deep insecurities and are often quite good looking. Though these characteristics may be infuriatingly undesirable in a friend or partner, but if you’re a director they will be the puppets on your strings as they’re also very easy to manipulate. The trick is to alternate between effusive praise and cruelly hacking away at their self esteem which fills them with a confusing mixture of self loathing and furious need to prove themselves, leading critics to praise their “complex and layered” performances.
Be persistent and don’t be afraid to put your ideas out there. If you were a film producer and a nerdy young di- rector came to you with an idea for a film about a short, wrinkly 3000 year old alien obsessed with gardening that gets stranded on earth and just wants to go home it would be difficult to see the potential of such a project. But if Steven Spielberg had doubted himself E.T may never have become one of the most beloved movies of all time.
Filmmaking is a collaborative process. This means that sometimes you’re going to have to work with people that you are not going to like/have no talent/or are doing a screen unit for fun and don’t really care about the finished product. This is to be expected. The flipside to this coin is that you will also meet and work with others with many and varied skills with whom you find you have “creative chemistry”. Nurture these relationships.
Take yourself seriously even when no one else does. If you’re as talented as you think you are, they’ll get it eventually. If not, it may be wise to commit the following phrase to memory.
“Would you like fries with that?”
Originally printed in Metior Issue 1, 2011