In this post, I will talk about the most difficult part of making a film: the creative side. I had intended this to be the last post in this series, but I think I will need to revisit the issue in more detail later.
The first step is to consider the constraints on what you can do. I talked about some of these in Part 7. Consider how much you can afford to spend, how much time do you have and whom can you rely on for help. Your film will need to be doable within those constraints.
To start, look at how long your film will be. You will likely have an upper limit of three to four minutes for the final film. While it is surprising how much you can get into such a short time period, there is a limit. If you have too many ideas, you will not get them all in.
Your film should have one central idea, with three or four ideas that support it. When you develop the film, it is best to come up with far more ideas. Try to get thirty or forty ideas. Before you start to make the film, you will need to trim those ideas down drastically. This approach worked well for me with Who Shot the President. See Part 3 for details.
With the new technology available now it is much easier to make and distribute a film. Making a good film is still just as hard though.
One of the barriers that I’ve struggled with is self-doubt. Just the other day I came across a blog post with some good advice on how to deal with self-doubt.
What do you care about?
You need to care about the film in order to make a good film, so a good place to start to look for ideas is to think about what you care about. Some of my better ideas developed when I came up with examples to help me explain something that was important to me and not while I worked on a film.
Recognize good ideas
When I wrote the previous posts about the films I have done, what struck me was how so much of the “good stuff” was the result of chance. Accidents, adlibs and luck all generated ideas and opportunities. It is a little misleading to say that, because it was the recognition that these random results would help that was important. You can’t just hope for a lucky break. These random events will always come up, but you won’t always recognize them as opportunities.
Whenever something unexpected happens, pause before you reject it, consider if you can use it. Suppress the reaction to think it is wrong. I have tried to adopt the attitude that nothing is wrong until the editor decides they can’t use the shot. A quick, thoughtless, rejection can discourage creative input.
Bounce your ideas off other people
I know many people reject this approach, but I feel that it has been valuable in my own work. As a filmmaker, you are usually disconnected from your audience. The direct response you get will tell you what works and what doesn’t.
Take your time
Many of my films have developed over a long period of time. As you work on a film, new ideas always come along. You will come up with ways around problems.
In the end, you will need to find your own way to create. Everyone one works in different ways. Nevertheless, I hope my advice will get you started on your journey.
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