This weekend I spent 48 intense hours making a short film; I co-wrote the script and watching it come to life was incredibly gratifying. Filmmaking is an inherently collaborative experience that affords plenty of opportunities to learn on the job; as Edward Zwick so concisely put it: ‘being a filmmaker is the opportunity to remain a kind of perpetual student’.
I’ve put together a list of the main five things I learned this weekend. The main thing I learned, however, was that 12 people coming together and making a film isn’t impossible – it’s a valuable and worthwhile experience.
I urge you to try it sometime.
5 crucial lessons to be learned from being on a film set:
5. Be Adaptable
Adaptation is the key to survival. The same goes for working on a film set, too. While I started out as a writer for our short film, I ended up going on to be a script supervisor, stills photographer and a runner. We actually had an incident during the start of our project where a girl refused to come back because she wasn’t assigned the role she’d have liked – consequently, she missed out on the rest of the project.
Being adaptable and open to new roles and ideas is key to surviving (and getting the most out of) a filmmaking experience.
Listen to each other; listen to your environment; listen to your instinct.
There’s so many virtues that come from taking a step back from your opinions for a moment and listening. On a film set, there’s a lot of ego’s concentrated in one place – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. So long as you respect others and value their opinions, as well as voicing your own, you can’t go too far wrong.
3. Have a Sense of Humour
While this may seem a little trivial, filmmaking requires long hours; long hours lead to tiredness, grouchiness and irritability. If you have a decent sense of humour and the ability to crack a joke every now and then, the long hours won’t affect you as much. Not everyone is going to get along, but that’s life. Get on with it or find a new profession.
I’ve found that the majority of people who I’ve met from the filmmaking world, the best are all down-to-earth hard-workers who know when to make light of things at the right moment. It makes film sets a fun place to work – honest!
2. Dress Appropriately
You don’t realise how cold you will get standing on location for a few hours. While the sun may shine, the cold will chill you down to your bones. Many of us learned the hard way on the first day. It’s safe to say everyone came prepared for day two!
Invest in a decent coat/jacket and a comfortable pair of shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. A film set is not a fashion show – you need to be prepared. That’s not to say you can’t buy a fashionable jacket or a snazzy pair of sunglasses – so long as they’re fit for purpose, you’re fine!
1. Be Prepared
In my limited experience, you literally can’t be too prepared. If you have a car, fill the boot with things you may need: wellies, umbrellas, tripods, spare batteries – anything! Stuff your rucksack with anything and everything that you may need because even if you don’t, someone else will. I brought a tangle of chargers along to our film set and every single one was needed at some point.
On a film set, every eventuality may come to pass – you can never come too prepared. Our mentor for the project, filmmaker Magali Pettier, hailed duct tape as a filmmaker’s best friend.
Be prepared, and you won’t regret it.
And there you have it, 5 lessons from a film set.
While I was working on a student-led film this weekend, these lessons will surely will set you up for a professional venture into filmmaking. It’s a tough industry, but one that is undoubtedly rewarding.
Good luck out there, fellow filmmakers.
Thanks for reading!