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Why Aspiring Filmmakers Should Watch Films Without Sound

Those who are familiar with my filmmaking pedagogical philosophy know that I advise all filmmakers to achieve full mastery of film editing. I have explained why in some detail in my posts on the requisite qualities of filmmakers and film editing techniques. The key components of that learning process are study and practice. I covered […]

Essential Camerawork Exercises for Aspiring Filmmakers

Improving your camerawork skills and, as an indirect benefit, sharpening your ability to get the results you want from your crew quickly — that is what this post is about. I will describe some exercises that you can do to move towards those goals. As with my editing exercises, all you will need is a […]

Essential Editing Techniques and Exercises for Filmmakers

Quality filmmaking is first and foremost about skills. It is the development of those skills that adds value to a filmmaker; technical skills, aesthetic skills, communication skills. The pursuit of these skills is the intelligent filmmaker’s foremost priority. This article describes a number of editing exercises that you can do with equipment you already have […]

Professional Development and Self-Improvement for Filmmakers

This article deals with professional development for filmmakers: activities that will add value to your employability and effectiveness as a director. Find a good 1st AD, build a solid working relationship and learn as much as you can Low-budget independent filmmaking is famously tiring and stressful, but it wouldn’t be so ridiculously exhausting if filmmakers […]

The Short Film Production Strategy for Ambitious Filmmakers

This post is about planning and directing short films in such a way as to extract maximum career benefit from them. I wrote it specifically for filmmakers who are ambitious and strategic; everyone else will probably find it very calculating and career-driven, which is totally okay with me. The premise here is that filmmakers make […]

20 Fascinating Filmmaking Facts

1. James Cameron’s contempt for studio executives While shooting “The Abyss,” James Cameron became very irritated when a studio executive showed up in his suit and limousine, expecting to boss James Cameron around. Cameron smoothly slipped a diving helmet on the executive’s head and closed the seal, letting the executive flail around for a bit, […]

How to Shoot Awesome Track-In Shots: a Detailed Guide for Filmmakers

This post is about shooting the perfect track-in shot. In a track-in shot, the camera moves in on the subject. The classic track-in shot starts with a frontal medium shot of an actor and the camera moves in to end on some sort of close-up. This has nothing to do with zooming – the camera […]

Your Film’s Flavor: the Importance of Tone in Filmmaking

Have you ever wondered why some films gel together so well while others go horribly wrong after a promising start? Mistakes made in the management of tone in filmmaking often cause the spectacular failure of films at the box office. This article is about the importance of your film’s tone. If you don’t get this […]

How to Direct Actors and Get Amazing Performances in Your Film

This post will cover some advanced tips on working with actors: casting them, directing them and managing them. As always, these tips are based on my own hard-earned practical experience. Casting: go for the absolute best (and learn to recognize it) I have already shared some basic tips on the process of casting actors on […]

Directing TV Commercials: Practical Tips and Advice

Directing TV commercials involves more than just shooting a 30-second movie: there are some critically important issues that normally do not arise in feature films. In this post I will share some tips that are specific to shooting 30-second commercials or any film/video project that must have a short and very specific length. You must […]

How to Frame Over-the-Shoulder shots: a Detailed Guide, with Pretty Pictures!

In this post I will deal with framing over-the-shoulder shots, a skill that every filmmaker ought to have in the toolbox. What’s the big deal with over-the-shoulder shots? Over-the-shoulder shots are considerably more laborious to frame correctly than other shots, such as close-ups, because it is not enough to frame the subject correctly – the […]

The Big Camera Question for Independent Filmmakers

“Which camera should I use?” This is one of the questions I am asked most frequently, and the time has come to address this issue once and for all. First things first: camera shopping has nothing to do with being a filmmaker. In this post I will write about why you need to start shooting […]

The Film Marketability Reality Check

Before you pour your heart and soul into your next film, make sure that you will be able to convince people to watch it when it’s finished! Filmmakers tend to be very bitter about the concept of film marketability – the result of repeated rejections from sleazy distributors and similar characters. That is a shame, […]

A Detailed Breakdown of a 30-second TV Spot (with diagrams)

In this post I will provide a detailed breakdown of a 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) I made in 2005 for a competition. We shot the spot on a bitterly cold night in November 2005 in Oxford, UK.  The spot is set in an exterior night location and we therefore had no choice but to […]