Okay bastards, you know our Featured Filmmakers bust out a Top 10 list every week. They have ranged from best special effects (Dustin Mills) to the top she’s-so fucking-cool-moments-in-film (The Soska Twins). Our Featured Filmmaker this month is doing all you indie filmmakers in training a solid and pounding out some advice. This guy has been in the business a while working a number of disciplines so he knows what he’s talking about. This is some good stuff, dig it!





Top 10 mistakes



of micro-budget filmmaking….



There are more than this… but here are the top 10 mistakes I have experienced and have seen others experience.




1. Casting Lovers




This may seem like an obvious one. But trust me, it is easy to fall into this trap. Myth : If they are already lovers, they will have the chemistry needed to play lovers on screen. Fact : They will fight and break up on the day you need this chemistry to be love, and they will get back together the day you need them to fight. They will not be able to separate the real emotions from the needed emotions. This will screw you EVERY TIME.





2. Casting Friends & Family




Unless your friend or family is Megan Fox or Jennifer Love Hewitt (If your friend or family is Jennifer Love Hewitt, please introduce me) Don’t cast them. They will bring nothing to the film. Hire actors. There are millions of them that want to act for free and will pour everything they have into your project. They will feel a need to prove themselves. Family and friends will feel like they have nothing to prove and won’t work as hard…. and chances are they will suck as an actor. Your career is on the line here. You can’t risk it. Hire professionals.




3. NOT Casting to the role




You are making a micro-budget feature. You don’t have time for actors to get into their roles, or find their emotions. You are shooting 9 – 15 pages a day. These guys need to nail it in the first 2 takes. Because you need to get coverage of your scene. Cast people that closely resemble who the character is in real life. This will save you time and money.




4. Too Many Actors & Locations




Big mistake I have made time and time again is not writing characters out of a film or merging two characters into one. More actors mean more time in hair / makeup / wardrobe… More mouths to feed…. More money. Same goes with locations. Find ways to combine characters and locations. This will be an enormous cost savings…. and will ultimately button up your story making a better film.




5. NOT Hiring a DP




Put your money on the screen. Hire a REAL Director of Photography that has shot low-budget and made it look good. NOT your neighbor who has a 7D. Your DP will make or break your film. He is the one that will light your scenes, paint with that light, make your film look like a movie and not a home video. Your shots will be in focus and will look like a REAL MOVIE. Myth : If I shoot on a 7D and everything is out of focus it looks like film. Fact : Real movies are NOT out of focus…. and the operators NEVER search for focus mid shot… if they do…. they do another take.




6. NOT Hiring an audio guy




We have all seen the ads, blogs, and forums of people talking about how to do audio yourself… you buy a handheld recorder and run a shotgun mic into it and you are set right? Well, technically yes. But the reality never seems to play out like that. With no one monitoring the audio and manning the gear, you will have no one to even know if there is a problem, much less fix the problem when it arises. (Note, I said when NOT if) We have all sat in festivals watching films and the picture is beautiful and the audio is just jacked up. Immediately we tune the film out. Why? the audio and picture go hand in hand. Bad Audio = Bad film.

I guarantee you that guy bought an audio recorder and a shotgun mic and did it himself. Little Secret : Hire an audio guy that also does audio post. This way, if anything happens to the audio… he is the one that will have to “fix it in post”. This guy will let nothing slip by. You will not regret this expense. A professional audio guy will also bring a slate to the table, will keep shot logs and more…. this stuff is invaluable when you get to post.




7. Skimping on food




Don’t skimp on food. Do it right. Box lunches are fine. Small catered meals are good as well. Just make sure there is enough for EVERYONE to eat and to be full. You don’t want them stuffed, because they won’t be able to work after…. but if the crew (that you aren’t paying) is hungry – they won’t work…. and if they do…. their work will suffer.




8. Wasting money




I know this sounds stupid. But it is very close to being the most important thing here. The 3 most important things to spend money on : Picture (hire a DP and the lights he needs), Audio (hire an audio guy), and Food. Everything else you should prioritize. If it is going to cause you to have to cut one of the top 3, it isn’t worth it. Rewrite, rework, whatever you have to do. The Picture, Audio and Food are not where you save money…. That is where your movie is made.




9. Schtooping your actress




This is a biggie. Don’t direct a movie to land a hot actress. Just wait till you finish production. Once things go south in your new found relationship all hell will break loose on set. Not to mention there will be all kinds of rivalry that will break out on set between the actresses once it is known that there is a “favorite”. Focus on making your movie. Once you finish it. Screen it. Sell it. Walk a Red Carpet or two… you will have plenty to choose from that will have no chance of ruining your already completed film.




10. NOT Storyboarding




This is hands down the most important step in micro-budget filmmaking. You will be working with no money so that means no time. No time means you have to know the ins and outs of the script, the set, the actors, the crew, you need to know the limitations of the camera, the set, the actors…. everything before you go in. Storyboard and go over it with your DP. Make sure he/she knows what you are trying to achieve. There will be no time for mistakes. And when the mistakes / mishaps come…. together you can problem solve and achieve as close to excellence as possible.


Dov Simens says… If you can’t direct a pencil, how are you going to direct a camera, crew, actors, etc. This is incredible advice. It doesn’t have to be comic book ready artwork… stick figures work just fine. But you have to make sure the shots you are going to get, are going to cut together. Just pick up the pencil and draw the boards. You are defining the angles, coverage… it will help you understand and break down your script on a whole new level. When you are done… You will know your film inside and out. And when things start to fall apart, you will be much more prepared to figure out how to fix it.



Was I right or what? Dude knows his shit. Thanks again to Paul for writing that up, we all appreciate it. You can check out our Q&A with the man himself here:









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