indie filmmaking

5 Mistakes Young Directors Make

Back when I was a fresh tutti frutti blogarista I used to scour the numbers religiously. Add a numeral to your title and witness a spike in your page views. It’s why Eliot Grove runs such a successful site at Raindance. He knows. He actually also writes really short concise excellent pithy posts and is a mildly unsung champion of UK independent film, but he understands. Yes. He does. Salute.

So, here’s me juicing my blog. Fuck it.

1. Social Media success is no marker for directing ability. 

Many’s the fool who blindly follows the Blooms and Laforets, tirelessly tweaking the social media sphere. Cosying up to those with the numbers, generating interest, only to follow up with a gusset ruining ejective fricative mess. Really good directors are so obsessed with the product that they simply avoid all that shit. What do they know? That good will out. That when something is genuinely great it will rise to the top. So, beware that shouting voice in the social mediasphere that wants all to know how hard it’s worked, how many people it’s pulled in. No. Beware the quiet ones that don’t shout. They’ll be winning awards while you wonder where it all went wrong. You just want the fame that comes with being good at something. Fuck off and be a publicist.

2. You don’t know shit about writing.

You are a director. Wow. Yeah, amazing! Maybe you know someone with a 5D? Now they’re a cinematographer and you’re going to rule the world together. Who’s going to write the story you’re going to rule with? Um… Yeah, you’ll do it! Wow, you turned a 10 page script out in a couple of hours. Let’s go shoot! Everyone and his dog faced shit partner bleat about story being everything but they have no idea what story actually is. When you’re young you don’t know shit about writing unless you’re incredibly talented. That shit is about lines on your soul, it’s about experience. A script on the page is just words and means nothing till it’s shot, till it’s edited, till it’s re-edited, rediscovered, then reworked to create the final piece. Young directors think they can just write shit and it’s the directing they’re really focussing on. Bollocks. You do not know anything about writing. And you won’t till you have shot a ton of shit and seen the worthless mirages of your dreams dissolve into nothing upon the sands of real production.

3. You won an award? Who cares?

It would appear that every filmmaker these days is an award-winning filmmaker. It’s like electric windows in cars. It used to mean something but now you’d be deeply disappointed if even the very bottom of the range didn’t come with it. BAFTA, OSCAR, Clermont Ferrand, Venice, Berlin, Cannes, and a few others. That’s what anyone cares about. The Norfolk farmers filmmaking 60 second iPhone single shot camel birthing award you won. Get fucking real. One glance at your reel and anyone worth their salt will see you for the fraud that you are. Get real.

4. Moving around a lot is not directing

Many’s the young director that believes moving around and being really visible makes them a director. We’re talking about shoots of course. Actually, so much of your work is done before and after your shoot that the shoot itself should be both the end and the beginning of two stages of discovery. In that moment your energy is best disposed of by thinking. Wear yourself out by acting like a producer, being everywhere, being the life and soul of the party and you’ll fuck it up. You don’t have to be popular, you don’t have to be everyone’s friend, you don’t have to be the grip’s best friend and keeping the set on a high. No. You have to make decisions. And the right ones. Stop trying to be popular, because directors are rarely the most popular people. If you want to be popular be a runner. Everyone loves them.

5. Don’t be in such a fucking hurry

A while back I read an article about the quarter life crisis. Twenty year olds, perplexed and intimidated by the early rampant success of their peers such as Justin Timberlake, question their own meagre achievements in their early twenties and conclude they must be horribly deficient. Fuck me. Filmmaking is a trade craft like any other. You must serve an apprenticeship. You must put some miles on the clock. If success comes early to directors it is in fact incredibly rare for them to go on to prolonged careers. A slow steady progression is much more the norm. Paul Thomas Anderson is a notable exception but then he is notably exceptional. Similarly Wes Anderson. Why be in such a hurry to shoot a feature? Spend time building relationships with young production designers, cinematographers, actors, writers and others who all want to work like you do. Take those relationships with you and you will flourish. But don’t kid yourself that at 25 you’re going to make an amazing feature film. You most likely won’t. And that’s okay too. Take your time. For God’s sake.

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