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13 Great Tips for First-Time Directors from LAFF Filmmakers

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire June 16, 2014 at 12:07PM

With the 20th LA Film Festival now underway (until June 19), Indiewire out questionnaires asking them a variety of questions including what advice they had for aspiring or first-time filmmakers. Here's the best of what they had to say.
1
The Two Faces Of January
"The Two Faces of January"

Making your first film can be a daunting process, to say the least. Advice from filmmakers who have managed to make a film -- and actually get into a film festival -- can be instructive. With the 20th LA Film Festival now underway (until June 19), Indiewire sent out questionnaires to filmmakers with films screening at LAFF asking them a variety of questions including what advice they had for aspiring or first-time filmmakers. Here's the best of what they had to say:

1. "Follow your vision." -- NC Heiken, "Sound of Redemption, The Frank Morgan Story"

2. "Adapt to the environment and the limitations and make them your strong suit in shooting. Don't be so rigid that you feel you have to make it a certain way if all signs point to a better way of shooting a scene. Be creative and adaptable." -- Eric Koretz, "Comet"

3. "If I had to say one thing, it's this: it’s your story, it's your movie. Borrow from the greats, but don’t let anyone tell you how to make or sell your movie. It’s your POV, and therefore will ultimately be best told through your lens. For example, we had a ton of brilliant editors work on this film, but it really became OUR film when we decided to make edits in the movie ourselves; at that point, we learned first hand what the film really could be, and it allowed us to be better collaborators with all these amazing editors and their ideas." - Ravi Patel, "Meet the Patels"

4. "If you are a director, learn the business side. This is freedom." -- Geeta Patel, "Meet the Patels"

5. "Make sure that you consider the look/design of your film as carefully as you consider your script. The looks of your film should back up your characters and story and change during the course of the film just as your characters do." -- Tom Hammock, "The Well"

6. "Seek out relationships with people and organizations that can become invested in your success. There are many opportunities for mentoring both from individuals - some of whom you can work for/learn from - and organizations that have programming set up for filmmakers - be it labs for writing or rough cuts. Finding funds is undoubtedly the hardest thing to get through those relationships, but there's a lot of value tied up in meeting people along your path who can help you reach your goals be it in ways direct and indirect." -- Gabriel London, "The Life and Mind of Mark DeFriest"

"Don't listen to anyone and make your film." -- Mike Ott, "Lake Los Angeles"

7. "I firmly believe that it’s all or nothing. If you are going to start a feature documentary, you better be prepared to sacrifice a lot. And there is no reason, no matter how hard it gets, to let the film go before it’s what you’ve envisioned." -- Blair Dorosh-Walther, "Out of the Night"

8. "Don't be afraid not to know everything. Don't be afraid to ask for advice or help from your cast and crew. The great fear is to appear as if you don't know what you're doing but if you are confident in yourself no-one will think less of you as a director. Confidence in listening to people makes you come across as collaborative not clueless. For me the greatest thing about being a first time director is that, if you let them, people will do everything they can to help you. I'm not sure that happens in a second film where everyone assumes you know what you're doing and are less forthcoming with their advice." -- Hossein

Amini, "The Two Faces of January"

9.
"Work with some experienced crew members who can impart their knowledge of filmmaking, producing, directing and working in a collaborative way. This will make the whole process more enjoyable and probably lead to a better film." -- Thomas Miller, "Limited Partnership"

10.
"I think my one advice for first-time filmmakers who are going into production is: don’t try to cram everything into each day. Be reasonable with your shoot schedule. There are a lot of unknowns on-set that you couldn’t even begin to predict, and having that buffer will allow you to shoot each scene more freely. And if you have time left on the schedule, do another take. It won’t hurt to add it at the end." -- David Au, "Eat With Me"

11.
"Don't write a film because you think it is marketable or commercial. Write what you want to write because you feel passionate about writing it. " --
Damian John Harper, "

Los Ángeles"

12.

"Find the time to do it well even if it means having less crew and equipment. It's easy these days to be seduced by the new hot camera or whatever else but the real substance of any film doesn't depend on the technology you use or how many lights you have. It all comes down to telling a great story and having as much time as you can afford gives you the breathing room to concentrate on what matters." -- Chapin Hall, "Inner Demons"

13.
"Don't listen to anyone and make your film." -- Mike Ott, "Lake Los Angeles"

This article is related to: Filmmaker Toolkit: Festivals, Festivals, LAFF 2014, LAFF, Los Angeles Film Festival





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