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The Best and Worst Advice LAFF Filmmakers Have Ever Received

Photo of Eric Eidelstein By Eric Eidelstein | Indiewire June 18, 2014 at 1:3PM

Indiewire had the opportunity to interview some of the filmmakers who showed films at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival. The interviews are part of the How I Shot That series, where many of these filmmakers were eager to disclose some of the best and worst advice they have received in their careers. Check out some of the advice below.
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Echo Park Films 'Echo Park'

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 as part of the How I Shot That series. Many of these filmmakers were eager to disclose some of the best and worst advice they have received in their careers. Check out some of the advice below. 

Best Advice:

"If you reference something correctly in a documentary, you can use it for free under 'public domain.' Love that." -- Director Ravi Patel ("Meet the Patels") 

"Do the big scares first, make sure you got them right, and then move on to the rest of the movie." -- Director Seth Grossman ("Inner Demons")

"The best advice came from (my cinematographer) Seamus Tierney and my production design professor at AFI, Robert Boyle ("North by Northwest," "The Birds," "In Cold Blood," "Cape Fear"). He had a very extreme example of how to approach scenes. Bob had been a war cameraman in WW II and said when he hit the beach on D-Day with his camera, he wanted to make sure a story could be cut from the footage even if he was killed before shooting his whole reel. So Bob always shot his wides first to capture the setting and story, followed by close-ups to capture the emotion. A story could be told from that footage, he always insisted. Only after this would he come back out to shoot mediums, inserts and any very time consuming shots. We shot "The Well" largely by daylight, during the shortest days of the year, so Seamus and I constantly referred to Bob's advice for our last couple of scenes of the day." -- Director Tom Hammock ("The Well") 

"Someone once suggested I try the Honey Walnut Shrimp at The Palace in Los Feliz. Amazing." -- Director William Saunders ("Mize and the Bakersfield Sound")

"Obviously, it's a challenging career and when I was talking about that with my brother (who's a transplant surgeon, so he knows about tough careers) he said, 'Well, people make a living at it, so why don't you think you could?' He put it pretty plainly and made it clear that the 'it's a tough path' argument shouldn't be a reason not to give it a shot." -- Director Dave LaMattina ("I Am Big BIrd: The Caroll Spinney Story")

"Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse." -- Director Amanda Marsalis ("Echo Park") 

"To uncompromisingly stick to my original vision of the film." -- Director Farida Pacha ("My Name Is Salt")

"Don't be afraid to pull the plug on something that you know isn't going to work. The earlier the better." -- Director Dave Boyle ("Man From Reno")

REAR MORE: What Cameras Did The LAFF Filmmakers Use?

Worst Advice:

"It will work out just like it's planned." -- Director Eric Koretz ("Comet")

"The general indie film advice to write something contained, with just a handful of easy locations. Of course that advice works for some films and stories, but you have to push to make your film different. Don’t put the needs of production before the needs of your story; otherwise it’s difficult to create a world for your film. Jacob Forman ("All the Boys Love Mandy Lane") and I broke all of those rules, creating a film with many difficult shooting locations in an extreme environment, several lead actors under 18, gun fights with real pyro & squibs, sword fights, a pit of oil and a flying airplane." -- Director Tom Hammock ("The Well") 

"Television is fast, film moves at a better, more sensible pace. Not true!" -- Director Matt Shakman ("Cut Bank")

"That the title should be 'Attack of the Killer Lesbians.' And I got that a lot." -- Director Blair Dorosh-Walther ("Out in the Night") 

"'Don't worry, we can fix it in the edit.' The edit is unforgiving if you don't have the material." -- Director Hossein Amini ("The Two Faces of January")

"To conform." -- Director Gren Wells ("The Road Within") 

"Someone once suggested I try the nigiri roll at Samba Sushi in NYC. Don't do it." -- Director William Saunders ("Mize and the Bakersfield Sound")

"I think the worse piece of advice I received was that financing of the film would be easy. It was anything but that. I spent years and countless days trying to get financing and finally after 13 years ITVS came in with the finishing funds for the documentary." -- Director Thomas Miller ("Limited Partnership")

This article is related to: How I Shot That, How I Shot This: LA Film Festival, Los Angeles Film Festival, Filmmaker Toolkit: Festivals, Filmmaker Toolkit: Production, Filmmaker Toolkit