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Attention, First-Time Filmmakers: Here’s the Best Advice from the 2015 AFI FEST Filmmakers

Attention, First-Time Filmmakers: Here's the Best Advice from the 2015 AFI FEST Filmmakers

Indiewire invited AFI FEST directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them and the challenges they faced. The festival runs from November 5-12.

READ MORE: AFI FEST 2015 Announces New Auteurs and American Independents Lineups, Including ‘James White’ and ‘Krisha’

We asked the AFI filmmakers to share advice for first-time filmmakers. Below is a selection of their answers:

“Be honest and find the right friends to surround you.” – César Acevedo, “Land and Shade”

“Enjoy the process because it’s all you really have. And if there is no true joy in the making then clearly it isn’t the right thing to be doing or you’re not doing it the right way. Not that you have to be happy and grinning all the time but there has to be an real emotional reason in the present tense to satisfy yourself. You creatively invest in the moment and then if you don’t happen to get rich, famous, awarded, prized, reviewed, accepted,or laid you still know you made the most of that moment.” – Jake Mahaffy, “Free in Deed”

“Make a ton of bad films so you can get to your good ones. Never settle for good, only strive for perfection because you will kick yourself later. Pain is temporary, film is forever — go for it. If it is an idea that makes you feel terribly uncomfortable, or giggle uncontrollably, or make your parents super upset — it’s probably a great idea and you should shoot it and you will learn something about yourself…Make make make. Limitations are a blessing, they force you to be creative. Don’t wait around for anyone to help you. Just do it and people will show up.” – Celia Rowlson-Hall, “MA”

“Make your first film so that it’s out of your system and let that push toward what you’re actually capable of making. Most first films are failures, and that’s a good thing…If you’re in filmmaking to succeed, it’s probably better you don’t make films.” – Nathan Silver, “Stinking Heaven”

“Do what you like. Your task as an artist — or whatever you consider yourself — is to share with the world the particular way that you experience life. Don’t try to ape other films. Don’t try to be ‘commercial.’ Work that is good is commercial even though it might not always make money. Make work that you like and try to have fun doing it. Get good food for your crew, the comfiest housing you can afford. Make the process fun. Life is short and having fun making art — good art — should be the first goal. There is no right way or wrong way to make a film. There’s just your way. So forget all that has come before and work from your gut and go out on a limb. Take a risk! Make a big mistake!” – Alison Bagnall, “Funny Bunny”

“Don’t make films for external reasons, they need come from inside.” – Grimur Hakonarson, “RAMS”

“Don’t give up! This is not a calling for the impatient! Work with a good crew! Treat them with respect! Respect your actors! Listen to them. They are living the character.” – Nicholas Brooks, “Sam”

“For those just getting into filmmaking, the best advice I can give is to read as many books as you can on story and structure, break down the structure of scenes of entire films and analyze them shot by shot. Understand how shot length, pacing, timing, camera movements lead to the build and release of tension. If you find a certain scene in a film especially moving, dig into it and figure out why.” –  Graham Townsley and Brad Allgood, “Landfill Harmonic”

“Don’t look to other filmmakers for advice.” – Zia Anger, “I Remember Nothing”

READ MORE: Here’s What These Filmmakers Wish They Knew Before They Made Their Films

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