Filmmaking 101: 100 Tips for Filmmakers

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Spending time on set is really like taking a master’s class in filmmaking. Not only are you learning from people who have more experience than you, but you can pick up several filmmaking life hacks that will make your own shoot a lot easier. But if you don’t have access to a set, you can still learn those “filmmaking 101” life hacks thanks to a YouTube video that gives you 100 of them in ten minutes.

The video comes from The Film Look, which not only offers obvious suggestions like “test everything” (#66) and make sure your batteries are labeled (#10) and charged, but also some very clever ones like spray painting your lens caps orange (#98), so they’re easier to find. While you’re at it, paint your audio cables bright orange as well, that way you can see them easier (#83) especially when you want to keep them out of the frame.

Get a 3.5mm extension cable (#4) in order to get your camera mic closer to your actor. Never just leave it on your camera, because it’s too far away. The mic should be no father than 3 feet from your actor (#63) and slightly out of frame (#56). That may mean you’ll need either a C stand to hold it, or a boom pole and operator, but it’s worth the investment for better dialogue.  Get a small level to add to your tripod (#69). You’ll be glad you did!

One of my favorite suggestions was #5, which is to add a pull out tab to your camera’s flip out screen to make it easier to pull out, as well as adding LED lights (#19) to your camera bag so that in darkened areas, you can flip them on and see what’s inside it. Or, you can just have an LED flashlight (#79) you keep in the bag. Either way, that’s a good one.  Keeping some quarters and nickels in your camera bag is also a good idea because they can be used as tripod plate screws (#61). Or get a tiny flat head screwdriver that lives there.

Parchment paper makes for great, cheap diffusion (#6) on hot camera lights because silicon is embedded into the paper, protecting it from heat, but a cheap frosted shower curtain works as well for larger light sources (#37).  Adding foam to the bottom of plates, shoes, etc. will deaden the sound (#47).

You may not also realize how important this is, but make a movie poster for every one of your films, no matter how short they are. Then put them up on your wall. They remind you where you’ve been and serve as motivation to keep going (#60). Always be on the look out for older prime lenses on eBay (#70). They’re cheaper, often sharper and better made, and can give you interesting looks.

If you built DIY solutions for your camera gear, always paint them and make them look as professional as possible (#7). DIY is a good way to save money, but if they look cheap and unprofessional, it can hurt you getting that next job.  And have someone who’s sole job is to take behind the scenes photos. Even if it’s a short film, they’ll be great to have when you’re doing social media or other kind of PR.

Play music on set (#14). It helps get your actors into the mood. James Gunn does this on both Guardians of the Galaxy films because it set the mood for the vibe he was trying to convey with each film, even if the music didn’t end up on the final soundtrack.  Have your actors do things while talking in a scene (#22). Sitting down makes the drama sit down. It gets boring for both the actors and the audience.

Watch movies, short films, and even filmmaking tips on YouTube. That’s what it’s there for.  Also, it’s a good idea to watch your film on a TV, computer, tablet and mobile phone. They’ll look (#93) and sound differently on each one. (#94)

Lastly, or more precisely #31 and #32, and these are crucial … learn the rules of filmmaking before you break them. And if you break them, make sure you do it right, because people will know if you do it wrong.  And you can never, ever have enough extension cords!

There are dozens of other great life tips in the video above, so bookmark it! As for me, it’s Martini Shot (#43), so I’ll you guys later!

About James DeRuvo 564 Articles
Editor in Chief at doddleNEWS. James has been a writer and editor at doddleNEWS for nearly a decade. As a producer/director/writer James won a Telly Award in 2005 for his Short Film "Searching for Inspiration. James is a recovering talk show producer from KABC in Los Angeles, and a weekly guest on the Digital Production Buzz with Larry Jordan.

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