Failing Before You’ve Begun: The Five Mistakes EVERY Novice Director Will Wrestle With October 21, 2013DirectingZeke Iddon

Last week we covered a heavily theory-based topic – the importance of accuracy when crafting a movie. This week, we’ll be having a look at some of the most fundamental flaws which can sneak into a project early on and culminate in disaster further down the road.

Filmmaking, like any other artistic endeavor, requires some trial-and-error, and there will always be some bumps along the road. You can make the process go more smoothly, though, by learning from other people’s mistakes. The fewer of these newbie errors you make, the faster you can get on the road to becoming a successful filmmaker.

Not Putting Enough Effort into Casting

When you’re first starting out, it can be difficult to find exceptional talent. Your limited budget and connections can make your pool of actors rather small, and a protracted casting call can be frustrating. It’s easy to feel complacent and assume that whatever talent you can find is the best you’re going to get.

Don’t give up so soon, though. Exceptional acting will make or break a film. Put in as much effort as you need in order to find the perfect actor, or at least one you can coach into the role.


While you’re at it, be sure to pick a cast and crew that you don’t mind spending time with. For the duration of filming, you’ll be seeing these people more than your own family, and any differences in personality or work habits will quickly get blown out of proportion. In some cases it’s best to pick people who you get along well with and can train or coach rather than professionals who you don’t get along with.

Not Allowing Adequate Time for Rehearsal

Whether you’re working with amateur actors or seasoned veterans, rehearsals are important.

Play an active role in these. Don’t just hand the script over and assume that your actors will be on the same page as you.


You’ll want to use the rehearsal time to coach your actors, listen to their concerns and ensure that everyone shares the same vision for the film. It’s better to get everything in place before the cameras start rolling; a rehearsal is going to be less stressful than shooting multiple takes, and you won’t end up with a Kubrick-esque reputation for harassing your cast.

Not Delegating Important Tasks

Budget concerns can make a DIY approach to filmmaking very attractive. Indeed, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about every aspect of movie-making. But just because you know a lot about the way movies are made doesn’t mean that you need to do every job yourself. Spreading yourself too thin or trying to wear too many hats sets you up for failure. Since you won’t be able to devote full attention to all of these jobs, you’re doomed to produce mediocre results – or at least drive yourself crazy trying to be perfect.


Find a few trustworthy, talented people to take over some tasks for you. Not only will this free up your own time, it’ll also give you valuable input from people who can actually help make your movie better. A good assistant director or script supervisor will save your ass and your movie on multiple occasions.

Trying to Shoot Beyond Budget

Ambitious scripts almost always sound better on paper. Once it comes time to actually shoot the film, you’ll start running into problems – especially budgetary concerns.

It’s better to make an exemplary quiet film than try and fail to recreate the big Hollywood spectacle. Great dialogue is free. Smart plot twists work whatever the budget, as does choosing a script that plays to your strength as a director and the resources you have available to work with. There are plenty of sites and free tools out there to work out exactly how much capital you’re going to need, and if your current script is too ambitious, don’t be afraid to rewrite and revise until it fits your budget and your skills.

Ultimately, nobody needs to know that the movie you’re making isn’t what you always had in mind.

Not Putting as Much Effort into Sound as Picture

Every penny you save on special effects should go toward sound and lighting. These two technical aspects of filmmaking are often overlooked because, when done correctly, they’re often unnoticeable. If done wrong, however, they will tank a movie. At the end of the day, a movie can be visually stunning but ultimately unwatchable due to poor sound. Invest in high-quality sound equipment and make your job easier by reducing the amount of syncing you need to do between cameras. Also put in the effort to find a good score and sound effects to give life and depth to the film.


Finally, the most important thing you can do to ensure a swift and painless production is to learn good time management and front-load all of your prep work. A bit of planning can really make the difference between a decent film and a truly excellent one. If you can shoot quickly and avoid wasting anyone’s time, you can get through production quickly and ensure that your cast and crew will be eager to return to work with you on future projects.

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