This article is part of an ongoing knowledge series on ‘lessons in filmmaking for aspiring directors.’ Today, our experts talk about common mistakes first-time filmmakers end up making and tips to avoid them.
Indie directors, who’ve been feted at festivals and appreciated as much by audiences, share advice from their own filmmaking journeys to equip you better as you dive in to make your first film.
1. “Don’t go in without a plan”
“If you’re going in without a plan, you don’t know what you’re setting yourself up for. Have a plan. And plan for the worst. Have a Plan B. Even when you have the best scenes and are surrounded by the best people, things can go haywire.
I remember asking for a train for the interval scene for Chalo Dilli. But what I got on the set was a small 6-8 bogie train. It looked like a tiny little thing, like this slightly elongated truck, in a long shot. I needed something bigger. So I had to take multiple compact shots that day. We later brought in what I wanted. But it delayed the entire schedule. In my head, I assumed my team understood what I needed. But it’s important to spell out things clearly. Planning things down to the last and tiniest detail is key.”
– Shashant Shah | Directed: Dasvidaniya, Chalo Dilli
2. “Know your limitations and work backwards”
“Don’t try to make the film closest to your heart because chances are that you don’t have the budget or skills that you would ideally need to realise the dream. Instead, see what you have at your disposal – people, resources, money and work backwards to write a fresh story that’s never been told before, that needs only these people and resources to get made. Sample: Two people on the phone in Good Night Good Morning or two people on a train in Side A Side B.”
– Sudhish Kamath | Directed: Good Night Good Morning, X: Past is Present; Upcoming: Side A Side B
4. “Write for yourself”
“Don’t write a script which you think the audience might like. Write something that you love. Writing a script for the audience is the biggest mistake to avoid.”
– Sandeep Mohan | Directed: Hola Venky, Love Wrinkle-free, Shreelancer
5. “Don’t get impatient…trust your team”
“It takes much more than just struggle to execute your first film. That can make you impatient but you shouldn’t. Thing fall in the right place but we have to let them fall. As first timers, we are not much aware of things. So sometimes being impatient may dent the quality of our product. And the best way to be patient is to trust your team, your DoP, your composer, your designer, your writing team.
Everyone has a different style of working. Sometimes, we make our team work towards what we want and sometimes we need to go into their zone and work according to them.”
– Mehran Amrohi | Directed: Chidiya (2016)
6. “Be watchful at every step”
“Every experience teaches you the process and makes you more mature. I did have a producer initially (for my film Lapachhapi) who was brought in by a line producer. At that point, I didn’t get into the production part assuming that the line producer would take care of it. That was a mistake. Since the budgeting done by the line producer was way too expensive and we lost out on the producer. So, as a director, you need to keep a check at each and every step.”
– Vishal Furia | Upcoming film: Lapachhapi (Marathi)