Yesterday the Film Doctor posted “5 Things Filmmakers Should Stop Doing Today”. They had five really good points that I think every filmmaker should stop doing:

    1. Stop comparing your work to others.
    2. Stop looking for the perfect first draft.
    3. Stop waiting to be discovered.
    4. Stop being afraid of what could happen and what won’t happen.
    5. Stop making excuses. For anything. Ever.

Once you stop doing these things I think that there are five things that you need to start doing today.

1. Join a Local Filmmakers Group

If you are living in L.A. this isn’t going to be hard to find but even if you live in a small town I am sure there is a filmmakers group. The reason why I think that it is important to join a group is because you can create good connections and friends. No one answers craigslist ads asking for free work but on my local facebook group of filmmakers we are always helping each other out, lending equipment, and working on projects together. This is because the group has created a community of filmmakers that work together to become better as a whole. The best places to look are Facebook, Reddit, and Meetup.com.

2. Analyze a Film and Take Notes

I remember one time I came home and my roommate was putting on the movie 50/50 and had a huge stack of paper on the coffee table in front of him and a pen in hand. I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he wanted to start screenwriting so he was going to watch films and analyze their structure. He watched 50/50 while following along with the script he printed out and took notes along the way.  After he was done watching it he told me that he got more out of it than any book he had ever read on screenwriting. If you want to focus on cinematography find a film and take screen grabs of shots you like and break down the composition. Watch a movie and only look for colors and take note of the themes trying to be conveyed. If you are going into sound write down what you hear vs. what you see/don’t see. Watch a terrible movie and write down their story structure so you know what you shouldn’t do next time your write. The more and more you take notes the more and more you will know what you can do to improve your films.

3. Explore Different Creative Outlets

One of the problems with hanging out with filmmakers off set is that you usually end up talking about films where ever you are. I don’t mind discussing whether or not the Black Magic URSA will mean the end of the Sony FS100 and Canon C100, but people at parties who don’t know what you are talking about get annoyed pretty quick. That isn’t the only problem. Creativity is all about making connections and the more things you can make connections with the more options you have. Not only that, but the same principals of filmmaking are the same with other forms of art. Good design is good design whether it is paintings, posters, photography, or filmmaking. Good story is good story wether it is a short story, poetry, a joke, or your script. My favorite things do are write poetry, doodle, photography, and write short creative non-fiction stories.

4. Carry around a notebook with you and write

This is age old advice from any creative person out there. Although cliche (and yes I know that saying it is cliche is cliche) it is good advice. If you have time to check facebook on your phone you have time to write. What helped me out was find a new writing prompt each time I wrote. Sometimes the prompts were just words and I wrote what ever story I could come up with off teh top of my head. Other times I would think of a location and write two to three sentences about different stories that could happen there and would see how many I could come up with. Most of the time the stuff that I wrote sucked, but once in a while I came up with something that was great.

5. Mess up

While in college there was something people would tell me that would make me really mad. It would go something like, “Aaron, you can’t expect us to produce the same quality of work you do.” This made me mad because a lot of times I felt like they thought that I was naturally good at what I did and that I was able to just pick up a camera and shoot things perfectly. The reason why I was able to do what I did was because I messed up. A lot. I messed up more than I would like to admit. The more I messed up the more I learned and the more I saw my skills grow. Most of the people that I have met that told me that were afraid of making mistakes and afraid of doing something new. Don’t every be afraid of making mistakes. Strive to do something new and hard even if you know it is going to be terrible. Do it again. Do it once more after that. After a few times you will look back and realize that each time you did something there was one less mistake that you made.

The last thing to remember is this – the only thing that makes you a film maker is making a film. These five things will help you become a better filmmaker but if you don’t make a film you can’t call yourself a filmmaker.

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