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Making a movie outside of the studio system: Part 2: Virgin Advice

By SpookyDan


Before we made Slay Belles I sat down with a bunch of my director and producer friends and picked their brains looking for first timer advice. Here are the top 5 of my favorite pieces of advice:



  1. Camera does matter, but a kick ass set of Primes wins every time.

The coolest new gear gets every filmmaker excited!, 4k? 8k? 3D? RED? BMCC? PMW-F5? Dragon? Epic? 35mm? Alexa? Here is the trick, get the best set of Prime lenses that you can afford, then get the camera that your DP is the most comfortable with. *Also, don’t be afraid to use multiple different cameras for different looks.


  1. Actors turn into babies when they walk onto the set.

This was a surprising one, but it makes sense. Even the actors who are your friends playing tough as nails henchmen show up on set and need to be told where to go, what clothing to wear, when to get their make up done, where to wait, ect. It’s only natural that they suddenly want to be pampered or told information that would normally be common knowledge. Roll with it, they will return to normal as soon as you wrap them.


  1. Set a date and go forward without stopping.

In an early meeting one director gave me this piece of advice. Set the date and go. The train will start moving, people will come on board and once that train starts moving faster than a speeding bullet, nothing can stop you. Set your date and go!


  1. A great script supervisor and vfx supervisor are worth their weight in gold.

-Your “scriptee” is way more than a continuity adviser. A great scriptee will be your shield from production nonsense, they keep you on track for the small things, and they will be crazy important when it comes to editing.

-If you have any sort of complicated VFX, then having a VFX supervisor on set will save you thousands of precious $$$ during post. They know what corners can actually be cut, and they know that one slight change of a camera angle could save the VFX artists dozen of hours of work. Hire these people.


  1. Things go wrong, have plan B, C, D, and E ready to go.

Through a variety of stories and lessons learned, almost every director said the same thing: Making movies is hard, thing go wrong so Have plan B, C, D, and E ready to go.

But I knew they were all wrong, it wasn’t going to be hard, I was about to direct a horror film about Krampus this was going to be awesome and fun the whole way through! And guess what…they were right. Not only is it hard, it’s a daily battle to get to the finish line. I can be fun and it is awesome when the cameras are rolling, magic does often happen. It’s everything behind the scenes that gets tricky, from life still happening, people drama, never enough money, locations changing, actors wanting or needing more time to prepare, food not being great, mutiny between department heads, lousy weather, FX not working. You name it, weird stuff happens when people are under pressure, and things that are 100% out of your control come up. So be prepared with a PLAN B, (and C and D…). Sometimes the back up plan is so much better than the original, that you will wonder why you were so hell bent on getting your original idea on screen.


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