Advice to Student Film Makers

I’ll preface this post by saying that I have little experience when it comes to film. After I got my degree in theatre, I decided to give the film world a shot. For the year and a half I’ve been working on small projects, a few things jumped out – some positive, some not so positive. The purpose of this post is to share my experiences so that new film makers can gain the perspective of the actor, thus avoiding any drama on set =)

The first thing I learned with starting out in film is that you’re not going to make a lot of money. You’re likely going to start off auditioning for students who may not necessarily mind that you have no experience in front of a camera. A great way to learn how things work on a professional set while also making a couple bucks is by doing extra work. I’m going to get back to that in a future post.

I agree to work for free when it comes to film so I can gain experience, add the film to my resume, and start to build a reel. Since there is no pay, actors are counting on a copy of the final project as their compensation. Unfortunately it’s common among younger film makers to neglect this part.

I’d like to share a few stories with some experiences I’ve had on set:

One project I did about a year ago took place outside of the city. I don’t have a vehicle, and had to wake up close to 5:00am to be on set by 10:00am.  As the day continued, I learned they were shooting multiple scenes that didn’t require me being on set. My big scene took place in the evening, and I was eventually told that I wouldn’t be used until later. As they kept shooting, I kept getting a different time of when I would be used. The time came and passed. It wasn’t until well after midnight when I was actually used, and it had been hours since I had gotten an update on the progress of the shoot.

Now for a more positive experience. I got cast in a student film with Northwestern University. The entire production was run by freshmen, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant and professional group to work with. Our director, Laura, was constantly asking us how we were doing and if there was anything she could do/get for us. The rest of the crew was extremely helpful too. At one point, someone ran to their dorm room to grab me a cellphone charger. Not only did I leave set in a great mood, but I was also inspired that young students were capable of acting so professional.

To summarize:

-Be respectful of your actors’ time. Keep in mind they may be requesting off time from other projects in order to work on yours. Or sometimes they have to take time off from work. Both are scenarios where actors could be making money, but chose to be working for YOU. Be mindful of this. 

-Be respectful of your actors’ commitment.  I recently attended a student film audition scheduled for 3:00pm. Upon arriving, I learned that there were five other people scheduled for 3:00pm. By the time I was seen, it was 4:00pm. I knew before I left that this wasn’t a project I wanted to work on.

-Give the actors a final copy of the reel.  Not only are you completing your job by doing this, but you’ll gain the actor’s respect because you remembered. And if they respect you, they’ll want to do more projects with you!

While you don’t have to run to your dorm to charge your actor’s cell phone, simply respecting our time and commitment will make everybody happy. No go out there and make a film!!

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