Wednesday, 16 April 2014

5 Skills Not Taught in Film School

Brenna Erickson is a film producer/screenwriter, who owns a film company called Em.K. Productions. Her first feature film, Anatomically Incorrect was released in 2011.

These simple practical steps toward becoming a more efficient filmmaker were first published by Raindance New York. ________________________________________________________________________


There is a LOT of work that goes into filmmaking and when you are working with bare bones equipment and production staff, there are just some things you need to know how to do. These are the things I know how to do, or have had to learn.

Be Prepared!  Boy Scout Rule.

1) Survival Training/Basic Tools


So far, in my personal experience, the most important skills for filmmaking can be learned either through the Boy Scouts or Military Basic training. Learn how to tie knots, start a fire, the buddy system, how to not get lost in the woods, leadership skills, the ability to solve problems creatively, and organize a team of people are all ESSENTIAL skills when on set. 

My essential basic toolkit always contains the following:


Yes, I am a female filmmaker.  And, yes, I have my own personal toolbox that comes with me to set. Every shoot.

Your toolbox should contain the following:

1) a cordless drill (for screwing stuff in place)
2) hammer (for making sure nails don’t get loose, or adjusting where pictures and mirrors are hung to reduce camera glare)
3) wrench set (basic taking apart things or putting them back together)
4) screw driver (for when your drill won’t do the trick)
5) duct tape (It fixes everything.  No really. It’s first aid, car repairs, plumbing, lighting, fixing clothing, hanging temporary pictures, ghetto-rigging anything... I’m not kidding.  If you can’t afford Gaffers Tape, have 2-3 rolls of duct tape at all times and you almost don’t need anything else.)
6) box knife (for cutting things, like tape)
7) extension cords (more than 1.  And 2-3 power strips to power your lights, camera, monitor, laptops, and phone chargers)
8) gloves (for holding lights, or for when it’s a cold shoot)
9) pliers (for bending or straightening wires, pulling nails, etc)
10) safety pins (wardrobe) and clothespins (for holding gels)
11) plastic tarp (for protecting floors when you are throwing messy things around, or for creating shade in a scene for your actors aren’t squinting)
12) paint brush (for touch-ups on set in case the paint chipped during transportation)
13) a blanket and/or a sweatshirt  (to keep the actors/actresses warm and happy)

And when there are props to build, you should know how to use a circular saw, a nail gun, and a paint roller/tray.

Having these skills qualify you as a competent adult human being.

2) First Aid


Being able to do basic first aid comes in useful, especially when making films out in the woods. Being able to put a splint on a sprained finger, having band-aids, tweezers to remove that bee stinger. And I hope you never need to know the correct way to tie a tourniquet.
    All of these prepares you for the Worst Case Scenarios in filmmaking.
    Always keep some bandaids in your wallet so you have them on hand when actors get blisters or Make-up burns themselves on a hair straightener. Or a PA cuts themselves with the sandwich knife.
    It’s just common sense. You can also use them to fix some wardrobe problems.

3) Sewing


Please learn how to sew.  If a costume rips while on set, you need to be able to sew the button back on.  At the very least, learn how to safety pin it back together so it doesn’t show. Learn the basic stitches, how to thread a needle, and how to replace buttons, hooks and eyes, and do some basic fitting and tailoring.  If you are buying costumes, knowing how to fit them to the actors always improves the overall look of the film. Especially for emergencies on set.
    It’s better to be prepared  than needing to stop filming for a wardrobe malfunction!

4) Cooking


Nothing says “I love you for working for free” to a film crew like bringing them home-cooked meals or cupcakes.
    A fed crew is a happy crew, and if you can’t afford craft services, it’s actually cheaper to make food yourself and bring it to set rather than buying McDonald’s for everyone. It’ll be healthier and taste better too!
    Personal Story: One of my brilliant actresses met us on set, coming straight from work. She hadn’t had time to grab dinner and was thrilled when I opened up a tupperware full of steaming hot chicken, broccoli, and rice. She did a beautiful performance and was very appreciative and easy to work with.
    Cooking is a nice gesture to thank people for working for free.  It reminds them that everyone is a team, and the Director and Producer are there to make sure everyone is happy and taken care of.

5) Communication


Being able to communicate effectively will make organizing everyone on set easier and keep expectation realistic.  Knowing your way around Social Networking sites are a bonus because you can find crew members, and promote new projects more easily, as well as build up an online reputation.  This makes distribution easier as well.
    After you have mastered all of these skills, you are officially a Jack of all Trades, or just a very very useful Filmmaker.

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1 comment:

Kathy Smart said...

Brenna Erickson may be providing advice for directors, but she is also showing everyone how very hard film making can be. Good on her for sharing.