They saw what you did!
Ghosts! Goblins! Zombies! Bad science fiction movies! How do you steer your movie clear of terrifying filmmaking mistakes?
Halloween can remind us of all the horrors in the world: real or imagined. This includes mistakes that we, as filmmakers, can make.
It can be easy to see the mistakes in other people’s films. Imagine the horror those filmmakers experienced when they first noticed those mistakes.
Now imagine attending the first public showing of your science fiction movie. Is this the time you first notice the weak story, bad acting, or lame special effects?
Talk about a nightmare!
Filmmaking mistakes are unavoidable; they’re going to happen to you!
That doesn’t mean you’re powerless to stop them. You can take steps to prevent as many as possible.
We’ll share a few tips you can use to keep the bad filmmaking monsters at bay.
In the beginning…
Before you begin your science fiction filmmaking journey, you can ensure you don’t set a deadly trap for yourself.
On our last show, we asked a lot of fans at the Dallas Comic-Con what they liked and didn’t like about science fiction movies.
Too often, filmmakers make movies they (and their friends) want to see. This can be a deadly mistake!
It’s the science fiction fans who buy tickets to see your movie. It sounds obvious, but those are the people you are making the movie for.
What do science fiction movie fans want to see?
Well executed stories.
You can try to hide a poorly written script with exciting visuals. But your audience won’t be fooled.
If your story isn’t solid and entertaining, do not pass Go. Do not make that movie.
Listen to what the science fiction fans want to see.
The secret ingredients
You want to use the best ingredients possible when making your movie.
Here are the three secret ingredients of a good movie:
- A good story
- Good actors
We’ve already talked about the first ingredient: a good story.
When I interviewed filmmaker Timothy Plain, he described the importance of the second ingredient: good actors.
“Hiring professionals in certain areas will make your stuff look so much better. One of the overlooked aspects of that is actors. I really feel like a good actor in front of your camera is going to make it much more professional.”
Timothy’s current project, The Spirit Machine, is a great example of a film with the third ingredient: uniqueness. Watch the trailer to see what I mean.
Don’t be the invisible man (or woman)
In today’s crowded independent film marketplace, you’ll see that there are a LOT of movies.
How do you stand out so your science fiction film gets noticed?
When I interviewed Mark Potts, the director of Spaghettiman, and producer Reilly Smith, I learned there are three elements required so your movie gets noticed:
- A great title that gets attention – Spaghettiman is a great example of this
- A great concept – a super hero who shoots spaghetti at bad guys for money
- A great production – the execution of the movie. This is the hard part.
“If you are choosing to do drama, you are competing with 30,000 other films on a site like Amazon. If you choose to do a science fiction film, you might only be competing with 1,500 films.”
Don’t go broke
I interviewed filmmaker Darren “Daz” Scales, who directed the science fiction short Darkwave: Edge of the Storm.
Daz created an exciting film that looks like a major studio effort. And he did it for very little money by being very creative.
One very cool trick that Daz used was finding a very interesting location first and then utilizing that location in your movie.
For Darkwave: Edge of the Storm, Daz came across a decommissioned communications outpost. He then wrote that into his story and avoided the expense of building a set.
Another cool trick Daz mentioned was where to find actors for your science fiction film: science fiction cons.
Filmmakers Samtubia and Samgoma Edwards, who produced the award-winning TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story, found some of their actors on Craigslist.
Yes, I said Craigslist.
Samtubia and Samgoma also learned to create their own special effects by watching YouTube tutorials. Their short film looks like it has a big special effects budget.
When I spoke with Annetta Laufer, the writer/director of Afro Punk Girl and producer Shobu Kapoor, I learned a really cool trick for creating a location that looks amazing.
They utilized creative grading to get the look they were after and make their location look more apocalyptic.
You can think of grading like adding an Instagram filter to your film to make it look more interesting.
We’ll talk about grading in a future episode of the show.
Don’t go out there by yourself
Many of us independent filmmakers like to try and do it all.
The results are often horrifying.
I asked director of photography Les Gaddis if it’s a good idea for the director to be the DP on their own films.
The advice from Les is simple and direct:
“It’s much better to have help.”
As a director, your primary responsibility is to help the actors. For most of us, if you also choose to be the cinematographer, you won’t even be able to give 50 percent of your attention to the actors.
Let someone else focus on the cinematography. If you’re the director, focus on the actors.
This also goes for special effects, music, props, costumes, and so on.
It’s much better to have help.
The biggest horror of all!
What could possibly be worse than making a horrific mistake with your movie?
Not making the movie at all.
A few months ago, I got the following advice for indie filmmakers from Kevin Smith:
“The opportunity comes from you. Don’t wait for someone else to come to you to make your film.”
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