Secret Skills of Great Filmmaking

Films can come in all shapes and sizes covering a wide range on genres from action to horror, period drama to art noir. As well as feature films in the cinema, you can see heaps of short films at festivals or art films at galleries or installations.

Below we look at the secret skills needed to create a great film. No matter the production value of a film, or whatever the format, using some of these skills and insider tips will help create a film to rival even the biggest blockbusters.

Communication

Communication is vital to the success of a film. Talk to your actors, your crew, your production partners - make sure they understand your vision.

Communication is vital to the success of a film. Talk to your actors, your crew, your production partners – make sure they understand your vision.

It is almost impossible to create a film on your own – almost. When directing a film, filmmakers have to ensure that all the necessary cogs keep turning; actors have to be managed, along with camera operators, sound technicians and editors – that is just to name a few! Some directors write their own scripts, but most collaborate with writers, or even teams of writers, and producers to develop their scripts ready to start shooting.

Strong communication skills are needed to be able to handle big personalities and ensure that a film’s vision is reflected in the finished product. Each individual has their own methods, values and skill sets and it is vital to ensure that a filmmaker’s message is instilled in each person in order for the team and the production to be harmonious. Communication is key!

Writing

An understanding of screen writing technique is helpful to every filmmaker, and also to actors. It's important to be able to follow a structure and tell a story through your film.

An understanding of screen writing technique is helpful to every filmmaker, and also to actors. It’s important to be able to follow a structure and tell a story through your film.

Whether a filmmaker has ever written a script in their life on not, it is important to understand the structure of one. No director can put their personal twist on a production without the ability to understand scripts and stories effectively.

A lot of scripts tend to follow a three act structure and being able to recognise how a film sticks to, or deviates from, this structure is important. Whether a director is editing dialogue or completely rewriting a script to meet their creative vision- this cannot be done without the ability to write succinctly.

Telling a visual story

Use film language to tell a visual story. Take the time to storyboard your film carefully, choose your shots and fill them with the most valuable information. Remember: a picture can tell a thousand words!

Use film language to tell a visual story. Take the time to storyboard your film carefully, choose your shots and fill them with the most valuable information. Remember: a picture can tell a thousand words!

Show, don’t tell! Many students start off making silent films as these help them get used to conveying an on-screen story without the use of dialogue.

Whilst these elements will ultimately enhance a film, being able to tell a story through pictures is the main purpose of a film.

A production can have the best music and dialogue, but if it is visually confusing for the audience then the major aspect of the film is lost. Try to think in images and frames as much as possible, let the image do the work.

Technical operation

Make sure you know the basics technically. Even if you have a full crew to help you, it will be much easier if you can understand what they're doing.

Make sure you know the basics technically. Even if you have a full crew to help you, it will be much easier if you can understand what they’re doing.

Collaborating with people who have specific technical expertise is one way to help enhance the production of a film. However, it is crucial for any director to have the knowledge if they are needed to step in. Setting up a shot, arranging lighting and the ability to identify whether sound levels are correct are some of the basics needed. Even if you can’t necessarily do them all, make sure you know how to use them to achieve the shot you want.

A director’s vision can be different to that of the Director of Photography. This makes it even more important for a director to have the skills to be able to collaborate effectively with their entire team to translate their vision to the screen.

Whatever your interest, style, specialism, we think these are the skills to take you forward in film and achieve the results you want in your work. Good luck!

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