My First Few Films

So, my first short film came to me as quit a surprise. I found out I had the opportunity to make one as a project for my Italian class. The topic: La Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia. To me, this is one of the most interesting and compelling topics, so to have an opportunity like this was amazing. A film on the mafia was and still is a dream of mine. One similar to the direction of Martin Scorsese except a little more classy and elegant (Trust me, I know this will be tough to accomplish). This idea of an ingeniously suave, “Godfather” reminiscent film seemed so possible in my head, but was torn to shreds the second I stared into the viewfinder of reality.

My actors were young, making the film comical. The camera was “shit,” for the lack of a better word, creating a picture that looked like it was drawn by a blind man while driving a car. The script was not revised, giving the feel of a terrible documentary made directly from Wikepedia information. Nothing was planned out, so the angles had no meaning and the camera was focused on Person A while Person C was obviously the main focus point. I mean I truly want to deny all ties to this horrendous piece of mistreated material, yet I can’t. It thought me so much. Every mistake I made was a lesson I have been aching to learn. It was obviously not enough to make a feature film, but it was definitely a start.

So I took what I learned and ran off to my next project. It was a movie for my English class based off the book “I am the Cheese.” The project was strenuous. I read the book three times and developed a script that was mediocre. My main regret is not spending enough time with it. The book was a little cheesy so I did my best to make it more natural, but by doing so I made the story more intricate and less understandable. But, I didn’t find this out until later so who really cares right now. To make a long story short, I did what I had to do when it came time to film this project. I put a lot of thought into each angle and each camera movement. I used some exciting new camera styles and adopted others from my inspirations. I did my best to direct the unexperienced actors and I must say that they definitely came through and did their best, which is all I ask for. After months spent on filming, hours wasted on bullshitting, and weeks used up on editing, I finally submitted the film to my teacher. A day later he came to me and told me that he had never seen anything like it. He loved it! I hated it, yet he loved it. He showed it to the class, a student expressed interest in it, showed it to his mother, an employee of the school, she enjoyed it and then decided to show it to Investors in the art program. It was a great success, but I still dislike the movie. You might be asking “why,” so I will tell you that it is because I did not put enough time into revising the script. I did not plan out scenes well enough to execute them smoothly. Continuity errors occurred more than they should have and they shouldn’t have occurred at all. The timing was off at certain parts and the editing was completely done on the computer rather then planned out a head of time to make things flow better.       

The main point of this post:

  • Love your script before you film it. It doesn’t have to be perfect because there should be room for improv, but you need to know exactly where that room is.
  • As annoying as it may be, spend time with your script. Type it up, read it, leave it there for a couple of days and then read it again and see how many changes you make. 
  • Plan out your scenes. Try to picture them in your head just as they would look in reality so that you have less work to do while filming.
  • Bring purpose to your shots. Have a reason for filming something a certain way. Don’t just place the camera at Johnnyboy’s face because you think his chin strap looks cool. Do it because his expressions are the only thing telling the story at the moment and you want the viewers to be a little more intimate with his feelings.
  • Edit the shots in your head. Think about how you are going to bring certain shots together and how you are going to cut certain shots out. 
  • Pay attention to continuity. You cannot film person A in a chair in his office, cut to person B to film his 2 second response to person A, then go back to person A who is now shooting a gun outside his window. You need to keep the positions and vocal tones of the actors in mind and always think about how things are going to play out in editing before they actually do.
  • Lastly, hang in there. There are going to be so many moments where you just want to kill your actors and then yourself, but you have to hang on and keep the cameras moving. The stress that comes with the constant thought process will make you want to quit and back out, but you have to keep in mind that if you are staying true to yourself and making the movie you want to make then the rewards in the end will be extremely satisfactory.

Good luck. Thank you for reading.

-Sergio Vaccaro at Passion Productions