Efficiency in filmmaking is not everything. You also need creativity, people skills, patience and the ability to remain standing in the face of hardship or even when you’re holding a boom pole and there’s no furniture nearby. However, having the right strategy enables you to work in a way that saves you and your team precious time and can be the difference between your film getting finished or running so far over the budget you’re left with a half baked project.
Efficiency comes into play on a number of levels, being efficient in your career planning, your work ethic and how you manage your part of the project, whether you’re the director or the production assistant. Taking your career seriously is important and doing things in a way that helps you move forward time consciously comes hand in hand with that. Here are 7 ideas on how you can become more of a ninja and save yourself time, stress and frustration.
Organise your email
If you haven’t yet set up an email address for yourself as a filmmaker, it’s the first step to create an online identity for your work. While email@example.com is an entertaining email name, you may consider one that has your own name and the area of expertise you operate within such as firstname.lastname@example.org or even better, email@example.com, sounds pretty legit right? You can buy your own domain that will allow you to create such a title for yourself very affordably.
Once you’ve got your email setup, you can use this to only register for platforms related to your work such as Vimeo and Youtube . This prevents irrelevant emails landing in your inbox and distracting you from seeing call sheets, scripts, social comments or filmmaking newsletters and you won’t even have to delete your humorous personal email. Keep this inbox super clean and remove yourself from any newsletters or marketing email lists that are not helpful to you. You can go one step further by creating folders and subfolders for each domain of your work which can be colour-coded in some email clients if you want to go all out. This email can be used to
2. Build your online presence strategically
You can use social media to promote the projects you’re currently filming or planning to make. Some major platforms to consider are Facebook and Instagram which you can integrate with online platforms like Kickstarter if you’re launching your own crowdfunding campaign or supporting other filmmakers.
Efficiency also means discovering that you will not be able to wield every film making resource on the web as a powerful results-making weapon. Uncover through your own highly diligent trial and error process which social media platforms and content are getting you the most tangible results e.g. project views and likes, new followers and personal messages (that are also leading to new projects and opportunities) and get rid of the rest. If you’re a new filmmaker you might be tapping into online resources like No Fim School or Film Riot for the first time or perhaps you’re beginning to connect with other filmmakers using these platforms, this is where you may uncover that
3. Direct experience is key
You will hear many points of view (including my own) on how to approach your filmmaking goals and go about your craft. It’s essential for you to improve and be able to produce better work. In this journey, it is likely that some of this advice will lead you astray and you might find some of your time spent on trying things that don’t work for you. Ultimately, this is part of the deal, nobody knows all the answers even if they claim to, so don’t be shocked if you find that instead of spending an entire year on one project, you discover it would have been more beneficial to work on 4 smaller projects. Once you see that something is not the way to go, it’s important to cut your losses and make the shift in a new direction before you end up wasting your efforts. You can buy some time back if you
4. Refine you’re workflow thoughtfully
As you do more and more projects, you’ll gain a sense of what your process is like from the very first draft of the script or initial meeting with the director, to the end result. Realise what tasks use the most time and effort and then work on those to make them easier or able to be completed faster. This often comes down to using the right software and tools for your work. It might mean switching from Final Cut Pro X to Adobe Premiere or vice versa if it allows you to edit faster or offers a new feature that makes your job easier. It could also mean using the right templates for your call sheets or production documents to save time spent formatting. Keep an eye on new toys arriving into the industry and think critically about the investment vs the return.
A crucial tip I discovered was the importance of setting up your project in your editing software to allow you to work quickly.
While it’s easy to go for free tools, even though many of them are excellent such as Celtx for scriptwriting, if you’re planning to get paid for your work sometimes spending a little now can save you funds in the long run because time is money. This same kind of thinking can be applied to
5. Have a real game plan going in
This is something I can personally attest to foregoing. It’s the day of your big shoot, you’ve got your friends together with a script you’ve slaved over and a plate of ham sandwiches for all to enjoy. Unfortunately, it’s the absence of well thought out strategy that leads to you realise that having plan B would have saved your skin now that your friends’ parents uncle’s house has become unavailable unexpectedly. You may also realise that without even a rough shooting schedule, you end up having to cut out a critical part of your film and are left with a result that you’re unhappy with. There’s a divine balance between paralysis by analysis and rushing in headstrong but it’s one that you’ll only likely discover after having a few really good projects to your name. It’s at that point you may want to consider that
6. It takes more than good planning to save time on set
If you’re a great problem solver and on the spot thinker – you’ll flourish, simple as that. Unexpected problems will arise at every turn. Having a well-made shooting schedule and bulletproof contingency plan alone won’t promise good results so you will need to find ways to manage yourself and your team when things go astray. Ideally, you’ll find people that are aligned with how you run the set and can manage to work at a solid pace while having fun at each step. If you’re just starting out making your first few films, you probably won’t have the foresight to know how you’re going to work with you’re chosen team, but it’s ok, because the start is also about discovering what is going to work for you in the long run, which is going to make your efficiency grow exponentially. As you gain confidence and ability you can consider if you should
7. Take it to the next level
If making films is your one true love, you may eventually realise you’re misusing time working on the same kind of projects, over and over again without moving onto bigger sets, bigger production value and bigger problems to solve. This may mean starting your own production company, getting a full-time job in the industry or moving to another city. With everything you do in life, there will be an opportunity cost attached that you may not always want to examine. Know that your time is ultimately limited and statistically speaking, you’re likely to regret those big goals you didn’t go after then have remorse for taking the leap.
If you’re ready to take action towards improving your efficiency, you can also read my piece that breaks down how to save time editing in Premiere here.