As I start ramping up to make my first feature, I figured it would be a good time to look back at what I learned from making my two short films. I’ve found that the lessons learned from making a project often outshine the project itself. I’m very proud of Dirty Laundry and For Patrick, but they were definitely learning experiences I needed on my way to making larger projects such as feature films and series.
Here are the biggest takeaways I learned from making short films:
- Get several sets of eyes on the script. Maybe have a reading or two, whether public or private. Start this process earlier rather than later. A script may read well on the page, but when spoken, can sound a little clunky or have problems. Be gracious with feedback, but also:
- Stick to your guns. Ultimately, it’s your film. Make sure it is the film you want to make and not someone else’s. Feedback is valuable and necessary, but don’t let yourself get too off course.
- Give it somewhere to go. People who saw Dirty Laundry often ask me how the full length film is coming. I had never planned on making a feature version, and when I tell people that they get a little bummed. That’s not to say that I will never make a feature version of the film. But if the short had been a proof of concept- just one stepping stone in the full life of the film- that might have been a better idea. So give your project somewhere to go, whether it is a feature, a series, anthology, or some other medium. Don’t waste your energy on one-and-done. Leave room for growth.
- Don’t form an LLC unless you are going to make more films soon, or do commercial work for hire. Having an LLC implies you are going to make money, so keep that in mind. It, unfortunately, has taken several years for me to get a feature off the ground. All the while I have been paying lawyers and doing taxes to maintain my LLC. But of course, every situation is different. Talk to a tax and legal professional before you make any decisions.
- Stay in touch with the folks who worked with you and helped you along the way. They will be your best allies. Every project you do fills your personal Rolodex with more great collaborators. Like Catherine Grealish. I hope to work with her throughout my career. Jeremy Mackie? A prince. Hire him for everything. They say this is a relationship based business and they aren’t wrong.
These are just the five lessons that are the most prominent in my mind. There are so many others. Often just small details and flashes that come back to me. Or the confidence I gained by just doing it. So probably the biggest lesson I learned making short films has been:
Just get out there and make it.