Whose film is it anyway?
How much should you be prepared to compromise to get your movie made? It’s a question filmmakers grapple with throughout their career. We asked Nicky Bentham, producer on Moon and Taking Liberties, founder of Neon Films and executive producer for BFI’s 2012 short film scheme, to share her tips…
Filmmaking is all about collaboration and so at some point compromise does come into it. It’s about finding the line where sticking to your guns and being true to your vision meets the reality of the fact that it takes a lot of people to make a film and that everybody has to be on board in order for it to succeed.
Know who you’re getting into bed with. Make sure everybody is honest about what they’re hoping to get out of the project. There’s no point accepting funding from an individual or organisation with a completely different agenda to you because it’s going to be hard for that to have an enjoyable, successful outcome for everybody. The clearer you can be about your intentions in the planning stage, the more likely you are to attract collaborators who are on the same page.
It’s up to the producer to try and balance the creative and commercial aspects of a project. A good producer should be there to protect your vision and the project’s integrity, but also to help you see where you should take some advice. It can be tactical. [You can say,] “Perhaps if we bend on this then we won’t have to compromise so much on that”. There’s a lot of give and take.
Feedback is not something to be automatically feared. It may be coming from a different perspective, but it’s coming from people who face the commercial realities of filmmaking every day, so if they’re suggesting something there’s probably a reason for it. Feedback from anyone who has taken time to look at your work, especially if it’s someone who has taken the risk of investing in your work, should never be dismissed without consideration.
Avoid becoming defensive about your ideas. No one wants to feel like this is a battleground. Try to be open. Test out your ideas and get feedback from a range of people. If you find that three or four people are picking up on the same thing, something that wasn’t completely clear or that made them uncomfortable, you should listen to your audience.
Sometimes it’s hard because at its best filmmaking is always personal. It can be complicated to distance yourself from the work and see it from other people’s perspective – but it’s an important part of the process. Most filmmakers want their work to be seen, hopefully by lots of people, and one way to help that happen is to make sure it’s being well received before you’ve finished it.
Filmmaking requires a perfect alchemy of lots of different things to come together for it to work. Take any opportunity that arises to hone your skills, distinguish what you’re trying to say with your work and what’s important to you, and find collaborators. Many successful films come out of great partnerships between people who have been working together in one way or another for a long time. Keep practicing, keep learning and keep building your contacts.
Main image: Script by sc63 on a CC BY-NC 2.0 license.
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