Filmmaking is an art form that requires a great deal of creativity, collaboration, and communication.
One of the most important aspects of filmmaking is being flexible. This means being open to new ideas, suggestions, and feedback. It also means being willing to compromise to achieve the best possible outcome for the film.
If you have difficulty keeping an open mind and rolling with the punches, you may struggle as a filmmaker.
This article will discuss the importance of staying open to new possibilities on a film set and how doing so can benefit your filmmaking career!
Filmmaking is Full of Schedules and Planning
Anyone who has tried their hand at filmmaking knows it is a complex and detail-oriented process.
From the very beginning, there is a never-ending list of things to do to get the project off the ground.
To start with, there is the script to write (or acquire) and the cast to assemble. Then comes the task of securing locations and permits, which can be a logistical nightmare.
There’s behind the scenes aspects, like catering, hair and makeup, wardrobe, and transportation to consider.
Once shooting finally begins, there is an army of people to coordinate and a constantly evolving shot list to keep track of.
This planning and scheduling process is essential to filmmaking and helps ensure that everything comes together seamlessly on screen.
But it can also be challenging, as it requires great foresight and attention to detail. Filmmakers must constantly be thinking ahead, anticipating problems, and planning for contingencies.
Every new project brings with it the challenge of piecing everything together and making it all work. It’s a complex puzzle, and the satisfaction from solving it keeps us coming back for more.
However, what do you do when filmmaking challenges seem to come out of nowhere and bring considerable problems to the set?
How to Survive As an Indie Filmmaker When Something Unexpected Happens On-Set
No one ever expects things to go wrong on set, but unfortunately, it happens all the time. If you’re an indie filmmaker, you know that one false move can mean the difference between success and failure.
So, what do you do when something unexpected happens?
First, stay calm. It’s easy to freak out when things go wrong, but keeping a level head is essential. Take a deep breath and assess the situation.
Then, take action. Whether it means coming up with a creative solution or simply making the best of a bad situation, it’s essential to keep moving forward.
Finally, learn from your mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, but they can also be invaluable learning experiences. You can avoid making the same mistake twice by taking the time to reflect on what went wrong.
Surviving as an indie filmmaker is no easy task, but by following these tips, you’ll be better prepared for whatever comes your way!
Let’s take a closer look at some common on-set difficulties and how they can be solved.
Unexpected Events Happen On-Set
A film set is a bustling place full of activity and excitement. However, there can also be plenty of surprises.
One common problem is unexpected things happening in the set location. For example, a pedestrian might walk through an outdoor set unexpectedly, or building security might pull up because someone called in a problem.
When filming a key nighttime outdoor scene for my short film, Boneyard Racers, we had several unexpected developments occur on the same night.
With permission, we were using a warehouse parking lot to stage a small outdoor concert, complete with a band and cheering crowds in addition to our main cast.
Right in the middle of filming, two firetrucks pulled up with sirens and lights. We had no idea what was happening and were naturally concerned we might have done something by accident to make them appear.
In reality, what had happened was that one of the janitorial staff in the building adjacent to the parking lot had accidentally hit the fire alarm in the course of their duties.
Then, once the trucks left, and just as we resumed filming as if on cue, the police showed up on set, also with lights flashing.
Again, we wondered if we had done something wrong. We had all our permits in order and had cleared everything with local authorities.
But, like in the first instance, it wasn’t us. The police were looking for a fugitive in the area who had stolen and crashed a truck from a nearby refinery.
In each case, the matter was quickly cleared up, first by talking to the firefighters and police, respectively, and by being respectful of their authority to be there, and cooperating in every way.
In both cases, the people we spoke with were very helpful and excited to find out we were filming a movie.
In fact, one of the firefighters called his kids to come down and be extras for the crowd scenes!
And though we lost precious hours dealing with elements entirely out of our control, it added new energy to the set.
We chose to look at it as a way to fire up our cast and crew rather than being a hindrance, and in the end, the scene is that much more lively and exciting for it.
While these surprises can be frustrating, they are often an inevitable part of filmmaking. The best way to deal with them is to stay calm and adapt as needed.
With a little bit of creativity, even the most unexpected disruptions can be turned into scene-stealing moments.
Problems With The Film Location
A film set can be a very chaotic place. There are so many people and so many moving parts, and it’s no wonder that things can sometimes go wrong.
One of the most common problems on a film set is problems with the filming location. For example, the location is double-booked, or too many people may be milling about and getting in the way.
For my upcoming feature, Spin the Wheel, a problem arose with double-booking at our primary location. The same night we were scheduled to film, there was a booking for a private function.
We quickly worked with the location owners to resolve the problem and ensure that future booking issues wouldn’t occur.
It would have been easy to get angry or blame someone or make demands, but that wouldn’t help at all. In fact, all it would do is deteriorate important relationships and cause bad blood.
By being adaptive to the situation, we rescheduled quickly and with minor delays. More importantly, we improved our relationship with the location owners and staff, with whom we hope to work again.
Whatever the problem may be, it’s always best to have a backup plan or contingency built into your budget and schedule.
That way, if something goes wrong, you can switch to Plan B and carry on with your shoot with minor side effects.
Someone Demands Changes to the Script
One of the most common problems on a film set is when a key person, such as the producer, cinematographer, or acting talent, demands changes to the script while filming is already underway.
This can happen for various reasons, such as a key creative who feels the scene isn’t working as written, or a location change warranting a quick rewrite, or because the actor doesn’t feel that their character would say or do something in a particular way.
Of course, it’s important to respect the other person’s point of view, but at the same time, the director needs to maintain creative control over the project. This can be a delicate balance to strike, but it’s essential for keeping the film on track.
Sometimes, the best solution is to make appropriate changes to the script, when justified, that address the concerns of all parties involved.
If the change is one that improves the story or characters or dialogue or one that is necessary to adapt to outside forces, such as weather or location, then it’s likely a good idea.
Other times, the director may need to hold firm and explain why a particular line or action is essential to the story.
For example, during the filming of Christmas Cupcakes, a film I co-wrote, there was an instance where the actors asked for revisions to the dialogue in a particular scene, as they felt it was out of character as written.
The director called for a meeting, and we discussed how to best improve the dialogue to everyone’s satisfaction.
As we were in the midst of filming, we didn’t have much time to rewrite, but in the end, came up with a solution that both strengthened the dialogue and made sense to the key creatives involved.
There are times when changes are warranted, and when it comes to dialogue or action lines, actors can become invested in their characters. This can be a good thing, as it can elevate the film through that personal connection.
However, it’s also important to remember that no one knows the characters better than the people who created them. As such, the filmmaker should always have the final say in how they are portrayed on screen.
Weather-related Challenges On Outdoor Sets
As any impartial bystander knows, weather conditions can be unpredictable, wreaking havoc on even the most carefully laid plans.
This is especially true in the film industry, where the weather can severely threaten an outdoor shoot.
High winds can topple equipment and send debris flying, while rain can damage equipment and drench cast and crew members alike.
Even sunshine can be problematic, causing a glare that makes it challenging to see monitors or requiring the use of extra fans and shade to keep cast and crew members cool.
Other weather-related issues may arise due to conditions being different than expected. For example, you might be shooting a winter-themed movie in the middle of winter, but there’s no snow.
Or you could be shooting a beach scene in the middle of summer, but it’s raining.
When filming A Frosty Affair, a key component of the story was the heavy snow and winter conditions of a rural town and wilderness in the far North.
And though we filmed in Northern Alberta in January, the unthinkable happened – it had stopped snowing.
The weather had improved to the point where the snow had actually melted, and no new snow was forecast for several days.
As the film revolved around this vital component, the crew went into high gear, using everything from snowblowers and shovels to displace existing snow where we needed it in the shot to use artificial snow in places where there was none.
Thankfully, it was a temporary measure, as the weather turned a few days later, and the white stuff returned.
But to keep the production going and on time, it was indeed a group effort by a dedicated crew that saved the day.
Whatever the case may be, weather can often throw a wrench in your plans. But that’s all part of the fun of filmmaking – adapt and overcome! With a bit of creativity, you can often find a way to make it work. So don’t let a little bad weather spoil your shoot – roll with the punches and make some magic happen!
Conclusion: How To Adapt and Overcome Problems on a Film Shoot
When you’re on a film shoot, there are always going to be problems that arise. But if you can stay open-minded and adapt quickly, your shoot will run much more smoothly.
By preparing for potential issues and having a plan B in place, you can minimize the impact of any problems that come up.
In the end, it all comes down to being flexible and rolling with the punches. So don’t get discouraged – just keep on shooting!
Neil Chase is a story and writing coach, award-winning screenwriter, actor, and author of the horror-western novel, Iron Dogs.
Neil has won over 100 international awards for his writing and filmmaking, including the prestigious FilmMaker’s International Screenwriting Grand Prize Award & the ScreamFest Best Screenplay Award. His directorial-debut feature film, Spin The Wheel, is currently in post-production.
Neil believes that all writers have the potential to create great work. His passion is helping writers find their voice and develop their skills so that they can create stories that are both entertaining and meaningful.
If you’re ready to take your writing to the next level, check out his website for tips and inspiration!
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