ELFS student directing actors

Your First Day on Set

The day is finally here. You’re making your movie. Your stomach aches from too much coffee and you’ve passed a fitful night of disturbed sleep but you made it! Now comes the hard part…

Here’s what will go through your head on your first day on set.

I’m a Fraud

This can be a particular problem for young filmmakers, when you will often find yourself directing people with far greater experience in both life and filmmaking.

The solution? Prepare, prepare and prepare some more. Know the material inside and out. Maybe they have more experience than you but nobody knows your movie better than you do.

What is everybody doing?

It can be a little overwhelming to see a crew full of people running around. You may feel as if you have to know the ins and outs of what everyone is doing. You don’t. Learn to trust the people you are working with. They are doing their jobs so that you can do yours. Step back and let them work. You’re a director not a dictator.

What Do I Say to the Actors?

Believe it or not actors are people, just like you and me. Shocking, I know. Which means you don’t have to come up with tricks and traps to get the results you want. You can just talk to them, find out what methods work best for them and create great performances together.

ELFS student directing actors
Student with Actors on Making the Short Film

I Swear I’ve Forgotten Something…

This feeling will nag at you all day long. You will be certain that there is something vitally important that has slipped your mind. But What is it!?
The solution? Keep notes and make sure you have someone else keeping track of things who can step in to remind you if you’ve missed something major.

It’s Not Like I Imagined…

It never is. And that is part of the beauty of filmmaking. Every shoot is a surprise and some of the best creative moments are happy accidents. Embrace them and don’t shy away from it. It is often said that a film is written three times; Once on the page, once on the set and a third time in post. Don’t get too attached to the version in your head. Filmmaking is a process. Here’s an article on how film editors embrace production mistakes.

I’m Making So Many Mistakes…

You’re going to make countless mistakes and that’s a good thing. I’m a firm believer that you have to make every mistake at least once. So it’s best to get them all out of the way as soon as possible. Anything you get wrong today is something you’ll get right tomorrow.
The solution? Don’t dwell on your mistakes. Accept them and move on – you’ve got a schedule to keep after all.

I’m Tired… So Very, Very Tired…

It’s easy to forget as the day wages on and your energy level starts to drop that you actually chose to be here – this is something you want to be doing. It’s hard but you can’t let your exhaustion show. A director’s energy infects the whole crew.
The solution? Keep the coffee coming, keep moving and fake it even if you don’t feel it. Everyone else will follow your lead.

It’s Over!

You’re done! Until the next day at least… You’ll still have to go through this all again tomorrow. Your head will be spinning with all sorts of should’ve’s and could’ve’s… And here’s the bad news. It doesn’t get any easier. This will be EVERY day on set. But for all the toil and abject terror there are few things more exhilarating. With a little time and distance you’ll find yourself yearning to get back out there.

Want to practice filmmaking in a controlled, supportive environment first?
Join us for Making the Short Film in Tokyo.