WHY YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR FIRST FILM ALREADY

Are you a Filmmaker? Do you have a few years experience in your chosen area, writer, director, actor etc? So what's stopping you from making your first film besides people like me?


I had a discussion with someone about making a film in which I was overly cautious about why you as a filmmaker; editor, writer, director, producer, director of photography and what not should be wary of rushing to bring into existence your own vision to the world. I had good reason to be cautious, I had seen a writer throw a good amount of money into a production that felt weaker than custard made with cold tap water, I had seen an editor flail at making decent movies such that the next viable option to recoup investments made was to make soft porn movies, hopefully they weren't as limp as his initial attempt. I had seen another re edit his movie multiple times and reshoot scenes because he couldn't get any distributor or video on demand platform to buy it. So yes, I'm the guy who is going to ask you how much you have and tell you it is not enough even when I'm telling you that the team you're putting together for your project is way too expensive. To sum it up I come off as a well intentioned wet blanket. It's why I'm holding a beautiful script created by some of the best people I know and for close to two years I've been telling them to wait, consider this, or look at the current market trends and whatnot.

If I've talked you out of creating a film, shame on you for listening to me without rebelling. 

If you've entrusted me with helping you actualize your vision and creating a film or related content and I've done nothing, shame on me for being an unbeliever, especially when despite all the sob stories above, I've seen a marginally greater number of success stories.

I recently finished work on a short film a couple weeks back and maybe it was all that 2017 positivity (although 2016 was equally positive for me) but the ability to create something, see it happen almost a hundred percent as you intended and in that one moment feel a sense of accomplishment and for that one moment stave off thoughts of the critiques your work will attract is quite the feeling, but here is the thing, this was not the first content, short film or otherwise that I would write or direct.

Over the years I've done a lot of things as a filmmaker, things which have gone into the night with robbers when they took my hard drives, or when the other hard disk crashed and the geeks in Ikeja and Surulere assured me that nothing could be done to retrieve the data, and finally things that I ask myself how incompetent I must have been then to create such and present them to clients and employers with a straight face. And so somewhere in between shooting, editing or directing (sometimes all three in one) music videos, editing TV shows, soap operas and movies, designing motion graphics for a variety of mediums and writing, directing and editing television adverts for a major financial institution in Nigeria what's a first film anyway?

For a lot of people in this business it means nothing really, even a man like Quentin Tarantino spent almost three years editing his first movie and then the studio burned and all sorts of other misfortunes befell the project and hence it never did see the light of day.

Your first actual film, created and helmed by you is most likely not what you'll take home to your parents and slam in  their faces as the reason why your tattoo sporting, goatee keeping, dreadlocks wearing self should now earn their respect, chances are it'll probably convince them that you need an intervention but do it all the same. Years after you've forgotten that mediocre harrowing effort, you would have picked up a few things along the way that would guide you for years to come.

As a writer you'll learn how to adapt your narratives to slim budgets, at least until you enter your script in the blacklist or some other international platform where there's a possibility of having it picked up for production by Hollywood and studios with more financial muscle than is available in Nigeria.

You'll also learn how much of what you write on paper is easily translated to screen and what is lost, this helping you refine your language so that the director and editor can achieve the same thing you are communicating on the script.

As an editor you will learn to bite your tongue when next you want to complain about how scenes were not shot as you would have liked or what the director missed because you will be in the thick of it all and when you pack all of those rushes into the edit bay and start and want to whine or go off on somebody that person will be you. Hopefully you will want to prove that you didn't make a mistake and as such you will find new creative ways to solve problems in post production.

As a film school student hoping to be a director you will learn to appreciate Nollywood and discover it is not just about aesthetics, shooting angles, movements and light gels or reading two thousand word essays on film or YouTube videos explaining visual style and whatnot. Basically, reality will knock you right off your perch and into the mud in one fell swoop and hopefully you learn how to be in charge of your crew and not have your 'experienced DOP' superimpose his ideas over yours while all you're left to do is scream 'action.'

As an Actor hope to the heavens that you don't cringe watching yourself in the edit room and wonder what you thought you were doing when you decided to direct yourself or told the director you hired how you preferred to portray the character.

As a Cinematographer you learn that there can be beauty outside of endlessly panning, complicated shot sequences and that some stories are served by the simplest of camera positions and knowledge of where your lights should be and how light and the absence thereof can also enhance a character.

So this is why you should do that most [un]memorable first film, because whether it fails spectacularly or succeeds extraordinarily, you will find that the next time you get to work, whether on your own project or a client's, considerations arising from lessons you've learnt first hand will seep into your process and enable you deliver better.

My first ever personal project was a short film and it was a disaster for all of the five hours I spent working on it, from being unable to get sound recording equipment at all to being unable to use the lights we had and having only one copy of the script to work with and then to me finally misplacing the files sometime during post production. Oh did I mention I had to pay for equipment rental and an actor with a bad accent?

Hopefully you won't go through that on your second attempt, if only you'll make the first attempt.

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