Film Tips from the Pros

Monday, May 15, 2023

What do you need to be a remarkable filmmaker? We asked two of our online instructors, Shivani Khattar and Philip DeRise, for their top tips and advice. 

"[These are the] axioms I live by," Shivani says, providing this list:

1. Be kind to the cast and crew. A little kindness goes a long way.

2. Show, don’t tell.

3. Film is both sight AND sound, so remember to use sound to tell your story, too.

4. Write, rewrite, repeat.

Being a keen listener on and off set makes you a better storyteller quote by Shivani Khattar

5. Editing is re-directing a film for the second time.

6. Filmmaking is 50 percent talent and 50 percent collaboration. Find your collaborators and build your tribe.

7. Cinematic interaction is often best seen without words.

8. Being a keen listener on and off set makes you a better storyteller.

9. Sometimes the simplest way to do a shot is the most effective.

For Philip, strong preparation and planning are the key to unlocking unexpected breakthroughs, spontaneous moments, and stream-of-consciousness creative choices on set. "If they have a plan, if they have a schedule, if they're thoroughly prepared, I think a director will be more able to recognize, engender, and capture the small unexpected, (sometimes brilliant) developments that pop up over the course of a shoot day," he says. "When lighting strikes, will you be there with a bottle?"

When lightning strikes, will you be there with a bottle quote from Philip Derise

As a director, how can you manage your plan while allowing for these unexpected moments? "Directors are always walking a line between executing a vision they've previsualized, and embracing new (sometimes divergent) ideas brought to the table by one's collaborative team. There's nothing wrong with a director enlisting a team who is there to solely execute. But I advise at least allowing a bit of space to explore the creative ideas of your key collaborators (cinematographers, designers, producers, actors, etc.) While these ideas might not be in sync with the film in your head, they might make the story itself that much stronger."

Online film courses are available throughout the year for high school students and working professionals. Visit our website to learn more.