Making a movie is an ambitious feat. Having wrapped the majority of principal photography on my first feature film, Follow Her
, and having made A LOT of mistakes, I compiled this list of to-do's and not to-do's. May this list prove fruitful in your own quest of making art!
1. Do not make script changes the night before filming.
Changing the script affects everyone on the team. It requires a heck ton of unnecessary printing and creates an infuriated script-supervisor. LOCK THE SCRIPT and SAVE TREES. Or you run the risk of your motto on set being: “Or… maybe…?” Lock it in at least one month in advance. If that means you need to start your acting prep earlier in order to lock it, do it.
If you want to improvise, go for it! But you don’t need to rewrite a scene the night before filming… rather, bring in your ideas and PLAY ON SET and communicate with your director.
Camera rolling. Now play.
2. Forget your lines. And your co-star’s.
Being the writer, you have to let go of A LOT of ideas. It’s wiping the slate clean before every take and saying - I don’t know this person I am acting with, let me respond naturally, without ideas. Let me discover with them.
This is always one of the biggest challenges as an actor but having written the script, you have to work twice as hard to let it all go. Cue: Frozen
3. Trust your director.
If you’re choosing to work with this person, there needs to be mutual trust. You are trusting them to direct
the film and they are trusting you to write
it and act
It’s helpful to have a conversation early on that clearly states what your roles are. Heck, write it out on paper so it’s extra clear - who has final say on what points?
If you’re not the director… FIRE YOURSELF (as the director you’ve made yourself out to be in your mind), then...
GIVE. UP. CONTROL. If you don’t trust your director, that’s a clear sign that a) you don’t actually want them to direct the film or b) you need to have a conversation with them regarding your concerns. Sort it out. Then trust them. And trust yourself.
4. Put DOWN your producer hat, before it’s too late.
We often have to produce in order to get our projects made, but producing is A LOT of work. It can be overwhelming (especially dealing with all the finances) so delegating these roles to other people is critical. If you don’t have time to do your prep as an actor because you’re in-over-your-head producing… Your. Acting. Will. Suffer. Do not sacrifice your project by taking on too many roles, allow others to do it for you! They want to.
5. Admit it, to be in it.
You know that moment when insecurity gets triggered and now you are second-guessing every thought and line? You feel stuck and start to shut down. Instead of shoving it (in hopes it will go away), ADMIT IT.
Share your insecurity with someone. Step away. Make a call. Tell your co-star “I’m intimidated by you. I’m attracted to you. I weirdly get nervous around you.”
Make a pact with your partner. This is especially important for any script that involves scenes with sex or violence. “I am comfortable with you touching me here and here, not here. You can tousle me around, don’t punch me in the face.”
Then allow space for them to set their boundaries. Even if they have none, this will create safety on set.
Admit intimidation instead of trying to ‘be good’ because us actors know ‘being good’ equals the death of impulsivity.
6. Love your crew!
Appreciation on set is so important to keep everyone motivated and encouraged. Together, you form a family of people working toward the same goal. It’s extraordinary - All these people coming together to bring your vision to life. Do not take this for granted. It helps keep it light (even when the content is dark) which contributes to people having fun.
It takes courage to show appreciation and put the focus on someone else for a moment. When you feel an impulse to express gratitude, take it. You might not get another chance. Number one Love Language
for set-life: WORDS OF AFFIRMATION.
7. Make art, and fuck it up.
You can’t get everything right, especially if it’s your first go at it. Sometimes mistakes make the most unscripted, extraordinary and uncanny experiences. It’s those moments that can make or break a project or allow a scene to be impactful on a greater level than you ever intended. So make decisions promptly, trust your gut and allow room to fuck it up. And then call me and let’s fuck it up together!
8. Get S.P.E.C.I.F.I.C.
If you really want something with a BURNING DESIRE, get specific around what you need to get it: How much money do you need, when do you plan to get this money by, what steps do you need to take to get it and what will you give back. There is no such thing as getting something for nothing.
So decide what you will give in return. Write this out, read it every morning and night as a contract to yourself. Read it. Visualize it. And feel it... to manifest it.
9. And NEVER GIVE UP.
…Especially around raising money to make your art! Do number 8, until you know inside and out you’re committed to it. When you commit 100%, the universe will do everything to support you. Forget HOW
you will get there and focus on WHY
. If that doesn’t invigorate you, dig deeper.
Identify what your distractions are, then commit to not being seduced by them. Or you will confuse the fuck out of the universe.
“You said you wanted < ____ > but you keep doing this < _____ >. So what do you want?”
Decide what you want, get crystal clear, map out a plan, give yourself a deadline and go for it with everything you got! You got this.
About the Author
See more from Dani at danibarker.com.
Get updates for her film Follow Her
||Dani Barker is an actress, writer, and producer originally from British Columbia, Canada. She came to New York after selling an original episodic series to TBS that she starred in. Dani worked directly with the showrunner as a writer and consulting producer under NorthSouth Productions. This series was originally acquired from VH1 who created a pilot starring Dani and four Canadian friends based off her popular web series Starvival. Starvival earned a lot of attention and became popular on Youtube in 2014 after garnering over a million views, 650,000 views on the first episode alone, landing Dani on the front page of Entertainment in the Toronto Star and featuring her on websites like BlogTO, Seriesandtv.com and Tubefilter. Simultaneously, Dani developed and sold a second series called Squirm to Canada’s largest LGBTQ+ network, OUTtv. Dani’s project Follow Her, a psychological feature thriller directed by Sylvia Caminer, is the first of many upcoming films.