All filmmakers start somewhere, usually, they begin by doing everything themselves. Being a solo filmmaker can be immensely rewarding since it’s the biggest time for growth. But, it can also be highly stressful since you have to do all of the things from start to finish.
A lot of the stressors in any project often begin with small things. With some forethought, you can minimize the amount of stress you encounter when you have to do everything solo.
Whether a beginner or just thinking of doing a personal video passion project, here are practical tips on how to survive as a solo filmmaker.
1. Arrive Early On Location and Set Up Right Away
Let’s say it’s your first wedding video gig, you want to arrive early to the location, scope it ahead of time or even prior to the event itself. This can minimize the amount of stress you feel on the day of the shoot. If you can contact the venue owners, ask if there’s any way you can even prepare some things ahead of time. Say, for instance, you’re putting up a photo booth or anything like that.
Most solo filmmakers even prepare their gear ahead of time. This includes little things like packing extra batteries and multiple spares for important gear. Lenses going with the right camera, tripods and everything else. You’ll need it especially if you’ll do everything with minimal help.
2. Stop “Winging It”
It’s tempting to say, “I’ll figure it out later” whenever doing a shoot but winging things should be the last thing you do, especially when solo. On a solo shoot, spending too much time on location figuring out the lighting situation or which equipment to use can get stressful fast. Not only will you waste your time but you’ll also waste your client’s money (in case you were hired to do the gig.)
When you have a team behind you, the work is easily divided. But when video producing your own passion projects, you have to rely on everything yourself. Extra focus is required in order to make sure things go smoothly and as efficiently as possible.
For instance, it’s not advisable to arrive on location without any idea at all how you’re going to light it. Scout the location beforehand, figure out what lighting elements you will need to deal with and the factors you need during the shoot. The other option is to create a lighting diagram ahead of time then adjust it once you get to the spot and all elements are in place.
3. Label or Tag Your Bags, Listing What’s Inside
In all of the confusion of handling every part of the shoot, you need to make the job easier on you by knowing what’s inside your gear bag at a glance. You may only need basic gear or you might need to bring a lot. If the latter, save time from having to guess or remember what’s inside each bag by adding a label on each one – listing the general contents inside.
Personally, I prefer to color code with gaffe tape. The blue one contains all my camera accessories while the yellow one is for the lights. You can also use masking tape and list down on the tape the general contents. Whatever works for you. Just make sure to have some sort of organization attached to your gear bags. Because it’s easy to get overwhelmed and irritated when you can’t find the gear you need at the right moment.
4. Always Consider the “What Ifs”
A lot of prep goes a long way to surviving being a solo filmmaker. But this last tip is also applicable when working with a video production company and have your own film crew.
Preparing and thinking about what could possibly go wrong will minimize the anxiety and stress you feel. There have been a lot of solo filmmakers who even forget to bring their own camera on the day of the shoot because they’re so frazzled with so much to do. Don’t let this be you.
From bringing spares, listing down and having a checklist of items, or even having a system of backup in case things go bad, considering the “what ifs” is always a good move.
Surviving as a solo filmmaker means being prepared to face potential challenges you will face. Sure, sometimes stress is unavoidable but you can keep it low considering the practical tips above.