“No Film School” Article: 15 Common Mistakes Amateurs Make

For a few years now I have hoped to make film my career in the future, working on sets and being part of a crew. As I grow older my confidence levels rise and my belief in my own ability continues to develop, and as this happens I become more and more set on the role of director. The idea of overseeing the filming and having the power to make big decisions about the way the film is being shot has become very appealing to me, because when a good idea for a film is created, I always want to make sure that we do everything possible during the shooting to do the good idea justice. Even with the few films that I have created I’ve noticed a change in my attitude, and I’m becoming better and better at making my voice heard in the groups, feeling more confident to throw my opinions into the centre and allow people to pick over them. I have the passion to become a director, but unfortunately I’m aware that I do not yet have the skill or the knowledge.

I am just being introduced to the world of film and already I am realising that it is much more complex than it appears. The amount of effort that can go into just one short scene has amazed me. I’m still learning how to pick a scene apart to see all the different components of it, and how they fit together to make it as effective as it is. The sound, the set design, the movement of actors in the shot, the placement of the cameras, and the way it is edited together all affect how a shot is perceived and, if done correctly, can seamlessly blend together to create a powerful shot that affects the audience without them even fully knowing why. All of this is  very daunting for me, as I worry that I won’t be talented enough to think with this level of intricacy for my own films, and will therefore not be able to follow my dream through.

That’s why I singled this article from ‘No Film School’ out from the others:

15 Common Mistakes Amateur Filmmakers Make (& How to Fix Them)

The mistakes talked through in the video are

Weak story
Undercooked scripts
Bad sound
Poor casting choices
Poor shot composition
White walls
Poor lighting
Unnecessary insert shots
Too many pregnant pauses
No blocking (movement)
Too much chit chat
Action for the sake of action
Generic music

I know for a fact that I am guilty of most of these, and I also know that fixing these problems in my films will not make me immediately achieve the level of professionalism that I wish for, however I know that if I use these points right they can pave the way for me. This list should be a checklist that I go through every time I make a film, and each point should be thoroughly talked over. Just by doing this, I would be forcing myself to look at my films with more depth than I have done before. If I went through this list each time, I wouldn’t be able to get away with throwing shots for the sake of it anymore, or allow myself to settle for less than adequate sound quality. This list, while simple, is actually making you look at every aspect of your film; from the mis en scen, to the sound captured, to the storyline, to the editing. I would eventually get used to doing it until it happens almost as a reflex, and would then be able to develop this skill and start looking deeper and deeper into my films. Once you are comfortable with the basics, you can start experimenting, and that’s when you’re able to separate yourself from the mainstream film, able to create your own style and push boundaries.

If I want to make the most out of these bullet points, I need to learn how to combat them. The video in this blog post gives you starting points to be able to do that by briefly explaining how to avoid these mistakes, but I should take it one step further. I’ll take one bullet point as an example.

White walls

White walls are a common problem, and difficult to avoid when filming inside most buildings. The only way to combat them is to treat the wall like a blank canvas and fill it in. In the blog post, the guy talks about his short film that he made, and how he painted his walls various colours so they weren’t just white.


This is a nice way of dealing with it if you have the option of doing that, because as colours come in a wide range of cool and warm tones, colour is often representative of moods and emotions in films. However, if you want to use white walls to their maximum potential, you should use props, and here is another blog post I found on the site, which explains how to use props to effectively enhance your films. If you can use objects in the ways this post suggests, your blank walls can become incredibly important to the scene. You could add posters to the wall that tells the viewers more about the character’s personality, or perhaps you could put a table in front of the white wall and add objects to that which reflect the events in that scene.

up stairlift scene

This shot from Up uses the wall space well. First off, the wall isn’t just white, it’s covered in a dirty-white wallpaper that’s clearly very old and faded. It’s showing how the house has aged with the man, and is suggesting that his life has become faded and dull like the wallpaper. The pictures that cover his wall show that he is very sentimental and fond of the memories that he has of the life he’s lived, as he has surrounded himself by them, but the majority of the pictures are black and white and obviously old, suggesting that his happiest memories happened long ago and you feel there is a gap in his life. Also, the amount of pictures he has suggests that he is lonely, and surrounds himself with these images because the memories are a comfort to him and make him feel less alone. Even if the man wasn’t in the frame, you can tell by looking at the wall that he is old, living a quiet and invisible life, and is surviving off memories from his past.

I should do the same for the other bullet points as I did for the white walls. I need to find examples, from as many films as possible, of ways that I can overcome each mistake, because by making myself study films closely like that, I’ll be able to better understand how the films were put together, and I can use certain parts from films as inspirations for my own projects.


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One Response to “No Film School” Article: 15 Common Mistakes Amateurs Make

  1. kendalcollegefilm says:

    This is excellent, Kitty—a very, very strong reflection on your own ambitions, strengths and the areas you wish to develop. Make sure you give yourself the space and time to learn the skills you want to learn—your understanding of film is expanding all the time, and the rest of this term is about giving you the space to explore some of these same bullet points. You’re right that film is complicated—it’s very complicated—and you need to explore those complexities steadily, building a toolkit of skills. Start simple—write a script—or make a short documentary out of class—start making these mistakes. Great stuff.


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