Learn from one of today’s great filmmakers.
Like most young filmmakers in the industry, Ti West has done almost everything himself. From writing to directing to producing and editing, West has dabbled in every role to bring his projects to life. This is a sentiment many of us can relate to, having made shorts on a minimal budget and very little outside help.
Watching a West feature like X or pearl reminds us that great things can come from someone who believes in their vision with all their heart. West, who uniquely gave us two films from the same universe of sex and violence in the same year, this year has embarked on a massive cinematic feat that will inspire any filmmaker tasked with writing a feature film in a year. perceived as a daunting task. He’s a revolutionary voice in modern filmmaking, and we take any advice he has to offer.
MovieMaker caught up with West at the Venice Film Festival and asked what he’s learned from his filmmaking career. Here are the 14 lessons West gives to anyone who wants to make something.
14 tips from Ti West
1. Get out and do stuff.
West believes that “the right situation and the right resources” will make it happen Not come by for everyone Being a filmmaker means going out and making “more stuff”. If you want to make a film, then write the script, find collaborators to help you create it, and find a way to screen it, even if all you have to do is post your short film on YouTube.
While writing for Pearl, West set a timer on his phone and texted for 20 minutes. If you try to write something great, you will doubt that you can write that something. Instead, sit down and try to write whatever makes sense in the moment. The beauty of filmmaking is that things are edited and changed.
2. Always be prepared with an answer.
Being the director means you are the go-to person if someone has a question. This means you need to be prepared and have the answers ready when the questions are asked. Even if you don’t know the answers, don’t fake an answer. Instead, know who to turn to to find the answer.
Don’t be afraid to make decisions either. The director has to be the one directing the shooting, so be prepared and know what to expect from each day on set.
3. Making a film is a challenging, psychologically draining, traumatic experience.
“I’ve done 17 episodes for TV in the last five years, so I’m a better filmmaker because of it. That’s 17 times I’ve had to edit something in four days,” West said, emphasizing that the more you do something, the better you become at doing it.
“A lot of people wait for inspiration to strike,” West said, but that inspiration strike doesn’t always happen. Most of filmmaking is being present and forcing yourself to create. It was “a challenging, psychologically draining, traumatic experience,” West said. “If you know that, you can work on it every day.”
4. Be open and thoughtful about the fact that everyone has insecurities.
Everyone on set is ready to do something great, but how each person gets there will be different. “You have to be open and thoughtful to the fact that everyone there… whether they admit it or not, they’re going to have insecurities [the film]’ West said.
Be aware of the fact that there will be conflicts on set and find a way to be the best communicator on set. Understand what people’s goals are and respect them, even if those goals aren’t fully achieved in the end. Try to help everyone feel satisfied until diaper day. The journey behind the camera is just as important as the end product.
5. Understand why everyone wants to be part of the project.
West finds that having the cast and crew all on the same page about their reasons for working on the project makes the rest of the production easier. Nobody likes to be misunderstood, so why work with people who don’t understand or disagree with the story you’re trying to bring to life?
6. The details that you might be passionate about are actually meaningless.
“I’ve been learning a lot from television lately because you’re not personally involved with it that much,” West said. “So you watch as the people personally connected to this have their argument. And you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m you in my other life.’”
It’s important to understand what’s important when working on a project. Some of the things that might be important to you don’t affect others. Take a step back and ask yourself if that one moment or prop you’re excited about has meaning. If you don’t know, ask someone you trust. You end up saving time and energy by not focusing on the smallest details.
7. Knowing how to articulate what you want from an actor.
As a director, it’s important to be prepared with an answer, but it’s also important to articulate what you want out of a scene.
“It’s not obvious what to say and how to communicate what you want,” West said of his work as a director. Not everyone gets the chance to bring their vision to life, so know what you want and know how to transfer the idea to others. It will help shape performances, build trust between you and performers, and save production time.
8. Be prepared when shit hits the fan.
“When it comes time to make the movie, everything will go wrong,” West said. “So the more prepared you are, the easier it is for you to shoot when something goes wrong and turn it into something that’s still good for the movie.”
Prepare for the worst but expect the best. Throughout the process, keep this in mind and trust that even if things don’t go to plan, everything will turn out fine in the end.
9. Get over the uncomfortable feeling that work is.
We’ve all sat down to create and felt the overwhelming pressure weigh us down until we can’t do anything anymore. Fear is no laughing matter for creatives, but we must find a way to overcome it or nothing will ever happen.
“It’s an uncomfortable feeling that you just have to get through,” West said.
The satisfaction you will feel after completing your work is unlike anything you will ever experience in your life. You just have to see it through to the end.
10. Be as inconsiderate to yourself as you can.
Self-editing is a healthy part of the creative process. Understanding that the film will be rewritten and edited until the final cut is submitted gives you the freedom to tighten specific scenes or expand a character through a simple moment.
Don’t feel married to the first draft because that first draft will not exist at the end of the process.
11. You don’t always have to make something difficult out of an argument.
Not everything special comes from conflict. West’s mantra is “Don’t Harsh the Mellow” because he believes a good time making a film makes the experience memorable and enjoyable for everyone. Nobody wants to fear the work they do, so try to make the experience great for everyone, including yourself.
12. The action isn’t necessarily the most important element of every moment.
“People say, ‘Well, if it doesn’t advance the story, you don’t need it.’ That’s bullshit,” West said.
While these people may be right at times, the plot isn’t necessarily the most important element of each moment.
When filming a scene, ask yourself what the most important element of each shot is. What do we draw from this moment? Where should we look and why? Having intention behind your decisions is the most important element of every moment.
13. Appreciate watching movies.
People have been watching films for well over a hundred years. The great thing about watching movies from a time long before you, or movies you might just have missed, is that you think about the movie in a different way because it affected you in a certain way at a certain time.
That’s why it’s great to revisit movies you haven’t seen since you first saw them 20 years ago. Our mindset is always evolving, and movies give you that space to reflect and appreciate what the filmmakers were tiring to say or do. It will directly affect you and your decisions on set whether you know it or not.
14. Find employees who understand your project immediately.
“My films are quite esoteric. So I look for people who get it right away, and it’s very clear who gets it and who doesn’t,” West said.
TThat’s why he enjoys working with the same people over and over again. They understand what he’s up to and there’s very little chance they’ll miss the target West is trying to hit.
You don’t want to micromanage everyone you work with, so find employees you can trust.
Let us know what you think of Ti West’s filmmaking tips in the comments! And if you haven’t already, watch our interview with the filmmaker.