The biggest mistake new Directors do in their short films.
Updated: Jul 23
I love working on short films because I find them very creative with a lot of room for experimentation and innovation when it comes to conveying a story through sound. Plus it gives me the chance to work closely with the Director on his/her vision and approach things from new and different perspectives which helps me to grow as a creative in my field and as a storyteller in general. So far I have done over 30 short films, budgeted from 1000£ to 200.000£ and I have noticed one fatal mistake that the majority of new Directors do while working on their films. They do not get a sound designer or sound supervisor on board during the pre-production without realizing how much that costs to their film. LET ME EXPLAIN!
A director most of the times will have a vision and can imagine the film the way he/she wants it. They know how is should look and they know how they want it to sound as well, but what they don't know most of the times is how to achieve all these things and how to connect the visuals with the sounds in order to realize their vision and create all these metaphors, subjective points of view, moments of intensity and anticipation etc. within a scene. That is why they rely on us, the creative tools who specialize in specific fields and bit by bit help them to make their vision come to life.
So, the mistake I see new directors do most of the times is to not involve sound during the pre-production of the film. When I say sound I am talking about the sound designer or the person in charge of the sound during the post-production process. They concentrate solely on the visual aspect of the production ignoring the fact that sound can help them to be more creative and possibly solve potential problems as well. They heavily rely on the Cinematographers' vision and point of view which is highly visual, which is just half the film and not taking on board the much needed at this point sound designer who knows what is needed in a scene in order to be able to connect effectively the visuals and the sounds later in post production and achieve the desired aesthetics and mood.
Filmmaking is a combination of many different elements which interaction creates a specific narrative structure and aesthetics. We use lights, cameras, lenses, art direction, set design, costumes, sound etc, to tell a story in a way that we like. But if I had to choose the two most important elements in filmmaking, that would be the picture and sound and the way we interconnect them.
Lets say we have one simple scene in a car with two characters having a conversation and one of them is in a dark psychologically state and the director really wants to convey that mood of darkness or maybe a distorted reality from a characters point of view as well within this scene. How would we approach this scene?
Having a cinematographer working on it will help you, but it will still be limited. But bringing a sound designer on board as well, he/she may say: why don't we have this character playing with an old zippo lighter during the scene, and if you establish at some point the lighter, later in post production we will create a rhythmic and distorted sound of the lighter and layer it underneath the conversation creating this distorted mood and dark feel within this scene. And of course, because you have establish the lighter visually as well, the audience will be able to make the connection of this subjective sound with the real zippo lighter and the character who is playing with it. BOOM!!! You have a scene with every element you wanted conveying the mood and the characters' state of mind in a clear and creative way which is interesting, engaging and way.
Of course this is just one example of how a sound designer can help the director to design a scene and connect the story with the audience effectively and creatively. And my point here is that you better have a sound designer working with you when you have finished the script and when you are working on your shot list with the DOP. It is always better to have someone who will give you more options and/or creative solutions rather than not having them and just limit yourself.
Every time you design a scene you should ask, what you want to achieve in it and then ask your crew how you can achieve that?
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