10 Common Mistakes in Amateur Films (6-10)

“I know the guy who made one of the films, my friend acted in it”. Your friend has invited you to a local film show. What should be a night of entertainment becomes an endurance test getting through the films.

I’ve been to a few amateur film shows, and all of them share these common problems. This list is composed of reoccurring mistakes present, and is intended to be used as a reference to make your film as good as possible.


10.  Use of Default Fonts for the Title/Title Sequence is Too Long

The title and credits fonts used are the default on the editing program. The font is so abstract that I can’t read it. The title sequence and end credits go on too long, I lose interest before the film begins.

 My Advice: Default fonts tend to be used more often than other fonts. They become mundane, and an editor can spot them a mile away. They scream “Amateur film! Prepare yourself!” Be creative. The title font sets the mood of the entire film. Keep the title sequence short. The end sequence allows the audience time to gather their thoughts, but shouldn’t be one-third the length of the film.

9. Unnecessary Zooms

The shot keeps going. The camera zooms in. The camera zooms out. The shot continues. The camera zooms in. The camera zooms…

My Advice: Unnecessary zooms come across as a lack of planning from the director and camera operator, and are best used for effect. Lars Von Trier and the Dogme 95 movement, run and gun, and mumble core style films make them a part of the film’s aesthetic, adding to the film. Also, zooms have not been used much in recent Hollywood films, and may come across as dated.

8. The Film is Too Long

Unnecessary scenes or shots. Scenes without purpose. Is this still going on?

My Advice: Write down the importance of each scene. If it isn’t necessary, remove it. Perhaps a scene may be better without the ending, or the viewer learning information from that scene later in the film. The viewer is more likely to choose a shorter film over a longer.

7. The White Balance is Off

It must be really hot in there! Everything is red, now everything is blue.

 My Advice: Check the color in the video monitor before rolling. Keep a white sheet of paper on set, and have someone hold it in front of the camera at the beginning of the take. This shows if white is showing as true white. If the white balance is off, it also gives a reference when adjusting the color when editing. Note: Incorrect white balance can serve as a creative tool to express emotion; blue gives a cold and depressed emotion, while red gives a warm and loving emotion.

6. Camera Operation

The shot with all the action is stuck on a static tripod. The moving shots are overly shaky and distracting.

 My Advice: Different camera movement creates different feelings. Choose one that mimics the scene. Handheld works best for action and building tension. A tripod is best when the focus is on the acting. One cheap trick to cut down on moving camera shake is to place the camera on a tripod, then carry it by center middle column. The amount of jitter cut out is night and day.


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