Top 3 Filmmaker Tips from 2015

By December 9, 2015 Blog

In Metro Screen’s final month we asked a few of the talented people we funded and trained in 2015 to tell us the top three things they learned about this thing we call ‘filmmaking’.

Chelsea Thistlewaite – Breaks Funded Filmmaker

Be generous with ideas. A few months before we started shooting there was a lot of interest in the story, and I thought that if I shared too much the magic would disappear or change in some way. Keeping ideas to yourself only diminishes them, and telling people, getting them excited and curious is storytelling again and again. Every time you start from scratch and tell someone what your film is about you are practising how to tell the story. It sounds incredibly obvious but I found it extremely useful. Ask questions, and give honest and specific answers.

Producing and creating are different things. During pre-production and something that definitely happens on low budget, skeleton crew films is that inevitably you’re going to be doing a lot of jobs at once. This is often totally fine, and necessary to do what needs to be done for the film, but I found that I had to carve my own space where I couldn’t think of logistics or planning. Focusing on character, atmosphere, theme, and story cannot exist in the same space as logistical thinking. It took a long time to learn that they each need to exist alone.

Be a good person. It sounds really simple but I’ve learned that whatever you do is not worth it if you are not a good person in the process. There is really no reason to be rude, arrogant or demanding in any capacity, especially when people are offering their time, services and skills for often no money. Empathy is incredibly important, and allowing your collaborators to approach the project with their own thoughts and expertise always elevates the work.

Still from Tether directed by Chelsea Thistlewaite and funded by Metro Screen.

Tether Still 08

Alana Hicks – Digital Content Producing Diploma Graduate

When I went through my notes from the past six months of the Digital Content Producing course, an idea that came up repeatedly was about knowing your audience. It was said in many different ways by our main tutor Kate, by our digital guru Stuart and by numerous guest speakers. Know. Your. Audience. You have to research your target market, whoever that might be. You have to understand how they interact with the technology on which your content is presented and you have to engage, develop and build that relationship. Why else are we telling stories, if not for the eyes and ears that we hope will see and hear them? Another big takeaway was about the ecosystem of the story world; multiple platforms require specifically tailored content, the message has to be relevant to the medium. The story of “why” and the platform of “how” exist symbiotically. Lastly, my main impression from this course (which was articulated so well by Emma Morris in one of our guest lectures) was simply, to “tell stories you are truly passionate about”. In this vain, I hope to utilise the skills I developed at Metro Screen to create compelling content for a shifting and evolving digital landscape.

Behind the scenes with Alana Hicks directing a scene from web series Fix it In Post, which she created with sketch comedy collective The Kvetch Set.

FixItInPost copy

Will Goodfellow – Breaks Funded Filmmaker

Prep until you can’t prep no more. Preconceive every edit point, every prop, every performance cue. The more you know your project inside and out, the freer you’ll be to experiment when things are going well, and the greater your ability to troubleshoot when the wagon falls apart.

Surround yourself with a killer team. We had an all-star crew on The Spa and it was the best shooting experience I’ve ever had. All credit goes to our producer Lucy Gaffy who, while being the sweetest person in the world, also brought our production together like it was a high stakes military operation.

Letter dropping actually works. We had a location confirmed but I felt there could be a better one out there so I decided to make a last ditch effort and start letter dropping houses. It was excruciatingly tedious but we ended up with five or six homeowners agreeing to let us recce their homes. One of them happened to be the absolute perfect location. So if all else fails – letter drop.

Behind the scenes with director Will Goodfellow and lead actor Chris Haywood from The Spa funded by Metro Screen.


Emma Bjorndahl – Digital Content Producing Graduate

Resourcefulness – utilise the connections and the people around you, and work together to achieve something bigger than anything you could have done on your own. Networking is more than just “meet and greet” it is about building true, strong and lasting relationships. I have met some wonderful people through Metro Screen, that I intend to work with again on real world projects.

Be a lifelong learner – never stop learning and adding to your skills. Metro Screen has made me realise that this course is only the beginning. I need to continuously extend my skill set and challenge myself. The course has opened my eyes to the world of possibilities as a Digital Producer, especially at this time with the industry in its infancy and exciting possibilities ahead.

A tool is just a tool – it’s about the story and the connections to human beings. Tools and new whizzbang shiny technology are just another vehicle to tell a story. A good story or a good idea transcends the tools that we are using. I have learned through this course, that it is about the human connection, that the tool should not make us feel further from our humanity but draw us closer together. This has been a particularly inspirational realisation for me.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to take one of the last courses at Metro Screen. I thank all the people who made it happen and my amazing tutors. It is with great sadness that I will be saying adieu.

Image created during Emma Bjorndahl’s work as behind the scenes content and social media coordinator for Australian film Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015). 


Rosie Lourde – Emerging Producers Placement Graduate

Flip a coin. People say “trust your instinct” but that’s not so easy when you’re surrounded by opinions. I was once told, if you can’t decide then flip a coin. Whichever side it lands on you’ll know what you really want either through disappointment or excitement, then take it from there. Whether it’s deciding on which project to pursue, who to collaborate with, or what to eat for breakfast, your instinct is the only way to know what’s right. Don’t underestimate how important this is, it’ll keep you motivated through hard times (and there’ll be a lot over a looooong time).

Don’t flip a coin – put your hand up for everything. It’s too easy to justify why you shouldn’t apply for this grant or that placement or this initiative but even if you don’t meet all the criteria, apply. At best, you’ll be given an incredible opportunity and need to decide if you can do it. At worst, you practice application writing skills, which are necessary to a career in this industry.

Look after your health. It’s no-one else’s job – if your health goes, so does your ability to work. Balance is necessary if you’re building a career.

Behind the scenes with Rosie Lourde on location for the next season of webseries Starting From… Now! photo credit Ella Mackenzie Taylor


Daniel Collins – Practical Filmmaking Diploma Graduate

The three things I have learned or rather the three things I valued most are: teachers, students and knowledge.

I’m now on the other side of six months looking back and on the cusp of achieving a Diploma in Practical Filmmaking. I’m seeking a mentorship with an established director and also planning my five-year career goals in the film industry. Something I never would have believed possible six months ago and all of which I couldn’t have achieved if it hadn’t been for Metro Screen.

Metro Screen has given me the opportunity and confidence to discover my potential, helped me realise my dream for a career in the film industry and helped me gain comprehensive inside knowledge into the various roles a filmmaker undertakes in the production of a project. I’ve written, starred in and edited my own documentary. I have been the Director of Photography on a short drama and Camera Assistant on another, giving me practical experience in what the film production process is like.

All the knowledge I have gained, everything I have learned and unlearned about the film process, industry and everything that I have been fortunate enough to do while at Metro Screen, has only been possible because of the immense help from my teachers and the support of my fellow students.

All the practical and theoretical knowledge that has been graciously and generously passed on from the teachers and staff at Metro Screen has been invaluable and insightful. In putting these lessons into practice I have fallen and made mistakes constantly, and I would have stayed down and made the same mistakes again and again if it wasn’t for the patience and encouragement of my fellow students who helped me in my times of struggle without judgment or condescension.

Thank you Metro Screen. With the 34 years of history, experience, integrity, quality, generosity and reputation that you had when I first entered your doors, I can now say with pride and appreciation that I am a student of Metro Screen and it was an honour to be a part of your last intake.

Still from A Mathematical Equation For Human Intelligence directed by Daniel Collins during the Diploma of Practical Filmmaking.