A production team (cast and crew – hired by the Production Company or producer) is responsible for overseeing the production process. The production team is composed of people from different backgrounds and talents who combine their expertise to tell one story. Each one of them is assigned a part of the production process according to their expertise and talent. There are various factors that the production needs to observe to make the production successful. Jenet Agbor, a born and bred Cameroonian filmmaker presents her views on the Do’s and Don’ts in the film production process in Africa.
There is always a unique dream behind any film project and so does the production process. The recognition of the uniqueness of every project is important in making project successful. However, in the few productions that I have been part of or witnessed among born and bred African filmmakers; I have identified similar mistakes that they make. Whether they are aware of these mistakes or are just ignorant is a question well known to them. They tend to be blind of the fact that such practices take down their projects and lead to wastage of time, talent and money.
Things TO AVOID during film production
The knowledge of film making is mostly not gotten from the classroom, but from the production process. Without this knowledge, talent is useless. Some born and bred African filmmakers lack adequate knowledge on the production process. Especially the responsibilities of each team member and ethics in the production process. With adequate knowledge, some of the common flaws in African films can be avoided. The following are some of the don’ts for African film makers.
1. Bringing personal issues and forming cliques on set
Avoid taking personal issues with someone on the team to the set. On set, it is about the characters in the story not about the person you know. The production team is like a new family to that project, so it should be approached with a new vision that is different from personal life. During a project, everyone is playing their role to tell a story that is different from who they are in real life. So, bringing personal issues causes distraction and makes the cast and crew to lose focus.
2. Correcting Co-actors
As an actor, it is not your duty to jump in to correct the mistake of another actor on set, except when you are playing both roles (cast and crew). Otherwise, this is the job of the Directors. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute your idea, but any contribution needs to pass through the Director/Producer or D.O.P. Talking directly to your co-actors on set makes them feel bad and lowers their spirit which affects their performances. If you have to say something to your co-actor about their performance as an actor, tell them in private and during breaks not on set.
3. Asking or Explaining Things to the Wrong Person and Time
Each team member has their roles and job descriptions. Actors focus on their character and instructions on how to put themselves in the characters. Each crew member works with their job descriptions to see how to best present their character role to tell the story. The D.O.P doesn’t have to explain every single move of the camera to the actor on why they have taken a particular angle or shot. Fellow actors too don’t have to explain their moves to other actors as this is a waste of time and confuses the set. However, this doesn’t mean that team members cannot learn on set. But learning the wrong way at the wrong time is not learning at all. The production set is a school on its own. Thus, if an actor has a question to ask to the D.O.P or fellow actor, they should do so off-set.
4. Diverting the Filmmaker’s Point of Focus
The Production team is there to make the dream of the Director/Producer come true. When you are called to participate in a project, you should fit into the vision of that project. Avoid trying to influence your own story at a time when you are supposed to be discussing on how to achieve the goals of the present project. Diverting the filmmakers’ point of focus causes a waste of time and resources. This does not mean that discussing your project is bad, but doing it in the context of another project is wrong. The producer hired the present team for his or her project and that should remain so. When you are done with the present project, you can hire the production team again to focus on your project.
5. Mixing tradition/religious beliefs with profession
You should read and make sure that a project does not contradict your tradition or religion believes, before signing a contract for it. Don’t take a character only to come on set and change the design because your tradition or religion doesn’t allow you to wear certain costumes or engage in certain acts. Also, if your tradition doesn’t allows you as a man to take instructions from a lady and the director of the project is a lady, turn down the project. Than to sign for the project because of money and fail to take instructions from the director.
6. Taking People’s Projects for Granted
Before a producer calls for a project, he or she has a dream. Don’t use someone’s project to practice on new software you have just learned online or to taste your new camera tricks. The producer has put in a lot of money for this. Get your own script or buy one from an upcoming writer to do your practice. That is one of the reasons we have student categories when we submit films to festivals. Don’t waste other producers/Directors money and time with your untested skills.