So you’re here… you’ve clicked on that mildly click-baity title. Some of you may have clicked over with genuine curiosity as to what mistake you as a filmmaker should avoid. Even more of you probably clicked over to reaffirm your beliefs – you’re here to hear about “bad audio” or “bad casting”…

The biggest mistake filmmakers make is…  Giving a shit about these kind of articles.

Seriously, I am so sick of seeing this garbage pass as “filmmaking articles” – no doubt that this is a popular SEO topic. Almost all YouTube Filmmaking Channels count this title as one of their highest ranking videos. But come on already – it’s a useless topic.

Here’s what these “mistake” articles boil down to:

Don’t get bad sound. No shit.

Don’t have a boring story. No shit.

Don’t be cliche No shit.

Have actors that can act. No shit.

Literally NOTHING in a “most common mistakes filmmakers make” is revolutionary advice – it doesn’t even register as “advice” – it’s just some list of problems that are common in freshman films.

So you might ask, “what exactly is wrong with that?” Nothing I suppose. But don’t try to diffuse this rant with temperate thought, I’m going somewhere with this:

Despite the fact that the internet has existed for nearly 700 years now, new filmmakers, even with access to all the resources available today, STILL CONTINUE to make these mistakes. You’d think that with the proliferation of these types of articles that the whole industry of filmmakers making mistakes would have been eradicated by now. But no! If you compare a “15 Common Mistakes E’re Filmmaker Maketh” from 1565 to a modern version you will find exactly the same list.

Why? Because these lists aren’t advice – they’re VIRTUE SIGNALLING. No person in the history of the world reads a “mistake article” and thinks – oh shoot, I better stop doing number 5. No! People share these types of articles to tell others that they are no longer “beginner filmmakers” – some may have the humility to say they’ve committed all these mistakes, but it’s always followed implicitly with “but I’m smarter now”.

This is also a reason why these types of articles are aimed at the non-professional crowd – because every professional already avoids these mistakes. It’s a given. Even the worst Hollywood film has better sound than most amateur productions. But for the non-professional being above the mistakes, or at least recognizing the mistakes means you’re included into a club of “real filmmakers”. You are better than the unwashed masses pushing and shoving to climb over each other at the gate. (Bonus if you spotted the pun there)

If we can be honest about the purpose of such things – then the question becomes is there any real harm to it? To that I would have to say yes – it misleads us on how we (from Edison and Georges Méliès all the way to that fat girl from Ohio) go about learning the art of filmmaking.

Perhaps we need to stop looking at these mistakes not as mistakes, but as steps in the learning process. When we “teach filmmaking” or when we mentor filmmakers, we should let people make these so called “mistakes” freely. Going out there and shooting the wrong shutter speed or having bad sound should be a learning opportunity – not something that a newbie filmmaker is going to pick up reading or watching a blog posting.

Some people may never rise above these “mistakes” – they may live life happily with bad sound. But some will learn and some will ask how to do it better. That’s where the learning begins.

I can’t deny there is some “talking shop” fun in these types of articles, but let us not be fooled by their digestibility. You aren’t learning anything new – and neither is anyone else.

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