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How-To

July 16, 2021

7 Not-so-typical Rules to Follow for Film Production

Written by
Joel Fuller

How-To

July 16, 2021

7 Not-so-typical Rules to Follow for Film Production

Written by
Joel Fuller

RJ Bruni is a filmmaker, owner of the Inmist studio house, and Wildist’s newest instructor of the Cinematic Filmmaking Workshop. In this workshop, RJ teaches you everything you need to know about pre-pro, production, and post, so you can make films that move people. Follow along as he goes step-by-step producing his own short film start to finish, and then create your own. His select clients include Land Rover, Travel Alberta, Canon Canada, Therm-a-Rest, and GMC.

Part II of the workshop, focused on Production, is now available! Follow RJ on a 3-day shoot as he takes everything envisioned and planned from Part I: Fundamentals and Pre-production, and executes it to capture his own short film. Then take everything you learn and create your own. The list below are RJ’s seven not-so-typical rules to follow for production:

1. Do what you planned and don’t leave anything on the table

A successful production is built off a well planned effort in pre-production. You’ve done all the work and planning: found/created a story, scouted locations, built a shot list, worked out logistics, and debriefed with your talent and team. Now is when you put all of that hard work and all of that time into action. Everything that you’ve planned needs to get executed. To create the best film possible don’t leave any of your hard work from pre-production or work in the field on the table.

2. Make production feel like you’re going on an adventure with your best friends

“Think about production and being on set as if you’re going on vacation to build some incredible memories. Of course you’re not going on vacation, and the production is going to be a ton of work, but you want to look back on these experiences and remember how encouraging everyone was, how wonderful each person was to work with, and finish with a sense of pride from all the hard work and effort everyone put in,” says RJ. Thinking about production in this way makes for a much better film, with the added benefit of walking away with people that want to work with you again. You want everyone to be proud of their work and look back on these projects with positivity.


3. Build a set that fits the vibe of your film

“How everyone feels on set is going to reflect what you capture on camera. It’s important you build a set that fits the vibe of the film you set out to create,” says RJ. If you’re creating an intimate and feel-good film, your set needs to reflect this. And vice versa, if you’re building a film that’s high energy and high pace, reflect it. Regardless of the set, RJ does a few things to build the right energy with a team and talent: 

4. Keep the morale of your team high

“Sometimes things on set things can get a little bit stressful. There are moments where you’re under a lot of pressure to get the job done. In those moments, it’s important to keep the morale of your team high. It’s never worth getting snappy with people, or becoming quick and giving them short answers. There are moments where we don’t have time to explain every little detail, but let’s make sure we communicate in a respectful way. The minute you start getting quick with people, it can change the feeling of the film. From my experience, it's never worth doing this. You’re going to make a better film by keeping it cool and respectful in these moments. Pump peoples tires, especially when working with talent. When someone isn’t used to working in this industry, they can be confused by the amount of takes and uncomfortable with the camera. It’s important we let them and everyone on set know that they’re doing a great job.” - RJ

5. Directing is all about communication 

As the director, your mission is to communicate your vision with everyone on set, so it’s very important that you improve based on what does and does not work. When it comes to talent, we want to make sure they understand the vision and emotion behind the scene, all of which you’ve decided in pre-production. That’s why pre-production is so important. What emotion needs to be conveyed? What is the energy of this scene? If they know all these things, their jobs will be easier. Let them know how many takes there will be, or when and why you're switching angles or lenses.  Keep up the communication and reasoning — as the director, you don’t want to be a pushy boss, you want a comfortable space open for collaboration. 

RJ encourages any director or filmmaker to use universal terms, like action, cut, and rolling camera. This helps eliminate confusion on set. There are times however, when as the director or DP (director of photography) you don’t need to say action, where you want to let the camera roll to capture real moments that the talent didn’t even know were being captured, and oftentimes these can be more authentic given the talent doesn’t feel any of the pressure from calling “action.”

6. Let the spirit of the moment inspire you
“In the end, when you’ve done the best that you can and executed all of your plans, throw it all away and absorb the magic of the moment. Sometimes I take out my film camera and shoot a few stills — this opens my mind to explore things creatively in a new way with a different medium. I think to myself, ‘what moments on set are going to amplify the film and make it even better than I planned in the first place?’ With that question and taking some moments with my film camera, I often get inspiration for a few new angles or ideas that may or may not be used in the final edit.” - RJ

7. Leave it all in the field
Do not compromise your initial vision: make sure you get the shots, and capture the feeling and story you set out to create. Don’t be okay with a shot that is just okay, or not exactly the way you envisioned it. Do it again, everyone is there to make the best film possible.


Bonus: Three ways RJ calls action and records in the field

1. Set up the scene and call “action”

2. Inform the talent that the camera is rolling indefinitely and to go about themselves in the environment or with what you’ve directed

3. Roll the camera without telling anyone in an effort to capture authentic moments

Part II: Production of the 3-Part Cinematic Filmmaking Workshop is now available: 

Part I. Fundamentals & Pre Production — available now

Part II. Production — available now

Part III. Editing — Drops Early August

If you’re a photographer who has been wanting to take steps towards filmmaking, or a filmmaker who wants to create with more intention, this workshop is for you.



RJ Bruni is a filmmaker, owner of the Inmist studio house, and Wildist’s newest instructor of the Cinematic Filmmaking Workshop. In this workshop, RJ teaches you everything you need to know about pre-pro, production, and post, so you can make films that move people. Follow along as he goes step-by-step producing his own short film start to finish, and then create your own. His select clients include Land Rover, Travel Alberta, Canon Canada, Therm-a-Rest, and GMC.

Part II of the workshop, focused on Production, is now available! Follow RJ on a 3-day shoot as he takes everything envisioned and planned from Part I: Fundamentals and Pre-production, and executes it to capture his own short film. Then take everything you learn and create your own. The list below are RJ’s seven not-so-typical rules to follow for production:

1. Do what you planned and don’t leave anything on the table

A successful production is built off a well planned effort in pre-production. You’ve done all the work and planning: found/created a story, scouted locations, built a shot list, worked out logistics, and debriefed with your talent and team. Now is when you put all of that hard work and all of that time into action. Everything that you’ve planned needs to get executed. To create the best film possible don’t leave any of your hard work from pre-production or work in the field on the table.

2. Make production feel like you’re going on an adventure with your best friends

“Think about production and being on set as if you’re going on vacation to build some incredible memories. Of course you’re not going on vacation, and the production is going to be a ton of work, but you want to look back on these experiences and remember how encouraging everyone was, how wonderful each person was to work with, and finish with a sense of pride from all the hard work and effort everyone put in,” says RJ. Thinking about production in this way makes for a much better film, with the added benefit of walking away with people that want to work with you again. You want everyone to be proud of their work and look back on these projects with positivity.


3. Build a set that fits the vibe of your film

“How everyone feels on set is going to reflect what you capture on camera. It’s important you build a set that fits the vibe of the film you set out to create,” says RJ. If you’re creating an intimate and feel-good film, your set needs to reflect this. And vice versa, if you’re building a film that’s high energy and high pace, reflect it. Regardless of the set, RJ does a few things to build the right energy with a team and talent: 

4. Keep the morale of your team high

“Sometimes things on set things can get a little bit stressful. There are moments where you’re under a lot of pressure to get the job done. In those moments, it’s important to keep the morale of your team high. It’s never worth getting snappy with people, or becoming quick and giving them short answers. There are moments where we don’t have time to explain every little detail, but let’s make sure we communicate in a respectful way. The minute you start getting quick with people, it can change the feeling of the film. From my experience, it's never worth doing this. You’re going to make a better film by keeping it cool and respectful in these moments. Pump peoples tires, especially when working with talent. When someone isn’t used to working in this industry, they can be confused by the amount of takes and uncomfortable with the camera. It’s important we let them and everyone on set know that they’re doing a great job.” - RJ

5. Directing is all about communication 

As the director, your mission is to communicate your vision with everyone on set, so it’s very important that you improve based on what does and does not work. When it comes to talent, we want to make sure they understand the vision and emotion behind the scene, all of which you’ve decided in pre-production. That’s why pre-production is so important. What emotion needs to be conveyed? What is the energy of this scene? If they know all these things, their jobs will be easier. Let them know how many takes there will be, or when and why you're switching angles or lenses.  Keep up the communication and reasoning — as the director, you don’t want to be a pushy boss, you want a comfortable space open for collaboration. 

RJ encourages any director or filmmaker to use universal terms, like action, cut, and rolling camera. This helps eliminate confusion on set. There are times however, when as the director or DP (director of photography) you don’t need to say action, where you want to let the camera roll to capture real moments that the talent didn’t even know were being captured, and oftentimes these can be more authentic given the talent doesn’t feel any of the pressure from calling “action.”

6. Let the spirit of the moment inspire you
“In the end, when you’ve done the best that you can and executed all of your plans, throw it all away and absorb the magic of the moment. Sometimes I take out my film camera and shoot a few stills — this opens my mind to explore things creatively in a new way with a different medium. I think to myself, ‘what moments on set are going to amplify the film and make it even better than I planned in the first place?’ With that question and taking some moments with my film camera, I often get inspiration for a few new angles or ideas that may or may not be used in the final edit.” - RJ

7. Leave it all in the field
Do not compromise your initial vision: make sure you get the shots, and capture the feeling and story you set out to create. Don’t be okay with a shot that is just okay, or not exactly the way you envisioned it. Do it again, everyone is there to make the best film possible.


Bonus: Three ways RJ calls action and records in the field

1. Set up the scene and call “action”

2. Inform the talent that the camera is rolling indefinitely and to go about themselves in the environment or with what you’ve directed

3. Roll the camera without telling anyone in an effort to capture authentic moments

Part II: Production of the 3-Part Cinematic Filmmaking Workshop is now available: 

Part I. Fundamentals & Pre Production — available now

Part II. Production — available now

Part III. Editing — Drops Early August

If you’re a photographer who has been wanting to take steps towards filmmaking, or a filmmaker who wants to create with more intention, this workshop is for you.



The Cinematic Filmmaking Workshop

Join RJ Bruni for a 3-part workshop intensive designed for you to walk away with your own compelling short film. Learn the essential elements to build your vision – then bring it to life through pre-pro, production, and post.

Explore Workshop