Film Subjects that Student Filmmakers Should Avoid

Script Topics

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There are many film subjects that students should avoid.  These come to mind because they are being pumped up by the media or they lend themselves to moral propaganda. You’d be wise to avoid:

  • Worlds you haven’t experienced or cannot closely research.
  • Any ongoing, inhibiting problem in your own life (see a therapist—you are unlikely to solve anything while directing a film unit).
  • Anything or anyone “typical” (nothing real is typical, so nothing typical will ever be interesting or credible).
  • Preaching or moral instruction of any kind.
  • Films about problems to which you have the answer (so does your audience).

Aim to reach audiences outside your peer group and you will be making films accessible to a wide audience. For films of a few minutes, try taking something small that you learned the hard way, apply it to a character quite unlike yourself, and aim to make a modest comment on the human condition. By so doing you can avoid the self-indulgence afflicting most student films. After all, your work is going to be your portfolio, your precious reel that tells future employers what you can do. After you graduate, you don’t want to seem like a perpetual student.

Excerpted from Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics, fourth edition. Copyright ©2008, Elsevier, Inc.  All rights reserved.

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