What is gentle filmmaking? article + free ebook download

If you follow us on Instagram, or have ever heard our CEO Raven Whisnant discuss her filmmaking philosophy, you’ve probably heard the term gentle filmmaking. She coined the term to describe what we want to do at New 32. Of course, we want to make really great art; that’s a given. And our art itself isn’t what I would describe as gentle–seriously, look at the Biters & Bleeders trailer, a bug literally bursts out of Raven’s mouth–but our filmmaking process is.

When you close your eyes and picture a typical film set, what do you imagine? Maybe it’s people rushing around, trying to get to every shot they need. Maybe it’s late nights and long hours. Maybe it’s an underpaid, undereducated, and undervalued intern tripping and sending something expensive crashing to the ground. Or maybe not; maybe you’ve had really good experiences on sets (lucky you) and you want to replicate those conditions on your own set.

Enter gentle filmmaking.

So… what is gentle filmmaking, exactly? And, maybe more importantly, what is it not?

Gentle filmmaking means not working your crew to the bone.

Gentle filmmaking means you schedule your shots so that there is time for breaks and that you don’t expect folks to work absurdly long hours. It means you check in on how people are doing and encourage them to rest when they’re able. It means you have water and nourishing food for everyone on set, and you make sure they have time to eat and drink it. It means bathrooms are accessible, clean, and available when people need them. It also means you normalize a culture of care and rest by remembering to take care of yourself throughout the day.

Gentle filmmaking does not mean not expecting yourself and others to work hard.

Gentle filmmaking doesn’t mean you’re sitting around all day. It doesn’t mean nothing gets done. It certainly does not mean you aren’t focused, driven, and displaying a solid work ethic. When we’re shooting, we’re certainly trying our hardest all day and getting shit done; we just also take care of ourselves and others in the process.

Gentle filmmaking means providing an enjoyable on-set experience.

On set, when appropriate, we like to play fun music and have dance parties. We love joking around with each other when we’re not rolling. We make sure everyone is physically safe and comfortable. We love to play and really enjoy each other’s company. When things go wrong, we never yell or place blame on each other, instead working together to find a creative, practical solution, providing direct and kind feedback when needed.

Gentle filmmaking does not mean forgetting that this is a job.

As much fun as we have, we don’t ever forget that we have a job to do. We still respect authority, letting each department do what they do best and letting our leaders call the shots. We don’t ever get so silly that it becomes a distraction. We have fun experimenting with our shots, but we also make sure we always prioritize completing the shot list and sticking to our schedule.

Gentle filmmaking means you put the people first.

As I’ve already said, comfort, fun, and safety are always a top priority. We try to always be cognizant of everyone’s mental and physical health, respect boundaries, and of course pay people well. After a long night of shooting, we make sure everyone has a safe ride back to their home or hotel room. We prioritize education, giving folks an opportunity to grow in their role. We spend a lot of time in pre-production, making sure the set is going to run smoothly and work for everyone we hire.

Gentle filmmaking does not mean you don’t make incredible art.

We strongly believe that when you take care of people, they will take care of the art, and that theory has been proven correct by every set we’ve ever run. When people feel comfortable, safe, and respected, they are going to work really hard to do the job you hired them to do; we’ve actually found that they usually go above and beyond. That’s how we’ve wound up with two award-winning films, a dedicated online community, and dozens of inquiries from wildly talented creators every week. It’s not because we’re somehow magical; it’s because happy people make better art. The myth of the tortured artist is just a myth. Beautiful things are born out of joy every day.

Want to learn more? Our 100% free ebook, The Mindful Maker, is chock-full of valuable information about how to implement these practices into your own set. Take a moment to download it and look over it; we promise there’s no catch, we will never spam your inbox or sign you up for mailing lists against your will. We just really, really believe in this philosophy and want it to be accessible. It’s one small way we’re trying to make the industry we love so much kinder.

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