Six Lessons I Learned Making My First Feature

Guest post by Ewan Thomas, Writer / Director

I started working in the film industry 10 years ago, in post-production. But I’d always wanted to shoot my own film, so I moved to London wanting to “make it” as a film director. Shoot my first feature film.

This means facing challenges and obstacles – so here are some of my top picks and how I overcame them:

  • IMG_6633Handling Rejection
    I submitted my application to a short film funding scheme. I was too naïve to see how ultra competitive the scheme was and I wasn’t selected. I was utterly gutted. I continued to apply several years in a row and was not successful. The mistake I made was not exploring alternative ways to make that script.
  • DSC04581Bringing Home The Bacon
    Working in Teachers TV and producing educational films had sustained myself and my partner for 5 years. But we found ourselves in a changing landscape – equipment was suddenly cheaply available and previous clients were now making films for themselves. We ran out of money so to keep the momentum we moved in with my parents and worked out of an office in their garden! Thne lesson is keep your overheads low, it’s a marathon.
  • IMG_6622Staying Creative
    To keep us on our creatively active we entered the Reed Short Film Challenge and the 48 Hour Sci-fi London Film Challenge. This was the most directing I’d done in 5 years! Responding to challenges fostered a proactive response.
  • IMG_6899Committing To Goals
    Sometimes life gets in the way. If you don’t set a date to start shooting your film you may never make the film in the first place. Rob Savage, director of Strings, gave me this advice and it meant everything to me. Set a date and commit to that date. Shoot the film with whatever money you have in place because the most important thing is to actually make it.
  • IMG_6837Adding Value
    We were committed to making the film, so I self-financed the film using a start-up loan. We added production value by flying super-cheap to Morocco in January and shooting a lot of footage for the film. We shot with the new Magic Lantern RAW mod for the Canon 5D Mark III which made some of our sequences look amazing.
  • 1274220_10151886585582590_1130312706_oFinishing The Job
    We were in edit and new deadlines were approaching. We now had a new cut, with a far superior sound mix, and a much better grade. We still felt we could do more but in the end we had to step back and say this time it’s finished. I had no idea about delivery formats for cinema screening, Dolby licenses or BBFC certificates. And it wasn’t until we talked about getting the film seen that I realised how much work was involved in finding and engaging with an audience! Once you’ve finished the edit, it doesn’t stop there. You have to keep up the work until it is in the audiences hands.

I’m finally preparing to present ‘This Is Not Happening’ to the world. Making my first feature was a crash course in film-making. Along the way, my perception of what it means to make a feature film has changed dramatically. I hope sharing some of the lessons I’ve learnt will help someone else.

We are crowdfunding for completion funing now at

Ewan Thomas, Writer / Director
Twitter: @ewanthomas
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Thanks Ewan – if you want to meet filmmakers like Ewan, you can sign up to the last Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass for £69 for the two days HERE or use the widget below. Dates 25th and 26th July, Regents University, London.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones
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