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Everybody Lies

By Scott Shaw

Here's a brief segment from my book
Zen Filmmaking that I hope may be helpful to some of you filmmakers out there.

The number one rule of filmmaking is…

“Everybody Lies.”

I generally lead into this point in a much more poetic manner than simply stating it so boldly as I have done here—sighting references, etc. But, to begin any understanding of filmmaking, you must initially understand this point.

What Does It Mean?
The question can be asked, “What does this mean—Everybody Lies?”

The answer is very simple, in filmmaking, people lie about every aspect of their life, their experience, their production, what they have, have-not, will-not, or can-not do. Mostly, people lie to make their production and/or their resume look bigger and better than it is.

What they lie about and why they do it is as unique as the individual. But, there are some commonalities in what lies are perpetrated across the industry. To go down the list:

Actors tend to lie about the fact that they have been in films. They may make up titles that do not exist in order to make their resume look stronger. Or, they may amplify the size of the role they had in any indie or student film to increase their desirability. In addition, actors commonly claim that they were a part of large A-Film. The fact commonly is, however, that these people were at best extras in these films.

Film crewmembers lie about their experience; what they can do and how they can help the production with their knowledge. One of the most notorious things that partially cameramen do is to say that they know how to load and to use a particular camera when they do not but this fact is not revealed until they are on the set. It is also quite common for a cameraman to agree to work with limited lighting and then either the night before or the day of the shoot proclaim that they cannot work with the lighting provided and you must either rent lighting from them or one of their friend if you want them to shoot the movie.

In terms of the lies that filmmakers tell—they are notorious for making all kinds of claims about their productions. They commonly falsify their production budget. They lie about the notoriety of what actor or actress was in their film. They lie about what format the film was shot on, where they shot their film, etc…

Film Distributors make all kinds of promises about what they will do with your film if you sign over the distribution rights to them. They may claim they will have it shown in theatres, distribute it in large video rental chains, or get it to the executives at the large studios. I cannot be firmer in explaining this; film distributors have one motivating factor in mind—making money for themselves. To accomplish this, they will lie to the filmmaker at all imaginable levels. They will not tell them what countries purchased rights to the film, they will create costs that never existed and claim that is why the filmmaker is due no monetary compensation, they will short-change or completely disavow any payment due to the filmmaker, and this is just the short-list. The number of filmmakers I have personally known who have created a feature film that received distribution and received no money or actually ended up owing the distribution company money is so large that it is almost ridiculous. But, that is a fact of the industry. And, it is a fact that you need to know.

At the end of the day people involved in the filmmaking process lie. The reason I explain this is that you, the filmmaker, needs to understand this and take this factor into consideration at the outset of entering into the filmmaking game. You need to do this in order to keep yourself from falling prey to a lie that may affect the overall outcome of your film and your overall psychological well-being.

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