Have you ever watched a movie that was truly unforgettable, because the movie was so absolutely unbelievable ... in the worst possible way? Here are twelve ways you can tell that a movie was made by an amateur. Or in other words, here are twelve pitfalls for all filmmakers to avoid.
1. Poorly Applied Make-up or No Make-up At All
Zits, pores, reddishness of the skin, freckles and moles are the stars of the movie
2. No Soft Diffusion, Rim or Back Lighting .. or Just No Lighting
The movie quality is painfully bland, noisy, mono-dimensional, and bleak as if someone lit it with a flashlight
3. Music Doesn't Match the Mood
Skanky rock is playing in a scene that should have a thunderous roar of strings and brass from an orchestra, because pop music is the only thing the director knows; the music is not setting the mood during climactic or epic moments in the film; the audience laughed, the audience cried, but mainly they cried
4. Dolly or Tracking Shots Fail
The dolly is heard squeaking, or the camera bounces around; looks like 'The Three Stooges' made the film ... but worse
5. Slow-Mo or Close-ups Used Inappropriately
These techniques, used to emphasize moments in the film, are instead used disjointedly or pointlessly to copy their favorite filmmaker ... although in reality, they did NOT copy their favorite filmmaker, because they have no idea WHY he used these techniques the way he did
6. The Sound is Seriously Pathetic ... Or Maybe Just Pathetic
The overall mix of music, voices, and sound effects are not balanced; they fail to use ambience or ADR for voices; there are noticeable gaps in sound due to the sound editor accidentally deleting two minutes of the sound track, leaving an awkward silence
7. One Good Actor Surrounded By Amateurs
The movie budget was only enough for one pro actor, and several amateur actors who look horrible, act fake, and sound redneck or as if they are reading a script; the contrast is real ... so is the struggle
8. Script Sounds Like a Chatty Cathy ... But the Boring Version
The script is boring, cliche and filled with wordy, needless dialogue instead of using the film images to tell the story; your little brother tells you how the movie will end within ten minutes of the movie's start ... and his prediction rings true
9. Low Budget SFX or VFX
The audience laughs out loud, but not from the storyline ... they're not laughing with you - they're laughing at you - laughing at the VFX of a 'frightening' lion who looks more timid than frightening as its colors have suddenly 'blinked' and aliased between pink green and pastel colors on-screen as the 'lion' looks more like a giraffe due to the fake clunky graphics, made even funnier by the sound of a barking dog used as the SFX for 'a lion roar'
10. Focus of Camera is Auto-Mode and Not Crisp
Footage looks like a home movie with the focus changing around as the camera or drone camera films the scene, or worse yet, everything looks out of focus, because you filmed it all in 720P or you failed to set the focal point of the lens before you started shooting or both or perhaps you didn't change the mode to manual and the auto-focus is locking-in on all the wrong objects or actors throughout the entire scene ... or throughout the entire movie
11. Unbelievable Stunts or Fight Scenes ... As in NOT Believable
Your little sister can figure out how they did the stunts, green screens or accompanying VFX; the boxer's punch totally misses the chin by two feet (or here's where the sound can really hurt when it sounds like a fake punch and looks like one too); the punch has no follow-through and looks like a sissy jab but sounds like Rocky just won the championship finals
12. Budget Cuts
The budget was spent on a giant VFX of a dinosaur in the first scene and now you are left with the results ... everything else in the movie is amateur including the script
Remember that it takes a small army of professionals to make a movie. No area is unimportant. If you don't have the training, hire those who have it to produce your script.
If you don't have the money, then you need to do much of the work yourself by either paying for the education at a credible institution or by becoming a rare renaissance man or woman immersed in books and surrounding yourself with pros who can mentor you.
If you just want to have some fun and make some entertaining videos, as opposed to the art of movie-making, just grab an iPod or basic 1080P video camera and start a YouTube channel which doesn't take the effort, time, and resources that a motion picture requires.
If you are serious about making movies, then educate yourself on the various aspects of filmmaking, and avoid the pitfalls mentioned above. Spend time learning the craft far in advance of actually making any movies or raising investors' money or crowd-funding. Plan your movie out and practice each aspect of the craft far in advance before you have the pressure of timelines, personnel, and other distractions around you. You'll thank me later.