Features and Columns · Movies

The Importance of Cinema’s Happy Accidents

Hey, accidents happen. Hopefully the cameras caught it.
accidents film
United Artists
By  · Published on December 18th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video on the importance of embracing accidents during the filmmaking process.


There’s an old joke that goes: if you want to make God laugh, make a plan. This feels especially appropriate when it comes to movie-making. With so many deadlines, moving parts, and hands-on deck, it’s almost certain that, eventually, something will go wrong. The fact that movies are helmed by controlling creatives whose job-title is one muddled syllable away from “dictator” makes this inevitability for error especially delicious.

It also makes for some particularly compelling contradictions, such as known-control freak Stanley Kubrick — arguably cinema’s preeminent perfectionist — allowing for planned improvised takes. Which are exactly what they sound like: takes where actors go off-script on purpose.

Indeed, this hard-learned balance between good planning and unexpected opportunities is one of the essential lessons of filmmaking. Without a degree of flexibility (and rolling cameras), we wouldn’t have the evocative splattering squib burst in Children of Men, the authentic reaction to Alien‘s inaugural chest-burst, or Midnight Cowboy‘s infamous, oft-quoted “hey, I’m walking here!”

As in life, on a film set there is an innate desire to control things. Learning to loosen up, know what you need, and stay open to moments of discovery is not easy, but it can lead to magic.

Watch “Embracing Accidents“:

Who made this?

This video is by RocketJump Film School, an ongoing series of online filmmaking tutorials and educational essays. You can subscribe to their YouTube page here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).