Jacob Rosenberg’s Ten Rules for Filmmaking

This afternoon, at the 2013 Adobe MAX, Jacob Rosenberg, Chief Technology Officer and Partner at Bandito Brothers gave a presentation showcasing the history and projects of his full-service media company.

Founded by two men, Scott Waugh and Mouse McCoy, with a love of action sports in January, 2007, the company began by shooting commercials and grew into feature films, the most famous of which – so far – was 2012’s Act of Valor.

Along the way, Bandito Brothers created their own recognizable style and production ethic. (Not surprisingly, perhaps, given their background of living on the edge, when they moved into their new building, which looked like a converted airplane hangar, most of their offices weren’t cubicles, they were tents.)

At the end of his presentation, Jacob summarized his thoughts on filmmaking. I am sharing his Ten Rules here with his generous permission. (Of these ten, my favorites are #2 and #6)


  1. Format follows Function
  2. Don’t fight over bits and pixels if you can’t tell the difference
  3. [Take] comfort in discomfort
  4. Fear is your friend
  5. A mistake is only a bad thing if you don’t learn from it
  6. There’s always a solution
  7. Analog lessons translate very well to digital problem solving
  8. Use the Platoon model / Less is more
  9. Embrace disruptive technology
  10. Hire young and empower them to learn and make mistakes


(The following definitions are summarized from Jacob’s talk.)

Format follows function. Shoot using the camera that is most appropriate to get that shot. Then convert that video format into something suitable for editing and final output. The format you shoot is not the format you edit.

Don’t fight over bits and pixels if you can’t tell the difference. In almost all cases, any video format you shoot can be converted into a high-quality format for final output. Focus on your story, not obsessing over pixels.

Take comfort in discomfort. Creativity blooms when you are working outside your comfort zone. All too often, working inside our “comfort zone” means that we are no longer really concentrating on the work we are doing, because we’ve done it so many times before.

Fear is your friend. Within reason, being afraid focuses your thinking and creates more careful planning which yields better results.

A mistake is only a bad thing if you don’t learn from it. Making a mistake is not a bad thing. The key is to realize it, learn from it, and don’t make it again. If you don’t make mistakes, you are not learning anything new.

There’s always a solution. So much of production and post-production is problem-solving. Sometimes the solution is so obvious and simple that you don’t notice it right away.

Analog lessons translate very well to digital problem solving. This is a fancy way of saying that what we learned in the past helps us to solve problems in the future.

Use the platoon model / Less is more. Jacob discovered during production of Act of Valor that the military now favors operations composed of small groups where everyone in the group knows of lot of subjects, while one or two people in the group are experts in a single subject. SMall groups yield greater focus, more accountability and quicker reaction times.

Embrace disruptive technology. Technology continues to change. If you don’t continually evaluate your technology and practices, your competition will do it for you.

Hire the young and empower them to learn and make mistakes. With age comes experience and wisdom. With the young comes fresh perspectives, energy, and out-of-the box thinking.

It was a fascinating retrospective on how Bandito Brothers grew from a bunch of daredevils into an independent filmmaking powerhouse. Visit their website at www.banditobrothers.com.

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