Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 27, 2010

Film Freak: Filmmaker beginnings

As an independent (self-labeled) director I’ve learned a few things over the years, which I believe can be helpful to anyone interested in film. Granted, I’m not the best, yet, but my experience thus far has taught me a few helpful things.

The most basic is: all filmmakers have to start somewhere. Usually, though not always, the first step is by filming something. It’s that simple! A school project can become the launching point for a filmmaker. It is the beginning, albeit a sloppy one, of a journey to creating legitimate work. No matter the endeavor, there is always a starting point. Film something, film something else, and keep filming. It doesn’t matter how terrible your work is or what people say. Only by letting yourself be defeated will you fail. Yet the road isn’t easy.

First things first: your work will not be a masterpiece. So what? Aim to please yourself instead of others. Film is about expression. If you are not happy with your film, aim to make something better. Don’t throw in the towel because you’ve messed up. Instead, seek to learn from your experiences and mistakes. Plan for the future.

You are not James Cameron. You do not have a multi-million dollar budget. Your budget is probably zero, like Film Production Club’s. But that’s okay. You don’t need a budget as long as you have a camera. You do have a camera, right? Maybe your grandma’s old digital camera isn’t ideal, but you don’t have a choice, so suck it up. Unless you do have a choice, in which case, read on. All it really takes to make a film is a camera. You don’t even need a video camera, just look at the movie La Jetée. It was made with still photos in sequence with voice-over! In order for you to obtain a budget, you will probably need to have a portfolio. Unless you’re spoiled.

Alright, now you have a camera, but you aren’t home-free. The biggest obstacle you will encounter calls upon the old saying, “Hell is other people.” What this means is quite simple: people equal problems. There are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part you will find more obstacles than angels. Why is this?

Sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. We think independently, unless you are a termite-person, in which case stay away from me please. Therefore, we are liable to encounter miscommunications and disagreements, which are often easily rectified through “accidents.” The problem lies in conflicting interests. It is not uncommon to feel like the world is working against you (and I assure you that you are correct in that notion) and that people are trying to keep you from doing what you like. They are. You will encounter people who seek to make your life a living hell and, oddly enough, just happen to be the same people whom you require the aid of, especially for things like budget (cough, cough). These people should be put in boxes and sent to the same warehouse the Ark of the Covenant is located in. They exist, but they can only stop you if you give up. There is always a way.

Most filmmakers like to film people (I know, right?). This generally requires working with people. Unless you have a lot of sway you aren’t going to be able to cast Clint Eastwood (and I cry every night knowing this), but that’s fine. Use your friends, use your family, use that creepy neighbor who always seems to be watching you from his lawn-chair. If you need people you will have to settle for what is available. And yes, sometimes it’s less than ideal, but if you want to use movie stars, you’re going to have to be important or be their immediate family. This plays into a key point: without a reputation you are a nobody, and the only way to become a somebody is to build one (either a reputation or a person, both will impress at dinner parties). If you want to be big, you have to work for it. If you want to be somebody you have to make yourself somebody, it’s as simple as that. So how do you do that? There are a lot of ways, but they all require work and determination.

Film is something. What I mean to say is that it’s hard to define. It’s something you can love and create, it’s something you can hate and destroy (cough, cough). Film is what you make of it. If you want to be a filmmaker there is one thing I can say to you: go film.

Dan Kahn


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