Monday, September 8, 2008

Introduction to Filmmaking

Working on SOTB, (which already is much more than just screenwriting) has reminded me how much I actually do know about film- but once again, just how much I have to learn. I've had a lot more hands on experiance than most newcomers- having been making hour+ long films for over four years now. However, simply picking up a good filmmaking book can be invaluable. So can getting advice from others.

So over the next few months...or year, really, since SOTB will certainly not be done until NEXT Christmas, if even then...expect to see posts from me on a variety of filmmaking subjects. I've decided to post them here instead of at the SOTB blog, because I want to keep the blog for strictly SOTB news. My personal blog will deal with more of my personal journey of filmmaking.

For this first post, I'm going to pull up some notes for a talk I gave the last semester at college. It was a class I had taken before, and the final project involves a short film. My advisor (who taught the class) had been extremely encouraging of my film efforts, and knowing that I had a good deal of practical experiance, asked me to come speak to the class and give them a brief talk on making films. Just hitting the high points...

Now strangly enough, those notes are contained in the back of the notebook that I am now using to write the first half of the SOTB screenplay, coinicidence, no? So, anyhow...with some additions now...

First of all, I have to say that I love film. It is a satisfying because it allows you to have a finished product at the end- something that you can feel has been worthwhile, and something that you can show to others. Hopefully, of course, you're making a film for more than just a chance to say you did something cool! You should really be making a film because you want to tell a story, or a truth. (But not to preach a message. Preachy films almost never work.)

I also love filming because it's such a great way to form lasting friendships. Part of this, of course, is because filmmaking can also be a very stressful process. The friends who are willing to stick through a film with you and not hate you afterwards are truely the ones who will be with you for life.

On that note...if you're going to put together a first of all need a cast and crew that you can trust and that are really enthusiastic about the project. People that you have to beg and plead with to get them to do it- they're going to be more of a liability than an asset. Why? Because when you're not paying people, you don't want ANYONE on your set who can or will threaten to walk off if you don't do something their way. It's stressful, it's dangerous, and it's just not healthy to the production.

Start small, but don't be afraid to dream big. You are capable of more than you think you are. So often I hear people say "Oh I could never make a film like that!" Well, maybe you couldn't. Maybe that's not what God has planned for you. But have you ever thought about trying? Sure, your first product probably won't be as good as my third...and it certainly won't be a Hollywood Blockbuster...but you should have seen what I started out doing! (Someday I'll do a post chronicling all of my film projects...that should be amusing!)

But by starting small, I don't necessarily mean in length. Sometimes you do have a story that refuses to be told in anything under an hour. But you have to be practical. Dont' start out with a huge epic war movie...always be mindful of your resources. Sometimes things like filming at a local airport will work because of your contacts. Othertimes, building a medieval Scottish villiage won't fly because you just don't have the money or crew to do so.

Film is challenging. You have to be prepared to meet those challenges without giving up. It will be worth it. Be creative...keep asking...what could we use instead? Is there another way we could tell this scene? You'd be surprised what solutions you can come up with.

It helps, of course- no wait, it's essential- to learn as much as you can. There are many, many ways to do this. The first way is to watch as many films as you possibly all differant styles. (I can do a post on what films are good to watch, if you'd like). Pay attention to everything...story, characters, editing, camera angles, lighting, colors...they are ALL important! (A great book to understanding all of these things is "Understanding Movies" by Louis Giannetti) Then start watching behind the scenes documentries and featurettes. We learned almost everything for our first full-length film by watching the behind-the-scene features for Peter Jackson's Special Extended Editions of the LOTR trilogy.

And then there are books...tons of books...go to your library or amazon and just start looking. You'd be surprised how much you can learn from a book. Believe me. I'll be talking more about that later.

I also went on to give a few practical technical tips...but that almost deserves its own post here, so I'm going to wrap this one up.

If you have any questions that you'd like me to address in upcoming posts...please leave them in the comment box below!


Kate said...

Hi there. I'm a member of NarniaWeb. That's neat that you're making a movie! I'm interested in independent Christian film making as a profession. I hope it goes well.

I like your sketches.

donteatfish said...

Hey Elena!
You said that there are many books about film making, I was wondereing which books you use, and think are particularly good. Thanks.