If instead you want to become a filmmaker and learn why make films, this post shares a proven method. (Warning – If you’re first film must be great don’t read this post!)
Instead, make sure you have a great script and find the money to hire an experienced producer, director and crew. This collection of knowledge and skill will allow you to skip past the mountain of mistakes most of us need to make before we’re competent.
Don’t get me wrong the first method is very valid if you’re script is marketable and/or you have access to a pile of money. Both of those things will put you on the fast track. They can’t ensure longevity, but they’ll get you in the game fast.
Be happy with the grade of “D.”
I recently heard a mentor of mine use this “grade of D” phrase, and it’s become a powerful motivator for me whenever I begin a new venture. At first, the phrase sounds absurd. We’ve been taught our entire lives to go for A’s or at least B’s. If we came home with a D, we’d hear “you’re smarter then that,” you can do better.
What’s implied in “you’re smarter then that,” is that just because we’ve shown we can do well in other areas we should be able to do well here.
That’s hogwash. This kind of thinking keeps us from trying new things and maybe, eventually getting good at them. The only thing that’s really important, is did we put in real effort, did we do our best?
The older we get the more we seem to expect quick results. Every professional musician, painter and athlete is proof that it takes practice to get good.
No one, at first attempt is going to make a good movie. Our first attempts at anything is usually quite bad by main stream standards – that’s OK.
The key is fast and furious filmmaking.
We need to make mistakes fast.
We don’t know what we don’t know, but we need to figure it out before we can improve.
I could stop there, because that in a nut shell, is why I want you to make three movies fast.
- I don’t care if they’re great.
- What I care about, is that you build a good foundation and develop the ability to see your weaknesses and strengths.
Practice like a garage band.
- Do you know how many successful bands started playing in garages? I’d bet it’s like 99%, right?
- How many of these bands were really good within the first three months of playing?
This is kind of a trick question because if each of the band members were experienced, they might be really good in a couple of days. But, if each of the members had less then a of month of playing on their own, they’d be rough at best.
Now on the other hand, if each member consistently practiced on their own, practiced together and jammed for every friend willing to hang in the garage, they would inevitably become aware of what sounded good, sounded bad and why.
This is the kind of fast and furious filmmaking I’m talking about.
Commit to making at least three films. Make them within six months. I think it would be even better to make them within three months. Either way the key is to focus.
For each of these films you should focus on one of these three foundations.
- Directing Performance
- Cinematography & Visual Story
- Camera Blocking & Workflow
A “D” grade on your film is ok because your main focus will be on one of these foundations.
Don’t try to do all three well. You’ll fail because you’re efforts will be deluded.
If instead you focused on say “Directing Performance” for your first film, and you put all your efforts into getting clear about objectives for each character, the essence of what the performance needed, and you studied how to effectively share that with the actors, you’d have a manageable and measurable task.
You’d be able note what worked, what didn’t and maybe even why.
Even if you found yourself at a loss as to why something didn’t work, you’d know in where to look and you’d be in good shape to get advice from a mentor or another experienced director. I’ll bet that overall you’d be very happy with either the actor’s performances or how you directed communicated with them.
You’d see areas to improve, but thats the point. Don’t worry if the lighting was terrible, or the camera blocking could have been better. If your focus was on “Directing Performance,” then do the your best in the other areas, but don’t beat yourself up if the the work here sucks. You’ll be putting your focus on these other foundations soon enough.
Once you do move on to your next film and your next foundation, let the other foundations be of lesser concern. Focus your resources, make your films short, your cast small, your locations limited and watch your skills grow.
Managing resources is a core skill you’ll develop during your fast & furious filmmaking days, and it’s a skill you’ll leverage for the rest of your filmmaking career.
This is Phase I in “Fast & Furious Filmmaking”. Phase II uses the same strategic approach, but goes deeper into each fundamental.
The serious filmmaker must create opportunities to practice and fail fast. You want to learn from mistakes, get clear about what you did right and do it again.
Are you willing to make grade “D” films if it’s a part of plan to improve your skills long term?
Got A Film Idea?
I’m curious of what you think of this method. Please leave me a comment below. We’ll all benefit from your thoughts, examples and insights.