May 4, 2013

Back Down To Earth!

 Hey guys;

Today isn't really an article, but more of a ramble. A discussion on something I've seen a lot of, and do experience as well. This is written as advice not only to those budding and otherwise talented film makers (and other creative types), but to myself as well.

It's starts with something simple. We have that creative urge. Pick up that pencil or paint brush, pinch Mum and Dads video camera, start a new word document, grab the beat up guitar with old strings... and we make do with it. Because we don't have a choice. We want to explore our creative minds and we'll use whatever we can to begin that process. I remember starting out first with a video camera I borrowed from my then-girlfriend. I had a film idea, a rough word document to explain the story... and a few cap guns. I ran outside with my siblings and filmed what would be my first foray into "directing"... A film called Car Lovers Revenge. It was a nasty little SD JVC Everio camera, on board mic system and a horrible built in lens. But, it's what I had.
I had a split with that girlfriend a month or two later, and unfortunately lost the footage before the film could be made. All that survives from that project is a Youtube based trailer that proved how bad the film truly was going to be. But I didn't care. I was learning, I was creating.
Fast forward, after my few months of pining "lost love" and I dived into my new love... making short action clips. I was armed with a nokia N95 stolen (or "eternally borrowed" as I preferred to say) from a friend, my mothers brand new Acer work station and a pirated (yes, sadly) copy of Sony Vegas Pro 6. I also had siblings, Skye and Patrick who were my crew and actors. We made about 5 short films or more using that setup, each in their own ways really BAD.. but I was learning my craft still, and doing what I loved.

Fast forward at least a year later and I was looking at getting a new camcorder to replace the phone. I was developing some films I wanted to make that I knew the phone wouldn't be up to the task, so I purchased a brand new Canon HV30, $1200 later. From there on, I was more choosy with my projects. I found myself not writing "just any action scene that came to mind" and wanted to start making more serious projects. I had a few false starts, a few "bad eggs" in scripts that turned out to be terrible films... and suddenly it slowed to a crawl. I stopped shooting films, I started doing videography work... and thats when the "gear collection" started.

My "GH1 collection".

You see, what I'm getting at here in my "ramble sesh" is that we all get lost at one point, when we stop seeings stories and start seeing other peoples work with amazing sound, cinematography... and compare our work to that. I know, in my case I was watching short films with slider/dolly shots, steadicam sequences, decent audio, not-that-shaky-handheld that looked good... And I wanted to put all that into my films. I bought my GH1 because I wanted the shallow depth of field that removable photographic lenses provided, and better low light performance than my HV30. I'm one for al-naturale light, not lighting setups. Better dynamic range/sensor-tivity made my job a little easier. I found myself caught up in the "what else can I add to my gear?" "What else to I need?".

This week I finally woke up to that fact. After I'd bought my LX7, and my new slider... and I was looking for the next piece of equipment to add to my gear. I look at all the work I've done over the last 8 months of owning my GH2... and I don't see a great deal to show for all that money invested in gear. I do a lot of videography stuff, but my original reason for picking up a camera... I don't seem to do that much anymore. Lost in the world of being a "dude with a camera", I no longer write scripts because I'm afraid I'll write another stinker of a film. I do more work tweaking scripts for others, lending my knowledge in gear and cameras to friends and other interested peoples... and I forget about my original 'plan'.

So my advice to you all out there is this: Don't get lost in the world of technicality. I did that. I started reading forum posts, I started reading stats and specs sheets for gear... I stopped seeing "any camera can be used to tell a story" and started seeing the distractions instead. Too many times have I seen other film makers (and myself) not do a project purely based on the fact that they're just waiting for "that next bit of kit before they start filming". Forget that. Use whatever you have, get out there and make that bloody movie. Stop letting the world of specs and gear lists weigh you down. If you fall down that hole, it's hard to get out of.

Things are a bit different for me now that I'm a videographer primarily, and a film maker secondary. What gear you have, can definitely help your production values (as I discovered recently with the 'MySong Award' music clips ) but it can distract you as well. While I do raise the quality of my projects, I run into a variety of other situations where I don't spend enough time really "testing" my new toys, and instead learn 'on the fly'. Whilst it's a good way to learn quickly, it can be frustrating when you're filming a wedding and you can't figure out how to balance your damn flycam. In the end you chuck the bloody thing and refuse to use it ever again.

As a film maker, you have creative license. There is a reason why people out there are able to create films on their phones and use cheap cameras creatively. I keep wanting to "go back to basics", and I may do so one day in the future. The point of film making is to focus on the story you're telling, not the gear you use to tell it. Your most important "gear" is your script, and your actors. Your directing skills help, but I think that one is a learn-as-you-go kinda deal. Pull that phone out of your pocket and go out and make that film you've been wanting to make. Take that challenge, you never know how much better it'll make you as a film maker.

Thanks for reading my post. I do apologise if it was a long one. I hope it was informative and you learnt something!

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your Nathan & Allira wedding video. Well done Daniel!

    I'm just starting out learning video stuff. Trying to think how to put "stories" together. Were there any resources or books your relied on for learning the content side, i.e. the combination that you used here of narrative and the sequence and mix and type of shots you used throughout? I have a general feel, but when actually trying to plan a sequence of shots, I feel like I don't know how to proceed. Any thoughts would be appreciated.