During mother’s day weekend my own mom lost her battle with cancer. She passed away at the age of 63, a mother of four and a wonderful, warmhearted woman. Much of what I do these days, I do with her in mind. Losing a parent puts life in perspective, it tears away part of you that will never return but it also leaves insight behind. For me, my mother’s passing has motivated me to study harder. As a way of dealing with the grief itself (a welcome distraction) but also as a tribute to her. She put me into this world after all, and applying myself seems the least I can do to make it worth the trouble. I’m not going to go much more into my family’s loss here. This is supposed to be about studying the art of filmmaking after all.
As mentioned in my last post, I’m starting from scratch, with the writing. I thought I would share some more detail for those like me, who are also doing it on their own.
I chose to focus on the various phases of video production in the order they typically happen in real life. To get going, I picked out three textbooks on filmmaking: Writing Short Films: Structure and Content for Screenwriters (I’ve read general scriptwriting books in the past, so I wanted something more specific this time), What They Don’t Teach You at Film School: 161 Strategies For Making Your Own Movies No Matter What, which covers the entire creative process from the point of view of someone working on their own, and finally Producing for TV and New Media, Second Edition: A Real-World Approach for Producers. I go back and forth between these books, reading one or two chapters in each one at a time. I picked these titles based on research, reviews and my existing knowledge. There are many more books I’d like to read, but I’ve found that 3 at a time is my limit or I risk getting overwhelmed.
Reading is great but writing is better. Using sites such as The Script Lab, I’ve found and made a list of exercises that each practice different aspects of scriptwriting. I find more exercises in books and by trolling YouTube. I list 4-5 at a time (one example might read: Character monologue, 1 page, must reference childhood, showcase core moral value) and every day I complete one. Having a list of upcoming exercises plants a seed and lets my subconscious do its thing, so when I’m ready to start work the ideas come faster.
My wonderful wife, being ever-supportive, signed me up for an online class, HDDSLR: Moving from Still to Video. A perfect choice for me, given my background. This is an intensive workshop filmed and broken up into individual segments. Like the textbooks and the writing, I try to complete at least 1 segment every day (each is around an hour long). I’m fairly new to online classes and workshops, but this one at least is definitely worth checking out.
Lastly, I film a lot. Little clips, longer sequences, scripted (sometimes just in the form of two lines of scribbles) or unscripted. Then I look, sort and edit. Then I edit some more. It’s practice, mixing it up a little and constantly challenging myself. I re-read my own writing with a critical eye, hating most of it, and try to pick out lessons and details to work on. Sometimes I edit what I write, but often I move on to the next thing. I see progress in both writing and video but there is still much to learn.
The clip above is a 5×5 video, meaning 5 clips of 5 seconds each that tell a story. It’s one of my favorite exercises, because it forces me to look for the best 5 seconds every time, to help me tell that story in under half a minute. It’s a small enough project, that anyone can complete it in a couple of hours. You should try it, share it, tag your clip 5x5video and drop me a link. I would love to see it.
The upside to the homeschooling approach is that it’s fun, affordable and I can do it on my own time. The downside being the lack of direct tutoring and constructive criticism you get from having a mentor or teacher. It’s lonely work, too. I don’t have fellow students to brainstorm with or to assist with production. These are obstacles that can be overcome of course, and eventually I will need to pull on the expertise of others in one way or another. If you would like to work with me on one of my many projects, consider adding yourself to my personal talent pool. Fill out the form online to sign up.
That’s what my studying schedule looks like at the moment. It will change later, I suspect, as I move past these small exercises and begin working on bigger projects. But for getting started, the approach seems to work well.