Becoming a Filmmaker

Film, Photography

November 27, 2017

As someone who makes films for a living, I’m often asked by people who want to pursue a career in film “how do I start?”

It's a valid question but one that's very difficult to answer. Filmmaking means different things to different people. Every culture, every country, every community has their own filmmakers and use filmmaking for their own ends.

I think it's really great to have mentors, even if those people don't know that you're their mentor. By this, I mean filmmakers and artists whose career and work you admire.

You can use what they do as a template and a roadmap for where you want to go. You can go back and watch their early work and see where they started – what they attempted and how they failed.

The next step to becoming a filmmaker is to try and have the experience of doing the work behind the camera – see how much work and labor goes into producing a film and telling a story.

I think a lot of people like the idea of filmmaking, just like a lot of people like the idea of being a pro athlete, but when you actually get down to it, they don't want to put in the work needed to make a career.

I really admire musicians and I love listening to their music. I know for a fact that I'll never be one: I just don't have the patience for that kind of practice. A big difference between filmmaking and music or being an author is that filmmaking is almost always a team effort.

Its a much more inter-human art form. It's also something that involves a lot of gear, a lot of people, a lot of time and a lot of coordination. You have to have a head for the logistics of it and to be a people person. I big part of filmmaking is being able to get what you want from people and not burn your bridges.

I tell people who want to be filmmakers, go out and make a film. Everyone has a camera or an iPhone, and everyone has a computer. They're part of our everyday lives now. So make a film but make a small one.

Make a really simple, achievable. Smaller than you think is small. It can just be one simple thought or a recreating of a scene from your favorite film. Shoot it on your iPhone and edit it on your laptop. This exercise will give you an idea of what filmmaking really is, not the Hollywood dream that they sell you.

You’ll see the amount of time and effort that goes into getting what it is that you want to represent. In my experience, 80% or 90% of the people that attempt this will never go further when realizing how many hours go into every minute of film. It takes much more concentration and discipline than you think. It is nice to have creative control but that comes with a huge responsibility that is too much work for most people.

When you are an actor or part of the crew, you learn your lines and give your performance – that's your piece of the puzzle.

Then you leave and go on to the next project. The director spends a year before and a year afterward putting all those pieces together into something that they can tell a story. That's a whole different type of challenge. It can be a very difficult personal complicated experience. There’s no map for it.

When a lot of people decide to make a film, they have a tendency to go big. They think “well, I'm already spending this money, I'm already asking these favors. Why don't I make something that will really show the world what I can do?”. That's great, but if you don't understand what the process is and if you don’t yet know if you enjoy that process, then you can bite off more than you can chew. You get stuck halfway and you lose energy. The film will never see the light of day.

Get your hands dirty – start small and then get feedback on your idea once you've finished the film. Find people that you trust to tell you if they like what you’ve made and if they think it makes sense. This being your first outing, the chances are that the film won't make sense. It really takes a humble, mature person to see that a lot of the work, if not all, of the work they’ve done was for nothing. But to be a filmmaker, and to grow as an artist, you need feedback to be part of your process. You have to take advice from

people who around you and go back and work until you have something that fulfills your original intent.

The internet has become a great place to share your work and get feedback. It has the advantage of letting you learn different parts of the filmmaking process as well. Probably the best part of being a member of an online filmmaking community is the encouragement. Everyone who's made a film knows one of the biggest struggles isn't financial or technical, it's a struggle for energy.

Once you put your heart and soul into something and no one understands it, it’s critical for other people with similar tastes, wherever they are, encourage one another and help one each other take the next step.

YouTube, in particular, can be invaluable. You can connect with people who like what you do. We are no longer captive to the Hollywood tastemakers and the Network TV. We’re able to build a community around the work that you love to do and find collaborators.

So make a film. After you’re done, you'll have a pretty good idea if you like kind of grind, intensity and monotony it takes to turn an idea in to a moving image. If it gives you a buzz, makes you feel alive and makes you feel like this is something you could do for a living, then choose a bigger project. Branch out slowly and surely.

You need to put some part of yourself into your work and you need to get something out of it.

Happy filmmaking!

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Become a WORLD-CLASS Photographer in 10 Easy Steps


November 16, 2017

Are you a photographer? Have you ever looked through your Instagram feed and seen amazing pictures and thought “if only I could take photos like that!”?  Well, you probably could.

Photographers that take high-end photographs do have a lot of talent and a lot of experience, but I also feel that what you're seeing in an amazing photograph isn't necessarily the photographer’s talent. There are a lot of other factors that go into a great photo, that anyone else if they used the same factors, they could get not an identical but a pretty similar result.

These are the 10 steps that you can take if you want to take world-class photographs.

1. Use the best equipment

I’m not talking Canon 1d or the latest Nikon. I'm talking hundreds of thousands of dollars of medium format camera gear. Hasselblad, Leikas, Phase one. Crazy fast lenses from boutique companies no-one has ever heard of. Everything must be prime and have manual focus for an added bonus, and be transported around in no less than 50 pelican cases.

2. Hire and shoot the most beautiful, successful models

I'm talking about models with millions of followers – the cover girls and the people that appear in movies. This adds an air of glamor and fame and success to your photography. Models get millions of likes just for a selfie in the mirror. It should be pretty easy if you're shooting the most beautiful people in the world to produce some of the most beautiful photographs in the world.

3. Amazing clothes and stylists

Get jackets and coats and shirts and scarves that cost thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. Get amazing wedding dresses that billow with silk and satin in vibrant bright colors. Get a stylist who picks clothes for a living and knows how to put together an outfit that will blow your mind.

4. Exotic Locations

Go to the most wonderful, amazing locations in the entire world. Go where no one else has been before. Go to an abandoned castle, exotic rivers, go to isolated beaches that you have to get to by helicopter. If you want to take a picture no one else has taken before, go somewhere no one else has gone or can go.

5. Timing

Shoot at the most beautiful times a day, when the light is just right, which means before or after sunset or sunrise. This can be hard, because it may take you hours to get to location, which means getting up in the middle of the night to get ready for a sunrise shoot. You only really have two hours of magical light each day but that's when everything looks the most beautiful so that's when you go to shoot.

6. A Great Team

Almost every part of the image taking process can be delighted, except pushing the shutter release. A gaffer will light your subject for you. A lighting technician will fine tune it. A digital imaging assistant will tell you how the image looks coming out of the camera. Get other people on set that know how to produce these images and have worked for other successful photographers. You don’t have to design your own lighting. Someone with a lot of experience that's done it hundreds and hundreds of times can do it. They’ll tell you how to set the exposure on the camera and we'll give you moment to moment feedback on whether or not your shot is in focus and where you need to compensate.

7. Use lots of lights

Put up 20×20 silks. Have 10-foot umbrellas mounted to cranes. Use dozens of flashes. This will make your photographs be sure to look like nothing else out there

8. Spray and Pray

Don't just take one picture, take thousands of pictures. Keep your finger on the shutter as take as many as you possibly can. By the laws of averages, one of them is sure to look amazing.

9. Go all-out on post

Use world-class retouches that can do amazing things with the images. Take out all the blemishes, reshape the model's body, replace the skies with something else and really drive up the production value. Get someone who really knows what they're doing, go to town your images and make them really a step ahead.

10. Rinse and repeat

The first shoot might not work, or the second. Keep going. Get really, really comfortable with shooting with all this gear and equipment and I guarantee you that the images that you will produce will look as good as anything else out there

Professional photographers might be able to tell that you're just compensating for your lack of talent with incredible models and lighting and props and wardrobe and locations and crew, but the average person probably won’t. The person that's looking at this on Instagram or in a magazine will just see all the factors that went into the photograph and be totally impressed.

In all seriousness, if you want to set your photography apart from other photos out there, you just need to do what other people are doing, which means finding your own voice, finding your own style and creating something that means something to you. Then doing it enough that you get good at it.

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