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Vinicius Marconcin

First steps a student should take to become a serious filmmaker

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Hi, Im a new member to this site and the world of filmmaking so I would like some experienced individuals teach me what a good first step would be to take

Edited by Vinicius Marconcin

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A good first step is to think of specific questions you would like to pose to the forums various members and then go through the site and search if threads have already been created that answer those questions. You may find a lot of useful information that way. Good luck.

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A huge first step is the willingness to make the hobby your life. Millions of others are in the same place you are. Maybe only a few thousand of those millions are willing to go all in.

Thank you for the advice, I feel as if I have the passion to take this all the way, I guess a more specific question would be what should I start shooting with and what should I shoot?

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Thank you for the advice, I feel as if I have the passion to take this all the way, I guess a more specific question would be what should I start shooting with and what should I shoot?

Whatever camera you can get your hands on that allows manual control of focus, shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and color temperature.

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Whatever camera you can get your hands on that allows manual control of focus, shutter speed, ISO, aperture, and color temperature.

What is your opinion of shooting with an iPhone 8 with a stabilizer?

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If you want to be a director without handling the duties of cinematography, then perhaps having all-manual control over the camera settings is less important, however, in principle, the reason you want that is that the image is part of your toolkit as a filmmaker, and do you really want a machine to be making decisions for you as to how the image looks?

 

Making a scene dark or bright or cold or warm, or putting the focus here instead of there, are all creative decisions so you need to wrestle control over these elements.

 

If an iPhone is all you really have and can afford, then it's better than nothing, and there are some apps that allow you more manual control though nowhere near enough. You'd be better off getting a digital still camera that shoots video with some manual controls over the image. At some point, you'll also have to deal with audio, though I got my start by shooting silent Super-8 short films with music added in post. Just seemed that writing dialogue, doing sound recording and sound editing were all a bit more than I wanted to master right at the start, and I figured I'd become a stronger visual storyteller if I avoided the crutch of dialogue to propel the narrative. Plus it took (some of) the curse of having non-actor friends acting in my shorts.

 

My general philosophy was, and still is: read about movies, watch movies, and then make movies, applying what you learned by reading about and watching movies. Repeat forever and ever.

 

I learned by doing very short, short films with simple goals in each -- one, for example, was all about creating mood in b&w using silhouettes as often as possible, another was all about intercutting two simultaneous events to build to a climax, etc. The idea was to keep them short and manageable, not try to make an epic at the first go (though my very first Super-8 short film was an attempt to tell the story of the Trojan War in the style of Monty Python!)

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Do you want to stay digital, or get into film? If the latter, I'd save up money and get started straight into that if you can. The sooner the better. Buy a cheap Super 8 camera and a reel of film. If it's got a zoom, zoom in close for each shot, focus carefully, then zoom out and frame the shot before pressing the run button. Exposure should be automatic. Keep your pans and tilts slow enough if you want clarity of image. Best to get a cheap tripod and use a mix of tripod and hand held shooting. Hand held is better with wide angle. As David says, read a lot, and watch a lot. Learn about telling a story with image. Learn the time honoured basics before knowing what rules to break, and why. You don't need sound to get started if you're shooting film. Learn about simple things like avoiding a jumpy look (eg. from the well-known 'jump cut', a fault of shot length and in-camera editing style really). Tell a story with moving pictures. Make some of the shots nice and long. Others can be shorter to save film, but if all the shots are too short the look will be choppy, like literature that has a series of sentences that are too short. So for instance at a wedding, do a nice long shot, probably best on a tripod, of the bride walking to the altar. That calmly sets up the scene. From there, try as best you can to edit in camera. Anyway, just some thoughts for getting started. These are the basics that I was taught at the very beginning, from the books I read. Most of all, do what you are interested in. That will guide you.

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Now, in digital days, it´s maybe good to start with cheap Canon 5D mk.II and three fix-focal lenses and a set of ND´s. You can buy it for 1000 dollars, and start to shoot.

Shoot, edit, project and hear the critics. Then repeat.

And then, if you want to move to shooting on film, one or two years later, you can buy cheap 16mm camera and start to learn that craft.

Digital is great for beginners, but I would stay away from iPhone (however it is a great tool), but something like 5D with manual control over everything, is import for understanding and developing your skills as filmmaker. Even if you would like to be director, you should understand basic technical and visual principles.

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In filmmaking you'll be working with lots of very, very smart and literate people and one of the ways they bond with each other and communicate their ideas is by talking about plays, novels, and non-fiction. So, you need to get a grounding in that world.

 

If you're a student, go see every play, author, candidate, and filmmaker who appears on campus or in your city no matter who they are or what they're talking about. School is a time to expose yourself to ideas—especially ideas you may disagree with. That's part of becoming an artist: the ability to work with differing points of view simultaneously.

 

Your first goal should be to attend or watch films of at least half of Shakespeare's 37 plays plus some Chekhov, Eugene O'Neill, and Edward Albee (even if it's bad community theater, you need to see these works).

In your car always have either a classic novel or current best-seller going. Try and get in a political book once in a while, but never express your political leanings on set—it's OK however, to talk about the cinematic and commercial possibilities of a political book, who owns the rights, and who you might cast in the roles.

 

The only other thing I would recommend is to memorize the f/stops in 1/3 intervals between f/.09 and f/64.

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I see a script rise before me. Famous cinematographer finds his old Super 8 reels. A long-forgotten thing within the images from the 70s is revealed. An adventure is launched. Yes it has possibilities.

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Watch movies, look at the works of great painters and develop artistic vision. Don't worry so much about what camera or what lens or the other technical stuff, it will come if the passion is there and vision is clear. Conrad Hall once asked an assistant to get him a certain lens and the assistant came back proudly with another lens that he thought was better. He explained to Conrad that it was a better lens and would produce a better image. Conrad didn't use it of course and didn't want the "better" image. He wanted the lens he wanted for a reason. It's what the artists wants to accomplish. If you have the vision and the passion to follow through the tools will be found to make what you imagine. Learn to use your imagination. That is the most important tool any great Cinematographer or artist of any salt has. Without it all the tools and technical know how is not worth a great deal.

Edited by Kim Edward Welch

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Very few people have the talent, ability and dedication to 24x7 learning and practice that it takes to become a moviemaker, or work in any art form. Probably the first thing to find out is if this craft is for you. Doing something as a hobbyist is not the same as getting paid to produce something that others value enough to pay for it (doing it as a profession). You can choose to be a Van Gogh and die peniless without ever having achieved any appreciation for your work, but that is not a viable option for most. Enjoying movies and knowing all about them and talking about them is not the same as making movies. Making movies is not the same as making good movies. Being in school is not the same as being in the working world. In school you pay them. In the working world they pay you. There's a science and an art to most challenging professions. To succeed (that is to make a living at it) you need to be well versed in both. You need to get way ahead of the learning curve so you stand out to those who pay you for your work. You also need the ability to handle people, bosses and peers.

Edited by Bob Speziale

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I've said everything I could possibly say before, but if you do nothing else, do this.

 

Consider what the maximum possible level of success is.

 

Consider what the likely level of success is. The film industry is extremely competitive, and most entrants fail to make a living. Any kind of living.

 

The modern world is extremely hard on people without lots of money.

 

Passion fades. Financial needs don't. Really, consider whether you want to do this. I would recommend you didn't, as your chances of success are microscopic.

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He wanted the lens he wanted for a reason.

 

Well, I won't get into the discussion about making money for creative people. It's really tough. I won't discuss the sacrifices I've had to make as a creative person. But I can talk about what being an artist is, and the perpetual question of tools and technique. I've known and know quite a few artists, both visual (painting, etching and sculpture) and musical. I haven't known too many filmmakers - in that field I've pretty much been the only person around the place who was into film - as I grew up in a quiet, semi-rural area during my teens, when I got my start. But it's in music, where I've had a lot of interaction with other musicians, I've found a surprising level of rigidity of thought about technique, and what tools you use. Teachers are so often adamant that you have to have a certain set up of your instrument. And play with a certain technique. I always think it's bizarre. I choose the instrument set up I want ... because I want it for a good reason. It's the sound I'm after. I know the music world best (classical) and you know what I've found? The best don't care what tool you use. And you play it with your toes for all they care. It is only the final result they ever care about. The sound. The music. The rest is unimportant .. often just a chasing after vain things. With filmmaking it should be the same thing. The look. The story. Who cares if it was shot on what. So in that sense have a clear idea of what it is you are trying to produce.

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I sure understand doing something I love and sacrifice. You have no idea how much time, personal debt and tears went to print magazines after the recession. At any rate, the way to help others is not to discourage them and beat them up. I guess I am guilty of the same and do so non-intentionally. Yes, it's competitive, but it's also a lot of who you know and not just what you know. For the longest time, the industry was ruled by Hollywood and a couple of camera companies. Nepotism and friends of friends got the jobs not the passionate and talented. Also, there is a lot of politics in front of the camera, behind the camera and at the box office. There is nothing in the world like making movies. If you want to do it go for it. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. Find your way. And, be tougher than nails because you will need to be.

Edited by Kim Edward Welch

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Yes, it's competitive, but it's also a lot of who you know and not just what you know.

 

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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I think there ought to be some discussion of whether a person is actually talented and driven and smart enough to succeed in this type of environment. And by succeed I mean able to make a decent living and take pride in their work and accomplishments, not get to some peak of the profession. In many professions it seems the spots at the top involve more than just doing a good job. Nepotism, politics, and maybe a flexible conscience is needed to get the top spots. No matter how much you love something, there's no guarantee you will be more than mediocre at it, a hobbyist rather than a professional. Like Dirty Harry said many times, "A man's got to know his limitations."

Schools and friends won't tell you this, but it's something everyone needs to get a handle on. I agree that with luck and ability a person can often achieve his professional goals. But only if he has a special gift in that area. Not everyone can succeed in every area no matter how much effort they put into it.

But there are also areas that a person can "get into the business" without being a genius or star, like journalism, advertising, production companies. Even government jobs (pensions are priceless) hire and allow people to become competent in cinematography and vidography. It may not be art, but it will pay your bills.

Hundreds of thousands of kids picked up a guitar in the '60s and many are still playing them, but only a very few made a good living at it, and one in a million or so was an Eric Clapton, who had no formal training, no connections, and was at the top in his early 20's, and navigated not just the creative side but the business side brilliantly. The idea that everybody can become a Clapton or top cinematographer or movie maker through desire and hard work just isn't true.

I sure understand doing something I love and sacrifice. You have no idea how much time, personal debt and tears went to print magazines after the recession. At any rate, the way to help others is not to discourage them and beat them up. I guess I am guilty of the same and do so non-intentionally. Yes, it's competitive, but it's also a lot of who you know and not just what you know. For the longest time, the industry was ruled by Hollywood and a couple of camera companies. Nepotism and friends of friends got the jobs not the passionate and talented. Also, there is a lot of politics in front of the camera, behind the camera and at the box office. There is nothing in the world like making movies. If you want to do it go for it. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it. Find your way. And, be tougher than nails because you will need to be.

Edited by Bob Speziale

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Eric Clapton ... had no formal training, no connections, and was at the top in his early 20's, and navigated not just the creative side but the business side brilliantly. The idea that everybody can become a Clapton or top cinematographer or movie maker through desire and hard work just isn't true.

 

Yep that's right. I've studied the lives of hundreds of famous musicians over the years. The one thing I've learned is that the stereotypes are true, but then so are the exceptions to those stereotypes. But as you say, so few become successful 'legends' like Clapton. There have been examples of great musicians that have come from every conceivable situation - assuming a certain minimum propensity for the job (eg. having the physical attributes needed). They've been poor, rich, in between, 'coarse', cultured, extremely young, old and considered by teachers to have missed the boat (rare, but it's happened), the wrong side of town or background, the best teachers, crummy teachers but they persisted with what they had, okay teachers, no teachers at all, or hardly none, self-taught (yes even in classical music) ...everything.

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