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First steps a student should take to become a serious filmmaker

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, aapo lettinen said:

both of those sound like pretty unrealistic to me both as starting points and motives to want a film career. 

Both are based on real people. 

And the majority of people who go to film school in the USA are extremely unrealistic - because the each year something like 20 times more people graduate than the film industry needs. And if you're looking at the jobs that film school trains you for - director, editor, camera team, production - then the number is more like 100 to 1.

Edited by David Mawson

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, David Mawson said:

Actually, I'd say that one of the first things you should do to become good at any art is to sop confusing "What I like" with "What is good". You have to accept that people are different and that you can learn as much - or more - from excellent films that you don't like. I generally don't resonate with Orson Welles' work but I can separate that from my evaluation of its quality.

That's not to say that you should accept anything popular or critically adored as genius. But you should evaluate and critique your own reaction. Eg you called SSOS "melodramatic." But i. is this fair at all? a lot of the film is in subtle details. And ii. do you know anything about the milieu and real personalities the film was based on? Compared to Winchell's broadcasting style, Lancaster's character is almost softly spoken - the film would have lost all meaning and relevance without the element that you didn't react well to. "A good film" does not equal one that appeals to the tastes of a random viewer decades later.

Deciding something is "good" when you don't like it is a bizarre concept that I wouldn't know how to implement. I guess you are saying I should take other people's word for it because they have more knowledge than me, but I don't buy it or believe it. One man's trash is another man's treasure. They are all just opinions, no matter who expresses them. At the end you only have your opinion. As Shakespeare said, nothing is good or bad except that thinking makes it so.

Edited by Bob Speziale

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3 hours ago, David Mawson said:

(Another example of how wrong Tyler's usage is: Robert Latham Brown uses it in exactly the sense that Tyler says is incorrect in "Planning The Low Budget Film" - and RLB is a producer!)

Things have changed a lot since Robert produced his first low-budget movie. Again, when you're a top guy, it's really easy to give notes on what you did 30 years ago to become successful. This is 2019 and the rules of the game have changed dramatically. All of the standard revenue avenues that use to be open; theatrical, home video, television, pay per view and in-flight, have all diminished for low-budget production. Thus, financing has become an entirely different game and wouldbe directors have been turned into full-time producers in order to make their $250k movies come off the ground. I know this because I work on those movies for a living and I have worked on them long enough to see the game change in the last 5 years. So please don't lecture me about making low-budget movies in 2019. 

 

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Posted (edited)
45 minutes ago, Bob Speziale said:

Deciding something is "good" when you don't like it is a bizarre concept that I wouldn't know how to implement. I guess you are saying I should take other people's word for it because they have more knowledge than me, but I don't buy it or believe it. One man's trash is another man's treasure. They are all just opinions, no matter who expresses them. At the end you only have your opinion. As Shakespeare said, nothing is good or bad except that thinking makes it so.

@ David Mawson Of course you are correct in one respect, you might think a suit looks terrible but concede it's made from a good fabric or has good stitching. So if you are a tailor you could learn from it. Possibly if I was a film maker of narrative pieces there would be something to learn from SSOS. But I am not. I just do youtube videos, mostly music performance, so if I judge a movie as not good I'm really talking about what appeals to me, and not whether there's elements of craft that others can learn from.

Edited by Bob Speziale

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4 hours ago, David Mawson said:

I think you've reached that conclusion because you don't understand how to look at odds.

..Taking long odds is fine. But you have to calculate HOW long they are, what the cost will be, and what the reward. Most people don't, and they get badly burned.

Going to an expensive film school is worthless in my opinion. Far better to buy a cheap digital cinema camera and experiment outside of school and make your inexpensive state school major, a backup career.

I was heavily motivated as a teenager and I believe it takes that young motivation, to become successful. If you go to school to figure out what you want to do, then you probably aren't passionate enough to be a filmmaker. 

The most successful students I was in contact with during my years teaching, were those who had direction in high school. Those who decided to skip college and work on film sets instead. Those students have jobs already because the industry loves passionate young people. I know so many people in their early 20's who have worked on some huge shows, just because they had a clear path. 

I think most people feel their path could have been smoother, could have been more direct. Where I don't regret the path I've taken, I do regret not starting sooner. Having spent 5 years at two different colleges and earning 3 degree's plus a bunch of certifications, it was just too much time away from my career. I did make a bunch of films, but nobody really cares about what you made in college unless it's amazing and back in the late 90's, the cost to make amazing was too great. The only people who could afford it, were people who had gobs of money. So we did projects on analog video that nobody wants to watch and it's really sad because the production value is pretty amazing for virtually no cost.  

Today film students have access to the very same equipment the top productions use and they're creating amazing productions. The stuff coming out of the school I taught at, was winning awards at the national level. I was shocked how good these high schoolers are, not only at story development, but also cinematically. Since they all grew up with a camera in their pocket, experimenting and shooting, they've become incredible weapons that rival what I was doing at their age. Don't get me wrong, we did some amazing stuff too, but the kids these days are at another level. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, David Mawson said:

Both are based on real people. 

And the majority of people who go to film school in the USA are extremely unrealistic - because the each year something like 20 times more people graduate than the film industry needs. And if you're looking at the jobs that film school trains you for - director, editor, camera team, production - then the number is more like 100 to 1.

It is like that in art, photography, writing, poetry and possibly music too. All unrealistic dreamers. (Although, some may get teaching credentials and end up 'teaching art' instead of doing art.)

There is an old cruster on this forum (I guess he is old, he sounded old from his thinking) that chewed me out when I complained how YouTube banned me for content I tried to put up. He said the rules were clearly stated, so why did I complain? (Oh, I'm an old cruster too!) 

Well, if you are into the arts, you have to be able to dream. Sometimes the dreams are unrealistic. Many times you see no reason why you cannot succeed, it is not in your scope of thought to think of failing. If you don't think like that, then you may not have much creative / artistic ability in your blood.

In short...you don't follow the rules.

If you’re dedicated to your art, you MUST produce and keep producing, whether you have an outlet or not to make $…or even have any practical use or job for your output. In a 1979 interview entitled Inside New York’s Art World, artist Louise Nevelson said:  “I think that when someone is willing to live and die for something…that means it is in the genes.”  That pretty much sums up the sacrifices that many an artist will go through in order to do their art – they are willing to live and die for their art. Whether painter, draftsman, photographer, writer, musician, sculptor, actor or poet, artists use their art as a way to see, interpret and make sense of their world.

In an intro to his review on Amazon of  Among the Bohemians: Experiments in Living 1900-1939 by Virginia Nicholson, Lleu Christopher distills what fuels the bohemian life.“Nicholson has a genuine appreciation for the bohemian spirit, and acknowledges the sacrifices made by many obscure artists, poets and others existing (often marginally) at society’s fringes. For some, the idealistic decision to forsake conventional society for a life dedicated to art, romance, poetry or perhaps a vaguer idea such as beauty or authenticity was never rewarded with any kind of material success. Was there any compensation for those living such marginal lives? Nicholson makes the case that for many, a life dedicated to art, romance and freedom is its own reward. For those who embody the bohemian spirit, material comforts and security are not worth the price of suppressing one’s creativity and individuality.”

But sadly, dreams cost $$ and it takes lots of $$ to live. Lots more $$ than in the old days when they had coldwater flats for the monthly price of what it costs to part for a day or two in NYC. 

las-busker-daniel-d-teoli-jr-thin-border-llr.thumb.jpg.56413d2d99ac84a3c9c39322dcf353aa.jpg

Dunno if this guy is an artist or not, but he had a stack of different signs behind him. He said if one sign was not producing he would try another one. So he had some creativity around his begging. That is how you have to do it with the arts, just keep trying. There may be a good chance you wont succeed, but just maybe you will get some small successes. And if not, try to have a stable wifey or hubby or some form of plan B. 

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.
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Can someone tell him he's right so I can stop seeing this thread every 5 minutes?

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6 minutes ago, Max Field said:

Can someone tell him he's right so I can stop seeing this thread every 5 minutes?

😂

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46 minutes ago, Bob Speziale said:

Deciding something is "good" when you don't like it is a bizarre concept that I wouldn't know how to implement.

Really? You don't have any objective standards or knowledge to apply? 

Example, I hate the original Star Wars. I did even as a child (I'm more a Blake's 7 person by nature.) But I can separate my dislike of the film's hypocritical emotional beats and gaping plot holes (a pod doesn't get blasted because it has no life signs... in a civilisation full of robots???) from an evaluation of the editing, cinematography and  skilful emotional manipulation. I hate the film sincerely (like a lot of the more talented people who worked on it - Guinness, Ford, probably the Lucases themselves) but I definitely think that it's a great example of film making.

In short, I can judge the effect it has on its intended audience without being one of the audience. I'd suggest that this is a crucial skill for anyone who wants to be any kind of commercial artist.

It's not that different to people. I can think that someone is a good person without liking them. And sometimes vice versa. Is that really so odd?

 

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12 minutes ago, Tyler Purcell said:
5 hours ago, David Mawson said:

 

Going to an expensive film school is worthless in my opinion.

As a general rule, hell yes. But, to be completely fair, I think you have to look very closely at the program.

Quote


far better to buy a cheap digital cinema camera and experiment outside of school and make your inexpensive state school major, a backup career.

 

In general, probably. There are a very few programs that seem to beat the odds. Eg production at the AFI is said to have close to a 100% employment rate - actual decently paid jobs in the industry. But directing and writing at the AFI cost just as much and have nowhere that success rate. 

The other thing about "backup careers" and majors in something outside film is that if you go straight from being a teenager to film school and into the industry, what the hell experience do you to make films about? (Assuming that's your goal. If you want to make a comic book flick or Kill Bill, you'll be fine.)

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Posted (edited)
31 minutes ago, David Mawson said:

Really? You don't have any objective standards or knowledge to apply? 

Example, I hate the original Star Wars. I did even as a child (I'm more a Blake's 7 person by nature.) But I can separate my dislike of the film's hypocritical emotional beats and gaping plot holes (a pod doesn't get blasted because it has no life signs... in a civilisation full of robots???) from an evaluation of the editing, cinematography and  skilful emotional manipulation. I hate the film sincerely (like a lot of the more talented people who worked on it - Guinness, Ford, probably the Lucases themselves) but I definitely think that it's a great example of film making.

In short, I can judge the effect it has on its intended audience without being one of the audience. I'd suggest that this is a crucial skill for anyone who wants to be any kind of commercial artist.

It's not that different to people. I can think that someone is a good person without liking them. And sometimes vice versa. Is that really so odd?

 

That's a bunch of questions. 

First, yes I have knowledge and objective standards to apply. I know about good sound, about being in focus, about lighting, about really good acting (it doesn't look like acting), but lots of movies I like, and don't like, pass all these tests. I'm talking about what really captivates me, makes me cry or silently cheer. There's not many like that. But in my opinion Mackendricks movies are not that. I'm not a critic, nor would I want to be or pretend to be. But for me I'd say the acting is the most important, followed by the script and also by the production values like lighting, color, location, etc.

And you are correct, judging what audiences like is important for any type of commercial success. If you want to get paid you have to satisfy the customer, no doubt. But Mackendrick didn't do that in the long run. He left the business and became a teacher after a few decent movies and a couple of quick Hollywood productions (one with Sharon Tate). I thought the Alec Guiness movie about the man in the white suit was clever and entertaining and a lesson in economics but I wouldn't watch it again. By all accounts Mackendric was a decent film maker and a very popular professor. Back in the 60's in college, the common belief about professors was those that can, do, and those that can't, teach. Whether I like his book or not,  I'll decide when it is delivered and I read it

Of course you can believe someone is good to others without liking them, but can you really believe someone is bad or evil and like them? I can't, even if I can appreciate some good points they have. I mean Hitler was very loyal to his mother, liked dogs and was considered an ideal boss by the secretaries who worked for him, but I can't like him for that.

Edited by Bob Speziale

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Posted (edited)
14 minutes ago, Bob Speziale said:

Mackendrick didn't do that in the long run. He left the business and became a teacher after a few decent movies and a couple of quick Hollywood productions (one with Sharon Tate).

This is complete BS.

- He was 60. That's a very long run for a director who started as a young man.

- He'd had a huge run of successful films in the UK (apparently you suffer from America Is The World syndrome - aka Plaid Syndrome from one of the more visible symptoms.) He's one of the directors in this very exclusive list at the BFI

https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/17-rare-times-when-director-made-five-or-more-great-films-row

- He left film making because he hated the deal making required of directors in Hollywood and Ealing had closed down.

Honestly, it's no wonder you can't evaluate films objectively - even simple facts seem beyond you.

 

 

Edited by David Mawson

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Honestly, I personally don't care about what anyone says about being a filmmaker if they aren't working in 2019.

The industry has changed A LOT in the last 5 years. We went from an industry with dozens of decent distribution outlets, to an industry with basically one; streaming. We went from an industry that produced and promoted mid to low budget movies, to an industry that shames low-budget and doesn't give them any chance to be successful. Tent pole movies are now commonplace, not the exception and that has killed theatrical for an entire market segment. Streaming services are the "future" but Netflix is in debt by the tune of over 12 billion dollars as of this writing. Amazon hasn't had a single "success" with their platform and even HBO's wildly successful Game of Thrones, they are considering scaling back production. 

So where you can learn a lot about crew roles, storytelling/writing, blocking and technical aspects from books. You aren't going to be successful unless you know what's happening in 2019! HELLO! 

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19 minutes ago, David Mawson said:

This is complete BS.

- He was 60. That's a very long run for a director who started as a young man.

- He'd had a huge run of successful films in the UK (apparently you suffer from America Is The World syndrome - aka Plaid Syndrome from one of the more visible symptoms.) He's one of the directors in this very exclusive list at the BFI

https://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/lists/17-rare-times-when-director-made-five-or-more-great-films-row

- He left film making because he hated the deal making required of directors in Hollywood and Ealing had closed down.

Honestly, it's no wonder you can't evaluate films objectively - even simple facts seem beyond you.

 

 

Alexander Mackendrick

The six films from 1949-57

Whisky Galore! (1949)
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
Mandy (1952)
The Maggie (1954)
The Ladykillers (1955)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

An 8 year run...none of them great by any means in my opinion.

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3 hours ago, David Mawson said:

Both are based on real people. 

Did they manage to get in in the end? are they working now? are they decently paid for their hard work? if they changed to another profession how long they tried before giving up their film dreams? or still dreaming even if seemingly not getting anywhere?

these stories are always interesting examples though one rarely can learn anything useful from them because every story is different and one has to find ones own path...

 

if wanting to do high art then the best film school will be very useful... if wanting to do movies for living then the best contacts are most useful. High art and commercial high budget filmmaking is generally not a very well working combination. Some may not consider all movies to be "art" for that reason, of course they are that to some extent but not likely much more than some pulp fiction novels or generic pop music :P 

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3 hours ago, David Mawson said:

But my point is that for some people the odds are much less than 5%. In fact, they're less than that on average for film school graduates - the schools graduate as many people each year as work in the industry already.

And your generation could afford the "there is always time to reconsider" attitude, but you weren't being burdened by life ruining and inescapable debt. If someone is thinking about going to film school today - which is the default course of action for "give it everything you've got" - then they have to think very seriously. Because "Give it all you got" equals years in film school,  a mountain of debt, relocating to LA and working unpaid and low paid industry jobs for years to make contacts - probably while working a second job to keep up with student loan payments.

And if things don't work out, you still have the debt and you have one of the least useful and respected degrees to look for work with.

...Millennial have it very, very tough. They need to think much harder about what risks they take than their parents did. There is a good chance that loading yourself with this type of debt could ruin your life.

I think it’s not necessary to go to film school and pile up debt.

You can learn filmmaking now with a phone and a laptop if necessary.

Though I think a college degree from a state university, in any subject, can still be valuable.

My daughter ended up as a writer / producer with an English degree and no dreams of a film career. It’s not rocket science, but good writing skills are very valuable in many industries.

And I’m a cinematographer with an Economics degree 🙂 I heard a lot of advice like yours David... and just thought, “screw em”!

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14 hours ago, aapo lettinen said:
18 hours ago, David Mawson said:

 

Did they manage to get in in the end? are they working now?

They're both recent posters on reddit asking about film school. (And the male example was watered down - the reality was much worse!)

Quote


if wanting to do high art then the best film school will be very useful...

 

Because?

Quote

if wanting to do movies for living then the best contacts are most useful. 

Yes, but very few film schools provide those. 

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14 hours ago, Bruce Greene said:

I think it’s not necessary to go to film school and pile up debt.

You can learn filmmaking now with a phone and a laptop if necessary.

Sure. But that's not what most people do - they go to film school and pile up huge debt. So when you just say "Go all out for it!" without any provisos, you are NOT telling them to make a movie with a phone - you're telling them to rack up $200K of loans.

If you want to say, "Buy a few books and a cheap camera, learn to shoot while holding down a job, and then, if things work out, shoot a no-budget film" - then, yes, fine.

And that might have been the message you wanted people to receive, but it wasn't the one you were transmitting.

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Depends how you define success.

My definition of success as an artist is to enjoy the process of creating work and produce work that I'm proud of. Anything else: Money, acclaim, awards etc... are all nice but their tangental to the reason I make stuff.

So I work on my projects and be happy in the process. Sure "financial"  success would be nice but at the moment I have complete creative control which I like. 

I've taken jobs on large productions and in some cases been paid very well, but the didn't tend to be as creatively fulfilling as the micro budget stuff thats all my own. 

Obviously I have to learn a living, but I don't connect my worth as an artist and creative with the successes in my paid "career". Sure I would prefer to make a living on my own films. But thats very hard to do and its most likely I won't be able to do that. However I'd only consider myself a "failure" at filmmaking if I wasn't making films (that I'm proud of). Better for mental health reasons to separate the two. 

I think if you set out to define success by being a HOD on a Hollywood movie the vast majority of people that set out to do that would fail. Its not a meritocracy or a case of working harder, the odds are similar to becoming a professional Footballer. 

The other definition of success could be entirely financial, this is perhaps easier as there are many ways to make a good living that are connected to the "industry" - but they may only be tangentially creative or artistically full-filling. 

I, like more and more people have a "portfolio" career - that mixes a range of roles on things. Some creative, some less creative - and I different areas of creativity. 

Film Education:

Is useful for some people and even if its possible to learn most things via the internet and books - some people need structure or it can be focused 

Not all programmes are good

Some are very expensive

There are other routes in, I went to the NFTS on a Scholarship that covered fee's and living expenses (these scholarships do still exist, although they are hard to get). The NFTS didn't catapult me into Hollywood(unfortunately) but it was without doubt the most fulfilling, creative, challenging and important 2 years of my life (outside of becoming a parent). Even if it did nothing for my career - I would change it for anything because it was such an incredible experience.  Even had paid full price, the programme would have been worth it just on a personal level.

I am a filmmaker because I have no other choice. I've tried other career paths, I've got a degree in Electronic Engineering, i've worked for Software companies, engineering firms, insurance, banking. They all made me miserable. I'm obsessed with film - I resisted film for a long time because I was worried about my ability to make a living. But it didn't make me happy. I didn't go to filmschool till I was 28. 

My only regret is I didn't start younger. 

But thats me - It took me the time to realise I won't be happy doing anything else.

Most people that say they want to work in "film", don't really want it, not enough. They might think they do but after 6 months to a couple of years of badly paid entry level work (running etc..) they drop out. The hardcore stick at it and generally the people who are successful are the ones that stick it out and keep trying. 

Attitude is everything.

 

 

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