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June 28 2018
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6 Resources To Better Hone Your Filmmaking Craft This Summer

A new semester of film school is only two months away, but it doesn’t mean students should be watching their summer pass them by.

If you’re a film student not already at an internship or on a film set, then consider these 10 online resources to give yourself a little creative edge coming into the new year. Some are websites, some are video series and some are actual equipment, but all 10 can be accessed in bits or chunks. Plus, they’re all better alternatives to another lazy afternoon binge-watching that show you’ve seen a hundred times (it’s okay, we’ve been there too).

Think About Films A Little Differently

Observations on Film Art

image from http://www.davidbordwell.net/

 

David Bordwell, PhD. is the first (and perhaps only) purely academic film writer to jump into the digital space and start a blog on the history of film and film style. Bordwell has quite literally written the book on all things film aesthetics and style. In fact, if you’ve ever taken a film appreciation course or higher, you’ve probably had one of them in your syllabus (Film Art: An IntroductionFilm History: An IntroductionOn The History of Film Style).

Be warned, these blog posts are rigorous in their examinations of movies old (Citizen Kane) and new (Black Panther). But they will quickly teach you two new things:

  1. You probably don’t know as much about the history of films and filmmaking as you think.
  2. No single frame in a film should be without motivation or serious thought behind it.

Whether from Bordwell himself, his wife and frequent collaborator, Kristin Thompson, PhD, or guest posts by fellow academics, you will find countless and constantly updated analyses of your favorite films. Then after reading, consider unpacking scenes yourself from your favorite movies. Get in the habit of learning how to think through a shot or a montage. Besides actually going out there and making movies, this is an invaluable resource towards becoming a better film director and thinker.

 

Also Like Life

Image from https://www.alsolikelife.com/

 

If you’ve never seen a work by world-renowned video essayist Kevin B. Lee, then you are in for a treat. Or perhaps you have seen one of his essays without realizing it.

Lee has BFI, Fandor and the Harun Farocki Institut on his resume, but no matter who he’s video-essayed for, his work always astonishes and delights us.

We call these works rather than videos because Lee has elevated the video essay from mere viral content to an artform. For example, Lee has used the video essay as meta-commentary in the videos What Makes a Video Essay Great? and The Essay Film: Some Thoughts of Discontent. Or watch the 2015 official selection at the Berlinale International Film Festival Critics Week, Transformers The Premake: (a desktop documentary), to see how Lee uses production footage of Transformers: Age of Extinction, as well as filmed footage of the production from onlookers and extras, to tell a story about the modern world and Hollywood’s current socio-political state.

A video essay, not unlike a short film, must tell an entertaining and convincing story in a short amount of time. Kevin B. Lee’s works will teach you how to do more with less, as well as expand your mind on the possibilities of approaching your next project.

 

Get Your Creative Juices Flowing

The Art of The Title

image from http://www.artofthetitle.com/

 

Nothing sets the tone of a movie better than its title sequence. We always know a James Bond title sequence will come several minutes into the movie and feature an expensive and extensive montage to coincide with a newly-released song for the film. We always know that an Alfred Hitchcock film or a David Fincher film is going to start us off with an elaborate, trippy title sequence that will still tell us the film’s story in a purely visual way.

Lola Landekic and Will Perkins know this too. The two Canadian editors of The Art of the Title have been following the lead of co-founders Ian Albinson and Alexander Ulloa by both deconstructing and reconstructing title sequences from famous movies, television shows, video games and more. Plus, the site has only gotten better for filmmakers and cinephiles in recent years, with interviews from some of the film’s directors and designers specifically about the process of making standout credit sequences.

image from http://www.artofthetitle.com/title/vertigo/

 

Whether you want to break down the end credits of Wonder Woman or the opening of Vertigo, this site is the one for you. Just looking through a few films in their catalog inspires us anew, so we know it will give you good ideas and remind you of the power of creativity mixed with digital technology.

 

/r/Shortfilms/

image from https://www.reddit.com/r/Shortfilms/

 

This one seems obvious (maybe too obvious), but we bet it’s a pretty underutilized resource by student filmmakers. New short films are being posted and re-posted on the Short Film Subreddit each and every day. Comments are constantly flying back and forth between avid short film fans, with informed film-watchers giving helpful critiques and comments. Sure, there’s the trolls out there…it can’t be avoided. But there’s much more to gain than to lose in sharing one of your own works or following the works of others.

Think the Short Film Subreddit is just for hacks and wannabees? Actually, several accomplished short (and feature) filmmakers have active Reddits and are involved with the Short Film Subreddit. Take for instance Jim Cummings, an accomplished short filmmaker who recently turned his short film Thunder Road into a feature and won the Jury Prize at SXSW this year.

He regularly posts and interacts with others. Sure, you won’t find Spielberg on here, but there’s no better place on the internet to discover (and actually get to talk to) up-and-coming short filmmakers. Share production war stories. Get critiques. Maybe even make a key industry connection. Whatever you do, don’t count out the place you already go to for everything else!

 

Make a Beautiful Image

35 MM Film Photo Cameras

Another ‘duh!’ idea that so many student filmmakers disregard for its obviousness. While film stock is on its way out of Hollywood, there’s a real advantage to learning the art and subtlety of framing shots for, handling, and developing film stock, even if its for photography. Stanley Kubrick started his career as a photojournalist, and he’s far from the only great director to have had a background in photography. So many of the same principles apply to both mediums, plus a traditional photo camera lets you play with color, shape and framing without necessarily needing to make a narrative out of it.

The best part is, you can go out and buy one today, no matter the budget! That’s something that can’t be said for an industry-standard movie camera. You can get anything from a Diana 35mm to a Pentax model on the cheap (especially in second-hand markets). Maybe even a relative’s got an old film camera in the closet just waiting for you to pull out and use (with good film inside to develop of course). No matter what you use, just take photos. Be intentional and mindful with your selections, especially considering there is a limit to how much you can shoot on film. Learn to be deliberate and decisive with your artistry, just like the best directors!

 

Gaffer’s Tape

image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaffer_tape

 

Alright, alright. This one’s more of a joke. But when you think about it, what problem on a typical film set can’t be solved with this stuff? We bring this up only as a reminder that the lofty ambitions of many student filmmakers are dashed with poor production value, and even more so, the inability to adjust or problem-solve. When the world of filmmaking always looks to revolve around the auteur director, it becomes easy to forget how many working people (and parts) it takes to capture that beautiful image.

So go out and make your film or write your next story this summer, when no teacher is giving you a grade for your performance! Just don’t forget you’ll probably need some gaffer’s tape along the way.

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