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Old May 25th, 2003, 08:59 PM   #1
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Advice to Student Filmmakers -- Do Not Follow The Rules!

In a film school, from the very first project, you can tell the ones with potential to succeed and the ones who would be better off taking bookkeeping or something even less imaginative.

If you have something to say, and don't know how to place the camera, or if you should use a close up or a long shot, it does not matter. Just shoot it.

Don't follow any set rules, be creative and make movies, while learning whatever they teach you in school. Learn from your own mistakes first.

Then go see movies that you get hooked on; see them over and over again, until you get no longer absorbed in the picture but when you can see and understand the technique. Watch these movies in a theater, on a big screen, and learn how far you should sit from the screen, for different type of movies, for the best effect.

If you can't afford to go to the movies again and again, just stay in the theater and watch the movie over and over again. No one will call cops on you or will try to throw you out. Just sneak into another theater between the shows. If they say something, tell them you're a film student and you're learning.

Listen to the sound and understand its relationship to the picture. Learn how proper loudness and tonal balance is. Tell the personnel if the bass should be turned up, the treble down, or the volume is wrong. They'll fix it.

Do not follow all the rules on making movies! Break the rules! One day you may become a great filmmaker. No one became great by following the rules. By following the rules you become average. There are plenty of average people in Hollywood, and most can't even get a decent paying job in the industry.

If you want to to be average, you'd be better off studying bookkeeping. That takes us to point #1.

If you became great, everything else comes with it -- from pretty women to being invited to the best parties anywhere.

If you become a bookkeeper you'll at least be able to provide for your below average looking wife and your kids.

If you are an unemployed average filmmaker, you will not even be able to hold to a wife, because when that bookkeeper gets divorced, your wife will run away with him.

Lesson: You need to love movies with passion and you need to make plenty of movies, and mistakes, to become great. And if it does not work out, you don't need to be a director; there are plenty of other opportunities in Hollywood.

The new JVC HD camcorder may be the best tool for you to go about it. It will project to a big screen. The color may not be very good, and the controls as primitive, for film production, as wooden cameras from silent film era, but you'll be able to shoot a lot and make a lot of mistakes and learn from your mistakes.

And good 2-channel stereo is all you need. Don't bother with any multichannel system. That is the least important thing.
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Old May 26th, 2003, 08:55 AM   #2
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Viewing more movies in a theatre than you've paid for is a
criminal act. I've done it and I can imagine others have/do.
But I would not support this attitude. I also don't think they
will agree to it if you say your are budding movie maker.
Everybody can say that.
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Old May 26th, 2003, 11:19 AM   #3
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One way of seeing movies for little or no money is to volunteer for your local film festival. Lots of people here do it. This has the benefits of not only getting to see films free, but the sort of films at a festival will be some not normally appearing in multiplexes, plus you get to meet other people who are film enthusiasts.
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Old May 26th, 2003, 11:24 AM   #4
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My advice to students in any field is to first learn all the rules before you start breaking them. Then at least you can make intelligent choices regarding the ones you break.
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Old May 26th, 2003, 11:41 AM   #5
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Regarding rules and mistakes... in any profession. My favorite quote;

"You've got to learn from other people's mistakes... You'll never live long enough to make them all yourself."

Groucho Marx

(I think)
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Old May 26th, 2003, 12:50 PM   #6
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Re: Advice to Student Filmmakers -- Do Not Follow The Rules!

Joseph, I was pretty much going along with you (no major quibbles) until I got to this:

"The new JVC HD camcorder may be the best tool for you to go about it. It will project to a big screen. The color may not be very good, and the controls as primitive, for film production, as wooden cameras from silent film era, but you'll be able to shoot a lot and make a lot of mistakes and learn from your mistakes."

Why this camera? This would probably be near the bottom of a list of my choices for a student filmmaker. Most people don't even have an HD tv, so why shoot in HD? Yeah, I know, you don't have to shoot in HD to use the camera, but then it makes even less sense. "Bad colors...primitive controls" How is this a recommendation? I see you list HD under your name. Perhaps you can tell us a little bit about yourself, so we may better know the person who is giving us advice?

Oh yeah, I second Rick Spillman's comments. First read the rule book, then you can throw it out the window, if you care to.
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Old May 26th, 2003, 03:52 PM   #7
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I disagree 100%.
The time to follow the rules is when you are a student. Rules are there because they work. You can't break the rules until you know how to work within them.

If you want to make your own movies for fun, do whatever you want. If you plan on breaking the rules because you are some sort of film rebel wannabe, save yourself the money and don't even bother going to film school.

Oh, break the rules when you are trying to get into the film business, and see how far you get....

I'm sick and tired of hearing people say "break the rules" "rules are meant to be broken" etc... People have a psychological problem with the term "rule". Respect the rules, they are there because they work.

Oh, the best tool for a young film maker is a light kit and a good microphone. It doesn't matter what kind of DV or film camera you have, although the JVC HD is my last choices in the price range.
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Old May 26th, 2003, 04:41 PM   #8
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If your British just buy a UGC cinema pass...it costs 9.99 ($15USD) an month for unlimited viewing. Anything in way of cheating/sneaking into more films is criminal act and can get you into a lot of trouble, if you say Im a film student they will just laugh ever louder!!! I dont know about LA, but over her they check tickets upon all entrance to screens! So even trying to sneak in will fail.
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Old May 26th, 2003, 09:53 PM   #9
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Those are pretty good tips, but I agree with Dylan on this. You have to learn the rules before you can break them, or you won't know what you're breaking, and why you're breaking it. I believe that to innovate you have to break some rules, but you shouldn't do it for the sake of breaking them.

Also, not to offend you Joseph, but I'm always wary of things like that which specifically state a brand name.. it feels like subversive advertising and we can usually spot it a mile away ;)
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Old May 26th, 2003, 09:59 PM   #10
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Friendly Advice to Film Students: Listen to your Teachers! (REVISED)

In a film school, from the very first project, you can sometimes tell the students with potential and the ones who would be better off taking something else---if you are the instructor, with years of teaching experience. But even with such an instructor, there can be surprises. A good instructor instills logic and kindles imagination at the same time, even with those students who may seem a little fresh. Heck, aren't we all a bit dumbfounded when we're young and siting in those intimidating 1st. year classes? Anyway, that's beside the point, bookkeepers can be just as creative as a creative lawyer, or even a creative film maker. Imagine that! (I'm sure Al Capone's bookkeeper was very, very creative.)

If you don't know how to position the camera, or if you should use a close up or a long shot, it does not matter. Just shoot it---within the guidelines of good videography/cinematography. So do follow set rules, but be creative and make movies! Try to learn from your mistakes. Absorb whatever they teach you in school, because this will build a strong foundation. On top of the movies shown and discussed in your film classes, go see movies that interest you. See them a few times and analyze them until you grasp some of their technique/s. Listen to the sounds and understand their relationship with the picture. Learn how proper volume and tones balance things. However, keep in mind that your class material comes first! If you can't afford to go see movies, get a part time job---but then, how is it that you are in school in the first place? Someone had to pay for it.

Note: do not break the law by sneaking into theatres!

Once you are skilled, experiment. This may mean to break some rules! It may work, or it may not. One day you may become a great film maker. No one became great by following the rules all of the time. There are plenty of average people in the world, and most can't even get a decent paying job. Why? There are many reasons. One reason is that the high end job market can only bear so much. If you want to be average, that's okay. We are what we are, but sometimes change can be good.

You must love movies, and you need to actually make movies, to succeed in the film industry. Mistakes you may make along the way are part of the growing experience, to the road to success (or failure). If film making doesn't work out, there are plenty of other opportunities inside and outside of the film industry. Yes, it's a big world out there---and Hollywood is no longer the #1 city for shooting movies, actually, for a few years now.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 01:40 AM   #11
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Hmm...I've got a conflicting opinion on this topic.
Where as I can understand one statement, the retorts have just as much merit.

Don't break the rules because the rules work. I disagree.
Well no one ever got anywhere by being normal...being average.
Then again, yes, while you're a student you are learning the rules...and it is a univeral rule in all forms that you must know/understand the rules before you can make a educated decision as the breaking them.

But then again, as a student, you would proably have more resources at a better price (if not for free) so it's the time to experiment...so yes, break as many rules as you want!!!
Don't agree with the 180 line of action rule? Fair enough, bust that rule to pieces in a short film project and see what people think!
Just make sure your not breaking the rules for the sake of breaking them and being different.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 07:01 AM   #12
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It all depends on the student. Some students are stubborn, and think that they are the Sh#t from the first day of class. In this case, I would allow them to do what they want to do, and then face humiliation in front of a real audience. Once their egos have been subdued by their own mistakes, they then will be more receptive and respective of the basic rules. In the end, you cant break a rule if you dont even understand why its there in the first place. And to fully understand why a rule exist in the first place, you must first come to respect it, and appreciate it.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 09:14 AM   #13
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I'm not certain what "rules" we're all speaking of, but any formalized convention is necessarily only going to be a specific codification of a more general truth.

Specific codification: 180-degree rule for camera placement
General truth: audience's orientation is governed by camera orientation
Hence: If the intent is to orient, the rule can be "followed"; if the intent is to disorient, the rule can be "broken"

In art as in life, the mission of the individual is neither to stringently "follow" nor habitually "break" convention (the former is nervousness, the latter, banalization), but rather, it is to understand the spirit behind the law and follow the spirit of the law.

And, I might add, the truly great artists become truly great by reaching down so deep into the spirit of the law that they are able to reformalize it into an entirely new genre, as Bracque and Picasso did with cubism, as Joyce did with literature, as the Beatles and their many contemporaries did with pop music.
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Old February 20th, 2005, 09:49 AM   #14
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An open letter to all student filmmakers,

Everyone's got an opinion, but I just say follow your heart.

There are only 2 questions you need to ask yourself:

1) Do you want to spend the rest of your life in the business?

2) Can you honestly answer the first question?

If you answered "Yes" to the 2 questions you'll figure it out...don't worry.

Having just said that - there are a few "opinions" I have that might help...but, are not concrete "rules" by any means.

I've been lucky to work with the best in film, television and even the music business. I had great years, shit years and everything in between...I've made $100,000's in Hollywood and recently I barely made my mortgage payment! Do you like roller coasters?

I think we all have opinions, but the considerations are pretty simple. If you want to own a house, have a family, money in the bank and lots of toys to enjoy life with...you might want to consider what aspect of the industry you want to work in.

Oh, something to avoid like the plague - don't try to "make it". That's the dumbest thing in the ENTIRE industry - when people say they want to "make it" - you generally dismiss them as someone who will never "make it". If you are working in anyway...and earning some type of income from the business then you have "made it" and are just as successful as George Lucas. Remember, everything is perception. You could be the coffee boy on George Lucas' SW III and handing him a cup....at that moment you are a peer. George Lucas and you...doesn't matter if you handing him a cup of coffee. If you are working, getting paid and part the "business" you are 100% certifed "industry" stamped. George Lucas will give you equal respect - trust me. 99.9% of the people in the business are like that...the very few who aren't don't get many jobs.

By thinking you will be the next George Lucas someday...you are undermining your ability to make those small steps up the ladder. So, he's made a few movies and has a really good imagination? Yeah, so? You are able to make some money and be creative too...right? Rules, blues and the latest news? It's all horseshit...just get up and go to work. You'll have rules one day...the next you won't. If you haven't noticed...no one really cares at the end of the day. It's perception. You can follow the rules and be successful and later say you broke them all...whoopie doo. Good for you.

Be perfectly ok where are and lay your bricks one-by-one to build your house....figuretively and subjectively. If you end up being an assistant the rest of your life (production assistant or assistant director on large budget films) and helping someone else fullfill their dream then at least you made money and were able to be creative. That whole "rules" thing is B.S. - just do your thing and stop announcing to the world that you're breaking rules. The minute you start blabbing non-constructive thoughts - you're labeled a wannabee. Do it and shut up. (I need to follow my own advice right now.)

We all have dreams, but being able to live a life without struggle should be something everyone should try and think about. The world is full of ups and down...give back to the people who give you a chance too. Never screw anyone, be polite, learn and you will be successful at making movies...in someway shape or form! This has been my advice to student filmmakers, but I certainly think you know more about your own future than anyone else. Counsel yourself whenever possible - it builds your charactor and makes you "independent".

:)
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Old February 23rd, 2005, 06:08 AM   #15
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If you're going to break the rules, probably better to do it whilst young and before you're paying lots of money to go to film school. Just don't get into so many bad habits you can't learn properly!
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