You have to play

Student Filmmakers magazine
Student Filmmakers magazine

Student Filmmakers magazine offers insights on filmmaking:

“Like sports, it’s not enough to be a fan and to watch. You have to play. The important thing is to just shoot. Even if it’s not a masterpiece, you learn every time you make another project, no matter how short or simple… Just do it.”  ~Larry Fong, ASC (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; Kong: Skull Island; and Super 8.)

You have to play.

“Get out shooting, that’s the way you learn. I myself worked my way up through the ranks. I started as a ‘runner’ as it was called then, became a loader, 2nd AC and then 1st AC. I didn’t operate, by that time I had seen how the industry was changing. I needed to get out shooting my own stuff asap. I think that is the advice I would give now. ~Adam Biddle, Cinematographer (Crank; The Gnostic; Team Extreme)

Get out shooting your own stuff asap.


Becoming an effective storyteller

Shawna Baca
Shawna Baca

On International Women’s Day, I’m looking back at an interview I did with writer/filmmaker Shawna Baca. Baca’s production company, 4 Elements Entertainment, develops film and new media projects that target America’s growing multicultural audience.

I had asked Baca what an emerging writer needs in order to become an effective storyteller. “When I became a filmmaker,” Baca said, “I considered myself as a storyteller, not necessarily a writer. Even though I wrote my own material, what I gravitated to more than the material was the intention or purpose of the story and how we were all emotionally influenced by that story. I didn’t go to school for screenwriting but what I was good at was strumming up the creative imagination to sit around, make up stories in front of small audiences, mostly family and friends, that would engage and hook them in.”

knowing how to make that story breathe life is the magical part

Filmmaker Shawna Baca
Filmmaker Shawna Baca

For Baca, “… writing a good story is key but then knowing how to make that story breathe life is the magical part that makes each filmmaker unique in his or her own right. You can give ten filmmakers the same script and I guarantee you they will all have their own artistic value and uniqueness. No two films will be exactly alike when you add in color palettes, tones, editing, score, etc.”

The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon

The award-winning short film, The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon tells the story of Walaa, a seventeen-year old woman refugee. Walaa, who is originally from Daraa in south Syria, took refuge in Jordan along with her family of 10 in 2012. She “needed to express what had happened to her and to tell her story.” 

According to The Jordan Times, Walaa “…participated in a training course on filmmaking for girls organized by the International Rescue Committee. The course armed her with the tools to tell her story through her short film.” 

The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon won an award in 2015 from PLURAL +, a youth-produced video festival. PLURAL+  encourages young people to explore migration, diversity and social inclusion, and to share their creative vision with the world.

The group supports dialogue between young people from different cultures.

Walaa’s message: “I wish to become something.”

Here’s her film:

“I have an urge to tell how our fellow humans live”

Dutch video journalist Ruud Elmendorp provides local coverage of events throughout East and South Africa for various European and United States news agencies.

In an interview I did with Ruud several years ago, he talked about giving a voice to the people of Africa.

One of his video stories features women picking through garbage in Nairobi. I wrote: “A woman uses a long stick to pick through garbage in a Nakuru dump site, west of Kenya’s capital city Nairobi, where 800,000 people are crammed into a slum of densely packed tin shacks. Poverty, illness and crime are rampant. The woman, part of the Minyore Women’s Group, searches for discarded plastics and fabrics that can be crafted into sellable items. Any money earned goes to her children’s education.”

In his own words, “I listen to their stories, engage with them, learn from them, and then present their experiences to a world-wide audience.” he says, “I have an urge to tell how our fellow humans live, which conditions they endure, and how they survive.”

The role of a journalist, in many situations, is just that. Give people without a voice a chance to speak. “Present their experiences to a world-wide audience.”

Keep your film dialogue short

For filmmakers and script writers, here’s practical dialogue advice from screenplay expert Michael Ferris:

Keep your film dialogue short.

computer keyboard“A script is not a play – your goal is NOT to have dialogue that looks like a bunch of monologues. Try to keep 95% of your dialogue to 3 lines or less on the page. Clever dialogue is found in quick back and forth exchanges, not prose-y speeches. Think about one of the best screenwriters known for his dialogue – Aaron Sorkin. Have you ever watched a scene from The West Wing? It’s not a perfect example, but it illustrates the point that if you keep it snappy, it keeps it moving. And a fast moving script, like a fast moving story, is entertaining and – sometimes – it can move so fast that you don’t have time to realize whether it’s great quality or not. You just know you’re entertained. So, use it to your advantage. Keep the dialogue short, quick back and forths, and you’ll reveal plot and character just as quickly.”

The quote is from my ebook, Filmmaking Basics: Finding Your Creative Voice.