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Advice Needed - Filmmaking Workshop

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I am giving a workshop (yikes!) to a couple of teenagers about inexpensive filmmaking and I wanted to ask you all what topics you would talk about if you were to cover the very basics of teaching someone to go out and shoot for the first time with their phones or DSLRs on zero budget.

What kind of advice would you give a first time shooter (above and beyond story)?

I have my some takes on the matter, but would appreciate some fresh views that fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

 

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As teenagers, they will probably already have a good idea of what kind of things they like. Maybe it would be good to ask them about their favourite scenes in their favourite films and then teach them some of the techniques used to create that scene?

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Just tell 'em that what they're shooting should be motivated by the story/emotion it's trying to convey. And always ask yourself the 'what?', 'how?', 'why?' of things.

Everything begins with a 'set'. Doesn't have to be a legit studio set, it just describes the location you're going to have your shoot at. Pick/create a setting that itself supports the story; to make it believable within its own reality. Often when people are starting out, they care too much about the camera and technicalities and forget about things like location and wardrobe/props (like kids (in their everyday clothing) playing actual warfare (guns, bangs, bullet holes, blood) in their urban neighbourhood (without any real interaction with/response from their environment)). Once you have your story, create a universe where that story is taking place, be consistent and make it believable ('believable' doesn't neccessarily mean 'realistic', I could imagine a comedic take on previous scenario and kids are playing warfare with cardboard costumes on and having cardboard guns that shoot Skittles, people coming out of their homes to collect the yummy richochets). Thing is... you've got to really sell it to the viewer, suck them into your reality and make sure they're not thrown off.

On set, before any legit shoot, there are checks for 'light', 'sound' & 'camera'. When everything is in order there's the call for 'action'. These are the principles you need to think about. The impact of light (and shadows), sound design (maybe more so a 'post' thing to think about (foley/SFX/ADR/music)), camera set-up/use and the actual action (it's about 'motion picture' after all). What mood are you trying to set and how do these individual elements work together to create said mood?

When you introduce a change... make sure it's done with purpose. A lot of times when people get new gear, they start using it... because they have it, not because the story asks for it. It gets boring quickly if every shot is a slider shot. It's just too much. Don't be a slave to your gear, let the gear work for you. Do things with moderation or when it actually supports the story to do it otherwise. Think more about your framing, about the movement of the camera and that of the subjects... what can you do with that? What does it (subconciously) tell the audience/what impression would that scene make?

I think we all agree... you can shoot something enjoyable on $0 budget and a potato, if that potato was used to tell a interesting and engaging story, that took its audience's mind offa things for a second and made them experience 'something'. Sometimes I say, it kinda is emotion pictures. It's conveying mood and emotion. It's visual storytelling. It's art. Like a painting, but one that is in motion. There's a mood, there might be a message, there's room for the viewers to explore these things for themselves, wonder and try to figure it out, but hardly anything ever is something completely random without a pay-off or reveal. Just make sure there's some motivation behind what you're doing and you'll be fine. In the end it doesn't really matter all that much if you shoot something on a RED or a Panasonic Lumix... in 1080p or 4K... or in potato quality. Just make sure that what's in front of the camera is solid and makes sense... that's the bigger picture. ;)

Technically... most you might ought to know, if applicable at all (smartphone or GoPro could just be as easy as hitting the red record button), is just the basics of light capturing. Framerate, shutterspeed, aperture & ISO, with the possible addition of light or ND... what each does and the relationship between them. Maybe lens characteristics (effects and use of focal length, compression, focus and separation). And how to edit everything together in post... especially when and how to make effective cuts. And well, it does help to make sure the audio doesn't completely suck before they show it to anyone. :grin: But that about it. Technical information is always at your disposal. Ideas and creativity... they need to be sparked. It's much more the global understanding why one would do certain things a certain way, rather than knowing specific technical details.

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The importance of planning. And then the importance of flexibility.

I think, too, something about how the footage on the card goes through an editing process in order to deliver the product they will want to show people (i.e. they are not the same thing). Even little tips like the shot doesn't have to start when the camera "start" button is pressed - but it can't start before that point!

Have fun.

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camera - sensor size, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, frame rate, iso, white balance, codec, log. Not that they need the best in any of these, but they should know what they are

Camera movement - handheld, tripod, pan, tilt, stabilizer, crane

some lighting - point out natural lighting can often work for low budget but great looking footage and that iso isn't the saving grace

editing - hard to cover every editor, maybe the simplest intro to how an edit works in premiere vs avid since the others seem to slightly mimic from there. Maybe imovie or YouTube's editor if that's what they all have access to

Color wheels, curves

screenplay formatting - Celtx, I have a google docs format I could send you if you want to go that way, or just basic elements of a script.. they don't need it to look nice

Maybe just show them some film clips and how the filmmaker told stories with editing, camera work etc. The Graduate has tons of great examples of the basics being used in a powerful way, for instance. Telephoto lens manipulating perspective when he's running to the church, some interesting zooms, the quick edits and framing when ben sees mrs robinson naked for the first time, shot reverse shots, plenty of loooong takes. Encourage them to study their favorite filmmakers.

Clips from good looking or entertaining films shot with minimal everything. Kendy Ty, Tangerine, This is John (the $3 short film), first episode of it's always sunny in Philadelphia (before the pilot), 

If they can draw, encourage them to look at animation and see if they want to give it a shot. This is just a more personal thing.. interesting though. Something like Home Movies or Cyanide and Happiness could be very doable for some of those teens (with some work), and can definitely tell a story

I don't know, covering all of that might be difficult in limited time. But that all would have been/was helpful to me when I was first starting. If they're using phones, you can skip most of the camera stuff and they can figure that out later. Could skip almost everything, just enough to fill in the gaps and spur them on so they know there aren't roadblocks just because they don't have the best equipment or professional training. Maybe you could just get their interest right away with something cheaply made and beautiful and then let them ask questions about whatever, things they might still be mistified and baffled by, and let the workshop go wherever that takes you.

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26 minutes ago, Dan Wake said:

I suggest try to get inspiration from this masterclass. will give you many ideas https://www.masterclass.com/classes/werner-herzog-teaches-filmmaking

I took that course. It was fun and interesting, but not the wise guidance I was hoping for. He's pretty opinionated. Was more fun just as a course on how crazy herzog is

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12 minutes ago, Liam said:

I took that course. It was fun and interesting, but not the wise guidance I was hoping for. He's pretty opinionated. Was more fun just as a course on how crazy herzog is

I'm soory for that, did you made also all the masterclass assigments? I'm reading the peregrine then I will need to write 20 pages inpired from it (it's my first assigment).

This masterclass is looking really cool to me.

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11 minutes ago, Dan Wake said:

I'm soory for that, did you made also all the masterclass assigments? I'm reading the peregrine then I will need to write 20 pages inpired from it (it's my first assigment).

This masterclass is looking really cool to me.

I got that assignment before I was letting myself take it all with a grain of salt. He said in that lesson that if you don't read read read read, you'll never be a great filmmaker. I have ADD that makes finishing any book kind of an impossible task. Though I want to try some more, and it sounds like an interesting book, at the time that was only discouraging. I also don't know if Herzog himself would have done any of his own assignments. He's a little too eager maybe to say that he's the pro here and give us baby steps to go through. Don't think he was giving terrible advice, just specific and a little closed minded. I really did enjoy it overall once I let go a little. 

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1 hour ago, Liam said:

I got that assignment before I was letting myself take it all with a grain of salt. He said in that lesson that if you don't read read read read, you'll never be a great filmmaker. I have ADD that makes finishing any book kind of an impossible task. Though I want to try some more, and it sounds like an interesting book, at the time that was only discouraging. I also don't know if Herzog himself would have done any of his own assignments. He's a little too eager maybe to say that he's the pro here and give us baby steps to go through. Don't think he was giving terrible advice, just specific and a little closed minded. I really did enjoy it overall once I let go a little. 

sorry for my bad english if I understand it (maybe I didn't) you are stuck at first task (read the pilgrim). if so I'd encourage you to go on with the tasks, maybe you can leave the book at half, or skip some chapters. maybe the most important seed/root of this task is not to read it 100%. It is understand how Baker describes the peregrine point of view.

I have great trust in this masterclass looks the best I have found but I can not tell until I complete it. I'm working for that, doing "homeworks" is exciting in this case (but I didn't like when I was at high school).

 

 

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15 minutes ago, Dan Wake said:

sorry for my bad english if I understand it (maybe I didn't) you are stuck at first task (read the pilgrim). if so I'd encourage you to go on with the tasks, maybe you can leave the book at half, or skip some chapters. maybe the most important seed/root of this task is not to read it 100%. It is understand how Baker describes the peregrine point of view.

I have great trust in this masterclass looks the best I have found but I can not tell until I complete it. I'm working for that, doing "homeworks" is exciting in this case (but I didn't like when I was at high school).

 

 

sorry, yes I did finish the course, but I skipped most of the homework. I did a writing assignment - something like write a script for an hour without stopping to think, if possible, just let it flow (but I didn't listen to classical music during, like he said to). I had to let go of the idea that he was the authority instead of just a guy who has definitely made some good films, because that was stressing me out, and I would never have gotten past lesson two.

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5 hours ago, Dan Wake said:

I suggest try to get inspiration from this masterclass. will give you many ideas https://www.masterclass.com/classes/werner-herzog-teaches-filmmaking

Hi, last xmas I watched all of Werner Herzogs youtube content (having been watching his films for the last 10 years), so I know his methodology pretty well. I love how he suggests that you should get a job as a bouncer at a strip-club rather than go to film school and how you don't need to ask permission to film anything these days - I am going to quote him of both of these comments...

Thanks!

2 hours ago, Liam said:

sorry, yes I did finish the course, but I skipped most of the homework. I did a writing assignment - something like write a script for an hour without stopping to think, if possible, just let it flow (but I didn't listen to classical music during, like he said to). I had to let go of the idea that he was the authority instead of just a guy who has definitely made some good films, because that was stressing me out, and I would never have gotten past lesson two.

I think I am going to take that course, and Aaron Sorkins - have you taken that one Liam?

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52 minutes ago, HelsinkiZim said:

Hi, last xmas I watched all of Werner Herzogs youtube content (having been watching his films for the last 10 years), so I know his methodology pretty well. I love how he suggests that you should get a job as a bouncer at a strip-club rather than go to film school and how you don't need to ask permission to film anything these days - I am going to quote him of both of these comments...

Thanks!

I think I am going to take that course, and Aaron Sorkins - have you taken that one Liam?

I have not, but that could be cool

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9 hours ago, Liam said:

camera - sensor size, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, frame rate, iso, white balance, codec, log. Not that they need the best in any of these, but they should know what they are

Camera movement - handheld, tripod, pan, tilt, stabilizer, crane

some lighting - point out natural lighting can often work for low budget but great looking footage and that iso isn't the saving grace

editing - hard to cover every editor, maybe the simplest intro to how an edit works in premiere vs avid since the others seem to slightly mimic from there. Maybe imovie or YouTube's editor if that's what they all have access to

Color wheels, curves

screenplay formatting - Celtx, I have a google docs format I could send you if you want to go that way, or just basic elements of a script.. they don't need it to look nice

Maybe just show them some film clips and how the filmmaker told stories with editing, camera work etc. The Graduate has tons of great examples of the basics being used in a powerful way, for instance. Telephoto lens manipulating perspective when he's running to the church, some interesting zooms, the quick edits and framing when ben sees mrs robinson naked for the first time, shot reverse shots, plenty of loooong takes. Encourage them to study their favorite filmmakers.

Clips from good looking or entertaining films shot with minimal everything. Kendy Ty, Tangerine, This is John (the $3 short film), first episode of it's always sunny in Philadelphia (before the pilot), 

If they can draw, encourage them to look at animation and see if they want to give it a shot. This is just a more personal thing.. interesting though. Something like Home Movies or Cyanide and Happiness could be very doable for some of those teens (with some work), and can definitely tell a story

Solid topics here and confirmed what I was thinking about keeping it simple. Thanks for the advice!

Okay, still working on my notes but so far here are the topics I am going to cover... tonight I am gathering reference material and diagrams. Any suggestions would be grand, I will share the finished document with you all in case it may help some of you do something similar in future. I will also give my thoughts on what worked and what didn't later in the week. The kids will have access to my company equipment for the exercises - GH4, Micro Cinema Camera, Shark slider, iFootage Mini Jib, Zhiyun Crane and other stuff.

Camera

What do you know about cameras?

Resolution HD and 4K

What makes a camera a good camera? - dynamic range, moire, resolution, noise colour, control, Different cameras for different jobs

Links to cheap and good cameras

i.F.A.S.T. (iso, focus, aperture, shutter speed and temperature) Doll Exercises, Private Ryan opener viewing, relationships - aperture, iso and shutter diagrams

 

Light

Importance of light

Colour temperatures (daylight and tungsten and compensation)

3 point lighting (screenshots of build up - excersice on doll)

Controlling light (working with natural light i.e. the sun, reflector and diffusion excersise)

 

Composition

LS, MS, CU, XCU illustrations

Law of 3rds illustration

Headroom illustration

Zero Horizon illustration

Depth of Field illustration

Breaking the rules (dutch angle, low angle power shot) illustrations, google interesting shot compositions

Exercises in above

 

Movement and support

Tripod

Rig

Slider

Steadicam/ Gimbal

Jib

Exercises and shot examples from youtube i.e. screenrant, andyax, etc

Never shoot handheld (show rolling shutter jello, jitters)

Cheap phone solutions (links to selfy stick jib, cage, mini slider)

 

 

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7 hours ago, Dan Wake said:

I'm soory for that, did you made also all the masterclass assigments? I'm reading the peregrine then I will need to write 20 pages inpired from it (it's my first assigment).

This masterclass is looking really cool to me.

Maybe check these out first before paying as Liam is suggesting its opinion based, and these youtube videos are full of those...

 

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On 11/12/2016 at 5:41 PM, Inazuma said:

As teenagers, they will probably already have a good idea of what kind of things they like. Maybe it would be good to ask them about their favourite scenes in their favourite films and then teach them some of the techniques used to create that scene?

+1

Like he said. I would really consider the audience too. I understand that we love topics like cameras, lenses, framing, editing, etc. BUT, most these guys who are probably taking this course for an easy A... probably won't be interested in the stuff that  we talk about daily.

In my opinion, consider the audience and the time limit of the workshop. Then show enough to arose curiosity so they can learn all the other stuff on their own.

If I was you, I would ask everyone what's their favorite movie, then get a consensus of one popular movie. Throw the trailer of that movie through projector (via YouTube) and breakdown the trailer... scene by scene. Make it interactive and at the end... tell them about camera, lens, lighting, composition, etc.

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On 11/12/2016 at 10:03 AM, HelsinkiZim said:

I am giving a workshop (yikes!) to a couple of teenagers about inexpensive filmmaking and I wanted to ask you all what topics you would talk about if you were to cover the very basics of teaching someone to go out and shoot for the first time with their phones or DSLRs on zero budget.

What kind of advice would you give a first time shooter (above and beyond story)?

I have my some takes on the matter, but would appreciate some fresh views that fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

 

those kids should JUST MAKE STUFF thats my advice

they should edit together *something* before they even know it

having them start doing things to ask questions about asap, capitalize on that innocent enthusiasm~! 

like heres an exercise: tell a short story about nothing with your camera. a girl making coffee, thats it: thats not a story, but in terms of various shots that make a visual narrative through juxtaposition and other techniques of the language that we call cinema, of course it is!

dunno how your workshop is structured or if any of that is possible lol, but at the very least id encourage them to USE WHAT THEY HAVE, AND SHOOT STUFF

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On 11/14/2016 at 8:24 PM, HelsinkiZim said:

Composition

LS, MS, CU, XCU illustrations

Law of 3rds illustration

Headroom illustration

Zero Horizon illustration

Depth of Field illustration

Breaking the rules (dutch angle, low angle power shot) illustrations, google interesting shot compositions

Exercises in above

You say its a workshop, is this a one-day thing, a weekend, a semester class? The amount of time you have should guide how in-depth you go with certain topics. Gear-head talk like sensor size or jobs and gimbals are a waste of time if its a half day thing since few will ever shoot with anything other than their phone.

The basics of composition are huge. I worked for an after school program teaching photography, videography, ENG and short doc production for 6 years (full time - worked with high school students every day) and I always started with composition, getting them to understand all of the elements in the image and what to avoid. I'd also add nose room when subjects are looking to one direction, lead room for anything moving, foreground and background, framing, leading lines and so on.

After spending years working with students, the most impactful stuff we did always involved hands-on exercises on covering a single topic and critical analysis - so they'd take the cameras out and shoot 10 different examples of the rule of 3rds, or shallow DOF, or setting a scene with long/medium/closeups adhering to all the other rules - then we'd review all of the images as a group on a 60" TV and discuss what was good and what could be improved upon (I never say something is bad, no matter how awful, just what can be improved upon to help boost their confidence and start thinking about what's in the shot instead of just mindlessly hitting the shutter or record button, works great). Scavenger hunts were always a lot of fun, a vague list of stuff to shoot - silver, vegetables, fast and so on - the creativity and interpretation was always a lot of fun when we reviewed the results.

You can build on them too, so you do a rule of 3rds, then focus on headroom, then horizon and so on, while coming back to what was previously covered when doing the critical analysis part. Its amazing how quickly people pick things up and start to see everything with a critical eye. I always said your grandmother takes a picture, just points a camera at something and click, then you get those crappy shots of two kids at a table with a lot of ceiling, why is there so much ceiling? They love that. Photographers take photos - there's thought put into each image before its captured.

My work was all based on a lot of research/feedback from the students as we were grant funded and had to conduct program research to meet certain benchmarks, so all of our lessons were always evolving as we found more effective ways to communicate. I still get FB messages from students that I worked with 10 years ago about how they still think about headroom and nose room when shooting photos or video. And they all shoot video in landscape orientation, an achievement in itself.

But unless they're gear-heads too, talk about sliders, moire and other things are just in one ear and out the other. Focus on skill building that improves the quality of their shooting regardless of what camera they're using.

Just my $0.02

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