Judging from the title of this blog post, it might come across as little out of ‘left field’, but bear with me… Initially, this post was going to be a personal Facebook expression to my 500-odd something friends about a particular YouTube channel (which I will mention later). But instead, at 1:00am on a Wednesday morning in Canberra, with the wind blowing a gale outside, I thought I would put it in a longer, hopefully more useful format.
The main reason for this is that I thought it would be lost in the ether of the Facebook juggernaut. Appreciated by some, and not even seen by others (that pesky algorithm), then forgotten forever. So let’s go deeper…
Film is something I have enjoyed from a very young age. It has shaped my life in many ways. Among my friends and family, I am considered a ‘film buff’ – a title I wear proudly, even though I have definitely seen only a fraction of the amazing cinema out there. Even a fraction of films my older brother has seen. But he’s got four years on me…
One thing I have learned along the way watching probably 400-500 films, is that film and filmmaking is perhaps the most holistic creative endeavour.
At my time at university, I studied Film. Initially, I admit, I took it as a ‘bludge class’ that would get me two hours a week watching a film and, with my hubristic approach to academia and analysis, an easy passing grade.
For the most part, I was right. But it was a great experience for my young brain. I was exposed to several genres of film, directors, eras, and above all, the process.
To the passive cinemagoer, a film is made for consumption alongside their Malteasers, large popcorn and carbonated drink. Maybe an explosion, a laugh and the odd spot of nudity. Nothing wrong with all of that.
But when I go to the movies, I never buy any refreshments, because I want to be able to:
- hear dialogue without the crackle of plastic annoying me and others (I wish others would be so kind as to do the same) and
- not have to go to the bathroom to relieve myself of 1.25 litres of Coke. I’d rather actually watch the damn thing that I paid for. In emergency situations, I have trained my bladder to hold on.
(Also, why do people look at their phones during films? The giant screen and surround sound isn’t enough for them? Also, stop talking…please)
Anyway, my point is I go to the movies and watch a film appreciating every aspect that went into it.
From the initial idea, to storyboarding and screenplay, to pre-production, to casting, to shooting, to music composition, to editing, to distribution…and even then it’s not a guaranteed financial or critical success.
Any person invested in any of those particular aspects of the film making process will say that their aspect is the most important. But I think they are all equally important.
So what can we all learn from how a film is made? Having made a few dozen films myself in this business and in other endeavours, I am starting to scratch the surface of lessons learned. I hope the following is a useful insight into my own experience that you can apply to your life and your business.
There Is Probably Someone Better Than You – Get Used To It
Ouch, right? Sucks to hear but it’s true. There will always be a better writer or better composer or someone who picked this song over another to go in this particular place. Blah blah blah – who cares? The good news is, you can use them. There is no way that one person can do absolutely everything. There are very few successful figures who do EVERYTHING in their films.
Notable exceptions are guys like John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape from New York) who have the cojones to not only direct but also compose the music. Then of course you have the director/lead actor egomaniacs (whom I admire) like Ben Affleck (The Town) and Joel Edgerton (The Gift).
These are the exceptions. For the most part, the film is made through many cogs in the machine. So swallow your pride and give up the task to someone better. For me, that was script writing. Oh boy did I think I was great at that. Until I wasn’t. Now I pay people to write scripts for me, because they are fantastic.
Added bonus: I now save time to focus on other things now.
Making a feature film, or indeed any kind of film requires the ultimate level of organisation. If you are reading this, it’s probably not a huge revelation, some young CEO telling you to be organised. But duh, guess what happens when you don’t – it all falls apart.
This business - Video Spartan, is filmmaking. I have only really come to realise that recently, which is pretty insane. But it is! We write scripts, storyboard, animate/shoot, add music, edit and boom – video done.
I am proud of every video we produce – because it has been created from nothing. Best of all, it is designed to help our customers achieve their goals. It’s a functional film. And this is no different to a big feature film.
Look, don't get me mixed up. There’s nothing wrong with going to the movies and falling asleep or not paying attention (just get off your damned phone!). The cinema experience is a personal one, designed to entertain, shock, induce laughter, fear, regret, nostalgia, tiredness… all films have a function. If you look hard enough, you can see what that function is. For most folk, the cinema is a passive and social experience and sometimes I forget that. I tend to nerd out at the cinema and appreciate the organisation that went into it.
But next time you go to the movies, instead of stuffing your face with that choc-top, why don't you look at how the lighting in that particular scene made Tom Hanks look friendly/foreboding/harmless/psychopathic.
(Also hit me up if you can tell me about a recent Tom Hanks role where he has been a bad guy...)
My brother recently recommended a YouTube channel to me, called “Every Frame A Painting”. Now studying film at university, I learned a lot of cool stuff. But it's pretty amazing how YouTube and the Internet in general has educated me before, during and since that time.
Every Frame a Painting is a film nerd's celluloid dream of insight, analysis and exploration of the medium of cinema.
Until I saw this channel, I thought I was good at filmic analysis. I am not – which goes back to my first point, there’s always someone better than you. But I am ok with that. This channel is a great example of directorship, actors, style and so much more.
In the current climate of vacuous content being created at lighting speed in so many formats, it’s very refreshing to have a channel like this (and there are many others, thankfully) that produce awesome content on the regular. Not an easy feat.
So look at those who are doing it better than you, going deeper than you and either get mad at how good they are (and appreciate it) or…
For all the good films out there, there are so many bad ones. It is rare that in a ‘summer blockbuster’ release period these days that there will be any more than one or two gems. Usually, you have to look beyond the façade of crap, to the films that aren’t necessarily standing out and yelling at you to see them.
Alternatively, just wait for reliable directors like Christopher Nolan or Quentin Tarantino to release a film. Those guys are bastions of great filmmaking and inspire others and me all the time - to be better at what I do.
So take the time to focus on what you are actually good at, and pass off the stuff you are not good at to someone else. It's a win-win - they like doing it, that's why they do it.
I hope that the rant above was at least partially insightful and useful. None of the people mentioned above have compensated me for any of the plugs (especially not my brother) – I just admire them, and maybe you will too.
PS - If you liked this article - please share it on any social media platform you like. I'll love you for it.