It’s not who you know it’s what you know. Film Production BA graduate, Dave Mclaren, shares some of his advice for young and aspiring filmmakers on entering the British film industry…
1. DIY as much as you can
As many of you know, film equipment is VERY expensive, but don’t let this get you down. Successful filmmakers still make their lights and rigs out of every day household objects, some of the best effects come from the simplest of ideas. In the past I have found myself wanting less light so I put tights on the lens, I have also made a steering wheel rig out of household piping and even recycled an old skateboard and some rope and turned it into a dolly.
Filmmaking is not a solitary profession, and working with friends is always enjoyable but if you want your work to take a jump to the next level, you could go online and immerse yourself with networking. Social media is a terrific way to meet like-minded creatives and it will start you on your path to finding your film family. If Facebook isn’t enough then a film school would be great for you as it’s the best place to meet new people and you get to work on films to build your first show reel.
3. Ask for help
If you’re ever feeling unsure about anything you should always ask for help, it could very well affect your whole team and nobody wants to be that person! On the other hand, it’s a great way to get first-hand knowledge. If you ever find a video you like and want to know how it was done, ask. Most filmmakers will be happy to discuss their processes with someone who shares their passion. I used to have the worst nerves and can remember being crushed with uncertainty at college when operating a camera and even lost the footage after I shot in my group. If only I had asked for help id still have that footage today.
4. Share your films
Showing your films to your mum is great, but you won’t always get the best feedback. Share films with friends and don’t forget to upload to sites like YouTube and Vimeo as they have great filmmaking communities for you to get stuck into. Maybe give your comments on someone else’s film piece to get the ball rolling. These websites are OK but nothing beats the feeling of watching your own work on the big screen. During my time at Brighton film school we were lucky enough to use Brighton universities Sallis Benney theatre for screenings and its crazy how much you miss when not watching your work on a big screen.
5. Watch plenty of films
Step out of your comfort zone and watch something you wouldn’t normally watch. This broadens your film knowledge and you might see something that inspires you or something that you want to try. You can do this just to get the creativity flowing or purely for your own enjoyment.
At film school it is so important to know your craft and understand where it has come from and you will be surprised what rubs off on you and your own work. My favourite film for lighting is Peter Greenaway’s 1989 classic ‘The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.’ And I know that I probably wouldn’t have watched it along with many others if I hadn’t attended film school.
6. Being positive is key
It’s far too easy to doubt your own choices and lose confidence, as filmmaking can be very daunting. If you get knocked down, get back up again and learn from your mistakes. As a young filmmaker you can afford to make mistakes, that’s how people learn.
7. Use practical light
Lighting equipment is expensive, big and heavy. You don’t need the best lighting equipment to tell the best story. Using lights as props in any film is far more emotive and can give you some great effects. Try using different colour lights in your films for different looks.
8. Keep it simple
The biggest isn’t always the best. Some of the best stuff is shot on a variety of cameras. For example, phone cameras are great for shooting on the fly and a DSLR is the best camera to learn the basics on. Instead of lights, use a reflector with the sun as the back or side light and you will be pleasantly surprised with the result. And when you feel you are ready to take the next step I would strongly recommend finding a film school or college, as they will have the necessary training available for some of the bigger equipment.
9. Learn how to tell a story
Always choose story over look. If you have a really bad shot that tells the story accurately and a really nice-looking shot that adds nothing to the story, ALWAYS use the bad shot because the story needs to be there. You will know what you did that doesn’t work so just remember for next time.
10. Don’t be too critical of your own work
You will always be your harshest critic, but everyone must start from somewhere. Don’t be too hard on yourself and take the time to develop yourself naturally as a filmmaker, you’ll find your style soon enough.