Filmmaking is complex, perhaps that’s one of the biggest reasons why it takes years to complete a good one. There’s a huge army that’s involved in the filmmaking process, but there’s one man who’s at the centre of everything, who makes the core, who is the leader. Yes, I know you might have already guessed by know that I am talking about the director. He’s the man behind the vision that is projected onto the screen after months of intense hard work. The actors might be the face of the story, but the director makes sure the skeleton fits perfectly. It’s like preparing Fugu, there are many who think they can do it, but only a few know the art of preparing it for dinner. (If you don’t know what Fugu is, well, it’s the best time to Google it now.)
Coming back to direction, as a novice, someone who wants to be a filmmaker, chances are he/she would be the director on his/her first project. Whether it’s a short film, a documentary, a feature film or even a simple advertisement, if you aren’t well prepared, it is better you give yourself a few more months. The problem however is to understand that if you want to learn how to be a good director what should you do? Should you go ahead and read more stuff or should you watch more? The answer just like filmmaking is complex. You need to understand the balance between the two because too much reading and no watching or too much watching and no reading isn’t going to take you places. If you are going to read then read quality books on filmmaking and filmmakers and apart from reading you need to watch quality films. The best bet would be to start off with silent era films, go and watch Charlie Chaplin classics and you’d learn how stories are told visually without anything coming out of your characters’ mouth. You can do the same with any modern marvel, just turn down the volume. Don’t fool around yourself with typical television stuff. (I certainly don’t mean to say that television, the sitcoms or the advertisements offer nothing.)
You should definitely watch silent classic films featuring Charlie Chaplin
Here’s one really good example
Film: Police (1916)
Source: Charlie Chaplin Archive
The one forgotten art form all around the world is the good old theatre. I’d admit when I wasn’t into filmmaking, I thought theatre was a waste of time. The plays and the musicals were boring, the characters were known and it wasn’t exciting. I was so wrong. It’s been some time now that I realised that I would love to call myself an indie filmmaker, but I had no knowledge, I had no idea which film school to join, what to study and what to watch and that’s when a friend of mine re-introduced me to the world of pure art, the theatre. It can teach you so much about emotions, characters, dialogues, story and most importantly direction. So, if you really want to learn something about filmmaking or being a filmmaker, being a director, I’d suggest you to hunt the nearby theatres and look out for the performances there. Go and join forces, meet amazingly talented people and have some fun. Who knows, you might find your next big actor there. The theatre will also teach you to work in a group, which is a prerequisite.
Another great thing that has been helping me a lot is watching cartoons and reading comic books. I might not be able to offer something as to why cartoons (maybe, it’s just me who thinks there’s something to learn watching them), but I can definitely say that reading comic books is an amazing exercise for young and first time filmmakers, first time directors. The comics are intensely visual and you get to see so many amazing angles that can inspire the director or the cinematographer inside us.
Next, if you are an introvert or don’t go along with people, you’re going to have a real tough time being a filmmaker. Yes, serious, drama film is a genre, but you aren’t going to label yourself so early. It is utterly important to learn how to interact with people. This art of interacting with people seems so simple and obvious that many of us neglect. Yes, being a filmmaker, being a director means that you are the captain and you need to be strict in order for your team, your crew to finish the work at hand, but this also means that you need to be light hearted, courteous and need to mingle with other people fine. We all have our demons inside, we have bad days, good days, we have our egos, we have our inspirations, we have ideas and as a captain you need to take care of each and every person on your crew, you need to be outspoken, yet not sound arrogant. Your crew is your family.
Lastly, the best exercise for your filmmaker brain is to go ahead and read scripts and screenplays. Choose from the best, download the Oscar nominated and Oscar winning screenplays and picture yourself as the director. Think what would you have done at a particular situation, how would you shoot the scene, what angles and what not.
These simple yet daunting tasks have been helping me quite a bit. I have been working on my first ever short film and there is so much that I have learned in the past year or so and yet there is so much to learn more. I’m just starting out being a filmmaker, being an indie filmmaker, a director and I believe there is so much more that I need to learn before I head to shoot my short film.
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