Stop Making Shorts!

I recently attended a 2 day film school with a well known instructor from LA. These three words slapped us in the face, and set the tone for the rest of the two days. At first, I did not agree with this statement at all, but as the course progressed, I understood the context of it.

The whole point of the film school was that we would learn how to produce and distribute our first feature film, on a micro to low budget. We got taught how to write, budget the money, shoot and get it out on the market. This brings me to the point of the statement; if you are going to spend $50 000 on a short film, why not spend the same amount on a feature film? The instructors point was, that it isn’t easy to make money on short films, but a good feature film on the other hand, actually has a huge potential!

So, does this mean I will not make short films anymore? Not at all! (In fact, I just shot one the other day). I believe there is so much you can learn in the process of making a short in terms of directing, storytelling and so on. It is faster to produce them and you can get away with a smaller crew. On the other hand, one thing I got from the course was that I can’t be limited by a ‘short film mindset’ anymore. What I mean is: it is so easy to think of a feature as something you will maybe make one day in the future, and I won’t start until I have years of experience. So I settle for making shorts with my friends. But the fact is, if I actually want to create a feature film, why not just start?

So that’s what I did. I started working on an idea that I got the weekend of the film school. To be honest, I haven’t gotten further than the treatment of the film, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’ve begun on a journey of making my first feature film. I can’t guarantee that this will be the feature film that I’m going to make, but it has expanded my way of thinking. I’m not limited anymore to “only” create short films or work on commercial projects. If I really want to tell feature length stories, I have to go for it. And so do you.

Every dream has the potential to become reality, but for this to happen, you have to start somewhere.

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!

– Morten

What have you done?!

Four words that usually indicates that you did something wrong. I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it. It’s not a good question to be asked. But I’m not going to talk about them in that setting. What I want to look at is something I started thinking about when I was looking at doing some more freelance jobs.

Most people want proof. Proof that you are as good as you say you are. It doesn’t help much if your resume is specced out only with degrees left right and centre. Film school, bachelor in storytelling and so on. What can you show for? Do you have a portfolio? And better yet, are you ready to show that portfolio if someone asks for it? (Side note: I am not saying that you don’t need education. As the matter of fact, getting a good education within the area you want to work is key to lay a good foundation that you can build upon. I am just stating that every foundation is there for you to build something great upon).

One thing I am really bad at, is talking myself up. That is, in conversations with people where the topic is my skills and what I’m good at. I really don’t like to “brag”, because I am afraid that people will get a wrong idea of how good I am. What if I create expectations in people, and when it comes to the point I won’t be able to meet them? That is why I really like to have a portfolio to show for. Because with that, I don’t really need to feel like I am talking myself up. I can show my work, and prove that I have the skills required for the job I am asked to do. (Side note: I still need to work on being confident on myself and believing in my skills and talents. A portfolio isn’t something to hide behind, but a proof that what you say is also what the client is going to get).

So how do you build a portfolio? Especially if you don’t have a job that directly relates to your creative area like graphic design, film making etc? Here is a couple of things that comes to my mind:

1. Do volunteer / pro-bono work.
If you have the time and opportunity to do this, it is a great way to get a lot of work experience. It can be volunteering for a church or an organisation or help out a friend to promote his business. Maybe you have friends that work with film making as well. Why don’t to tag along and help out on set? One huge benefit of doing volunteer work is that your level of commitment isn’t bound by you getting paid, so the pressure is lower. I’ve also found that it is easier to find motivation, because you can choose the projects you get involved with.

2. Apply for an internship.
In my second year of high school, I had one day each week where I interned with a local graphic design company. Even though I didn’t get to work on any actual projects that they did, I learned a lot about how to work with customers and how to handle projects from start to finish. They would give me made-up cases to plan, pitch, create and at the end present to them. If you have the opportunity to do so, a day or two at a company that can teach you and give you work experience is a really good opportunity. And who knows, maybe it turns into a paid job?

3. Work on your own projects.
This comes back to the point of just doing it! It doesn’t really matter what you make. It can be a skit, fake commercial, testimony, the list goes on and on. Today, we don’t really have any excuses. We can easily just post our videos on Vimeo or YouTube and share it on Facebook and Twitter.  If you look at some of the big YouTube channels like Julian Smith or Corridor Digital, they just started making skits and movies with their friends and got it out there. They didn’t start with millions of views. They started by posting one video, then another one, and another one, until they got to where they are now. Another example is Christopher Nolan. Before he directed Inception, Interstellar or any of the Batman movies, he shot his first feature film “Following” on weekends with a $6000 budget. Again, the point stands clear: Just do it!

So, what have you done? Or better yet, what are you going to do? I would love to see some portfolios in the comments or hear from you if you have any good stories/thoughts on how you built your portfolio.

– Morten

Go! Go! Go!

A couple of weeks ago, my “Location Camera” class teacher walked in and gave us the task for the day: Make a 2 minute skit that is awkward and takes place in a car. Deadline: 3 hours. Let’s go!

Now, this has happened before. We got a small list of guidelines for the skit and off we went. Last time, I was prepared. I already had a script that I wanted to film, so it was easy. This time though, I was not prepared at all. And, as mentioned in my last post, my brain went “Nothing Found”. Luckily, my friends and I got an idea after 45 minutes of brainstorming, and we pulled it through. (I’ll see if I can get a link to it sometime soon.)

In spite of the stressfulness of these turnarounds, I actually really enjoy them. The reason is that we get challenged to just make something. ANYTHING! Just get the task done. Most of the time, what we produce isn’t going to be the next big YouTube hit or make it to a short film festival. It does however, challenge us to take what we already have learned, our skills and ideas, pull it together and produce something that we all can enjoy and have a laugh at.

The second reason that I like these kind of projects is that they require that I work with my class mates as a team. I quickly realise that I can not create the idea, film, act and edit all by myself. In the end, if I ever am going to create a feature film or do any massive projects, I need more people around me that can help out. It’s not about me at all, it’s about telling the story together.

– Morten