What’s the story?

Three words that I saw on the back of a bus while driving yesterday. I think it was an ad for a radio station or something, but it got me thinking.

These three words are super important, and something I should keep asking myself all the time when working on a project. Does my choices serve the story? It can be framing, camera movement, colour, music, a cut in the edit. All of this plays a part of highlighting the most important aspect of my film: the story.

That’s all I had to say for today. What are some choices you have made to tell or highlight the story when working on a project? Would love to hear some examples in the comments.

– Morten

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 do you have?

I love to follow the NAB show that is currently going on in Las Vegas. The different companies bring out the new cameras, gadgets, software updates and so on. It’s exciting, because technology is moving forward, and we are getting bigger and better tools to make movies and tell out stories.

On the other hand, I get a bit sad. I look at all the new goodies coming out. The cameras, lenses, gimbal stabilizers and so on, and it all seems so far out of reach!

I am a low budget filmmaker. At the moment, I don’t have the money to invest in a lot of gear or to rent anything better. I own a Canon 550d, two lenses, a tripod, a shoulder rig and some audio gear. To be honest, I don’t always like my camera, and wish I had better gear all the time. But the truth is that I am really lucky to even have what I have.

One thought that struck me a while back when I was wishing and dreaming about a new camera was this: If I learn to use the gear I have now, I set myself up for a win when I get the chance to upgrade. If I can’t tell a story properly with a $450 camera, then I probably won’t be able to tell the story with a $2500 camera or $20 000 camera.

One movie that I really like is “Monsters” directed by Gareth Edwards. The reason I really like this movie is because it was written, directed, shot by Gareth Edwards himself. On set, which was different places around South America, most of the time the crew consisted of him, the two actors and a sound guy. His camera was a Sony PMW-EX3 with a 35mm adaptor at the front, giving him the option of putting DSLR lenses on it. Several times in the movies, the quality of the images itself isn’t good at all because of how the camera handles low light. But none of that really matters, because the story gets told and mr. Edwards just decided that he had an idea, and he was going to use what he had access to, and just make the movie. (Btw, I highly recommend to check out the behind the scenes for the movie.)

Alright, to wrap it up: My point isn’t to despise better cameras or to make you think that “I never should upgrade to better gear unless I am able to tell the story first.” In fact, better equipment are greater tools to tell the story! What I found is this: Usually he people who have done something great in this world was not hindered or stopped because of what they didn’t have, but they took what they had and made something great out of it.

So what do you have? Would be great to get some comments about gear and even see some videos that you have made with what you had access to! It can be anything from a high end production to a home video. Leave a comment and let me know.

– Morten

‘Thief!’ or ‘Thief?’

Where does the line between being inspired by something and copying go?

I remember when I first started doing graphic design. I said something like “I am not going to copy or use anything made by people from the internet. I’ll make all the graphic elements my self..” There is probably no need to say that this didn’t get me really far.

It is so easy for us today to go online and get inspired, find resources and learn from tutorials. And with everything available by just a quick google search, it is also so easy for us to just copy what we see and make it “our own”. I mean, who is going to find out if I use a design for something?

Or what about filmmaking? There are lots of movies out there that build on the same concepts, and even comes close to the same story. Are they just inspired by the same thing, or did something think they could “copy” something, tweak it a little bit and make it work? In my “Storytelling” class at my college we learned about the concept of “Reinvention”. It is basically taking a story and putting it in another setting. Our assignment in that subject was to write a short film, based on a bible story. This was a great exercise, and I loved writing the script. But it raises the question if I was just copying and tweaking, or actually being inspired to tell a story in a different way.

I guess this could be an endless discussion. I just thought I’d ask the question.

What do you think? What separates copying and being inspired, and where do you draw the line? Would be great to get some comments on this.

– 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

“Nothing Found”

That’s what welcomed me when I first opened this blog. The reason? I hadn’t posted anything yet. (Obvious, I know..)

This happens to me a lot, especially when I am trying to find ideas for a new story or just being creative in general. My brain tells me: “Nothing Found”. So I sit there. Trying to dig through all distractions and working with every single hint of an idea that I can possibly think of. But again, I usually end up on “Nothing Found”.

What I realised was that the more I try to look for an idea, the harder it is. Usually, the best ideas that I’ve had has come when I really don’t think about it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I’m just going to walk around and do nothing, then one day something big is just going to hit, and that’s when I’m going to start writing. I believe I need to write and work on my creativity every day (That’s partially why I started this blog). My point is that when inspiration hits, I write it down. It can be as short as a small note on my phone, or I sit down and write the first pages of a script. That way, I’m not stressing out when it seems like my brain is going “Nothing Found”, but rather just relax and take a hold of inspiration when it strikes.

– Morten