Waiting for ‘the Golden Snitch (Pt. 1/2)

End scene. The credits are rolling up the 27″ iMac, 2 meters away from me. The sound of eastern european music is playing in the background.

“Did you like it?” my girlfriend asks me with anticipation in her voice.

“Yeah, it was good!” I answer.

The eastern european music continues, and we start laughing at a tiny animated cartoon, dancing what looks like a Russian traditional folk dance.

It’s times like this, when I’ve finished watching a movie I really enjoy, that is not only a good story that has kept me interested the whole way through, but also done excellently in terms of costume, style, colours, framing etc, that I start dreaming again about finally making a narrative film myself.

But then, the excuses come.

“I don’t have a script yet”.
” I can’t think of anyone to act for me”
“When will I get time for this?”
“Would other people want to help me?
“I don’t have enough gear”

The list goes on and on.

I think one of my biggest problems when dreaming about making something new, is that I’m waiting for everything to be perfect. I am waiting for the right opportunity to make the film that I’ve been dreaming about making for so long. So I sit. And watch. And I look for ‘the Golden Snitch’. It’s out there somewhere. I know it. And when I get it, it’ll win me the game. So I leave it with dreaming, and waiting. Maybe I’ll start writing a new script, and then put it on the shelf after 2-3 pages. And then I wait again.

How long am I willing to wait? Don’t know. But maybe I should just start playing the game instead. Get in the game with the other players. Fight for goals and have a good time. And then, maybe one day, the snitch will show up. But who knows?

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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

*Facepalm*

Have you ever felt super organised when working on a project? You have total control over all the files, the music and graphic elements. “Everything is fine”! Yeah, I thought so too, then I opened one of my projects from 6 months ago, and I wanted to punch myself.

I work for a cycling company, and recently I have been needing to go through some of my old projects to find and re-export a couple of the first videos I made for them. I thought my adventure into my old project files would be a quick walk in the park, but it turned out to be an expedition into the depts of the Amazon jungle.

It’s weird how you can live in chaos and think that everything is fine. If I remember correctly, I didn’t think I was that unorganised when I first started working on those projects. Now on the other hand, it feels like I’m a stranger visiting someones messy home (we’ve all been there), and thinking: how did I even put up with this?

What’s funny is that I’ve always considered myself as a fairly organised, but maybe I am more of a creative minded person than I thought I was. At least I have learnt something from this. And it made me re-think how I label and organise my projects, so that in the future I’ll be wanting to give myself a hug instead of a punch. Also, not only is being organised important for your own benefit, but especially when working with other people. If you bring your mess into a project, people are going to pull their hair out because of you.

Here is a couple of the things I do:
1. Label exports with date, time and proper description.
I learnt this from my friend when we were working on an ad that we exported countless version for people to look at and give their input. It usually looks like this: year/month/date/time/name. (Example: 2015-04-28-1000-BlogPost. Important! Remember to use a 24 hour clock.) This way, the newest version is always on the bottom of the list in my folder and it’s easy to share with other people.

2. Folders, folders, folders
Inside my projects, I’ve been starting to make way more folders. And folders inside those folders. Obviously they have to be labelled properly, but at least I don’t have to look through a list of endless files.

Do you have any horror-stories like this? Or are you the organised type person who has everything under control? I would love to hear some stories, and even some tips on how you organise your files, because believe me, I need to learn it!

– 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

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