Please stop giving young filmmakers this advice

Written by Patrick Jong Taylor

It's no doubt given with good intentions, but there’s one piece of advice for beginning filmmakers that isn’t nearly as helpful as it may seem.

As a regular reader of RedShark, you presumably like to stay informed of developments in film tech. You read articles here and elsewhere, and peruse film tech forums, participating in discussions about workflow or product rumors and releases.

Through your Internet travels, you’ve probably encountered a ubiquitous refrain, one that sticks out like a speed bump in the middle of the comment train. It goes something like this:

Companies are just trying to sell you more stuff that you don’t really need. Just grab whatever camera you can, go out there, and make movies!

There’s a certain rah-rah “you can do it kid”-quality to the comment that’s meant to inspire. It also has a populist tinge, casting makers of film tech as de facto governments trying to control the behavior of the filmmaking masses.

I get it. It’s just a general “learn by doing” message. It’s urging young filmmakers to stop obsessing about camera specs and start focusing on telling engaging, visual stories. But, while well-intended, it ignores many realities of being a young filmmaker.

First off, there’s an ever-increasing amount of competition. Film schools churn out budding filmmakers by the bushel. The internet makes it easier to bypass film school altogether. If being paid as a filmmaker or film professional is a goal, young filmmakers have to compete against the talent-level and technical expertise of the field to achieve it.

For young filmmakers, time is of the essence, so why advocate an either-or approach? Why can’t these budding auteurs learn about story, themes, breaking down a script, storyboarding, directing actors, etc. while also learning about the current, industry-accepted tools of the craft?

Learning what they like

Secondly, beginning filmmakers are in the process of learning what they like, whether its a choice of camera or job on a film set. Its naive to think that even half of these neophytes will enjoy long careers as filmmakers or directors. Many will leave the Industry altogether. Some will discover they would rather be DPs, editors, producers, etc. But the rest will use the film set to learn about film craft at a professional level (and to make a living).

Given that its impossible to know what type of career any beginning filmmaker might have, isn’t it better if they try to learn everything they can about whatever interests them? (And the earlier they can hone that craft on tools close to Industry-standards, the better off they’ll be, in the short and long run.)

Finally, young filmmakers are...young. What better time is there to sponge up as much knowledge as possible?

So, please, filmmaking and film professional community, please stop telling kids to simply “go out there and make movies.” Instead, let’s tell them “learn as much as you can about what you love to do.”

Tags: Business

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