Monday, December 22, 2008


What to P.T. Anderson, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino have in common? Besides being famous filmmakers with large fan bases, but all are established filmmakers sans film degree. These directors are usually the argument against film school. However, proponents of film school argue that these directors had a once in a lifetime shot to make it, as opposed to increasing your chances by building your network. If you aspire to be like one of these directors, there is one thing you have to do: eat, sleep, and breathe cinema.

These directors are often called "VHS filmmakers" because their "film education" consisted of watching hundreds and hundreds of films similar to their interests. Ed Wood was also this kind of director (even though he may not be the best example). These directors also have high IQs and can easily processes certain techniques.

Even if you have a fancy film school degree, it wouldn't hurt to do a little more research. Here are some tips:
  • To save money, go to your local library or invest in a subscription service like Netflix.
  • Put aside some time in your day or week to watch a film undisturbed. The more distractions, the more you miss.
  • Use lists such as AFI's top 100 films, or IMDB top 250 as a guide for films you NEED to watch.
  • Even if using the above lists, keep in mind that they slant towards American filmmaking. Be on the lookout for notable foreign filmmakers and auteurs as well, such as Fellini, Goddard, Kurosawa, Bergman, Malle, and Lang.
  • Also look at films considered the "worst films ever" (not because your brother says so, but actually films universally considered bad, like Showgirls). They are good examples of what NOT to do. Usually a film's on the list because of the storyline and acting, not just poor production value or technical problems. Need help? Cheat by looking up which titles Mystery Science Theatre 3000 lampoons.
  • Take notes. Not just on the storylines and actors, but on camera angles, scenes, filmic styles, transitions, and art direction.
  • Watch movies in the same genre. Take note of any genre patterns.
  • Rewatch your favorite films. Why are they your favorite?
  • Enjoy yourself. You're watching a movie. Feel free to have popcorn, coke, and Twizzlers.

Happy Filmmaking!

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