Not all photographers and filmmakers went to school for it. There are pros and cons of both formal education and learning everything on your own, but both can give you valuable knowledge and skill, that’s for sure. If you’ve decided to learn filmmaking yourself, there are many things you can do to learn and improve. But are you doing all of them? Jordy Vandeput of Cinecom suggests five things that you probably aren’t doing, but they can be great ways of improving as a filmmaker.
1. Experiment at home
You don’t have to have live actors to start learning. You can use two objects like mannequins or toys. In the video, Jordy uses two teddy bears. Start with the cutting: try different angles, perspectives, lighting, and cut the scenes to see what works. It’s useful to rely on references from movies and try to recreate them with your objects.
2. Feedback is super-important
Getting feedback on your work is essential to let you know what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, you should focus on getting valuable, relevant feedback and only ask it for those projects you spent most of your time and effort on.
There are three groups of people who can give you useful feedback. The first contains your friends and family. They are basically your audience – they can’t give you technical feedback but can tell you about their experience while watching your video. The next group is other filmmakers. They will give you technical feedback and let you know what works and what can be improved. You can rely on the folks in Facebook groups, forums, Reddit, or your filmmaker friends. Make sure always to ask them direct and specific questions about your work, so they know what to focus on, and you know what should be improved.
The third group is made of trolls. They are toxic jerks who won’t give you any valuable input or constructive criticism. But, it’s important to recognize them so that you can ignore them.
3. Make breakdowns
While watching a film or a TV show, pause it, take a notebook and break down the lighting. Focus on its color, direction, and softness and see how they work together. You can also pay attention and break down camera movement, composition, color grading, or any other filmmaking aspect that interests you. Your notebook with notes will be a valuable tool once you do your own shoot.
4. Plan your shoot
You may be able to get away without any preparation, but there’s a chance you’ll mess something up. Oh, and you’ll definitely burn out. Plan your shot so you can follow the plan and use your mental energy to focus on the details during the shoot itself. After all, it’s all about details, and it raises your video to the next level.
5. Set up targets and deadlines
If you’re learning everything on your own, you don’t have teachers to set your guidelines and deadlines. So, you’ll have to do this for yourself. Try to make a learning trajectory, set your goals, and give yourself realistic deadlines for achieving them. Ensure that your goals are measurable and specific, so you know for sure when you’ve reached them. Make a few smaller goals instead of one large one. This way, you’ll feel less overwhelmed and more motivated to learn. If you don’t know where to start, Jordy has prepared a free learning roadmap for you, and you can download it here.
Being self-taught in many disciplines, I recognize the importance of all five of Jordy’s suggestions. Ever since I graduated, I’ve attended many online courses and learned lots of different things online, from books and other people. I think that these tips aren’t only useful for filmmakers, but also photographers or anyone else learning a new skill or expanding one they already know. Personally, I experiment a lot while I learn, I ask for feedback, and I make plans. I admit I rarely do breakdowns (although I should), and I suck at time management and setting goals. But hey, I’m learning that, too.
Are you applying all these strategies while learning? And would you add any other?