How to learn filmmaking in a month or less without film school
Learning filmmaking by yourself is, in many respects, a lot like learning photography. There’s some technical to figure out, sure, but there’s also a lot of observing the work of others and then doing. And many of the tips contained in this video from Darious Britt also apply to photography. At least, for the first few days.
Darious makes it clear in the beginning that he’s not saying film school is a bad thing. He attended film school himself. But not everybody’s in a position to attend film school and rack up a lot of debt. Perhaps you’re starting late in life and have other responsibilities that demand your time and attention so can’t attend film school. Whatever your reasons, this 30 day plan will get you on track.
Before he starts with the plan, Darious talkes about the 50-50 Rule. This basically means that you want to spend 50% of your time watching videos, learning and observing. The other 50% of your time is to be spend doing. Go out and try the things you’ve seen. Educate yourself by experimenting and seeing the results for yourself. You’ll get hands on experience and practical knowledge that watching videos simply can’t teach.
I’m not going to outline Darious’ entire plan here, but to give you an idea of how it works, I’ll lay out the first week. This concentrates on learning and building on the basic principles.
- Day 1 – Search “Composition and Framing” on YouTube. Watch three videos, twice each. Pick up your camera and go shoot 100 photos trying what you learned.
- Day 2 – Take 50 more pictures around a park or somewhere interesting. Practise your framing and composition.
- Day 3 – Search “Three point lighting” on YouTube. Watch three videos, twice each. Use lights around your house to replicate what you saw and shoot 50 photos lighting a subject. If you can’t find a person, use a teddy bear, or anything you can get your hands on.
- Day 4 – Take 50 more pictures practising framing & composition and three point lighting.
- Day 5 – Search “Depth of field” on YouTube. Watch three videos, twice. Go out and shoot 50 photos with your kit lens to see how focal length and aperture affects depth of field.
- Day 6 – Search “How to get the film look” on YouTube and watch three videos twice each (noticing a pattern here?). Go and record a 2 minute clip using the techniques you learned.
- Day 7 – Do camera tests, record a few videos, playing with just the shutter speed & ISO. Experiment, do things wrong, see what happens.
You’ll notice that in the first week, nothing has been mentioned about actually processing any images or editing any footage yet. This is where week 2 begins.
The first couple of days cover getting an editing application and searching for videos on how to edit in that application. Personally, I primarily use Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve, but there are many other video editing applications out there. Then it’s back to practising lighting, composition and editing.
By Day 11, it gets quite interesting. Vlogging. I was convinced to start vlogging a little while ago, and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve attempted to do with a camera. Actually trying to film yourself teaches you a lot very quickly. You will definitely make a lot of mistakes on this bit, but it’s all part of the learning process. Figuring out what not to do or what you don’t like is just as important as figuring out what you should do and what you do like.
On Day 14, we start to introduce actors into our work. Well, I say actors, Darious says to just grab a couple of friends. He also provides some sample dialogue you can use. And don’t worry if it sucks. Just go and do it.
The final two weeks is more of the same. Watching, learning, then doing. A wide variety of topics are covered, but it’s the foundation you really need to understand. Even if you decide to not follow the “rules” and do something completely different, you’ll have the knowledge to know when and how to effectively break them.
Nobody’s suggesting you’ll be Spielberg by the end of the month. Some of us need more practise than others to really nail certain aspects of filmmaking. You might need to repeat some days if you feel you aren’t getting the results you want, but don’t skip any!
This is one of the best plans to follow that I’ve seen for learning filmmaking without film school or somebody there holding your hand through everything.
The key to it, though, is actually going out there and doing it. It’ll help you retain the information you see online, and will give you some real world experience with it.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.