Category Archives: filmmaking

Leave the Camera Rolling

I’ve heard some filmmakers advise to keep your shots short, under 30 seconds ideally or even under 10 seconds. This is supposed to make the footage easier to edit, and I can see how it would. However, I strongly disagree with this mentality, and speak from experience when I say:

There’s no reason to end a shot hastily. Ever.

It’s true there are times when you should grab your camera and run in order to protect your equipment and/or avoid certain death. In fact, there are plenty of these times. But if you’re ever tempted to press the button and end the shot in a rush, have some compassion for the editor. It’s so much easier to chop out shaky sections in post rather than magically make lost footage appear.

For example, during my filming of a video for the Adirondack Scenic Railroad, I intentionally took a shot of two people working with a camera and unintentionally picked up the dialogue of train folk in the background. When a conductor shouted, “All Aboard!” I immediately ended the shot, since I had plenty of footage of the two people I intended to film.

ThendaraCamCouple

What I didn’t realize is how desirable the background dialogue was going to be. My trigger-happy habits caused me to lose the iconic “All Aboard!” audio, which I cut in the middle of the phrase.

Lesson of the day: When in doubt, leave the camera rolling!

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The Day I Became a Videographer

In my freshman year, I was a camera operator for the TV Club. When we put on a talent show in the auditorium, I got a better than front-row seat, hiding behind the giant 80’s TV camera with my heals hanging off the stage, trying to keep its bulk from rolling off and smashing to the floor two feet below. That show was one of the greatest highlights of my college career.

Too soon, the TV club fizzled. The student president was deeply interested in television production and transferred out, and no one took his place. I’ve occasionally wondered about transferring—I’m a video and writing person at a polytechnic institute—but never thought about it that seriously.

This is why. I believe that if I’m really serious about my profession, I’ll be able to pursue it almost anywhere. Transferring to a school with more video classes would be pointless for me, because if I’m not able to drum up video business right here, I’m just not that serious about it.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt

One month ago, I wandered into Career Services, just to see what opportunities awaited discovery there. I had a conversation with the director, and said I was interested in videography. He asked what type. I said I did documentaries. Then the director told me about his idea for an informational video series about Career Services—how to do business interviews, resume-writing, and internship preparation. He showed me many video examples of what he wanted, and said maybe I could be his summer intern. I set out to make a professional video demo, to get this job.

One month (28.5 hours) later, my demo was ready for viewing. I made sure that it was high-quality. The Career Services director loved it! This summer I’ll have my first videography job, and be one step closer to a dream career. And none of it would have happened if I didn’t walk through that door a month ago and say I did videography.

“If you are going to be a writer there is nothing I can say to stop you; if you’re not going to be a writer nothing I can say will help you.” -James Baldwin

Videography and writing aren’t classes you take, they’re crafts you do. Be a go-getter. Get yourself noticed. More often than we think, we have everything we need right where we are to be who we want to be.

The Cinema and the Storyteller

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Coyau / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Filmmaking and writing have a lot in common. Both are popular ways of telling stories, and many filmmakers are also screenwriters. One can learn a lot about storytelling by studying great movies, as well as great books.

In this post I’d like to share five favorite quotes from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time—Billy Wilder—that are just as applicable to the written word as they are to the cinema.

The best director is the one you don’t see.” -Billy Wilder

You have to have a dream so you can get up in the morning.” -Billy Wilder

Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s.” -Billy Wilder

Don’t be too clever for an audience. Make it obvious. Make the subtleties obvious also.” -Billy Wilder

It was hell at the time, but after it was over, it was wonderful.” -Billy Wilder