Tag 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.


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!

3 Reasons I’m Glad I Applied to Grad School

“December, the deadline is in December? Next month?” My advisor was incredulous. “You better start writing!”

He was right. I’d been putting off writing my grad Statement of Purpose for ages, and now that the deadline was a month away, I couldn’t really procrastinate any longer.

Applying to grad schools isn’t fun. It’s even less fun than applying to undergraduate college, a process I almost didn’t go through with. But I finally did write up my Personal Statements for two grad schools, and am now awaiting their decisions. Regardless of their choices, this is why I’m glad I applied.



The six-month long process, though grueling, helped me refine and understand my goals for the future. For a while I researched PhD programs, but when I actually tried to write up my Statement of Purpose, I was forced to the conclusion that these programs didn’t really fit me. I gave up on them reluctantly, and redirected my search towards less glamorous subject material that I’m truly passionate about. (Movies!)



Writing the Statement for my favorite MFA program was documenting my ideal professional future on paper. This gave me a lot of personal insight. Now that I’ve written down and explained my goals, I can see what I ought to do to get closer to them. I have a plan, and the plan is always changing. This “ideal career” plan represents my most up-to-date self knowledge, and by examining it, I can see just what I ought to do in order to learn more about my career goals.



Applying motivated me to notice alternatives to grad school, especially groups that actively practice filmmaking and writing. These are legitimate alternatives to expensive graduate programs, and though they wouldn’t be the same, I believe that the most important benefit of graduate school is networking with peers. I know, regardless of the offers I receive from grad programs, that I’m fully capable of pursuing my education “on my own” by networking with fellow storytellers. (Thanks internet!)

I was unsure about graduate school for so long, even as I pursued it. I think what matters in the end isn’t necessarily the accept/denial decision, the funding package, or where you end up. The process of discovery and pursuing what you think you’ll enjoy is rewarding in itself.

Introvert or Extrovert: You’re Probably Not What You Think

Introverts are shy people, right? And extroverts love to socialize? That’s not exactly how it is.

I just recently went for my first train ride in 15 years. I was in a new and exciting environment, surrounded by new people, lacking guidance about exactly how to behave and what to do. And, oh yeah, I was the videographer. My purpose was to record the event.


I spent 5 hours in and around the train, riding, waiting, talking, climbing, finding vantage points. I even got to ride in the cab and record the view from there. It was a fantastic adventure.

When I got home though, I was exhausted. Thoroughly exhausted. It took me a day and a half to really feel back to normal again, and I wondered to myself, How could such a fun experience be this tiring?

My answer: I’m an introvert. I’m also a go-getter, and my actions rarely reflect shyness. Introverts aren’t necessarily shy, or unfriendly, or unable to enjoy socializing. Introverts just need time to recharge.

The difference between introverts and extroverts is this: introverts recharge while they’re alone or in familiar situations, while extroverts recharge by socializing or encountering new situations. Introverts are more sensitive to stimuli than extroverts, and they need to recharge when they’ve been overstimulated. Extroverts need to recharge when they’ve been bored and understimulated.

No wonder it took me so long to “recover” from this wonderful event. 5 hours of new experience—thundering, whistling, action-packed adventure—was a lot for my introvert self. But after a recharge, I’m ready for more excitement!

Writers: Inventors or Copycats?

In his book Digitized Lives, T. V. Reed states the following about education and the Web:

Lack of obvious connection to the real world can be a major block for students, while using the Web to connect to . . . a writer who can discuss the joys of crafting a sentence no one has imagined before, can vividly awaken students. (167)

As a writer, I resent that. This quote shows that the author fosters a deep misunderstanding of the relationship between writers and originality.

First of all, there’s no such thing as a sentence no one has imagined before. Practically speaking, enough living has happened in human history that every thought that can be thought has already been thought. Originality is a chimera.

Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.
-W.H. Auden

Second, no one cares about originality. As long as you haven’t blatantly plagiarized someone else’s work (which isn’t recommended), what matters is whether readers feel a connection to your story, something they can relate to. All the reader wants is a good ride, and filling your writing with new ideas can actually hamper a reader’s ability to relate.

There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.
-Frank Capra

Writers take joy in putting pictures in people’s heads, not in being original. Not in crafting sentences, ideas, or words that no one has imagined before (unless you happen to be Lewis Carroll). At the core of all writing is the desire to make a connection with the reader, not to create something new.

The Villain as the Shadow

What’s a villain good for? I used to think villains simply existed to make the story possible, to be there so the good guys could fight someone. Today, I read an article that changed my shallow view, and I realized that villains are much more complex creatures.

As articulated in Joe Bunting’s 9 Villains in Literature and Film and How to Make Yours Better, villains are shadows of the main character. Bits and pieces broken off, intended to show facets of the protagonist that we’d never get to see if the villain wasn’t around.

So what’s a villain good for? Defining the protagonist. Outlining the protagonist. Saying the things our protagonist won’t, that still need to be said.

Go ahead and check out Joe Bunting’s article. You’ll get to know your villains better.