Tag Archives: filmmaking

Missing Something

I walked up to the documentary filmmaker after her presentation at my school.

“I’m a filmmaker too,” I said. “Well… it’s more of a hobby.”

She smiled and nodded encouragingly. “That’s how it starts.”

She’s right.

What’s the difference between a hobby and a career? And how do you differentiate your serious professional passion from your serious personal hobby?

This is what I think: No matter how talented you are in a certain area, if you don’t mind letting somebody else do it, let somebody else do it. Example. My major included a heavy-handed serving of design, and I impressed a professional designer whom I deeply respect with my emerging design skills. Though I have above average ability in design, I’m totally happy leaving it to others. Design is not my calling.

Instead, pursue subjects that you’re not only talented in, but that you feel shouldn’t be happening without you. Example. In summer of 2016 I was a tour guide in Admissions when I found out last minute that a video crew was coming to campus to film. I could feel myself getting antsy as minutes ticked by that morning. I was missing something. Something big. I was in the wrong place. I plucked up my courage and asked my boss if I could go, and was greatly relieved to hear the gracious yes.

This is the difference between a hobby that stays a hobby and a hobby that becomes a professional passion. If you can tolerate other folks doing it for you, if you don’t feel possessive about it, then it’s not really your passion after all. If, however, you feel you’re truly missing something when the work is being done without you, that you’ve just got to be in the fray, you’ve found your niche. Chase it. Catch it. And take the time to encourage wannabes.

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.

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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.

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1

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!)

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2

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.

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3

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.

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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.