For regular readers of the magazine, you know that I’ve written a few different articles and editorials on the art and creativity of filmmaking. However, as important as the artistry and passion is, there’s another key ingredient that is, unfortunately, looked over by many low budget filmmakers: discipline. While some may hear that word and think of getting a spanking when we were kids or about their time spent in bootcamp, it is the self-observed type that I wish to comment on.
You see, every month we receive films from all over the world from filmmakers with the passion and desire to make their films. While some people make a truly amazing film their first time out, most first time filmmakers send in films that are less spectacular because they are still learning the craft of filmmaking. While many of these have a lot of positive elements, each year we receive a certain percentage of these non-spectacular films that are truly awful.
That of course begs the question: What makes a film awful? Well, most people would say that bad story telling, or bad sound, or bad lighting can make a film awful. However, from our perspective, a truly awful film must fail on many categories, not just one or two. (Granted, bad audio is one of the quickest contributors to a film dropping to awful standing.)
Do filmmakers want to have an awful film when they set out to make it? With one or two notable exceptions, absolutely not. The person who makes an awful film wants it to be successful just as badly as the person who makes an amazing film, otherwise they never would have gone through the work of shooting it in the first place.
So, what differentiates the two? In our experience, the biggest determining factor in success in filmmaking is discipline. Most folks who turn in atrocious films had the passion for filmmaking but not the discipline it required. They had the artistic mindset that said, “I must create my vision”, but they couldn’t be bothered to read books about filmmaking first, or learn how to use their cameras properly, or even experiment with audio before they shot their film. Then when they’ve haphazardly edited their film and slapped in a temp track or some other un-licensed music, they pass it around to their friends to see—all of whom proclaim it to be good because they don’t have the stomach to tell the filmmaker they couldn’t bear to watch it. Once that’s complete, the filmmaker moves on to their next film, which will be just as haphazard and painfully bad.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way saying you have to sink a $150K to go to a four year filmmaking school to shoot films, nor am I saying that you can ever prepare enough that you won’t have any issues on your set. All it takes is reading the compiled articles here at MFM to see that we believe neither. However, you must have the discipline to take advantage of the resources that are available before you. No time in history has had more filmmaking resources available to low budget filmmakers--both here at MFM and at other sites around the web--yet, without taking the proper time to delve into these resources, it’s all worthless. We must now contend with folks who are attracted to filmmaking for the same reason that kids all over the country want to make video games, because they think it’ll be fun, exciting, and glamorous, without any reckoning of the hard work required to attain and keep their goals.
In the Christian Bible, Jesus talks about this very concept when he says that no king goes to war with another king unless he reckons the cost in men and determines beforehand that he, with fewer men, can overpower the opposing king who has more men. As microfilmmakers, we will always be the man with fewer men, fewer resources, and fewer options than our Hollywood counterparts. For this reason, if we are to succeed as filmmakers, we must be more disciplined in the craft of filmmaking than those in Hollywood—to say nothing of those in our own ranks who aren’t disciplined enough to read a book or an article about filmmaking.
Just some thoughts to think about this Holiday Season!
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!