Green Screen Cinema Filmmaking for the 21st century

Free Film School, Chapter 3

Monday, May 05 2008 @ 02:24 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 2,169
Free Film SchoolSince the previous chapter might have dampened your dream of being a filmmaker I think it's appropriate to build it back up now. You can make a great film. Even if you make just one film it can have a lasting impact for the rest of your life. Look at Pietro Mascagni, he sits down to write a one-act opera for a competition run by a publisher and produces one of the greatest operas of all time (Cavalleria Rusticana). For the rest of his life he does this and that, hangs out with Puccini, travels to South America, scores a silent movie but he never writes another monster hit like Cavalleria Rusticana. And you know what? He rides off into the sunset a happy man because the two months he set aside for that competition changed the world. I mean, c'mon, you got two months don't you?

Mascagni is a great role model.

You know who else is great role model? People that show up for work each day, that find ways to get along with their co-workers and that develop a set of skills along the way. You should consider a career path that models this kind of behavior, because these are the habits of people that do not end up waiting tables. Can you tell I really don't want to see you end up waiting tables?

It's important that you get pointed in the right direction, that your filmmaking aspirations have the right trajectory. The advice I see given to filmmakers most often is that you have to network, that your success will be based on who you know. You can visit this filmmaker's site to see a perfect example of the old school approach. This school of thought views Hollywood as a big swinging singles club and basically gives you advice on how to part your hair so you'll score. This approach is not going to get you anywhere. While networking is important, the most important thing is to develop a skill that others cannot live without. If you want to hear some support for my approach I can tell you a great story (and if you're already bought in you can just skip the old-timey story).


Many years ago a girl I was dating invited me to a film composer's house up in the hills. It was a small get together, just his industry friends hanging out and having a nice meal. I didn't know the composer but my date did and so I thought,"Why not, it sounds like a great opportunity to network." The house was huge and even had a big screening room. The composer ended the evening by showing an offbeat film in his screening room. It was a total blast, everyone had a great time, and after the movie ended people started to head out. The composer left the screening room for a couple minutes and then came back with a script. He wanted his friends to look at the script to see if it was something they'd be interested in. When that script entered the room it was like a shark fin had just popped up in the middle of the lagoon we were all swimming in. His "friends" could not get out of there fast enough. Not one single guest was willing to take a look at it. I thought to myself,"Wow, his friends won't even read his script?" That was an eye opener. He had wined and dined these people and yet they wouldn't lift a finger for him. How much more networked could this guy get? People were actually coming out to his house, eating his food and all of this "networking" ultimately amounted to nothing.


It is possible to be given some plum job because of who you know. But if that's all you have you will not last. I've worked at Warner Bros., Sony, Universal and Paramount and while these places are crawling with people living off their connections those people are also the ones most worried about their future. The people who last over time are the ones that act with integrity and show up ready to perform a valued skill. This is so much more important than who you know. If you do an outstanding job people will want to know you. You won't have to throw a party for a dozen insiders at your house each weekend.

Don't get me wrong, there is a social component to filmmaking. But don't worry about that component, it will just develop over time. If you have a skill and act with integrity then people will want you around. If you need a role model consider Federico Fellini. At the end of the shooting day he would sit down with his cast and crew and have a big meal. He considered these people to be part of his family. Would you call this "networking"? His goal was not to collect a bunch of business cards; he truly wanted to bond with these people. To Fellini this social interaction was just a natural part of the filmmaking process.

It is important to like the people you work with and have bonds that are based on mutual respect and shared experiences. These bonds are the only things that stand the test of time. Skills and integrity are the best way to form these bonds. Who cares how your hair is parted?