The Art of Filmmaking

The art of filmmaking was all about breaking down a story into shots and then cutting the shots down to a fifth of the size of the total length of footage shot in the camera. We used to call it five to one ratio. By 'we' I mean indies. The majors used to do ten to one ratio; they had money to burn ... and they got it back on account of their marketing and clout with exhibitors (cinema chain owners.)

The director used to go out and shoot a movie and bring it in under budget and on schedule, and the editor used to get the 'circled takes' from the shoot and cut them together on an upright Moviola according the script girl's notes -- what the director had called out as 'cut and print!' All the other shots weren't even printed; the editor never saw them. It was called 'director's cut.'

Now you have directors shooting a movie with several cameras at the same time. 'Keep rolling' is the common phrase. Digital costs nothing! The editors get thousands of hours of coverage -- they decide what to use and what to discard! With all that digital imagery and sound, you need many editors, colorization artists, cgi creators, etc. The movie is no longer the 'director's medium'! The editors take a long time to put a movie together -- sometimes years.

The art of filmmaking is lost!

Well, we can still go back to shooting film, you know! And there will be a few people doing that -- less and less every year -- as long as film lasts! It's safe to say that film will not be the dominant medium of the 21st Century. It might be digital ... or some other format!

I think we should be prepared! As filmmakers, we should use the present technologies to their maximum benefit, and preserve the art of filmmaking according to what we have learned in the 20th Century.

So while you're shooting your new digital camera, make sure you only shoot those scenes that you're likely going to use. You might be able to tie a camera to a fly's rear and fly it around the room, but whose POV is that?

Learn to say 'action' and 'cut' with the same discipline as the old directors who worked for the studios. Rehearse and shoot the scenes the way you interpret the screenplay. Use one camera (because you can only have one point of view,) and if you have a scene that cannot be repeated, by all means use more than one camera (two usually are sufficient -- unless you're blowing up the whole world!)

And digital is harder to format because of all the different camera formats. There are no hard standards anymore. The number of pixels are all different -- they call it 'raw image' now. It's raw because it needs to be 'processed'! You thought only film needs to be processed? Wait until you hear how many ways your digital images are going to be processed.

So in order to keep control over the final outcome of your movie, shoot less and less and use your time wisely as director. Know what you're looking for before you roll cameras!

And, oh yes, shoot film while you still can!

Oct. 1, 2014

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