Five years ago I decided to take a break from Assistant Directing and focus on making my own work. Since then I have made three short films, one of which won awards in the States and has been viewed online over 9,000 times. Although its work that I am proud of, I still come away feeling like I don’t have enough to show to potential agents/ producers. So this year I decided to set myself a challenge — one that will help me focus on really finding my voice as a director as well as create a powerful showreel.
Below is the reasoning behind it. I will be posting an article on each film I make periodically — it will allow me to talk about the motivation behind every film and what challenges I want to set myself next.
Production Value VS Experimentation.
The reason for this is funding. Which ever way you approach it, it is a long drawn out process. Nowadays film making is much more accessible then it ever was, and that is a great thing! But it still costs, and it takes time to get those funds together to actually make the film. A lot of this is down to production value — the short film market being as saturated as it is, means that you can’t get away with filming something with a bunch of friends in the back garden any more. I am in no way saying that that is a bad thing — but it changes the focus on production value rather then allowing the team of film makers to just experiment with story and imagery. It’s now become more about how professional looking the film looks, and less about finding your voice — something that, if like me you don’t come from a film school background, can be an issue.
Of course who doesn’t want their film to look professional, who doesn’t want it to compare to the likes of some of the great filmmakers of our time — but see where they came from and what they did before making big budget films. They had the opportunities to experiment, to play, to just pick up a camera and film. It wasn’t about the value of it, or how many festivals it got into— the lessons they must have learnt must have had a big influence on their future work.
The idea of waiting another 1-2 years to get another film done did feel a bit depressing. So to avoid that all together I decided to focus my energy on short 2–4 minute films, that have potential of being made on a very low budget, avoiding the drawn out funding process altogether. Keeping it to four minutes means it is a maximum of 1 day filming, with less equipment and people needed to actually make the film.
That was my starting point —
Building a social media profile
Another issue that came up for me time and time again is the focus on social media. I spent a lot of last year attending various talks organised by various media and film organisations. And yes a lot of what they said was repetitive and never really gave me any more insight in how to get to the next stage of my career — which can be quite soul destroying. But I always did come away knowing something new, not a massive amount, but a small nugget of knowledge that would enlighten me in some way or another. One of these insights was social media. It has become more and more of a focus, and a clear way to getting hired. It seems to work mostly for Directors of Photography but some directors have also managed to get work through Instagram and twitter. Hearing this, you immediately feel that you need to spend more time on it — phones come out, inspiring photos and screen shots are posted, and you frantically think of ways of making it more interesting. This can work beautifully if you are a working director. You can fill your Instagram ‘grid’ with all sorts of behind the scenes photos, work stills and miscellaneous photos. But when you aren’t working, when you are still at the stage of looking to getting hired and you are only ‘working’ once a year — what do you do then?
Well this is where the micro shorts come in. I have read quite a few articles on ‘Making the most out of your Instagram’ and ‘Building your brand on Instagram’ — none of which actually added much to my knowledge of social media— but one common thread is this: its about showing the world who you are. Its a platform to show your interests, your personality and who you want to be perceived as. Well, I’m not one for selfies, and definitely not one to post things about myself all the time. I needed it to focus on my work. So who am I? a story teller… so why don’t I just tell stories.
Coming to that conclusion lead to a lot more research and experimentation with my social media platforms — what works where, and how best to make the most of what I have. There are three things that really stood out for me and really brought in results
- Making it longer then four minutes is too long — keep it short. People’s attention span is worse on social media, so if you want people to actually watch your films, keep it as short as possible.
- Physical action gets the most attention. — its more about the physicality and imagery then any philosophical or subliminal messages.
- Making it clear what you are trying to do in the quickest simplest way is the best way to get the followers you want. i.e. #oneshorteverymonth
I read some where about an experiment on creativity. Where a bunch of creatives were separated into two groups. One group was given one idea to work on for a whole week. The other group was given a week to come up with 100 ideas. At the end of the week the results of each group were examined and guess what, the people working on 100 ideas were much more creative then those working on just one idea. Its all about pushing yourself over the edge — when you think there is no where else to go, no more ideas left, thats when you push yourself, force yourself to come up with one more idea, one more suggestion. Thats when the writers block disappears and you are over the other side.
This is something that I truly believe in. The more you work on something, the more opportunities you take, the more chance there is that you find a Eureka moment.
There are only so many times you are going to film the same kind of shots, tell a story the same kind of way, before you get bored and automatically start thinking ‘ok how else can I do this?’. That is another reason for doing what I am doing. I am hoping that by the end of the year I would have a collection of short films that clearly show the kind of director I want to be — but also show a unique film language that breaks away from the mould and have discovered new ways of filming the stories we love to watch.
I want to also mention this point — I keep mentioning ‘Finding my voice as a director’. Tarantino said the best way to stand out as a director is to be clear what kind of director you are. People need to know what to expect, they need to have a clear understanding of what kind of film they are about to invest their time and money into. There would have been a ‘Pulp Fiction’ film — but it wouldn’t have been Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’. Look at any of the most accomplished and successful directors out there- one thing they all have is a clear voice. That just shows how important it is.
Finishing this article I am now in month 5 of making these short films and so far so good. But it has been a slow start, and hope to get more interesting work completed for the coming months. I will be posting more on what I have been doing in the months to come. Hopefully you will find some of the films entertaining enough to comment or share them.
to follow my progress and watch the films at the end of every month just visit my website at http://www.cuepictures.co.uk or follow me on social media:
Facebook: Cue pictures
Twitter: Louise C Galizia