I’m a self taught amateur, a buffoon and by no means an expert when it comes to filming my adventures. In fact all I can share is my limited experience, the lessons learnt and things I’ve found that worked for me.
I would like you to know that I haven’t completed an expensive film-making course, had a cozy one to one with expert or spent my hard earned wages on a superior DSLR that can do the hard graft for me. What I have done is use the best camera and lens on my budget (which isn’t much), watched to see how other adventure films are produced and made a lot of good mistakes out on the ground, mistakes I learnt from the hard way.
I’ve always had a deep love for imagery. For the most part it was for still pictures but over the last year and half cinematography and short filmmaking has breathed a new creative life into my adventures and the overall expression of the journey. There are so many benefits to learning the old school way through college courses, online tutorials and alike but that doesn’t mean you can’t start now and create something worthwhile without the tuition, in todays world its never been easier. I won’t bore you with models and makes, as it doesn’t really matter what you to start with. In the early stages concentrate your initial efforts on the content, the “why” of the story and the characters within the story that people will have the emotional connection to – that’s worth more of your valuable time than spending money on an expensive and complicated camera.
What I’d love to share with you today is some of the basic film making principles I used to make my 4-minute film “Upon A Ribbon of Wildness”.
· Let the story move you, before you move the story
All of my journeys involve moving through a region on foot or by canoe, preferably remote, that still has links to an ancient culture that I can learn from, for me that’s really important. On this occasion the isolated Scottish Islands of The Outer Hebrides offered a beautiful backdrop and the Gaelic speaking crofting people provided the rich human history. Where are you going to go in your film and “why” are you going? What’s going to take place and will you be the only person involved? Think about your story before you go, what is the core question?
· Shoot a lot but shoot smart (5 Shot rule)
Use a tripod to steady your camera before every shot. Seat it firm and level recording for 10 seconds or more at a time. Keep something of interest in the fore ground; mid ground and background, this will give the shots balance and depth. When filming a scene take a wide establishing shot first, then close in for a mid (range) shot. Shoot 2 close ups that show an interesting detail and take one creative shot. I followed this rule numerous times a day throughout my time in Hebrides.
Because of the continual strong winds in the Hebrides I had trouble recording good sound, even when sheltered. If you intend on including audio make it the best you possibly can. If you use poor audio it could potentially ruin all your efforts in making a polished film. If you decide to use an external microphone (Rode Videomic Pro or similar) use a deadcat (wind protector) and record the dialogue out of the wind.
· Editing – don’t be precious
Remember this is a short story; keep it concise, varied and interesting – 3 to 4 minute tops. Include those shots where you feel immersed, sideline the ones that feel ordinary. Be tough with scene choices and don’t be precious. We want to entertain and inspire the viewer by keeping their emotions engaged. “Don’t edit from knowledge, edit from feeling” - Michael Kahn
· Have fun, lots of fun
Record the funny times, the bad times and the tired cranky times. When you want to scream those are the moments to film. Be a fool, make mistakes and always remember that every film you make is a huge learning experience. Let trial and error be your best friend, casting away the perfectionism and self-doubt. Aim to entertain, educate and inspire from the heart and not for recognition. Aim to make a film that moves you and is important to you and don’t be discouraged if progress takes time.