At the Fast Track and Postgraduate Film Degree we don’t just keep track of film industry developments, but also with ongoing discussions on how students in general or filmmakers in particular learn and prepare for their jobs. Cognitive scientists confirm that there are no secret formulas or abstract theories that serve as a shortcut. If you want to learn about films, you need to look at films, and the many various ways how they come about.
Here are 10 Things you’ll never learn from ‘10 Things to become a successful …’ Lists:
1. The Hours
Learning is about effort and finding your own way to make that effort productive, not some wisdom which so far has managed to escape you.
2. The Responsibility
That’s why the Raindance Postgraduate Film Degree is student centered: there is no professor, no theory, and no curriculum that cushions students from the responsibility to manage their own efforts. But there is a variety of friendly advice and guidance on tools, resources and potential consequences of decisions.
3. The Films/DVDs
Great filmmakers, and even the good ones, have seen loads of films, and that knowledge is the basis of their skill as well as the tool set they use to express their talent.
4. The Shoulders of Giants
Look at Quentin Tarantino who spent years working in a Video Shop and found some Asian films that he wanted to build on and make his own (The jury is still out if he ever learnt to say ‘Thank You’ properly, i.e. give credit where it is due), Scorsese crediting Powell & Pressburger or Tim Burton who managed to resuscitate the ideas and visual vocabulary of Neoexpressionist films. Who do you want to stand on?
5. The Terms
Thus equipped with tenacity to put in the hours, and a library of your own choosing, you spend some time understanding the process of filmmaking, using other filmmakers experiences from interviews, director’s commentaries, user groups’ biographies, manuals etc. Know your Dedolight from your Redhead, and understand the difference they make when lighting a first kiss in close-up.
6. The Procedures
You can communicate much better with actors in a reading, rehearsal or on set if you understand their individual procedures for approaching the characters they play.
7. The Opportunities
On the basis of understanding how films usually reach their audiences, you can investigate how to appropriate that process to your film’s advantage. You can convince a sponsor or a distributor much easier if you can show them data about your audience for your film.
8. The Lift-off
Have you ever thought about why, when hundreds are listening to Dov Simens, Guillermo Arriega or Chris Vogler at Raindance; there are only a few Chris Nolans, Julian Fellowes or Matthew Vaughans that make it work? None of them wait for some bureaucracy executive or a producer in a shining office to take them across the obstacles. They jump. That’s the point of our Fast Track. It’s designed to get you to the edge and then plunge head first into your screenplay, web series, documentary or movie.
9. The Trajectory
In filmmaking, you’ll never jump either high or far on your own. Every Ang Lee needs a producer like James Schamus to get where he is now, every maverick director like Lars von Trier needs his Peter Aalbeck Jensen, every Guy Ritchie his Matthew Vaughan, and similar strong relationships with cast and heads of departments – just think of Scorsese and de Niro, Spielberg and cinematographer Kaminski, Nolan and Pfister.
10. Fail and fail again
Once you start thinking about it, failure is only a stepping stone in the above process, often defined by other people’s standards. That is not to say that you should not learn from a surprising response to your work and consider how you want to manage the process more effectively in the future – most of the path towards mastering your craft and expressing your art powerfully is based on the knowledge you gather from such ‘failures’. Whilst we may draw some inspiration from a success story, there is no creative voice without risking failure.