Film Community

Filmmakers Film Jam

Film JamThis weekend a local filmmakers’ club had what they call a film jam. Wanting to lend a hand and have some fun, I attended. Film jams are a great way to practice your craft. The idea of a film jam is that anyone with an interest in filmmaking, from actors to camera operators and directors, gets together. Within six hours, the group plans and shoots a short film.

The first step is to develop the story. Ideas fly in. As a group, you decide on the direction the story will go. In developing the story, the group needs to consider the space available, current weather if footage will be shot outside, the acting talent, props and the equipment on hand. Everyone contributes and soon the group has a rough outline of what the film will be about, who the characters will be and how the story will be shown. This is a great time to work on visual storytelling and chop off the talking heads. It’s easy to make a talking heads video, but it takes more thought to make good use of visual storytelling.

The crew collaborates on decisions about lighting and camera angles/movements, always looking for the best way to tell the story. The group has to work fast and plan the shots for each setting. Setups cost time so it’s important to get all of the shots related to each setup. No one wants to hear that they have to reset because we forgot to shoot a scene. Getting B roll is also very important for the poor long-suffering editor. So the group will want to get all those alternate camera angles and shoot some camera movements too. The group has to work with what they have and time is short.

Every point along the journey is open to discussion; in other words, the people involved are encouraged to continuously learn from the process. It is important to let everyone contribute ideas. And it helps to question why choices are made. The group should try to have a reason for everything they do. This is when magic moments of enlightenment are likely to occur. Someone else’s vision could open a new world to you and you can do the same for the others in the group.

Mentoring is always a great way to learn because everyone gets to see different approaches to a problem. Try to remember that mentoring is not instructing. Self-discovery is at the heart of the mentoring process. If someone has an idea, explore it. If the idea doesn’t work, talk about why and everyone will learn in the process. Plan to make a lot of mistakes at a film jam, because that means you’re not playing it safe.

If you are a working pro, a film jam can help you hone the skills needed to make effective quick decisions. If you are beginner, a film jam can introduce you to the craft. Whether you are a pro or someone just beginning, take advantage of film jams at your location. You never know what you will learn. Remember, things will go wrong and some ideas won’t work, but all of these are learning opportunities. Don’t forget the most important part of any film jam is to have fun.

Video Marketing

Making working for free valuable

Working for freeIn this industry, people are often working for free. As a filmmaker there are times this is acceptable, such as if the work is for a charity or nonprofit organization that has no budget. However, if the nonprofit organization is run by high-paid executives, they should be able to pay for their video.

It can also be acceptable to work for free for indie productions with low to no budget. After all, this is often how people gain valuable experience. But are there other valuable ways to compensate volunteers besides money?

You bet there are. As the filmmaker, you can make the project a strong learning experience for volunteers. Sure this will slow down your production a little, but often all it takes to improve the learning experience is more thinking out loud. Talk about why you’re setting up the lights in the way you are. What motivates the choices of camera angles? If you explore all of this, you will provide value to your volunteers and it may just make you a better filmmaker. If you’re asking yourself why throughout the shoot, your project can only improve. One of the best ways to learn is to teach.

Set aside some question and answer time. You’re busy and have a lot on your mind, but you’ve just asked a group of people to give up their time. So, give up a little of yours. If you can, set up mentorship teams. For example, team a new grip with an experienced grip.

Make sure you have a good photographer on the set. Photograph everyone who volunteered and offer them images. There are lots of photographers that love to work on sets because they need portfolio work.

Feed your crew! This is one thing you must include in your budget: water for all and something to eat. People have already spent money to support your shoot by showing up. Don’t expect them to go hungry.

Put everyone’s name in the credits; that’s a no brainer. Let your people say, Look grandma there’s my name at the end of the slasher zombie movie. We all want our ego stroked to some degree and this form of recognition costs you almost nothing. You might also think about sending a personalized email to each volunteer. Make it something they can use as a reference.

So think about the people that are giving you their time. Make it a rewarding experience for them. Give up some of your time to make sure they feel valued.

Oh and if you are producing a commercial shoot and you think you can ask for volunteers, think again. The client should be billed for the work done by everyone on the set. Your client is in business to make money and you are too.

Video Marketing

15 seconds – That’s all folks

Did you watch my 15-second video? Did it catch your interest? Rumour has it Facebook will soon be posting video ads in timelines. And the ads will be this short.

So what can you communicate in 15 seconds? That is a very short story to tell. Can you capture the attention of the scrolling public in 15 seconds? What is more important: the visual or the audio?

If Facebook accurately filters for the correct buyer, a very brief video might be more effective than a longer one–at least when it comes to sparking the customer’s interest. For example, if Facebook identified that the person is looking for fine furniture, the video shown in this posting would foster deeper interest in Gelinas Carr Furniture. After seeing the 15-second video, the customer would be much more likely to explore the company’s website.

As for whether audio or video is most important, consider this. The 15-second video has to first catch the customer’s eye, so the visual must be engaging. But as soon as the customer is interested, they will turn on the audio. At that point, the audio becomes just as important as the visual.

Video production teams must plan for 15-second and 30-second spots. This may sound easy, but it takes careful planning to make sure the message remains clear. With a carefully focused script and well planned visuals, 15-second videos can be effective.

So up your game by giving value added content to your customers. Pick items you can explain in 15 seconds. If they are good, your 15-second videos will be shared beyond the circle of Facebook’s targeted audience. Most people watch videos for one of two reasons: to be entertained or to learn. People share what they like. Soon potential customers that never knew you existed will know who you are. Social media is a powerful marketing tool. Take advantage of it. If you don’t, your competition will.