This 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.