5 Tips To Becoming an Exceptional Filmmaker

It’s a beautiful, crisp autumn day in Vancouver and at InFocus Film School our Foundation Film Program, a six month filmmaking intensive, is now in session.

In honour of our class of new students who have travelled to the Pacific Northwest from all around the world, here are five tips on how to become a better filmmaker, and unleash your inner cinematic genius:

1) Recognize the Importance of Play

As children, we could dip our hands into a carton of paint and smear it on a canvas without much thought to what our soon-to-be-masterpiece would become. The worry of whether or not our work was any good is something that came much later in life, and it can be detrimental to the creative process.

If you find yourself stuck on a particular idea, or in a never ending struggle with perfectionism, take a moment to consider how you might approach your work if you were eight years old. Trust your impulses, put a pin in ideas, move past them when you get stuck, and do your best to practice openness.

2) Make Weekend Movies

It can be tempting to wait until conditions are perfect to start making films– when you have a generous budget, top-of-the-line cinematography equipment and seasoned actors. The truth is, is that money and technology are never a good substitute for talent and experience.

Grab your cellphone, a DSLR or even that old camcorder that is buried in your garage and start making movies. Enlist some friends to help out, operating the camera, dressing a location or standing in as actors. Remember that these films don’t have to be exceptional, but they should contain something in them that you feel represents your point of view, or your sense of humour.

3) Watch Bad Films

It may seem counterintuitive to include b-movies in your film studies, but they’re not only very entertaining – they can also teach you a lot about film production and story structure.

From cliched dialogue to overdone movie tropes, these films can act as a visual textbook on what not to do in your own cinematic endeavours. Use these as a guide to the mistakes many filmmakers make, and you’ll become better at identifying these issues in your own work.

4) Don’t Take it Personally

Here’s the truth  behind creativity — as you’re working towards mastering your craft, you’re going to have to work through a whole mess of mediocrity. The films you make in the beginning of your career aren’t always going to look how you want them to — in some cases you’re going to feel the impulse to trash an entire project after the final cut.

In order to become a better filmmaker you’re going to have to keep practicing, filming, writing and putting your work out there. Don’t look at your limitations as if they are a direct reflection of your worth as a person. Take pride in your dedication to improve as a creative talent.

5) Repeat

The most important thing you can do to continually nurture your creativity and skill is to keep making things. Write alone, or write with a partner. Recruit friends to meet up once a week and spend the afternoon filming. Edit that footage on your computer. Find other people who are making their own films, and help them with their productions.

Creativity is a muscle. To strengthen it, you must work on it daily. In order to become a masterful filmmaker you will need the ambition to succeed, the practice to refine your skill and the dedication to push yourself towards greatness.

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