Learn the basics of cinematic lighting for filmmaking in this epic blog post.
Have you ever felt creatively blocked, stuck or totally uninspired?
Maybe there are voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough to take that next step. Or perhaps you don’t even know what the next step is.
As creatives, our process has peaks and valleys.
It’s not always a smooth and inspiration-filled ride. Sometimes your creative life might feel dry. You try to make something, come up with a good story idea, brainstorm….
And nothing. Your well is completely empty.
I’ve been there. Many times.
Just last year, my inner creative landscape felt as dry and barren as an abandoned baseball field in the middle of an August heatwave.
In this post, I’ll walk you through some of the things I did last year and other things I have done over my whole life to overcome creative blocks.
My eyes are dry and bloodshot.
I was up until 3 a.m. doing filmmaking SEO research. That means I watched A LOT of videos about filmmaking.
As usual, I was amazed by two things:
There are an insane amount of videos about filmmaking on YouTube. Literally tens of millions.
Almost none (that I could find) teach basic filmmaking techniques that will turn you into a good storyteller or help you gain a solid skill set.
If you don’t know the basics of film lighting, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in the shallow end of an Olympic pool.
Your footage doesn’t look quite right, but when you try to figure out what lights to buy or rent, you’re lost. There are so many lighting choices. Should you use LEDs or tungsten lights? Soft lights or hard lights? Do you need a reflector? What about flags? Should you be using a soft box or do you need something with barn doors?
You might look up lighting techniques and see images with 17 huge lights and an entire film crew.
If you’re just shooting a short film or doing a solo filmmaking project, then many of the film lighting tips you’ll find online are useless. You probably don’t have the budget to buy or rent 3 HMIs (these are incredible daylight balanced cool lights that are ultra powerful i.e. amazing but expensive).
One of the most famous 21st-century filmmakers, Casey Neistat, has never made a feature for the big screen. He’s an online video content creator, i.e. filmmaker who has made thousands of short films. He’s also made a TV show for HBO. But it’s his short online films that have made him a household name in the US.
When we think of the word filmmaker, the image of a man running a large crew (probably wearing a baseball hat) often pops into our heads.
Because, yes, there is a gender assumption too.
This imaginary filmmaker is huddled with his DP (Director of Photography) and AD (Assistant Director) knuckling out the next shot while a busy crew buzzes around him like a horde of technical bumble bees.
Let’s expand the definition of filmmaker to include people from all backgrounds and genders who create stand-alone story-based moving pictures.
Your headlines need to be as enticing as an offer of free, freshly made cookies.
Your reader is always filtering through information with the question: Is this for me? The only way they can decide if something is right for them is if there’s a clear benefit.
Yet, when we write our websites, we biz owners are often self-centred.
We don’t put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and write for their problems, dreams, fears, and needs. We don’t offer up cookies. Instead, we write about how awesome we are and give a million esoteric details about what we do.
Often, we don’t even use headlines. We jump straight into shop talk without flagging our client down in the first place.
It’s like trying to leap into a moving taxi. You’ve got to flag that taxi down first before you can open the door and get in.
Now, let’s be clear: you don’t want EVERYONE to love you. And if that’s your goal, you’re going to fail at attracting the right people—the people who get you and who will be a dream to work with.
Everyone who’s been in business for a while has had the experience of the nightmare customer or client. They’re either an overt nightmare or a niggling subtle make-you-feel-like shit nightmare. Either way, you don’t want more clients like them.
And then there are those dream clients. The ones who get you, support you, and love all the work you produce.
They tell other people about you. They share your work. They are your people.
Here’s the truth: you’re not going to find your people if you water down your about page and turn it into a pale-ass half-authentic version of you. You’ve got to paint the picture bold and bright! (Even if you do, in non-writing life, prefer muted tones.)
When you’re learning filmmaking, it’s easy to get caught up in the endless rabbit hole of YouTube gear-review videos.
Hell, I know I did!
But here’s the truth: most of those videos won’t make you a better filmmaker. They’ll make you a better gear head for sure. But if you’ve watched a few Oscar Round Tables with well-known Directors, Cinematographers, and Producers, you’ll notice the marked absence of gear discussions.
Okay, it’s true that Cinematographers do go ape-shit over a nice lens.
But other than that, the thing that’ll make you a better filmmaker is an understanding of the basics.