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Filmmaking Basics

Filmmaker Motivation – Be a Scrappy Filmmaker!

July 15, 2021

BY COLETTE NICHOL, SOLO FILMMAKER & STORY STRATEGIST

If you want to become a filmmaker, then you need a healthy dose of FILMMAKER MOTIVATION!

And I’ve got just the thing for you.

Here’s a secret: the key to staying motivated as a filmmaker is to embrace the idea of being SCRAPPY.

Another way of thinking about this is to embrace minimalism. But the word scrappy has a feeling that encourages you to just get started. To just jump in and get your feet wet.

Getting started with imperfect action is where EVERY filmmaker begins their journey. And so will you.

PERFECTIONISM IS THE THIEF OF PROGRESS

The most common thing that prevents people from getting started and pursuing filmmaking is perfectionism.

If you’ve reached a high level of mastery in some area of your professional life, you probably apply some level of perfectionism to that work. And once you’ve achieved mastery, that is perfectly valid.

But when you’re starting any new endeavour, perfectionism is the enemy. Even if you’re an industry pro, if you’re starting a new project, you can’t let perfectionism creep in as you work through the opening stages.

The key to getting started with any filmmaking project is to simply get started.

And then keep going.

Okay, I know that sounds annoying.

Maybe you’re looking for more tips?

Like how do you decide what to start filming?

Filmmaker Motivation - You Don't Need to Be Perfect

HOW TO GET STARTED AS A FILMMAKER IF YOU NEED SOME MOTIVATION

When you first start learning filmmaking, you should practice by filming the people and events around you.

You need to choose things that are easy and accessible; otherwise, you won’t get started at all. Filmmaking has a learning curve. So you don’t want to make your life more difficult by combining the learning curve of filmmaking with also seeking out hard-to-reach subjects or complex story concepts.

Side note: this is also why picking a narrative short film as your first project is a deadly mistake that could leave you stuck for a very long time. It’s simply too difficult to pull off as a beginner.

Besides choosing subjects that are easy and accessible, getting started with filmmaking and learning the basics is really a mindset game.

So I’ve created a little manifesto on how to think like and become a scrappy filmmaker. I hope this helps you either to motivate yourself or to get unstuck and get started.

THE SCRAPPY FILMMAKER’S MANIFESTO

I will aim to do the following no matter how much my resistance rears its diabolical head:

I WILL:

  • Let go of perfectionism.
  • Start before I’m ready.
  • Commit to imperfect action.
  • Be okay with the ugly phase where my work doesn’t look how I want it to look.
  • Focus on skill and how to improve not research and becoming a gear expert.
  • Be a storyteller at heart.
  • Make a difference with what I have.
  • Embrace rentals!
  • Make mistakes and learn from them.
  • Remember that if I’m not making mistakes, I’m not learning.
  • Make more mistakes and learn some more.
  • Focus on volume and make tons of imperfect films and videos because I know that through iteration I will improve.
  • Decide to be prolific rather than a one-hit-wonder.
  • Make films solo, not just with the crew.
  • Film for fun!
  • Embrace minimalist production processes. In other words, I will keep things as simple as possible.
  • Let story, not ego be my guide.
  • Take what is useful and leave the rest.
  • Only seek feedback from people I trust.
  • Develop a thick skin by remembering that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I have no idea how my work might positively affect somebody.
  • Recognize that creativity often comes from rest just as much as it does from activity.
Scrappy Filmmaker's Manifesto

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What do you think? Does any part of this Scrappy Filmmaker’s Manifesto ring true for you?

Most of us interested in filmmaking don’t have the option to buy $20,000 worth of gear on day one. Most of us also don’t have the chance to spend $100,000 on going to film school full-time. And so, we have to combine DIY learning with online filmmaking education with a consistent filmmaking practice. In other words, we have to be scrappy.

But there is an incredible benefit to being a scrappy filmmaker. When you approach things in a scrappy way, you know that you can always keep going. You learn how to make the most of what you have. And you’re not stopped by the fact that you don’t have the latest camera or the most expensive film lighting gear. In fact, you’re not stopped by anything. Because you realize that as long as you have some way to film and record audio and some way to edit, you can make a film.

The soul of being a scrappy filmmaker is to know that story is what matters the most.

The reason we make films is that we want to tell stories. We want to emotionally affect other people. We want to take our audience on a journey. We want to have an impact in some way.

And you don’t have to have the latest gear or the fanciest techniques to tell stories and make an impact.

So if you’ve been stuck because you’re worried about making something “great,” then today is the day to embrace becoming a scrappy filmmaker.

Think of it this way, if you’re not making anything, then you’re not making progress. And if you’re not making progress, then you have nothing to lose by getting started. You have everything to gain.

Progress is the path.

In fact, progress IS all there is. There is no end. There’s just progress.

So, where do you start?

Pick an event that you have easy access to and decide to film it. Film a birthday party or someone’s wedding. Or pick a person you know who does an interesting art or craft or physical activity, and ask them if you can film their work. Don’t even worry about audio when you’re starting.

Just practice by filming events and activities that are full of MOTION and EMOTION.

Once you’ve picked something to film, simply enter your imagination and think about how you would like to capture that event or that subject. Create a shot list based on the images you see in your mind or that you think would be interesting. Then go and film.

The real learning will happen in the edit as you try to put together your story.

And if you’re not happy with your results, that’s okay! In fact, that’s normal. For most of us, it takes some time before we have the skill to take the ideas we have in our minds and bring them to life on screen. But make no mistake, it will happen for you!

As long as you keep going one step at a time, eventually, the images and ideas you see in your mind will come to life. And even better, your imagination will expand and you’ll have even more ideas! Then you’ll be able to take any idea you have and any story you come up with and turn it into a film.

Becoming a filmmaker isn’t a magic trick.

It’s simply an act of patience and persistence and totally throwing away the idea that perfectionism is the pathway to success.

KEEP BOOSTING YOUR FILMMAKING MOTIVATION

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I'm Colette, here to give you a filmmaking skillset boost! 

Welcome! I’m a story strategist, filmmaker, and teacher based out of rainy Vancouver, Canada. My mission is to give you the tools and tactics you need to pursue your filmmaking dreams, so you can start making films this year! No more waiting for the right time.  Join the inbox party: take my free mini-course and start building your filmmaking skillset.

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