I scoured Quora for interesting questions and answers related to filmmaking. I could have easily chosen 20 or 30 questions, but I narrowed it down to 10 questions which were intriguing to learn about, and posted the question and my favorite answer below. If you have any answer(s) or response(s) to the questions I listed here then feel free to post them below with a comment.
What inspires people to become filmmakers?
Favorite answer: This story specifically that I felt the need to tell. I directed it with my wife and it’s the story of our breakup so there was something very poetic or very perverse about it. A married couple telling a story of a disastrous moment in their relationship leading to an even more disastrous proposal. We felt that there is nobody that knows that story in a deeper way than us so how could we let anyone else tell this?
Do great filmmakers eventually lose their ‘touch’?
Favorite answer: You see this in many fields, not just moviemaking. There’s a general trend among professions where creative leadership and/or brilliance matters. As you get older and rich, you are tempted by the distractions of family, extracurricular activities, and luxury. It’s easy to lose focus.
There are several reasons why people are often most productive in their 20s and 30s and this (focus vs. distraction) is an important one.
What are some things filmmakers know but most people don’t?
Favorite answer: The movie is not what exists on the screen; the movie is what exists in the mind of the viewer as a result of the audio/visual input. And that movie changes with every person and every viewing.
This is something you realize when you watch the same film projected multiple times to different audiences or when you watch the same film yourself over and over again. Laughs come in different places. Sense of plot understanding comes in difference places. Tone and pace can feel very different. Characters can be more or less relatable.
This is partially due to the varying technical aspects of each screening (picture quality, brightness, sound set up, and so on). However, a huge part of it is that the audience feeds off itself. People are very keyed into social dynamics at a subconscious level, and the viewing of a film is colored by the reactions of the audience around you. If the audience starts laughing earlier in the film, it encourages laughter throughout. If an audience is predominantly of a certain viewpoint, that viewpoint will subconsciously color the experience of the film even for people who don’t share that viewpoint.
The final factor is that every individual experiences a film differently each time they view it. Perhaps when a major character beat was happening, their eyes were somewhere else on the screen and they missed that detail. Perhaps earlier that day they had a fight with someone who reminded them of the main character. Perhaps the themes have deeper resonance because of current issues in the world or in their lives. Of course seeing a film a second or a third time you already know most of the information in the film, so you focus on different elements and the resulting movie screens differently in your mind than on the first viewing.
I think most people don’t have this understanding of film (or any other work of art). They believe the power and impact of the art exists within the piece, rather than within their own mind when they experience it. We can build the sailboat, but you need to provide the wind.
What social tools do independent filmmakers use the most, and what do they use them for?
Favorite answer: Independent Filmmakers for the most part use Facebook, in combination with a blog and a IMDB page. They use Facebook in a variety of ways:
Networking – most other filmmakers, actors, producers, executives, agents, and other film industry professionals have a facebook page. So indie filmmakers target other filmmaker or industry types to “friend.”
Self Promotion – By sharing articles, blogs, and news about the projects they are working on, filmmakers promote their career. By linking to their IMDB page they make it easy for people to see their “resume.”
Blogging – Most Indie filmmakers, especially screenwriters, also blog. Facebook allows them to reach out to readers, posting blog articles directly, and reaching out through services like Networked Blogs.
Writers/Filmmakers Groups – There are countless groups on facebook that are related to filmmaking and screenwriting. Filmmakers join these groups to ask questions, share knowledge, and most importantly, to gain valuable feedback on their works in progress.
Film Funding – Using services like Kickstarter, indie filmmakers reach out to family, friends and other supporters on Facebook for a large numbers of small donations/investments. Many have been able to fund short films, and features in the 100-500k range this way.
Film Promotion – Indie Filmmakers create film pages and promote projects on Facebook. Often an Indie filmmaker is entirely responsible for the marketing of his or her film, and the best way to do that on a micro budget is to build awareness through social networks.
Film “Exhibition” – Probably the quickest way for a short film or a trailer on youtube or vimeo to “go viral” is for people to share and re-share it on Facebook.
Other Social Tools:
Twitter – Filmmakers tweet about the progress of films they are working on, and about important events in their career.
Google+ – The “shared circles” function allows filmmakers to connect with large numbers of other filmmakers quickly. The problem is that their aren’t a lot of filmmakers who use Google+ yet.
How do indie filmmakers find people who want to invest in film productions?
Favorite answer: The key word there is invest. Not donate, not wager. The big studios know that if they take ten killer scripts, attach proven talent and market those ten films aggressively, seven will still lose money.They make their money on the 1/10 that does really well.
Even an investor with stars in their eyes who doesn’t really understand that will still want to see some reasonable plan for how they’ll get their money back. That means solid pre-production, budgeting and planning ROI.
I know you’re passionate about your film. But that passion means nothing to an investor if it’s a film that no audience will pay to see. As Dov S.S. Simens says: it’s not show-art. It’s show business.
But investors aren’t the only people who will give you money to make a film. Crowdsourcing, angels and niche communities will all give you money with no expectation of financial return other than the desire to see your finished product. But again, it has to be the product that they want. If you’re making it for you, then you pay for it!
Be clear in your mind if you’re making an investment pitch or a donation pitch before you do it. It will save your sanity and your reputation.
What should a filmmaker do to make a full-length film under $5,000?
Favorite answer: Overall my tips would be:
- Of course and foremost, write the script to suit your limitations.
- Shoot in natural light as much as possible. The sun is a free resource. At most use one key light. You’ll probably have to stick people near windows a lot (see above), so places with nice big windows are a plus.
- On the question of lighting, invest in a reflector. Should be about $100 for a decent one and it turns your keylight of the sun into two lights if used well.
- Use locations that you can get for free or cheap like friends’ apartment or the office. And for exteriors, you will have to steal all shots so you will need a very stripped down setup. Personally I had no problems, and a S16mm camera is not small, but then London is a crowded city were people are used to filming taking place.
- Following on from the above, have the bare minimum of crew. It was just me, a friend a sound recordist behind the camera most of the time, and that saves in organizational costs as well.
- In my case, we shot on weekends so everyone could work during the week, or we shot around people’s schedules. Alternatively, I would shoot a very compressed schedule, a friend of mine did a two week shoot.
- Use only one lens, so choose this carefully early. Personally, I preferred going with a zoom lens, as I could use a full range of closeups and wide shots and I think zoom lenses are advanced enough that the quality difference is not that high. Most other people I know go for only a 50 mm prime as they feel that’s a fairly “standard” lens. It’s limiting, but a full range of primes will probably be more costly than the camera itself.
- Limit your takes, even if you are shooting digitally. This will save costs in all areas.
Which filmmakers will be the pioneers in experimenting with and monetizing new innovative digital channels for film distribution?
Favorite answer: The most pioneering approaches are being done by unknown filmmakers who need to leverage emerging distribution channels out of need. Two interesting recent examples:
1. Jamin Winan’s movie “Ink” was distributed/pirated on BitTorrent and received 400,000 downloads in one week. They added a Donate button. It was later distributed on Hulu.
2. “Helvetica” director Gary Hustwit started promoting his documentary about the typeface on a blog for his target audience: designers. He made good use of email lists and booked theaters himself in cities where he knew there would be demand. Merchandise factors into his revenue model as well.
Independent filmmakers are more willing to exploit new distribution channels and be the pioneers.
How can having a film selected by the Sundance Film Festival affect your filmmaking career?
Favorite answer: Well, this year (2014) I think twelve thousand films were submitted for 138 slots. Of that, in pure documentary terms, 1,718 documentaries were submitted for 38 spots. It changes the trajectory of your career because it gives the film some visibility. It’s kind of like the Good Housekeeping “Seal of Approval.” I’ve had all different kinds of experiences. Brother’s Keeper came before the market really had matured. Despite the great reviews and prizes won here, no distributor thought the movie would actually make it into theaters.
We decided to distribute the film ourselves and it went on to gross quite well through self-distribution. The only way we were able to convince theaters to take a self-distributed movie by new filmmakers, is the fact that it had premiered at Sundance, won a prize, and had gotten such good reviews. I’ve had other experiences where I’ve come here, and the film rights had already been pre-bought. I’ve also had that crazy experience of being locked in a condo where there’s a bidding war going on. I’ve had all sorts of experiences and through that, I realize that a lot of the things that happen to your film are out of your control. You need to be buttoned up and treat your debut professionally.
Ultimately, it’s out of your control so the most important thing I can recommend to people is embrace the experience. Be proud of the fact that you’ve been accepted. Don’t worry about the outcome. Do whatever you can for the outcome to be good but don’t worry about it. So much is about luck, timing, and circumstances.
I have found that the first two Sundances I attended, I was so obsessed with the business-side of things surrounding Brother’s Keeper and Paradise Lost, that I kind of forgot that this is a place that celebrates film. I just needed to enjoy being there and be proud of getting in.
What is the best way to become a filmmaker without having a degree?
Favorite answer: By grabbing a camera (you probably have one in your cellphone) and making a movie. Don’t wait until you have lots of money; don’t wait until you’ve been hired by a production company. Just make a movie. You already know how to do it: point a camera at something and film it.
Think a movie shot with your iPhone doesn’t count as a real movie? Well, there are other people who are more passionate than you who disagree and are already filming. Even when doing this sort of thing was much more difficult, it’s amazing how many famous filmmakers, like Martin Scorsese, started out making small, cheap films.
Your first movie may not be the best movie ever, but that’s not the point. The point is to learn by doing. So after you finish making that movie, make another one that’s better than the first one. Then make another one that’s better than that.
You live in the first time in history when anyone can make a movie. So take advantage of that and make one.
Who’s more creative in the filmmaking process, the director or the editor?
Favorite answer: This is one of the best questions I’ve ever seen on Quora. If you answered the director, you’re wrong. But you’re also wrong if you say the editor. The truth is, it either depends (on a number of factors), or both need to be working in tandem creatively toward an end product. I’m a creative editor who has worked with some poor directors and some great ones, so there is no universal answer. Both have the capability to be extremely creative, but when melding their talents toward one goal, the end product has the potential to be its best.
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