If you gave five different filmmakers the same prompt, you’d get five different films. That’s because every objective element of the process (plot, characters, story) passes through the most subjective filter of all: our perspective. What results is an infinitely nuanced version of reality, with all of our biases, opinions, and values attached. This perspective is what makes films unique and it’s defined by our first-hand experiences, which is exactly why U.K. Director Charlotte Regan’s films are successful — she writes what she knows. Nothing more, nothing less.
Humans are productive beings; it’s in our nature. We excel in building, creating, and existing in a constant state of motion. But, this comes with its downside too. We’re also prone to overworking and overstressing. Burning out. So, how do we maintain a healthy lifestyle without self-destructing? Maybe we need to change our perception of what “productive” really means. As Tina Essmaker, founder and former editor of The Great Discontent, puts it, “when you make space in your life, the universe will fill it.” In other words, sometimes we need to get out of our own way.
Procrastination is often an act of self-preservation. When we know something will be difficult, we naturally tend to avoid it. This instinct may have been useful at some point (stone age, maybe?), but for us creatives, it can be our worst enemy. While we wait, problems seem to multiply, obstacles grow larger and while we’re busy thinking about those obstacles, the opportunity may be slipping away. Director Brent Foster experienced this first-hand; ultimately, it’s why he started his award-winning “While I’m Here” docu-series:
There’s maybe no one more qualified to be leading the charge for independent filmmakers these days than Jim Cummings. Since we talked to him a year ago, he’s gone on to make his first feature, Thunder Road, and win the Grand Jury Prize at South By Southwest. The film is currently sitting at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s already generated $500,000 in ticket sales in France alone. Maybe most notably, though, he and his crew made it on their own — no major studio, no executives, no distributors. It’s an independent film in the truest sense of the word. Let’s just say, he’s fired up about that:
Prospect isn’t just a good film for first-time directors. It’s a good film, period, which is a rare feat for any filmmaker, especially those who haven’t tackled a feature before. So, when we saw the immersive, haunting sci-fi film, we decided to track down its two directors, Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, to see what they had to share about their experience. Luckily for us, it turns out there was quite a bit.
It shouldn’t surprise you that Ryan Koo didn’t go to film school. He is, after all, the founder of the wildly popular website No Film School, an indispensable resource used (and loved) by independent filmmakers around the world — us included. No Film School is a direct extension of Ryan’s scrappy, independent mentality. This is a guy who does things his own way. Like when he moved to New York to start a job as a graphic designer at MTV, despite having zero design experience. Or when he ran a Kickstarter campaign for a film that ended up being years away from being produced.
Something weird can happen when you start making a film (or start making anything, really). You can get too close to the project, lose perspective, and start writing things that sound good but aren’t actually true at all. It happens so easily, and you often don’t realize it until you look back. For Douglas Gautraud, the filmmaker behind the My RØDE Reel 2014 award-winning short film My Mom’s Motorcycle, telling the truth in his projects is the most important thing.
In his or her own way, almost every person in the world is a travel filmmaker. When people find themselves in new places, they get out their camcorders and hit Record. These videos, of course, are historically some of the most boring videos ever made. That’s why when a professional travel filmmaker like Brandon Li turns his eye on a place, the result is so striking. There is an art to making a great travel film, and we hoped Brandon could teach us what it is.
Jared Hogan has a beard that reaches down past his collar. He wears hats with straight brims and shirts that must be at least a decade old. He looks comfortable. But beneath his nonchalant exterior is a filmmaker who is deeply committed to becoming one of the best in the business — a filmmaker who can’t stand the thought of mediocrity. “I’m incredibly ambitious,” he told us. “I can’t disappear into the middle.” This makes Jared’s statement on his About page on Tumblr all the more interesting:
Everybody wants to be Salomon Ligthelm — except Salomon Ligthelm. After years of being Vimeo’s darling and a poster child for crowdfunded passion projects, Salomon has left all of that behind in search of a more fundamental form of filmmaking. Filmmaking based on characters. Actors. Human experience. We talked to Salomon after he’d been living in New York for eight months. He was still very much transitioning from who he was to who he is becoming. It’s an uncomfortable place to be, as you’ll see from our conversation.