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.
“Ignorance is bliss,” Isaac Testerman says. “Everything we did was taking the bull by the horns, not knowing if what we were doing was the best way to go about it. We were just doing things the best we could.” After making his first short film with zero filmmaking know-how, Isaac went on to cofound Delve, one of Facebook’s lead creative agencies. Now, seven years later, what Isaac and his team lack in formal training, they make up for with gusto and experience.
On a whim a few years ago, Eliot Rausch borrowed a 7D to film the final hours of his friend’s dog, Oden. When he woke up the next morning, Last Minutes with Oden had 30,000 Vimeo views, and Eliot’s directorial career had accidentally been launched. But that’s the way things seem to go for Eliot. Without trying to control or manipulate his career path, he’s inadvertently become one of the most well-respected independent filmmakers in the business. After working for major brands like Nike and Under Armour, Eliot is now taking a step back to rediscover what brought him to storytelling in the first place. This is our conversation with the legendary Eliot Rausch.
Susi Sie does not like computers, so it’s a little bit ironic that our conversation took place over Skype. When we talked with her, she was sitting in her studio in Berlin, surrounded by the machines and materials she uses to make her kinetic, otherworldly, and yet entirely tangible films. Everything you see in a Susi Sie film is real. No computer trickery. No 3D. “I have a lot of sand,” she told us, “petri dishes, plastic cups, gloves, color, aquariums, tape, pipettes, cable ties, protective goggles, protection masks. It’s like a construction market, actually.”