How do you learn to make better films?

A forum for sharing views on the art of film, video and AV sequence making as well as on competitions, judging and festivals.
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Jameela M Boardman
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Re: How do you learn to make better films?

Post by Jameela M Boardman »

When a film is "boring", I think it is its story that fails to engage!

I have watched action films with lots of explosions and dramatic special effects, but if the film did not have an engaging story, then it was boring.

So for us, do we consider ourselves camera operators looking for a subject to make? ...or story tellers looking for a way to visually express our story?

For many of us the answer is perhaps both at the same time.

So my point is this - these two aspects are inappropriate to put together on the same marking scale, such as so many points for technical quality and so many points for story. They are totally different qualities!

Herein is the value or otherwise, of Judge's comments!
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TimStannard
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Re: How do you learn to make better films?

Post by TimStannard »

Jameela M Boardman wrote: Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:40 am When a film is "boring", I think it is its story that fails to engage!
Always!
But technical shortcomings can mean the story is not as well told as it might be.
Jameela M Boardman wrote: Wed Mar 31, 2021 6:40 am So my point is this - these two aspects are inappropriate to put together on the same marking scale, such as so many points for technical quality and so many points for story. They are totally different qualities!
But judges/critics are expected to comment on both technicals and artistic aspects of a film. So it is right that they do.

The thread was about the usefulness of judges comments, not marks. We've done that discussion to death (although I'm sure it'll rear its head from time to time forever)!
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it
ned c
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Re: How do you learn to make better films?

Post by ned c »

BIAFF is the only festival I am aware of that delivers the judges comments to the entrants. This alone is worth the cost of entry. It is one of the few ways we can get a written reaction to what we have created, awards and stars are OK but a detailed reaction is what we want. My primary interest is learning what the judges make of the "story"; did they get it; did they enjoy it; did it succeed in what I set out to do? Technical evaluations are of less interest because there tends to be a disconnect at times as judges may assume that a jump cut or a lengthy shot were a mistake whereas they were carefully intended.

I agree with Michael that often the best judges of a film are not film makers; I like to get comments from knowledgeable film watching friends; my wife can be brutally honest and then complains that I do not take criticism well as I lick my wounds and eventually agree she is right. Her main complaint is "lack of context"; where are we; why are we here, who are these people; why should she root for them? This reflects my basic approach to judging (which I did reluctantly in the AMPS days) if I want/must know what happens next the film maker has me! Every film is a story and story telling is the base of success. Seeing ones film sitting with an audience creates a strange effect; it is viewed with a different perspective and is very valuable.

BIAFF judges are gentle with their audience in the days of the CIAFF (Canada) the judges gave written reports that savaged what they didn't like!

The second question is how do I try to improve my skills; I read as much as possible about film and film making, watch movies with a critical eye; do BTS for the local film makers; always a learning experience. I have attended many courses over the years and they have all been useful in some way. Now we have the Internet; a rich source of information.

But it is all about story telling regardless of the genre; we sit by the fire and are mesmerized by the old story teller who takes us to new and amazing places!

ned c
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John Simpson
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Re: How do you learn to make better films?

Post by John Simpson »

To take up on Jameela's point:
"So for us, (as film-makers) do we consider ourselves camera operators looking for a subject to make? ...or story tellers looking for a way to visually express our story? For many of us the answer is perhaps both at the same time."

The one who thinks they are a camera operator may make a technically perfectly holiday video and feel aggrieved that it was not well recieved

And another person may have a wonderful idea they want to film as soon as posible incase they lose their enthusiasm or their actors become unavailable! But the technical quality is questionable. The sketches from Monty Pythons Flying Circus would be a good example of this.

Is there a hierarchy of personalities in amateur film-making?
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TimStannard
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Re: How do you learn to make better films?

Post by TimStannard »

ned c wrote: Wed Mar 31, 2021 11:09 pm judges may assume that a jump cut or a lengthy shot were a mistake whereas they were carefully intended.
Agreed the judge cannot know whether they were a mistake or not but it is still useful for the maker to know that the jump cuts had the desired effect or didn't.

I think we are agreed that telling story is the primary objective. If something detracts from that story (or indeed enhances it) it is surely worthy of mention whether it is a plot point, a line of dialogue, an actors delivery, a location, cinematic composition, editing, sound quality.

Whilst there may be a distinction between what constitutes the story (or message, or emotion) and what constitutes what I might call the craft (ie the technical stuff), the success or otherwise of both contribute to the success or otherwise of the film.

So, in the jump cut example above, a comment like "there were a couple of jump cuts in the scene in the barn" is an observation, implying it's perceived as a fault, and not a useful comment.
But, "the jump cuts in the barn scene spoiled the flow of the story for us" is surely a useful comment as is "we noted the clever use of jump cuts in the barn scene which helped emphasise the character's nervous anticipation".
Tim
Proud to be an amateur film maker - I do it for the love of it
Ken Wilson
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Re: How do you learn to make better films?

Post by Ken Wilson »

Jill asked about how we learn to make better films? This is a massive subject and as I wrote in the previous FVM and will also continue in the one due shortly, I learned mostly by "doing".
At the start, this was the only way to do it as we lived in a very quiet part of a quiet town in Yorkshire in the 60s and I knew of no-one else who made films and of no clubs anywhere near us. My only source of information was Movie Maker magazine. So I tried things. I made all kinds of films from comedies to thrillers to animation to Sci-fi. I tried "trick" effects, different ways to use the camera and techniques to edit the material and especially my long battles with recording and syncing sound on film. All of this helped me to learn.

In the first two years I sent films into the Ten Best competition and read what judges had to say. I had no idea how I compared to other amateur film makers as I had no benchmark. After two years and my first 5 films, I realised there was much more to learn and spent many hours over months and years making films and trying to improve. Eventually I made myself known beyond our family and we began showing our (much improved) films around clubs and in the IAC competitions.

It is still useful to learn more by entering competitions if you have experienced/ knowledgeable judges. You don`t HAVE to be a film maker to be a judge as we all have opinions which are valid, but I do think that on many occasions a film maker can see something in a film and a problem which a non film maker might not acknowledge or recognise. ALL films and their makers are not the same. A competition judge should in affect be a kind of "enhanced" audience member, able to analyse and dissect the film on view and help the maker improve next time. Competitions and the judges therefore have an important role to play as long as the comments are constructive and NOT destructive as this can cause the film makers to abandon their hobby.
Some pros withdrew their films or stopped altogether due to severe negativity after their release. We all go on learning forever!
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