You don’t have to go to film school to become a great filmMaker.
While it does help A LOT , what is most important is a love for cinema and a desire to tell stories. Once you have those two, the rest will be much easier to pick up. It doesn’t matter if you have a degree in something unrelated. You aren’t the first and wont me the last. If cinema is in your blood, you don’t need a piece of paper to certify you to make great films.
Study cinema, increase your knowledge of cinematic narrative. Tell your story in a way only you can tell it using the language of cinema.
Shane Carruth spent 5 weeks shooting PRIMER with a crew of 5 made up of friends and family. Shooting at a 2:1 ratio cos film stock(16mm) was so little. He storyboarded every shot.
Post Post Production? That took 2 years. You don’t stick to a project not making you money that long if its not driven by love. The $7,000 budget Sundance winner is hailed as the most exact time travel film ever made. #BeFilmspired
This week’s Filmspiration is writer/director Gene Adu, like many filmmakers globally, caught the movie bug as a child
In his own words
As a little kid, I always wanted to be a storyteller. I did a lot of writing, a lot of performing and I was obsessed with film. Being an introverted kid that lived in his head a lot, film and television were the cool godparents that my actual parents tried so hard to keep me away from. The dream was always to work in film, but somehow, I always assumed I was going to be an actor. After all, the most important people in film…are the actors, right?
At thirteen, I was lucky enough to be cast in a TV production. I was reading scripts for the first time, learning about rushes, takes, cameras, scenes and all the things that went into creating this form of escapism I adored so much. I was so intrigued by the process, and genuinely excited to be there, but even at that age I felt really strongly about storytelling so I decided I’d offer a few notes to the director about my character. Needless to say, those notes were not well received and my character was passed on to someone who was more than willing to take direction. It was crushing, but I learned two valuable lessons. The first lesson being, to never get too comfortable and the second and most important lesson, that filmmaking is a director’s medium.
The experience gave me a whole new perspective on filmmaking. It was immediately expanded, I suddenly cared more about the behind the scenes, the entire creative and production process, the details beyond performances, I was looking at film in a whole new way. Luckily, this obsession came right at the inception of DVD’s so I studied all the behind the scenes featurettes and listened to any directors commentary that I could lay my hands on. Writers and Directors suddenly became the Gods of the art form in my eyes; my acting aspirations went straight out the window. Actors were mere mortals, I aspired to be a God.
Even with all these storytelling ambitions, working in film still seemed like a farfetched dream. The journey of the African creative is pretty much a trope at this point. A majority of us have those concerned parents, and we all chose the “viable” career path , and attempt the lucrative 9 to 5 for a minute, but passion and faith always reconciles us with our gifted art.
For me, a huge part of that reconciliation and restoration of faith was discovering new filmmakers and rediscovering old ones.
I felt a huge nudge the first time I saw Victor Sanchez Aghahowa’s Letters To A Stranger , I felt a nudge when I saw Shirley Frimpong Manso’s Scorned. These were movies that reignited my faith in African Film. They were structured, they were nuanced and they felt crafted. ..They may not be the greatest pieces of cinema, but at that moment in time they were a breath of fresh air, and I was inspired by that.
Those movies gave me a nudge, but a greater shove came from revisiting films from our history. Films like Kwaw Ansah’s African Heritage, Love Brewed In An African Pot, Things Fall Apart, kukurantumi: Road To Accra, Aya Minnow, Genesis Chapter X and even I Told You So. The very quality and craftsmanship of these films that were made in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s by African storytellers is astounding. It’s a huge inspiration to me as a young filmmaker, because it erases all doubt that we lack the ability, talent or skill to use visuals, sound, performances and all the necessary elements to properly tell our stories.
All it takes is that leap of faith. If you believe in your story, tell it. Making my first short film, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I knew exactly the story I wanted to tell. As a writer/director the creative process is slightly longer than most, and possibly more frustrating. For me, the writing process is exciting because, in my solitude, I’m creating a world out of a small idea or a basic truth. I get excited in my own little space because, as I write I’m already composing shots, thinking up cool dialogue, thinking up ideas for sound design and pretty much drawing a map to the movie that’s playing in the theatre that is my head. Then of course, I’m lucky to come out of that solitude to communicate my vision to incredibly talented people, and collaborate with them to bring that vision to life. It’s never easy, it’s mostly frustrating and tough but there’s a magical element to seeing people react to your story.
Whether it’s a laugh, whether it’s a smile, a tear or even annoyance, nothing beats connecting with an audience. Nothing beats having people connect with whatever truth you’re trying to convey with your story. As a filmmaker/storyteller it fills you with pride and accomplishment, but as a human being it makes you feel connected with others. And that is an important feeling, especially if you grew up as an introverted kid who lived in his head a lot
Gene Adu is on twitter as @geneadu and Youtube ,where you can watch his short film GUILTY
FilmMaking is a tough business to crack financially and creatively. You may have all the ideas but no money, you many have all the money, but can’t put something great together . It’s a little bit of Art,Science and Business . But some people , manage to crack the code, fully or partially, and tell their stories. We’ve heard of how Robert Rodriguez did it with El Mariachi for $7,000 and years later, Shane Carruth (a former Software Engineer), with PRIMER for $7,000, wining the Grand Jury Prize at 2004 Sundance Festival.
As inspiring as those stories are, their realities are quite different from ours. There are lot of things we can take from them, but at the back of our mind, we know that stories of those Stateside, arent easily transplanted to everyday Nigeria.We need our own stories.
Glad to let you know that there are also inspiring stories, right here in Nigeria.
Here is one, that of C.J “Fiery” Obasi, the writer/director or OJUJU , a no budget zombie film which won him the 2014 AFRIFF Best Nigerian Film and AMVCA Trail Blazer award winner, Not bad for a feature debut.
In his own words.
For me, it wasn’t really a conscious choice or decision. Most people I know at some point had to make that decision to become filmmakers, maybe as a result of an experience or whatever, for me I don’t remember ever making that decision. I just know that ever since I had consciousness of seeing movies, I knew I wanted to make films. As a child film was such a wonder to me, such magic to me, and I always wanted to be a part of that. So growing up, as an adult was always about chasing that wonder. It was never just purely about making films. It wasn’t that simple. It was more about chasing an ideal, a purpose…something idealistic like that.
As a young filmmaker in Nigeria, if you don’t have a rich Uncle who’s going to bankroll your every whim and fantasy, or you don’t have Dangote on speed dial, you have to confront one bitter truth, which is that you’re on your own. Once you’re able to swallow that bitter pill, and let it work its magic in your system, then you can wake up to reality and start making things happen for you. ‘For you’ being the key phrase here. Jim & Joan was a result of ‘swallowing that bitter pill”. Unfortunately we were never able to finish it. But we took a lot of lessons from it, moving on to make and finish OJUJU, and then O-TOWN.
I kinda figured earlier on, that if I was going to abandon a lucrative 9-5 and venture into the unknown wild of indie filmmaking, with absolutely no real prospects for success, the only way it would be worth it was, if I did it on my own terms. Maybe if I got bankrolled at the early stages, I would have made soul less films, with no depth or vision, who knows, but I always had a conscious belief in my storytelling, in my background, in my influences, and in my voice…It had to be my kind of storytelling or nothing. Some people will call that ego or narcissism but we all chase after something. If what I chase after is purity in my own art form, in my voice being unhinged, then who’s to say what. So long as I’m happy.