Filmmaking: Trade or art form?

I’ve been working on a short film about my mom. She died recently and I have over the years recorded mom talking about our family history. I being an only child wanted to preserve the history for my children, so they would get an idea on where and how we came about. Of course this history has been hard to get a handle on. I had my mom talk about things that I had questions on, but as her dementia became more and more prevalent the more I worried about losing it all. We all don’t realize that our parents had a lives before us, and that they had dreams and aspirations as well, so I wanted to document this. If anything for me and my family and maybe their families someday.

What I needed to do is warm up those filmmaking skills I had learned so many years ago. Of course things and technology have changed, but I have kept up with the technology as best I could. I first downloaded DaVinci Resolve which I found really great, but there was a problem. Some of my footage was on Digital video tapes. Those small cassettes we all shot with on our Sony’s & Cannon cameras back in the 80’s and 90’s. I also had some 16mm film that I transferred to tape which needed to be digitized. DaVinci does not handle archaic formats well. So I broke down and bought Adobe Premiere. I am familiar with Premiere since it was one of the first non-linear editing software I used in my career. But some time has gone by, and Premiere has become a monster. It can do many, many things, and Adobe has made many improvements, so I needed to tech up, and I am still in the process of doing so. Digitizing stills, videos, and audio has become a crash dive into the new Adobe Premiere, and at times a frustrating & invigorating experience.

So how much is filmmaking a trade and how much is it an art form? Filmmaking requires many skill sets. The more you know about those skill sets the better filmmaker you are. My dad had always wanted me to learn a trade. “Learn a trade and you can go anywhere in the world” he said. Be a world citizen and learn about the world. That’s what was drilled into me, and somehow I did that but instead of plumbing or some other trade I learned the rudiments of making a film. From film cinematography to film editing I became more and more entrenched in those disciplines then most. I had good teachers but technology moves on and things change. I bragged that I could teach filmmaking to anyone in 20 to 30 minutes, and yet it would take you a lifetime to master it as an art form. While filmmaking has it’s trades it is also an art form which you can create by mastering several filmmaking disciplines.

I learned that or am learning that as I edit together my family’s history. Digital film has become more and more easier for the average person to learn. It is that which I find so fascinating and fun. Here I am a college graduate with a degree in film production, and I feel inadequate behind this software, yet I find a community on-line where I can get answers quickly to my film production problems, and with every piece of knowledge I fall more and more in love again with filmmaking.

I have known many excellent technicians, but there is something else that is needed to become a proficient and GREAT filmmaker. That is experience and the knowledge of creating a GOOD story. You can be proficient in editing and cinematography, but if you don’t have a good story all you have are interesting images, set to dialogue and /or music.

I find myself frustrated and antsy on NOT knowing it all, but I find myself telling myself to look at the story. The mechanics of piecing it together will come. As I am editing my little film I find myself getting more and more inspired, and this little film is becoming bigger and more intricate as I go. The story is dictating the technique, and that’s an interesting development. Is filmmaking a trade or art form? I say they are both, but the master filmmaker will use both his skills to create a piece of art that will be bigger then what he/her thought it was. Learning the mechanics is a basic step in creating film. The better armed you are the better you’re film will be.

So back to this little film I am doing. What I thought would take me a few weeks may take me longer. The materials I have on hand dictate what and how the film will develop through those months, but by pushing the software & hardware further one learns the craft better & being inspired by the work is something a filmmaker can only aspire to. No matter where you are in your career be inspired and get excited by the work. I hold no illusion that the film will play in a multiplex soon, but what I find inspiring is that maybe somewhere in the distant future a descendant of mine might sit down and look at the film, and see and know better from whence they came from. They then can point to that crazy great grandfather as inspiration, and maybe that’s as good as it gets, but for now I feel inspired and inspiration is the mother to good work. In the end that’s all we really need to become good artists who have something worthwhile to say. Be inspired everyone.