GekkoGum is an all-purpose adhesive designed especially for filmmakers. It can be used to stick a GoPro or even a phone to almost any surface, and is surprisingly strong considering how it just looks like Blu Tac. It’s called GekkoGum because- supposedly- it bonds to surfaces tighter than a gecko’s foot pads.
This one really is hot off the presses– it’s only recently been Kickstarted. But when it hits the market, it won’t cost that much more than £15, so it’s great for learners on a budget.
Joby’s GripTight Stands
For filmmakers who want something a little more stable, and maybe a little less sticky, Joby’s GripTight stands are perfect. These little stands are beautifully reminiscent of the strange tripod-walkers from War of the Worlds, but they’re bite sized so far less threatening.
The great thing about these little stands is that they are so cheap for the functionality you get, at just £20 or even less! They fit almost any phone with the adjustable mount, and can sit on any surface with their adjustable legs. For students working with a virtual film teaching app, it’s perfect for learning on the go and framing professional-looking shots with just an iPhone or Android phone.
The ‘Golden Hour’ App
For anyone who doesn’t know, the ‘golden hour’ comes twice a day. It tells you exactly when to get out and shoot photos and film at the perfect time for beautiful lighting. Again, this is perfect for students learning through a virtual film teaching app, since it means they can completely organise shoots with their phones. I wish we could have had tools like these that back when I was enroled at filmschool…
Adobe Premiere Clip
Did you think that GripTight stands were cheap? Well Adobe Premiere Clip is a free video editing app with loads of the functionality that Adobe offer on more powerful PC versions of the software. It’s perfect if you need to teach online filmmaking, because it’s available to everybody. It’s the perfect playground, and you can start editing with it for free!
Students can then upload their creations to Adobe’s CreativeCloud, and carry on their work on Adobe’s flagship PC software
Hague PS2 Phone Steadymount
If you want to kick it up a gear, you can make your creations look completely professional with just a cheap steady mount. These have been common in the industry for years, but with the advent of smartphones and (relatively) cheap DSLRs, even amateur filmmakers can make use of them!
The Hague PS2 Phone Steadymount comes with handles on each side, so that your films won’t have any of the jitters that you get with handholding your phone. This is a basic entry, so it only clocks in at £24; but there are plenty out there that automatically stabilise themselves, although they can run into the thousands.
Quinn Shephard is a remarkable filmmaker. But she’s only made one film.
At the age of just 15, Quinn- still a high school student- started work on what would become her first (and so far, only) project, Blame. She got the idea after starring in a stage adaptation of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at school, and decided to update the story for the modern day (think Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film, Romeo and Juliet). Before this, Quinn was something of a child star: she appeared in the 2001 French film, Harrison’s Flowers at five years old, starred in Unaccompanied Minors at eleven and had guest spots on Law and Order and Made in Jersey.
In Blame, Shephard stars as Abigail Grey, a student returning to high school after a mysterious incident a year earlier. Once back, she quickly forms a bond- too strong a bond- with her drama teacher, played by Chris Messina. But her rival, Melissa (Nadia Alexander), is full of hatred, or perhaps jealousy, which could persuade her to reveal Abigail’s secret.
We won’t spoil the rest of the film for you, but the screenplay was nominated as a finalist for the Sundance Film Festival Screenwriters Lab, and won Shephard the Rising Star Award at the 2015 Garden State Film Festival. So it’s good. And hopefully it’s just the first step in Quinn’s career as a filmmaker, not just an actress.
What’s so great about Quinn’s work?
What’s remarkable is that Blame was filmed in just nineteen days. Of course, the film was shot on a relatively tight budget, so everything had to be meticulously planned and designed beforehand, with no time for creative clashes on set! Quinn planned the filmmaking process from top to bottom long before she had to film, including everything from set positions to lighting and makeup. She described it as a monumental task, especially considering it was her first ever professional shoot.
For anybody wanting to replicate that process, things have become a lot easier in the last few years. There are a multitude of tools online, and filmmaking apps for both iPhone and Android that make the processes of planning, filming and editing a cinch. But even the best laid plans go wrong, so don’t expect to get everything right first time like Quinn Shephard did!
Most impressive is how relatable the film is. The story is set in an American high school, but everybody can understand how Abigail is feeling: walking a social tightrope, and not knowing who you can trust! Having made such a relatable movie, it’s particularly impressive that she didn’t go to film school, or even get online film teaching to get herself where she is today. Considering the fact that Shephard has no formal filmmaking training, her achievement shines all the brighter.
Shot/reverse shot is as basic as it gets. It’s probably one of the best recognised shots of all, and it’s included in every textbook and virtual film teaching app right towards the top of the list. It’s a filmmaking technique where one of the characters is shown looking at another character. More often than not, we can see the back of their head, and shoulders. The shot is then ‘reversed’, so that we can see from the second character’s point of view instead.
This is not the most thrilling or innovative shot out there. But it’s very easy to pull off, and have it look professional… So it’s perfect for beginners. It’s used to almost-literally get inside the character’s head, and see what they’re seeing. Shot/reverse shot can be achieved in either one take or two, if you have two cameras to hand; either way, the shots are edited together afterwards, remembering not to break the ‘180 rule’.
The Dreaded Zoom Shot
Zoom shots are cool. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise- a friend, a mentor, or a loved one- they are wrong, and should feel bad. Zoom shots are a brilliant way of lacing a shot with emotion, positive or negative. Zooming in slowly creates tension. Zooming in very close (like an Italian shot) can make the viewer feel close to the character, or uncomfortably close, if it’s an antagonist. Zooming in and tilting up (the Ridley Scott zoom shot) makes a character appear dominating.
Or, if you want to move in the opposite direction, zooming out to a wide shot gives a sense of a wide open, empty space. This will make a character seem lost or alone. Considering the fact that wide shots create such a vast range of responses, it’s a shame that they’ve fallen out of style.
The best thing about zoom shots is that they can be done in post-production using editing software or online filmmaking apps. Bear in mind, though, that professionals have professional equipment, so their zoom shots will look better than anything filmed on an iPhone or DSLR.
A two shot is what you probably imagine it is: a shot of two people. But that’s all that’s predefined. They can be close together, far apart, facing each other or not. This allows a great variety of creative ideas to all be captured using one kind of shot.
For instance, a two shot is fantastic for establishing the emotional reaction of two different subjects, at the same time. This can show the range of the characters’ emotions, where one might be happy and one might be sad. It’s also a great way of showing conflict with an ‘American’ style two shot, where the two characters face each other in profile. A three shot is the same kind of filmmaking tool, except with three characters instead of two.
Picture a student working on some quadratic equations in class. Now, it would be easy (and definitely very tempting) for them to simply look up the answer on the internet. Imagine that they do, and they get full marks for their assignment: well, what have they gained? Nothing. A more old-fashioned example might be using a calculator instead of figuring it out for yourself.
What teachers provide is understanding. By far the most important thing in Maths is to understand the underlying mechanism of a formula or function, and this is where a human teacher runs rings around a computer. When you don’t understand something, it’s difficult to put it into words, so teachers are often faced with questions like: ‘But why does… This… Do… That… Instead of… I don’t know!’
A teacher might understand that pupil’s struggle, but Siri definitely wouldn’t. A virtual learning environment is useless without a teacher to guide pupils through it.
Teachers play a guiding role
Everybody knows you can find almost any answer to any question on the internet. But sites like Wikipedia are a great example of how, sometimes, untruths and errors can be presented as fact. Perhaps even more importantly, the internet is so full of information that it can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and understand what we need to know and what isn’t so important.
We need teachers to guide pupils to understand how to use sources, and how to tell something useful from something less relevant. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to get lost in white noise.
Teaching is more than just informing pupils of facts
In the olden-days, pupils used to learn by rote. Slowly but surely over the last thirty or forty years, we concluded that that was suboptimal approach. But in a classroom without teachers, we put ourselves at risk of falling back on an inhuman, learning-by-numbers system of learning.
Teaching is more than learning facts, and teachers are more than teachers: they’re people. Take teachers out of the classroom and we lose the human side of learning. Almost everyone has great memories of school: old friends, fun times and inspiring teachers. Who would want to take that away?
Director Seoro Oh from South Korea beautifully captures and takes to a new level the struggle to stay awake that many of us have suffered in our time, and have watched students in our classes struggle with as well… or maybe not!
Beyond the wonderfully imaginative ways fatigue is animated and brought so cleverly to life – enough to inspire any young animator… we DO have to ask why the class in this film is so traditional? Haven’t they heard of the flipped classroom and filling class time with group work? Hopefully this short acts as a double inspiration for how we can avoid creating the circumstances for students to ever fall asleep in our classrooms at all?!?!
What is cinema if not those moments of career defining brilliance delivered by actors at the top of their game, inspiring delight in audiences worldwide? Well… its still cinema, but without the Icing, the Cherry, the Sparkle that keeps us coming back for more.
To celebrate some of the best cinematic lines in history, here are a few of our favourites – see if you and your students can match the quote to the character/actor who delivered the line with such aplomb.
Answers at the very bottom.
- “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”.
- “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
- “We’ll always have Paris.”
- “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
- “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. ”
- “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”
- “Try not. Do—or do not. There is no try.”
- “As my plastic surgeon always said, if you gotta go, go with a smile.”
- “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”
- “I ate his liver with some favs beans and a nice chianti.”
- “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really really ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out that that is.”
- “Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today.”
- “These go to 11.”
- “Here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!”
- “The Dude abides.”
- “All those moments will be lost int time, like tears.. in.. rain. Time to die.”
a) Bill Murry as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day
b) Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
c) Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption
d) Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner
e) Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in The Godfather: Part II
f) Christopher Lloyd as Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future
g) Chistopher Guest as Nigel Tufnell in This is Spinal Tap
h) Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander
i) Anthony Hopkins as Dr Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs
j) Frank Oz as Yoda in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
k) Jack Nicholson as The Joker in Batman
l) Kathleen Turner as Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit
m) Oliver Hardy as Ollie in Sons of the Desert
n) Jeff Bridges as the Dude in The Big Lebowski
o) Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca
p) Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley in Dr Strangelove
1f, 2b, 3o, 4c, 5e, 6l, 7j, 8k, 9p, 10i, 11h, 12a, 13g, 14m, 15n, 16d
It’s no secret that cameras are central to filmmaking. No matter your genre, budget or narrative, every filmmaker wants to tell a story. The difficulty is, choosing which camera is best for you can sometimes seem near impossible! We’ve compiled the following short guide to help all limited-budget filmmakers get the best shooting bang for their buck!
1 – DSLRs and mirrorless cameras
Still cameras with interchangeable lenses like the Canon 80D SLR are the best bet for quality footage on a budget. The super-versatile cameras are great for beginner filmmakers as they can also shoot still photography and will likely get a lot of use. For super tight budgets, check out the Canon 700D or the EOS M3.
Best for: creative projects on a budget
2 – Basic Camcorders
DSLRs can be cumbersome and camcorders are much lighter and easier to carry around. Their built in microphones also tend to be superior to those on still cameras with video modes. There’s a seemingly endless range of models you can find for a similar variety of prices. Cheaper options like the Panasonic V180 have great built in microphones while more expensive models like the Panasonic V770 give you the option to attach an external mic. The Canon LEGRIA G40 will provide you with a rich array of manual controls to help ensure you get the shot you want.
Best for: News, documentaries and events as well as videos for online use
3 – Prosumer Camcorders
While more basic camcorders may not give you the best image result, professional models like the Canon XA30 will give you amazing quality while also allowing more creative control.
Best for: News and documentaries
4 – Professional Camcorders
Professional camcorders offer incredible creative controls which are quick and easy to use once you’re familiar with the camera. The creative controls allow your shots to be more precise and finished which helps in post-production. The Canon XC10 is a great starting point if you have the budget to go upmarket with professional camcorders.
Best for: Documentaries and events such as weddings where you need to set up and make adjustments quickly.
5 – Interchangeable lens video cameras
These sensor cameras have the advantages of both pro camcorders and still cameras. The interchangeable lenses give you a range of opportunities for footage finish and many of them offer pro sound features that give better results in post. The Canon EOS C100 records up to 1080p HD while the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera offers users both 2.5K and 4K quality options at a good price.
Best for: Serious filmmakers, news and documentary filmmakers with larger budgets
6 – Smartphones and Tablets
Smartphones and tablets give you the opportunity to shoot and edit on the same device. With the right accessories, most modern mobile devices can make great cameras. iPads and iPhones are not only amongst the most used cameras worldwide in everyday life, but are also able to record feature film quality footage which make mobile devices some of the best cameras to learn on.
Best for: Home video and schools
7 – Compact Still Cameras
Lots of compact cameras like the Panasonic ZS60 can shoot HD footage. These cameras are ideal for filmmakers on the go as their size allows them to travel anywhere. Like DSLRs, you’ll get a lot of use from a compact still camera but invest in a camcorder or video DSLR if the main pupose of your camera is for filmmaking.
Best for: Journalists and documentary makers who need discreet cameras.
8 – Action cameras
Cameras like the GoPro HERO4 will let you monitor the image with a wireless monitor to get the best action shots. For a more affordable option try the GoPro Hero Session.
Best for: sports and action shots; news and documentaries
Features to look for when buying a camera
When buying any camera, it’s important to research the functions on offer. Is it easy to use and compact? How many features does it let you adjust whilst filming? How is the sound and can you attach an external mic? How is the image quality? A plethora of review websites will give specs and the low-down of each model and we insist you use the camera before you buy one! Borrow from a friend or colleague if on offer or even have a thorough in-store play. Finally, YouTube naturally offers a variety of channels dedicated to camera reviews so there’s nothing you CAN’T learn before investing in the right camera to take your filmmaking to the next level.
If you ask any freelancer in the industry, every single one”; ‘it’s a struggle at times. Freelancing on the side while maintaining a full or even part time job is naturally harder, but we maintain that with the proper approach, juggling freelance filmmaking projects while teaching is not only possible, but incredibly beneficial to you and your students. We include here our top four tips to succeed as a freelance filmmaker whilst still teaching.
1 – Budget and Savings
If teaching is one thing, it’s a calling. We dedicate our lives and efforts to educating others and a passion for filmmaking shouldn’t encumber this. Sadly, filmmaking for the majority who try, is not an assured pathway to wealth.
Starting out in the film business is never easy, and it’ll often cost money to advance to where you’re aiming for next. With courses, equipment and travel expenses, you may find that you need to spend more money than you initially anticipated when you decided to try your hand at freelance filmmaking. By budgeting you’ll ensure that you have a decent amount to spend on your hobby as you try to grow that into a second career. Whether you plan to save enough to one day dedicate 100% of your time to filmmaking or not, saving in preparation will allow you to pursue your ambitions outside the classroom and become the best filmmaker you can be!
2 – Give Yourself 110%
Just because you’re balancing your time in the field with time in the classroom doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dedicate yourself 110% in both pursuits. Not only is it unfair to you, to only invest in yourself half-heartedly, but it’ll also negatively affect your students if they feel you’re not dedicating yourself to their learning. By using what you’ve learned as a teacher in filmmaking, whilst also taking your freelance experience into the classroom, you’re ensuring that you’re giving your students and your co-filmmakers a broader overall range of knowledge and potentially greater dedication to both jobs at once.
3 – Network, network, network
We’ve discussed the importance of networking for aspiring filmmakers before, but this industry necessity is even more important if you’re just breaking into the business. By seeking out local networking events during term time, and venturing out to bigger events like festivals and even film markets during school holidays, not only are you able to give your students an insider’s view on how to successfully network, but you’re making the most out of your busy schedule.
4 – Diversity
As a part-time filmmaker, you can’t be too picky about which jobs come your way. Learn to adapt to your surroundings and take every opportunity available. Your income as a teacher will allow you to go after jobs you’re passionate about even though they may not pay much, and your experience collaborating with students will give you a step-up when working with others. Although your term-time schedule may not allow you to find weekday filmmaking opportunities, there are plenty of other streams of revenue encouraging use of your filmmaking chops and getting your name out there. Find as many ways to create and own content as you can, a great approach is by filming stock footage that you can sell for extra revenue as well as promoting yourself as a filmmaker even whilst you might be otherwise preoccupied as an educator.
By using on set what you’ve learned in the classroom, as well as adapting your filmmaking experience for your classes, you’re guaranteeing you’ll become a more well-rounded filmmaker and also educator. Use yourself as a real-life example for your students on how to achieve their filmmaking aspirations as you pursue yours!
It can be hard for film students to grasp and understand just how much meaning and complexity images hold, particularly when they are only beginning to use filmmaking techniques themselves. This following exercise will help them start to fathom the phenomenal amount of meaning they’re able to convey through film.
Before you start:
The central focus of this exercise is image. Before taking this to your class, find an image which features more than one person. The more dynamic the shot, the more inspired your students will be to write a compelling narrative to go with it. You can either ask your students to write about the same image or have them choose individually between a variety of images. Here’s an example.
1 – Description
After you’ve selected the image(s) for your class, divide the image into vignettes according to how many people are in the image (you can include couples or people in conversation within the same vignette).
Have your students answer the following questions for each vignette:
- What do you see?
- What feelings, memories or meanings does each image evoke? (Use your personal experience or cultural background to inform a unique view of each image).
2 – Narrative
Once your students have completed the description of each vignette have them develop a narrative around each image by answering the following questions:
- What is each person thinking and feeling?
- Describe the relationship between people. Are they strangers? Friends? Neighbours?
- Write a sentence describing what just happened, what is happening, and what is about to happen.
This exercise is perfect to break into two parts. Have your students complete the first half of the task in class with you to answer any questions. Provide them with an example you’ve completed yourself (preferably with a different image) before letting them take a stab at the first half of the exercise towards the end of a lesson. Ask them to complete the second portion of the exercise at home, giving them more time to flesh out their narratives before presenting them to the class next time you convene.
This exercise will help your students hone their creativity and access their storytelling skills by finding their imagination inspired by a visual stimulus.
For a bonus exercise, ask your students to write a short screenplay (three to five pages for beginner writers; six to ten pages for more experienced writing classes) on the narrative they have written around the image. Ask them to include what happened to bring the characters to the events of the image as well as what they do immediately after, utilising all aspects of the second half of the exercise to their advantage when fleshing out their narrative. You can even have students swap worksheets and write a short film based on the completed exercise of another student.
Check our blog for more exercises to bring into the classroom including an introduction to three-point editing; four exercises to prepare your students for university and how to boost any filmmaking career.
Film is a gruelling business that requires a lot of energy, passion and time, so it is only fair that you’re compensated for all you put into your job. It might not surprise you to learn that some are rewarded more than others for the energy they put into their work. Here’s a look at the top five highest paying positions in the film industry.
1 – Producer
As the producer, it’s probable you’re behind the scenes for the entirety of a film’s production: helping finance the film, shoot it and ensure its distribution. Not only do producers know how to spot great talent, they also have the business savvy to ensure that everything runs smoothly, helping everyone on the production stay sane.
The average annual salary of a film producer clocks in at a whopping $109,000! That’s over $50 an hour and the average Los Angeles producer can even make $66 an hour! Of course, producers’ salaries rely on the film’s budget. So although Scott Rudin made $2.5 million on Fast & Furious 7, very few producers will receive that hefty a pay check.
2 – Director
If you’re interested in a career in film, directing has probably crossed your mind. Dictating the artistic vision of a film, the director is core to ensuring words in the script make it to the big screen. On average, directors earn about $106,000 a year thanks to the vision and creativity they bring to each project. Like producers, a director’s salary is dependant on the film’s production budget. Low-budget feature directors earn about $7,608 a week while big budget and blockbuster film directors can rake in over $12,000 dollars on a Friday! Christopher Nolan for example earned an incredible $20 million for directing Interstellar.
3 – Screenwriter
As crucial as a director is, a film is nothing without a script! Screenwriters are entrusted with being able to bring a story and characters to life, and, although many screenwriters don’t see the majority of their work produced, they are paid handsomely when their creativity is a success.
Screenwriters make an average of $78,860 a year, earning over $37 an hour. While some directors like Quentin Tarantino direct their own screenplays, many screenwriters put their scripts into the agile hands of other directors which can win them big bucks! Joe Eszterhas earned $3 million for penning Basic Instinct. A handsome reward, right?.
4 – Editor
Responsible for piecing together the final film, editors are crucial to making a film screen ready. We’ve discussed before how film editors aren’t always the most employed professionals in film, but when they are, they are paid handsomely for it.
Editors can make an average of $66,690 a year, with the top 10% of editors raking in over $100,000. Freelance editors can also make $61,270 a year while the bottom 10% of film editors make $26,350 a year. Still not too shoddy.
5 – Actor
Unquestionably the most public figure of a movie, actors not only help bring a director and screenwriter’s vision to life, but are largely responsible for how much box office business a film will attract. Actors however aren’t always paid the most, and it isn’t uncommon to hear of an actor doing a film ‘for love.’ It’s therefore difficult to come up with a precise salary range for actors, but we’ve done our best.
The average annual salary of a SAG accredited actor is $5,000, meaning they’re earning under London living wage. However, SAG has a whopping 100,000 members, so defining just how many of them are working consistently is difficult to ascertain. If a SAG actor is hired for a film, they are guaranteed to earn no less than $782 a day thanks to union legisation. Many actors earn less than that, but with experience, passion, and luck maybe you’ll be raking in the $75 million Robert Downey Jr. earned for Iron Man 3 (though I wouldn’t turn down Barkhad Abdi’s $65,000 Captain Philips pay check either.)
Filmmaking is an art, and although many get massive payouts for the work they do, most in the industry do it to pursue their creative dream. Although you may know of a handful of names, the stars are just the lucky 1% in a business supported by armies of artists trying to tell the world their story.