Things I Learnt This Weekend – Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass 2011

Hola! It’s Tuesday and I’m currently in the aftermath of a jam-packed weekend following the Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass. I find that after big events like these, it always takes a few days to get back into the swing of things, email all those people whose business cards you snagged and deal with reality which has this habit of charging ahead whether you want it to or not.

The weekend was fantastic. Chris Jones really knows his stuff – get your hands on his Guerilla Filmmakers books or his online short courses if you want to hone your low/no budget filmmaking skills – which I knew anyway, but he’s a great speaker as well. I think it was a bit of a wake-up call for some people as to exactly how much effort goes into making a film but sometimes I think that’s the best bit. You get to test your commitment to the project. If you’re not fully committed, it’s going to fall over.

As for the things I learnt, I learnt a lot. A lot will become relevant as I move through pre-production, production and post (oops, spoilers!) so I won’t touch on too much of it here. As is likely to happen over weekends like this, I met other filmmakers and other people interested in moving into becoming filmmakers. With a project hanging in the balance, I offered it up to see if anyone would be interested in coming on board to help me out and see if we can’t get ‘Friends’ up off the ground again. And there was definitely a bit of interest floating around. So I’ve sent the script off to see how we go. Watch this space.

For now, I think there’s too much to cover in one blog post, so I’m going to cover the top three things I got out of the weekend that I think is important for a filmmaker in any capacity to know. If you want more info, Chris makes everything REALLY accessible via his website, so follow the links and learn from his wealth of experience!

Top Three Things I Learnt This Weekend At The Guerilla Filmmakers’ Masterclass:
(in no particular order)

1. Films are all about audience connection.
You’re in the cinema. Munching on popcorn. Whispering to your mate as they screen the trailers of films that you’re only half interested in. Then the lights fully dim and you fall silent, your eyes lock onto the screen and there’s that moment of silence where absolutely anything is possible, anything could appear on that screen in the first second of the movie you’re watching. And no matter what it is, you’re willing to go with it, to see where it takes you. That moment is the beginning of the film’s connection with the audience. The audience will always want your film to be good. Chris pointed out that in that moment, your film has exactly the same chance of success of a James Cameron film.

So whatever you do, don’t sever that connection. Make sure there’s no plotholes to make your audience trip up, don’t push the story into ridiculousness so that they stop believing in what’s happening on the screen. What happens in front of them in that cinema is a universal truth – for two hours, the projected light on the screen is the ultimate truth and the audience will always believe it. But push them too far, the connection gets broken and the audience gets disgruntled with the story. And no-one likes a disgruntled audience.

2. Make a film that is honest.
Remember what I said up there two seconds ago? Movies hold a universal truth within them. The audience respects that. Make a film that is honest and it will instantly connect with people because they recognise the truth.  Be true to the story, be true to yourself as a filmmaker and that truth will emerge on the screen. That’s not to say that the characters can’t be liars, theives, manipulators – not at all. Don’t force it to be something it’s not, don’t try to be something you’re not and that truth will shine through.

3. Why?
The big question of the weekend. Why do you want to make films? No, really, why? If you’re in it for the money, you’re going the wrong way about it. Become an actor – but even that’s a hard slog. Really examine why you want to make films. And even then, do you want to make films or do you have to make films? Understand who you are. Understand what drives you. Understand what you want, not what your ego wants. Then you might be ready to be thrown into the deep end.

Three points don’t really feel like enough – I filled at least ten pages with notes and Chris was racing through the slides like we were running three hours behind schedule (which we might’ve been!). Like I said, a big chunk of it is more production based which I’ll come to once I’m further into production with ‘Friends’.

One last piece of advice, if you don’t know anyone film-orientated but want to get into making films, definitely go to an event like this near you. It’s too much of a waste not to and let yourself be inspired then harness everyone’s enthusiasm to make something great! Then you can call yourself a producer! For every person I met who had experience making films, there was someone else who had come just to get a feel for it. Most of all, don’t be afraid to talk to people! You never know who you’ll end up meeting. This time around I met several people I knew from Twitter, a handful of Irishmen, a bloke who directs the German Lord Voldemort and a guy who plays the double bass. How can I complain about that?


Chris Jones’ Website

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