Making films an unexpected career

Create: 12/01/2015 - 19:36

On a cold afternoon in February 2009, I logged on to the Ontario College Application Services website to apply for college.
My primary choice at the time – enticed by its potential high wages and mixture of work environments – was a powerline technician program. But the application allows you to apply for up to five programs.
So I had to ask myself what else would I be interested in doing, just in case I don’t get into the program.
Like everyone, I like to slap on a DVD or VHS and be drawn into a story with either the drama, action or horror – to be entertained. But since I was 20, I began to view movies as more than just “entertainment.”
I started to see the nuances in the storytelling, dialogue, acting, camerawork and editing. I liked to think about what mes- sage the director was trying to get across.
While I still could be immersed in a movie’s story, at times I would consciously analyze the editing or camera angles. I became more ‘picky’ as my friends described me. My reviews of a movie turned from ‘it was good’ to ‘well, the pacing was a bit off, but I enjoyed the cinematography and thought the acting was great.’ They became less movies and more films.
So, as I pondered the possible careers I could enter (pharmacy and music were other programs I applied for), I decided to look up programs related to film. I found the two-year Film Pro- duction program at Confederation College.
I read their website and decided it seemed like a great program. They shoot on film and have a lot of equipment. And I do know a few people in Thunder Bay. So I applied.
Even when I didn’t get into my first choice, I was somewhat relieved. Now I could go into the film program.
Because, once I applied, I began to think about it more and more. I emailed the coordinator and asked what books I could read to better prepare me. The prospect of making films inspired by my favourites and entertaining or moving people was exciting. Who wouldn’t want to?
I was accepted and I moved to Thunder Bay that September, eager to learn. Two years later, I graduated after making two three-minute films, a news story, two short films and two short documentaries. In the end,I was one of the few to have any of my work screened at a film festival.
If I were to offer any advice to anyone looking to get into film or the program, it would be:
Learn photography before- hand, if possible. A film camera actually takes 24 pictures-per- second so the principles of still photography applies. Because
I had taken some photography courses when I first went to college (five years prior to this), I had an edge over most classmates and knew about the technical stuff and composition. It helped in getting camera jobs and coming up with shots for my own film.
Learn how to tell a story – especially your own. A lot of my classmates were just out of high school and so didn’t have a lot of their own experiences to draw on for story ideas. Instead, they tried to emulate their favourite movies – which is fine at times, since it helps to find your own voice – but usually they just imitated the style and there wasn’t a lot of soul in the story. I would suggest reading short stories or novels – to gain a sense of structure and character development – and trying to live life in general. Go out, explore and gain more life experience. Most of the great works of art are based on the artist’s own experiences.
Be prepared to work with people – a lot. I’m not really a people person and rarely had to lead a group, so when I had to direct a film and be in charge of a crew, I was really nervous. But, as I made more films and was more planned in my production, I was confident and able to play on crew members’ strengths. I had crew members or actors argue with me and I would say no, I prefer to do it this way. Polite as possible, of course, otherwise no one would want to work with you.
One might enter the film program thinking “I get to make movies! This will be a lot of fun!” And it is a lot of fun. But I don’t think the general public is aware of the amount of work that goes into making a film.
Right now, a friend from school and I are developing a film project. We’re collaborating in writing the script, we’re scouting for locations where we can film, we’re casting actors, and we’re trying to make props. Once we finish a script we’re happy with, we’ll break it down scene-by-scene and determine what shots to take. We’ll draw storyboards and make a shot list. And that’s just to plan for it. But we’re very excited in our idea and are committed to putting in the time, effort and money into this. I’ve had films that I’ve made screened to public audiences three times now and each time it’s an exhilarating experience to see and hear audience’s reactions. It’s extremely rewarding to share these stories with others.
It’s funny how things worked out since that I day I logged on to apply for college. I could’ve been in a completely different field. I don’t know if I would’ve been happy being a powerline technician, but I love the field I’m in now.

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