AFDA Johannesburg alumni, Tristan Holmes, began his career in front of the camera at the tender age of 12. After six years as a television presenter, he enrolled at AFDA Johannesburg where he graduated top of his class with a BA honours in Motion Picture Medium. His films made during this time were widely applauded garnering awards all across the world. “Elalini”, his post graduate short won amongst others a Student Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film in 2006.
In 2008 Tristan completed a six-part drama series for MNET called “Innocent Times” before embarking on a career in music video production. It did not take long for Tristan to establish himself as one of the best music video directors in South Africa winning several awards and many nominations for work done for Evermore, Asa, Winterstasie, Locnville and The Frown.
For the last few years Tristan has focused on applying his craft to commercials. Once again success has not be hard to come by. Through his own boutique production house The Star Film Co. he has made powerful brand commercials for the likes of Visa, Coca Cola, Tusker, Vodacom, Legit, ANC and SAB. With a distinctive visual style, passionate intensity, relentlessness and unrivaled dedication Tristan has risen to the top of the commercial stable in South Africa at the tender age of 32.
Now turning his eye to films Tristan hopes to apply the same passion and sensitivity to a personal story loosely based on his own upbringing, “The Hidden Garden”.
Tristan’s Company Profile:
Star Films, founded in 2003, operates with our primary focus being based on the
visual medium of film and commercial production. The company is managed and
co-owned by 2 AFDA alumni, Adam Thal and Tristan Holmes.
Star Films is a youthful company that is at the forefront of the industry. As
Executive Producer, Adam Thal manages the day to day running of the company
and representing some of the hottest commercial directors on the market.
Tristan Holmes, Student Oscar Winner and winner of multiple advertising and craft
awards, takes the reigns as Creative Director.
We have distinguished ourselves through our own brand of integrity and
innovative thinking to find feasible application in our productions. We believe in
focus and when we tackle a project we do it with excellence.
Star Films’ clientele is made up of mainly advertising agencies around the world,
through which we have done amazing work for blue chip companies such as
Diagio, Coca Cola, Visa, Absa Bank, South African Breweries, McDonalds, Vodacom
and many more.
With over 12 years of industry experience, and an amazing work ethic, Star is now
considered one of the leaders in the production industry of Southern Africa.
See more here:
The Star Film Company
The South African short film “The Suit”, written and directed by AFDA Johannesburg alumni Jarryd Coetsee and boasting 32 AFDA alumni and students on the crew, will be shown to audiences in Paris, Brussels, Rome, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Athens, Madrid, Stockholm and Vienna.
It will also screen in 24 different cities and towns across France, as part of one of the most prestigious film festivals in Europe, La Collection du Panorama des Nuits en Or (The Collection of the Panorama of the Golden Nights) which runs from the 30th May 2017 – 15th June 2017. The film will also be screened at a gala evening attended by France’s leading film-makers and actors, hosted by UNESCO in Paris.
The César Award is widely considered to be the highest honour for film in France, the French equivalent of the Oscars in the United States and the BAFTAs in the United Kingdom. Every year, the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma (Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques), the organization that gives out the César Award, holds a film festival called Le Panorama des Nuits en Or (The Panorama of the Golden Nights) which comprises all the short films from around the world that received awards from their national cinema academies during the past year.
From the Panorama, the Comité Exploitants Court Métrage de l’Académie (the Academy’s Short Film Committee) selects a shortlist consisting of the winner of the César du Meilleur Film de Court Métrage (the César Award for Best Live Action Short Film), the winner of the César du Meilleur Film d’Animation – Court Métrage (the César Award for Best Animated Short Film) and a selection of short films from around the world. This latter shortlist is known as La Collection (The Collection). The Collection will be presented in 24 cinemas in different cities and towns across France from the 30th May 2017 – 3rd June 2017. “The Suit” has been selected for the Panorama and the Collection.
The Academy invites all the directors of the Panorama to attend a ten day trip (Le Tour – The Tour) to Europe in some of the capitals that project the Panorama. Each session will be followed by a Q&A with the film-makers. The Tour will end in Paris with the glitzy Nuits en Or Gala Dinner to be held at UNESCO on Monday, 12th June 2017, attended by France’s film stars and leading film-makers.
Director Jarryd Coetsee says: “On receiving the news, I spent several hours reeling from the pleasant surprise. I think it’s phenomenal and truly a great privilege that our film will be shown in the birthplace of cinema and across most of Europe. This is a considerable milestone for Mandala Films and a fantastic achievement for our cast and crew. I can’t wait to share Can Themba’s consequential story with audiences abroad.”
“The Suit” was produced by Luke Sharland of Mandala Films in association with the National Film and Video Foundation and a partnership with AFDA. The story is set in 1950s Sophiatown and focuses on the deteriorating marriage of a lawyer named Philemon (played by Atandwa Kani) who is cuckolded by his lonely wife Matilda (Phuthi Nakene). Philemon forces Matilda to treat her lover’s suit as if it were a person, with tragic consequences. John Kani delivers a masterful cameo performance as the township gossip, Mr. Maphikela, who reveals the affair to Philemon. The film was shot in historic locations in Sophiatown.
“The Suit” won the Golden Horn for Best Short Film at the South African Film and Television Awards (or SAFTAs) in March. “The Suit” also won the Best Short Film competition of the Scotland African Film Festival, held in Edinburgh and Glasgow, in November, the Audience Award of the Cape Town leg of the Swiss Shnit International Short Film Festival and it will compete for the Golden Young African Filmmaker’s Award after showing in nineteen different Belgian cities as part of the Leuven African Film Festival in April 2017.
“The Suit” was selected for two Oscar-qualifying film festivals: Urbanworld in New York City, and the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles where it was given a Special Jury Mention. “The Suit” also received a Special Jury Mention at the Zanzibar International Film Festival and it opened the Mauritius International Short Film Festival. “The Suit” will show in New York City at the prestigious Schomburg Center’s Best of the Fests and the New Voices, Black Cinema Film Festival both in New York City also in April 2017. The film was well-received at the Toronto Black Film Festival and the Vancouver South African Film Festival in Canada, as well as the Red Bull Amaphiko Film Festival in Soweto earlier this year.
Congratulations to all AFDA alumni and students on The Suit Crew.
AFDA Johannesburg 2016 3rd year graduate film “Sicela Amanzi” has walked off with the Best Short Film award (Ministers Award, Ministry of Enviroment); in the Save the Earth! Competition category at the Short Shorts Film Festival in Tokyo, Japan.
This Japan born, Academy Awards® accredited festival is one of the largest film festivals in Asia. The festival was started by actor Tetsuya Bessho, a native of Japan and SAG member, as he wanted to introduce Japanese audiences to short films, which were a format that many people in Japan were unfamiliar with. The first festival was held in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo in 1999, and 6 short films made by George Lucas, known best for the “Star Wars” franchise, when he was a student were screened. Since then we have received an annual letter of support from the director.
In 2001 the festival became known officially as Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF), and in 2004 was accredited as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards ®. This means that the winner of the festival Grand Prix is eligible to be nominated in one of the short film categories of the Academy Awards ® the following year, offering a bridge between Japan and the Oscars so that young talents may realize their dreams.
Furthermore, Short Shorts Film Festival Asia (SSFF ASIA) was established with support from Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 2004, to introduce new Asian video culture and nurture young filmmaking talents from the region. To this day, the two festivals are held together as Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia. Aside from the 3 Official Competitions, there are categories and programs compiled around “music,” “environment” and “CG animation” related shorts.
The short film specialist theater Brillia Short Shorts Theater was established in the Minatomirai area of Yokohama in 2008. Also acting as one of the festival venues, the theater has welcomed over 300,000 audience members to date. Whilst the festival expands its activities in Japan in order to spread the word of short film, it will also continue to support young creators and provide a springboard into the world of film.
Congratulations to the cast & crew!!!
www.shortshorts.org - for more information on the Short Shorts Film Festival Asia.
www.afda.co.za - See more details on our website.
AFDA offers students studying abroad a unique, affordable and educational opportunity to discover Southern Africa and its diverse population, world renowned heritage sites, cosmopolitan cities and specialist higher education. AFDA International students currently comprise 10 – 20% of the total student population and enjoy the benefits of malaria-free campus locations in terms of world-class facilities, Southern Africa’s natural beauty and wildlife, favourable exchange rates as well as our historical reflections. AFDA campuses are located in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Botswana.
Regarding the above picture:
10 Good reasons to study at the Cape Town campus:
Please feel free to visit www.afda.co.za for more information.
- AFDA Cape Town is situated in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. [Voted by NY Times as the Number 7 destination to visit]
- Cape Town offers an incredible lifestyle with its beaches, mountains, nature reserves, golf courses, trails and first world infrastructure. [3 world heritage sites]
- Cape Town has a strong art, design, music and fashion scene. [Design capital of the world 2014]
- Cape Town is a preferred international destination for feature film, television series and commercial production. [Safe House, Dominion, Homeland, Judge Dredd and others]
- AFDA Cape Town graduates have contributed significantly to the growth of local feature films & commercials [Windpomp, Pad Na Jou Hart, Hollywood in my Huis]
- AFDA Cape Town has a diverse student body. Up to 20% of the student body is made up of international students.
- Excellent value for money - The South African exchange rate favors most international students.
- AFDA Cape Town has some of the top lecturers in the country and utilizes the exact curriculum and learning systems that has proved to be highly successful at its JHB campus.
- AFDA Cape Town facilities and equipment have year for year parity with Johannesburg campus.
- People create industries - Industries do not create people.
Thank you for reading.
In my previous blog post, I mentioned that you should start cutting with music first:
Getting started with editing... | FilmSchool.org - The Best Film School Reviews & Forums
Well of course there's always an exception to the rule.Learn to make the edit work WITHOUT music and effects... because if it works dry... then it'll certainly work when scored.
Without a doubt the scene should be able to work and tell a story dry. If it doesn't... then you have a problem. BUT there are times when a piece of music will inspire you and you can use that inspiration to cut a scene.
Sometimes I'm pouring through the mountains and mountains of tracks that we have to work with and I come along a track with a certain rhythm, tempo, or musical hits that just inspires me. Since I have poured through hopefully most of everything that was shot at this point one starts mentally placing the images up against the music as it plays... and before you know it... sometimes you have a vision for how to cut a scene or a montage.
Then, by all means, please do use a bed of music to cut to as your inspiration.
As a side note, the show I"m cutting now is using songs and lyrics at the start and end (or even middle) of the scenes and it's quite refreshing as the lyrics speak to what the character or characters are thinking. It's a very interesting way to do it... and it becomes almost a music video at times.
Anyways... editing is a blast. It's amazing what two images juxtaposed can say. Keep cutting people.
Fire away with questions in the comments.
My last post was all about the develop, prep and shooting of my short film. For Heads/Tails process, the next phase has been our crowdfunding campaign. For most creatives, this is without a doubt, raising money can be the most nerve wracking aspect of the project. In my case, I know exactly how much money I need to re-coup after putting the project rentals and purchases on a credit card and budgeting a fair deal for my crew and post-production staff.
Which is why I'm writing this post right now. We did a soft launch of our campaign over the weekend and as my fellow filmschool.org members, I consider you all to be part of my internet family and want to include you in the process before we go wide on all of social media.
I'll cut to the chase. Here's a link to the campaign and to a secret reward for any early contributors.
Heads-Tails Short Film
The pitch material covers a lot of the hows and the why we are crowdfunding, so I won't get into that. If you have read my other blog posts about the process of getting my short film Heads/Tails made, you'll likely already be familiar with my decision to crowdfund. If not, you might want to check out my previous post.
We have 30 days to raise our $8,000 goal with the option to extend to 45 days if we want to. IndieGoGo now also offers a 'OnDemand' system where contributions can be made after the initial funding is ended. I chose IndieGoGo for these more flexible options as well as the option to choose 'Flexible Funding' where we keep our money if we do not reach or goal for whatever reason. They take roughly 8% of the money raised in fees. I have had previous positive experiences with IndieGoGo and like the organization of their platform as well as their fees so that's why we chose this particular crowdfunding site, but there are so many more available now than ever before. It's really important to do your diligence and choose the site that makes the most sense for your project.
At the time of my writing, 4/19 which is 4 days after soft launch, we are about 10% funded. So far most contributions have been people I know in real life. There have been two contributions through over crew members or cast members. And quite a few verbal acknowledgments and plans to contribute. Why are we doing a soft launch? The soft launch is intended to get money into our campaign through the personal and close relationships, such as parents, who are essentially guaranteed to make a contribution before promoting the campaign on social media platforms. I'm using this strategy to reassure any potential supporter that we 1) are serious about the project and actively seeking funding and 2) there's enough support in our immediate circles of contact that the project has support and will be successfully made and finished. The concept of a soft launch is written about across the board when you look for advice in running a successful crowdfunding campaign and I have high hopes that it will work out for us.
Other important strategies we have decided to implement include launching YouTube, Facebook, and Instragram accounts for the film and my newly formed production company. (If anyone is interested in that process, let me know and it can be a future post). Facebook has been the most successful in terms of it's ability to reach a wide number of people, so far. We currently have almost 300 followers and I plan to include them in this soft launch today as well as a sign of appreciation for their early support. The YouTube is hosting the pitch video and will also be the host for our exclusive video content for our campaign supporters. I have an associate producer who is managing our Instagram and while it doesn't have a lot of followers yet, we are hoping that it will continue to grow.
We designed our pitch video and rewards based on watching successful crowdfunding campaigns and then tailoring ideas we liked from them to the needs of our production. I'm really proud of the video that was shot and edited for it. And I really enjoyed putting together all the rewards too.
At some point, I'll follow up with more information and any big updates on our crowdfunding campaign. I think it's an interesting and an incredibly intimidating process, but it doesn't need to be. I hope some of my advice can be useful for screenwriters who are unfamiliar with the production process but want to shoot their projects.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, I love hearing from everyone!
We all want to make movies. We wouldn't be here if that wasn't the case. But making any movie, even a short can feel daunting no matter how much experience you have. Here's how I made my hopefully triumphant return to directing.
I'll start from the very beginning...
The Script - How did I write my script for a short film?
A saying I picked up at the UCLA Professional Producing Program is "make is the shoe fit the foot". I think it's something that applies to all aspects of production starting with writing. If your goal is to make a short film, it better be a story that can fit in that format. I frequently see students and I'm certainly guilty myself of having a big idea and trying to cram it down into 15 minutes. Sometimes it can work if it's a simple enough idea, but often it doesn't.
Thankfully, I had a story I'd been sitting on that I knew from my previous experience working on shorts would fit the bill. It's a romantic comedy about two friends who get drunk together and find the resident pet goldfish dead in the bowl the following morning. Simple. Succinct. Unique. And 100% a true story. This time around the right story was something I'd had in my back pocket for a few years now. I wrote the script fairly quickly because I had already written a version of it as the opening teaser for a pilot. I expanded it slightly to develop the characters more and enhance the dialogue for a short, but it didn't need much else. The production script was just over 11 pages and only 2 locations.
Pre-Production - AKA my own personal hell.
I started pitching the short to friends of mine who I wanted to crew back in September. At the time, I wanted to leverage a famous local photographer who wanted to DP a short into raising a hefty crowdfunding budget. Life, work, among other things got in the way of those plans. But the seed was planted among my gaffer, key grip, script supervisor, and some other key positions. They would occasionally ask for updates about if it was still happening. In the beginning of February when I found out I would not be accepted to UT-Austin, something clicked and I charged into pre-production without the bigger resources. Because fuck it; I wanted to make a movie.
My background as I've mentioned in previous blog posts is in physical production as an Assistant Director. I've also worked as a Production Coordinator which came in very handy on this project. I started by breaking down my script myself. 11 pages, 2 locations; a bar and a house, 5 sets total; bar and bathroom, bedroom, living-room and backyard. The script consists also of only 2 actors. If I could get the right team in place and call in a number of favors, I knew I could theoretically I could shoot the entire project for only the cost of supplies like craft services and meals. I made the decision to finance things at this point on my credit card.
Although the Detroit film community has dramatically shrunk in the last few years I have a lot of my closest friends still in town and they were eager to work with me as long as no paid work was going to interfere. This terrified me to no end. What if I was ready to shoot the following day and half my crew was called to work on a commercial? My initial plans of a bigger budgeted project included paying crew for a number of reasons. 1) I respect the hard work my friends do on set. 2) As a professional, I would not take unpaid work unless it was for a dear friend so I certainly wouldn't ask someone else to work for me for free. It wouldn't be right. A few life changes are really what made me go forward with the smaller crew that wound up working on the project. It wasn't an active decision and once those situations are resolved I plan on my next short including some of the strategies.
My first key 'hire' was my DP, Chris. He had already been signed on to be the Gaffer. Full disclosure, in the time between my first offer for him to Gaff and the time I started pre-pro, our long time friendship had turned romantic. I had some reservations about hiring my boyfriend as my DP, but after 5 years of working together we knew we were a great team. I consulted him frequently about what he thought about my schedule and how to best get the rest of the crew locked down. Those conversations are what led to my decision to crowdfund the short and pay my crew significantly reduced rates. The strategy being even a small promise of financial compensation would keep them on the project even if another paid job came along. This proved to be true with one exception which I'lll touch on later. I had my DP locked in.
At this point I felt completely overwhelmed. I tried to find a producer to get involved and help with the crowdfunding but no one was available whom I trusted. More money started to go onto my credit card. **Disclaimer, I'm not saying this is a the smartest way to finance a short film or any film. I had very managed credit card debt before the short and no other debt. It was not a big risk for me to pay for things this way.** I decided quickly that running a crowdfunding campaign on my own was too much while prepping as a director. Everything during prep was put on my credit card.
We started to gather our resources. The camera was donated by my boss - Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. Chris and I both really like the look this camera gives but we were also flexible to work with the gear we were able to secure cheaply or for free. I sunk a good bit of money into building out a camera kit for us. We only had the body and a few lenses donated so I spent a lot of time researching and investing money into what sort of rig we would use. Because I was paying for it, Chris gave advice about it but let me choose the exact pieces because they would be my assets after the shoot. Other gear came from friends who worked on the shoot as electrics, grips, and from our script supervisor who had access to the gear from a local university. I also used a few camera rig items from my roommate.
Locations were relatively easy. I was able to use the bar my friends and I go to every Wednesday. And my post-production producer and former classmate from U of M offered to let me shoot at his house after my original house was feeling hesitant. Rick's house turned out to be a much better situation because the rooms are larger and I didn't need to do much set-dec either.
The hardest part of prep was casting. With only two characters in the entire film, their chemistry and acting ability would make or break the entire project. I reached out to friends who act and I posted in several local actors/filming pages on Facebook. To be honest, this wasn't my favorite way of casting. I hated it actually. It varies by community and personal preferences but I didn't find FB to be a reliable source. Interest was limited by many factors, including my own reluctance to promote myself online. In the end I had two locals come for chemistry tests. In a pinch, I could have used those actors. The male lead was lovely and the female lead could have pulled it off with some work, but I had a gut feeling they weren't the right choices. I wound up being right. A writer I met at the Columbia University TV Writing Workshop last summer was excited and interested in the part. Daniel was familiar with the story and the pilot. He said he had a great actress for his co-star as well, so I asked them to send me a tape and bingo. They had it. And more money went on the credit card to book their flights to Detroit from NYC.
At this point we were about a week away from the shoot dates I had set. Chris and I came about them in a de-facto sort of way. We knew it should be shot in March to maximize crew availability. We knew I was already going to be taking a week off from work because of a weekend student project I needed to supervise. Really the dates picked me, because I only had two weeks to do it in. By coincidence my actors had the spring break the same week. I chose to shoot during the week because often commercials and other projects in Detroit shoot towards the end of the week - especially if they're from out of town because a company would generally fly in on a Monday or Tuesday and prep for a few days and then shoot Thursday/Friday. And most other small home-grown projects have a habit of shooting weekends. We settled on Tuesday 3/14 and Wednesday 3/15.
Scheduling for two shoot days was based on three factors - I knew I could shoot roughly 5 pages a day. This is fairly standard timing in the indie film world I come from. With a company move from the bar to the house, plus the need for shooing day and night scenes, only shooting 1 day would be unacceptable. I figured I could afford two shoot days vs more shoot days. And Thursday could serve as an emergency pick-up day if needed (contingencies are always important) before I flew my actors back to NY on Friday morning.
In the few days before the shoot, I ran around and picked up costumes and some set dec I wanted. Then I worked the entire weekend and crashed, panicked, and cried the Monday before production....
But more on that in the next post! I hadn't realized how long of a post this would be but it's gotten quite lengthy so I'll continue talking about the shoot itself and how we are handling the post-production process and crowdfunding in post production in the next installment!
As always if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask! And thank you everyone for your support and curiosity about my project. I can't wait to share more with you.
It's nearly the end of March and for the second year in a row, I have not received any acceptances for the MFA screenwriting programs I applied to. Of the 4 programs, currently I have two denials, one interview, and one I have not heard anything from. So now what?
First, I admit to myself that I'm taking a second round of rejections a lot harder than the first. It hurts. I'd be a liar to say otherwise. It filled me with self doubt. Why not me? What am I missing? What did I mess up? Where did I go wrong?
And after a few days of tears and frustration, I snapped out of it. I've been working in film for 7 years and writing my entire life. Acceptance or denial to film school doesn't affect my ability to create. So I completely throw myself into prepping a short film I've been talking about shooting since the fall.
When I attended the University of Michigan for my undergrad in screen studies, I directed all my own projects. It was a requirement of the program and by my professors. But since my big senior project in the spring of 2011, I haven't directed anything. My entire academic and professional career I spurred any notion that I might want to direct. I focused on producing (even formulating my own independent study in producing) and screenwriting. I would say directing didn't appeal to me. I was lying to myself. Everyone in film has a fantasy of directing their own projects. I finally indulged mine and I loved it. I consider myself a first time director. It has changed everything.
It took roughly a month to prep the 2 day shoot for a 10 page script. I produced the entire project in prep by myself. I researched the camera I was loaned, how much data I would create, scouted locations, announced and held casting calls, arranged travel for actors, organized all my own paperwork, schedule, budgets... All while preparing my students at U of M for their 48 hour film projects. In fact, I was only able to shoot my own project because I had to re-work my schedule to be available for my students during their 48 hour weekend. My dates were chosen out of necessity and availability of crew - deadlines motivate me so I obsessively worked on producing my short right up to the last minute.
(If anyone is interested in a more detailed blog post about how I produced my own short, leave a comment and I'll follow-up with one!)
On Wednesday March 15th around 9pm, shooting wrapped on my project. I could not be happier. The challenges of producing my own project and pushing myself to direct the short reminded me why I applied for my MFA and why I don't need to get admitted for an MFA to achieve my goals. For me, an MFA in screenwriting is self-indulgent; I want to be able to dedicate 2 years of my life to focus on only on writing without the distractions of working as a PA or an AD. An MFA would also enable me to teach one day because education is my other passion. But my short reminded me that I do not have to get my MFA now. What I have to do, is write, create, repeat. That is what matters. And I can write and create without an MFA. It's harder to fit into my schedule, harder to afford, harder to focus, but if my years of balancing school and work has taught me anything it's that there if there is no other way, then I'll stick with my passion because eventually it pays off.
So what's next? I'll try to be patient while I wait to hear back from UCLA and Northwestern. Maybe it'll wind up being good news, maybe the cat won't be dead inside the box. I can't know until the box is opened and unfortunately the box is out of my hands. For now, I've got post-production and a crowd-funding campaign to start. I entered my pilot Somnia in more film festivals and competitions too. In between all of that I will starting to write a new pilot in April. If no acceptances come, I'll have some hard decisions to make. My job is fantastic and it would be hard to leave (especially the great insurance), but I'm far overdue to move to LA and if I do, I'll be attending the UCLA Professional Program for TV Writing.
The great thing about writing is I can always write and will always write. I can always shoot a short for a couple grand or less by putting it on my credit card. I can always create regardless of getting any recognition, funding, acceptances into grad school or film festivals. I don't write to win awards or impress anyone, I do it because it's part of who I am and how I express myself. I don't write to make money, although some money would be nice. As long as I get the chance for one singular person to feel a little less alone when they read or watch something I made, then I've done everything I've ever wanted to do. Basically you can consider the conclusion to this blog post the interview given by Jeff Bebe during Almost Famous. He's right. All the benefits of having a career in something you're passionate about are great. It makes life a lot easier, but at the end of the day, it's not why we do it... even when it is why we do it.
I'm going to take our humble leader Chris's lead and start with a run down of how I've worked in the industry so far and where I plan on going from here. I'll give you a hint, it's involved a lot of travel and quite a bit of luck.
To begin with, I'm a stereotype. I have been playing with cameras and writing for as long as I can remember. Perhaps less common though, I've never done anything else besides work in the film industry. A very long, personal story made short, I took 4 years off between high school and college due to health reasons. By the time I started undergrad at The University of Michigan - Dearborn, Michigan had a full fledged film tax incentive and a thriving industry. I spent a decent amount of time stalking a few sets of big movies around town. During Scream 4, I stood with a crowd for hours as they filmed a green screen fender bender. I walked my dog past the set of Trust countless times. Little did I know I was stalking many crew members whom would later become good friends and co-workers. I landed my first movie, a $100,000 horror flick, as an internship - the program head had befriended the director a few years earlier at Cannes. Don't ever let anyone tell you it isn't who you know, because in my experience, your network is the only thing that matters in this business.
That one small movie (I was credited as production coordinator, although I did many other things on that job and earned college credit for it) set everything else in motion. I had the confidence to create a resume, sent it around, and see what stuck. Within a year, I was working so much as a production assistant I was nearly failing my classes due to lack of attendance. I scaled back on my PA work to avoid any issues with school, and to maintain my health. Somehow I managed to graduate on time.
After graduation, I did what we all hope to - I headed to LA. I attended the UCLA Professional Producing Program, which I found through this very website back when I lurked in the shadows. My time in LA was unintentionally short-lived, I flew back to Detroit for my birthday and wound up landing my first 2nd Assistant Director gig on a kids movie. With the tax incentive still thriving, I quickly booked my second 2nd AD job within weeks of wrapping the first.
I've worked on over 20 films in Michigan, LA and NYC. I have no idea how many commercials because I don't keep track. And I've dabbled in the unscripted world. But in 2015, the new governor of Michigan canceled our tax incentives outright. I was losing my home-base. It was time to change my strategy. Moving to continue working as an AD didn't feel like the right choice. The long hours standing on set, not going to the bathroom for 8-12 hours at a time, and the stress of the AD department took a toll on my health that I wasn't thrilled to continue.
Last winter, I had an epiphany - writing was my passion. Writing was why I wanted to work in the film industry in the first place. I rushed to put together applications for my MFA in screenwriting despite having missed the deadlines for some of my top choice programs. It didn't matter, because the point was shifting my focus on a writing career and beginning to embrace calling myself a writer for the first time. Although I didn't get accepted to any programs, I was beginning to shift my focus in a meaningful way and attend a TV Writing Workshop at Columbia University in NYC. The pilot I wrote during the program was used as my sample for this years applications and is currently a film festival competition.
Right now I'm focused on continuing to write for competitions, myself, possible producers, and whoever will read my scripts. The upcoming weeks include a long over due trip to LA for an interview with UCLA, lots of fun projects with my students, and hopefully some good news from other grad schools.
If you have any questions or there's a topic you'd like me to discuss more, leave me a comment! I've never blogged before, so it's going to be a bit shaky at first. Hopefully I get the hang of it and someone out there finds it helpful or entertaining.
An AP (Associate Producer) where I'm editing now asked me for advice on how to start editing and what he should work on... should he download footage from YouTube and do music videos? Should he do this or that?
Well I told him, it's pretty simple... editing is basically storytelling. There's a reason Avid's slogan used to be "Tools for Storytellers" (They should have kept it as that - it was a good one)
The most important thing while editing is to tell a cohesive story. Flash wizbang effects are nothing. Anyone can do that. Not everyone can tell a good story. That is what you need to work on and get better at.
A scene should work WITHOUT ANY effects or music. If it doesn't.... the story isn't there and the scene doesn't work.
So how should one get started?
Well in this case in all seriousness... start cutting scenes after hours. We are sitting on mountains and mountains and mountains of footage here... So start cutting some together into scenes to start seeing how to make them work.
How to best use the Avid will come in time. It's actually a little harder to learn the Avid and it's not as straightforward for beginners... but everything makes total sense as an editor. Avid was designed by editors. FCP and Premiere was designed by computer people. But regardless... a tool is a tool. I've edited VHS to VHS and by cutting film. Being able to tell a story is what counts and what is the most important.
I've worked with editors who are great finishing editors and can whizbang with the best of them and polish up edits very well... but if they were given a mountain of raw footage they wouldn't know where to start. Being able to take completely raw footage and make a cohesive story is a skill that is highly sought out so that is what you need to concentrate on working on.
If you work somewhere where there is a lot of material to work with, check with the higher ups if it is okay for you to stay after work to practice editing with the mountains of material that is in the systems. Show initiative and work hard and learn.
Most editors are also able to offer advice and tips (but please don't overstay your welcome if we're busy).
Assistant editors today don't even work side by side with editors anymore - they're off in another room syncing and doing whatever assistants do these days. When I was an assistant I used to do changes and work more closely with an editor.... it's a shame that isn't done as much anymore... at least in reality TV. I actually wouldn't mind assistants taking a stab at some scenes for me. I don't mind teaching at all as long as it doesn't get in the way of the work that I have to do.
But the point is - if you want to cut... then start cutting! Find footage and learn how to work it together to create cohesive stories.
Three shots can make three different stories depending on how you cut them together. Learn to make the edit work WITHOUT music and effects... because if it works dry... then it'll certainly work when scored.
I hope this wasn't too much of an incoherent ramble.
I just locked my cut though - so I had some time to write. I should probably get back to work now on the new episode I'm cutting.