Camera Envy (or Intimidation) in Young Filmmakers
I’ve met and taught hundreds of young filmmakers over my career who get caught in the same trap. If you’re a parent of a passionate young filmmaker, you’ll know the tendency for them to obsess over their camera and other gear. Or you watch them become paralyzed because they think they can’t be a filmmaker without the latest and greatest gadget. There is hope!
Here are three key principles that I tell all of my students.
- Story is the most important thing. We live in a very visual world. We are saturated with amazing images every second. But stories stay with us longer, because they touch our emotions in a deeper way. Visuals are a part of storytelling, but many young filmmakers mistakenly get caught up with obsessing over the latest camera, drone, gimbal, or computer. My advice is to learn how stories work, and develop your story sense to be as good as your “eye” for a great shot.
- Filmmaking is visual, yes, but so much more. After storytelling, I always emphasize the importance of other “channels” of communication. Just because we call it a film doesn’t mean we only care about the images we see on a screen. For instance, if we pay attention, we’ll notice the important role that sound plays in great films. We’ll also notice how the pictures, sounds, performances, and other elements are edited together to seamlessly tell the story. Young filmmakers need to learn about all of the elements that go into a film so they can become well-rounded craftspeople.
- Shoot something with what you have. Doing is the most important thing. Do it with whatever smartphone or camcorder you’ve got right now. I can’t emphasize this enough. I can usually tell which students will ‘make it’ in the challenging craft of filmmaking, because some of them just can’t quit making things. They may come into my classes already having made a bunch of crazy videos with their friends. That’s a great foundation, and they need to keep on trying things, making films whether they are small or large, simple or complex. Most won’t be truly great. But you have to do a lot of ordinary, growing work, in order to get to the point where the ideas and skills you develop become truly remarkable. Many of us just don’t want to put in the repeated effort, including the “failures.” But that’s what it takes. Do it. Fail. Learn. Do it again.
See, I didn’t talk at all about what kind of Canon or Nikon or Red camera was best! But looking deeper than those amazing and cool gadgets is what makes a great young filmmaker. I love to see that happen!
An interesting site that has a mix of tips for beginning filmmakers (and hot new gadgets) is “No Film School”: https://nofilmschool.com/ Note: This is not a Christian site, but generally I find their content to be good quality.
About the Author
Tom Khazoyan began his career on the production side of the film and television business. He’s been fortunate to have worked on award-winning projects as a writer, producer, director, cameraman, and editor. He has produced projects ranging from television commercials to documentaries to dramatic films in over 30 countries.
Since 1998 Tom has served as a missionary filmmaker with Pioneers, and has created hundreds of projects, including the feature-length motion picture, “The Enemy God”.
In his ministry life, Tom works collaboratively with missionaries and filmmakers in other countries to produce visual stories and to empower emerging filmmakers in other cultures with the goal to make Jesus Christ and his kingdom known in places that are yet unreached. This work takes the form of media strategies, film training courses, partnership in producing films, and individual mentoring.
Tom has been teaching online film and screenwriting classes and in-person workshops since 2010. In 2015 he finished graduate school with an MFA in Professional Screenwriting. He also teaches communications at Colorado Christian University.