Re-posting this in response to the numerous asks I’ve been getting from people wanting to get into film-making or considering film school.
My free alternative to film school.
1. Watch all the interviews with Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino on Charlie Rose. These are all available for free online.
2. Read Truffaut’s book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. You can find this at most public libraries.
3. Watch all 26 hours of the special features on the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings DVDs. Anywhere that sells used DVDs sell them for next to nothing now.
4. Watch all the films of David Lean, Sergio Leone, and Stanley Kubrick. Watch them again, and pay attention to the framing and duration of every shot, and the moments they choose to cut.
5. Watch some silent films. Learn visual storytelling, and the difference between film acting and stage acting. Note the power of the close up, but also how sparsely they’re used. Watch a few films by Borzage, Murnau, and Chaplin’s darker stuff (City Lights, Modern Times).
6. Play with a still camera. Try and frame a close up with a bunch of different lenses. Figure out how to isolate the character in the frame, and also how to make the shot more about the environment than the character. That’s basically cinematography. Make sure nothing extraneous is in the frame. Does that wall socket help the shot? Frame it out.
7. Observe the beautiful things that lighting in the natural world does. Remember them. There are two thing you need to consider when you’re framing a shot outside. 1. Where’s the horizon line? 2. Where is the character in relation to the sun? If it’s not working, change one of those two factors.
8. Watch an action scene with the sound off and note how fake it looks. Then watch it with the sound on and note how the timing and duration of each sound gives it weight and impact.
9. Every single person has at least one interesting story to tell. Figure out what yours is. Don’t try and tell someone else’s. Try and tell the truth and don’t try to make something cool or stylish. Not yet. You won’t know how.
10. Fail for free. Make your first stuff for nothing. They won’t be what you want them to be, and it won’t be until you see them that you’ll realize why. Don’t make the same mistakes next time.
To quote Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting “You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you could’ve got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the Public Library.” There is truth in this. Especially about film school.