Film Making Courses

By Shailen Lakhani - Last update


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Everybody wants to make it in the movies. It can’t be that hard. Most films that get shown in Irish cinemas are, when you think about it objectively, average at best. It looks from here as if movie people don t put too much effort into actually making their films. Instead they spend most of their days doing lunch with their agents, going to cocktail parties full of pretty people, and punching paparazzo photographers. All of which seems like nice work if you can get it.

Even better, with the advent of twenty first century digital technology, it s easy enough to shoot and edit your own film, Blair Witch style, and burst into the big time. With reasonably priced auto-focusing camcorders, and by-the-numbers PC video editing software, films now practically make themselves. You, or I, could be the next Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson, or at least Guy Ritchie.

Still, on reflection, if it was that easy to make a decent film, then everybody would be doing it. And they re not. So maybe there is more to the movie making game than first meets the eye. There must be some skills involved in writing a believable script, directing maverick actors, composing a captivating shot and cutting what you ve shot together so the film makes sense. Now that I think about it, it doesn t seem quite so straightforward.

A good way to find out what is involved, to see if you’ve got what it takes, or to get your foot in the door, is to do a course in one of the aspects of film-making. Taking a course helps you make contacts within the industry, gain experience using professional equipment, bounce ideas off like-minded wannabes, and generally get introduced to the game. There s no one course that is going to make you a film star, but here s some of the film-making nightcourse options in available in Ireland

Screenwriting

Screenwriting is the area within the film world that seems easiest to get into. You don t need any of the fancy gear cameras, lights, editing machines you can just get your pen and paper or laptop out and start writing or tapping away. Would that it were so easy. Film scripts have their own distinctive style and look. To be taken seriously a script must be formatted correctly and use the right professional jargon. A top script needs plausible characters, dramatic pacing and a classically simple yet brilliantly devious plot. Then, even when you ve written a humdinger, you still need to get it noticed by the right people so the film can get made and you can get paid. A screenwriting course can teach all this and more. That seven figure advance could be closer than you think.

Producing

The film producer is the guy who looks after the money. In Hollywood this means ordering off the menu, employing a glamorous secretary (or two) and smoking the biggest cigars. In the low budget world of independent Irish film this means blagging, wheedling and tricking people into helping you get your film made. While there is a little of the Del Boy about the best independent film producers, you ve still got to have the inspiring creative vision and bloody minded perseverance to take a project from initial idea all the way through to gala premiere. Production nightcourses should teach you how to attract funding, assemble a crew, handle a budget, deal with legal issues and much more. The creative vision and perseverance have to come from within.

Directing

On a film the director is God. They must use their skill, experience and force of personality to blend together all the disparate elements of the film-making process and tell a coherent and entertaining story. He gets the flak when things go wrong; she gets the praise when it all comes together triumphantly. Film-directing classes should give at least basic training in all aspects of film making. You should learn how to get the best out of your actors, realise your ideas on screen, tell a story through images and work with a large crew. You should also spend time on the technical aspects (camera, light, sound, etc) to shooting on film or digital video. It s a tough job, but that could be your name on the back of the folding chair.

Acting

There s a great line in an old Simpsons episode where Lisa describes Jim Carrey’s acting style. He can make you laugh with no more than a frantic flailing of his limbs, she says. The writers are being ironic. Good film actors shouldn’t need to frantically flail anything to make you laugh, think or cry. Quality natural acting is much harder than it looks. So anybody looking to act in films might consider an acting nightcourse. There they should learn the fundamentals of screen acting, the differences between stage and screen acting, hitting marks, practical camera exercises and how to make a moving acceptance speech without bursting into tears. It can be done.

Editing

The editor is the unsung hero of many a film. Working alone in a dark room, when practically everyone else has long finished their contribution, the editor gets to either put the finishing touches to a masterpiece, or rescue the project from complete disaster. The Stanley knife cutting days are long past, and today s editing courses teach the use of editing technology and software packages such as Avid, Media 100, Adobe Premiere, or Apple s Final Cut Pro. They are just new fangled tools though, the editor s main job remains the same – to work with the director to choose the shots, set the tone, pace the action and tell the story. Techniques include the montage, as showcased in Team America: World Police.

So What Are You Waiting For

Any and all of these courses will give you some practical tips and experience in making your own film. Most will provide you with a finished product that you can show your friends and use as part of a showreel to impress potential agents, employers or colleagues. No nightcourse will guarantee you a million dollar, three-picture studio deal with final cut, but they ll give you an idea of what s involved. Then, once you’ve been bitten by the film bug, well who s knows what might happen. There s magic in them there hills. Movie magic.


Shailen Lakhani

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