Monday, May 26, 2008

Idiots and New Gear/AF Tip

I’m back. So let’s get to it…

First a little house keeping. I am going to slow down a bit on my blogging. Instead of five days a week I am cutting it back to one or two, depending on how I feel. After blogging 5 days a week for months, I‘ve found that the blogging is getting in the way of my other writing. And I need to make another film. My blogs will probably be a little longer than before, but they will still have all of that wonderful wit, sarcasm, anger and *(!&%^$@* language that you have all come to expect from me.

And for those who do have a problem with my language, don’t read me!

Once again we’ll start with your AF Tip of the Day.

Beware of any idiot that tells you that you NEED the latest stuff.
- - from The Angry Filmmaker Survival Guide (coming in Spring 2008)

This is something that really pisses me off! So many people think that filmmaking is all about the equipment! Filmmaking has nothing to do with equipment! It is not equipment that tells your story!

One question I am asked all the time is what kind of camera do you use? Who cares? A camera is just a tool. Do people ask what kind of a hammer a carpenter uses? A mechanic what kind of a wrench he likes? Or a doctor what type of scalpel he’s going to cut you open with? It doesn’t matter!

What is this love affair filmmakers seem to have with equipment? I mean guys like Lucas, Spielberg, Michael Bay and James Cameron all have access to the latest gear and their movies SUCK!

When we were making Kicking Bird my DP Randy Timmerman was all excited by the brand new Panasonic 24 p camera. He was dying to use it on our movie. I saw the tests he shot with the camera and it looked great. In fact it looked too good. Our movie takes place on the wrong side of town with a kid that has no future. We were shooting in January so that I would have clouds, rain and darkness. I wanted the whole look of the film to be dreary. We talked about using the camera (which we would have had to rent or worse, buy) and I said that if we used it, once we got in to post I would drain most of the color out of it and then add grain. By the time I was finished with the picture no one would ever know that we shot it with the Panasonic. (I always felt that if I was going to shoot Kicking Bird in film I would have gone with 16mm black & white.) We used a Sony PD150, a very un-cool camera that did exactly what we wanted, and it was free.

When I was doing commercials (back in another life time) many of my clients were always asking if we were going to be using a certain piece of equipment, (some insisted we rent some things). Usually these idiots had no idea what the piece of gear did, but they had to have it! They had heard that someone else had used one. I felt sorry for a lot of the post houses as they would have to spend tons of money on all this gear just so they had it. Most of the time it would make no difference whether you used a certain piece of gear or not.

Film cameras have been around forever and they all still shoot at 24 fps. I can take an Arri, an Aaton, a CP, or an old Éclair and run a roll of film through it and it’ll look great. I can also shoot with a Canon XL1 or a Sony PD150 and it will look great as well. As long as I light it correctly.

My point is, you can shoot your movies on older equipment, as long as it is still working well. Your story doesn’t care what it’s shot on. Don’t let other people tell you what you need. Think about what is right for your movie, and what you have access to. Just because a camera is old doesn’t mean that it can’t still shoot.

It is the same thing with software and editing equipment. Find an editing program that you like and learn it backward and forward. Up grade only when you have too. Remember, many classic films were edited with a razor blade and tape.

No matter what new piece of gear you buy, it will be obsolete once you get it out of the box. And that’s the way the manufacturers like it! That way they can keep selling us crap!

Don’t forget my Masters Class in Filmmaking this summer through the Franklin Film Institute. Go to for more details.

Find out more about the Angry Filmmaker @ And don’t forget to check out my work books. They can help you…


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