Cameraman, Videographer, or Filmmaker?
This is a question one should ask themselves before wearing the "filmmaker" moniker. With some spare cash you can compile an impressive tool list, and indeed, many people become very skilled at using these tools, be it HD cameras, post-production techniques, steadycams, dollys or what have you. We all covet these tools but sometimes lose sight of the most important aspect of filmmaking: CONTENT. Be it films or music or the written word, CONTENT IS EVERYTHING. And tools are just tools, which should be used to realize the vision of the filmmaker. Just because you can capture stunning footage of some tranquil beach or outdoor scene, using all the tools at your disposal, expertly focusing on that duck or bird with amazing depth of field. fluidly following the rabbit with your expensive fluid head tripod, and apply incredible color correction in post with your 8-core Mac and FCP, then laying down an emotionally evocative sound track with strings and french horns and harps and guitars, and pulling your clips into the time line......did you create a film? Are you a filmmaker? Who is your intended audience? If it's just for you, then you are indeed a filmmaker. But if the audience goes beyond you and your immediate family, now you have to ask yourself a few questions. Who will see this? What story am I trying to tell? Is there tension and release? Is there a climax? Did I tell a story, or is this just a bunch of beautiful footage set to pleasant music?
As an example, a Swedish filmmaker named Dave Kvart submitted 2 films to the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2005. He told me he spent months on his "epic" ski film, plus he submitted a short that he made in a 72 hour film contest at Whistler, B.C. Epic ski film, REJECTED , but you guessed it, short 72 hour film....FINALIST! Using nothing more than a crappy SD hand held camera and a couple of friends as the "stars", his short "Everyday Extreme" won best short mountain film at Banff that year. Why? Because he incorporated all the elements that make a good film, and the judges get it. No Letus Extreme here, just that most important element that truly makes a filmmaker, CONTENT. Dave has posted this short on YouTube, so you can view it here:
Tools are important and the vehicle to tell a story, but an excellent tool user is not necessarily a filmmaker. Nature films set to inspiring music are ubiquitous, like the "Over Washington" series shot from gyro-stabilized helicopter mounted cameras. And one can certainly tell a story in this venue by using elements like tension and release etc. But peruse the submission list for a prestigious venue like Banff and you'll find these don't usually make it as a finalist. So ask yourself the question, am I a Cameraman, Videographer, or Filmmaker? Perhaps you don't need that $5000 camera or accessories or post production tools as much as that very rare element...... a good idea.