Looking back I just realized I have already been in the industry, making films for over 20 years. Joined a local TV drama production company in 1995, with no formal schooling or
training in filmmaking. All my skills & experiences are acquire on set, supplemented with a few great books on film and cinema, one in particular useful is Film Art by David & Thompson Bordwell. So here are a few thoughts on being a filmmaker after more than 20 years:
Hardware and software has changed drastically from 2000 onwards, cameras and format becomes obsolete faster. One cannot stop the advancements but only to adapt and embrace it to help you make films in a much efficient way. At the end of the day the cameras and equipments are just your tools, the most valuable part of film making is the human craft and experiences that at present it's very difficult to be replace by technology, but not impossible. So hone your skills and forget about investing in the next expensive camera, but a good set of lenses will be a good investment since their technology doesn't changes.
Practice Practice Practice
Filmmaking used to be an expensive hobby before 2000 when cameras are big, bulky and expensive. So one can be consider a filmmaker even if he/she made only one short film per year. And sometimes if you managed to watched the second short film by the same filmmaker the next year, it's usually not much progress or kind of a same thing he/she did last year. And with today's technology I think filmmakers should be able to make at least 6 short films per year, because filmmaking is a craft and usually any craft involves hours of practices in order to improve and master it. You can only learn when you've made enough mistakes and short films are the best format for one to experiment and make mistakes. Cause you want to learn to avoid and eliminate mistakes in your next project.
Be A Master of None
To learn the craft, I delve into cinematography, editing and even sound, but sadly sound and audio is the one aspect that I don't have the talent for no matter how much I try to learn. One doesn't have to master all the elements in filmmaking but at least must truly able to understand the basic foundation of the craft. It's when a filmmaker have all these knowledges that will allow him to tell his story effectively in this medium. I can block and break down the shot list much more efficient because I understand camera movement and the lenses. You can only be a good painter if you understand the texture of the canvas, colors and brushes. So it's the same for filmmmaker, especially when you are the director. A director's task is to put all this elements together in order to achieve his/her vision and story. So how can you utilizes all these elements effectively if you have no idea what's their purposes? Calling yourself a director is easy these days, but being one is not an easy task.
Always Be An Amateur
As you progresses in all art form and craft, you'll eventually become more adept and you'll forget how to learn again. This is the component that I fear most, the inability to learn just because I have made loads of films and won awards. It's when one is an amateur one can learn the most and see things with a fresh perspective. It's when one becomes professional he/she will stop learning and risk not seeing new ideas and methods. I've always believe one can learn even from a student or a younger filmmmaker, not just the other way round. Working with younger filmmakers, I get to unlearn and re-learn filmmaking, and boy, it's really an eye opener, seeing things from their perspective. That's why again I must repeat, to re-learn filmmaking, always make short films with the least resource as possible.
You Must really Love the Craft
Yes, this is the only reason why I'm still making films. Some folks will invests a lot in their hobbies like golf, cars, vacations, for me it's filmmaking. It's more than just passion and livelihood, it's my life, I'm addicted to filmmamking. If you don't really love it and are in it just for the red carpets, hoping to get covered in magazines and to surround by celebrities, you should stop right now and go fuck yourself, it's a disrespect for the craft. Just saying.