February 4, 2017 at 10:31AM


How do you get into filmmaking as a beginner?

I've never really done anything involving film but I've always wanted to. I just don't know where to start or how to do so. For example, what kind of equipment do I need? What are some good books? Where do you get ideas and how realistic are they? How do you start maki g films when you have no clue how to make one? I would just appreciate some tips and information for someone that literally has no idea what they're doing. Also, my school doesn't offer anything related to film as I've seen things about that so don't mention that please.


Get plugged into the local underground film community (if there is one) or better yet, contact a professional production company and tag along for a few shoots, most are cool about it as long as you don't bother anybody. When you're ready to start your own shoots, borrow some equipment and bring along some more experienced folk to assist you. If you learn the craft first, your life will be much easier and your movies will be much more watchable. Most of all, don't be a one-man band. I wouldn't want any less than three crew (including myself) for a short and no less than eight for a feature. There's a lot of work involved and virtually nobody can do it well by themselves.

There's really not much need to buy equipment unless you're doing regular, paying work. Many professionals never purchase any equipment. I shoot video every day and don't own any professional equipment, save some audio gear and a few fresnels, which tend to be lacking among video shooters. I just hire crew/equipment for shoots as needed. Most of all, don't get any equipment before you know how what you're doing.

I suggest reading "Painting with Light" (Alton) for an inside look at lighting, the most important aspect of photography. In 70 years, the equipment has gotten lighter and cheaper but techniques have not changed.

Also, "Digital Moviemaking 3.0" (Billups) for a very sobering look at how production with consumer grade equipment is and the business that surrounds it. Notice it's called "Moviemaking". You are NOT going to be making films. Billups, who is experienced in film and video, acknowledges that they are not the same and never will be. Even if video eventually looks as good as film, the workflow will still be very different.

February 4, 2017 at 6:15PM


Best way to start is to start. Make shit films on your phone if you have no equipment. That truly is the best and only way to learn. But for extracurricular learning (equipment, cinematography, editing, etc) youtube is a good textbook

February 4, 2017 at 6:19PM

Jofre B. Beltran

Not to be a contrarian, but that's the best way to learn bad habits and become incapable of working with professionals. Working without learning the craft first is not only extra tedious but there's also the issue of the blind leading the blind (there's a LOT of misinformation on You Tube and the net in general). I tried being self-taught for the first couple of years but it took working with a real film crew on a number of shoots to get good. This is coming from a guy that previously took a photography course too, so I already knew something about framing and lighting.

Case in point; people don't make films on their phones, they make videos. The medium is completely different, the workflow is completely different, the results are completely different. Even terminology and crew are different between film and video production. When I made the transition from film to video production, I was really in for a shock. I was using common production terminology and nobody had a clue what I was saying; a combination of the industries being so different and video people being largely untrained. I have to teach basic terms in order to get multiple crews on the same page, which can be tricky because some terms mean different things to video vs. film crews.

Any way, the local film community dissolved about ten years ago, so there's nobody apprenticing new enthusiasts and it's really evident in the quality of local productions; despite cameras getting a lot smarter, no-budget movies are looking pretty amateurish while bigger budget stuff isn't much better. A wealth of knowledge is dying fast and there's a lot more self-taught guys on the net and on the street than real pros.

Inexplicably Banned

February 5, 2017 at 9:45AM

I agree: go make stuff with your phone.
It will be hilarious to do and probably terrible to watch. :-p
Don't let the 'bad habits' scare you. You have to start somewhere. The first time you wielded a pencil as a toddler you didn't color between the lines either.
Smartphone and toys can be a great starting point to learn to think about images, sequences and editing. Books will make more sense when you try to apply things.
Working with a pro is a great way to learn, but without doing stuff yourself first, you'll have no context and no reference to really understand why certain things are done in a certain way.

The following is total survival bias, but Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott and many more played around with cameras when they were young. There was no professional telling them what to do or not to pevent bad habits. They stayed eager and learned all the time. That is the way to improve and get beyond any bad habits.

However, if you would ask me how to start playing violin: I'd say find a decent teacher, because creating a bad habit with holding the violin is harder to get rid off, since that is muscle memory in your hands.


February 7, 2017 at 5:20PM

Stephen's advice is great if you're looking to make this your career.
Jofre has good advice if you want to try it out first or do it as a hobby.

My advice is to see what kind of journalism courses are in your school. Most schools with a journalism program will have a course on video production. Yes it will be news/documentary focused but for someone with no experience it will go over basics like like how to use a camera, how to edit, how to tell a coherent story, etc. If there isn't a class stop by the school paper and see if they're doing any video.

Lastly some schools use strange terms when talking about their video/film/movie courses. My local school calls it's program Visual Communications or ViCom, other colleges may call it Mass Communications.

February 5, 2017 at 10:51PM


Combine Jofre's advice with Stephen's.
You first should know for sure it is as much fun as you think it is. With doing you'll get better and it will become easier to find people to work with you.

February 7, 2017 at 5:22PM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

Hi Machaela,

Excellent questions. I began filmmaking at 6 years old. I wanted to do it, so I borrowed my grandfather's camera. I am still definitely an amateur and I still do it because I want to. I would say the most important thing is to always remember why you are doing it. Don't worry about what equipment to use. It is more important to tell an interesting story. I recommend going to your local library. Browse what they have for filmmaking texts. Don't be afraid to look at older (pre digital) texts as well. Much of the technique I learned from 60s and 70s textbooks, when everything had to be done physically--sets were real and performers were real. I am a teacher in my real job and am always happy to help someone else. Please feel free to contact me through my website www.sleepydogfilmsusa.com if I can be of more assistance!

February 8, 2017 at 6:41PM

Michael Arell

As a beginner I would suggest you get the book "Rebel without a Crew" by Director Robert Rodrequez, take it for inspiration, out of date equipment wise and he had an in with Hollywood that he doesn't mention, so he didn't just go to hollywood and magically got in, but he had a connection. However he did make 100 small films and had serious filmaking skills and vision when making El Mariachi. Use what ever you have to film, edit your own video, if you do you will start to shoot for the edits in mind, experience can only be gained by doing, so do

February 10, 2017 at 10:50AM


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