June 17, 2019

Filmmaking Fallacies We All Need to Put to Bed

There are a lot of misconceptions about filmmaking that can make life hell when you're first starting out.

Filmmaking as a newbie looks and feels much different than it does when you have some experience under your belt.

The years of making do with less time, money, and resources...

The surefire plans that crumble right when you arrive on set...

The questionable sums you get after adding A to B and not getting C...

All of these things and more give you a clearer picture not only of what filmmaking actually is but what it could've been when you first started out.

So, let's go over some common misconceptions beginners have about making movies so we can spend time forging paths rather than backtracking through them.

Chrystopher Rhodes of YCImaging goes over five of his own in the video below, so let's start there.

Let's quickly go over the misconceptions, or "lies" as he puts it, that beginners often have (or believe) about filmmaking.

A good camera will make you a good filmmaker

Classic. I believed this. You probably believed this. When we see our cinematic heroes shooting on these enormous cameras with all the bells and whistles—monitors, battery packs, matte boxes, wires, cables, cords, and a lens the size of a full-term newborn baby—it's easy to think, "I want to be as good as them. They shoot on that camera. Therefore, I need that camera to be as good as them."

But you don't. You camera specs matter so much less than you might think. What actually matters is your own ability to tell stories visually with the tools you have at your disposal. Those tools include writing, lighting, editing, camera movement, costuming, set design, sound design, and so much more. Don't sweat your T3i or your phone. Does it shoot video? Yes? Then you're good.

You don't need good lighting if your camera shoots good low light

When the a7S came out in 2014, people were losing their shit because it could basically see in the dark. I was one of those people and I literally thought, "Sweet! Maybe this means I don't have to worry so much about lighting." 

That's kind of half true. Sure, if you're shooting a doc out in the middle of nowhere and you don't have a whole lot of light to work with, yeah, a camera that has high dynamic range is going to help you expose scenes without being left with a ton of grain.

However, if you're shooting a scene in your living room and think you don't need to set up any lights because "Dude, my camera can basically see in the dark," you are missing the point of that feature...and lighting in general. Lighting doesn't just help you expose an image, it also helps you tell stories. Shaping light and creating a specific look is pretty much the basis of filmmaking.

Less gear creates limitations...which are bad

When I shot my first music video, I brought my jib, a gimbal stabilizer, and pretty much every other random piece of gear I could so I could throw all my tricks at it.

Guess what...ten minutes into using that gimbal (which was a one-hander by the way), I threw it into the case and never took it out again. And that jib? I used it for one shot. And did this project turn out to be my best cinematographic work? Hell no. In fact, my favorite projects are actually the random ones I've shot in black and white on my iPhone without any stabilization.

Now, let's get this straight: gear can help open new doors to your creativity. I'm not like...against gear, fam. I'm just saying if you don't have gear, don't you dare think that you are somehow at a disadvantage...you're differently-vantaged. The limitations force will force you to be creative when you want to get a certain shot. So, don't let fancy gear fool you into thinking that they'll do the work that you're supposed to be doing as a creative.

You have to live/shoot in big cities to make it

The misconception is that in order to have high-quality work, you need to live/shoot in big cities or famous locations. No, honey. Let's break both of these down:

  • Big City Shootin': A talented filmmaker can make their bathroom look amazing. A mediocre filmmaker can make the Empire State Building look uninspired. Point. Blank. Period.
  • Big City Livin': Even though filmmaking hubs like NYC and LA offer many unique opportunities, that doesn't mean you can't grow where you're planted. That's a lesson I've struggled with my entire career, but I've learned not to delegitimize my craft, my career, or myself just because I live in a place that isn't buzzing with cinematic activity.

What are some misconceptions about filmmaking you realized you had as you gained more experience? Let us know down in the comments.     

Your Comment

10 Comments

After 10+ years of making a living solely off of content creation and camera work... I agree with most of what he's saying ESPECIALLY in regards to lighting and less gear = limitations.
We absolutely need lighting regardless of what ISO you can crank out clean images & less gear is often a blessing. I always try to take the fewest pieces of gear possible for a shoot and I might pack a couple bonuses in the car just in case.
Only point I slightly disagree with is that "cameras don't matter". This is true to an extent, but it largely comes down to the task at hand. For most run and gun productions and possibly music videos, you don't have to have the latest & greatest. A better way of saying it is cameras aren't all that matters or you can still make amazing spots on a beginner kit... but they definitely matter. I'm not going to shoot an evening event on my old 7D, I'll need my A7iii or A7sii (insert similar low-light camera). If it's a doc I might want something that makes audio easier to handle like a C300.
Regardless, I do appreciate the sentiment and I think it's very important to bare in mind (especially for beginners) that your camera is NOT a limitation, it's a tool for creation. You don't NEED the best to make something great, you just need to get creative and shoot. I think that was the underlying message of his words.
Great video, thanks.

June 17, 2019 at 4:11PM

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J.M. Anderson
Director of Photography
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I don't think we can compare a Canon 70d to a iPhone

June 18, 2019 at 4:44AM

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I am sorry but I have to disagree on the majority of what you say. If you want to progress and become better at filming the iPhone is not going to help with learning frame rates, shutter speed, aperture. Without lights you are never going to learn the importance of them or practice. Without some accessories I.e a tripod, nd and polarising filters you are not going to understand why you are not achieving the look you want. What I mean is that in order to progress you need to learn, read books on film, classical painting, emotion, lighting. Without understanding of light and film you won’t get anywhere and without some half decent equipment you won’t be able to experiment. (Buy it second hand, borrow it if money is an issue, and it usually is). Learn, practice and learn practice again. I have learnt a lot from your articles in the past but from my own experience you need to have something to learn and practice with, it will give you confidence.

June 18, 2019 at 4:00AM

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Chris
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Hi Chris, I have to disagree with you. Obviously, it would be ideal to have access to a higher end camera. Unfortunately, life is not always ideal. I believe one of the big takeaways from the article is to use what is available to you. The world is filled with people who wait for that perfect someday and get absolutely nothing done. Shoot now with whatever you have. Get your film out there and move on to greater things.

June 18, 2019 at 8:07AM

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Hi Jennifer, I started learning by buying a Bmpcc 1st edition off eBay with a Veydra Lens for less than the price of an iPhone. I learnt so much about manual focus, dynamic range, shutter angles (none of which are available on an iPhone) learning the technical stuff allowed me to see the bigger picture, I got the free version of DaVinci Resolve and started editing, exactly the same as they would in Hollywood (BMPCC was used on several Hollywood films and graded in DaVinci Resolve). I became technically capable with the year. For less than the price of an iPhone (I am not saying get an Arri Alexa).

June 18, 2019 at 2:36PM

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Chris
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For someone who has been shooting their best work on an iPhone, you don't have he credibility to discuss his subject. Most of your advice is not practical for professional work and doesn't meet the minimum specs to be published.

June 18, 2019 at 4:42AM

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You forgot to mention "teamwork". There's a lot of mythology about how one great auteur can do it all-especially now that equipment is cheap enough that you can buy it all. Filmmaking is a highly collaborative art, and if you are doing it (mostly) alone, you are likely missing what makes it so special.

June 18, 2019 at 7:37AM

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Hi Michael, I'm basically repeating what I mentioned to Chris. It would be wonderful if we can all get crewed up with amazingly talented people. However, sometimes you are all you've got -- with no budget. I don't think that anyone wants to be a crew of one. But, if want your vision to be more than a fantasy, you do what needs to done. I speak from personal experience.

June 18, 2019 at 8:27AM, Edited June 18, 8:28AM

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I get you. I am just saying that a iPhone is not very inspiring and won’t get you into the headspace of cinematography. I found that going on YouTube and forums asking about my cinelens and bmpcc gave me so much feedback, something that wouldn’t of happened if I searched, “filming on an iPhone” in YouTube

June 19, 2019 at 2:34AM

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Chris
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With my learnt knowledge I started shooting at work little jobs and we have now created a small crew and grown a bit. Would anyone at work have taken me seriously if I had said, hey I will shoot to client on my iPhone. You can only do what is avaible but if someone tells you hey, it’s fine with an iphone, I think that is poor advice.

June 18, 2019 at 2:40PM

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Chris
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