I just got an epiphany today. After having my java bean, mocha iced coffee (during the ice storm!) I realized that making movies and wedding videography is all about telling compelling stories. If you know how to tell good stories, then you can make videos that can have an emotional impact on your customers.
I thought it’d be cool to share what I learned from my mentor in college, who was a prominent Hollywood producer. Here are ten valuable lessons on storytelling in movies:
- Take classes on storytelling. Whether it is for screenplays or writing novels, it’s good to actually have the technical know-how on how to construct a cohesive story. Learn how to construct a great opening, a compelling middle and a kick-in-the behind ending that will make the viewer remember your video for a long time.
- Be prepared for failure and rejection. Trying to make it into Hollywood or for any entertainment niche, it’s hard. It’s probably the hardest thing anyone can try to attempt. There are many competitors and there are many obstacles in the way. It’s good to know before you begin that it’s going to be a long, hard process and to never give up on your hopes and dreams!
- Give yourself an hour of self-pity. Building upon point #2, we’re not man (or girl) of steel. We are human. We must take time to cry it out or as Julia Roberts say in “Pretty Woman” veg it out in front of a TV. It’s a form of letting your frustrations and fear out of you. Get your mind straight so you’re ready to get back in the game.
- Experiment with different things. We all get stuck on page 45 every now and then. Instead of plowing through with mediocre writing, put the screenplay down. Try something else like painting or joining a Meetup group on screenwriting. Heck, make Youtube videos about screenwriting or making films. Do something different. This broadens your perspective in life and exposes you to different things that you can write about in your screenplay.
- Network and develop relationships. In Hollywood and life in general, it’s about who you know and not what you know in most cases. Especially in Hollywood, even if you write the next “War and Peace”, no one will care if no one is willing to fund your movie or documentary. You need powerful friends in Hollywood because as I stated before it’s a competitive industry and everyone’s building a network of contacts to get their ideas funded and backed. So you should too.
- Learn to laugh and have a good sense of humor. This will help you deal with #2. You will have many rejections and naysayers. It will be easy to give up and put the keyboard down (or smash it through a window), but it’s important to keep going. Having a good sense of humor will help you deal with hard times.
- Key to cinematography is to have fun. We’re all into making videos or making art because we love it. Don’t forget the number one rule is to always have fun doing what you’re doing. If you’re not enjoying it, then why bother continuing. Life is too short.
- Don’t neglect life over business. Yes, it’s tempting to take that writing job to write about “Porn Stars and Aliens from Neptune” but really is it worth it? Unless you love porn and have a weird affinity with A.L.F. from Neptune, it’s not worth degrading yourself to write or make videos about stuff you care nothing about. Think about what inspired you to write in the first place. Is it because of a lost loved one? Is it because you have cool friends and think you can create the next great sitcom? Remember the things in life that inspired you and let that be the main driver for your art. Never let your choices be dictated by how much money you can make by writing “Porn Stars and Aliens from Neptune.”
- Spend money on film festivals. This goes with #5 very well. Again, the filmmaking business is all about who you know. Getting into festivals or even just starting a Youtube channel is worth your time. It’s important to get your stuff out there. Get it critique. Build a following. Gain followers. In time, people will come seeking for you because they will love the stuff you are writing and producing.
- Always have passion. This goes again with many points in this David Letterman-esque Top 10 list. Don’t ever succumb to the lure of money in Hollywood. Do it because you love it. If you do this, you will succeed in making movies, writing screenplays or making a living off cinematography.
It’s been frustrating trying to make it as a cinematographer in New York. This is what inspired me to remember and record what my college mentor taught me. I thought this would be useful for all my fellow NYC videographers, filmmakers, screenwriters and artists out there.