Ben’s Blog: New Rules.

Posted July 11th, 2017 by Ben

The device you’re reading this on is probably a more versatile camera than any used by Cecil B DeMille, but new tools means new rules…

“Tangerine”, a hit in Sundance 2 years ago, shot entirely on iPhones…

We live in an age where it is increasingly possible to create work of cinematic quality with relatively inexpensive equipment. However, whilst the technology being used is brand new, much of the method around it dates back to cinema’s first innovators. This hides a trap.

We all know how films are made. Whether through geekish obsession or practical necessity, most people approach their first film with the existing rules and procedures burnt into their soul as their only guide. I wrote last week of the lingering shame that attaches to reshoots. But this is just one expression of the sense of failure we feel when deviating from the process locked in our heads as the correct method. This desire to work in the way films “are really made” means all too often micro-budget means only that. The numbers are reduced but everything else remains the same because that’s how films are made. But trying to employ a working process that costs millions when you have thousands is to squander what few strengths a micro-production has.

Micro has a nimbleness that even Low-Budget can’t match. Micro, free from expectations, also has a patience few of us will see again. A budgeted movie is an army. In the land of the sub-half million we are bandits in the hills. So why might bandits try to employ the battle tactics of Napoleon? The industry ignores you, your family despairs of you, your friends humour you… sadly you’ve got to get your affirmation from somewhere. So you give yourself the problems of a tight edit turn around or a shoot period limited by artist availability and you get to feel like a real proper struggling filmmaker. But micro-budget is a product of a new age. It should feel different. These new tools should force us to re-examine every unbreakable law of how a film is made.

This is especially the case because audiences encounter films in new ways too. And they are submerged. Today we need not choice, but a reason to choose. It will feel like an achievement to have made your feature length film in 18 days on a budget that won’t buy you a parking space. You will reach the end of that 10 week edit and feel like you’ve shared the problems of a proper director. But the cold fact is no one needs to watch your personal achievement unless it is also some sort of brilliant film.

In the end, the choice is not between making a film “properly” or cutting corners. Your choice is always between making a film and making the right film. Audiences only ever respond to the last. You can use the device in your hand to tell stories that the entire world will respond to, but not if you try and make them like you’re wielding a 35mm camera.

Tom Meeten in Gareth Tunley’s forthcoming “The Ghoul”, a micro budget personal achievement, that is also some sort of brilliant film.

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