Two years ago I attended the Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass, 2013, and it opened up an amazing bank of knowledge to me as a script reader. Not only could I understand scripts from a story analysis perspective, but I could now analyse just how effective a script would be as a produceable and marketable prospect. Score!
So why did I go again? And why didn’t I just buy the book or do an expensive course? Here are the reasons why:
We are ALWAYS learning
This industry is not built on timeless knowledge. You have to roll with the times! Filmmaking is going ever further into an entirely digital state of being – today’s audiences want accessible, immediate content for affordable prices! Not only that, but filmmaking itself is moving into fresher territories through risk-taking. Sean S. Baker’s “Tangerine” not only features rising transgendered stars but is shot entirely on an iPhone. Sean’s already made other movies using more conventional methods, but he CHOSE to be different and unique and bold and he is reaping the rewards.
We learn to be bold
Chris once met Spielberg, but when asked “what are you working on next” went totally blank. ARGH! He’s not the only one – several course delegates revealed during the weekend, over the mics, that they too had been in these sorts of situations; including one writer/director who was kicking himself for not having pitched to Emma Thompson when they spotted her on the journey in to the course that day. There WILL be times that this happens, so we need to let them go and focus on overcoming fears and instead being BOLD. When Chris spoke about finding mentors, an audience member shouted out “are you available?” and Chris was so impressed that he offered to mentor this writer throughout her film project.
On the first day, we were given POST-IT notes (the stationery geek in me went “squeeeee”) and on them we were encouraged to advertise our services, and ask for help with our projects. Soon enough, people were plastering them over the walls, and Chris remarked on the particularly noticeable efforts of some people; for example the big arrow made to attract attention to a particular pitch.
The next day, the delegates were getting even craftier – Holly Jacobson even put up sweets with her business cards!
We realise we have to be thick-skinned
We can’t learn if we don’t give and receive feedback. We watched several drafts of a short film by Jonathan Newman, and criticised them. Unknown to any delegates who had never before attended the course, Jonny was of course in the audience! So, whilst the critics squirmed in their seats, the rest of us admired Chris and Jonny’s ability to graciously accept criticism and share their experiences and tips with us regardless. As a script consultant moving into script editing, criticism is part of my job, but there’s a magic word that we all need to add before criticism; constructive. If you’re out to emulate a film critic, then you’re at the wrong party – we as filmmakers are here to constructively criticise and praise others’ movies, not rip them to shreds for fun or because you simply don’t like it.
It’s about MORE than just learning stuff
If you read my account of the Scriptreading Masterclass, which was introduced by Chris, then you’ll already know about the giggle-inducing bum-wiggling and arm-flinging. Yes, Chris has been on a journey of enlightenment, and he’s sharing it with us as a bonus! But what’s all the hippy dippy mumbo jumbo about? It’s about OVERCOMING FEARS and SHYNESS, which is an essential part of filmmaking.
Oftentimes, what is stopping you from progressing is an invisible but obstructive barrier that you struggle daily to overcome. So, as well as keeping us alert, Chris helped us to dispel fears and shyness by doing exercises such as massaging our neighbours, walking on glass and breaking wooden arrows with our necks.
We all took part, physically or mentally, and celebrated those who were brave enough to volunteer for the dangerous stuff by giving them a rock star, superhero celebration.
Because DOING is BEING
What better way to show your dedication to filmmaking than by getting off your arse and travelling to London to not only learn what to do, but do it there and then. Chris invited us not only to learn what he had to teach, but to start on our projects NOW; to get over our fears, share our ideas and network to find the support you need to get your project done.
There’s only so much you can learn from a book (though, if you couldn’t manage to get to the course I would recommend the book as a great resource!) and there is no other way to experience the energy and inspiration in the room than to BE THERE.
It’s a similar feeling at London Screenwriters’ Festival, though more diverse on account of the wide range of guests and sessions. Much like the Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass is an affordable, crash-course version of film school, London Screenwriters’ Festival is a lifetime ticket to knowledge and networking.
These days it’s all about who you know, and a festival or masterclass can be the ideal place to make contacts. Both Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass and London Screenwriters’ Festival get you access to private online networks, too; the latter of which contains ALL the filmed sessions from not only the festival you attend but all the previous ones as well.
Absolutely incredible. And as Chris would say, “OUTSTANDING”.
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