Filmmaking: What is it?
This isn’t just another tech blog on filmmaking. Filmmaking is basically the process of making a film, also known in more professional contexts as film-production. The whole process involves five major stages: development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution. And yet, even with all those stages, there’s always value in taking that first step: develop your story. As the philosopher Lao Tzu has said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Needless to say, Lao Tzu was no filmmaker, but then again we do find that such is sound advice, even for filmmakers.
Story is Everything
Stories play a vital role in determining what your film is, so you are going to need a strong, solid story if you are going to produce a strong, solid film. This now begs the question: how does one make a story? What are the elements of a story?
The Story: Four Elements
Every story has four (4) elements: characters with specified goals, setting, the actions of the characters, and finally, their dialogue. The way to become a good storyteller is to be able to weave all of these elements together into one coherent whole, transform them into a storyline that flows from one scene to another. The image of weaving is very important – a good storyteller makes sure that the seams don’t show.
First, your characters must have clearly specified goals. By ‘goals’ we do not just mean the kind that’s too plain, such as ‘get a new job’. Goals like that are boring and not worth writing a whole story on. There must be something real that’s at stake in your story, which means clear, measurable goals, with clear, measurable possible consequences. (Think: this character just got out of prison on parole, and needs to find a job soon, so that he can prove himself a changed man to his family.)
Second, setting. There must also be an established ‘character’ in your setting. If your story is one that’s intended to creep out, then plan your setting in such a way that it does creep out. In the same way, if the story intends to emphasize the ordinariness of everyday life, then by all means, take great lengths to expose this ordinariness. The setting has to match the story.
Third, the actions of your characters. These actions have to be clearly stipulated in the story/screenplay. It would help a great deal if you, as storyteller/writer, already have a sense of how you want the scenes to look, what facial expressions you imagine the characters to use, what gestures would best deliver the message of that scene.
And lastly, the dialogue. This would deliver the final blow to your story. What are the words that would best capture the message you want to convey? What lines must the characters say to each other, to get your point across?
Once you get your story all figured out, you can now move on to other stages in filmmaking: pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution. You can even put up your films on a website and give your website visitors their film fix. But remember, for now, story is everything.