The Three Eyes of Filmmaking
This is something that I've come up with for making nonfiction films the three I's um but it also applies to fictional films all right the everybody thinks so it's a documentary it's got a lot of information and that's really important. Well, yes, that is important to have information in a film you know what's the film about but if you really if you if you watch a film and if you look at what you've retained from the film you'll find that very often you're not remembering the actual specifics of the let's say we were to see an inconvenient truth the film about about global warming by al gore what? You know he had a lot of figures in that film do you remember any of them even if you walk out you really remember them it's true we can onley some people say that um you really can only remember three things at a time is one of the reasons that when we have a nine hundred eleven um the call that's only free numbers it's not for the numbers. All right um so yes, the information is important b...
ut what's what's what's equally important is the identification you have to you the viewer the viewer has to identify with the person that's there whether that person has anything like them in their life if they could be a paraplegic but you're not they could be um um the kid's in slumdog millionaire your life is very different from them but you need to the viewer needs to be able to identify with the story and the person um and there were lots of techniques for that will show you we'll show you some of them you'll see some of them in this film that we're going to use that we're going to show you right now um so if you don't have at least these no one will remember your film at all you will come out and it'll just be totally disposable but the best films have inspiration in them is well and that inspiration um is the thing that makes them do something after the film that makes them either changed their life in a little way maybe they decide that they're going tio become a lawyer after they've seen this film uh maybe they just decide they're going to sign a petition, maybe they decide they're just gonna maybe give a homeless person money that they never thought they would do before. Um so these things are very important I feel in all films and it's it's it's as you as you're making your film and keep them in mind at all times um the next two things air whose story is this? If you don't know whose story it is, you really you're not ready to shoot you're you haven't even taken aim right if you don't you whose story is this um is it and very often you start the film and you think it's one person's story but as you're telling the story as you're making the film, you find a way that's another one or you know if you ever have a problem acting in the scene who's seen is it whose what's the viewpoint um so that's that's kind of that's really the crux that's the beginning of it you know not and and then you follow that story where it goes and you'd be open to where that story goes and then how am I going to tell this story? Let some of the techniques we're going to talk about today is what using different filming techniques what is the result of those techniques? What comes out of it? Um even though this is called lone wolf filmmaker, this collaboration and the skill sets are are really it's really you know, know yourself know what you can do and know when you need to reach out and get some help where that help is or when you need to have somebody help you. I learned a new skill that you need right? This is all it's all a journey in making a film is it's always it's always a remarkable experience that leaves you much richer when you're done, but you've got to be open to that trip so this first this film and I'm going to show you uh there's a community part of the larger los angeles area called pasadena um it's a city of in and of itself it's not part of los angeles county but it has its own school system it's got its own uh, police department and a few years ago I and some other filmmakers who are very committed to public education decided you know, seeing what was happening with charter schools and not liking all of it decided that this is a great opportunity this system the school system is open to us coming and talking about public education. So in the course of one day we sent fifty film crews throughout the film the school system just this one day it was like a dam the life of the film of the school system and one one crew followed up you know, some some crews followed principles others followed teacher's others followed students other top oh, student volunteers this one may be a janitor this one a music teacher this one so throughout the entire school district we sent these crews out put together stories and profiles of the people we followed and the person I followed was a woman in esmeralda who, um a single mother uh shed for children and we, um let's let's let's uh had had a lot of uh one of the challenges of it was that we were going to tell us her story from day just one day everything we captured the whole school system, we're going to capture this just in one day, so my thing was I had to certainly I met her before had to establish a relationship with her. I didn't just show up on her doorstep but met her before I got her to trust me and made sure she was comfortable, even though she said she was come from, of course, someone you know, all of a sudden there's a camera there and what's going on so started today at her house, at about, I don't know, maybe five o'clock in the morning, five thirty in the morning, and she gets up what will work trick kids up and gets them ready to go to school and goes to school, and so you followed her through the day, so we have that natural kind of arc of what her day is like, but, um, it was crucial that we did this minimal crew, minimal invasiveness, of course, there's children involved in the story children are always they always want to look at that camera and just, you know, not being kids and just kind of go like this, and you might see a couple of moments in there, but, um it was clear that this had to be a very small, intimate operation, so basically it was may and because of the unknown I did bring a sound person with me so um that's where I knew I couldn't really get the goods quality sound that we needed by myself so but basically it's a one er did the interviews, did all the camera work met her did all the editing all that stuff and so take a look at this look at it in terms of the three I's information identification inspiration just watch it and then we'll talk about it a little bit so if we could watch that film but he's going to be o make lunch for the teacher wait, wait, wait oh wait esmerelda comes to the centre every day she comes and molly she'll do anything that's asked of her today, she's helping to set up the teacher appreciation luncheon staff appreciation day is just our way of telling the teachers thank you for everything they're doing for our children cooking comes from the heart and it shows more appreciation and more love that week was just that way they can feel part over from nico's medicine that's what it is it's family wait I think the way theo whole family center is to bridge the community to school and provide avenues for parents to explore educational systems here in the united states it's the family center and treating the whole family helping to nurture the whole family provides the child a safe place and feeling that safety to be able to focus in on education for these parents to just to do the things that middle class parents struggled to do for this parent is even harder. But it's more important, they have a lot more to gain from picking up those sort of middle class skills that research shows are predictors of academic achievement. So I see it as a big investment and families some of these sort of tips and tricks they start learning this and they see them working, they're hooked and they want more and then many off the parents that I teach eventually become sort of mentors to other parents. What happens at school needs to be reinforced it home on what's happening at home needs to be reinforced here. It's cool having parents like asthma nada who come in, who are interested in finding out what is going on with her child what is going on at school and what can I do to support that? What can I give back to? The school is crucial to any school site esmerelda helps new parents or other parents kind of get involved encourages them, shows them the rope she helps us with getting the food prepared for food distribution. She helps us with child care what's good about the family center for me is it taught me howto be strong into like say what I want what I feel in a correct way without offending somebody here I have a supportive if I sit here and say you know long I don't think I can do this you know you you can do whatever you want you just have to believe that you could do it I have the support that I didn't have anywhere else I had very low self esteem when I got here especially with going back to school because I have four kids I'm a single mother you know and and they give me that support support and there's like the more that my kids see that I'm trying and want to go to school the more they want to do it to one of my mom can do it then I can do it oh so any thought put you guys on the spot there any observations yeah khun definitely see all the things that the beginning you know you flash some of the statistics majority latino into school and you know you identified you know who you wanted to do a story on so that that mother er what you wanted to capture from her and her journey and how the the school or wherever she's volunteering at how that has affected her and how it's good for her family and and as well as her uh others you know it's going to benefit a lot of other people who become a part of it see her story I wantto I guess join the school or volunteer whatever the case may be so it's kinda interesting kind ofyou prefacing all these areas and then are now watching to see what you can identify from well, you know, I know there's a lot of there's a lot of ah subtitles in the beginning I mean, basically, how do you set up the story so that you really get to the meat of the story? I mean, we had three or four minutes to do this right? You're going to tell the whole story but you really want to get enough out of the way there to know that it's a latino school don't think these kids are struggling so that you can really get to kind of the meat of the story and to get to see her a little bit it's hard to show a person's life in a few minutes? Um, you know, if you want to be very, very specific it's it's much easier. You know, the films that I was doing in in in sierra leone were stories of survivors and there were three and four minute profiles of the people in the local language but we were not talking about their whole life. We were just they were just talking about how they caught the disease how they managed to survive the disease and uh and and these air more p ece is public service announcements teaching other people how to avoid getting bible and how to get over it so it's much more specific but the idea here is how do you really get a sense of somebody's life? Um I don't know if you noticed but one of the things that I did here was there's only certain things you can talk to really show a person there's certain things a person can talk about about themselves that sound good but you also need other people to talk about into its one thing you can't talk about how great you are, you know but the other people who work with you can talk about how helpful you are you can only talk about yourself about kind of your own inner stop it just doesn't sound right if you talk well I come and help it it it it's better to have those other people tell that story and hopefully in the in the course of telling this story I don't know if you recognize that kind of kept her back her interview kept it towards the end you know it's something that I like to call slow disclosure, right? Um you know, slow disclosure means it means that you don't give all the information out at the beginning it's tze like it's just keeping the story dramatic you give a little bit so that people could say and then what happens and then what happens it's like telling a detective story or a mystery you give just a little bit of a clue in the beginning um you know uh and it's a way of thinking about all your storytelling how do I tell this story so that people want to keep watching and want to keep what's next what's next you know there's a very typical way um you know there's there is a cinema language and that's one of the things I'm going talk about today and how you tell stories one of the things that happens with with movies and video and and even still photography is that it's very representational and by representational it means I see a dog if I show a picture of a dog people know it's a dog right? They instantly know it's a dog they think dog well by showing a picture by showing a picture it's very easy in this set language of cinema because things are so easily apprehended for you to speak for people to kind of get the idea and to be sloppy there if you it's just like if if I'm speaking english I'm thinking some other language there's a grammar to the language that makes it easy to understand that if I so that I will say um you know, like there's this there's this book by david sedaris called me talk pretty one day, right? I don't know if you know the title of the song we understand the of the book, you understand what he means when he says that, but it's not good english it's not so the same thing can happen in video is that you can tell a story and people can kind of get it but it's not really effective storytelling it's like and so I'm going to hopefully by showing you how what different lenses doing different techniques that you can tell this story really effectively and this slow disclosure is one of them uh, I was going to give an example of a very typical thing that you'll see in a december you know what? Zoom lenses were very soon we're going to talk about focal length and, um, we're going to talk about focal length that's one of the next things we're going to talk about here but the focal length just means the distance between the center of the lens and the censor. So we talked about and we talk about thirty five millimeter lens two hundred from millimeter lens this lens is is called a zoom lens in the sense that it has multiple focal lengths in it I can I can it goes from a wide two to a much tighter one okay, tio ones in between. I know it's kind of hard for you guys. When I when I point at you, it makes people kind of uncomfortable there. But so this is actually this is a lens that has multiple multiple focal lengths in it. But it also has a motor in it and that's called a zoom, right? That allows me to zoom like this. Okay, a very typical of a very typical, non grammatical way of filmmaking would be to show a wide shot and and then to zoom in. Ok, they will be soon. A zoom in on jessica there, all right, but a way of doing it that will keep people more involved. And we'll tell the story in a more engaging way that would use slow disclosure would be maybe I start on this face and it makes people say, what's that face what's she doing there? What? What what's going on, where is this context? And then I can go whether I zoom or whether I or whether I cut back on it and I cut back like this. And then I showed the bigger context later. All right, that's. A way of keeping people involved.