Long before I worked in the industry professionally, I remember the magic of filmmaking. Looking over my student films and screenplays, I remember the magic of filmmaking. I think about the person I was when I worked an entire summer just to purchase a used Arri BL 16mm film camera and rolls of film.
Back then (and it wasn’t too long ago) you needed so many elements to make a film. The camera wasn’t enough. You needed an audio recorder. So I convinced my friend Tim to save his money and buy a Nagra audio recorder and a boom mic.
The camera, film and audio wasn’t enough. I needed a location. So I convinced my friend Chad to let me use his house. Then I needed to light the house. So I convinced my friend Jim to “borrow” some lighting from the production company he worked for. (He really did just “borrow” that stuff.) Then we needed to feed the cast and crew. So I convinced my mom to cook lunch and make snacks.
How To Keep The Magic of Filmmaking Alive
The magic of filmmaking is ingrained in the creative process. When you’re making a movie, it isn’t about the outcome. I mean, yes, you want to do great work. And you want people to enjoy your show. But there is something about production and those nights when you stare at your ceiling until 4AM, too excited to sleep…
You are wondering if you have enough equipment or if you’re crazy for choosing such a creative path in life. You’re dreaming of first film festival success, then a career in Hollywood. You’re dreaming of those times when people ask you to work, instead of you asking for work.
All of these thoughts flow through your mind.
Then you roll out of bed early, because you haven’t slept a wink. You arrive on set with coffee jitters. You’re wondering what is going to go wrong. What is going to go right? And as more people arrive on set, followed by more people, followed by more… You’re part of something big, something magical.
When it works, a feeling of oneness comes over you and your crew and your cast… And everything just flows. You set up the camera for the first shot. You share some of your mom’s snacks around the craft service area. You have a few laughs. And regardless of outcome, you know – I mean, everyone around you knows too, that you’re in the moment of real filmmaking magic.
What you’re about to create will be around long after you pass. And for some reason, this feels religious and sacred.
The first time you hear the audio guy announce “speed,” your heart beats a little faster, then they call out the slate and with the clap – the word action escapes your lips – and like passing into another world, you create a world, a new world for you around you.
Filmmaking magic can’t be taught. If you haven’t experience this, it can’t be explained. It’s just something reserved for those of us who know. It’s passion, but more like an addiction. It is like trying to find part of yourself. Maybe the more ideal version of yourself…
In the moment between action and cut, you in fact are somewhere else. Somewhere maybe better. Somewhere magical. And maybe this is why we continue to do what we do.
It doesn’t matter if you’re making your first short movie, or your 15th feature – we make movies because there is always that promise of wonderment. Keep the magic of filmmaking alive! And while you’re at it, download my filmmaker checklist.