Friday, June 8, 2012

A Fly On The Wall: Listening to Legends and My Love of the Craft

For the past six months, I've been acting as a co-producer and lead editor for a feature-length web documentary on cinematography and storytelling. In it, I've had the chance to witness and listen to some top cinematographers provide incites into their philosophies and life lessons they've learned over the years. It's been a complete joy to receive this education and inspiration from these individuals and I only wish more young filmmakers could have the same opportunity.

One of the questions we've been continually asking has been 'What do you love about what you do?' And as broad as that question is, most of these legends answers were relatively similar. They loved working with people, they loved telling stories, they loved how different each day is.

I've been thinking about how I would answer this question and I think my answer is a little more self-serving and romantic than most of these legends. Perhaps it marks the infancy in my career in contrast to them, or it shows where my hunger lies in terms of growing in this profession, or maybe I've just had more time to gestate and consider my answer.

For me, I am in love with the idea of the Craft. Not just the craft of cinematography, the craft of directing, the craft of writing, or the craft of editing. I am in love with the craft of filmmaking. By that I mean that ever-evolving, ever-yearning fire in the belly that we all have to learn everything there is to know about telling a story through moving pictures.

The craft, to me, is about developing our sensibilities and expanding our knowledge of the grammar of filmmaking to obtain an emotional response from every single shot of a film. It's a life-long dedication to learning, sharing and collaborating with individuals with that same yearning. I think that's the best encapsulation of my love for this career.

It's the subtle nuances that matter in storytelling and the delicate idea of the craft that really excites me. What the story is, is just as important as how the story is told. And I think deep down inside me, that is the core of why I love filmmaking. It's about how the words are turned to life. It's about the slightest facial gestures in a performance, about that right camera move that accentuates the emotional tone of that particular shot. It's about how all of those shots are cut together in sequence, their pacing and how the film feels as a whole.

Warren Buckland talks about the idea of 'Organic Unity' in Directed By Steven Speilberg: Poetics of the Contemporary Hollywood Blockbuster (a great read for anyone interested in deep analysis and criticism of Spielberg's body of work); where the message of the film, the tone and structure in which it's told achieve harmony and work together to take that story to a new level. I think when organic unity is achieved, it is the ultimate reward for someone like me who loves filmmaking for the sake of the craft.

It's the payoff of hard work and the majesty of 'movie magic' when things just click and fall into place that really keeps me going. I love film for what it is. It's an illusion in which a mass of people with different backgrounds, different problems, different fears can all go into the same dark room together and share the same cycle of emotions. That's powerful.

I will forever be on the hunt to expand and improve my skills as a filmmaker in order to achieve organic unity and provide that dark room full of strangers something that will unite them for that brief instance in time and resonate with them and in some capacity shape them as human beings.