Elements of Cinema

After years of studying the craft and business of filmmaking, combined with a relentless pursuit for movie watching and endless discussions with some gate keepers, I’ve come to realize a concept that most film students and novice filmmakers fail to understand. This notion I’m about to share ought not to be ignored by those determined to become filmmakers (although it often is).

With no further ado, here it goes:

A film is composed by many elements that, when mixed together, can create pure beauty or an annoying mess. The magic of filmmaking is combining the best elements, at best dosages, at the right time. Acquiring mastery over these elements is something that takes years upon years of restless trials and sheer devotion.

If this idea sounds obvious, it’s because it is obvious. However, most people don’t fully fathom what that means. And those that do understand fail to invest the necessary time to learn all these elements. And by elements, we mean the lighting, camerawork, the script, the actors, the decor… and much more.

It is true that in the Hollywood realm, movies produced by studios have an enormous advantage over movies produced by independent companies and film students. Hollywood studios have money and employees. And all those people you see in the credits are responsible for putting a film together. They are in charge of the elements we mentioned above. Task is broken down  and production becomes manageable.

For film students, however, the picture is quite different. Struggling for budget, fighting for locations, begging for equipment, and avoiding insurance fees are common headaches. And these are production issues that pile on top of the creative endeavor inherent to filmmaking.

The most reoccurring mistake is that inexperienced filmmakers favor one element over others. Some focus primarily on cinematography, or the story, or the acting, or editing, or color correction… No! Filmmaking is the combination, or the marriage, of all of theme. To neglect one of these elements is to handicap the very art form you should love.

My website – www.elementsofcinema.com – is but a minor tool in the mastery of these elements. Although practice and trial is essential for attaining filmmaking skills, having understanding of the concepts taught in my website is essential for a decent practice and faster learning.

Think of my website as a map that guides you through a maze of possibilities. Walking the right paths in the maze is analogous to filming the right away. Trial and error is a valid approach, but using a map is safer and faster.

And just so you know, each of the elements can be broken down further into minor elements. Screenwriting, for instance, is already an element of filmmaking. But a script can be broken down into genre, structure, and characters. Characters can then be broken down into heroes, villains, and secondary characters. Again, this could seem obvious, but have you really spent enough time to understand how to craft a credible, interesting, and unique villain?

Filmmaking is not a simple business. If you want excel as a filmmaker, it is time to learn your craft… and every element that goes in it.


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