Study the movies you watch

Just some quick advice to indy filmmakers.
Study the movies you watch. I don't just watch movies anymore. I'll have a big note pad and a pen and I'll make notes as I watch a movie. I hit pause a lot and jot down notes as I am watching. If the director used an interesting camera angle or lighting set up etc. I have stacks of note books of things I have jotted down about various films. Some times I have several sets of notes for a single film. Some notes are from the POV of a director, some as an Editor, others as a screen writer. Often times I will have the actual script of the movie I am watching and I will make notes as to how the final film deviates from the script. Some times I just have pages of what shots were used, establishing shot, two shot, over the shoulder, close up, reverse angle etc.
Watch a movie as if it is your own personal film school. I think of movies as this is a successful director showing me how to make a movie. There is something you can learn from absolutely every movie you watch. Watch as many films as you can, from as many genres as you can. Watch films from every era. You will be amazed at what you can learn from older films.
You don't have to do this all the time. I try to really study a movie once or twice a week. I think its a good habit for filmmakers to get into. If you are serious about film making it is a good way to get better at your craft.
Just a suggestion, hope it helps.


  • SimonKJones
    SimonKJones Posts: 4,448 Enthusiast
    Similarly, listen to commentaries on DVD/blu-rays. They're really invaluable. Some filmmakers such as Robert Rodriguez and David Fincher go into massive detail about their work.
    If you're about to shoot a particular sequence, watch some of your favourite films that have similar sequences. About to shoot a major dialogue sequence between a couple of characters? Watch the cafe scene from Heat, or a Tarantino movie. About to shoot an action sequence? Watch something by the Wachowskis, or James Cameron, or John Woo.
    You don't even have to like the movie, as long as it has something you can take away from it. Also, it's not about copying style so much as learning from technique: how are effective action sequences edited and shot?
  • MasterWolf
    MasterWolf Posts: 369
    I agree director's commentaries are awesome. I have learned so much from Rob Rodriguez and Ridley Scott and others.
    And also I agree that absolutely every film has something you can learn from. Besides its easier sitting through a boring chick flick your girl friend made you watch, if you stop watching the movie and start paying attention to camera angles and lighting etc.
    Stephen King wrote in his book On Writing, "if you don't have time to read, then you don't have time to be a writer." I take the same view on films, if you don't have time to watch films then you don't have time to be a filmmaker. Watch movies, lots of movies, and pay attention, consciously watch, take notes and learn from what you watch.