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How to encourage my son...


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#1 crazybetty

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 10:02 AM

I have an 8 year old boy who is 'interested' in film making. I say interested- as in I often have to MAKE him go outside and play like a normal kid. His room and art area are a mess of papers- stories and storyboards on the wall, scripts -even contracts for his little friends to be in his 'movies'! He's been doing this for 3 years. I thought he would probably move on to other things. He hasn't. I love that my son is a creative being and that he is very focused and I think it is my obligation as a parent to encourage him, however, I'm not sure where to start!

Should I buy him a camera?(mind you, this is a very mature 8 year old- I'd trust him before I'd trust his 12 year old brother!) Is there a camera that would be right for his age? Books?

What did your parents do for you?

I'd appreciate any helpful ideas. We live in a small town in Kansas- there's not exactly a wealth of information around here on the subject. I would be very grateful for any words that could point me in the right direction.

Many thanks in advance.
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#2 Jon Amerikaner

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 10:29 AM

I want to applaud you for wanting to encourage your son. My parents both encourage me to follow my dreams of being a filmmaker. And with their support I know I'll make it. My father always reminds me that if his father had encouraged him, he would have gone on to far greater things.

I think its great your son has found something he loves. Too often these days kids are being deprived of art and other hands on activities. Out here in CA shop, auto, and art classes are being replaced by computer and test prep courses.

I'm not a father myself. But I would advise you to continue encouraging your son, but without spoiling him. I think it would be appropriate to get him a very inexpensive digital video camera. But make him earn it. Tell him to save his money, or do chores, or that you will buy half the camera for him, etc. Or if you don't feel comfortable with a camcorder, a still camera might satisfy his thirst.

For me, once I was exposed to photography at summer camp, I was hooked. My dad dug out his old camera from the garage and gave it to me. Once I moved on to videography, my parents helped me buy a video camera.

As for your fear that your son is not participating in normal activities, well ask yourself what is normal? Many kids today sit down and watch TV, surf the internet, and play videogames as their ?normal? activities. I think if your son starts making films, he will turn off the TV, game console, and computer to go outside and make films! You might also encourage him to participate in other events and bring his camera to record them.

As long as your son is having fun and is filming safely, then I think everything is great. When your son is 25, just directed his first blockbuster film, and has bought dad and mom that perfect house for retirement, you?ll be proud of everything you?ve done for him.

Happy Dad?s Day!
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#3 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 11:34 AM

I have an 8 year old boy who is 'interested' in film making. ...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I think it's great your son enjoys filmmaking. Even if he later changes his mind and becomes a dentist or whatever, he'll probably always have fond memories of the films he made as a kid.

If you haven't already seen it, Oliver Stapleton BSC has a wonderfully detailed (and funny!) essay describing many film production-related careers on his website. It gives a good idea of some of the possibilities. Of course, it should be taken with a grain of salt, but there's a lot of wisdom inbetween the wit! :)
http://www.cineman.co.uk/index.html

The web can be a great resource. For example, although not necessarily geared toward youngsters, Ron Dexter's website contains a wealth of film-related info:
http://www.rondexter.com/

I'm sure others in the forum can suggest "kid"-oriented film resources, too.

All the best,

- Peter DeCrescenzo
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#4 aartaxx

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 12:47 PM

You can usually find a Super-8 (film) home movie camera at a thrift store for a few bucks. I'd get him one of those. They're much easier to use than a video camera. They're a lot harder to break and they produce an image that is far more interesting than a video camera. It will also be a huge event for him when the film comes back from the lab and you project it on a screen in your home. Unfortunately, they discontinued soundstripe Super8 years ago so he will only be able to make silent movies but, again, this may be a good thing. It will keep him focused on telling a story with pictures.

The film will cost more than video tapes. It will be harder to get the film and more money to have it developed and there will probably be shipping involved but all of this will keep you directly involved in the activity and he will likely appreciate it more. Every once in a while you could surprise him with a few new rolls of film.

Edited by aartaxx, 19 June 2005 - 12:51 PM.

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#5 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 01:02 PM

Any video camera would do. I started out at 7 using a kids black and white video camera plugged into my VCR, and made a few movies out of it. Mind you, to REALLY get into film making, you need a digital camcorder (you can pick them up cheap now) and a computer to edit the video on. That's ALL you need. Doesn't have to be a really good digital camcorder, just digital, something that you can upload your video onto computer with.

Although you need a fairly descent computer to edit it with. If you're running windows, I think you?ll find it comes with "Windows Movie Maker" (depending on what version of windows you have), this is a great piece of software for editing video.

But, if that's going a bit too far, just go to your local electronics store and pick up an 8mm camcorder or something. And when I say 8mm, I mean 8mm video, not cine. 8mm cine is not something I'd recommend someone to start out with, you need all the extra equipment to edit it, play it, record sound e.t.c. With video cameras you?re ready to go the moment you stick a tape and battery in the camcorder.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith, 19 June 2005 - 01:04 PM.

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#6 Wendell_Greene

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 01:10 PM

I would suggest a gift subscription to "American Cinematographer" magazine.
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#7 Mike Lary

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 02:20 PM

I would stick with video (maybe a Hi8 or digital8 camcorder) because working with film is a trial and error process that could be very expensive and frustrating for an eight year old. Video has an instant gratification factor that would probably work better with kids because your son can show his friends (cast and crew) the 'dailies' right away, which could in turn keep them enthusiastic about working on his movies. The camera should have a firewire port and your mac/pc will need one as well (unless you have a Buzz capture device or similar product). You should pick up a sturdy tripod as well, preferably one that pans and tilts, but stability is more important if you have to choose between models.

As far as editing is concerned, you can download Avid's free editing software. If you're on a Mac you can use iMovie. There are some other basic editing apps that are Freeware or Shareware that you can find if you search the web.

Someone brought up still photography. There's a great film on the Twelve Monkeys DVD that was made almost entirely out of still images with a narration that plays over them (it's not kid-friendly, but you could watch it for reference). Your son might have fun constructing a movie in that fashion as well if you have a digital still camera, and it would help him to see how compositions from one scene to another affect one another as well as how to develop rhythm.

I'm not pushing digital because I think it's better - I'm a film guy all the way. But, considering your son's age the important thing is probably to make the medium accessible and relatively simple so he can maintain his enthusiasm and have a lot of creative freedom.

As far as getting your son to play outside is concerned, maybe you could inspire him to make films outside by reading stories to him about adventures that happen in outdoor settings. If he sees some behind the scenes footage on filmmaking, he might want to go outside, scout for a good location to shoot (even if it's the backyard), and take some still images before making his movie.
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#8 Brian Wells

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 02:25 PM

Your son appears autodidactic. If independent study has worked well until this point, it seems that is a method which he is comfortable with. If I were a parent, and I am not, I would encourage a broad range of materials including technical journals (American Cinematographer) and novels. Being well read is something he can do now and is something he appears to enjoy anyways... Just a little more guidance could be provided to what he reads and views, if there already isn't.

Maybe you could help him make some films at home (through organizing, administrating, mentoring) and then submit them to a children's film festival. They are out there for all ages, and it seems your son would be positioned to excel given his interest in the area. What happens after that, I have no idea. I think storytelling and making a movie and having it shown are the first steps to being a filmmaker. Generally, things fall into place if it's meant to be. If this doesn't stop in five years, please prepare yourself to have him excused from many of his secondary school classes to be out on "shoots." :)

Hope this helps.
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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 03:55 PM

Hi,

The "well read" thing is a universal reccomendation; who shouldn't be! I think there's a books section on this site somewhere, although a lot of them might be a bit much for an eight year old (though possibly not.)

Technology wise, you certainly don't absolutely need to buy him a digital video camera, but I think it might be the most sensible way to go. Go and buy the cheapest thing you can find with "miniDV" written on it. This might seem like a fairly arbitrary thing to tell you to do, but it's the most available technology at the moment and will be for a while - and critically, it's easy to postproduce, or edit. Editing teaches you an enormous amount about shooting, so assuming you have a reasonably recent computer (anything in the last five years will be usable) you should pursue it, and a miniDV camera makes it fairly easy to do so without major technical headaches. The point is that shooting something, cutting it and then looking at the results is a closed-loop feedback process that leads to learning and improvement, and that goes as much for seasoned industry pros as anyone else.

Buying better, more upmarket gear comes later; for now, anything will do. It's not about the toys. Shoot something, cut it, see how it goes. Repeat until retirement age!

Phil
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 19 June 2005 - 08:27 PM

"Mind you, to REALLY get into film making, you need a digital camcorder"

I thought to really get into filmmaking you need a FILM camera?

I like the Super 8 idea better.

R,
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#11 Stephen Williams

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 02:02 AM

"Mind you, to REALLY get into film making, you need a digital camcorder"

I thought to really get into filmmaking you need a FILM camera?

I like the Super 8 idea better.

R,

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hi,

Super 8 IS the way to go to learn about film making.

Stephen
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#12 K Borowski

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 10:03 AM

Your son sounds a lot like I was as a young child. Of course, I was into being a rocket scientist at the time, not a filmmaker. This is something he may grow out of. I have gone through many phases since being a young child. Then I found film. I never got interested in video. In fact, I've probably shot about 4x as much film as video, with about 4 hours of film as opposed to only about an hour of video. I'm just starting out, but I can't stand the look of video. The artifacts, the compression algorhythms all degrade the look of the image. I'd get him both, a cheap S8, and a MiniDV. You can get S8 cameras just about ANYWHERE, on eBay, at thrift stores, even from the neighbor. Just make sure you get him a good one. There are all kinds of resources on S8 on the internet, so I encourage you to do some research and get a good one. Video will teach him lighting and composition, and film can be used for the actual project. Film is much more expensive than video but the final product is worth it. If his interest holds in making movies, maybe you should even consider a cheap 16mm camera, but only if he continues to hold interest in filmmaking.

Regards.
~Karl Borowski
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#13 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 10:07 AM

On the other hand, if he's 8 years old, he might not be working professionally until after 2015... maybe a video camera makes more sense considering how much more digital will be dominating production by the time he grows up. Just being pessimistic...
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#14 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 10:56 AM

"Mind you, to REALLY get into film making, you need a digital camcorder"

I thought to really get into filmmaking you need a FILM camera?

I like the Super 8 idea better.

R,

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Super 8 IS the way to go to learn about film making.

Stephen

Well, just remember, digital video IS the future. Plus, when shooting 8mm cine, you have to own lots of other equipment to edit it e.t.c.

Plus, I don't know what his abilities are, but most 8 year old kids would use the film up too quickly and the chances are it wouldn't be that great. With video atleast you can go back e.t.c. I mean, £5 per hour length tape! And you can re-use that without any loss of quality if it's a digital tape.

If your saying you'l get better results with 8mm cine... I think I'd have to disagree there aswell. I've seen lots of 8mm cine movies, and digital video looked so much better. Even digial video de-interlaced looked better.

-------------------

Reccomended equipment list:

MiniDV Camera
5 Hours worth of miniDV tape (£20?)
Velbon Tripod (£25)

--------------------

And if you want him to learn how to edit properly:

Firewire card for you computer (presuming you havent already got one) and firewire cable
Basic video editing software

---------------------

As for books:

A guide to photography (John Hedgecoe has a great book out)
The Guerilla Film Makers Movie Blueprint


Dan.
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#15 Richard Boddington

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 12:31 PM

If you want to be a video maker then your assessment is correct Daniel.

If you want to be a filmmaker then you need to shoot film.

Perhaps if you shot a film on film then you would get a better understanding of why so many of us are so insistant that film and video are DIFFERENT mediums.

It has nothing at all to do with being able to shoot an hour worth of video on a tape that costs five pounds, and edit it on your PC vs a movieola. That is completely irrelevant.

You can shoot a fine short film with two 100 foot rolls of Super 8, and learn a hundred times more than using DV. Please spare me the, "oh easy for you to say you're not buying the film," speech. Super 8 is cheap.

R,
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#16 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 01:26 PM

I disagree -- being a "filmmaker" has little to do with a specific photochemical process. Obviously a director who uses digital technology like Michael Mann is still a filmmaker. Otherwise he'd be 1/3 of a filmmaker on "Collateral" and 2/3 something else since he used the Viper. David Fincher, James Cameron, etc. are all filmmakers no matter what camera technology they use for a particular project. The "film" in filmmaker refers to "movies" not photochemical emulsions.

If someone wanted to be a cinematographer in this day and age, you MUST learn both film and digital. Look how much of my time is spent trying to keep up with new digital technology. It's just part of the job these days, and even more so for a beginner.

I think Super-8 is a good idea, it's only that for someone who is only eight, odds are much higher than for someone who is eighteen today, that digital will be the primary tool used by FILMmakers over a decade from now. Maybe not. But if I had to chose only one format for this little kid, to be realistic, he'd probably be better trained for the future if he understood digital technology, both camera and post.

I'm not talking about artistic training, which is format agnostic and has more to do with lighting and composition, and editing of images. In fact, THIS is the most important area of training and all that matters is that they use a camera & editing system that is cheap, so there's nothing wrong with using a video camera for this.

Kids are much more computer saavy these days and more than likely they are going to want to edit on a computer, which means a cheap DV camera makes more sense than a Super-8 camera where the footage has to be telecined. Otherwise, you'd have to outfit the kid with a Super-8 projector and an editor & splicer as well as the camera.

Get the kid both a Super-8 and DV camera if you can afford it.
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#17 Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 01:27 PM

If you want to be a video maker then your assessment is correct Daniel.

If you want to be a filmmaker then you need to shoot film.

Perhaps if you shot a film on film then you would get a better understanding of why so many of us are so insistant that film and video are DIFFERENT mediums.

It has nothing at all to do with being able to shoot an hour worth of video on a tape that costs five pounds, and edit it on your PC vs a movieola.  That is completely irrelevant.

You can shoot a fine short film with two 100 foot rolls of Super 8, and learn a hundred times more than using DV.  Please spare me the, "oh easy for you to say you're not buying the film," speech.  Super 8 is cheap.

R,

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Perhaps I should have said "movie maker" instead of "film maker". But come on you're just nit picking now.

Perhaps the disadvantages to shooting MiniDV is that he will most likely go for a consumer model, which usually allows you to set the shutter speed but the T-stops are measured by something completely different, like a number between 1 to 30. Which doesn't corrospond in any way.

So, in that respect, yes, cine will teach you more. Although personally I'd say learn all that stuff on a 35mm SLR, and the rest on DV. That's why I mentioned the photography book by John Hedgecoe.

Perhaps getting him a second hand manual 35mm SLR is of some use? You can pick them up for under £100 now.

He will go through reel after reel after reel of cine, which will cost a lot. And bare in mind, he's just "practicing". Atleast with digital technology you can use the same thing over and over again without having to buy anything more.

I'd say buy a cine camera when he's older and a lot more experienced. Atleast then, whatever cine he does use up, they will come out brilliantly.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith, 20 June 2005 - 01:29 PM.

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#18 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 02:16 PM

If knowing film technology was the most important aspect of filmmaking and cinematography, Coppola would have hired John Pytlak of Kodak to shoot "Apocalypse Now" instead of Storaro, because I'm sure that John knows a hell of a lot more about emulsion technology than Storaro. And Spielberg would have hired Al Mayer, Sr. of Panavision to shoot "Close Encounters" because Mayer designed the Panaflex. Or maybe he should have hired the guy who designed the anamorphic lenses.

I learned by shooting Super-8 not because it was a GREAT format but almost the opposite; my goal was to make it look as good as I could, as professional as I could, to make what I shot look like it belonged in a real movie.

Of course, ultimately the quality of the image would be limited by the format, but that's not the point. You give some kid a crappy single-chip DV camera and tell him to shoot a movie that looks like "The Godfather Part 2" and sure he'll fail technically, but in the process of trying to get that level of image in terms of light and composition, focal length choice, movement, editing, etc. he'd learn A LOT.

I learned over the years a lot about imagemaking using mainly movie cameras, but I went into shooting my first 24P HD feature fairly cold. Ultimately, I picked up enough technical stuff about the F900 to make the movie and some people still tell me it's the best looking HD movie they've ever seen, or I've ever shot, even though I know a lot more about HD now. Why? Because I know how to make IMAGES; figuring out the technical issues to make that image is often secondary to the basics of design, lighting, composition, etc. -- visual storytelling.

I can see some kid of the future using only digital cameras getting better and better, creating beautifully-lit and composed images, and getting feature work eventually using digital cameras... and someday, some director he works for is going to say "hey, let's shoot this movie on film". And probably that person will be smart enough to figure out how to do that just like I was smart enough to figure out how to use an HD camera. And he'll be supported by all those technicians out there that support the industry, people at Kodak and Arri or Panavision and at Deluxe or Technicolor, etc. And all the crew people he'll hire like his AC's, etc. And the movie will look great because he has the chops down on how to create great cinematic images: how to light and compose, understand coverage and editing, breaking down a script visually, etc.

The tools are important but there is way too much emphasis put on them mainly by people who perhaps aren't particularly artistic and therefore have to make claims that the particular technical knowledge they've learned is more important than anything else.
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#19 Richard Boddington

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 02:18 PM

"Otherwise, you'd have to outfit the kid with a Super-8 projector and an editor & splicer as well as the camera."

Yes, and...what's the problem with that?

I still have all of my Super 8 gear in perfect running order from my grade school days. Camera, projector, editor, splicer, you can buy it all for cheap on ebay these days.

In the highly unfortunate situation where my son (now two years old) one day decides to follow his dad into this business, I'll hand him the Super 8 gear, not the digital gear. But that's just me.

I say "highly unfortunate" because I know from first hand experience how incredibly tough and rotten the film biz can be. Which is why I will gently prod him toward the professions like, doctor or lawyer, etc.

At least that way he can be virtually assured of a good steady income for him self and his family, and a decent life style in exchange for his hard work in university. Which is some thing the film biz can in no way offer.

After doing my taxes for 2004 I see that I did pretty well, but it was a long tough slog up the mountain, I'm not sure I would openly encourage any young person to pursue a career in film with out solid family connections into the industry.

But again, that's just me.

R,
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#20 Mike Lary

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 02:44 PM

"Although personally I'd say learn all that stuff on a 35mm SLR, and the rest on DV"

I second that advice. I think people are forgetting we're talking about an eight year old kid here, or maybe forgetting what it's like to be that age. Young children grow faster when they are given creative freedom. Forcing him to learn about film speed, fstops, color balancing filters, loading a projector, splicing film, watching his project get scratched, jammed and destroyed in an old projector might frustrate him more than anything and push him away from the medium. Unless he has a really nice projector and a large, high quality screen to project the films on, he probably isn't going to appreciate the aesthetic of film over the crisp image from DV on a decent TV. He also won't have sync sound if he shoots 8mm or S8, which I don't see being very attractive unless he has an overwhelming desire to make silent films. Besides, I wouldn't let a kid with small fingers _touch_ a splicer, let alone edit his home movies on one, especially when he has an older sibling that Mom says she wouldn't trust with a camcorder. :blink: This isn't about the superiority of one medium over another; it's about the best way to nurture the creative spirit in a child and help him learn the most fundamental aspects of making movies. As he gets older, if he maintains his current level of enthusiasm, he can look into film equipment and learn how to use it. In the meantime, an old SLR would help him learn the technical aspects of rendering an image on film.
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