Back in 2003 before I knew anything about film making or cameras, and when I was obsessed with motorcycling, I shot some interviews of my motorcycling friends with a small Panasonic handy cam. More than a decade later I turned the forgotten project into something worth-while, something that proves my point that Any Camera Will Do..

At the time of filming I put most of my money into my motorcycle. I wanted to make films but I really didn’t know how. What I did have was a small Panasonic handicam. This was a small camera with no manual controls, no XLR inputs, no ND filters. Just a basic standard def handicam.

What it did have though was a 16×9 option when most cameras were 4×3. Even back then I was concerned with camera specs and foolishly harbored an attitude that it was not worth shooting a project unless you had a great camera. I didn’t even know what made a camera “great”, but still a great camera seemed necessary and I was pretty sure that the camera I had was not great. Due to this attitude I talked more about making films than I ever actually made films.

This leads to the first 2 obstacles I feel that film makers face. Knowing how to make the film you want to make and knowing people that can help you. Back in 2003 the internet was not the same as it is now. No Youtube, no Vimeo. There wasn’t the plethora of instructional videos on film making that there is now. There also was not the abundance of film making forums and I didn’t know anyone else that wanted to make film. I had no experience and no one to tell me how to do it.

I collected interviews with many people in my riding group. Totally unsure of what I wanted to achieve, just the desire to make something pushing me to keep collecting interviews and bike related footage.

The number of mistakes I made while shooting were legion. I put the mic in silly spots. Not knowing about audio, or even framing, the mic was often in shot. I rewound the tape to playback some of what I had just recorded only to then forget to fast forward the tape to the point I could record again and so I re-recorded over the stuff I had shot just minutes ago.

Once the footage was shot it stayed on the DV tapes unedited. I didn’t know about short formats like 2-6 min mini docos that are now so popular. People like Philip Bloom have made the micro doco a real art form and popular across the internet. I just didn’t know what to do with the footage. Eventually the tapes were lost in my stuff, somewhere in a box.

Years later I found the tapes. Still unsure of what to do with them but unwilling to throw them away, I captured them onto my hard drive and there they sat for another several years. Eventually I worked with my friend, editor Josh Phillips, to see if there was anything usable in the footage.

Take a look and see what you think:

What Does This all Mean?

The reason I write this is because I still see film makers young and old getting hung up on what camera they are going to shoot on. Or whether to shoot in 4k or not. That stuff can seem important, but it’s really not as insurmountable as it appears. I got hung up on that stuff and it just slowed me down. Here are some tips for actually getting out there and making movies:

  • You are only as good as your 5 closest friends. So surround yourself with positive, pro active people. If you have negative, unhelpful people around you, jettison them asap.
  • Any camera will let you tell a story, hell there are many ways to tell a story with out a camera at all. So take what you have and shoot. Shoot often. Edit it together, put it online, get some feedback and do it again and this time even better than the last.
  • Resolution is far less relevant than you think. No audience member cares what you shot it on. There are a million boring as hell films shot on amazing cameras, no one watches them though cause they are boring.
  • Don’t let setbacks make you give up. My wee film took over a decade but I am now really happy with what I have. Its a window into what my life revolved around over a decade ago. Keep at it and you will improve, you will get where you want to go if you persevere.
  • There is always a story out there to tell. Your friends have stories, your parents have stories, your neighbors, the guy up the road, every one has stories. Go out and find them. They are every where. As a film maker your job is to identify the story and tell it in the most compelling way possible.
  • Story trumps everything, camera work, graphics, resolution, everything. Bad acting and most importantly bad audio can hurt your film but great everything wont save an uninteresting story.
  • Don’t be afraid to be crap. If you are afraid, you wont do it. Be fearless and make bad film, you will get better. But if your afraid you wont do it and you wont get better.
  • Work with people, collaboration is the life blood of the film making art. With out Josh ‘The Ride’ would never have been made. You collaborators and friends are important to the process and helping you grow. You cant do it all your self and there is always some one who can do something better than you so work with them and together you can make something better than ether of you on your own.

What do you think is an important lesson you have learned as a film maker?

Working on a cool project, short film, feature, something media/screen related tell us about it and what you learned along the way.

Keep shooting and keep telling stories,

Nat J

P.S. im the goofy looking guy on the right of the pic at the top. 🙂

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