How To Become A Better Filmmaker Every Day

Filmmaking is hard and expensive. How can you build a daily practice?

Photo by Kyle Loftus from Pexels


A few years back I put this very same question to filmmakers on Twitter: “what is your equivalent to practicing scales?” I asked.

A common rallying cry you hear these days is “if you want to be a filmmaker, just go and make a film!” It’s well intentioned, but it makes too many assumptions and leaves people without an iPhone or a free Saturday feeling bad about themselves.

It also conflates two different kinds of practice. We need to iron these out to answer Brendan’s question.

External Practice

This is practice that leads to the creation of something. It’s the argument that the best way to practice is to have a project, some kind of outcome you are shooting for.

Internal Practice

This is a kind of practice that has no external results: it is practice for practice sake. It is the equivalent of the piano scales played alone, the hour of drawing gestures before tossing them in the bin or the penalty shootouts kicked to an empty stadium.

Like a meditation practice (which also only works if you do it alone, daily) it is not about what the individual moment produces; it is about how the practice strengthens you over time.

I am not saying one kind of practice is better than the other, but here is some good advice: before you begin, decide what kind of practice session you want it to be.

  • work small: work on the smallest size paper you can. It’s a lot easier to feel like you’re building momentum when you’re tearing through a pad of cheap paper.
  • work in pen: this forces you to commit and make a mess.

Video artist working at The New York Times. I write a weekly newsletter about visual storytelling and creativity.

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