Don't be camera shy
"I have a theory that what you're capable of at one point in your career, you're no longer capable of doing at another point. You might get better, but you will not always be as inventive."
-Gordon Willis, ASC
I think this is true. Although I don't have the years of experience to back up my agreement, I have a hunch based on what I do know. This quote made me think about my own particular idea that developed through school, graduation and working.
The first time I taught a film class, I told my students, "Don't hold back now. You're in film school. This is the only time you have these resources and the ability to get away with ridiculous, crazy shit. Learn stuff that you always wondered how it was done, that you always wanted to try. You have the freedom to experience first hand what works and what definitely doesn't work. And don't be afraid of something not working."
How did I come to this, when most of the other teachers in this school were pushing for precise, commercial perfection, and an end product that could easily sell?
Let me tell you something right now: Your student films are not as important as you think they are. They are not going to get you a 3 picture deal, or a contract, or a meeting with a studio exec. They are not your masterpieces. Your masterpiece will come later. The most important thing you will get out of your student films is what you learn about storytelling.
So stop freaking out. Your film doesn't have to look like Kaminski shot it. The main thing riding on the result of this film is what you learn from it. There. Pressure's off.
The best way to make the most brilliant discoveries, and glorious mistakes (and/or happy accidents) is to just try out that "crazy shit"— stuff you are completely, utterly excited and curious about.
And since you're in school... you can get away with it now. This kind of opportunity to learn doesn't come up often. Don't be literally camera-shy. I understand that you might want to save that roll of 35mm film for a spec commercial with nice 3-point lighting, but I would have never learned how to film and light for a double exposed, in-camera effect if I had gone with something more tame. And when we screened my print, with my two unfortunately mismatched exposures, my whole class got to learn about how frame punches worked. I don't consider it a failure. I still love how it came out.
Overall, my time in film school was spent experimenting instead of building up a "commercial reel". I don't regret it. I learned a lot, developed a style, and I had a hell of a lot of fun. I think my style would be much different than it is now if I had played it safe. Actually, I don't know if I would even have any resemblance of a style yet, given my few short years in the field. So the time and resources to develop my own personal touch... that was invaluable. I loved film school for that.
Plus, I just ate it up when a fellow student turned to me in the screening theater and said, "Whoa, how did you do that?!"
And as a side note, while get all warm and fuzzy from the "How did you do that?!" responses, there is a stronger part of me that values the "Oh, I was caught up in the story, I didn't notice the camera," response more.
What do you think?