Indiewire has an interesting interview with the Hollywood director and producer Brett Ratner. Among other things, the conversation touched on what talents and skills Hollywood looks for in young (or beginning) filmmakers.
Here is Ratner’s answser:
“Look, the technical part of filmmaking you can learn in a book. You can teach it to yourself. The harder part is moving the audience — making them laugh, making them cry. If a short film on YouTube or whatever affects me that way, it comes to my attention and makes me interested in that filmmaker’s ability to take me on a journey. Having a point of view is important. The problem is that a lot of filmmakers are trying to define their style. They want to be the next Spielberg or Scorsese. You don’t have to do that with your first film. You just have to discover who you are and what your interests are.”
There are a couple of points here that stood out for me. Since most filmmakers start out with minimal budgets, it is natural that most of the stress is about the technical aspects of the film. Oftentimes, a filmmaker prioritizes the budget on better equipment (especially the camera) rather than, for example, more shooting time. As Ratner suggests, this might be the wrong approach – especially if your goal is to be noticed by Hollywood.
I think anyone who has done at least a few short films will agree that infusing the audience with emotions and controlling those emotions is the hardest thing.
I don’t really agree with Ratner, though, that it is a mistake for beginning filmmakers to try to define their own style. The best time to experiment would seem to be when you start out. Once you are given a big budget, you have much less control of your film and delivering financial results becomes the priority.
In the interview, Ratner also touches on how he made it into Hollywood. You can see the full interview here. But if you want to hear the full story of how Ratner broke in, check out the book “Breaking In: How 20 Film Directors Got Their Start”. It is a really informative and entertaining book.
By the way, if you are looking for good filmmaking books, check out Tom’s post where he recommends his favourites.
As a final note, I wanted to throw out an idea that working in Hollywood is perhaps not the goal that beginning filmmakers should be setting for themselves. Sure, it is important to achieve a level of accomplishment and recognition that allows to finance film and video projects. But working in the Hollywood system is not necessarily as wonderful as it might seem to the outsiders. For a great perspective from someone who has worked on both studio and small indie films, see this keynote speech given by Mark Duplass at the 2015 SXSW festival.
Post feature image by David Shankbone