It’s all about the story! Have you noticed that storytelling is trending everywhere online and offline? As it turns out, the oldest activity in the world, the first communication tool in the world, is back!
As we humans evolved we began with a need to communicate and express ourselves. It is human. If you read articles about storytelling and sharing stories you will find out that it is a basic need for humans to tell and share stories. Stories are the way we communicate an event. Whether it’s a headache we woke up with or a street fair we experienced it seems as everything we do and say ends up being a story.
Like our lives, stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. All language developed as a need to share and express ourselves. We used to tell stories in small local circles, but since the explosion of social technologies, now everyone can reach everyone else with their stories! When we first learn to speak as babies we yearn to share stories even before we can express them with language. Babies do the “baby talk” thing and although it sounds garbled to us, it is speech to the baby. As the baby develops into a toddler they begin to walk up to complete strangers, if not shy, and tell grand stories about little things. For example, the child just got a banana and they really like bananas. They want to share that with the world it seems.
As children grow they learn how to form stories and even get creative with their stories, most parents call it lying. But to a child it is not lying it is just an expression. It is their attempt at getting your attention and keeping it much like the stories you tell a child. Finally we grow old enough to express ourselves through written language, spoken language and the universal language of the arts. Today, even businesses are to create stories through “content” through their company’s work and appearance. Social media has opened the door of language to the world online. Because of it we can share our stories with the entire world. Who are we? What do we do? Why do we do it? These questions must be answered for someone to connect to you.
Just as a friendship begins with sharing stories, the relationships we have with strangers, customers, fans and others consist of the same process. Storytelling has arrived in full circle. We are all creators. We are all artistic in some way or another. Art has a heart and it involves expression and passion. It means something different to everyone and if it does, the artist has connected one form of expression which connects with the differences and similarities of all human beings.
The best form of storytelling universally is through films. Whether it is a movie or a documentary, a musical or animation…everything has a story. Everything is an expression. And the person consuming the story is taken away from themselves and inserted into the storyline and wearing the shoes of the protagonist on screen. In many ways, it is an escape from being who we are to being someone else.
A film can be one minute long and make an impact. Commercials will make you desire things you never knew existed within thirty seconds! They too are sharing a story. And the content of your story is key.
Everyone we meet has seen a movie. I don’t think there is anyone left in the world who has not experienced a movie of some sort, a story told through film or video. Why should this form of expression and storytelling be limited to a few? Why should the media only share stories made by big, powerful storytellers and ignore the stories of everyday people in the world? Instead of going into detail about the reasons for this, I am sure you understand what I am referring to because it is all around you. There is a place in Hollywood for the best storytellers. Do you believe that? I sure wish I could. However, that is a myth. There are storytellers all around the world with a dream to create films and share stories through the film medium. The only reason they are shut out of the system is because they can’t afford it, they don’t have the network or connections to make it happen and they don’t think they can compete with the “best” storytellers in Hollywood. But the truth is that the world is changing.
Years ago, theaters where movies are presented began to lose revenue. People found an alternative. The alternative was the Internet and all sorts of stories were shared online by those who could at least afford to make films without the backing of a big studio. They are independent filmmakers. They fund their own projects and buy or lease their own equipment which is very expensive. They work long hours for months at a time and they take their stories to film festivals around the world hoping to get their films distributed.
The child who is speaking and sharing a story needs an audience. So does the filmmaker. The bigger the audience the better they feel about their work. Filmmakers work extremely hard to get their story “in the can” as they say in film. They work very hard, sometimes only to see their films go nowhere and be watched by no one. It is disheartening. Others keep trying but they cannot afford the gear, especially the camera. And then they need to learn a bit of engineering to run the big cameras or pay someone a lot of money to film their story. It is tough enough to find a small crew, and most end up with what is called a “skeleton” crew. That means basically, just the absolute minimum. A camera person, a director, a lighting and grip person, a sound/mic operator and a production assistant to fill in the gaps. I may have missed one or two but you get what I mean. They also have to spend money in one way or another. And that is just for production, the recording.
They still need actors and need to pay them somehow. After production they need to get the story into a completed video or film to share it, whether online, at film festivals, or both. That means, an editor and someone who can colorize and sweeten the audio and create special effects if required, on both video and sound.
Filmmaking is a challenge, to say the least. But it is a dream for many. It is something a lot of people have a desire to do, myself included. Many of us want to make that epic film we have already written or imagined. We want to share our story with the entire world so that everyone will have the chance to experience it, whether it is on a 35 foot screen or a four inch screen on a mobile device. Most filmmakers just want everyone to see their films. The child in all of us wants to say: “Look what I made!”
There is an option to making the films you dream about making. It’s called Mobile Film. You and your child and your grandmother and your boss all have a mobile phone or access to one. Let me first say, all filmmakers would love to be paid for their work just like the candy maker gets paid to give you that flavorful experience. And rightly you should pay. Many filmmakers who wish to get paid for their candy, I mean films, believe that the quality of their film is what gets them the huge audience that will pay them. It’s a myth.
Funnily enough there are small videos on YouTube with millions of viewers who do not pay the filmmakers for their work. And their work is presented on a TV screen or a laptop screen, a tablet or a phone screen. Many filmmakers are upset that the value of a good film has spiraled downward. In other words, people won’t pay for watching that film. They are upset to have spent so much money, time and hand work to end up being watched on a small screen as a “time-killer” usually. When they would rather you plan to watch their film like an event. Everyone get in the car, drive to a theater, pay and spend two to three hours of their day watching a film on the big screen. They expect you to share this on social media like those who attend big concerts and festivals or perhaps like some who bought a new car.
Unfortunately, the mindset has to bend to the reality of what is happening today. Today, people are not only going to watch what they want to watch but they are not really listening or caring that a Hollywood industry is trying so hard to get their loyalty back. The days of watching films only on cable or when they come to the theater are over. Viewers have found an alternative and they found shorter films which excite them. Not only that, they can share what they watch with their friends and family directly. Instead of explaining they simply share the link on social media. They let their friends see for themselves and then they get kudos in the form of likes and smiles. The world went mobile a few years ago and it’s the business community which is working to catch up.
So how do you explain to a filmmaker that to compete with Hollywood they should simply ignore it? I know some of you are going to not like what I just said. But if you ignore Hollywood and pay more attention to the world online you may like it. Forget the big camera. Forget learning all the features and buttons and what they all do. Begin anew with a different camera. The one you already have access to with a Full HD or even 4K video camera. Forget that your film may not look as wonderful on the biggest screens and concentrate on another virtue of the quality of your film: Your Story.
Once you have a great story you can adapt your camera to capture it. Grab your phone and begin to create films and share them. All your films will end up online anyways. The cable companies realize this and soon enough it will be the main way to broadcast, which is to say online, video stream. Last year we experienced a film made for the theaters which was all over the news because of a North Korean threat. Remember that? It ended up premiering on the online video social media outlet, YouTube. I read many reviews of the film and found no complaints about the quality of the film not streaming well for anyone with a good internet connection. Sure the profits were not like they would have otherwise been at the Home Box Office. My question to myself was: What if they would have shot the movie using mobile phones? Their costs would have gone down because their crew would shrink but the expense of a camera would have been minimized. Would they have made a profit at that point? I don’t know but certainly they would have spent less making the film.
However, let’s say you are not a filmmaker. Perhaps you just wish you could be. You can. All you need to do is find out how easy it is to learn to use your phone to make a film. And that is very doable. So if you have the camera what do you need? Just do it. Just give it a shot. Make a five minute movie, or even a one minute movie! Share a small story in a big way. Go all out with your phone; the cost is free. Use the time you already have on a weekend or perhaps during this summer’s vacation. You don’t have to make a big film to get started. You can practice. And the results of your practice and what you create will flatter you. Yes it will because even those who have no knowledge on how to make films can do it.
We all grew up with television and cinema. We know more about how it works than we can consciously understand it. Psychologically we are conditioned to absorb media, commercials, films and more…we know how to do it as soon as we get our feet in the water! If you have ever watched a movie you will know how to make one. And without the complicated professional camera you can now compete with that Hollywood film. You can even make an action film with special effects. As you try it the manufacturers of smartphones are working hard to create the best cameras on their devices with the best lenses, the best recording quality and they are even working on the quality of sound capturing. So by the time you are done practicing, the industry may put out a phone with a great camera better than anything we have now, and we even have 4k (four times HD quality) on over 20 phones available now.
The quality of the lenses is getting better and some of the big camera manufacturers like Canon who have wonderful lens technology are losing a lot of the market they once owned on consumer digital cameras. So they would be smart to partner with Apple, Samsung and the rest to produce their lenses to fit on phone cameras taking everything to a new level.
As the founder of an international mobile film festival and mobile film resource center this is my passion and my work. It has been something I have been thinking about since 2001. Thinking too far ahead of the times came with a realization that I needed to wait for the phones to get better. But when they did I finally went to work on sharing my idea. And I found I was not alone. Some of my collaborative partners were experimenting with the idea back in 2004. What I did not realize though, is that the world was going to trend on storytelling and sharing. But I always realized that films are the best medium for expressing a story into something that could affect people and even cause compassion like documentaries, my favorite genre, does.
Since 2009 it’s been a great adventure for me. It has also given me a way to help all the wonderful film crews and directors and filmmakers I have met who are only a portion of the numbers around the world, to realize their dream. Just do it. Give it a shot. Open your phone’s camera app and set it to video and begin to play. Have fun and connect with people around the world through storytelling. Our film festival is accepting submissions FREE for MFF2016. The competition is open to all humans regardless of age, income or expertise. All the films are competing in an equal arena exclusively to films shot on only mobile phones. You will not compete with other devices or cameras. But we don’t accept films from just one manufacturer like Apple with their iPhone, we accept all mobile phones: Cell and Smart too.
Not only is it free to submit but we have resources to help get you started. And if for some reason our criteria doesn’t fit for your mobile phone film then we have embraced and partnered with other film festivals around the world which give you an opportunity to screen your film in their festivals directly from our website.
Our festival is traditional in many ways but innovative in others. We don’t screen the films online until after the film festival event. We provide a venue for the film festival where filmmakers come from all over the world to present their films to the audience and share their experience with other filmmakers who attend. We also host a red carpet awards ceremony and enjoy their delight as they watch their films shot with the little hand-held device, screen on the big screen.
We also want to get the schools involved with our workshops program to provide an incentive for youth to benefit from mobile filmmaking as a way to create educational videos to their peers and then join the world in our film festival annually. And if you are a business then you know that your staff can make videos for your blog but they are not up to par with what professionals do for you. However, it is your story. Isn’t it? Let’s just train a number of your staff to share your story through video using mobile phones and invite your customers and clients to be a part of it as well. We have a program for you too.
I have worked in video and film, mainly video and played almost every position you can imagine. I was a media manager and videographer and editor for a non-profit company that was smart to implement storytelling through video from the inception of their organization and their goals. I have experience with promos and corporate videos but also have worked as cinematographer, script supervisor, boom operator, screen writer or script writer for different mediums, as production assistant, production coordinator and more.
Why would everything I have learned in life lead me to believe in mobile filmmaking? It is the future of the industry. Just do it. Be a pioneer and begin to use your phone. Give it a shot. Make a film by yourself or create a small group of friends or colleagues who will humor you or find it cool to try. The summer is here and so are YOUR movies. Don’t fall victim to, “My phone doesn’t have a good enough camera.” Stretch yourself. If you need assistance you can reach out to us. We love humans. We love helping to make dreams come true. We love to give filmmakers the Star treatment during our film festivals. We love that you are sharing your stories, real or made up. And we would love to help you with distribution of your mobile film.
For everyone else, you can also contact us to collaborate, sponsor or just be a part of the movement or evolution taking place in the mobile film industry. Good luck and hope you enjoyed the story.
A special thank you to Robert David Duncan Pictured below on far right. Mr. Duncan proofed this article and is a collaborative partner with his Miniature Film Festival listed on our website with our other collaborative partners.