the Zero-Minute Film School

Some famous filmmaker once said that all the technical stuff you need to know in order to make movies can be learned in a few weeks. Robert Rodriguez, the maverick filmmaker who directed "El Mariachi", said that you can learn it in ten minutes. They were both being generous.

The truth is you don't need to learn anything. You already know what you need to know. End of school.

The only question you have to answer is do you want to make a film? If no, then don't. It's a free world. If yes, then make one. You don't have any excuses. Especially after you've read the appendix.


You already have what you need. What you don't have, you can buy. What you can't buy, you can borrow. If you can't borrow it, you don't need it.

Nobel-prize winner Toni Morrison wrote the stories she wanted to read. So, make the film that you would want to see. If you don't have a story yet in your mind, ask above or below or wherever your source is. If you still don't have one, shoot without one. Kidlat Tahimik and Wong Kar Wai make their films without a script. On the opposite end, the films of Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers are heavily story-boarded. Or you can work in the middle. Write a detailed script, but don't use it on the set. Remember, it's your film. You can do whatever.

Cast your friends and your family, but give them screen names so your credits won't look like a wedding invitation. If some stranger fancies your eye, ask them if they would like to be in your film. It won't hurt if you ask, unless they kick you in the face. If you're not what they call a people person, either shoot paparazzi style or don't shoot people. Shoot animals, nature, objects, time, places, non-people. Make your own rules.

If you can shoot it here, why shoot it there? Make use of the Russian Formalists' concept of defamiliarization. Transform your backyard into the Sahara, your CR into a court room, your sala into a Venutian's loveden. If you really want to shoot far and away, just make sure the bakasyonista-traveler within isn't the one deciding.

Even in the city, things have a natural way of arranging themselves. One just has to have an open eye to see that the set has been set by invisible hands. If you're not an adherent of the Found Art school of thought, bring in whatever props and materials you want, as long as it's in line with your vision and no unnecessary pockets emptied.

Shoot it till it's dead, or finished as they say. No sense dilly-dallying which camera angle to use etcetera. The point is to capture the ever-fleeting moment.

It's as easy as one, two, three; like asking someone to please pass the ketchup. Simply clear your thought and throat, tell them what to do, and they'll do it. If you're not happy, never do the old-school shout. Try and try until your actor gets you. Try to limit yourself to 3 takes if you don't want your head to explode on the editing table.

Make your own music. If you're not a musician (though you want to be, but that's another article), ask your musician friends to provide original music. If you don't have musician friends, befriend musicians; they don't bite. Ask around. Real musicians would like to do film music at least once in their career.

Option 1: No editing. What you've shot is what it is, beauty marks and all. Other options: If you can get your hands on an Avid or any editing suite, then cut, paste, and whatever away. A VHS machine can also do the trick. The point is never let anything or anyone get in the way of your film.

So, have you made the film you would like to see? Or is it something you haven't imagined seeing before? The answer is secondary. The bottomline is that you now have a film, a part of your life, in your hands. Don't forget to thank everyone who've contributed in any way to the creation of your film, including yourself. Congratulations! One down, more to go. Invite us.

Be yourself and never fear,
Khavn De La Cruz

Film is dead. Please omit flowers.


Film is dead. It is dead as long as the economy is dead, when public taste and creativity are dead, when the imagination of multi-national movie companies is dead. At millions of pesos per film production, there is not going to be a lot of happy days for the genuine filmmaker, the true artist who wants to make movies, not brainless displays of breasts and gunfire.
But technology has freed us. Digital film, with its qualities of mobility, flexibility, intimacy, and accessibility, is the apt medium for a Third World Country like the Philippines. Ironically, the digital revolution has reduced the emphasis on technology and has reasserted the centrality of the filmmaker, the importance of the human condition over visual junk food.

Film is dead. Please omit flowers.

Economics: A minute of celluloid film including processing costs around P1500. A minute of digital film costs around P3. Do the math. A galaxy of difference.

The only way to make a film is to shoot it. Shoot when you can. Do not delay. If you can finish everything in a day, why not? Sloth is the enemy of the Muse. The shadow filmmaker has now run out of excuses.

Your digital camera will not turn you into an instant Von Trier, Figgis, or Soderbergh. Your attitude towards filmmaking should be that of an amateur: half-serious, playful, light, not heavy, thus without baggage. There are no mistakes. The important thing is you learn.

Utilize all elements within your resources. If you have a knack for music, score your own soundtrack. If you have writing skills, craft your own screenplay. If you have money, invest in gear. If you have none of the above, make sure you have good friends.

Work within a minimized budget, cast, crew, location, and shooting schedule. Artificial lighting is not a necessity. The story is king. Everything else follows.

Work with what you have. Release the bricoleur within. You are not a studio. Accept your present condition. Start here.

Forget celebrities. Fuck the star system. Work only with those who are willing to work with you, and those who are dedicated to the craft. Avoid pretentious hangers-on with hidden agendas. Use a lie detector if needed.

Work with humble, patient, passionate, and courageously creative people. Ignore people who are the opposite.

If you are alone, do not worry. Digital technology has reduced the crew into an option, rather than a must. Making a film by yourself is now possible. The past is dead. Those who do not change will die.

Create first, criticize later. Take care of the quantity. God will take care of the quality - that is, assuming you do believe in God. A filmmaker makes films, period.

In the name of the revolution,

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Mendel Hardeman archief 1999-2006
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