Chayse Irvin is defined by contradiction: “I’ll shoot black and white. I’ll shoot color. I’m mixing things. I’m breaking the rules of image continuity,” he told us. But, the more you learn about him, the more you see that he’s not contradicting for the sake of contradiction. He’s disciplined and methodical, which makes him less a man of contradiction and more a man of paradox. There’s real meaning in it.
Question: Are you the type of person who carefully checks the temperature of a swimming pool before slowly, over the course of an hour or so, working your way into the water? Or are you someone who dives into the deep end headfirst like a lunatic? If you’re the second type, then you might have a bright future in film.
If you want to get filmmakers worked up in a hurry, talk about film school. Opinions are as varied as they are impassioned. As they should be. Film school requires a lot from a person. It takes a lot of money, a lot of time, and, ultimately, a lot of trust.
There’s this concept in psychology called “flow.” It’s that moment when you become so fully immersed in your work that you lose all sense of time, sense of space, and sense of yourself. They say it happens when your challenge is perfectly matched to your ability, and that people who often reach “flow” are the happiest people on the planet.
The quickest way to do bad work is to worry about doing bad work. It’s that well-known truth all over again: We move toward what we focus on. At some point, the people who make great things stop worrying so much about making bad things, and they start getting work done, getting projects finished, getting pieces out there. They eschew perfectionism in favor of productivity. They work fast — and fearlessly.
The tagline at the end of Volvo’s new ad, “Moments,” says: Sometimes the moments that never happen matter the most. If there’s a corresponding idea in filmmaking, it might be this: Sometimes what you don’t show is the most affecting. In “Moments” — an ad as heartwarming/heart-wrenching as any we’ve ever seen — a young girl speculates about the rest of her life before starting her first day of school. What friends will she make? Where will she travel? Who will she meet? What unfolds is a fantasy within a fiction: an entire life in less than four minutes. What you see is beautiful, striking even. But ultimately, it’s just a stencil for what you don’t see. The story — the girl’s life — is the negative space.
How can you become a better filmmaker when there are so many aspects of filmmaking to improve? It’s easy to get overwhelmed. But here’s the thing: Filmmaking is inherently interdisciplinary. Every piece is related to everything else. Improving one part has a strange way of improving the whole. So when we asked some of our favorite cinematographers for their advice on taking their work to the next level, we realized that everything they were talking about could also be applied to a broader lifelong goal of becoming a better filmmaker. So whether or not you’re a cinematographer, here are some world-class opinions on how to get better.