The Filmmaker Path: 8 Essential Tips For Success | Dandan Liu | Skillshare

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The Filmmaker Path: 8 Essential Tips For Success

teacher avatar Dandan Liu, Filmmaker | Contemplative Creative

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.

      Course Intro


    • 2.

      Take Creative Ownership


    • 3.

      Get Feedback


    • 4.

      Constructively Reflect


    • 5.

      Observe Professionals At Work


    • 6.

      Say Yes


    • 7.

      Film Festivals


    • 8.

      Stay Updated


    • 9.

      The Most Important of Them All


    • 10.



    • 11.

      Course Conclusion


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About This Class

Becoming a filmmaker is more than just picking up a camera and shooting with it. It's a long, continuous process of evolution filled with its fair share of doubt, uncertainty, and rejection. Especially with so much filmmaking noise these days, how do you navigate this wonderful, yet challenging path as someone just starting out?

As someone who has made filmmaking a full time career without going to film school, I share 8 powerful pieces of advice to address this question and provide some practical steps to help you navigate your own filmmaking path. These insights reflect my experience and the experiences of the people I've worked with, including those with Grammies and Emmy awards.

Although everyone's filmmaking journey is unique, I hope that you'll find some clarity, comfort, and perspective as you listen to the insights shared in this class. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Dandan Liu

Filmmaker | Contemplative Creative

Top Teacher

Hi there! I'm Dandan, an Emmy award-winning filmmaker and contemplative creative living in Italy.

As a self-taught filmmaker, I love foraging for unique stories around the world that illuminate the interconnections among us. I started making films while on a 4 year journey living in monasteries around the world. One film led to the next, and after persevering for many years, I found myself working full time on film crews and streaming my films on Roku, Apple TV, museums, trains, and airplanes.

My highest work is helping others craft an authentic, creative, and mindful life- your unique work of art. I believe that knowing who you truly are is the foundation for flourishing in every area of life. So, I founded Unravel, a playful journey of self discovery, which has... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Course Intro: With the abundance of online Film-making Resources and affordable camera equipment, it's definitely possible to make films without going to film school. However, becoming a filmmaker is more than just picking up a camera and shooting with it. It's a long, continuous process of evolution filled with its fair share of doubt, uncertainty, and rejection. How do you navigate this wonderful yet challenging path when you were starting out as a filmmaker. As a professional filmmaker who didn't go to film school, I sat down and reflected over the most important pieces of advice I received from my journey over the years. I was able to narrow them down to eight, which seemed to be a common thread among filmmakers I've worked with. I compile them into this course in the hope that it will help you in clarity over your next steps and give you practical insights so you can succeed in choosing your film-making passion over fear. Let's get started. 2. Take Creative Ownership: Number 1, take creative ownership of your films in the beginning. When you're starting out, don't focus on getting an internship or joining a crew. Instead, focus on making your own films where you have creative control and can try out all the roles: director, cinematographer, producer, sound recorder, color grader. This is important for two main reasons. First, it will allow you to develop a portfolio which will help you build credibility and gain access to paid set work. Second, by trying out all of these roles, you'll be able to understand what they do first-hand and develop a vocabulary which you can use to communicate with these people, if you're collaborating with them in the future. For example, if I had not color-graded my own film, I wouldn't be able to communicate, specifically, my vision to a color gradist, that I wanted the blacks to be lifted or the highlights to take on a blue tone. 3. Get Feedback: Number 2, get feedback on your films. I know the step can feel scary and make you feel vulnerable as you show your films to other people, but it is crucial because it will help you see things that you've never considered before and learn from more experienced filmmakers. Find filmmakers you admire. Contact them with your edited work and ask them what they thought could have been improved. is a fantastic tool to get this constructive feedback. Also be sure to ask feedback from non-filmmakers like friends and family. Because it's important that you understand how your film is communicating to a general audience. 4. Constructively Reflect: Number three, after you make every film, sit down and write a list of things that you've learned while making that film. Reflect over how you thought you improved from the previous film and what you'd like to improve on for the next film. Jot down a list of ideas that you would like to try for your next film. Perhaps, you want to shoot with a flat picture profile next time. Try an anamorphic lens or use a new directing technique. Especially when you're starting out, it's important that you don't get comfortable and settled in your ways, and you're always trying something new for your next film. 5. Observe Professionals At Work: Number 4, after you've made a few films yourself, start looking around for some opportunities where you can observe filmmakers working on a film set or crew. You learn a lot just by observing how professionals work together, how they communicate with each other and you can leave with some cool tricks of the trade. To go about this, google some local production companies in your area, show them a message with a little bit about you and ask them if you can come on the next show to observe, or help out in any way. 6. Say Yes: Number 5, say yes when you're starting out. There's this crazy five fishermen want you to make a crowdfunding video for him, say yes. Even if it doesn't align with your interests or style, any opportunity to make a film is an opportunity for you to build your portfolio, and to learn about yourself as a filmmaker. Especially if people are coming to you, they're giving you permission to film them, which is a valuable gift. In return, you can ask that they credit you on social media, refer you to potential clients, and give you testimonials on your website. 7. Film Festivals: Number 6. Go to at least one film festival. Most film festivals these days have volunteer positions, where if you help them run a few shifts you can get a free pass. They'll typically have cool talks, workshops, and demos for filmmakers. They can be fantastic opportunities for you to meet other people who share the same passion from different angles. Talk about your project, and you'll never know where that leads you. Make sure to bring contact cards. 8. Stay Updated: Number 7, keep yourself updated on the developments going on in the film-making world. Whether that's new technologies or new techniques, No Film School is an easy, awesome way to stay updated as they scout the major film-making events and the things posted on the internet into a daily compilation of the best insights and new technologies out there. 9. The Most Important of Them All: Last one, persevere. This is the most important piece of advice I received when I started out and it has made all the difference. One day, my mentor told me, "Dandan, if you want to be a serious filmmaker, you're going to have to swim and make films for at least three years before anyone cares a hair about what you make." Of course there are exceptions, but in my experience I find that this journey does come with its fair share of doubt, uncertainty, and the constant need to be resourceful. Even with filmmakers that I've worked with, those with Emmys, an academy awards, feeling doubt is totally normal. I'm going to repeat. As a filmmaker, feeling doubt is a normal part of the process. If you're an aspiring filmmaker and are starting to feel doubt, whether your film is worth making or whether you're cut out to be a filmmaker, one of my friends has some wise words for you. Hey Mr. Grown big gills. When life gets you down, you know what you've got to do?". I don't know what you've got to do. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim. Dory, no singing. Dory, Dory. I love to swim and when you want to swim [inaudible] See, I'm going to get stuck now with that song now it's in my head! Sorry. Sorry if the song is now stuck in your head. But if it is, it'll remind you to persevere and keep swimming. 10. Bonus!: Bonus, embrace the art of revision. If you've taken my other courses, you've probably heard me preach this message more than once. This is because I believe that revision is the single most important opportunity to strengthen your work, and grow as a filmmaker. The crazy thing is, most filmmakers miss this golden opportunity. They think that the first cut, is good enough, so they go ahead and export it. However, this is usually not what happens in the film-making world. All of us usually pull apart or edit it multiple times, creating messes and spend months after our first cut continually refining our edit. It's such an essential step that I've dedicated a whole class to it. The art of revision, which guides you through a six-step process to see the weaknesses of your film with a critical eye and strengthen them. It's a great complementary course to this one. 11. Course Conclusion: There you have it. Eight insights I've learned over the years, from someone starting out with no films call to someone who's now working as a professional in the industry. I hope that you've found at least some of them helpful. Everyone's filmmaking journey is different. So please take these with a grain of salt. They just reflect my own experience, and the experiences of the filmmakers I've worked with, which I thought would be valuable to share to someone just starting out. If you have any remaining questions, feel free to send them on my web, and please check out my other courses on my features page if you want to further your filmmaking and editing journey. Thank you so much for taking your time with me, and I wish you all the best for your filmmaking journey. Let's spend together, and choose passion over fear.