DMA Central


Teaching the Basics of Filmmaking

By Lee Manansala, Teen Filmmaking Instructor DMA @ Harvard University

The basics of filmmaking are, to be perfectly frank, the most important things an aspiring filmmaker needs to know.  Composition, screen direction, shot sizes, set protocol—these are the things that get one hired as a director in the film/television/commercial industry.  The students I taught at DMA had innate creativity to spare, and I was just there to teach them how to apply that creativity to the film medium, and how to use the tools of the medium to realize their cinematic visions.  I’ll admit, it sounds funny to use a term like “cinematic visions” to describe short films made by teenagers, but it’s entirely appropriate—these kids were GREAT, eager to learn, and they had amazing ideas and a real sense of what they wanted their films to be!

I taught my students Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro, two incredibly sophisticated filmmaking programs that intimidate and baffle some of my fellow graduate film students at NYU.  The programs are, however, very intuitive, and by explaining the basics of what the program is actually doing, I found that my students took to both programs very aptly and comfortably.  By the end of the third day of instruction, the entire class had what I like to call “the edit face”:  the look on a seasoned editor’s face when she/he is fully immersed in a project.  On the final day of instruction, the class outputted their projects onto DVD with DVD Studio Pro, something I didn’t do until my first semester at NYU.

I’ve dreamt of making movies since I was 10, but never thought it was a possibility.  The countless names on the credits at the end of every movie made me think it was an incredibly involved process and a near impossible task.  I wish a resource like DMA was available to me when I was younger.  The process would have seemed less complicated, I would have met kids with dreams in common with my own, and I would have spent less time doubting myself  and more time learning and becoming inspired by the tools of filmmaking.

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