Filmmaking is difficult, and making your films look professional is harder still. Film director Jay Moussa-Mann reveals some easily applicable advice that can dramatically improve how your films look.
Currently in the process of making her first feature film and emerging from years in the video production industry, Jay is a seasoned professional. Quite fittingly, her YouTube channel, The Director’s Logbook, is a great learning resource dedicated to teaching practical filmmaking and writing techniques to aspiring filmmakers.
Jay’s first tip for “taking your filmmaking to the next level” is investing in a prime lens. Different lenses can dramatically alter the message a shot conveys. Getting up and close to your subject with a wide lens, for example, creates a sense of intimacy whereas a close-up with a telescopic lens can evoke an uneasy feeling of being spied on. Although zoom lenses, like a traditional 24-105mm, can suffice as a jack of all trades, a fixed focal prime lens, because of the simpler construction, can offer much higher image quality while also being extremely affordable.
The second piece of advice for increasing the cinematic feel of your camera shots is utilising lighting. She admits that “it took a really long time to come around to lighting. I wasn’t interested, thought it was too difficult.” Lighting, however, is crucial to creating moods, setting the atmosphere of a scene and can greatly enhance the story. Acknowledging this, Jay recommends the purchase of even some low-end photography lights from Amazon.
Moving on from equipment, Jay stresses the importance of choosing a great location: “That might sound shallow, because then you might start thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to find these incredible places in order to make a film, I just want to tell a story’.” However, she points out how locations like the Wild West aren’t just beautiful backdrops, but they are also crucial to storytelling. Steven Spielberg’s use of the desert in Indiana Jones immediately tells the audience what to expect from the film because of genre conventions. Jay suggests to scout out really cool local locations as you write the script to your film, because an interesting location “immediately makes audiences interested in what you’re doing.”
Like lighting, camera movement is also something that is often overlooked, and yet according to Jay, “camera movement is the hallmark of professional filmmaking.” She notes how new directors are especially prone to overlooking the beauty a simple Steadicam can add to a shot. Camera movements aren’t just visually pleasing but can add purpose to a shot. For example, if a character is about to understand something or realise something that’s really important, Jay explains “pushing the camera in adds another element of meaning to that scene.”
The last point Jay focuses on is the importance of learning to how to edit. “A lot of people find editing very daunting,” mentions Jay, however, “I’ve always love it, it’s always been my favourite process of the whole filmmaking production.” She reached this level of confidence by sitting with an editor every day, just watching him work. “I would ask some questions and then I would take footage…I would just practice editing that footage to music.”
Jay concludes her video by challenging any prospective filmmaker to take on her five tips of filmmaking and apply them one by one on their next production. We admire the simplicity and practicality of her filmmaking advice, and will perhaps even try it out ourselves sometime!
Interested in finding out the ideology behind posing for photos? Read our Spotlight on Melanie Murphy‘s new video! Otherwise Becca Winkler has a video about what you should know before starting university!