The RED Camera vs. Hermione Granger: or, How I’m Learning To Learn

Tomorrow I am volunteering on a friend’s film set as they test out the newish RED camera.

If you’re not familiar with the RED, it is part of a growing trend in the digital filmmaking world toward tapeless recording.

I haven’t been on a set in several years since I stopped taking classes for my MFA and focused on my own thesis–a personal documentary that I mostly shot alone on a Bolex 16mm camera.

As I get older, I’m trying to bring more of my habit patterns to a more balanced state. I think undoing habits completely is unrealistic. But reducing the extremeness of the spectrum is not.

My Filmic Extremes

I’m a little like Hermione Granger in Harry Potter. I admit.

I’m not proud of it. And I’m just learning to understand the nature of this habit pattern I’ve developed over the years–so it’s still lingering rather strongly in my character.

I tend to occupy two extremes: either, I have to feel like I have to feel like I have a leg up on everyone else I’m in a room with and already know the task/skill/content on hand or I completely shut down, tell myself I can’t do something and am inept and then don’t even try to learn and give up.

I’d like to learn to be okay with being 75% good at something. To be at the average skill level at something. And to not give it up.

Sadly, this habit results in me doing these I receive attention and praise for, rather than listening to an inner desire about what I’d secretly like to learn.

I got praise for personal documentary work, so I stayed there. Externally, that’s my niche. I just got a grant a few months ago from Chicken & Egg Pictures and Rooftop Films to continue with another personal documentary. Inside, I’d like to write and direct a fictional feature length film within the next 5 years.

To get there, I need to practice being okay with not knowing how to do things right away on my own. And more importantly, to be able to embrace other people as teachers to help teach me.

I need to break this mythology I have that I only learn to do things on my own.

So even though it’s a little terrifying and goes against my functioning for the last 30 something years, I’m going to spend my Sunday crewing on this shoot, rusty after years of not setting up lighting for narratives, and with a camera I know zero about with a bunch of brilliant Temple U MFA students.

And, I’m not going to shut down and tell myself I can’t do this, and instead be grateful that I have the opportunity to learn from so many great teachers.

I am going to try to post about the RED on my twitter feed tomorrow–so you can follow along with my adventure there.

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3 Comments

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  1. good for you! i think a lot of people often feel the same way. and i feel EXACTLY the same way about shooting narrative stuff – i too have stuck with docs and personal docs because i know it best and it’s what i’m “good at.” it helps that i’m obsessed with documentaries, but really, i could afford to branch out.

    and do tweet about this RED business – i’m still scared of not at least putting my footage to tape. eek. but also, last i heard there were some serious concerns about the workflow and that Temple just wasn’t set up to handle it. do you know anything about that? not that i have access to it anyway, but i’m just curious.

  2. bex*

    I’m not glad you feel that way, but I am glad to know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this!

    Maybe we should shoot a narrative–one that can be totally lame and we completely mess up on 🙂

    I’ll let you know about the RED production process. I think that’s part of why they are doing this process to test out every step of the production with it. I heard that the lighting for the camera is tricky since you have to underexpose a bit or something. . .

  3. i would happily work on a narrative (fuckupative?) with you. let’s keep it in our heads. and when the time is right, we’ll do it.

    you know what else i feel that way about? cameras. both in keeping up with the technology (because i feel like in film school i’m always surrounded by all these straight white men who have encyclopedic knowledge of all the specs on each and every camera ever made) and in working it.

    i’m like, yep, i use the automatic function. so recently i got this digital slr with some scholarship money, and i am trying to work on my manual skills in still photography, and then maybe that’ll help translate in video someday. right now i don’t really have access to any video (or film!…which i’ve never even used, what kind of film student am i?) cameras that i even need to know how to operate manually, so that’s a relief.

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