The lazy person’s guide to learning film-making

I know, dude, the pull is strong. To run away from it all and enter a secret garden with a whole lot of other crazies like us and make movies. Wild films. Subversive films. Offensive films dripping with sweat, crap and blood. REAL films with real talk.

And spend our time speaking with and looking into the faces of people who GET IT. My God, that would be a relief.


Let me tell you what stopped me.

The money.

That’s pretty much it. It costs almost as much to learn film-making as it did to go to medical school. Guess which one my parents would rather I went to. 15 years later, it was a priceless decision.

Right now, you’re thinking, ‘Everything good costs money. I’d sacrifice an arm and a leg for my dream.

You’re right; everything good DOES cost money. I just don’t think film school is worth it. Here’s why.

  1. You know this but I will say this again. I have clinical depression. In my early twenties, I also had anxiety. For me, that showed up as perfectionism, an all-or nothing mentality. If I had studied film, I would have told myself that I HAVE to get a job in the film industry. There being none in Dubai, I would have ended up in LA. Or Vancouver. Or some place with a hub. I would have done one of those assistant jobs that would have eaten me alive. I would have been suicidal. Again. Not fun.
  2. If I had ended up in Dubai in another industry, again, that would have been uber-depressing.
  3. What I ended up learning in uni was film theory. This. Was. Gold. Why? Because I never  thought for one moment that films didn’t have cultural or political impact. Out and about on social media, I often hear, “Why can’t films just be entertainment? Why does everything have to be political?” As a film theorist, we had moved well beyond that tired debate. Every piece of art had meaning. There was no question. It was our quite enjoyable work to figure out what that meaning was. As a filmmaker, I am never going to simply make a film and assume it ‘means’ nothing. I already know it carries weight in the universe, so I choose my work carefully.
  4. This leads to my next point – meaning matters to me. Meaning = story and theme. Story and theme are CHEAP. If I had gone to film school, I could have fallen in love with form over content. And form i.e. production value is EXPENSIVE. VERY EXPENSIVE.
  5. And lastly but to me the most important point – film schools tend to be very white. If I had come of age as a filmmaker in a white racist institution, I would have internalized that racism. As it is now – I’m learning film by making films. I make the films I want to make. I write with confidence, knowing from experience (not a diploma) that I’ll figure out a way to make it. I’m more generous because I feel less insecure. I’ve realized my own power. As I said, not going to film school may well have been priceless. All of this doesn’t change the fact that it may take decades and a few box-office smashes before the film-making industry looks and me and thinks, ‘That’s a filmmaker’ as opposed to ‘That’s a deluded creative.’ But I don’t agree with that notion myself.
What have I lost by not going to film school? Two things….
  1. Quick and focused knowledge
  2. Contacts

I can get both of those with time and patience.

Film-making can be quite cheap if I use my tools wisely. And storytelling is free. I’m not slowed down by my lack of a formal education and the contacts it might have yielded. In fact, I’m like a kid in a candy store.

I’m always looking for more and better resources for learning how to make films. I’m going to start a page on here with my favorite resources.

Please share any that have been particularly helpful to you.

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