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ICYMI: Mikael Trench’s Top 5 Tips for Teen Filmmakers

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Our generation is living in an unique age where anyone with an average income can have full access to a camera and editing software to become one of today’s most promising filmmakers. True, it may not beat what Steven Spielberg has access to, but everyone has to start somewhere. The tools that the public can utilize these days is perfect for just that. Teens today from almost any background now have the tools necessary to start a filmmaking career. However, it still is hard to figure out just how to get started. After my years of experience as a filmmaker, I have gathered my own tips on how to make the best of your filmmaking experience.

1. Watch Movies

In the words of famed director Quentin Tarantino, “If you just love movies enough, you can make a good one.” The fact of the matter is that watching other films is one of the most surefire ways of becoming a good filmmaker. Watching both good and bad movies can teach you some of the most quintessential lessons in how to make films. Do your best not to avoid movies that are outside of your favorite genres, as a wide variety of genres can always allow greater inspiration. Also, reading actual screenplays from movies on websites such as imsdb.com can provide great ways of studying films and the way they’re crafted, as well as give plenty of inspiration on how to write your own scripts. This is probably the easiest tip here, but it can be a nice push to be a film buff if you want to make films.

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2. Meet Professionals

Networking is an important skill to have with just about any profession, but in the entertainment industry it is absolutely essential to have links. As the old saying goes, “who you know is just as important as what you know.” Meeting professionals is not only a great way of receiving advice and tips on improving your work, but it’s also a good opportunity to find possible work in the future. Networking can be achieved by attending film festivals, participating in internships and visiting film networking sites such as filmkin.com and stage32.com. Starting to learn how to present yourself and your work now can lead to some lifelong partnerships in the future. (For local networking, Re:Imagine ATL is an Atlanta filmmaking program for teens.)

3. Be Realistic & Resourceful

One major issue a lot of beginning filmmakers suffer from is thinking way too big. Yes, you should always shoot for the biggest and best of your abilities, but always keep in mind that you’re not Hollywood. Chances are you don’t have a few hundred thousand dollars laying around, so you’ll have to be resourceful. Fortunately, the wide array of technology available today makes it easier to be resourceful these days. Smartphones alone can contain cameras, editing software (Splice, iMovie, Adobe Premiere Clip, etc.), special effects apps (FxGuru, Creatures FX, etc.), and even animation tools (FlipaClip, Stop Motion Studio, etc.). You may also be surprised by the rather simplistic ways you can pull off surprisingly good special effects and camera movements and the many everyday tools you can use to achieve them. Always try new things and experiment with different techniques — you may be surprised by how things turn out.

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4. Share, Share, SHARE!

Another one of the best qualities of today’s technology is that sharing your work is easier than ever. Online video platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo and Dailymotion are the best ways of sharing your work with the general public, which ensures it can be seen. Another way of sharing your work is by entering film festivals.

With the rising number of teen filmmakers out in the community, there are entire festivals dedicated to only presenting teen-made films, and usually these festivals have low entrance fees or are free. Surprisingly, these festivals have the added benefit of teaching you how to improve your films, everything from the immediate audience reaction to the sound quality your work has in a theater can reflect the overall quality of your work. There are many websites available these days, such as withoutabox.com and filmfreeway.com that offer filmmakers of all ages a tool for finding film festivals from all over the world. With all the platforms available to share your work these days, getting your name out there has never been easier.

5. Challenge Yourself

Just about every aspect of filmmaking requires you to push yourself. The best filmmakers not only expect a challenge, but look for one. The great thing about being a teen filmmaker is that, for the time you have before adulthood, you have the freedom to use filmmaking as a way of expressing yourself artistically rather than a source of income. With every new project, challenge yourself in a new way. Whether it’s a camera movement, an editing trick, a tricky special effect or a way you write dialogue, trying out new things is not only a great way of improving your filmmaking skills but can also help you discover your style. It is especially important in the competitive world of filmmaking to find a way of making yourself stand out from the crowd, so take opportunity and freedom you have now to discover just what makes you stand out.

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Read about Atlanta teen filmmaker Sierra Isley and watch a VOX video profile of her on the set shot by Mikael Trench here.

Mikael Trench (not pictured), is a VOX alum currently enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). He is an aspiring filmmaker who specializes in working with stop motion animation. His latest short film, “The Tree That Refused To Fall,” can be found here.

This story was originally published in July 2016

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