Assuming that I die in my 70′s (though this is optimistic), I have spent about half of my life so far trying to learn things. Sometimes this has gone really well, and sometimes the learning process has been more than difficult. These things have been in a variety of subjects and most have been unrelated. Somewhere along the line, though, I have felt compelled to know certain things: the basics of politics, the functions of the human body, the language of visual media, how business works, how people think and make decisions, why paper money has value, why humans believe in certain things, how weather works, how to suppress forest fires, why people die (this one is very complex), how to make them live, why so few Americans refuse to understand the Middle East, and the list goes on. It’s actually quite infinite, as my little list just scratched truly the knowledge that exists currently in the world.
This is why when a gentleman asked for my help in understanding his Nikon D3200 in order to help get started on his film, I didn’t know where to start.
“What are you trying to do? What’s your end product?” I asked.
“I want to make a film, a documentary and submit it to Sundance,” he said. Got it. This was one of those moments when you decide not to tell someone that Sundance receives at least 10,000 entries a year, a number which they say is growing annually.
Having been through his process over the past several years, I was more than happy to help. The problem? The person did not understand what he didn’t know. This, of course, seems like a paradox. How can you know what you don’t know? You can’t. That’s the point. You simply have to know that you don’t know it, and figure out ways for people to tell you the unknown. I find myself always asking myself (and those who know more about a subject), “What else?”
In this person’s case, he was trying to shoot 1080p on a Nikon D3200 on a rickety tripod from the 80′s (?) that had one leg duct taped together. There was no way to have fluid movement of the head. When he wanted to know about a microphone for the camera, he could barely stomach the “extra” $150 from the Nikon ME-1. There is nothing wrong with the equipment that he was using (in fact ten years ago we wouldn’t have believed it existed for such a price!), but I mentioned that if he were going to make quality footage, he may want to consider some devices that would enhance (or salvage) the footage, improve the sound quality immensely, or assist in post-processing. But of course, he didn’t want to hear anything about post-processing or the need for software. He just wanted to make his movie.
At that point, you just have to give up. With time, and much frustration, he will probably start to understand that movie making is a very difficult, an expensive, and a time-consuming process. There is a reason why films are budgeted millions of dollars and more to produce. Yes, there are some great little shorts, wonderful pieces, etc. but the majority of quality filmmaking is costing a lot of money and includes the intricacies of many, many specialized professionals. The DIY attitude is great, but as I found out (and figured beforehand), it will take more equipment than you were planning on, more time than you allowed, and more frustration than you had budgeted.
The concept that I’ve developed over the years is that I should live in a space where I am comfortable with what I know, and always be asking myself and others what I don’t know. And realize that the latter problem is likely far larger than the first.