We live in a technological time, which is exciting for filmmakers, to say the least. I get more excited for NAB every year than I did for Christmas as a child. I spend way too much time obsessing over new products, reading product reviews, scouring blogs and forums in search of the next piece of gear that will bring new production value to my shoots. Sometimes I’ll even fill my B&H shopping cart with gear I can’t afford and hover the mouse over the Pay Now button. Gear – it’s easy to get lost in it all.
I flew in from Edmonton, Alberta to attend the Directing Motion Workshop in Vancouver. It was definitely an eye-opening experience, not to be missed.

I think, at its core, Vincent Laforet’s Directing Motion Tour aims to tip the scale away from the gear craze and put the emphasis back where it belongs: planning. I did not walk away from this workshop with new knowledge of cameras, lenses, jibs, gimbal systems, sliders, dollies, lighting, rigs, and audio equipment, nor did I want to. What I did walk away from this workshop with was a new understanding of what filmmaking really is. It is the countless hours spent brainstorming, storyboarding, developing shot lists, answering emails, scouting locations, being an effective leader, dealing with limitations, client relations, late nights . . . much of this before you even have the gig. It is about the unglamorous grind!

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Yes, there is gear at the workshop, and if you want you can jump behind the camera, show off your follow focus skills, or grab hold of a boom, but the focus of the workshop is not on the gear itself. It is on the planning that goes into making it all work together. It’s about hitting your mark, being precise, and moving the camera with purpose. It’s about being prepared to get the shot you need in one take because your talent has somewhere better to be. It’s not about what camera or lens you used.

I thought I understood the importance of pre-production, which is why this workshop blindsided me. I’m sure everyone takes different lessons from workshops like these, but for me, someone who makes his living doing commercial work, the most valuable part of the workshop was the behind-the-scenes look at the making of Vincent’s Nike commercial, and the insurmountable amount of planning that went into it. What I learned from all this: as a director it is your job to consider every detail before the cameras roll. It is your job to think on your feet, to think big, to use limitations to your advantage, to stay up all night grinding out details, to push back your vacation to make the client happy. That’s the job!

I could see the frustration in Vincent’s eyes when, during the Q&A session at the end of the day, someone asked “what lenses did you use for your Nike shoot?” Vincent’s response was something like this, paraphrasing of course, “did you not listen to anything I said today … of all the things that must be considered first, lens selection is utterly inconsequential … stop thinking so small or you’ll never make it as a filmmaker.” I think, just guessing here, Vincent would have punched that guy in the face if he could have.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a filmmaker and you’re looking for new ways to bring production value to your projects, the answer is not in the gear, it’s in the small details that are often overlooked. It’s in the planning. Yes, gear has its place, but it needs to be used with purpose for it to be effective. The best cameras, lenses, jibs, dollies, sliders, rigs and accessories are meaningless if you’re not using them with purpose. If you’re just using them for the sake of using them, you’re missing the point, and I think that is what Vincent Laforet is trying to communicate in this workshop. It’s all about purpose.

The tour is still underway and it’s not too late to grab a ticket. I highly recommend attending if you can. The information that I took from the Directing Motion Workshop has already changed how we’re doing things at my company.

Darren McPhee,
Creative Director, Urban Video