4 years of film school in 12 hours: Vincent Laforet's Directing Motion Tour.
Vincent, who was one of the incredible filmmakers on our Ask Us Anything panel, is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning, L.A.-based photographer and director who’s shot for everyone from The New York Times to National Geographic, and has consulted for Apple, Leica, Adobe, and Canon.
With that breadth of experience, Vincent wanted to share everything he's learned throughout his career about the power and purpose behind a moving picture.
This workshop will teach all levels of filmmakers the precise cinematic language of motion, and how to move not only the camera itself, but also content in front of the camera.
A director must do exactly that: provide purpose for a story’s every detail, no matter the size of the crew or the budget of the project.
We are all kinds of excited for what Vincent’s doing. So much so, we asked one of our Story & Heart community members, the awesome Nic Justice, to give us his impressions from the very first day of Vincent’s tour.
Nic quickly responded:
If someone wants to ever create a short film or commercial project they need to be at this class. It’s a crash course in directing that sums up most of my film school experience in about 12 hours.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement for formal education, but that’s not really the point. Instead, what Nic is championing is the idea of complete immersion in a kind of experiential education. He continued.
It’s a big insight to how the big boys play. [Vincent] does a lot of big commercials, huge production shoots, so the workshop is insight into that world...a peek behind the curtain.
Then what does this all mean for a filmmaker working on a much smaller scale?
Whether you're a weathered industry stalwart or filmmaking newbie, here are 5 things to look forward to on Vincent Laforet’s Directing Motion Tour, care of workshop attendee Nic Justice.
1. Adopting a new language.
Throughout the workshop, Vincent stresses the importance of communication. It’s a benefit to both the people in your crew as well as to the talent and those who support the shoot from a distance—via budget, schedule, post-production, etc.—that a director or filmmaker’s vision is precise and accessible.
Yet, like practically any creative endeavor, filmmaking has its own language, tailored specifically to communicate in the best way possible a filmmaker’s intentions. For Nic, this was a major message conveyed throughout Directing Motion.
Having the right language to communicate is certainly critical. Communication with cinematic language is crucial to every part of a production.
And of course, Vincent provided an appropriate example.
He really broke down his recent Nike commercial: from bidding to winning to prep to filming Kobe Bryant. He only had 45 minutes to film with Kobe—if his intentions we’re communicated clearly using the right language, that was precious time wasted he’d never get back.
How can you tell your story the way it’s meant to be told if you can’t even communicate clearly with the team that will help bring your stories to life?
Like any lingual lesson, adopting the diction and vocabulary of a director requires practice, but Vincent’s point is that such preparation is vitally important.
2. Hands-on learning.
Yet, Directing Motion is almost completely devoted to hands-on, immersive learning. As Nic related, the workshop recreates production environments: copying a scene of dialogue from Schindler’s List; storyboarding and then executing an action-packed chase scene right in the workshop room; and of course providing plenty of access to all manner of movie-making goodies.
He certainly showed examples: classic films where they didn’t have any tools and they had to make a pan look really exciting. Or how to make a small camera movement exciting by moving people inside the scene. Or understanding motion not only in camera, but also movements in front of the camera...he did this all, physically, right in front of us.
It was an intimate peek at a world class director directing.
This fits pretty snugly in with one major idea driven home during the Ask Us Anything event:
There is no better teacher than experience.
You can read plenty of manuals, watch plenty of tutorials, or sit in and listen to plenty of lectures, but there’s no substitution for actually going out and doing something. In that sense, Directing Motion is proactive: a day-long call for getting your feet wet, and your hands dirty.
3. Understanding the purpose behind legendary films.
Even with all the idiosyncratic, hands-on, immersive education, Nic still mentioned a number of pretty standard, iconic filmmakers that Vincent leaned on throughout the seminar—Steven Spielberg, in particular, whose The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun, E.T., and Schindler’s List are all studied in depth.
He said, “I apologize for it but he’s great at moving the camera.”
In other words, Directing Motion alludes to many now-infamous scenes and filmmakers because investigating how a film can connect so intimately with us as an audience—how we become actively immersed in stories that we grow to love—will provide each of us as storytellers with invaluable tools to more efficiently tell our own stories.
You watch him break down how he watches these movies—he goes beyond just watching them to analyzing them. I think it’ll make people watch movies a different way. Once you realize what they’re doing then you can understand why they’re doing it.
And now I have more tools to analyze them more deeply. I mean, I probably will watch films a lot differently. Now it’s about the tools at my disposal, the tools being the ways to watch films a different way, and by extension to motivate my own camera to make my scenes more dynamic.
In this case, the “why” is indelible to our very nature as biological storytellers. This is our purpose, the guiding force behind a director telling his or her story in a very specific way.
To bring the audience to a very specific place—both physically and emotionally—a storyteller must clearly understand his or her “why”.
And, naturally, imitation isn’t about plagiarism. In the case of a passionate creative voice, imitation is one more tool to help that voice become even louder.
4. Sensing storytelling’s universal rules.
Directing Motion is broken down into two parts: the day session, which is heavy on interaction, and a much shorter evening lesson, which delves deeper into filmmaking theory.
The night session is optional, but Nic feels like the complete experience requires both options:
There was a lot to learn about composition in the evening class, about building scenes: how every composition has certain rules to follow. Vincent showed us actors who follow these rules innately. It was eye-opening, seeing how much of filmmaking is actually just about following very basic rules.
Which in no way means that filmmaking, or storytelling for that matter, is about following an empirical blueprint, or that Vincent is even condoning such paint-by-numbers creativity—what this means is that just as storytelling is an innate part of who we are, then so is film.
And Directing Motion, like any other workshop, isn’t intended to provide clear-cut methods and solutions to every storyteller’s most pressing woes or daunting challenges. Instead, Vincent’s workshop is meant to accompany any storyteller’s basic instincts.
Just as a storyteller’s journey will always build upon impulse, finding better and better ways to tell the same stories, a creative education will never replace the creative process, only strengthen it.
5. An opportunity for connecting.
Above all, Nic described the opportunity to meet a bunch of storytellers in much the same way he described his experience with the Storytelling With Heart Tour:
I get the chance to spend the day hanging out with 40 other local filmmakers. It’s an aspect I always look forward to with any workshops: to meet other folks who are trying to do the same stuff as I am, right in my area.
Whether you work in weddings, DP on big commercial projects, or are simply trying to make your family films appeal to more than just your family, any workshop by its very nature will bring together like-minded creatives.
Because the chance to connect, in person, with anyone who shares both your desire to learn and to grow as a storyteller or filmmaker or artist in similar ways, is the first step in playing an integral part in building community.
By learning together, we grow together.
And we wouldn't want you to miss your chance to grow with other like-minded storytellers in your area, so we've got some exciting news:
Here are the winners of our 3 tickets to Directing Motion!
The first of three tickets to Directing Motion goes out to Chris Rasmussen, who entered with the excellent tweet below:
The second ticket goes to Jerry Flores, who warmed our hearts with the following Instagram shot chronicling his trip to visit his grandmother.
And finally, the winner of our third ticket is Olivia O'Hara, who slipped in last minute to bowl us over with this gem of a tweet:
Big thank you to everyone who participated! There will be plenty more contests, challenges, and giveaways in the near future, so keep checking back in on our Blog.
Visit the Directing Motion website to find out more details about the workshop.
Can't make it to one of the 31 tour stops? There is a digital version of Directing Motion that will be available soon.
And be sure to share what you're looking forward to most about Vince's tour in the comments below. We hope to see you there!