L.A.-based filmmaker Noam Kroll has given Indiewire permission to publish this article about how the obsessive focus on filmmaking gear detracts from the main principles of good storytelling. Check out Kroll's original blog post here, and his production company post-production house Creative Rebellion here.
Given the vast amount of of technical obsessiveness that exudes from my site, it's ironic that I am writing an article on how obsessing over gear will never lead to the best creative results in your work. Gear and technical know-how are, of course, critical to master and some of the biggest keys to success in this industry, but they need to be put to use in the right way. You need to have a goal and vision for what you want to achieve, and that should be what’s driving your excitement about the tools that you’re going to use in that process – not the other way around.
If you’re the type of creative who has a tendency to think more about your gear than your content, I have some fundamental insight for you that I believe will improve the relevance and substance of all your future projects from here on out. If you consider yourself a filmmaker, director, creative producer, or any other type of storyteller, you need to step back and ask yourself why you’re always focusing on your equipment when it's the story and the art form that you're passionate about. The reason (in my opinion, based on my own experience of becoming gear-crazy from time to time) is that you believe that only once you have the right tools will you be able to execute a film to the highest technical level and be confident in the quality of the final product.
Recognizing the flaw in this logic is important because it provides perspective on what we’re really supposed to be doing – telling a story. Of course, there needs to be a harmonious balance between art and technology to achieve the best final product. Thankfully, achieving this balance is relatively simple. Just change the order in which you approach the filmmaking process. Rather than going out and purchasing gear in hopes that you will then finally be ready to make something, do the opposite. Start making something and get the gear along the way that you need to make it happen. Not only does this put your focus back in the right place early on in the creative process, but it will also mean that when you do go out and buy gear, you’ll buy the right gear. So many of us have gone out and bought the latest camera or lens before we even know what type of work we are actually going to do with it. By letting your project dictate what you buy, you will find that you truly make better choices and investments as you are purchasing tools that have a purpose. There is no right or wrong camera. No single camera perfect for every job, so why even consider buying something before you know what you’re going to do with it? Imagine going out and buying a 5D, but then realizing your entire project needs high resolution slow motion, and you can’t even use it.
When the first steps in your creative process are focused on concept development, characters, and other story based elements, you will naturally give yourself much more time and freedom in that development period that can be used to flesh out a fantastic story and script, which is the backbone of everything you are doing. Take as much time or as little as you need to get it right, as long as you end up getting it done in the best way possible – which you will, since you won’t feel the self-imposed pressure of having to go out and shoot something just because you went out and bought gear last month that’s collecting dust in the closet. As long as you have something to shoot first, then when you get to the second stage of the process (which involves buying/renting your gear and actually using it), you will get far more out of your equipment than if you had been just researching it online and testing it at home. The truth is that you can read about cameras all day, research them, watch footage shot on them (all of which are helpful things that I do on a daily basis), but it will only take you so far. Learning that way is a critical step in preparing you for what you’re actually going to be doing on set, but there are many skills you can only develop on set, and sometimes you need to know when you’re ready to go out and shoot.
So, in summary: Come up with a great story that’s worth telling, get the gear you need to execute your idea and develop your technical and non-technical crafts further by actually working on set with actors.