My blog is about movies and shows and occasionally anime. The hope is that it’ll be frequented by people who share similar interests.
One of the things I expect, read hope for, is that there’ll be a few aspiring filmmakers. That’d be a real rush.
So I thought I’d get together a list of unique gifts for film students. You can always gift yourself, read buy off of Amazon. Go ahead, treat yourself.
Or maybe you happen to know someone that is a film student. Then this becomes your best resource for gift ideas.
Good gifts for future filmmakers
That’s right. These purchases are the only things that stand between you (or a loved one) from a successful career in movies. Filled with success, fame and all that jazz.
Not really. From what we see from the numerous accounts of successful movie people, it’s a long slog filled with misery and disappointment.
A long road that’ll take you to places and people that you never expected to come across. But don’t let that stop you from treating yourself right now.
This section will deal with gifts that are essential for understanding cinema. Not the specialty you hope to make a career in like direction or cinematography or editing.
And what better place to start than with a Greek philosopher. That’s right, somehow through all of human advance, a Greek philosopher still has something to contribute to summer blockbusters. More than great visual effects.
In his book Poetics, signed with a personal message by the great man himself, he explains elements of literature and theatre that hold true to this day.
He goes into detail about story elements like complication and resolution that form the bedrock of any good story. Written or cinematized.
You owe yourself this as a solid first step into filmmaking. Because no matter what the box office seems to imply, a good story with wrenches thrown into the hero’s path and how the hero overcomes said wrenches (what?) forms the basis of any good story.
No film institute will tell you differently.
On directing film
No matter where you end up as in the hierarchy of filmmaking, you’ll most probably start off making your own stuff. Short films and such.
There is no better reading to be done for this task than David Mamet’s On Directing Film.
David Mamet is the writer of Glengarry Glen Ross, The Verdict (Paul Newman baby!) and other iconic works.
And in this book, this master of the craft goes into each part of the long process of making a film.
The hero with a thousand faces
This Joseph Campbell essential explains one of the most crucial aspects of a movie, nay story. The hero’s journey.
The hero could be in space on a disintegrating satellite, drilling for oil, facing down goons or looking for a bit of love. All these heroes share a certain something with heroes of another kind.
All the heroes from mythologies from around the world all have the same core. That of a call to action, facing a crisis, starts off with failure but then has to change himself or herself to finally overcome the meteor that won’t budge.
I’m stuck on Michael Bay movies for some reason. But even in cinematic masterpieces like his, the theory holds.
An audience learns to root for someone only when he/she has to overcome something. It doesn’t matter what the crisis is or who is responsible for it.
The hero has to overcome, and the only way is to change something integral inside them. Hence the title, a hero with a thousand faces.
Note: the audiobook on Amazon is free
A silly gift
Now that you have mastered of all there is to filmmaking gift yourself this unofficial Hollywood star of fame.
No, but seriously, you can always give yourself a target. Something small, but still significant. A short movie you’re proud of.
You’ll hardly be giving yourself a fake Hollywood star if you’re in the actual movie industry. Hey, there’s always Indie.
The professional camera for an amateur
This one’s gonna cost a bit. Not the last time you’ll be hearing that one in filmmaking. But you won’t be throwing all your savings at the career just yet.
But that being said, there will be an investment. Question is when and on what. A good camera can go a long way to giving your film projects that polish.
Blackmagic has come up with an amazing pocket camera that’ll wow your audience. Who needs the hero’s journey when you have 4K recording in your palm?
Panasonic has one of their own at a slightly higher price. You could buy one of these to throw yourselves into the deep end in terms of career choice.
But no matter which one you focus on: the story or picture you will still need a tripod. To grab whatever arthouse, revolutionary project you and your three friends will watch.
This is a solid budget purchase that’ll have to be made right at the start.
And onto sound
So this is the best option I came across to record the totally not-unmodulated voices your arthouse, the revolutionary project will need.
You know, to really shoot that message across to the viewer.
I’m being really dismissive about the film project that I haven’t yet seen, aren’t I? I’ll try to keep that in check going forward.
A bag for your filmmaking stuff
To keep all this expensive equipment that you bought or were gifted is a handy bag to keep them safe and dry.
Because we wouldn’t want to rob the world of all that arthouse revolutionary stuff that … Alright, I’ll stop.
I’ll end the base list with a link to the lessons by the modern masters. Masterclass is a wonderful initiative (paid classes) to teach budding professionals the secrets of various industries.
And they have a lot of stuff for films and filmmakers. Just browsing through, and ALL the Facebook ads, I saw classes by Aaron Sorkin, Martin Scorsese and Shonda Rhimes listed as Masters.
Gifts for Script Writers
I did start out with an idea of gifts for filmmakers in general. But you know how window shopping goes. You start with one thing, and then soon enough you’re wondering who half the things in your cart are for.
So there were a couple that seemed more for those serious about writing scripts.
The Hollywood Standard
How about a book that’ll whip your script formatting to Hollywood standards? The Hollywood standard is just that book.
It goes into minute detail on writing scripts and then formatting in a way acceptable by Hollywood. It teaches you everything about this process, whether it be for a screenplay or a TV script.
At what point do we stop using words like TV, TV shows and networks?
Because a good writer needs a good writing tool. Final draft is the best in screenwriting software, used by living, breathing Hollywood screenwriters.
It’s a necessity to plan your script, track revisions and collaborate with others.
A screenwriting class
If Masterclass wasn’t enough, there’s TSL 360. Masterclass but with its primary focus being on screenwriting.
Make sure you exercise the 3-day trial before paying up 12$ a month for the privilege.
A good laptop stand
A good laptop stand. (Shrugs) I am not explaining this inclusion.
Gifts for Videographers
For those insisting on being a total jock and become a cinematographer, there are options more specific to you.
A set of 5 memory cards to give you the confidence to keep going even after the 23rd bad take. Get semi-pro actors already.
Or you can stick with just the one with a bit of help and occasionally turning away from the shot.
What good’s a 4K camera and good recording without good light? Depends on the story.
But it’s about degrees of professionalism. And this video light from Aputure is just the right degree of professionalism to bring.
I read that sentence back, and it’s staying there.
A color checker
Sticking with degrees of professionalism, this color checker is bound to give a better shot every time.
Style over substance
When the script is half-assed and the actors iffy, put some distance between them and the camera with the drone from your best dreams.
Best gifts for film editors
And that brings us to the least attractive of all the film jobs. Editing. What’s editing ever done for a bad movie? Ask any filmmaker that had to work with 70s and 80s animatronics.
Although none of these gifts can substitute for an actual vision of the movie, these can make the work a lot easier.
Adobe Premiere Pro
This is the best editing software you can get. It also costs a bomb. But great careers start with a leap of faith.
Or by holding off long enough to make a smart, considered decision.
There’s also a 12-hour course on Udemy that’ll take a chunk out of your learning curve.
Art of the cut
What’s a good gift idea list without a book?
The Art of the cut by Steve Hullfish has the thoughts and ideas from more than 50 of the best editors around the globe.
The essential take on modern editing to make it a focused viewing experience.
What more can a fledgling editor hope for? Vision, the answer is a vision.
Despite all the sarcasm and attempted humor, I really hope one of these gift ideas was helpful to you or someone you love.
Like in almost any era of films and TV (streaming), we need fresh ideas now. Stagnation is never far away when making films.
The only thing holding this stagnation back is a group of independent filmmakers with a low budget ready to make a film full of arthouse stuff that we will love in the future. Film history is a testament to that.
Just, not at the release of your first Indie film. (That didn’t make the cut at the Sundance film festival)