How to be a judge of and make killer content

Rob Chiu who is without question one of the most dynamic filmmakers around. Every one that sees his work agrees. See for yourself from his portfolio and this personal film below shot in one take.

Years back we would spend hours on the phone, or when we met up talking about films, styles, content, and showing of new finds and our own work. I invited him to speak to my MA students in between his busy schedule. Thanks Rob.

A decade ago, I wanted to know so badly what underpinned the making of great content, I pursued a PhD at University College of Dublin, and discovered an array of incredible results. I’m still uncovering.

Just because we’re great critics, and frankly most of us have an opinion, whether it’s in the terraces of a football game or watching the latest film release, doesn’t mean we’re great at producing similar goods. Films are easy to watch, hence we’re all critics says one of the most popular books for students How to Read a Film by James Monaco.

Watching films critically removes the veil of the content’s indivisibility. It’s like tasting a cake mix and pulling out each ingredient and how they contribute to the cake’s taste. Sometimes you can be provided the best ingredients for the cake and not quite get it right.

Judging and making content is the stuff of a 300 page book, so I apologise for any simplification, but in the spirit of fight club, I thought I’d share these points.

  1. The first rule of making great content is to appreciate great content. Watch for cues, textual themes and styles in everything that falls within your field, particularly those that have won awards and many that remain obscure to general knowledge.
  2. The second rule is to set out to copy or replicate the best. It’s an effortful task, both physically and mentally and is not as simple as it seems, but the more you make the less effortful it’ll become. You’re also training your mind.
  3. The third rule is to stop copying and inject your own voice or style. This is like throwing yourself of a cliff. You can’t hide anymore. Life is not necessarily predictable. It’s spontaneous and thus calls on an intuitive approach to rejecting rules and understanding motives. A typical idea for instance is something called the 180 rule or rule of thirds. What happens when you break them? You may get it wrong. If so go back to rule 1 and start again.
  4. Innovation: these are the general norms, the ingredients of your cake ( film). Camera positioning and angles, mise en scène (composition) sound, editing and montage, lighting and narration. Play with them against conventions. The equipment is just part of the equation.
  5. Innovation. There is an expectancy from your audience, and by playing with this, turning conventions inside out, particularly against the grain of the status quo you can win of the greatest rewards to content making, memorability.

Great is within the eyes of the beholder, so know your audience. They are your jurors. To that end, an expensive looking piece of content isn’t a sure foot in, against inexpensive looking content done originally.

Making something original can either be looking back on the past or indulging art. What is art? Ahh now that’s a bigger subject for another time.

In my nest post, I’m in China, Chongqing and how I taught a designer to become a filmmaker in one day, using Chinese styles of filmmaking as a backdrop.

David’s 2019 1 minute reel.

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.

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