Great advice on filmmaking for Level 1 ninjas

At the end of a new student's first year at TGS, they are asked to produce a short film. The proposed content of the film ranges based on the host country, what's going on in the academic classes, and what stories are in need of telling about the school.

In Greece, the Level 1 ninjas were tasked with making a short film that either followed the theme of "Legends and Legacies" for the Greece Symposium/Film Festival or "A Day in the Life" of a TGS student. For two months, they planned, filmed, and edited in and out of Lab, and what resulted was not only a pool of powerful films but many capable filmmakers.

In a debrief after the assignment, the students shared their lessons learned from the filmmaking process in hopes that next year's new students can benefit from their experience.

Here is that advice.


As you can see, the students felt that, above all other things, it is important to remain present to your experiences in the host country and to not compromise your learning and awareness with the act of filming. Instead, the filming experience should enhance your engagement with your host country and the stories you are witnessing and living.

The three major areas of advice fell into: plan ahead, film everything, and start post-production early. One could easily see these three areas as pre-production, production, and post-production, but with a little spin that makes it easier to apply.

Any other advice on which story to tell, you ask? Ayesha's video frames the assignment and her storytelling process quite nicely, and hopefully it gets your own mind churning with ideas for stories and where they might exist.

Got any good advice for new filmmakers? Add your advice as a comment below!

    Galek Yangzom 1845 days ago

    Hi there level one ninja,
    The one piece of advise I give you is to believe in your self. As cliche as that may sound, do not be intimidated by all the other projects people have created. Never think that you will never be able to create projects as amazing as they have. Just believe and jump right into it :)

    Alexis Massey 1845 days ago

    And now its time for advice from Alexis.

    I know it can be scary in a completely new school and in a class with a crazy lady who has just told you that you are going to make something fantastic with media. My advice to you is just jump in. Learn as much as you can film a lot of b-roll (you will find out what that is later), and have a lot of fun. It doesn't matter what you create as long as you are proud of it and you learn from it. 

    Danielle Richardson 1845 days ago

    Hey there ninja, I would advise you to plan out everything you want to do ahead of time. Plane rides are awesome for binge-watching but there also awesome for planning out some of the things you want to accomplish before the end of the semester. You know that moment when your eyes start to go a bit fuzzy and you've run out of 'Friends' episodes to watch? Use that to set a goal of  a project you want to complete in the story and then spend the first few weeks fiuring out what kind of story you want to tell :) If before Greece, for example I said that I wanted to focus on recording a movie about people's perceptions of history and it's combination with the present I would have been so much more prepared to distribute my time to tell the story I wanted. 

    Jonah Dollery 1845 days ago

    Welcome to new media ninja!

    I have some advice for you:

    1. Plan well to produce well:

    If you plan well, your production will be efficient and not chaotic. Also if you plan well you will be able to create without being rushed which I found, caps my creativity.

    2. Take time:

    Take time to produce something that you are proud of that expresses your creativity, logic or whatever. It is also important to remember that the most incredible things are made with time. 

    Good luck and make something cool!


    Kiana Froese 1845 days ago

    Level one ninja, congratulations for making it this far :) 

    If I were to give you one piece of advice, it would be to, like Galek said, push yourself to your full potential but also be realistic. You will get discouraged if you compare yourself to a person who as been filmmaking for years and expect yourself to get there on your first go. Also, don't be afraid to ask people for help, feedback is crucial in filmmaking because you usually don't create a video for just yourself. You need to be aware of your audience. So, the main takeaway from this piece of advice would be to be realistic, yet driven and constantly try to improve. 

    Good luck :) 

    Gillian Aftanas 1845 days ago

    Hey there level one ninja :)

    If I could give you any advice for your first year of producing media at TGS I would tell you to plan out projects at the begining of the term (seriously, write these ideas down and record your memories), take plenty of b-roll, learn how to use final cut pro before the last minute when you're rushing to edit and submit and to take pride in what you are able to produce. You aren't going to be incredible right off the bat and better things are yet to come. There is not point in being disappointed, as every mistake is a possible learning experience.

    Best of luck and I hope to see some awesome media projects some day soon :)

  • Lindsay Clark (Banned)
    Lindsay Clark 1844 days ago

    Galek Yangzom Very thoughtful and true! It takes a while for people to find their voice and let their skills reach their expectations. Your peers should inspire and support you, not intimidate and stall you.

    Alexis Massey I couldn't agree with you more... both that I'm crazy and that it's all about producing something you are proud of!

    Danielle Richardson Plane pre-production (© Danielle Richardson, 2015)... I love it! You never know what you are going to experience in a place, nor the stories you will witness and be inspired to share, but going in with some idea for production will definitely help you hit the ground running.

    Jonah Dollery Well-said advice and an important point about creativity in the filmmaking process. Some do not thrive while rushed, and quality pre-production and thinking through a video project can unleash the creativity in those people. And yes! Incredible things DO take time...just like all of you dear ninjas.

    Kiana Froese I always feel like I'm squashing dreams when I advise people to be realistic about their video plans, but you are right in that pipe dream videos are near impossible to pull off as a first video project. Feedback is absolutely crucial, and all of you quickly develop skills to share positive, constructive, and thoughtful feedback for the daring filmmaker willing to share a draft.

    Gillian Aftanas Little successes should feel HUGE in the filmmaking process, especially with that pesky/incredible FCPX. Lots of good advice here with a lovely focus on personal, meaningful stories.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the newest TGS students. I'm so proud of allllll my digital media ninjas! #braintrust4lyfe