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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dov SS Simens 2-Day Film School

My weekend was spent entirely in an auditorium listening to a lecture by Dov SS Simens in a two-day film school. The lecture was held at Spring Singapore (formerly known as the Productivity and Standards Board) and organised by the Media Development Authority. It lasted from 9:30am to 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday.

As implied by the name, it was an intensive course to introduce new independent filmmakers to the world of movie making. A few things that Simens stressed time and time again:
  • the movie business is a business, i.e. the movie you make is expected to earn profits.
  • budgets are grossly inflated, e.g. a film can be made for -- dum, dum, dum -- US$200,000 for a reported US$1 million film.
  • nobody buys short films.
  • to make a good film, you need a good script and money, whereas talent comes last.
Simens teaches in a strange way: while one would expect a civil lecture -- and it was, but he also raises his voice as if in a scolding manner. He probably does so to drive home his points. As we got used to it, we started giggling when he boomed into the microphone because we realised that he wasn't scolding at all.

Simens is reportedly well known in the moviemaking circles because of his film schools. On the other hand, his background is working on films that no one has heard of... and it made sense later when he explained that there are American films that will never be shown in U.S. cinemas, but are deliberately sold overseas. Like B-movies.

But while I was suspicious of his credentials, I appreciated the knowledge that he gave us. Filmmaking, especially in Hollywood, is a cruel, cutthroat affair. It's like any other business. You need investors, you need good ideas, you need something that sells, and most importantly, you need profits. Filmmaking is not some arty-farty hobby that you pick up, which is the impression I get from most local filmmakers.

No, filmmaking is a business. If you don't get it, then you shouldn't be in filmmaking.

Incidentally, it should be "movie making", not "filmmaking", and "producer", not "filmmaker".

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