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Book Learning Vs. Experience (Or Why We all Need Weekend Projects!)

Regular readers of my weblog are well aware of my recent interest in video production. I can’t remember if I mentioned that I had to cancel my video documentary because the relative who was to be the star of the show died in August. No matter.

I  posted a 100 questions about video on various forums, read a thousand others, read several books and even wrote a longish review of an Oreilly video book. I did lots of research into video cameras,formats, aesthetics and basic facts of distribution. I have learned a lot. And spent an awful lot of money (and in the next month I’ll be spending even more money!).

And yet…And yet, aside from a short 5 minute test shot during the holidays, I still have not made a single video project or done basic editing or even written a script. After spending all this time gathering information and resources, lord only knows if I’ll get around to producing anything!

This does not deter me. My father, generally skeptical of my ambitions, urges me not to waste my energies, saying I’ll be competing against people half my age with twice the talent and training. Perhaps. Video production, I’ve noticed, attracts all sorts of types. Mechanically-minded people (i.e., George Lucas), visually-oriented people (Tarkovsky, Sven Nykvist), musically-oriented people (Walter Murch), actors (Spike Lee), social historians (Michael Apted) and theatre people (Ingmar Bergman), Yet, very few people excel at all these areas; most are lucky to excel at one. To achieve things in video, you only really need one strong skill and the determination to bring a project to completion. My strong skill happens to be writing/narrative/screenwriting, and I plan to fake all the rest. (playwrighting/screenwriting/narrative). I will never be able to demonstrate the technical prowess of a Robert Rodriguez or the special effects of Kerry Conran’s’s Sky Captain. That’s not me. whatever technical tricks I’ll try will probably seem laughable in comparison to more professional efforts. Yes, the problem with video production is that everything costs money. But after bleeding cash for a few months, I expect to acheive a level of self-sufficiency with my video equipment. At some point you can parlay skills into paying projects which lead to better equipment and hopefully better skills. Even in noncreative endeavors, developing these technical skills can have benefits for future jobs. One problem with personal development is that people rarely have the time or resources to tackle big projects. Sometimes you see it with the manager who takes on a major home improvement project on weekends or rebuilds a new auto engine. Or the person who performs music for the weekend or paints or takes night classes ad infinitum. Unfortunately, most job situations have the effect of discouraging such initiative. Those who still do it are viewed as crazy or selfish or dangerously bored.

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