At the beginning of our journey we looked at some of our favorite videos and made a list of elements that made them awesome.  As we work toward our final projects, we will want to remember what these elements are and evaluate our work on these points as we proceed.

We may not achieve all of them, but we should at least consider all of them.

The Elements of Awesome

  1. A Story, which might include:
    • dramatic tension,
    • a core conflict
    • a challenge for the hero to overcome
    • a gap between what is and could be
    • or some other element that engages the viewer
    • an arc – intensity rises and falls
    • character development
    • a theme that might be returned to again and again
    • “codas” – little pieces that recur but change meaning as they recur
  2. Technical Excellence in capturing footage, including
    • appropriate lighting to match the mood and intensity of the story
    • appropriate camera movements (smooth, handheld, pans, zooms, tilts, etc.)
    • interesting and beautiful backgrounds, set design, and costume design
    • aesthetic and appropriate composition and framing
    • appropriate color schemes to match the mood
    • clean audio
    • subtle audio cues that add realism
  3. Outstanding Editing, including
    • appropriate rhythm and pacing
    • good and precise timing of cuts
    • appropriate sequencing
    • aesthetic and appropriate transitions

Remember: Assuming this is not your final work, final results are not as important as what you learn from the process.

PRO TIP: Put all of your work inside a folder called “Practice” to remind yourself that whatever it is you are doing is PRACTICE.


Lessons Learned from the 48 Hour Film Festival:

  • I would say the biggest thing I learned was the importance of planning… planning shot by shot the story. The more you plan the easier it is in production and post production.
  • Sleep is important.
  • Simpler is better, especially in a short time frame.
  • Need to create some character development.
  • Find ways to show passage of time.
  • Need some drama to engage the viewer throughout.
  • Watch for shadows and other cameras while recording.
  • Use fewer but better shots.
  • Our team strategy worked out very well and efficiently.  We all wrote the script and story board together. For film day, we dedicated one person as the director. She kept track of the shot list and shooting schedule and directed the actors. Then we had two cinematographers. They were responsible for shooting the shots at different angles and maintaining appropriate camera settings. Then, those who weren’t acting were responsible for lights and sound. This worked out well!
  • If using more than one camera, matching the in-camera color profiles BEFORE shooting needs to be a priority.
  • Dynamic camera movements make long shots less stagnant. Gimbals are great for this. I love our first scene for this reason. The second scene needs a subtle pan from right to left to make it come to life.
  • Working with a team whom you can trust is crucial. It makes the process exponentially more enjoyable and the quality of the film improves. My favorite part of the experience was feeling my group cohere as the deadline approached and much still needed to be done.
  • I found that there is a difference between thinking abstractly and being creative insofar as they apply to (amateur) video production. An abstract idea/story isn’t easily transmuted into a filmic idea/story. A large part of the creative process of filmmaking is knowing how to convey an idea/theme, which may be complex, into a series of videos that are simple yet elegant. Some of our shots did this, but too many didn’t.
  • Being cognizant of what the audience needs to see is something I struggled with. I found myself getting caught up in composing a shot as beautifully as I could and sacrificed clarity that was needed.
  • We spent a lot of time going for a Wes Anderson-esk aerial view of Colin opening up the crate on the table. But what was more important in that scene was the posters that he was pulling out of it. We didn’t linger long enough on the posters, and they are intended to propel the story.
  • The adventure up the mountain scene was much too long and could be shortened by at least 20-30 seconds, I think. The problem is they were all pretty nice shots and our team all thought they deserved to be added. I think the pacing suffers quite a bit with the length of that scene.
  • I got much, much, much better at using the gimbal and composing shots over the course of the challenge. Transitions flowed pretty seamlessly, I thought, and most of this was done with in-camera work. There were a few fancy transitions in-post, but I get a lot more excited when clever camera movements are utilized.
  • I still don’t know enough about how to get great audio. I feel like the little details (footsteps, etc) are what really make audio amazing, and I just don’t know how to capture that stuff well.
  • With a team relatively new to film it is almost impossible for everything to turn out perfectly the way you want but that does not mean you can’t be proud about how far you have come.
  • Creating weekly challenges that integrate a technical skill (like composition) with a storytelling prompt would maximize what we get out of the challenges.


  1. Characters who do not have clear goals.
  2. Undercooked scripts.
  3. Bad sound.
  4. Poor casting choices.
  5. Poor shot composition.  Too much dead space.  No depth.
  6. White walls.  Need production design.
  7. Poor lighting.
  8. Unnecessary Insert Shots.
  9. Lingering.  Unnecessary action shots of people going from here to there.
  10. Too many pregnant pauses.
  11. No movement.
  12. Too much chit chat.  Too much dialogue.  (Dialogue is character, not exposition.)
  13. Action for the sake of action.
  14. Cliches.
  15. Weak starts.
  16. Generic Music
  17. Not doing anything.  Better to do the wrong thing than nothing at all.

Getting “The Breath” right (pacing)



Your Next Challenge:  Final Project Trailer

Create a trailer for your final project, set to music.  This is an essential first step for you to start clarifying precisely what you want to do.  Many shots from this trailer can and should end up in your final project, so consider this the start of your final project.




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