A Film A Day For A Year – By Preston Kanak

A FEEBLE BEGINNING

When I first picked up a camera, the furthest thing from my mind was using it to make a living, let alone a film a day. I didn’t pick up my first (Sony Hi8) camera until 1999.

Before getting involved in filmmaking, I was going to school to be an optometrist. (I think this decision was strictly based on the fact that I was colour blind). Go figure! I distinctly remember the moment I decided to make the switch from optometry to filmmaking. Any free time I had outside of school, I was creating some form of visual art – whether it be a photo, a painting, or a drawing. I remember visiting my cousin’s advertising company and thinking, is it really possible to make a COMFORTABLE living making art? He definitely proved that for me.

WHY FILM?

Well, the short of the story is that I actually stumbled upon it unexpectedly. My parents instilled the need in me to get a degree so I applied for a transfer to two local art colleges, one that was 6 hrs from where I grew up and the other only 2 hrs away. I choose the later. Little did I know that the Media Production & Studies Program was actually a film program…

MEETING PHILIP

Like many young filmmakers, I turned to the Internet to learn as much as I could about filmmaking. It was right around the time when 35mm adapters were the rave and inevitably, I stumbled upon PHILIPBLOOM.NET. Philip’s site soon became my first source for information. I was fascinated by the work being produced by Philip and others using the adapters, including Tom Guilmette. I soon purchased my first HD camera, the Panasonic HVX200 with the Letus35 Extreme and began shooting every chance I had – usually at least an hour a day.

I met Philip through twitter. I remember struggling with time-lapses and asking Philip for help. Without hesitation, he willingly helped in any way he could – which blew my mind as I am sure he answered the same questions a million times for different people.

WORKING WITH PHILIP

When thinking of how I got the opportunity to work with Philip, all I come up with is that it was purely luck. Philip posted an internship opportunity in Idaho through twitter. Living in Saskatchewan, Canada, I jumped at the opportunity to apply. To my amazement, he asked if I wanted to come out and play. I said, ‘yes please :)!’

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the internship. What I left with was more than I could have ever imagined. Philip’s depth and breadth of knowledge was/is amazing. However, what separates him from the lot is his willingness to share his knowledge. This willingness is what made the experience far more helpful and inspirational than all other previous experiences with filmmaking. In relation to my film a day project, it is very easy to see the dramatic shift in the films following the internship.

THE PROJECT – 3 MINUTE SHORTS – A FILM A DAY

Before embarking on producing and posting a short film everyday for a year, I came across a book by Malcolm Gladwell titled, “Outliers”, which mentions many times throughout the book a concept known as the 10,000 HOUR RULE.

Photo by Daniel Bean at NAB 2011

The 10,000 HOUR RULE was derived from a study by Anders Ericsson, a psychologist who researched the success of violinists at the Berlin Academy of Music. In his study, he found that in every case, the violinists that performed the best were the violinists that spent more time practicing.

“Outliers”, further describes how the magic number of 10,000 hours was the average number of hours the violinists as well as athletes, composers, writers, artists, even criminals spent to achieve their success.

After reading the book, I didn’t immediately start the project. I spent about one year prior to creating 3 Minute Shorts filming shorts off and on, averaging about 15 shorts a month but never felt confident posting the work I was doing. I felt it wasn’t ‘good enough’.

Producing and posting a short everyday is a lot of work. Much more than I could have ever imagined. At the start of the project, I was putting in at least 5 hours a day from conception to completion per film, not including the development of the website or maintenance. The hardest part about the project was maintaining my day job as a full time web/multimedia developer. If it weren’t for the flexibility of my job, I would not have accomplished the project.

For the first few months, pure dedication and drive kept me going but at about the three-month mark I was really struggling. I wanted to give up. However, at about the five-month mark, filmmaking became part of who I was. Without the support of family and friends, I would not have accomplished the project, nor would I still be creating a film a day. There were some days that I would produce two films and others when I wouldn’t produce any. However, in the end I was able to produce 365 films in 375 days.

The project also allowed me to experience many things I would not have had the opportunity to otherwise. I would not have been able to travel as much as I had during the project (Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, North Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada). Most importantly, I would not have had the opportunity to work with Philip.

Would I recommend a film a day to others? The only way to become a better filmmaker is by filming as much as you can. The more films you make, the better you will get. However, if you plan to undertake such a project, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. I have created a list of things to consider before embarking on a film a day.

HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL WHEN EMBARKING ON THE 10,000-HOUR RULE

CAREFUL SELECTION: The most important aspect of using the 10,000-hour rule is finding your passion. Discover what it is you love. Can you see yourself doing the activity for an extended period of time?

TIME SPAN REFERENCE: 10,000 hours is about 3 hours a day over a 10-year period. Spending this kind of time on your passion will not feel like work nor will it feel like 10 years.

FLEXIBILITY: Make adjustments to your 10,000-HOUR SCHEDULE, if you are working part time, try putting in 4 or 5 hours a day. Add additional hours on the weekend or any other time you have off.

ADAPTABILITY: The key to being successful is the ability to adapt to your surroundings. It won’t be easy and you will want to quit. Ensure that you have a support system in place to help you when you want to quit. Involve your friends and family in your project because there will be times when you will need that little push.

FINANCIAL SUPPORT: If you plan on producing and posting a short a day, financial support is key. If it wasn’t for my parents, my full-time job, and freelancing, I would not have been able to complete the project.

FOCUS: Ensure you stay on task and are maintaining a level of consistency in the work you produce. This does not necessarily mean embarking on similar projects; rather focus on how this will help you grow. Collaboration is key to ensuring you are successful when attempting the 10,000-HOUR REGIMENT.

MY CONTRIBUTION TO PHILIPBLOOM.NET

I am not completely sure what to expect as assistant editor for PB.net. One of my biggest hopes is that I am able to provide a unique perspective as a young filmmaker. I am sure my role will adapt and change with time and I am sure I will see a few bumps along the way. My biggest hope however, is that I am able to provide other filmmakers with the knowledge and perspectives I have gained from shooting a film a day.

 

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Comments

  1. Amazing ! We share the same opinions & experiences with filmmaking (except that Phil or anybody didn’t bless me…)
    10000 hours ? easily made with time when your work is your passion, but I lost my social life, my wealth (too obsessive & perfectionist to sleep before I was satisfied with the results..), my money (spent on gears, cameras, films)..
    And I won the satisfaction of knowing that “I am what I do & I do what I am”, became better with practice & experience.
    That is to say I can understand and share your point.
    The only thing is that I need to make content with a story now.
    I feel like audience is bored to watch an “empty” content ; people tell me they want a story.
    And it’s the hardest point in this (for me) ; to find people as motivated as you can be, willing to work without being paid, sharing the same passion, just to make a film without even knowing where it’ll end..

    I wish you a bright future with Phil and other filmmakers and thank you for sharing.

    Fred B.

    1. Thanks! One of the most important things during the project was surrounding myself with other artists. Be it a musician, a painter, or a tattoo artist, all shared the common desire to create. I found collaboration was very important!

  2. Wow, Preston…that’s a really impressive undertaking!

    I read Outliers a while back, and the 10000 rule really stuck in my mind as well, so thanks to you (and PB) for showing us all how to really apply it practically. I’m not sure I can pull off a film a day, but I hope to do one a week, starting this August.

    Congratulations on the editorship, and I’ll be reading your stuff for sure.

    Cheers!

  3. I read Outliers a couple of weeks ago and loved it. Such a great and inspiring book. I do agree that you need to put 10,000 hours into your passion to “master” it but also that you need to capitalize on every opportunity that you come across!

    Great post.

  4. Awesome article! After hanging out with you at NAB, it was great to hear the story behind the man. Looking forward to your future posts!

  5. I can’t even keep up doing a photo a day, but to do a short film a day is just insane. There is a risk I think of ending up not posting your best quality work though, if you have to rush to complete something daily.

  6. Fantastic first post Preston. You are an inspiration to us all. You are a talented shooter with a great eye, couple that with an insane drive means you really are going places.

    Pleasure to have you on board to add to the site with your different perspective on things!

    1. Exactly. Take from this what you want – a film-a-day, or “10,000 hours practice”, but the bottom line is that someone with the passion and drive to stick to a PERSONAL challenge like this has what it takes to succeed. Talent and know-how are important, but both of those are nothing if you don’t know how to apply them.

      I have no desire to make a film a day for even a week, but this has inspired me – both in filmmaking and other areas of my life. Thanks for sharing, Preston, and I cant wait to see what else you share with the community.

  7. great post to a promising start. Wish you much success with this and other future creative works.

  8. Hi Guys, that is an inspiring post, a lot of dedication there!

    I am a jewellery designer of 15 years (more than 10k hours spent!) and now I am moving into film making, it’s very exciting to be a the start of another 10,000 hour project!

    Preston, don’t know if you are interested but I am developing a quick easy and cheap tool to help with composition and aspect framing, I would love to send you a set of my new invention for you to try out and maybe let me know what you think?

    It is a set of LCD screen protectors with micro accurate reference lines and aspect frames on them, you can see more detail on my site here:
    http://www.magic-air.co.uk

    Let me know if I can send you a set, maybe email me an address?

    Good luck with working with Phillip and big respect once again for your level of dedication!

  9. I’ve had a wonderfully busy few weeks and I’m just catching up on my RSS bin. This is a great post, Preston. My buddy and I were attempting a much less impressive feat and still failed horribly. But we’re still giving it a go.

    Man it’s hard to Do. Life moves so fast, but if you don’t move fast with it you’re not gonna have anything to show for it. Congrats. Any big ideas for the future? or are you just ready and waiting to see what Mr. Bloom pushes into your arms?

    1. Still doing the shorts but only at a rate of 5 per week on average. No, not waiting for anything like that, just trying to learn as much as I can. Knowledge is power!

  10. I wonder if you’ve missed the most important points in Gladwell’s book?

    His first key point is that putting in 10,000 hours doing something is not enough: you must devote 10,000 hours to “directed” practice. Hence, instead of making one short per day, you must isolate a specific element that needs improvement, devise a way to practice just that element and a way to measure your progress and then practice just that one element until you reach the predefined level you want to reach.

    I know nothing about film making, so it’s difficult for me to think of an example;suppose you identify a problem with exposure (if that can even be an issue with today’s technology). What you would have to do is devise a situation which normally created a problem (maybe panning across a dimly lit room to focus on a vertical pencil in front of a very bright window….I know, the dimly lit room is kind of inconsistent with the bright window, but stay with me) and then practice filming that or a similar scenario until you could achieve exactly the effect you wanted in any heavily backlit situation. Making an entire short means that you are probably spending more time on the things you can already do well than the things you need to improve, and that you are not directing your mind to what you most need to practice.

    Many people seem to interpret the 10,000 hour rule as meaning that they need to put in 10,000 hours at a specific job. That’s not it.The only hours that count are those where you are engaged in a very specific form of practice.

    The second key point he makes is that NONE of the people who did that special kind of practice found it enjoyable. They ALL reported that it was very, very hard work.

    So, unfortunately, it seems that spending 10,000 hours doing something you enjoy is not the secret to expertise. The secret is being able to be persistent, resilient and consistent enough to clock 10,000 hours of hard, unenjoyable, focused and specific practice.

    If that sounds like bad news, sorry. So, can the emphasis on one short per day. Review a sample of your work, pick out one aspect that you need to perfect, figure out how you can work on that single aspect in isolation and start putting in the time until you have mastered that element and can move on to the next.

    It sounds like you have the drive to carry through. Good luck.

    1. Thanks for the reply and I understand your concern. However, I completely understand what Malcolm was getting at in regards to the 10,000 hr rule. For me, the ‘directed’ practice came in the form of critiques from my peers as well as the online community. Feedback was key for the project and I strived to improve every film. For example, if you look at my timelapses at the start of the project compared to now, you can easily see my desire to improve upon each shot.

      The practice of producing and posting a short is not one simple task. It is multiple tasks working together to allow the films to be posted. I strived to vary the genre of the shorts as well — varying from corporate docs to art films. There is also something to be said about collaboration. That in itself pushes one to try things in new ways. It allows you to approach situations in new ways.

      I am all about pushing boundaries and trying things in new ways and being able to adapt to any situation. Yes, there are many films that look similar but virtually all films had something new in them — be it through camera technique or post-production processes — like using a variety of editing platforms.

      There is never one way of doing things and it was Malcolm’s book that truely inspired me to do the project. Did I follow the exact guidelines of the book and the 10,000 hour rule? Definitely not. Did I strive to try something new on every film? Yes. Will I ever be an expert in a specific field? No. Personally I think that is impossible as things are always changing and you are constantly forced to teach yourself new things and ways of doing things.

      As for the book itself, I am pretty sure his main objective was to help inspire people and I definitely credit the book for that.

      As for your advice of reviewing a specific element of a piece and then perfect it, I still find myself visiting old shorts — thinking of ways to achieve a similar effect in a new way so yes, that is a great point.

      As for the point about not enjoying what you are doing, I think that is absolutely absurd. There is no reason whatsoever that you can’t enjoy what you are doing — while also learning new ways of achieving what you desire. Personally, if you don’t enjoy what you are doing, you shouldn’t be doing it. Life is short. Yes, maybe it will take longer than 10,000 hrs to perfect your trade but like stated above, one should never stop learning — even if you consider yourself an expert. I think it is simply the idea of the 10,000 hr rule that was meant to inspire people.

      Bad news, definitely not. My hope is that this project has inspired others to try something similar. I have learned more than I could have ever imagined at the start of the project and am so thankful I did it. Would I do it again? Hell yeah!