Reader Question: How does a 15 year-old get experience screenwriting or directing?

Nowadays with digital filmmaking, the mantra is: Do something!

From Lence1818:

Scott, my question is how would a young person, such as myself, go about finding internships and other opportunities for screenwriting or directing? Ones that don’t exclude people who don’t have much experience and aren’t in college yet. I’m 15 so it’s probably near impossible.

When Lence1818 posted the question, mommyfollows offered a terrific response:

It might very well be impossible for you to do those exact things, except in whatever form a summer camp might take, but it’s not impossible for you to write and direct your own projects right this very second no matter what your age. I was about your age, sophomore in high school, when I first started trying to puzzle a story together. That was fiction, nothing meant for the screen, but every word you write for any storytelling format is another brick in the path toward a successful completed project, and every minute you spend putting together a film, no matter how short, is a chunk of experience you just won’t have if you don’t do it. Read about the 10,000 hour rule and take it seriously, or strive to be the exception; and study storytelling in general, and solicit honest, raw feedback. Do SOMETHING.

Do something. Today more than ever, aspiring filmmakers can create content. Digital cameras. Digital editing. You don’t need an internship to make a short film. Just go out and do it.

Don’t compare yourself to Spielberg or J.J. Abrams. They started somewhere. Their first efforts probably sucked. If you want to direct, trial-and-effort is a great way to learn.

Who are your favorite screenwriters? Who are your favorite directors? If you don’t know, what are you favorite movies? Find out who wrote and directed those. Then read and watch everything you can on those filmmakers. Books, articles, interviews, DVD commentaries, obviously their scripts and movies.

Then go make a short film. Write a script. Shoot it. Edit it.

Watch more movies. Read more scripts. I can’t begin to convey to you how important it is to immerse yourself in the world of cinema. Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, Tarantino, Abrams, pick any of great director and I can assure you they have an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. They have gone through probably hundreds, if not thousands of films, and broken them down scene by scene, shot by shot. Do that.

Then go make another short film. Write a script. Shoot it. Edit it.

If you want a film school education without the cost, you can get a good start here: Deep Focus: The Go Into The Movies Project:

Subject Area I: Movies

Subject Area II: Scripts and Screenwriting

Subject Area III: Film Analysis and Criticism

Subject Area IV: Filmmakers

Subject Area V: The Evolution of Filmmaking

Deep Focus In Brief syllabus: 25 movies, 25 screenplays, 5 books [For those with limited time or looking for a good starting point]

Go through that. Make another short film. Write the script. Shoot it. Edit it.

So to add one piece to mommyfollows’ great advice: Learn something. Do something.

GITS readers? What advice do you have for a budding 15 year-old filmmaker? Please hit comments and share your wisdom with this young person. Who knows. They could our next generation’s great writer-director.

UPDATE: Since I originally posted my response to this question in 2012, the situation has evolved. Digital technologies have made it even easier for anyone to make a movie. Web series have exploded on screen. The Internet continues to grow as a distribution platform.

The mantra “Do something” has never held more meaning than today. And if you want more inspiration, I just remembered that in 2009, I interviewed a then 17 year-old Emily Hagins who had by that time written and directed two feature length movies. You may read that 3 part interview below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Emily Hagins then.
Emily Hagins now.

Since 2009, Emily’s film and TV credits include My Sucky Teen Romance (2011), Grow Up, Tony Phillips (2013), and Coin Heist (2017).

If you’re a teenager, take a tip from Emily: Do something.

Comment Archive

Reader Question: How does a 15 year-old get experience screenwriting or directing? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Cool Stuff: Cinera Headset Straps an HD Movie Theater Experience to Your Face


Movie theater attendance has become a problem in recent years due to high ticket prices, poor customer service experiences, and a wealth of entertainment choices from various subscription streaming services. While companies like MoviePass are trying to increase attendance with their own movie ticket subscription plan, one company is trying to make the home theater experience even more enticing.

Cinera started out as a Kickstarter pipe dream to bring a high-definition movie theater experience into your home by way of a headset that uses dual-screen high-resolution technology to put movies right in your face. Now the product is ready to be ordered and shipped this December. But is this a new piece of home theater tech that’s worth the money?

Here’s the official Cinera headset pitch video from the device’s Kickstarter page that launched in July:

The company hit their initial $ 50,000 goal and then made over five times more that before all was said and done, but that’s mostly because their early pledge levels all include the device in question for 50% of what it will cost when it starts selling to the general public. Now the pledge levels that are leftover offer the Cinera at a 42% discount, which still isn’t a bad price.

Cinera seems like a good idea in theory, but it doesn’t seem like the most sleek way to bring such a high-definition movie theater experience into your home. Sure, it’s convenient and significantly cheaper than building a sophisticated home theater, it doesn’t exactly look like the most comfortable or desirable viewing experience.

First, there’s no indication as to how much the headset itself weighs. Wearing a device like that on your head for an extended period of time can be cumbersome and bad for your neck. That’s exactly why they created the burden free arm which takes on the weight for you. But that hardly looks like the best solution. Though it looks easy to move, attaching to the edges of tables, counters etc., I feel like it’s not convenient for a comfortable movie-watching experience, especially for those who shift constantly on the couch.

Secondly, if you’re using the arm, it doesn’t look all the easy to keep your face in the proper position to get the best viewing experience from the headset. Does your face always have to be pressed firmly against the headset or is there some wiggle room for you to sit in a more relaxed way and still get the full effect?

Besides those concerns, Cinera seems like a promising device. The fact that you can utilize popular apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon Prime and more with the device makes it particularly enticing. It’s not clear how convenient it is to actually hook the device up to your Blu-Ray and DVD players or other external entertainment devices, but that function makes it rather appealing, especially when it comes to playing video games on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

If you want even more in-depth details about Cinera, check out their full Kickstarter page over here.

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Will iPhone Theater Mode Prevent (Or Encourage) Phone Users Ruining Your Movie Theater Experience?

blocking phones in the movie theaters

A new leak seems to suggest that the next update to iPhone’s iOS operating system may introduce a new movie theater mode which should make use of the iPhone less distracting in the cinema environment. Hit the jump for more details on the iPhone theater mode.

The rumor comes thanks to notable Apple leaker Sonny Dickson, who says that the upcoming iOS 10.3 update will feature a “new Theatre Mode” which will add popcorn-shaped icon to the control center. Details are pretty thin right now, but according to Dickson, the mode could essentially be a dark mode. The iOS 10.3 beta one is scheduled to seed on January 10th 2017 and is code named “Erie.” Many are speculating that the new mode will both turn off notifications and dim the screen brightness to the lowest setting.

The iPhone already has a “Do Not Disturb” function in the Control Center that that shuts off notification sounds, so you would think this new theater mode would do more than to dim your screen’s brightness. So maybe there is something more to this.

Some tech sites are already writing this off as the end of times like Apple is going to be encouraging people to text and use their phone while they are in the movie theater. Wake up call, that is already happening. I can’t remember a public movie screening I’ve been to in the last few years where I didn’t at one point spot someone on their phone. And honestly, this usually is an issue of brightness. People who use their phone in the movie theater almost never lower their brightness or try to conceal their usage under their jacket or whatever. These are people who generally don’t care about the people around them. The question is: will a new popcorn icon convince some of those people to turn their phone to “Theatre mode” before a movie begins? Heck, if it convinces a few people it’s probably worth it right?

I’ve theorized for years now that movie theaters and Apple should collaborate on a new technology that would prevent phone distractions during movie screenings (and other performance-like events). In June 2011, I wrote a post titled What If Your Cellphone Wouldn’t Allow You to Use It During a Movie Screening?. In the post, I proposed the idea that Apple should build a system which would not allow people to pick up a phone call or respond to a text message while inside a movie theater.

The phone would be in lock mode while in the theater, from the time the trailers start until the end credits hit. And better yet, the technology would put all iPhones on minimum brightness, which would be less of a disturbance. So even if someone turns on their phone to check the time, it will not distract as many people from the film. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that some people need the ability to receive urgent calls/txts — doctors, parents…etc. I’m not saying that the ability to check one’s phone should be completely disabled — for example, you would still be able to see someone is calling, just not able to pick up or return the call until he leaves the theater. You would be able to read the txt message, just not be able to respond.

The response to that idea was very mixed. It turns out people don’t want private companies to have control of their technology, even if they aren’t the rude one texting and looking at Facebook during Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on opening night. Also blocking phones in the movie theaters in this manner would probably be illegal, as there are probably FCC laws that would prevent a company like Apple from releasing a system like that. Apple has more recently patented a way for concert venues to prevent iPhone users from recording performances that artists want to protect, done through an infrared beam that would prevent the operating system camera functions.

This new Popcorn mode could be a step in the right direction, however. If the leak turns out to be true, I just wonder what it might actually entail.

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