18 March 2010

Today's Renaissance (Wo)Men

by guest columnist Phil Holbrook. Follow him on Twitter.

A Renaissance Man is someone who is said to excel in many subjects. He is skilled academically, artistically, socially, and physically. When referring to a renaissance man, people will usually think of Leonardo da Vinci. Whoa. Those sound like some pretty big shoes to fill. Damn right! Yet, they are being filled, right now, by men and women I like to refer to as...

Serious Independent Filmmakers. 

I’m not talking about filmmakers who never smile or joke around. By “serious”, I mean filmmakers who work their ass off. They are today’s renaissance men and women.

I know there are folks who think I’m being a bit dramatic, but I don’t think I am. We’re talking about people who “excel in many subjects.” I’m only going to skim the surface here, but let’s take a look at it.

Academically & Artistically

There are film schools you can go to. Or you can learn “on the job” if you will. I’ll let everyone judge for themselves what’s right for them. Regardless of how you decide to learn the process of filmmaking, there is much to learn. These serious independent filmmakers that I speak of, know their trade. But what exactly is that? Are we talking about writing? Sure. What about photography? You bet. How about editing? Hell yeah! Now we’re on the right track. We might as well throw audio, graphics, and visual effects in as well. Some people spend their whole lives just getting good at one of those things, and that’s great, but for the filmmakers I’m talking about, that just won’t cut it. In a previous post on this website, the guest blogging producers Joke and Biagio, discussed being Hands-On-Producers. It’s a must read, so go do that (as soon as you’re done here). The part I really want to touch on is how they believe the old saying “Jack of all trades, master of none.” isn’t enough. They write,
“In today's Hollywood, you have to be a Jack of All Trades, and a Master of AT LEAST ONE, preferably two or three.”
I couldn’t agree more. Now, I’m not saying you need to do all of these jobs. As a matter of fact you probably shouldn’t. But you should know how these jobs are done, and be a master of a couple of them. Besides, having an intimate knowledge of these important jobs will help you to be able to pick the best people for your team, as well as communicate effectively with them.


Just making a film requires quite a bit of knowledge of numerous subjects, but today’s renaissance men and women don’t just stop there. They can’t. Not if they want their film to have the best chance of being seen by the most people, and hopefully make a few bucks at the same time. These filmmakers have not only adopted and adapted strategies used by marketers, but some filmmakers, like Jon Reiss have pioneered new schools of thought about how to connect with people and reach your audience. This goes way beyond the old school tactics of releasing trailers, going to film festivals, printing posters and crossing your fingers.

Social Networking is one of the newest tools being used, and is showing to be quite effective. The serious filmmakers dove in and have learned to have a conversation with their audience via their website, blog, facebook, and twitter. Not only is this effective marketing for their current film, but they are also branding themselves as an accessible filmmaker, creating a fan base that will be there for future projects. Granted, social networking is only part of a larger picture. However, these filmmakers are becoming so well versed in topics such as marketing, distribution, and money management that even the hollywood machine has had to sit up and take notice. Not only are they taking notice, they’re taking notes. Do you think someone at Paramount just woke up one day and BAM, Insurge Pictures was born?

Well, maybe.... but where do you think the seeds of that new pet project came from?

You should take notes, too.

There’s no reason not to. They make it so simple. Bookmark their websites, subscribe to their blogs, and follow them on twitter. Now, I suppose you are wondering who these renaissance men and women are. I already mentioned Joke and Biagio (@jokeandbiagio), as well as Jon Reiss (@Jon_Reiss) earlier on, but here are a few others that I keep an eye on. Zak Forsman (@zakforsman) & Kevin K. Shah (@drmental) over at Sabi Pictures are on my list, and Gary King (@grking) is another one who will not disappoint.

Like I said, I am just skimming the surface here, but we have a growing number of talented artists that are also becoming well rounded in not only production, but technology, marketing, public relations, business, accounting, the list goes on and on. So go forth, expand your knowledge, and you too can be one of today’s renaissance men or women.

(Alright, alright... I realize that I didn’t say anything about the physical part. Fine.)


Go ahead and work on multiple projects, with deadlines, stress levels, sometimes weeks with only a few hours of sleep each night, if any, and then come talk to me about what a filmmakers body can handle physically.

The end.

Phil Holbrook has always had a love of film and the filmmaking process. In 2004, he decided to make a career of that love. He purchased equipment on credit cards, learned how to use Final Cut and other software and then started his own small production company, doing training and orientation videos, among other things. Phil also works for an outdoors company, doing all of their web video. Phil was born and raised in Minnesota and loves living there. He has written and directed several short films, all shot in Minnesota, some of which can be seen on his website http://www.creativejinx.com/ He is currently working on his first feature film, “Tilt”. The making of, process of Tilt can be followed at it's blog http://www.tiltthemovie.com/


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