Technology democratizes filmmaking world

STEVEN MORTINSON/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Ryan Abella working on aerial shots for “The Roots of Happiness” in New Zealand. The movie was entirely shot on DSLRs.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

STEVEN MORTINSON/Courtesy<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->Ryan Abella working on aerial shots for “The Roots of Happiness” in New Zealand. The movie was entirely shot on DSLRs.<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->

I knew from an early age that I was a filmmaker.

When I was nine, I wrote a story for a local Kingman writer's competition. It was about an aging Olympic sprinter who was jeopardizing his relationship in his quest for one more record-breaking victory. He failed, and in his failure he realized that his career was nothing compared to the love he let slip away

I remember sitting in the Hualapai Elementary School library and closing my eyes to imagine each moment of the story. It played out, shot by shot, in my head. I still visualize stories like that, with angles and movement and light painting a picture in my imagination.

At the time, filmmaking wasn't even on the radar in terms of a career choice. Cameras were incredibly expensive, and unless you were in Hollywood or born with a silver spoon in your mouth, access to the proper gear and resources was incredibly limited.

As I grew up and went to college I started looking at filmmaking again as a major. I never stopped writing since my years at Hualapai, and nothing really fulfilled me as much as breathing life into a story.

I got my hands on a gently used Canon GL2 once I got to university. It was the indie filmmaker's weapon of choice, and at $2,000 it was a bargain for the work that it produced. I was lucky, though, as most of my filmmaking friends didn't have access to that kind of gear.

Filmmaking on any level was extremely cost-prohibitive. The camera alone costs thousands of dollars. Computers that could actually edit everything were behemoths that permanently resided in the bowels of the campus computer labs. Distribution was next to impossible on your own: you needed a studio or a media group to take you in.

Otherwise, your film would never be seen.

The economic glass ceiling for a beginning filmmaker could only be busted by throwing money at it.

There were a few examples of people bypassing the entrance fee and landing into the filmmaking world.

Robert Rodriguez produced El Mariachi for $7,000 in 1992. Kevin Smith maxed out some credit cards and got Clerks produced for under $30,000. But for the average aspiring filmmaker with little or no money, there were very few options for getting your film made. And because of that, there must be countless unfinished stories floating around out there that were abandoned due to a lack of money.

That started changing in 2008 when Canon released the 5Dmk2.

Here was this DSLR camera with a 35mm sensor that could take 1080p24 video in a computer-friendly format. The quality was, and still is, superb. You had access to all of Canon's lenses and accessories, and because it was so small you could take the camera just about anywhere.

It wasn't long before filmmakers started using DSLRs as cameras of choice, and within a couple of years an entire industry was turned on its head.

This launched the democratization of filmmaking. Distribution models were broken, paving the way for digital-only films that could be seen worldwide for free. Sound gear, lighting, stabilization, tripods, and specialized gear came out that was designed to be budget-friendly while producing great results.

Six years later, filmmaking has shifted from an elite few to anyone with a great story and help from some friends. A filmmaker can shoot, edit and distribute a film with very little money and resources.

That kid sitting in the library at school doesn't have to sit and dream about making a movie anymore. He can recruit his friends and go make something happen.

People are doing it right here in Kingman, too. Filmmaking groups are popping up here and there. Teams are entering movies in the Laughlin International Film Festival or participating in the 48 Hour Film Challenge. I even bumped into a student film crew at Mohave Community College filming a class for a course.

As a filmmaker from a small town, that's incredibly exciting.

Filmmaking enhances and spotlights the culture of a community like this. Kingman has an incredibly rich narrative that we citizens help write each and every day.

I have a quote scribbled on a Post-It that's stuck on the border of my computer monitor. It reads, "The saddest story is the one left untold."

People are telling their stories now more than ever before, and that's something even nine-year-old me couldn't dream of.