The Guerilla Film Masterclass

By Lielani Holmes

First appeared HERE


So. It’s Monday and I’m recovering from two very intense days of The Guerilla Film Masterclass with Chris Jones who basically over the weekend shared the entirety of his experience and philosophy about filmmaking in a straightforward and honest way, dealing with the pitfalls and progress of a filmmaking career.

I wanted to blog about the whole thing last night but I felt that it would be advantageous to actually let what I have just experienced sink in a little and begin to assimilate so that I could talk about it with a bit less of the ‘whoah, wow’ that my brain was in yesterday, and actually make some sense!


So. Saturday began in a room of some 350 filmmakers of varying levels and experience, buzzing with anticipation and keen to learn. We started with Chris giving an overview that lead into the course and then talked about what the keys to success are and spent a few minutes talking about defining why we want to do this with our time and energy, who we are and really getting to the core of what motivates us.

Something Chris said about this really resonated with me in a way I can’t quite even define yet. He talked about what we want (or our egos want) and what we need out of life. That want is mundane and that you have to really need something for the circumstances to be right for it to come to you, which wasn’t said in a ‘The Secret’ or ‘ask the universe’ kind of way but seemed more deeply rooted in connecting with what you need as a human expressing to other humans through film and not just what your ego tells you that you want. Life is full of want. Want is mundane. You have to really connect with and ask for what you need, for life to deliver it.

Chris detailed a five step career model that he has defined and we looked at illustrations of how this five steps has fitted well known filmmakers careers. It’s not a blueprint as such but a framework to help people be realistic about where they’re at and know where to go next and what to be aiming for. And then he told us meticulously how to plan to do just that and how to carry those plans through pre-production and the shoot. What you want to make and the kind of filmmaker you want to be is quite key to planning productions and realising how far you can reach without overstretching and where to spend every penny for the best outcome without wasting resources to choose the right project that will lead you forwards to the next stage of your career. Always as the information led forward, it highlighted again and again the very specific things we’d already been told and formed a whole plan. So the very vital parts of being a filmmaker get re-iterated throughout the masterclass.

We then went in detail through the choices for sound, camera, and digital data management planning, how to prepare your personal life for the impact of making a film and how to minimise fallout.

There was a dizzying amount of information to absorb, personal philosophy to consider and practicalities to take into account. I finished Saturday utterly, utterly exhausted. If this course isn’t mental and physical training for how exhausting it can be to make a feature film then I don’t know what is! I got a good night’s sleep before day two!

Sunday I’d built up a bit of stamina for the masses of information coming at my brain and was able to hone in on the key issues of post-production. It’s an area I’ve personally struggled with and been both clueless about and out of control of during a couple of the shorts I’ve made. While it’s okay to fudge your way through with a few mates help on a short, when making a feature, post is a massive, massive endeavour that few filmmakers are really prepared for. I know that right now I’d totally struggle so it was refreshing to hear the nitty gritty of how the process works and the pitfalls to avoid by knowing about all aspects of your post workflow and troubleshooting beforehand. It’s when the anticipation of planning is gone, the thrill of being around a big crew has disappeared as the shoot finishes and the production crew leave for their next gig and you are left with the material you have which you have to make a film of despite the fact that there are always flaws to work around. That’s real work but I felt enthused once I’d understood the ins and outs and strategies to manage and I hope that employing some thorough preparation will make a process that is as joyful as the shoot itself.

We spoke in some detail about sales and distribution. The current state of play in those areas, what other filmmakers are doing and what Chris thought we ought to know. How to deal with the hard edge of business and where and how to sell you film for the most advantageous rewards and how best to try and protect yourself and your project for the long term. There were a few reality checks along the way that were good to be aware of. Always Chris spoke from the experience of himself and the filmmakers he’s close with, showed us examples and told us the truth from where he stood, while motivating us to understand our own strengths and weaknesses and how best to work with them for the kind of filmmaker we want to be.

I’m not sure quite sure where this weekend has left me. Certainly better prepared, a little daunted and yet strangely the enormity of it all is reassuring because what the whole weekend really came down to is why. Why do we do this with our lives and what is it about us that makes us tell stories to strangers? And that’s actually quite a simple question to answer with a little bit of thought and self-evaluation. That’s the important bit really, getting to the simple core of it all. The rest is just doing the stuff you need to do.

A lot of The Guerilla Film Masterclass information is held in the Guerilla Film Maker's Movie Blueprint that you can buy from Chris Jones' website. I do recommend the course. Chris said that making a feature film changes your life, that you'll be a different person when you come out the other side of that process. That takes guts. Chris' course will punch you in those guts and let you know they are absolutely there inside you! :)

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