Jumping in Headfirst


By Tyler Ham Pong, Film columnist


Whether you’re a YouTuber with an iPhone or a seasoned filmmaker, storytelling is an art form that evolves as we change the way we digest media. Hollywood Studios are taking hints from social media and influencers, which puts the power back in the “auteur,” a single person with a vision. Filmmaking has become so accessible at a consumer level that there’s no reason to stop yourself from making (or at least taking the first steps in making) your dream movie. But where do we start?

Everyone has somewhat of an understanding of “film language” based on the amount of media we all watch. If the camera “crosses the line” during a conversation between two characters, the audience feels jolted — even if they’re not aware of the technical details, the audience is aware of these inconsistencies. So when approaching your first film, familiarize yourself with some of the basic techniques of filmmaking. That being said, rules are meant to be broken. Storytelling is a personal experience, and if your intentions are to make the audience feel jolted, then breaking cemented film rules are a surefire way to do it. Regardless, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the rules so you at least know when you’re breaking them. And a cursory Google search will yield many, many articles about basic angles and lighting. Makes sense, right?

The first movie I submitted for competition was filmed on a eighty dollar flip cam. I used IKEA lamps and the sun as my light sources, and made it silent (similar to Charlie Chaplin) because we had no means of recording sound. We eventually screened somewhere in Brooklyn. Anything is possible! On my next movie I learned about sound equipment, because I had “mastered” (I use that term loosely) the basics of camera and lighting in my previous movie. Each movie I made gave me a little bit more knowledge about storytelling and filmmaking, until I slowly but surely grew my arsenal of equipment, which is a hodgepodge of consumer, professional and makeshift products. The most recent technique that I acquired was panning a time-lapse by placing a GoPro on top of an egg timer. For filmmaking, it helps to be crafty.

All this just goes to show that you don’t need anything fancy to make movies. Start with what you have and work your way up. Now, I hear you saying, “but I only have an iPhone.” Who cares! iPhones shoot 4K now, which is better than some of the top DSLR cameras that were released just last year. Recently, the Sundance Film Festival screened Tangerine which was completely shot on an iPhone 5S.

Ultimately, I want to dispel the idea that filmmaking is an elite and inaccessible form of storytelling. Experience starts small and works its way up. Okay so maybe we don’t have to start with a feature film comedy about zombies in space. But you can work your way up. Maybe you’ll shoot weekly comedy sketches on your iPhone which eventually get shared around the world. And with social media, this is the time where it’s possible to do it yourself. Who’s to say that it won’t be noticed as the next indie voice in comedy?

Tyler Ham Pong started performing at a young age, first appearing onstage as Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice at the National Arts Centre in Canada. In addition to training at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute, his New York City achievements have included producing Moony Mercury (theatre), producing the award-winning Two Days ’til Dawn (theatre), and producing the short film Sawaru, winning him a Best Actor Award at the AAIFF. Currently he’s based in Los Angeles, and you can follow him @tylerhampong or go to http://www.tylerhampong.com and www.killthepigproductions.com.