Jim Cummings’ YouTube Series Answers All Your Filmmaking Questions
This seasoned producer and award-winning director, writer, and star has launched a new YouTube series with plenty of filmmaking advice.
Filmmaking is a multidisciplinary art form. It requires a thoughtful approach to writing, a keen eye for cinematography, and a nuanced editing process to create a film from scratch. However, at its heart, filmmaking is a hustle.
In recent years, no filmmaker has been more prolific than Jim Cummings. After honing his chops as a producer on shorts and features for several years, Cummings has written, directed, and starred in festival standouts and winning features like Thunder Road, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, and the upcoming co-writing and co-directing venture with PJ McCabe, The Beta Test.
However, despite being perhaps one of the busiest filmmakers in the industry, Cummings always seems to be able to find time to stay in touch with the film community at large. He’s launched a short to feature lab to help up-and-coming filmmakers jumpstart their cinematic careers. And, most recently, he’s even started a YouTube series where he’s answering all our questions regarding the ins-and-outs of the industry.
A 360-Degree Look at Filmmaking
Shot with what looks to be a GoPro on a selfie stick, Cummings answers some common questions, as well as breaks down some of his favorite pieces of advice for those looking to get into filmmaking—specifically with short films, a subject he’s quite familiar with. The video is also an introduction of sorts into the new series by Cummings, with a promise to answer more specific questions in the future.
The guidance ranges from practical tips on where to find inspiration and story ideas, to more theoretical recommendations into how to tackle a project and shape your story and vision. Speaking personally, these are all tremendous pieces of advice from a source that’s been one of the hardest workers in the industry— someone who’s found the success of taking short films and turning them into festival-winning features.
10 Suggestion for Filmmakers
- Try to impress the audience through the craftsmanship of the film.
- Make sure the DNA of the project is compelling the audience at all costs.
- Read and watch great short fiction.
- Cut everything superfluous.
- Attacking a serious subject with complete austerity almost always fails.
- Discuss evergreen subjects like life, love, legacy, grief, and happiness.
- Ask yourself while you’re shooting: “Is this how this actually happens in real life?”
- Directors’ visions are often mirages.
- It’s not a sketch.
- Keep the credits short.
There’s a lot to dive into from the video, but the basic suggestions from Cummings are laid out above. Perhaps my favorite pieces of advice come from the where and how to watch great short fiction section. Cummings points to both great literature, as well as recommends checking out Short of the Week, where you can browse different channels on their site or on their Vimeo.
It’s also interesting to hear his take on the differences between short sketches and short films, and how to find the nuanced balance between attacking a project with complete austerity versus a tinge of irony or humor. Both subjects are very much at the heart of his Thunder Road short film, which was eventually turned into a SXSW-winning feature.
Other Advice and Inspiration
Overall, Cummings continues to be an awesome source of film knowledge and advice—someone quite open with the community and always looking to further engage any ongoing discussions in filmmaking. We’ve actually interviewed him in the past, tracing his career from his one-take short films to his takeaways from the set of his latest-released feature The Wolf of Snow Hollow.
For more filmmaking inspiration, advice, and resources, check out these articles:
Cover image of Jim Cummings on the set of Thunder Road via Jim Cummings.
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