Kaius Potter is one of those people whose enthusiasm is infectious. He’s a young filmmaker from Byron Bay, New South Wales, so it’s no surprise that he’s deeply embedded in surf culture. But by young I mean 17, so it is a bit of a surprise that he’s come this far already. He’s experimenting with film without any formal training, but the trial-and-error method seems to be working just fine for him. And he’s got plenty of time to hone his craft. Since we know there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers like him out there in the surf community, we asked him to share a few steps about how he’s been going about things in the hopes that you’ll take some ideas from his journey and apply them to your own endeavors.
Step 1: Get the gear that’s right for you, at the time
At the beginning, equipment is the most minuscule part of filmmaking. I was 14 when I first picked up a camera: a Sony handicam that I found in my parents’ cupboard accompanied with an old rusty tripod. I then saved and bought the first GoPro. This gave me experience shooting from land and water. Most filmmakers specialize in one or the other, but I decided that I wanted to feature both in my videos. Once you have delved into filmmaking and want to get serious about it, it is all about research: Figure out the standard of films you want to create, and go from there. Don’t spend thousands of dollars if you are not prepared to take your camera everywhere with you and give up surfing pumping waves to score footage of pumping waves. I am 17 now and have my heart set on filmmaking, especially surf films and surf culture. I have been shooting with a Canon 7D for the past year and have slowly been adding to my quiver of lenses. I am also saving for a water housing, as I’m itching to jump in the water with my setup.
Step 2: Learn to use the equipment, or don’t
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to learning how to use your equipment. A lot of people decide to go to film school and other course-type things, which teaches them all they need to know about making the next Titanic. I, however, have developed my technique through constant trial and error. This applies to both my filming and editing. I taught myself filming techniques such as composition just through watching surf films. However, I spent the first six months with my Canon 7D shooting on the entirely wrong setting. If I went to film school, that wouldn’t have happened. Editing was much the same. I used to sit there watching YouTube tutorials instead of doing my homework for years. I now feel confident, but I know there is still so much for me to learn. I plan on picking it up along the way!
Step 3. Find good people to shoot
At the beginning, I started by shooting my friends, who all happen to be shredders. I happened to be down at Lennox Point one day, my home spot, and while I was filming my friends I saw Rasta (Dave Rastovich) paddling out. I decided to film his whole surf and ended up with heaps of crazy barrel footage from the style king! I uploaded an edit and within two days it had 30,000 views, and it seemed that everyone knew about it. That was the climax of my venture so far and really built me a good reputation in the local industry. From here, I started asking the other pros around the area (Stu Kennedy, Soli Bailey) if they wanted to shoot, and having the Rasta video under my belt, they were keen on the idea. I am now focusing on filming my friend, Billabong rider, Soli Bailey. We are both the same age and both have goals which we can help each other achieve. Half the time we shoot we are just trolling and mucking around – always fun. But we still manage to come away with A-grade clips.
Step 4: Ask for help when you need it
I have been lucky. I have a close family friend who is a film production teacher at SAE College Byron Bay. He’s lent me equipment, told me what I’m doing wrong and given me so much advice and feedback on everything I produce. I believe it is important to have someone other than yourself critiquing your work – it keeps you grounded and is the best way to learn. Dont be afraid to ask people about what they think. The worst thing they can do is give you negative criticism, which you can hopefully learn from!
Step 5: Put yourself out there
Don’t be afraid to get your stuff out there. Exposure is good, even if it’s bad. Being known is a filmmaker’s ideal goal. Every edit I do I send to magazines, online blogs, Facebook pages, literally whatever will help the video get views. Seeing your video on several sites, blogs and Facebook pages is the most fulfilling feeling I get from what I do. There is nothing better than knowing people are enjoying what you have spent hours of effort on! Remember, in the early stages, dont be afraid to publicise yourself – it all helps!
Step 6: Don’t think too hard
Editing films can be a tiresome process, if you think too hard about every single second of the video to the highest degree. If you think something’s cool and suits what you are trying to portray, go with it! If it requires that much thought, it’s obviously not working! On another note, don’t drink too hard either. Trying to film with a chronic hangover has led to many potential clips being missed!
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