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What I Learned from Making My First Short Film - and Why You Should Start Making Yours


INFLUENCER: White Rabbit Budapest's Levente Kovacs shares three insights that came to him as the co-writer and director of short film Rhododendron

What I Learned from Making My First Short Film - and Why You Should Start Making Yours

Although I have participated in the idea creation, writing, development and production of quite a few commercials during my 22 years in advertising, creating my own short story and bringing it to life was a mind-blowing creative experience. It was a complex 'cinematic tour-de-force' that provided me with even more skills and lessons about filmmaking, about leadership, about creativity, about the human psyche and, yes, let me use a sensational and wide-screen logline expression here: it taught me a lot about life.

Make no mistake; working on campaigns for clients like Shell, Heineken, Pfizer or WWF has already gifted me certain recognitions, but making Rhododendron was a completely new challenge, a different sort of plate spinning. Only with less plates to break and much more responsibility, concentration, inspiration and creative freedom.

So what lessons have I learned during the process? Here are the three most important ones.

Find your passion project 

If you're doing full-time creative work in an agency, it's essential to have a side project. What else would keep you alive in the petrified forest of meetings or endless discussions about a Facebook post? So don't hesitate, find something that helps you flex and train your creative muscles. Something that will charge your creative batteries again and again. 

Write children's books. Illustrate comics. Compose music for games. Anything goes when it's about boosting your creative energies, feeding your inspiration by giving you absolute freedom. 

For me it's been screenwriting (along with being a father, but that's a different article). And making my first short just has made me realise how rewarding and inspiring it is to pursue that passion.

Tell stories – but not just in commercials

Our industry is obsessed with storytelling; In fact, no one takes you seriously if the word ’storytelling’ is not crammed into a sentence at least twice (see this one). But it's time we put the money where the mouth is. 

I mean, we have the narrative skill, the dramatic sense, the curiosity – so we should use our talents and experiences to discover and tell stories not just in commercials, but outside the realm of advertising too.  

Tell stories that entertain, educate, enlighten people; that touch their hearts; stories that make them think, laugh or cry. That introduce our cultures, our histories, our lives to each other. And the medium of your storytelling can be anything. Film, novel, photo, song, name one (aerial shots from planes while you're travelling on business class paid by your company, as well as Boomerang videos of your latest party don't count, sorry).

The only thing that matters is a narrative that elevates people to a higher level. Not just consumer-wise, but as humans. My first short Rhododendron is an attempt to achieve that type of storytelling. I hope it was worth it.

Collaboration makes the world a better place

A good idea is like a magnet: it draws like-minded people together. It puts them on the same wavelength, mobilises their creative energies, since everyone wants to contribute to that idea on his or her own personal level. In the case of Rhododendron, everyone was touched by the premise and the idea of the story – the actors, the crew members, the art department of White Rabbit Budapest, my colleagues who helped creating the production design – and those personal involvements added up, and resulted in a way better production in the end. 

As a writer/director all I needed to do was channel those positive energies of collaboration and maximise their impacts from the story and its characters' perspective. 

Well, now the shooting is over, we're in the post-production phase, and the short will be shared with the world shortly. Then it's going to start its own life: telling the story of two agents of the Hungarian secret police, flashing up that moment when the communist regime collapsed in Hungary 30 years ago. But this short film is not just about revealing the history, the culture, the drama of a generation of Hungarians; making Rhododendron also made me realise that we creative people could contribute to the world on a different, deeper level as well.

So, what's your passion project? When are you going to publish your book, release your album or shoot your first short? What's your personal story you're going to tell? 

I can't wait to see it.

Levente Kovacs is CCO of White Rabbit

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White Rabbit Budapest, Fri, 09 Aug 2019 14:07:01 GMT