Filmmaking best practices, part 1: from vision to reality

As artists with a prompt, we can’t think about textbook responses….we’re asked to put our very human perspective into everything we do.”  Esteban Gast, Filmmaker and 2016 Film Challenge finalist for “Experiments in Town Building”  

Creating a film for the AIA Film Challenge is often an extremely rewarding experience for both filmmakers and architects, but getting started and finding your story can be difficult. That is why we created a two-part series sharing best filmmaking practices-methods compiled over the last three years of the challenge. This week we will talk about selecting your Blueprint for Better story, the role of diversity in storytelling, and collaborating with filmmakers.

Selecting your Blueprint for Better story

The fourth annual Film Challenge invites architects and filmmakers to collaborate to bring architectural stories to life. The prompt calls for participants to highlight architects and civic leaders working together to create a significant impact on the community. The Film Challenge is designed to garner maximum engagement and encourage quality content based on the campaign’s concept: Blueprint for Better.

So, how might you go about selecting your Blueprint for Better story with the above in mind? We’ve found that the most compelling films follow a simple format:

  • Community impact first. Focus on telling a story of the positive change that architects and their work have had in a community. Ground your story with the perspective and anecdotes of community members – relate it to the human experience.
  • Introduce architects as part of a solution. Make the role of architects clear in creating a Blueprint for Better. Rather than portraying architects as solo contributors, think about them as thought and action leaders who are a vital part of creating solutions.
  • Support your story with civic/community leaders. This year’s campaign aims to highlight the partnership between architects and civic leaders to create positive change in communities, and we want to hear from those civic and community leaders as much as possible.
  • We encourage you to go beyond the building and connect with the people and communities they serve. Don’t be afraid of the everyday stories. There is real power and purpose in small but mighty moments.

The role of diversity in storytelling

“Pre-production (preparation) is key, as is finding people to work with who are as excited about, and as committed to creating a compelling story, as you are.” Sarah Barker, Producer/Co-Owner, Creative Media Hub, and 2017 Film Challenge participant with the submission “Brazen Conversations”

Leadership in design and construction requires collaboration. The AIA, as part of the global community, champions a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion within the profession of architecture to create a better environment for all. Achieving this vision has a direct impact on the relevance of our profession and the world’s prosperity, health, and future.

Representing diverse voices is essential when architects are developing solutions for their communities. As such, we encourage you to highlight the diverse voices surrounding your story. From ethnic to socioeconomic to gender to cultural diversity, a strong film will capture the various people and perspectives involved in bringing projects to life.

Connecting and working with filmmakers

“The key to performing well and putting together a solid final product was the partnership with our filmmaker. We knew the project intimately, had the passion and knew what we wanted to see, but once we started working with someone who was very experienced in running through the production process as well as the technical aspects of filmmaking, we realized we couldn’t have told the story without them.”  Sharon M. Samuels, Designer, Architect, Artist, and 2017 Film Challenge finalist for “Inside the Box- The Story of Boxville”

Once you have your story it’s time to find a filmmaker who can bring your vision to life. We suggest connecting with local film organizations or film programs at schools nearby. You can also leverage your personal network. It’s amazing how easily a Facebook post or a Tweet asking for help can lead you to connections in the filmmaking world. Another great place to look for filmmakers is at local film festivals, where there is usually a wealth of talent looking for more opportunities.

 Another option is to reference sites like YouTube and Vimeo to discover filmmakers in your area, find a style you like, and get in touch with those creators. When contacting a filmmaker, having a story in mind from the start can be helpful. Sharing your vision with the filmmaker will give them early direction so they can get a feel for what you’re looking for.


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