Thursday, September 15, 2005


Follow this link to an intervew with Jeff Seckendorf as he talks about the creation of One on One Film Training, who the program is geared for, and some of the logistics of the training. Conducted by Peter Beckwith, this interview runs about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


One on One Film Training is individualized film training for Directors, Writers, Producers, Actors, Cinematographers, and anyone making a career change into the film industry.

This is practical, custom, One on One training in how to shoot and/or direct a feature film.

The fastest way to get across the gap to understand and experience the process of making a film, either feature length or short, documentary, commercial, or music video, is to do the training first. There’s no percentage in jumping on set and making a series of untenable mistakes with either your own or someone else’s money.

Workshop programs are great for training, but are specific to the workshops’ schedule and can become unfocused by the needs and whims of the other students.

I have developed an individualized training program for anyone planning on directing, producing, or photographing a film or video project. This is an eighty-hour program (eighty One on One contact hours, plus reading, experimenting, shooting, screening, field trips, etc.). Because it is custom designed for each individual client, following a series of interviews I can tailor the program to the specific needs and goals of each person. The program can be completed in as little as three weeks or as long as six months. It can take place here in Los Angeles or any other convenient city. A sample syllabus can be found on this site.

There is a purity of purpose in One on One training. It cuts to the chase, starting right where you are, right now. One on One training makes no assumptions about your experience or talent. In the pie chart of our brains, there is a little, tiny slice called “What you know.” There is a second little, tiny slice called “What you don’t know.” The other 90-or-so percent of the chart is called “What you don’t know you don’t know.” This is where One on One training works, introducing you to the unknown, guiding you through the complex, and exposing you to the ins and outs of filmmaking in the simplest, most straight-forward way possible.

Over the decades I have taught filmmaking, I’ve always thought the most important information for any student is material that is not written. You can learn to load a film camera from a book or a technician in about five minutes. The magic of the camera, however, is where you point it, and the best way to learn that is to sit down with someone who has done it a thousand times.

One on One film training is about the unwritten ideal, the ethereal thought, the purest expression of creativity, all wrapped around the art and technical craft of telling a visual story with a camera, actors, and lights. Our single focus and purity of purpose will make your next project feel like your tenth.

Please see the One on One web site for rates, schedules, and client qualifications.


I am in the midst of a long and successful career as a filmmaker, both as a Director and as a Director of Photography. I can attribute that success to two things—tenacity and training.

The dictionary defines tenacity as "persistent in maintaining or adhering to something valued." I would define tenacity is taking "no" for encouragement and hearing "yes" with gratitude. What does "no" really mean? Does it mean "get lost?" Or does it mean "get back to me with something more reasonable [to me]." My feeling is that it's the latter. "No" only means that you have missed the mark with one particular person by just a few degrees. When I hear someone say no, I immediately look at the big picture and figure out if I'm either talking to the wrong person or saying the wrong thing, then I adjust one of both and try again. When people ask me for something and I decide to say no, I try to look at it the same way—am I the wrong person, or is it just the wrong moment.

Then there is the magic that happens when someone says "yes." Sometimes that is the culmination of years of work, sometime just a few hours, but in either case I think the most important reaction is gratitude. "Yes" is usually the payoff for tenacity.

Tenacity comes from within. It is a learned skill, developed by practice. Training, on the other hand, is purely skill by learning.

I've been teaching for what seems like forever—20 years running film workshops, many of them at the International Film and Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine, and 10 years as a flight instructor, mostly teaching competition aerobatic flying.

Here's what aerobatic competition is—alone in a single-seat airplane, flying precision maneuvers in a tiny, confined piece of airspace in front of five judges, often heading straight down toward the ground at speeds higher than the airplane's normal cruise speed. Does learning to do this take training or tenacity? I've always found that to be an interesting question.

To me, the answer is both, and it's about the results. In order to operate an airplane safely in this environment, it takes constant and focused training. But in order to win competitions, it takes tenacity—finding the best possible training, then doing it a lot.

The analogy is exactly the same with filmmaking. Making a movie, either short or long, is like a competition, first to get the money, which happens by being tenacious, then to tell the best story with the best production value possible, which happens through training.

I have set up One on One Film Training to help you with both of these elements. We're focused specifically on directors, writers getting ready to direct, and film craftspeople looking to broaden their overall knowledge of filmmaking. We've stripped away the fat and created a training method that is specific to the needs of someone standing on set directing actors and the camera for the first or second time. The information is easy to understand, technical when it needs to be, non-technical when it's appropriate. I have worked to create the best possible training environment that will give you the most information possible during the time you invest with us.

But you will also come out completely fired up, ready to take your new-found knowledge out into the world and do something with it—we train you in tenacity. We encourage you and empower you in your projects, whether that project is green-lit or just a germ of an idea. We bring life to filmmaking, because filmmaking is our life.

And it's not all altruistic. Remember that if you learn ten things, your instructor just learned one hundred things. We teach because we learn, we soak up your energy, repackage it, and then return it to you multi-fold. It's a wonderful, two-way relationship between instructor and student and it's those relationships that have kept me moving forward at mach speeds for over two decades, with no sign of slowing down.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


The following are a few guidelines that can be followed when developing and planning the visual style for any feature film, documentary, commercial, or music video.

1. Read
Read the script. Then read it again, even if you wrote it. Read it at one sitting, no cell phones, no pagers, no interruptions. Read it straight through it like you would see it on the screen. Try not to make notes on the first read…just enjoy the story. On the second pass, start to think about the look, the overall visual feeling the script gives you.

2. Write
Make notes, make lists, make a plan. Jot down films you want to reference. Note the major locations. List the main characters. Expand this document with another reading of the script, adding more notes on the visual aspects of the project. Write down all your concerns about the script: difficult situations, expensive situations, impossible situations. Be realistic; it’s easy to get dragged into a project that, due to budget or time constraints, can’t possibly be completed. Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot do visually. Prepare to talk about the story, the plot, the theme, how it begins and ends.

3. Listen, then talk
Meet or call the key collaborators. Be prepared for these conversations…it will be obvious if you’re not. First and foremost, listen. Listen carefully and listen a lot. Extract as much information from the these filmmakers as you possibly can, then lay your ideas on the table. Be definitive; offer concrete ideas. Explain, in simple, non-technical terms, your vision for the film: tone, contrast, color, camera movement, photographic energy. Be honest opinion about the script, both strengths and weaknesses. Then listen some more.

4. Watch
Watch all the reference material you can find. Films you’ve seen, films you haven’t seen, films the collaborators recommend. Tear images out of magazines and create a visual file for reference. Go to museums and see the paintings that will have the strongest influence on the project’s photography. And write everything down.

5. Test
Draw, make still photographs, roll some video tape. Continue to build the visual foundation for the film. Test color, test filters, test lenses, test perspective. Use these tests as a visual communication device. Use video to explain a particularly complex camera move. Use a black and white still photo to explain contrast. Use color slide film to explain subtle color and filter combinations. Shoot, on motion picture film, makeup and wardrobe tests. Watch carefully how the actors’ faces respond to light, shadow, color, and camera position. Test, test, and more test. It’s far better to test at this stage than on set with the actors all watching.

6. Story board & shot list
Draw the shots and/or list the shots. Stick figures work just fine; it’s just a map. Shot lists can assist all the departments: camera, grip, set lighting, art, script. Make them as complete as you can, a solid plan for the photography. But remember, these boards and lists are just a plan to deviate from. The actors and the moment will combine to cause the best of plans to get scrapped for something spontaneous. Be prepared, but be open.

7. Hire the best
Get the finest crew you possibly can. Try to put people in the key positions who have more experience than you do. Filmmaking is a collaborative process. Surround yourself with people who will collaborate, contribute to the overall process, and provide a constant flow of ideas.

8. Know your vendors
Use your vendors’ expense accounts…that’s what they’re there for. Go to lunch with the film or tape rep, have coffee at the lab, take a bottle of wine to the camera rental house, and a case of beer to the grip and electric house. Create long-term relationships with your vendors…these are the people who will rescue you when things go haywire, and offer ideas when you lay a problem on the table. View the vendors as part of the crew, another group of collaborators you have to work with.

9. Make it all count
Only shoot what you want to see on the screen. Anything that rolls that’s just ‘good enough’ will still be just ‘good enough’ in the theater, anything that is out of focus will still be out of focus in the theater. Treat every shot like it’s the most important shot in the film. Resist the pressure of time and money as a sacrifice to quality. Design great shots within the confines of your schedule and budget. Plan to watch the film in the theater without ever having to make an excuse for a particular shot.

10. Always think out of the box
The road most traveled has been traveled and traveled. Try a different path.

© 2001, Jeffrey Seckendorf