If there’s one thing the Savannah Film Festival does well, it’s exposing audiences to new projects and nurturing their love of film. But just what makes the people that direct and produce those films want to enter the world of film? And how do they navigate it once they’re in it?
At the Gutstein Gallery on Nov. 1, directors Shawn Ku and Bill Borden shared their experiences in the industry as part of the Young Directors Forum. As it turns out, there’s no set path to enter the world of film, as the backgrounds of Ku and Borden show.
Now known as a seasoned director, Ku entered the entertainment industry first as a Broadway character actor. His passion for film surfaced in a rather unconventional way: by suffering through a terrible movie.
“I could write something half as bad as that,” Ku recalled.
He began studying scripts, then continued his education at the University of Southern California. His senior thesis film got him attention at the Sundance Film Festival. Ku is most known for “Beautiful Boy,” which he wrote and directed.
In contrast to Ku, Borden caught the film bug while studying painting in Florence. Comparing his paintings to those of his peers, Borden said, “If I were Michelangelo, what would I be doing? I would be making movies.”
Borden eventually left his painting background behind and tried his hand in the entertainment industry. A producer and director now, his credits include “High School Musical,” “Kung Fu Hustle,” Mission Impossible 3″ and “Desperado.”
But where do students start? Ku stressed that it is important to discover “the story you’re suited to tell.”
“Create a voice for yourself that is really unique,” Borden advised. He stated that if an audience can get a feel for one’s writing, then a screenwriter can avoid making a “general ‘good screenplay.’”
Ku agreed but advised students to ask themselves a question when making creative decisions: “Am I doing this just because it’s weird, quirky or special — because there’s a falseness in that, and the audience will see through that.” He added that it is “important to be idealistic with an edge of honesty” when working through the creative process.
“A script is a sales pitch, not a movie. Everything you do — at all moments — you are selling,” Borden said.
Ku added that the process of writing and analyzing film will help with visual storytelling. “We have to think of the audience constantly,” he said.
Ku went on to explain that if a director were to pummel an audience with plot for an hour and a half, the viewers would become exhausted. By observing previous work, a director can learn to interlace appropriately little “detour scenes” throughout the movie in order to give the audience a break.
Part of making a good film, and surviving in the industry, according to both Borden and Ku, is teaming up with fellow filmmakers. Ku emphasized that filmmaking is a “collaborative media,” to which Borden added, “The team has actually helped people get to where they are.”
He went on to explain that when filmmakers network as a team, they can gather twice as many good relationships.
Borden’s network now happens to include six to eight lucky SCAD students, whose scripts he’s read. “Those are the best student screenplays I have seen in the past five years,” he said. And both Ku and Borden agreed that SCAD film students are “in the right place at the right time.”Contact Kayla Adams.