If you’ve ever watched a Hollywood blockbuster and stared in awe, wondering if it was possible for you to create such a masterpiece, I have great news for you – it is.
You might not be able to film the next “Godzilla” in your own living room. However, with the advent of the Internet, there are so many resources at our disposal to help us create our own classics right at home.
If you’ve ever wondered if you have what it takes to become a filmmaker, you should consider taking the Filmmaking From Home: Turn Found Footage into a Compelling Video course on Skillshare. This class is taught by the award-winning nonfiction filmmaker Penny Lane and is a great option for skilled and developing filmmakers alike.
I took the class myself – here’s what I thought.
What is the Filmmaking From Home: Turn Found Footage into a Compelling Video Course – and What Kinds of Content Does the Course Cover?
All it takes is an iPhone to create compelling videos at home.
In fact, with today’s technology, you don’t need much more than what you already have available at your fingertips in order to make movies. You can easily use the resources you have at your disposal to capture footage and transform them into innovative films.
The Filmmaking from Home course is taught by a self-professed “camera hater” herself – Penny Lane. This course teaches you how you can take a unique approach to storytelling by transforming existing content like YouTube videos and historical archives into irreverent and informational films.
In this course, you’ll learn everything you need to unlock the best tips and techniques to make your own original stories – all by using existing footage.
This is a great class for a fanatic movie buff or for an experienced filmmaker wanting to learn more about how to take a fresh approach to filmmaking. Whatever the case may be, this class will help you sharpen your storytelling skills to a precision point and expand your editing skills. You’ll be able to make any kind of film imaginable with the endless possibilities presented by this course.
The course is broken down into numerous modules or lessons comprising 48 total minutes of instruction. Each module is less than eight minutes long, most coming in at around five or six minutes total so that you can complete the modules quickly and progress through the curriculum at your own pace.
Here’s what you will learn.
The first module of the course covers Penny Lane’s motivations for creating the course. I really appreciated how the course was designed here. She uses lots of ancillary materials and doesn’t simply talk at the camera – when she was explaining the course content and goals, she included video from other sources and it felt like I was talking with a friend rather than listening to an instructor drone on.
In the class, you’ll learn about the different types of found footage and how to combine it together to become a more powerful and impactful filmmaker. She gives recommendations on whom the class is best for and why you should take it.
The Power of Found Footage
The first main module of the course describes what found footage is and how it’s powerful. As a filmmaker, your job is not to take images yourself but rather to manipulate them to tell the story that you are looking to convey – it’s not the same thing as being a camera person. She also explains common misconceptions that people have about found footage (such as that it only refers to the horror genre, for instance).
Found footage is truly just any material that you find in the world, and knowing how to work with it is key to being a talented filmmaker.
Understanding Your Footage
The next section of the course deals with knowing how to understand found footage and break it down into different categories so you can better understand the type you are working with.
Lane explains that found footage is authored by someone else so you will be working with images that were created for a different reason than why you are working with them now. You will need to rework the images in your own way to extract elements that you need and want.
Some examples of found footage? Mass media, home movies, stock footage, and more.
Safely Sourcing Your Footage
Next, you’ll learn about how to safely source found footage. Lane emphasizes that she will not go in-depth about the legality of working with found footage in the class, but she does go over the basics. For example, everything you record is technically copyrighted. There is no need to register a copyright but there is something called fair use so that you can use footage for certain purposes without permission or payment.
She also explains that using the fair use exemption is not a loophole or something you are going to be using to “get around” the law but rather something that is there for your own use. You should always consult a lawyer before you try to sell material that you have created with found footage to ensure that you are within your rights and that you are using fair use appropriately.
Developing Your Story
Lane next walks us through how to develop your story. If you know what kind of story you want to tell, this is not as challenging – you can go ahead and pull through the material (found footage) to help you tell the story.
Interestingly, you can develop your story by starting with the found footage – and then crafting the story around it – or by starting with your story and looking for found footage to support it. The key to being successful with either pathway is in keeping an open mind and thinking of how you can tell or find a story.
Exercise: Pick Three Words
This next section of the course was my personal favorite. Lane asks students to empty their minds and then have someone give them three random words. Once you have your three random words, you will use them as search terms on YouTube.
She walks students through how to do this search via screencast and asks them to choose just one video per word. You’ll look for something with intrinsic value or simply something that catches your eye – you can always change later.
You’ll do this for all three videos. She will have you go through different editing techniques, considerations, understandings, and creation techniques to help guide you through the rest of the course. You can only work with material from the three videos.
Using the material that you already pulled, you’ll talk about editing styles that you can use with found footage. There are infinite styles you can use, but there are three that tend to be the most common – finding the best one for your footage will ultimately come down to the type of material you are working with.
Illustration is one common type, which is when the footage matches what is being said. The next editing style is collage, which is when you juxtapose two images to create new meaning, mashing two or more concepts together to create new meaning. It’s a helpful artistic technique that can help you create new meaning.
The final editing style Penny Lane discusses is compilation, which is finding new meaning through repetition. You’ll usually only use one source, but you’ll be looking at this over time and finding multiple instances of it happening and putting it all together.
Choosing Your Clips
Next, you’ll learn how to choose the right clips from found footage to help you convey your meaning. She chose one that offered lots of voiceovers, interesting images, and sounds so that she had plenty to work with. She recommends taking your time when choosing your clips because they’re the only ones you have to work with.
Starting Your Edit
When you start your edit, you will need to know what to do once you have your material chosen. She recommends cutting down audio if necessary first to see if you can condense a longer story into a shorter one to still make sense without being too long. She provides students with some of the best tips for including ways to highlight or subvert the original context of your material. How can you work with or against what you have to create the most effective message?
Refining Your Video
This next and final main section of the course teaches students how to refine the video so that it sends the message it needs to. You’ll know that you’re on the right track when your video provides or elicits a strong emotional response.
Finally, Penny Lane gives students some final thoughts to take with them at the end of the course. She recommends that students upload their projects and to continue exploring the ideas associated with working with found footage.
Bonus: Watch Penny’s Video
At the very end of the class, Penny Lane includes her infamous papaya video so that you can see exactly how she worked with found footage to craft a certain message. It’s a funny video that’s definitely worth watching, even if you end up taking your project in a totally different direction. I got a good laugh out of it, so I recommend you take the time to watch it, too!
The Course & The Instructor
This class is one of thousands offered on the Skillshare platform. To date, this beginner-level class has been taken by 4,958 students and has positive overall reviews.
It’s taught by an experienced filmmaker named Penny Lane. Lane has been creating her own nonfiction films for more than a decade, with the most recent documentary, Hail Satan?, released by Magnolia Pictures just last year (in 2019).
She has also released documentaries like Our Nixon, Nuts, and The Pain of Others, the latter of which premiered at Rotterdam and went on to both the BAMcinemaFest and Sheffield. Other film titles include Just Add Water and The Voyagers.
She is the recipient of numerous filmmaking rewards, too, including:
- The Vanguard Award at SF DocFest
- A Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Award
- Admission into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
She has also been awarded grants from LEF Foundation, Catapult Film Fund, NYSCA, Jerome Foundation, TFI Documentary Fund, Cinereach, Creative Capital, and the Sundance Institute – just to name a few.
It’s clear from this impressive list of credentials that Penny Lane (her real name, believe it or not) actually knows her stuff when it comes to filmmaking. You can rest assured that, when you take this class, you will be learning from a real and credible professional.
The Skillshare Platform
I have taken online courses via numerous platforms in the past, and although Skillshare is admittedly not my favorite (I think LinkedIn Learning takes the cake in that regard) it is definitely a platform worth considering if you are looking to expand your professional or personal learning horizons.
First, the plus side.
Skillshare provides learners with instant access to thousands of courses, skills, tools, and, uniquely, projects. You’ll be connected with a community of learners and it’s relatively easy to find decent courses in topics surrounding themes like business, technology, lifestyle, and creativity. The content is new and varied and it’s an easy to use service.
However, free courses come with ads, and some classes are difficult to navigate if you don’t spring for the paid version of the service. There is a free trial version available, but I recommend you set a reminder in your calendar to cancel the free trial when it’s expired, if you decide not to pay for the membership – you’ll be billed a whopping $99 for a single year subscription.
This subscription is much more than what is charged by other services, and personally, as someone who doesn’t take a ton of online courses, I’d rather just pay per course (or only take the free courses available on the platform, something that’s an option with services like Udemy).
However, if you are the kind of person who is always growing and taking new courses, then Skillshare could be a good option for you. You can take as many classes as you want under the auspices of your paid premium membership, giving you access to plenty of lifelong learning opportunities.
I do also like that, out of all of the classes I’ve taken on Skillshare, all of the instructors seem to really know what they are talking about. They are good instructors, too, so you don’t have to sacrifice clear, quality instruction for expertise (which you’ll find sometimes when taking classes elsewhere, where the instructors are clearly knowledgeable in their given subject area but have no idea how to actually deliver a course).
Related reading: Skillshare Review – Is Skillshare Worth It?
Major Benefits of Taking This Course
Clear Learning Objectives
I love finding new online courses to help take up my spare time – and learn something new – and this course was no exception. I always have a hard time deciding which class to take, though, especially when it seems like there are thousands of potential options out there.
One technique I use to narrow down my search is to look at the course objectives. This often gives me a good idea of whether the class is one that’s worth my time, or if I should keep looking elsewhere instead. I always try to make sure the stated objectives match up with what my own personal and professional goals might be.
This class has super clear learning objectives that you can reference before you even take the class. By the end of this course, you will know how to:
- Unlock your creativity by working within constraints
- Discover untold stories all around you, from newsreels to reality TV
- Make familiar footage your own while respecting the original context
- Edit using simple steps in Adobe Premiere, or your program of choice
Being able to see these objectives before I started the class was helpful because I could get a good idea of whether the class was right for me. At the end of the class, I went back through the objectives to make sure I had mastered everything that I should have by the end of it. I had – but if I still felt like something was missing, I could have gone back through and revisited various sections of the course.
Access to Projects Feature
Skillshare has a unique projects feature that makes it possible for you to upload your own project and get feedback from the instructor and other students. To date, about 28 students have uploaded their projects on Skillshare, which is helpful for several reasons. Not only can you get ideas and inspiration from their work, but you can also get feedback on your own work.
Can Be Taken At Your Own Pace
This class doesn’t take very long – less than an hour – but there’s nothing saying that you have to sit down and complete it all in one chunk. The course modules are extremely short and fast-paced so you can move through them quickly, or you can take just a couple per day and go more slowly, if you’d like.
Great for Beginners
When I first signed up for this class, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I know absolutely nothing about filmmaking, so I wasn’t sure whether I’d be in over my head by taking this class.
Fortunately, that was not the case. It is designed specifically for beginners, making it a good choice for newbies like me. Penny Lane is a great instructor – she speaks clearly and offers detailed instruction that is easy to understand even if you don’t have a background in filmmaking.
The bad news about this course is that, if you like Penny Lane’s teaching style, you aren’t going to find many other course options to continue your training with her. This is the only class she teaches on Skillshare, which I found to be kind of a bummer. I really liked learning from her and wanted to be able to take more classes under her tutelage.
That said, there are some courses offered by other instructors in the same niche. Some of the top and most highly-recommended courses in this genre on Skillshare include:
- How to Edit a YouTube Video WIth No Experience (In Premiere Pro)
- Video Editing: Make ANY VIDEO look LIKE A MOVIE In Premiere Pro
- The Art of Revision: How to Make Your Good Film, Great in 6 Steps
- Storytelling in the Edit: 5 Essential Principles
Complaints About the Course
To be honest, I had no major complaints about this course – it was one I truly enjoyed taking. What surprised me most was that I skimmed through the reviews of the class before taking it, and many users did not express the same opinions. In fact, nearly a quarter of the students who took it said that it only “somewhat” or “not really” met their expectations.
Some of the most common complaints? Many students felt like the class wasn’t serious enough, while others were disappointed that Penny Lane did not include a list of websites to uncover found footage (although I don’t necessarily agree with this piece of feedback, since she does direct students to YouTube).
There were other students who found that the course had too much “talking” and not enough “teaching.” Again, this isn’t necessarily an assessment I agree with – you’ll have to take it yourself to see where your opinions line up!
Who is the Filmmaking From Home: Turn Found Footage into a Compelling Video Course on Skillshare Best For?
This filmmaking class on Skillshare is an excellent option for beginners in the found footage filmmaking realm. I thought it eaw sincreidlby helpful at providing a basic overview of the art and of giving me steps that I could take to start building my own found footage films. I would recommend it to any newcomer, although it might be a bit elementary for someone who has more experience in this area.
My Overall Rating of the Course
Instructor Expertise: 5
Additional Course Resources: 3
Course Quality & Accessibility: 5
Career Value: 3
Overall Rating: 4.5/5