Reader Profile – Mikel Estes

Name: Mikel Estes

Age: 54

Camera: Canon FS100

Computer: 15″MacBook Pro

Editing Platform: iMovie ’08/ Final Cut Express

Microphones: Audio Technica Pro70 Lavalier, Sennheiser e835, AKG D1000E

Support Gear: Tripods- Sunpak 7575, Sunpak 9002TM, Lighting- Mole Richardson 2351 Midget Solarspot, (3)stock halogen industrial lights. Soundtrack- Yamaha DGX-305 keyboard, Tascam DP-02 Portastudio

Inventions – (2) Camera Stabilizers, Clapperboard, (3)Reflective Screens


The beginning. November 2008. I knew nothing. I owned nothing. Let me rephrase that. I knew nothing about filmmaking and owned absolutely no equipment. To date, I have about 17 videos online, as well as a short movie trailer and most of the extra footage shot to self-produce an 18 minute film. I will soon enter this into festivals and shop around for executive producers ($) to further my pursuit to do an expanded full-length feature. Here’s how I did it.

The catalyst. The entire idea came about when my girlfriend said she had gotten a job with a private contractor and was leaving soon for Iraq. She had recently left her job at a local yoga studio here outside of Atlanta. She had been sharing the daily drama/comedy stories about how that business was going (under) and I had toyed around with the idea of making a movie or theatrical production of her tales. When she left, I decided I needed to create a major diversion in my life and head to keep my sanity. The idea hit me like a…bomb: I would become a filmmaker!

Research and development. A few trips to the bookstore didn’t produce the spark I needed. I never did like or allot the time to just sit and read. I really needed shorter articles. In the magazine section, I looked for something interesting and came upon Videomaker, to which I immediately subscribed, as the articles were short, concise, and mostly geared for any beginner/intermediate to understand. Perfect!

From there I started studying soundtracks that had inspired me – Dances with Wolves, Braveheart, Legends of the Fall, Gladiator, etc. After about a month, original compositions were spilling out of my head. In fact, in listening to one of my recorded songs just before bedtime several nights, images emerged from deep within me, and my short video wrote itself. I just filled in words under the pictures that I “saw” in my head. The entire movie idea came to me in this way and the audition script was written quite easily.

Acquiring equipment. I picked up my very first camcorder and tripods when one of the major chains announced they were closing their doors, then ‘Craig’s listed’ and auditioned about a dozen actresses for the 2 major parts in my movie. Soon realizing this would be impossible to do with no funding, I decided to do a short version of scenes that would tell a complete story in itself, and use that as a promotional tool to further the overall goal.

Also during this time, I bought Pinnacle Ultimate 12, but finding my PC couldn’t handle video well, I turned to eBay and bought a MacBook Pro. Soon I ended up getting Final Cut Express, as well as a 1TB external drive. Whatever else I couldn’t afford, I made, including 2 camera stabilizers and other equipment and props.

The shoot. I started to contact people for locations I desired for scenes, and was blown away with their generous offers. So, with my 2 actresses and truckload of equipment, I started the actual shooting of my first project in early 2009. For the most part, it all went beautiful, and what didn’t I simply chalked it up to a learning experience and got on with it. As of this writing, one more shooting day to tie up loose ends is scheduled before I go to post-production.

If I had to say there’s one thing that helped me do a better job, it was offering to videotape musicians and bands for free, providing them a DVD and providing me with experience on my own equipment. I’ve certainly found that in spite of trying to read all about how to do something, there’s no better teacher than to just get out there and do it. In my case, I simply needed the spark of an idea…well, that and my loved one going to a war zone.

Mikel Estes, aspiring filmmaker

Sidebar: About This Series

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