Guerrilla Filmmaking: The Benefits of Wearing Many Hats


Unlike Benjamin Braddock adrift in a pool - uncertain of his future, but certain “plastics” held no interest - from a young age I always knew what I wanted to do. After watching Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park, I wanted to be an archeologist. Then after watching enough science fiction, just like Andy abandoned Woody for Buzz, I ditched the fedora and dawned a space suit. My childhood fantasies of potential future professions were always drifting, but they were based on the movies that were there to influence me. Perhaps my earliest self-realization was that the only way I could achieve all the interesting permutations of a potential future would be to become a filmmaker.

To be a filmmaker, is to be a lifelong learner. 

I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Once you stop learning, you start dying.
— Albert Einstein

Lifelong learning is the “ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge,” and too often we have a narrow definition of what learning should look like. Many challenge the current education system, including Ken Robinson, an international advisor on education in the arts.

“The whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized."

I was fortunate enough to not be one of those students who passions were stigmatized. After a wonderful customized education experience being home schooled for grade school by responsible, active and engaged parents, I was eventually enrolled in a charter school with a special elective class - Video Production 101. It was too late. The class was already full, but for me this class was not an "elective." Backyard movie making was already one of my passions and persistence got me into the already full class. From there I quickly became the teacher’s pet as I would complete all my assignments… and then some

In many ways, I learned film though osmosis by going to film itself rather than an offical film school. However, during my years in that Video Production class I discovered the benefit of learning every job and task on a film set by taking on all the roles myself. Inspirations would rattle around in my brain until they spilt out onto the pages a script. Soon I’d be filming my fantasies and acting as the costume designer, set designer, art department, actor, cinematographer, editor, foley artist… Sometimes when I look back at my early films I see a version of myself that’s uninhibited and overflowing with creative experimentation despite how raw and unpolished some of the footage might be. Some would be embarrassed to show their practice work, but the truth is practice and determination is what made me the artist I am today.

Georges Méliès inspired “The Modern Marvel of Flight” (produced as a high school freshman)

They say that long before you have the ability, you have the desire. Often what prevents people from pursuing artistic endeavors to a point where they realize that they are an artist after all, is that they can’t successfully transpose their vision from their head to whatever medium may be their canvas. However, we need the freedom to play and try on every hat. But don’t just take my word for it…

I did all the work on my first two feature films, Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss. I was cameraman, director, editor, assistant editor, sound effects man — you name it, I did it. And it was an invaluable experience, because being forced to do everything myself I gained a sound and comprehensive grasp of all the technical aspects of filmmaking.
—  Stanley Kubrick
I was working for 3 years on a 16mm movie that became nothing but guitar picks. And I was very disappointed when I realized it wasn’t any good. But it was my film school - and I actually got away really cheap. When it was all over I knew how to make a movie.
— Quentin Tarantino
I’m interested in every different bit of filmmaking because I had to do every bit of it myself — from sound recording and ADR to editing and music. I feel very lucky to be a member of probably the last generation who cut film on a Steenbeck flatbed, physically taping it together and dropping out shots. It gave me a really good grounding in knowing overall what has to go into a film technically. That was very valuable. And it meant that absolutely everything I did was simply because I was passionate and wanted to try stuff. You’re never going to learn something as profoundly as when it’s purely out of curiosity.
— Christopher Nolan

Despite never losing my schoolboy Pink Floyd-like attitude toward the education system, I never saw myself as one to try my hand at teaching, but here I am on the verge of my first class. It’s only natural that the subject I chose to teach is one near and dear to my heart: Guerilla Filmmaking.

When some hear the words Guerilla Filmmaking they instantly start to conjure up visions of Ed Wood calibre low budget productions, but as I've experienced first hand, working within tight limitations where you have to wear many hats can lead to beautiful, beautiful work. Practicing your craft makes perfect.

If you happen to be in London on Sunday, May 13th, come join me for my all day intensive crash course taught in partnership with Kino London.


Not every project has the luxury of a big budget, but that doesn’t have to get in the way of getting your passion project made. Sometimes the only way forward is to do what it takes, multitasking as a writer, director, producer, cinematographer, editor - you name it - but how can you effectively balance wearing so many hats?

In this crash course, you’ll be guided through the entire filmmaking process. I’ll help you navigate challenges and avoid unnecessary trials and errors. You’ll learn a series of practical steps to help ensure that your projects don't get bogged down and abandoned when the production faces challenges. We’ll chat about vision, screenwriting, pre-production, hiring and working with talent, production, basic cinematography, sound and post-production. Finally, we’ll wrap up with tips about online distribution, film festivals and even getting yourself a red carpet screening.

For tickets click here.

Niralee Patel