Getting Started

My First Camera

I say my first camera, but I guess the more honest thing would be to say the first camera I made a feature film with.

A warning, this gets embarrassing real quick. 

My friend, Saul, and I were around sixteen years old and had a weekend free. We decided to improvise a short scene about an adventure hunter called Craig Hunter who was in search of the fabled Skull of Goliath (very cool already, I know).

We called our friend Ed round (who is now a phenomenal film composer) and asked him to film it with the small camera I had laying around. We improvised the scene around six times, each time filmed at different angles and then a few shots for the b-roll. 

Oh, the glorious images this camera captures within its 4:3 frame… want to see the camera? Yeah, let’s not wait.

Canon Digital IXUS 400

May I introduce the incredible Canon Digital IXUS 400!

Capable of Approx.4.0M with a 7.4 – 22.2 mm (35mm film equivalent: 36 – 108mm) with a f/stop of f/2.8 – f/4.9 and even recorded audio!

Not impressed? Well neither am I now, but back then? It was what I had and that was, by far, enough.

Ed, Saul and I went on to make an hour-long feature film called Craig Hunter & The Skull of the Giant

It wasn’t a drama (that would have been more sensible), it wasn’t a comedy (I’m not that funny so wouldn’t have worked too well), no! It was a high-octane, action-packed adventure film heavily inspired by Indiana Jones and Lost. 

That’s right! This small camera captured this tasty story…

Craig Hunter and Desmond Hillary trek through the wilderness and eventually find a portal, leading them to the island where the ancient King David had been rumoured to have buried the head of Goliath (all made up of course). But when the ghost of Goliath possesses Desmond and traps Craig underneath a collapsed temple, Craig must face his past and face the Giant Goliath (made real by… well, not CGI).

The film has never seen the light of day. 

Well… until now. No, I’m not going to put the whole film here, but I will put the trailer below. You ready for the bad quality, bad accents, bad acting and a bad trailer? Great! Told you this would be embarrassing.

The truth is, I’m actually very proud of this film. Not because I think the film is good, but because we grabbed what we had lying around, scheduled all our weekend free time, got some friends together, and made a film. 

The amount I learnt from making this – it made me work on editing narrative, got used to props, we even worked on scripted scenes, did re-shoots, learnt what it took to make even the smallest of movies.

And it wasn’t for anyone else. This one, Craig Hunter & The Skull of the Giant, was for us. To have fun, and more importantly, for me anyway, to learn the beginnings of the craft of filmmaking.

So when people ask how to start their life as a filmmaker, and what camera to get, and what piece of gear they need, my answer is this…

My first camera was the best camera I ever had because I had it. 

More than likely, the phone in your pocket films at levels professional Hollywood could only dream of thirty years ago – and films from back then are great. If you’re starting out, then the best thing you can do it to start with whatever you have. And don’t do it for an audience at first, don’t do it for acclaim or for money.

Do it for fun, do it to learn, do it to begin your craft as a filmmaker.

2 Comments

  • Robert Henry

    I remember you messaging me to come round and look at your camera (or it may have been the camera after that.) I remember that trailer too. I didn’t see the whole film, but I remember you showing me fight scene between you and Saul.

    Those were the days.

    • Paul Syrstad

      Oh yeah – I think that was the second camera, a little bit of an upgrade but not much. The fight scene was obviously the scene to show, we had swords! Haha

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