Wanna Learn Something New? Start a Project – Part 2


In Part One I outlined a way of learning by harnessing the power of the PROJECT. In part two I’ll describe the making my first sci-fi action film and how I used that experience to learn new things.

Here’s a trailer:

This was a “family and friends” project, one that both kids and adults could enjoy doing together. It was rather ambitious – the goal was to get it to look as much as possible like the ‘real thing’ except with non-actor kids in the roles.


When I first started planning, I took stock of my current skills, then looked to see how relatable or transferable they were to the ones I eventually needed.

Here’s what I started with:

Camera and photography experience (but not necessarily narrative shooting)
Artistic ability
Writing experience (but not screenplays)
Building skills (woodshop, electrical design)
Sewing skills
Computer and graphic design experience
Studio recording and mixing skills
Music composition skills

Here’s what I needed to learn:

Screenplay and story structure
Lighting techniques
Better VFX skills (gotta have those spaceships!)
Directorial experience



While writing and storyboarding the screenplay I devoured all the classic and popular screenwriting books I could get my hands on. This was a good time to do it as I was highly motivated at that point to solve story problems.

captain thrawl

I studied everything I could find on how to light scenes. I watched movies, read books, trolled the web, and saw how others did it. I did a lot of light tests.


lightsabers r2d2

I carefully studied Star Wars-style costume designs and made many character-specific props and costumes. including a replica R2-D2 robot.

ship landing

PDVD_062I spent many, many hours watching tutorials, learning how to move CG ships convincingly, how to key a greenscreen, and how to composite.

planet small- sidewalk wars

I learned how to use the few resources I had to tell a story on a micro-budget and make it look huge.

I learned how to motivate non-actors.

I learned a lot about marketing, social-networking and online promotion.

I found out why NOBODY makes a film like this by themselves!


What’s nice about filmmaking is that it takes uses just about every skill you have just to pull it off.

Over a two-year period, and after a lot of sweat and blood and anguish, the film was finally done and screened to a enthusiastic, packed house.

While it’s no “Citizen Kane” I learned a awful lot. I got knowledge and experience you can’t buy, plus I was MOTIVATED to learn, and had a lot of fun!

This is the power of the project.

Give it a try. Whatever you’re trying to learn, make a plan. Start a project. You’ll be amazed at what you can do!

For more on the film “Sidewalk Wars” visit:


© 2014 Leo Bidne

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