The utmost importance of VL101 cannot be overstressed. It is the foundation from where all true filmmaking knowledge will continue to rise. The "VL" stands for Visual Language. VL 101 is the foundation of the moving image language of film: learning to tell a story in visual terms.
This is the Achilles heel of so many filmmakers, including professional filmmakers here and abroad: having a relatively weak foundation. Everyone knows what happens to buildings with weak foundations. Many are simply too impatient to build a strong foundation, and rush to acquire technical knowledge and plunge directly into filmmaking.
The problem is...there are simply too many filmic elements in this multi-discipline medium that will drown the filmmaker, unless he is fully anchored to the foundation knowledge that serves to unify all the cinematic elements as synergistic parts of one wholeness...like jigsaw puzzle pieces in the wholeness of the jigsaw puzzle picture.
Without this foundation knowledge, where all the infinite elements find their meaning, studying filmmaking is like sorting through a clutter of jigsaw puzzle pieces and collecting them without knowing that the objective of the game is to put them all together as one wholeness. Without the essential unifying context of the foundation knowledge, all the myriad cinematic elements are as a clutter of fragments in space...rootless: there can be no integrity in the learning, nor in the filmmaking itself.
Many students ask me, "What is the best lighting?" This is the perfect symptom of the erroneous thinking that cinematographic lighting can exist on its own, separate from the context of creative and effective story telling. This manifests in TV commercials where there is glitzy lighting, backlit rim lighting for instance, in a kitchen scene of an apartment house where you wonder where the mysterious source of light is coming from. This manifests in cinematographic lighting that calls attention to itself...effectively upstaging the story itself!
And this is what happens with the over-emphasis on acquiring more and more technical knowledge, without the context of the creative use of the technical elements for creative and effective visual story telling.
One can take separate workshops on Cinematography, Direction, Editing, Production Design...but unless they are rooted in the unifying foundation knowledge, it is merely like collecting jigsaw puzzle pieces.
The Visual Language, or VL seminar and workshop module serves as the foundation of integral filmmaking. In this module, the participant not only is immersed in the creative use of all cinematic elements for effective visual story telling...but actually learns to be a total filmmaker: being the writer, director, cinematographer, editor for his/her exercise videos.
The wisdom behind this is that, after this foundation module, he/she can proceed to specialized fields like direction, cinematography, etc., with a firm understanding of the necessary integration of all these. One also becomes a better team player, appreciating the work of the other team members. It is a common problem that a director , for instance, becomes impatient with his cinematographer taking time to set up lights...simply because he does not understand what goes into creative lighting design. In the same light, a director who has no editing experience can make a veritable hell for his editor, by having lapses in continuity in the shooting. One such editor, referring to another director told me once, "I'm only an editor...not a miracle worker!"
For a detailed and comprehensive description of the essential content of VL101, please click on "Courses" in the menu bar.