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Personal Cinema by Way of Beginner's Mind

"We do not tell stories as they are," Anaïs Nin wrote, "We tell stories as we are." Develop your creative voice by utilizing the Beginner's Mind technique to make short home movies.

CurriculumAll CohortsFacilitators

Course Goals

Participants will gain surprising insight into their personal points of view and will have a new experience of themselves as storytellers. This course will offer a new way to see yourself and others (and the world around you) that is more intimate and open-hearted. It will offer new ways to encounter your own unique voice.

Following simple and fun constraints, we will explore point of view (POV) while utilizing an approach based on the Beginner's Mind philosophy:

Shoshin (初心 is a Japanese word meaning "beginner's mind." It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.

The phrase is also discussed in the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen teacher. Suzuki outlines the framework behind shoshin, noting "in the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."

“Maybe what I'm doing is called author-as-witness cinema... I believe that I do auteur cinema, but I don't really like the word auteur if it's given too limited meaning...In any case I always insert myself in my films, not out of narcissism but out of the desire to be honest in my approach.” - Agnes Varda, French filmmaker credited for being the soul of the French New Wave


We will meet for 5 weeks, 2 hours at a time. Our filming and editing will be done in session, on our personal smart phones or tablets. We will share our filmed exercises from the previous session at the beginning of each session.

Syllabus / Schedule



Introduction to Beginner's Mind and openhearted attention exercises.

Closing 30: In-Session Solo Shoot - "Introduce Yourself"

Tell us something about your name and something about a food you like - Using each of these types of shot - Close Up, Low Angle, High Angle, Wide Shot, Medium Shot, Moving Shot.

Put yourself in at least 3 shots. And use your voice. This film cannot be longer than 60 seconds. Try to edit it "in camera."



Watch our "Introduce Yourself" micro movies.

Narration exercises -

Watch footage with solo narration and without narration

Partners - one person narrates what another person is shooting, live.

Closing 30: In-Session Solo Shoot - "Take a Walk"

Share your experience as it's happening (record walking and talking in real time).

This film cannot be longer than 60 seconds. Try to edit it "in camera."



Watch our "Take a Walk" micro movies, with and without sound.

Interview exercises - introduce your partner, based on what you learned about them in weeks 1 and 2

Closing 30: In-Session Solo Shoot - “Object Interview”

Shoot an interview with an inanimate object.

Have the object interview you.

Each interview should not be longer than 60 seconds.



Watch our “ Object Interview” micro movies.

Sound and music exercises -

Shoot a one-minute film and then put three different types of music to it, in order to create three different films.

Add some different sound effects to each film.

Closing 30: In-Session Solo Shoot - “What is Beginner’s Mind?”

Incorporate ALL the tools we've been playing with. The film should not be more than 1min. 30 seconds.

Optional HW: Listen to “Everything is Alive”



Watch our "Beginner's Mind" masterpieces.

To “auteur” or not.

Meet Agnes Varda through her BFI interview.

Closing 30: What have you learned?


This course does not aim to have participants produce a polished finished project. After working with our individual voices, perhaps we can continue utilizing Beginner's Mind as we collaborate with others and create future group projects...

Who Should Sign Up

Any aspect of filmmaking experience is welcome but not required. This course is for anyone interested in exploring personal storytelling and finding your own unique voice without the pressure of having to "find your voice."

5 weeksUp to 12 learners

An interest in storytelling and a willingness to experiment with new ways of seeing. Experience with basic video software, like iMovie, or other smartphone apps, is helpful, but not required.

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