Top 7 TED Talks on Filmmaking

October 22, 2014

The TED conferences have long been a superb source of inspiration in many areas of human advancement, and filmmaking is no exception. Over the years, there have been some exceptional TED talks on filmmaking from some of the most innovative individuals working within the industry; the following constitutes seven which everyone, whether yet to graduate from film school or actively working out in the field, should add to their list of essential viewing.

From insight into creativity to the combination of technology and storytelling, here we present:

The Top 7 TED Talks on Filmmaking

Andrew Stanton: Clues to a Great Story

Who: The writer behind some of the finest Pixar works to date, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Wall-E.

What: A TED talk on the very heart of what makes a good story in filmmaking, and how to successfully convey it.

Why: If you’ve ever seen one of Stanton’s films, you’ll know that his knack for crafting a compelling storyline with clinically perfect pacing is second to none. The theory he teaches here is exceptionally useful for those who want to emulate his skills.

JJ Abrams: The Mystery Box

Who: Multiple PGA and Emmy award winner, and master of both feature and TV sci-fi.

What: Framed around his childhood experience with a magic store ‘mystery box’, Abrams uses many enduring movies as case studies to discuss the importance of mystery in storytelling.

Why: The concept of mystery in a film is a hard one to master – you don’t want to confuse your audience, but you don’t want to lay it all out on a plate for them either. Abrams’ talk will give you some fresh insight into how to walk this fine line.

Martin Villeneuve: How I Made an Impossible Film

Who: Creator of Mars et Avril, the eponymous ‘impossible film’.

What: Based on a sci-fi graphic novel of the same name, Villeneuve’s adaption of Mars et Avril isn’t just a great film – it’s the story of how one man brought an exceptionally technical project to life with virtually no budget and little in the way of resources.

Why: It’s one of the most essential TED talks on filmmaking given that every filmmaker at some point or another has to use ingenuity in the face of financial limitations.

Amy Tan: Where Does Creativity Hide?

Who: Prolific and critically acclaimed author of The Joy Luck Club (adapted into a feature film) and others.

What: Amy Tan’s sophisticated talk delves deep into the underlying concepts behind human creativity, specifically where it comes from.

Why: Although Tan is mainly addressing the art of writing, it still deserves filing under TED talks on filmmaking given it applies to any creative medium which employs storytelling.

Rob Legato: The Art of Creating Awe

Who: A visual effects specialist whose filmography includes Avatar, Shutter Island, Hugo, Apollo 13 Titanic and many others.

What: Using Apollo 13 as a case study, Legato delivers a warm and often humorous talk on not only the art of bringing incredible effects to the screen but also how they tie in to basic human psychology (as well as how Legato manipulates this for great results).

Why: As a two-time Oscar winner and exceptionally impressive body of work behind him, Legato is one of the best visual effects guys in the business and the underlying theory here can be applied to projects of any budget.

Tiffany Shlain: From Failure to Innovation – Filmmaking in the Cloud

Who: Filmmaker, internet pioneer and founder of the Webby Awards.

What: One of the more unique TED talks on filmmaking, Shlain begins by talking about her deep failure making her first feature film and what can be learned from it, before discussing how the advent of the internet changed the game forever.

Why: Not only is Shlain’s experience with combining tech and filmmaking an inspiration in and of itself, but she also teaches us how to keep one step ahead of the ever-changing internet landscape and think outside the box.

James Cameron: Before Avatar… a Curious Boy

Who: Does Cameron need an introduction?

What: A very open and personal talk from one of the most pioneering directors currently active today, Cameron naturally has a lot to offer on the topic of filmmaking as a vehicle for exploration and how curiosity can lead to great storytelling.

Why: Even if you’re not a fan of James Cameron, you will be by the end of his 17 minute TED talk on filmmaking.