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“I’ve had to convince the studio that I know this is not a $20,000 Alexa package, but I’ll challenge you to tell the difference once I’m done grading this footage.”
Daniel Myrick on shooting a film with a camera smaller than an iPhone

BlackMagic

Where’s the camera?

You want to know something really scary this Halloween? Writer/Director Daniel Myrick (Blair Witch Project) shot his latest film Under the Bed with a camera smaller than most video camera monitors. Smaller than even some of the lens people are using it. There’s a reason it’s called a pocket camera. The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema is 5 inches long and weighs just 12.5 ounces. What’s also small is the price—$995. Trick or treat?

Sure you have to add a lens and an SD card before you can use it—and a few more professional accesories to use it in the manner that Team Myrick did to shoot Under the Bed—but a sub-thousand dollar camera to shoot a feature film that doesn’t look like—ah, cough, cough, The Blair Which Project—forgetaboutit.

The film won’t be released until next year, but I just read an interview with Myrick about the film over at No Film School.

“We used the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, much to the surprise of a lot of people. I had purchased one when they first came out and was really impressed with the latitude they offer, and their compactness. There was just a lot to like about the basic image sensor. It certainly has its foibles with accessorizing and things like that, but nothing that can’t be overcome. The image sensor itself was producing 12-bit RAW right on the SD cards and simultaneously spitting out 10-bit ProRes from the connector — on a little camera not much bigger than a cigarette pack, which was very exciting. I said this could be a good fit for the kind of movie I’m shooting, which is very low budget in a very contained space — I don’t have sets where I can fly walls away and back the camera off and that sort of thing.”
Daniel Myrick

P.S. I think the Blackmagic Pocket camera would be perfect for the “Little Fat Girl in Ohio” that Francis Ford Coppola predicted was on her way to becoming the new Mozart.

Related posts (on low-budget filmmaking):
The 10 Film Commandments of Edward Burns
“Don’t try and compete with Hollywood.”—Edward Burns
Making a $5,000 Feature
Filmmaking from a Coffin (Buried)
Edward Burns ‘Newlyweds’ (Part 2)—Think of yourself as an indie band.
Sputnik, Sundance & Kevin Smith
Paranormal Screenwriting Activity

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood…(Part 6) Touches on why I think The Blair Witch Project was really the beginning of a new form of cinema (in part because one of the cameras they used was a consumer Hi8 camera).

Scott W. Smith

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“I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this.”
Steven Soderbergh (on going Jack Sparrow with a Spielberg classic) 

IndianaB&W

Can you spot what’s different about Indiana Jones?

I know it’s now officially Fall, but the Screenwriting Summer School is still in session on this blog. Today’s class with be led by Professor (producer, writer, director) Steven Soderbergh (whose dad really was a professor at LSU in Baton Rouge). And now Soderbergh can add pirate (for “educational purposes only”) to his resume—and the results are fabulous.

In fact, I’ll go as far as saying what Soderbergh did is my favorite film related article/video I’ve seen all year.

Yesterday on his website Extension 765 he posted an edit of Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) where he shifting the color to black and white (it looks great) and replaced the sound with a music track, rumor has it, done by Trent Reznor.

Now why would Soderbergh go to all the trouble? Why would Soderbergh mess with a classic? Why nix the John Williams Oscar-nominated score?

Simply to explore the old film school truism (at least that’s where I learned it many years ago) that you should be able to watch a film without the sound and still know what’s going on simply by the visual storytelling.

Visual conflict & key light via hot poker pulled from a fire.

Visual conflict & key light via a hot poker pulled from a fire.

According to Soderbergh the new score “is designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect.” Worked for me. I watched the whole new Raiders version by the other Steven S. last night from 10PM to midnight and think it’s an instant classic. (And I’m guessing will be instantly abhorred by others.)

Raiders does hold up well without dialogue, but then again I’ve seen it a few times so I’m not the best judge.

Speaking of judges… It’s a little ironic Soderbergh just lifted an entire Paramount film since on his website under Privacy and Terms it states; “Unauthorized use of the Contents is expressly prohibited by law, and may result in severe civil and criminal penalties. You might want to look up the word SEVERE, if you’re thinking about screwing with us.”

I’ve wondered if Tony Zhou’s excellent Vimeo account would be taken down because he makes his filmmaking points using many movie clips. I’m not a copyright lawyer, but my understanding is You Tube and Vimeo is a little beyond the means of educational purposes in a classroom. Often times I link to movie scenes found on You Tube that hit on points I’m trying to make, only to find out later that they’ve been pulled because of a copyright violation. I welcome any lawyers to clarify this area, because it is a direction I’d like to head for this blog in 2015.  Regardless, better catch Soderbergh’s Raiders ASAP in case Paramount makes him take it down soon.

Related posts:
‘Story Telling Without Dialogue’ (Tip #82) “IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.”—David Mamet
Show, Don’t Tell (Tip #46)
Writing “The Artist” (Part 1) “I thought making a silent film would be a magnificent challenge.”
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 7) “The reaction to the action is critical.”—Blake Edwards via Marshall
Directing Tips from Peter Bogdanovich  “Silent looks between people—to me, that’s what movies are about.”—Peter Bogdanovich

Soderbergh Related Posts:
Steven Soderbergh is Platformagnostic
Fast & Furious—Steven Soderbergh
“State of Cinema” —Soderbergh
Sex, Lies, & Mr. Bill (Screenwriting from Louisiana) 

Raiders Related Posts:
Movie Cloning (“Raiders”)
Raiders Revisited (part 1)
Raiders Revisited (part 2)
Raiders Revisited (part 3)
Raiders Revisited (part 4)
Scriptnotes’ 100th Podcast

P.S. I’ve been getting a few hits from a Malibu Screenwriting group that’s having a meet-up tonight (9/23/14) in Westlake Village. The were following a link to my 2008 post Screenwriting & Exposition. For what it’s worth, Indiana Jones saying, “I hate snakes” at the start of Raiders is exposition. Plus a nice set-up that will have a bigger payoff later in the movie. For that group here’s another post you may find useful, “Exposition is BORING unless…”

Scott W. Smith

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“Perseverance has kept me going over the years. Things rarely happen overnight. Filmmakers should be prepared for many years of hard work. The sheer toil can be healthy and exhilarating. Although for many years I lived hand to mouth — sometimes in semi-poverty — I have lived like a rich man ever since I started making films. Throughout my life I have been able to do what I truly love, which is more valuable than any cash you could throw at me. At a time when friends were establishing themselves by getting university degrees, going into business, building careers and buying houses, I was making films, investing everything back into my work. Money lost, film gained.”
Filmmaker Werner Herzog (who was a welder in a steel mill before making films)
Werner Herzog: A Guide for the Perplexed
Conversations with Paul Cronin
via Maria Popova at Brain Pickings

P.S. If you want to see perseverance in action watch Fitzcarraldo (1982) written, directed and co-produced by Herzog. Then follow that viewing with the Les Blank documentary Burden of Dreams on the making of Fitzcarraldo.

Related posts:
Filmmaker Les Blank (1935-2013)
Orson Welles at USC in 1981 (Part 3) “Anybody who goes into film has to be a little crazy. And has to be ready for every kind of disappointment and defeat.”—Welles
Bob DeRosa’s “Shortcuts” — “There are no shortcuts. There is only hard work. Perseverance….”—DeRosa
Iowa Kutcher on Jobs/Work “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.”—Steve Jobs

Scott W. Smith

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“Breaks will come to the young film-maker, but unless he possesses at least rudimentary knowledge they will be of little use to him. Recently I saw a film made by a twenty­ one-year-old, Steven Spielberg. It was twenty-four minutes of film called Amblin, produced for around $17,000. It rocked me back. He displayed an amazing knowledge of film-making as well as creative talent. He was signed to a director’s contract by Universal. Even at twenty-one, he was ready when the break came.”
Actor, writer, director (and one time USC professor) Jerry Lewis
The Total Film-Maker (1971)

Related posts:
John Ford’s Advice to Spielberg
Filmamking Quote #21 (Spielberg)
The Next Steven Spielberg
Raiders Revisted (part 1) “What we’re just doing here, really, is designing a ride at Disneyland.”—Spielberg

Scott W. Smith

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“Simplicity makes bet­ter film: master, medium, choker. At least, men like Chaplin and David Lean think it does.”
Jerry Lewis
Referring to camera shots; master (wide shot with all the actors), medium (shot of actor or actors from the general area around the waist up), and choker (close-up shot of actor from the neck up). See Empire’s post on 30 camera shots to see the wider variety of shot options.

Joe Mankiewicz once said, ‘A good director is a man who creates an atmosphere for work.’ To me, that’s what it’s all about. You start out by giving actors a million-dollar hug. You don’t use them and later on start hugging them.”
Jerry Lewis

(The videos here aren’t of Jerry Lewis but are FilmSkills videos that I thought fit pretty good in this post on directing.)

“The actors must know how the scene is being covered. If not, they may spit out everything in the master shot, which is the comprehensive coverage.

If you tell the girl that you are making a master of the boy and girl, followed by a single of the boy, a single of the girl, and a tight two, she’ll save something for the snug stuff. She won’t let the tears go in the master. She’ll whine a lot in that one, which will be matchable, but then sob it out in the close shots.

I speak from personal experience. If I’m going to go facially, visually crazy I won’t do it in a head-to-toe shot. Neither will I dance my best in a close-up. A professional actor’s experience lets him know how to pace himself in the coverage of a scene if that coverage is explained to him.”
Actor/Director Jerry Lewis
The Total Film-Maker (Notes from his teaching at USC film school

“I doubt any other industry, or art form, has as many breakable rules. My camera setup is right; the next direc­tor’s is wrong. Or we’re both right and wrong. What mat­ters is the material and what has to be shown. There are no ground rules: no rules to say you must pan if a man walks around a table; no rules to say the camera has to move in any direction. You may pan and then throw half the pan away and cut to a cat. It is, absolutely, the director’s choice.”
Jerry Lewis

P.S. Keep in mind that cameras have gotten smaller (and cheaper) than when Charlie Chaplin and David Lean were making films, and when Lewis published The Total Film-Maker in 1971. So film shooting has evolved in some ways were you have films that are shot almost totally hand held, movies where since it’s being shot digitally that even rehearsals are recorded and sometimes find their way into the movie, more movies where multi-camera shots are used on scenes. Even lower budget movies can employ drone shots, and Go Pros and DSLRs tucked away in places you could never have traditionally put a 35mm Panavision or Mitchell camera. Does the medium shot still rule like it did when John Ford was shooting? That’s a good question. But as far as saving time and money on the set, it’s hard to be the simplicity and dependability of a medium shot.

Related posts:
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 1)
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 2)
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 3)
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 4)
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 5)
Garry Marshall’s Directing Tips (Part 6)

Scott W. Smith

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“There were times when [actors] went off somewhere and I’d look them in the eyes and they’re not looking at me. They’re pointing their eyes at me, but they’re looking at a broad over there or a guy over there. They wouldn’t listen. And I finally gave them one shot on the behind and they were very good after that. So it was just a gag, but it worked for me.”
Director Jerry Lewis on using “The Not Listening Stick”

Jerry Lewis directing with "The Not Listening Stick"

Jerry Lewis directing with “The Not Listening Stick”

“Actors are a strange breed of people. They are all nine years old. They stop at nine. If you want to attempt to un­derstand actors, read a quote from Moss Hart’s Act One: ‘The theatre is an inevitable refuge of the unhappy child, and the tantrums and childishness of theatre people are not either accidental nor a necessary weapon of their profession. It has nothing to do with so-called ‘artistic temper­ament.’ The explanation, I think, is a far simpler one. For the most part, they are impaled in childhood like a fly in amber.’

Locked like flies in their million-year-old amber, they are all different, wearing different costumes, giving dif­ferent portrayals at different times, yet basically they are all alike-nine-year-old children.

Speaking now as an actor: tremendous ego is involved and we tend to believe that whatever weaknesses we have are justification for our neuroses. That’s childlike. If the actor were truly adult, in that strict sense of definition, he could not act. He’s standing up there because of needs. He must express himself, be heard.

A director, whether he’s a Wyler or a student film­ maker, cannot run on to the set and yell, ‘Hey, watch me, I’m going to show off.’ That is what actors do. That is the actors need. He’s built that way.”
Writer/director (and one time USC professor) Jerry Lewis
The Total Film-Maker (1971) 

home-alone-movie-

 

At the end of his chapter on actors, Lewis adds, “I have never known a professional actor who did not re­spond to kind and fair treatment, plus a little spoon-feed­ing. Aside from being flies in amber, actors are very human.”

Related Post:
“Never lie to an actor”—Paul Haggis
“No Dogs, No Actors” Hollywood c.1908
Sweeping the Floor
Really Good Writing & Acting “It’s a little cliché, but I’ve learned that you can’t make a movie that even works, much less that’s good, without really good writing and really good acting.”—Ben Affleck
Film Collaborating, Mismatched Souls & Pizza Making 

Scott W. Smith

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“I’ll tell you what I did to become a film-maker. I had this drive and I was curious.”
Jerry Lewis
Actor, producer, director, writer, composer, etc.

“You’ll be unstoppable if you become technical as well as creative.”
Robert Rodriguez
Writer, producer, director, editor, cameraman, composer etc.

“Where do you start? There’s no Monopoly board. No Start. Do Not Pass Go. I think you start out by just being there, and being curious and having the drive to make films.

More important: make film, shoot film, run film. Do something.
Make film. Shoot anything.

It does not have to be sound.

It does not have to be titled.
It does not have to be color.
There is no have to. Just do.
And show it to somebody. If it is an audience of one, do and show, and then try it again. That is how.

It sounds simple.
It’s not. Then again, it is.”
Producer, director, writer, actor Jerry Lewis 
Prologue to The Total Film-Maker

Keep in mind those words were first published in 1971 when making a film meant literally shooting and editing film.    There were hard cost to buying and developing film even if you owed or borrowed a camera. But in the digital age today it’s easier than ever to “Do something” and to “Shoot anything.”

I just shot an edited a promotional project for a talent agency and looking back the only hard cost involved was a few gallons of gas. While the cost of gas has risen greatly since 1971 (when the average gallon cost 36 cents) the cost of shooting something and showing it to an audience has dropped considerably.

Maybe not a feature film full of CGI, with the most expensive acting talent, and the latest equipment—but if you’re resourceful and driven you can do something today—as in this very day— for less than a tank of gas. It may just be you producing, directing, writing, shooting, editing–even being on camera—and that’s okay. “Do something” even “If it is an audience of one”—i.e. “The Total Film-Maker.”

“Charlie Chaplin was the first great total film-maker.”
Jerry Lewis

To round out this post, let’s go back to Lewis— “I believe that the quickest way to find out your capacity for being a total film-maker is to determine whether or not you have something to say on film.”

P.S. If it helps, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez started out making videos of his family for his family. Today the producer/director/editor/cameraman/composer/actor/etc. is the epitome of The Total Film-Maker.   Somebody at the Austin Film Festival, South by Southwest, or the Aloma Drafthouse Cinema in Austin needs to arrange Robert Rodriguez interviewing Jerry Lewis before the 88-year-old Lewis makes his final stage exit.

Related Website: Justin Bozung has a site called The Jerry Lewis Internet Archive; A Research Hub Dedicated to the The Total Film-Maker—Mr. Jerry Lewis.

 

Related Posts:

Start Small…But Start Somewhere
Creative Learning 2.0
Overnight Success
The Path is Gone
A New Kind of Filmmaker
One Benefit of Being Outside of Hollywood
The 10-Minute Film School (with Professor Rodriguez)
The Rise of Storyteller with Cameras (It’s okay to create “a thousand layers of garbage”—it’s part of the transformative learning process.)

Scott W.Smith

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