Archive for the ‘filmmaking’ Category

Francis Ford Coppola‘s prompt book for The Godfather is several inches thick and contains Mario Puzo’s book The Godfather with note after note by Coppola as he details what parts he wants to extract and emphasize in the movie. The prompt book was the foundation for which he wrote the script.

Coppola explains that the prompt book is a tradition carried over from his theater days. (Before Coppola got a master’s in film at UCLA, he received a theater degree from Hofstra University.) Coppola also says he based his prompt book on one that Elia Kazan had done for A Streetcar Named Desire. Kazan has written several books about his life and films including  Kazan on Directing and there are many other books that gleam insights from him that I’m sure was an encouragement to Coppola during his own difficult time of getting The Godfather made.

“When I started On the Waterfront, I was what they call unbankable. Nobody would put up money for me because I had had a series of box office failures…. One of my happiest moments was when I got the Academy Award for On the Waterfront.”
Elia Kazan
Kazan: The Master Director Discusses His Films Interviews with Elia Kazan
Jeff Young

In the below video, Coppola discusses part of the process that he went through in writing the script for The Godfather;

“On page 79 of the book we have the actual shooting of the Don. Whenever I felt there was a really important part of the book that was going to be in the movie I would sit there with my ruler and really underline—so this details the shooting. My margin notes are; THE SHOOTING! GREAT DETAIL. The Don is the main character of the movie, so as in Pyscho , we are totally thrown when he is shot. How would Hitchcock design this? Hitchcock was such a master about manipulating information for the audience, usually telling you things so that you were equipped to enjoy what you were seeing —rather than withholding information, he would give you information.”
Francis Ford Coppola

Scott W. Smith

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“It’s not a movie if it’s not a horror on the set. If you’re dealing with talent…that are passionate…they are going to be opinionated. And there are bound to be differences. And that’s when magic happens.”
Precious director and Empire creator Lee Daniels
Independent Film interview with Corey Boutilier

Quote pulled from my January 17, 2010 post. 

P.S. I’m sure every movie set isn’t a horror—but it’s hard to beat the behind the scenes conflict on Apocalypse Now. Here’s a Vimeo remix by Brian Carroll which takes clips from the 1979 movie and the behind the scene doc Hearts of Darkness.

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Following the Steve Martin advice to “Be so good they can’t ignore you” is the story of Jacob Fray.

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‘Parts Unknown’ (Part 9)

“If the show goes badly, we tell that story anyway.”
Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain

Every production has its trouble spots, but Parts Unknown hosts Anthony Bourdain takes comfort in knowing that the worst disasters often make for good television. Why? Because conflict holds our attention. And for Bourdain’s show that strives for authenticity, inauthenticity is the enemy. Here’s a scene from Sicily where things got comical.

And here’s a video of Bourdain explaining how things went south for an episode of No Reservations shot in Romania. A show which he said was the worst shoot of his career, but one he also considers a “comedy classic.”


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‘Parts Unknown’ (Part 8)

“Is sound going to be a problem? Yeah. Is lighting going to be a problem? Yeah. Does that matter? No.”
Executive Producer Chris Collins while shooting footage on the streets of India




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‘Parts Unknown’ (Part 4)

“I like the new evolving relationship between DP and colorist. It’s such a collaboration—ya got to take care of each other. There are so many options now for them that you got to have a good relationship. Steve’s awesome. The guys an amazing colorist. You both have to support your best skills.” 
Zach Zamboni on working with colorist Steve Beganyi on Parts Unknown

While today Parts Unknown is shot on a Sony F5, and used a Sony F3 before that, they have been known to mix things up for various reasons. Like in the episode shot in Libya where they included footage shot on camera phones.

“The phone footage gave the whole show a desaturated look and those sections were overstylized, which we pulled through the whole show. The people that he talked to just made that show so memorable. He’s basically hanging out with rebels who overthrew the government!”
Steve Beganyi
Studio Daily interview with Beth Marchant 
December 2, 2013

As of that 2013 Parts Unknown was edited on AVID, but colorist Steve Beganyi did his work on Blackmagic Designs DaVinci Resolve.  Here’s how Beganyi spoke about Blackmagic in that StudioDaily interview, “It’s really amazing to be able to track through the scenes, especially when you’re trying to pull out the flattened details in the S-log footage and just protect the skin tones or just project the sky. The qualifiers and tracking tools together are so helpful. When you’re trying to break down an image, the more subtle control you have over it, the more unique look you can give to it.”

And this is a good time as any to say that Parts Unknown doesn’t always go overseas to find it’s exotic locations.

“For me, personally grading the Detroit episode was the most meaningful. I’m from Cleveland, and this was a very powerful show about the Midwest’s most infamous city trying to pretty much come back from nothing. It was really uplifting.”
Steve Beganyi
Studio Daily interview with Beth Marchant 
December 2, 2013

P.S. I was in at the Blackmagic booth yesterday at Infocomm in Orlando and look forward to working more with their tools this year.

Scott W. Smith

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‘Parts Unknown’ (Part 3)

“Who doesn’t like seeing stuff at 120 or 240 (frames per second)? The thing about high speed footage is it’s very easy to use too much of that stuff. Ya got to tie it into the story otherwise people get tired of it. We try to use it judiciously. A couple of great shots in the show is good.”
Parts Unknown DP Zach Zamboni

I don’t know if things changed since Zach Zamboni made that comment or that the editors ignored that for the Parts Unknown episode on Korea, but I recall seeing at least three slow motion shots in under a minute. (But maybe that was a promo, not the show.)  But the case can be made whether it’s shooting at 120 or 240 frames per second, shooting with a fisheye lens, or extreme telephoto—that less is usually more.

Here are some more behind the scene lighting concepts taken from Parts Unknown DP Zamboni’s talk at Cine Able.

*  String of lights with an Edison plugs. These are 20 feet in length and have 24 sockets. Because “everywhere in the world you can buy an Edison bulb—Compact florescent or warm florescent , or tungsten, screw those in and you have a pretty significant light source,” says Zamboni. Because they shoot in a lot of bars and restaurants he finds the string of lights can be hung on rafters and in general blend into the environment. The string of lights can also be jammed into a Chimera pancake.

  • 1X1 Light panels (Not sure what kind they use, but I’ve used the Litepanel 1X1 bicolor before. Small form size—just one square foot. Able to be balanced for daylight or tungsten or somewhere in between. Also able to be battery operated. If using on people you must use diffusion to avoid specular highlight from the dozens of small LED lights that make up the 1X1.
  • LED SOLA Fresnels
  • 12X12 net, 12×12 quarter silk, 12X12 silk (Didn’t say brand, but here’s a Matthews silk.)

And he offered up this practical advice:

“If you want any longevity on shooting you gotta have good posture.” Watch toward the end of the Abel Cine presentation where he shows out he shoot to spare his back.

Scott W. Smith


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