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“You get tired of going to the movies and seeing stuff that you don’t want to see or not seeing the stuff you want to be dealt with. When the subject matter you love is not being done right, you have to make your own movies.”
Writer/director Spike Lee
(I don’t remember where I first read this quote, but it’s at least 15 years old. Found it in handwritten in an old notebook today. What I used to do just for myself before I had this blog. )

Spike Lee’s latest film, BlacKkKlansman has a 97% Rotten Tomato rating from all critics.  And it opened this weekend in 1,512 theaters making a respectable $10 million. Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz developed the original spec script based on the memoir of Ron Stallworth. (Read the  IndieWire interview  to see how they contacted Stallworth directly and pitched their idea to him.)

Lee and Kevin Willmott are also credited as writers on the finished film.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“When we shoot these films, I don’t move my lips very much. I keep my mouth kind of closed so that when I see the film before we finish it, I can change the dialogue and make it better.”
Marlon Brando during ADR session for The Godfather (via editor Walter Murch)

“There’s a movie you think you’re making, and there’s a movie you made. The movie’s made three times; once on paper, once on film, and once on the AVID [the edit]. And it’s only then that you know what movie you made. And you go back and you do some pickups and some reshoots and shape the dialogue. And if you don’t believe me that this happens on every movie, go home tonight and put on The Godfather and listen to it with headphones, so you can hear all the ADR [Automated Dialogue Replacement] very clearly in that movie. And you realize that movie is a pile of spaghetti in the editing room—it made no sense. If you take out the ADR the movie completely falls apart. I’m not saying it’s not a great movie, but that’s how great movies are made.”
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible — Fallout)
The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

Here are some videos that explain the how and why ADR is used.

Scott W. Smith

 

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I come out of a background — I was a private detective for years after I started as a filmmaker. I like to think, of course I could be completely wrong, that there’s this detective element in everything I do. My movies start from interviews. Everything that I’ve really done —The Thin Blue Line started from  bizarre, odd interviews. But interviews that are investigative. … The element of spontaneity is not knowing what someone is going to say in front of the camera, having really no idea, of being surprised. I know that there’s this moment in all of the interviews that I’ve loved where something happens. I had this three-minute rule that if you just shut up and let someone talk, within three minutes they will show you how crazy they really are. And it has happened time and time again.”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War)
The Believer — Errol Morris talks with Werner Herzog

 

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“I like to think about sequences. I really believe less in a three-act structure and much more in sequences that are sort of eight-to-12 pages. Roughly about ten-minutes that work almost like chapters in a story. Nobody is better at building a story this way than Steven Spielberg… The sequences have their own beginning, middle, and end that are satisfying—it really pulls you along.”
Director Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind)
Masterclass

Related post:

Sequence Writing (Tip #105)

A look at Chris Soth’s sequence version called the “mini-movie method”—mixed with a little Blake Snyder

Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday I picked up the Blu-Ray of A Quiet Place. I haven’t bought a movie on the day of its release in years. I wanted to fit in another post about it and landed on this first frame from the movie—DAY 89.

That’s minimalistic exposition at its best. It hooks the audience and forces them to wonder, “Day 89 of what?” And the mysterious part is we’re not given the answer. No tired voice-over of someone explaining what happened. Just “DAY 89.” It pulls the audience into the story and makes them put together the puzzle.

The opening scene of an abandoned town and a family of five having an unorthodox shopping spree would work without DAY 89—but I don’t think near as well. Don’t know if that came from writer/director John Krasinski, the other credited screenwriters Scott Beck & Bryan Woods, or someone else, but good choice.

It reminds me of another minimal bit of exposition from Sicario (2015) where a fellow tells Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), “Sorry for your loss.” But we’re not told what that loss is until much later in the film, where that information will have its most impact.

Until then we just have Del Toro’s face and body language to tell us that this is a man who has had a hard life. At the 2:29 mark of the video below, you’ll find Taylor Sheridan’s writing, Denis Villeneuve’s direction, Del Toro’s and Emily Blunt’s acting—before her role in A Quiet Place—keeping us intrigued about what mystery man Alejandro lost.

“You’re asking me how a watch works.”= Mysterious Minimal Exposition

Related posts:
Screenwriting & Exposition (an oldie from 2008 post)
“Exposition is BORING unless…”
10 Solid Exposition Examples
‘A Quiet Place’ Meets ‘Screenwriting from Iowa’

Scott W. Smith

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The photo that’s been at the top of this blog all these years is a quintessential farm shot I took one morning outside of Decorah, Iowa where I was shooting a short film.  The anchor in the shot is the barn and silo in the left part of the photo.

That’s classic Iowa. And I hadn’t thought about that photo in years until today when I read this quote about the silo used in A Quiet Place. 

“Where we grew up [in Iowa] was a healthy mixture of city life and farm life. We lived in the city, but you would hear about grain silos being one of the most dangerous things you can fall into. It’s basically like drowning, but in dry grain. It was terrifying to drive by them on country roads. Early in the writing process we said, ‘That has to be part of the setpieces.’”
Screenwriter Scott Beck (A Quiet Place)
Filmmaker Magazine interview with Matt Mulcahey 

Here’s a clip where the young actors Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jope discuss shooting that scene inside a silo surrounded by corn.

Here’s what part of that scene looked like on the page of the original screenplay.

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That silo scene reminds me a little of the Mt. Rushmore scene in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest. 

P.S. You want to know an odd connection between North By Northwest and A Quiet Place. Cary Grant, who starred in North By Northwest, died in Davenport, Iowa.  Where did A Quiet Place screenwriters  (Beck and Bryan Woods) grow up and begin making movies? Davenport/Bettendorf, Iowa. (Part of what’s known as the Quad Cities.) Check out my 2010 post Cary Grant and T. Bone…”somewhere in Iowa.” I don’t just make this stuff up. Check out Cary Grant’s IMDB page and see where he died. Then look up Bryan Woods IMDB page and see where he was born.

It’s a small, small world.

Scott W. Smith

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“John Krasinski is not the name you’d think of like ‘Can’t wait to see a horror movie by that guy.’ And the reason why is I wouldn’t think that either. Until I read this script originally by these amazing writers Beck & Woods (Scott Beck & Bryan Woods), and they had this incredible idea of a family that had to live quietly or else they would die. And to me, this whole movie is about family. It’s not a horror movie—I mean it is a horror movie, but to me the theme of family and what would you really do for your kids is the reason why I did the movie.”
Director, writer, actor John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)

Scott W. Smith

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