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“Producers and directors buy a property because they like the story. Actors buy it because they see them­selves in a part. ”
Jerry Lewis in The Total Film-Maker
From the post Writing Actor Bait

Mark Twain’s one of my favorite writers from the South. [My character in American Made is a] kind of southern rascal, Huckleberry Finn kind of character in modern day. And also the fact that, the kind of flying that you could have in the 80s, that kind of adventure, those kind of escapades – that was it. You’ll never have that time period again, so these kind of cowboys were very unique. And also one of my favorite films, which was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, is based on a true story but had also that kind of you know – it’s a very layered film. It’s very humorous, but it’s also about American history.”
Actor Tom Cruise on what attracted him to the Gary Spinelli screenplay
ScreenRant interview with Alex Leadbeater  @ADLeadbeater

P.S. I grew up in Florida in the 70s, went to college in Miami in the early 80s and especially enjoy the Scarface to Cocaine Cowboys retelling of stories from that era. American Made puts its own topspin on the “same thing, only different” school of Hollywood filmmaking and I enjoyed the ride. Nice touch by director Doug Liman and editing crew for adding Linda Ronstadt’s 1977 version of Blue Bayou to the American Made soundtrack.

P.P.S. Speaking of American made, in this 2010 post I mentioned that Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and George Cooney all lived in Kentucky at one point in the late 60s or early 70s. You can add Harry Dean Stanton, Jennifer Lawrence, and The Father of Film to the list from the Bluegrass State. Oh, and actress Sarah Wright, who plays Tom Cruise’s wife in American Made—she’s from Kentucky, too.

Related Posts:
Mark Twain’s Florida
Cocaine Cowboys and the Future of Film
Complex Stories/Simple Characters
Writing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Thanks for the Plug TomCruise.com

Scott W. Smith

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The thing I try to instill in students is like the only thing you have to offer is you. Your individual stories, your individual perception, your individual humanity, and figuring out a way to communicate that humanity to humanity at large—that’s the beauty of cinema once again, that you can have a six-year-old Iranian girl, or a 90-year-old British gentleman, and you can have an equal emotional experience if the filmmaker does their job right to it.

For me it would be a ballerina [Black Swan] and a wrestler [The Wrestler]—can I make you feel in their blood and their pain. That’s the goal. Because that’s one of the great things cinema does—is to bring us into other human experiences.”
Screenwriter/Director Darren Aronofsky  (mother!
Podcast interview with Tim Ferriss (At 53 minute mark when Ferriss asked Aronofsky about advice for filmmakers who don’t fit in the widget factory )

Related posts:
The Greatest [Cinematic] Invention of the 2oth Century (According to Darren Aronofsky)
40 Days of Emotions

Scott W. Smith

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JenniferL-mother.png

Jennifer Lawrence in mother!

The following excerpt was pulled from a two hour podcast interview with filmmaker Darren Aronofsky as he talked about his film mother! (and the creative process and more) with Tim Ferriss.

Tim: What do you want the experience of your audience to be, or what do you want them to take away from any one of your films?

Darren: I guess I start off with the first rule of filmmaking is to never bore an audience. That is the worst feeling and experience when I’m watching a movie and my mind is wandering and looking at the colors splatter across the screen. I think you always want to engage an audience, not just visually, not just through sound, but emotionally. So I think that’s number one, to just give people an engaging emotional experience for two hours—whatever your running time is. And on top of that hopefully this you can layer in some ideas so that when people leave the theater people it’s not like 15 minutes later “What did we watch?” I don’t want to be the McDonald’s of movies where it’s just the wrapper all that’s left over. I want me to be thinking a bit and talking about it….You want to have an impact. In today’s landscape a lot of things are disposable. 

Tim: You mentioned emotional engagement— what are some of the ingredients that help create that?

Darren: It starts with the greatest invention of the 20th century that’s overlooked—which is the close-up. That’s the great thing about cinema —that you can stick a camera right in the face of Paul Newman—on those beautiful blue eyes. And you can go right into his soul, and when you you project it months later to an audience, or years later—potentially centuries later— you are anonymous in that audience, yet you can feel the empathy….In a movie, via the close-up,  you can be unconscious and fully be  in Paul Newman’s head. Even though you don’t know  exactly what he’s thinking, you can sort of study him and steal that thought. And that to me that’s the greatness of cinema.”

TheSting

Paul Newman in The Sting

P.S. Looking forward to seeing mother! tonight.

Related posts:
“Don’t Bore the Audience!” (Richard Walter)
Stop Making Soul-less Movies 
Hollywood Hacks & Shipwrecks
“Winter’s Bone” (Debra Granik)

Scott W. Smith

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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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“We tend to overestimate what we can do in one year, and underestimate what we can do in ten.”
Richard Foster
(Quote often attributed to Bill Gates, but I believe Foster wrote the line years before Gates wrote or said it.)

Screenwriter Dana Fox was 2 for 2 when she followed her career trajectory question to Rob McElhenny on Scriptnotes episode #299 with a question to writer/director Rian Johnson about his career trajectory that led to writing and directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

“I was never good or smart enough to get industry work before I made my first movie. I basically wrote Brick right out of college and essentially tried to get it made through my 20s. I didn’t make it until I was 30, but the whole time I was trying and kept almost getting there and it kept falling apart. But I was working some really wonderful jobs like I worked at a preschool for deaf kids for a while, I worked at the Disney channel producing promos for like Bear in the Big Blue House—really good jobs but nothing that was like I was making money doing what my sights are set on. So when I started doing it it was starting with this really personal thing and then I was very, very lucky and able to just kind of keep doing it.”
Writer/director Rian Johnson

It’s also worth pointing out that Johnson graduated from USC film school (same school Star Wars creator George Lucas attended) where he made short films, and continued to make short films after school. When he finally got Brick made for $500,000 it won the   the Special Jury Prize (For originality of vision) at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and won Best First Film at the Austin Film Festival in 2007. He then followed that success with The Brothers Bloom (2008), Looper (2012), and directed the  Ozymandias (2013) episode of Breaking Bad, before given the Star War reins. A good example of being persistent and building on small successes that brought him to the intergalactic stage.

Scott W. Smith

 

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Today I’m going to the premiere of the doc This Cold Life at the Florida Film Festival. It will be anything but cold today in Maitland/Orlando, Florida as the mid-90 degree temps are some of the hottest in the United States.

Much of This Cold Life was shot in Longyeabyen, Norway, “the world’s northernmost town.” Darren Mann directed the doc and is someone I did camera work for years ago for TV programs he shot in Minnesota and Iowa. I look forward to seeing him at the premiere and seeing a part of the world I don’t recall ever seeing before.

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