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Posts Tagged ‘Hope for Film’

“Kindness is free.”
Garry Marshall
From the post Garry Marshall (1934-2016)

In lectures, I often beg people to do one thing— one simple thing— that I truly believe can change our world: Do at least one thing to help or promote another person and his or her work. That chain of support is the key to a sustainable diverse culture. We must shed the hierarchy that we have imposed upon ourselves. At public events, I am always surprised that audience members don’t introduce themselves when asking questions: It would put us all on common ground.

Filmmakers often make the common mistake of thinking they are all in competition with each other. It is not a zero-sum game. When I was just starting out, it took me a long time to realize that when I was applying for a job (as an assistant director or a line producer), the challenge wasn’t to beat someone else out for the job, but to find the best fit. Now I try to share what I have learned with others, and their responses, in turn, sharpen my focus. When a friend’s business improves, so do my opportunities. I try to introduce the people I like to the people who I know can help them. Sometimes, their success eclipses mine, and that is fantastic. I have had the joy of mentoring many individuals, watching my assistants like Anthony Bregman, Glen Basner, and others rise up the ladder and contribute to the improvement of others’ work. Community building is in all of our interests. Helping others rarely hurts anyone, particularly yourself.
Ted Hope
Hope for Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions (pp. 212-213). Soft Skull Press. Kindle Edition.

So the person I’m going to be promoting is Ted Hope. He’s been pretty prolific online writing about the past, present, and future of filmmaking so I’ll ride that wave for a while.

P.S. And a shout-out to Jon Strong whose feature doc Long Time Coming was just announced to be a part of the 2018 Florida Film Festival.

Scott W. Smith

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I’m reading through Ted Hope’s book Hope for Film, From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions (the Kindle version which I recommend) and came along this passage that he calls “My formula for the perfect Sundance Film.” I hope you find it helpful. (From pages 78-79.)

 

1. The protagonist: Center the story around an everyday person, someone the audience can identify with (not a wealthy or an evil type).

2. The plot: The protagonist needs to go through a serious arc, suffer hardship, and then come to some understanding that the audience didn’t expect.

3. Be bold: Show risk-taking in the filmmaking. Make it feel like it may all fall apart, but then save it at the last moment: People should say, “It’s bold.”

4. Be disciplined: If you can’t be bold, be disciplined. If it doesn’t fit the form, cut it out.

5. Own your aesthetic: Embrace, even flaunt, your aesthetic and the limits of your aesthetic. Don’t be ashamed of your limitations. Own your choices.

6. Engage bigger issues: The story has to be bigger than the movie itself and should deal with issues of either class conflict, gender conflict, sexual conflict, or other political issues. How do you comment on the world at large while still examining the minute and particular?

7. Cast: You need to cast a few stars or soon-to-be stars, so it should be an ensemble piece that covers generational conflict. You have the old-name actor you’re bringing back and the up-and-comer whom no one had seen yet, along with actors who can move from TV into feature films.

8. Shock value: It needs some moment of audacity, the kind of thing that people will talk about and that might even shock the uninitiated.

9. The right mix: Have a sense of humor about great tragedy— or find the tragedy in the hilarious. Embrace the cocktail; make it at least feel fresh.

10. Leave them wanting more: Shorter is better; 90 minutes is the new 120 (today, 80 is the new 90). No one ever says, “I wish it had been longer” when they leave the theater.

 

 

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The work I did with [writer/director Nicole Holofcener] on the Walking and Talking script would set the template for my standard development process with dozens of filmmakers later. In large part, it starts with a series of questions: How do you find the theme? What do you want the big takeaway from the movie to be for the audience? What do you want them to remember intellectually, and what do you want them to feel emotionally? At a certain point, Nicole came up with this image in her mind: The character Amelia (played in the film by Keener) is holding her friend Laura (played by Heche), who is getting married and starting a new way of life, afloat in the water. That, to me, was a baptismal moment of surrender and passage. It was about loving someone so much that you let her go. And that was the big takeaway of the movie in a single visual and heartfelt instant. But it was a process to get there. Once we found this telling scene, and once the theme of love as loss emerged, we had to make sure that the theme emerged elsewhere in the script.
Producer Ted Hope (The Ice Storm)
Hope for Film (with Anthony Kaufman
pp 65-66

Related posts:
Writing from Theme
Sheldon Turner on Theme
John Carpenter on Theme 
Diablo Cody on Theme 
Ryan Coogler on the Theme of Black Panther 

Scott W. Smith

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As an independent-film producer and an avid fan of ambitious and diverse work in all forms— and as a citizen of the world— I am always excited to keep up with the changing times. But nothing has prepared me for the onslaught of the last few years. 

…The Internet has transformed the business of the arts and how we connect with each other, well beyond our imagination. If Hollywood suits and corporate media higher-ups once determined the majority of our choices (simply by limiting them), we— the audience— are now the curators and the programmers, recommending films and other cultural pleasures to our friends, exchanging playlists, and sharing our opinions on social networks. We can now reach out online and mobilize others to vote both with their feet and their dollars, to act not on impulse, but on the knowledge and experience that comes with a highly connected, digital universe.

…Low-cost digital cameras as well as distribution avenues like YouTube and iTunes are available to nearly everyone, and you can be exposed to the history of cinema or music or just about any art form at any time you want— all for free, or virtually so. So why aren’t we making better creative work? And why can’t we come up with better ways to support the work and help it progress? We can. And by doing it together, we can build it better. With fewer barriers, fewer rules, and fewer conventions, filmmakers— and creators of all sorts— are freer to focus on developing new art forms, expanding beyond current modes, and discovering new ways of accessing and sharing content. We are on the verge of opening up which stories can be told, how they are told, and to whom and where we deliver them. Our ability to interact with films in different environments and in new social multi-user ways keeps changing. Cinema is not a single form or experience, but almost as varied as the artists who create it.

…Independence is the only choice when you’re not necessarily interested in a mass audience, and for the first time ever, we can effectively work outside that structure and specifically address the niches. We are right around the corner of an incredible blossoming of a new and vibrant cinema.
Film producer Ted Hope (in 2014) shortly before becoming the head of Motion Picture Production at Amazon
Hope for Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions (pp. 22-24).

Related posts:

In light of today’s post it was fun to revisit two posts that I wrote ten years ago. I was writing in 2008 about a shift in the kinds of ways filmmakers were making films—including SMS Sugarman (2008) by South African filmmaker Aryan Kaganof.

New Cinema Screenwriting (Part 1)
New Cinema Screenwriting (Part 2) 
Cocaine Cowboys & the Future of Film (A post I wrote in November 2009 after watching my first film online.)

Scott W. Smith

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This morning I started reading Ted Hope’s book Hope for Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions.  I’ll pull some excerpts from it this week. One of Hope’s first credits was as an associate producer on Doom Asylum (1987)—a film that he actually left off his resume for years, but one where he learned valuable lessons.

The film used many techniques that my directors and I applied to many of our first passion projects and still use today: Find a core location that could serve as a base for the entire story and production; write scenes for different times of day, so that the sun is your main lighting instrument; cast friends and acquaintances who want to be there as much as you; and make sure that people enjoyed being there despite horrible conditions. Doom Asylum was an exercise in how to get a movie made with as little available as possible. If I ran a film school, I would require the students to make a feature film for just a thousand dollars. They’d learn tricks that they could apply for the rest of their lives, no matter how poorly the movie turned out.”
Ted Hope
Hope for Film, page 15

 

Related posts:

Coppola & Corman: “Of all films I ever directed, the one that survived the longest as a genuine ‘cult classic’ is the one I did the fastest and the cheapest. It only took two days on a leftover soundstage to shoot the principal photography for The Little Shop of Horrors.”—Roger Corman
The 10 Film Commandments of Edward Burns
How to Shoot a Feature Film in 10 Days
Don’t Wait for Hollywood
‘Don’t try and compete with Hollywood’

Scott W. Smith

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