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Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Christopher Lockhart’s two hour interview with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie— that was originally shown on the private Facebook group The Inside Pitch— is now on YouTube.

Here are two filmmaking lessons from the Mission: Impossible writer/director McQuarrie (the second which he said took him 25 years to articulate):

LESSON 1

“I didn’t understand lens on my first film, and I never had one discussion about lens on the film. I do not I do not know a single shot  in my first film—what lens it was shot on. I can guess it now because I’ve developed an eye for what lens are. Once you’ve determined who the audience is, the next most important conversation to have is about what is the lens? On my first film I never discussed the lens once. On Mission: Impossible Fallout, I had 3,000 setups in that movie. I had more setups than two Harry Potter movies combined. There was not one setup on that movie where the first conversation we had didn’t have the lens. We talked about the lens every single time. And what you need to think of when you think of lens. You can look up focal length. You can look up the rule of thirds. You can look up lighting. You can read all that stuff—all those books are so tedious and so boring, and I don’t understand them. And they’re really, really hard. Here’s what you need to do: when you look at a lens, look at the number on the focal length on the lens. Whether it’s an 18mm lens right up to, say, a 150 mm lens. The number on the lens signifies the amount of intimacy that that lens provides. And the more intimacy you want to put into the scene, or a line or a moment, the higher that number goes. And the more you want to stand back from the action the lower the number goes. . . understanding that principle when I was 20-years-old would have gotten me where I am a lot fast.”

LESSON 2:

“The other thing I want you to do is I want all of you to go out and take photographs. And I want you to do it with you phone. And what I want you to do when you’re taking the photograph is I want you to think about three things and only three things; lens, light, and location. And when you take a photograph and look at it and go ‘Why don’t I like this photograph?’ It is because one of three things, or all three of those things, are not in sync. And remember that you can almost always alter one of those three things. You can either change the light, you can change the location, or you can change the lens. On most iPhones now you can sort of pretend to change a lens. What we don’t understand when we’re first starting out, and what most people don’t tell us, they don’t make us aware of those things. They don’t make us aware of light. And so what happens is we look at the picture and we can’t understand why when we’re taking the picture that it doesn’t look like what our eye sees.. . . . So what you want to do is stop looking at the world through your eyes, and start looking at the world through the lens. If you don’t tell the lens what you want to see exactly, the lens will show you what it sees approximately  . . .  The first lesson in photography is just an awareness of those three things: lens, light, and location.”

Here’s an example of that from a photo I took last week with my iPhone. (Straight out of the camera with zero post production.)
Lens: I used the 2x (telephoto) on my iPhone 7 Plus to compress the tree in the foreground and the sunrise in the background.
Light: I knew the sunrise was at 6:41 so I had to be in position in my kayak before then. I also knew that the small sensor on the iPhone doesn’t actually handle the blinding sun well so I wanted to capture the sun just before it breaks the horizon. And because the camera want to expose for the tree in the foreground instead of the bright background, I had to use the slider to bring the exposure down. This would silhouette the tree which was the effect I wanted.
Location: Since I started kayaking four months ago I was familiar with the best places to shoot the sunrise. This cypress tree is my favorite location because I knew where I could position myself to get the best composition of the rising sun and the tree with Spanish moss to make it visually interesting. I was fortunate to get the clouds as they add extra visual interest. Perhaps the trickiest part was positioning myself on a kayak to be at the right place just before the sun shined through. There was less than 30 seconds to get the shot I wanted to get where the lens, light, and location came though.  The only thing that would have made it better was if I would of had Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) kayaking in the frame between the tree and the horizon. If Tom ever wants to make the two and a half hour trip from Clearwater to Orlando I’m up for a reshoot. (Seaplanes can land on the lake.) I’d even break out my Nikon for that.

IMG_5767

Light, Lens, Location

Related posts:
I did go to film school so I’m not bored by all the technical aspects of cinematography. Here are some posts I’ve written about the subject over the years:
Wide, Normal, and Telephoto Lens Explained & Other Cinematography Resources 
The Five C’s of Cinematography
Cinematography for Directors
Cinematic Storytelling
Master Shots 
Film Directing Shot by Shot
Film Directing, Cinematic Motion
Oscar Winning Cinematography ( 1927-2016)
Cinematography (Overview)
Cinematographer Allen Daviau (1942—2020)
Cinematography Cheats #1 (Jerry Maguire)
‘It’s all about emotions’ Cinematographer Jamusz Kamunski
10 Cinematography Tips (Roger Deakins)

Scott W. Smith 

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“What does love look like? …It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
Saint Augustine, Confessions

Late Saturday afternoon I drove into St. Augustine, Florida passing over the Bridge of Lions and because the light was fading quickly I had to double park to take this photo with my iPhone. St. Augustine at sunset is a visual feast I never get tired of seeing.

Lion_3288small.jpg

Scott W. Smith

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There is something I’ve learned about photography over the years that translates well to writing screenplays.

Last Thursday my company (River Run Productions) and its sister web design company Spinutech pulled down nine awards* at the 2010 AAF-Cedar Valley ADDY Awards. Two of the awards were for photos I had taken including the above photo which won a Gold Addy.

That photo was taken to promote an active retirement community here in Iowa and features a women in her 70s coming off a water slide. (May we all be as active when we’re in our 70s.) Photography has paid a lot of bills for me over the years, and every now and then you really know when you’ve nailed a shot. It’s a good feeling. And that photo was one of those times.

When I take photos I’m always asking myself, “How can I make this unusual?” It can be subtle or drastic, but something has to make your work stand out. Common ways that photographers make their work uncommon include:

  1. Lighting
  2. Composition
  3. Camera
  4. Aperture
  5. Shutter Speed
  6. ISO
  7. Angle
  8. Environment
  9. Expression (if a portrait)
  10. Post-production

“How can I make this unusual?” That’s a good question to ask about the screenplay you are writing. What sets it apart from the stack of screenplays on a readers or producers desk? Is there something different and out of the ordinary about your screenplay? Common ways that screenwriters make their work uncommon include:

  1. Unusual plot
  2. Unusual character(s)
  3. Unusual setting
  4. Unusual dialogue
  5. Unusual point of view
  6. Unusual ending
  7. Unusual conflict
  8. Unusual jobs
  9. Unusual situations
  10. _____________

I’m sure you can add to the list. But there must be something usual about your screenplay to get producers passionate about spending time and money getting your screenplay made, to get actors exciting about being in the film, and to get audiences interested in watching the finished movie. Look at your favorite film list and ask what makes them unusual. Then look at the screenplay you are writing (or want to write) and ask what makes it unusual.

A couple examples of #8 Unusual jobs would be found in The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air. Unusual usually means original. What are some of your favorite unusual movie elements?

*Here’s a shot of our awards from last week. (They’re not x-rated, it just happens to be the thirtieth anniversary of the local ADDY group.)

Scott W. Smith

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With all this talk about the Internet, blogging, Twitter, webisodes, etc., I thought I’d mention something a little more…well, more human. I bought a new photography camera today that I needed for a job Monday and while I could a saved a few dollars by buying it online I bought it at a photography store that has been selling photography equipment for more than fifty years. The fellow helping me ended spending an hour and a half with me going over the camera — and I had already done the research before I went into the store and knew what camera I wanted to buy.

Only toward the end of the deal as the salesman was ringing up the sale did I learn that he was the original owners son. I asked if his father was still alive and he told me that he had died earlier this year. Then he told me a couple stories related to his father and how he himself had gotten interested in photography while in high school. 

He then set the camera up for me so I was good to go the minute I walked out the door.

So to celebrate that human interaction with mankind I thought it would be appropriate to find a quote from one of my favorite photographers:

“A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.”
                                                                           Ansel Adams 

I think the same could be said for a great film.

 

Scott W. Smith

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