Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Kubrick’

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Long ago I embraced grown the coninsidence that happens occationally on this blog. Yesterday’s post touched on the period in the 1970s and ’80s when there was an influx of Haitian and Cuban refugees to Miami. I even included a photo I took during that era in Hialeah, Florida.

Early this morning I happened to be listening to an interview with actor/director Vincent  D’Onofrio who’s life was changed as a ten-year old in Hialeah went he learned to do magic tricks from Cuban enterainers who’d immigrated to the United States and opened  a magic shop near D’Onofrio’s home. It was his introduction to the entertainment industry.

The above still frame features D’Onofrio as Pvt. Pyle in Full Metal Jacket in an iconic scene with Sergeant Hartman (R. Lee Ermey). It was D‘Onofrio’s film debut and he spent 13 months on the shoot and this is one of the key take aways he learned from director Stanley Kubrick:

“Once you’ve worked with [Stanley Kubrick] it’s difficult to move a camera unless it’s helping tell the story. You don’t move the camera for the sake of moving it.”
Vincent D’Onofrio
Podcast interview on WTF with Marc Maron

In a day and age where moving the camera is pretty easy to do, it’s especially good to think through why you’re moving the camera. Here are some videos I found online of the photojournalist turned filmmaker Kubrick at work on various movies.

Scott W. Smith

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“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…”
The Shining (A Stephen King story)


Iowa is getting blanketed in a snow storm today. About ten inches of show has fallen in the last 12 hours with wind gusts measuring over 40 mph. I took the above photo this morning at my house and it reminded me of the scene in The Shining when Jack Nicholson has a form of writer’s block while writing at a prolific rate.

You really don’t need to go to film school to learn filmmaking—just study how this Stanley Kubrick directed scene is a tour de force of visual filmmaking—and simplicty. Two actors, two minutes, seven words, 10 shots (fewer setups) and just a great example of solid writing, acting, directing, cinematography, editing, location scouting, and sound design.

You could shoot this scene yourself with two friends and one camera in a couple hours. Do what the Renaissance painters did—copy the masters until you find your own style.

Related posts:

Stephen King’s Doublewide Trailer
Descriptive Writing (Stephen King)
Screenwriting Quote #55 (Stephen King)
Beatles, Cody, King and 10,000 Hours

Scott W. Smith

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Yesterday was an important day personally. I got a glimpse into the future. And, yes, it did involve illegal drugs.

I watched the documentary Cocaine Cowboys on immediate viewing online through Netflix. The movie has been out for few years but I had never seen it before. Having attended the University of Miami in 1981-1982 the topic alone was of great interest to me. It was impossible to live in Dade County in the 80s and not be acutely aware of the drug trade and the murders that followed in its wake.

In 1981 there were 621 murders in Dade County. (A record that still stands there.)  I distinctly remember the news at that time where each murder seemed more bizarre than the next.  One official on the documentary called Miami at that time, “the most dangerous place in the world.”  (In reality, I think Medellin, Colombia, as in the Medellin drug cartel, in the 80s  technically had the highest rate of murder per capita in the world.)

I personally didn’t see any of the crime (I was safely editing my first 8mm film in my Mahoney-Pearson dorm room) though it was hard miss all the Ferraris & Porsches kicking around Cocount Grove.  And it didn’t take much for a film professor to show us A Clockwork Orange and connect it to Miami. Stanley Kubrick’s futuristic look at a chaotic culture full of brutal violence and murder without remorse was a daily realty in Miami.

But as fascinating as that era was it’s not what caused my mini glimpse into the future. It was simply because I could watch the movie immediately online. Legally. While I have watched LOST online before this was the first movie I have ever watched online.

It was an epiphany of sorts. I had a flashback to standing in line to see the movie ET, 15 years of renting VHS tapes (and paying all those Blockbuster late fees), to marveling how Netflix revolutionized things by having DVDs delivered to your home. Supply & demand and distribution channels seem to be changing quicker than ever.

Now I’m a mid-level tech savvy guy and try to somewhat keep up with where things are heading. I edit every day on Final Cut Pro. I Twitter, blog, and use Facebook yet I just learned yesterday that the push this Christmas will be TVs that are interconnected to the web. This will make your TV more like a computer, stereo, photo gallery and movie theater all in one.  There you’ll link to You Tube, Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Just as people are dropping their land phone lines you have to wonder what internet connected TV will do to regular cable TV. If all you do is push a button and watch the movie of your choice, what will it do to DVD sales that have been in decline for a while? There’s talk of streaming videos the same day they open in theaters.

The battle is on. And some would say its getting bloody. On production as well as distribution.

Anne Thompson wrote a post on indieWIRE called Toronto Wrap: Indie Bloodbath were she said this year’s Toronto Film Festival marked the end of the old independent market.

There were few sales made at the festival leading producer Jonathan Dana to say, “It’s a massacre.”

Thompson explains, “Fox Searchlight, Overture, Summit, Focus Features, Lionsgate, Sony Picture Classics and Miramax all wanted to buy in Toronto. While they may buy later, at fest’s end, they walked away empty handed.”

It’s one thing for independents to raise the money to get a film made and to get it into the key festivals (Telluride, Venice, Tornoto & New York) but what happens to those film if they don’t get a distribution deal?

Thompson explains, “Most of the 145 films on sale at Toronto will wind up streamed, downloaded, and viewed on a small TV or computer or mobile screen.”

At the end of Cocaine Cowboys one of the ex-girlfriends of one of the drug runners asks, “What I want to know is what happened to all that money?” That’s what filmmakers are wondering these days.

Actually, Cocaine Cowboys may be a good template for the small and micro-budget films made outside L.A. It was produced by rakontur in Miami, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006, got picked up by Magnolia Films and had a limited theater release ($150,000 domestic), then a cable run, good DVD sales, and eventually streamed onto my computer last night. Don’t know if anybody made any money along the way but I have read rumors that  HBO television is developing a dramatic series based on the players in the doc.

Hollywood in 2009 is not a more dangerous place than Miami in 1981, it just feels that way. I imagine the film industry is going to follow the path that Miami took after the city was declared DOA. It emerged as a thriving city and a land of new opportunity to those who embraced the change.

Side note: Cocaine Cowboys director Billy Corben (a University of Miami grad) has a new film coming out next month on the Miami Hurricane football team called The U.

Scott W. Smith

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 “Time. We live by it, ladies and gentlemen, it doesn’t live by us.”
                                                                       Chuck Nolan (Tom Hanks)
                                                                       Cast Away 

Recently I’ve written a bit about the importance of theme in movies. Some writers start with it and some writers are oblivious to it relying on their on instincts for theme to emerge. Back in the 90s when Tom Hanks first had an idea to do a modern day Robinson Crusoe type story of a man on a deserted island the concept was intriguing to screenwriter William Broyles Jr. who was a marine in Vietnam.

It was Hanks’ suggestion that the main character work for Federal Express, which Broyles said turned out to be “the perfect symbol of a modern company” and just happened to have the motto, “The World on Time.” From there Broyles began to find ways to take a man deeply reliant on time and disconnect him from his modern life. To ask the questions, “What happens when your dreams don’t come true?” and “What’s truly important in life?”

“Wrestling with dramatic elements—and others about acceptance and fate and forces larger than ourselves–was an important part of the screenplay, but those battles tend to play out on a subconscious levels. They’re hard to write about explicitly, and to do so in a movie would be as self-defeating as it would be presumptuous to write about here.
            So while these thematic questions were constantly at work beneath the surface, they weren’t the story, and that’s what a movie has to be.”

                                                           William Broyles Jr
                                                            Cast Away; The Shooting Script

It’s a healthy question to ask if your theme is overpowering your story. I think particularly in movies with strong political or religious themes this is often where zealous filmmakers get into trouble and the critics start making accusations of propaganda. 

A great example of making a film with a religious theme that doesn’t overpower the story is The Decalogue by Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski who also co-wrote the scripts with Krzystof Piesiewicz. They are ten one hour films that each explore one of the ten commandments. 

This is what Stanley Kubrick wrote in 1991 about their work:  “It should not be out of place to observe that they have the very rare ability to dramatize their ideas rather than just talking about them. By making their points through the dramatic action of the story they gain the added power of allowing the audience to discover what’s really going on rather than being told. They do this with such dazzling skill, you never see the ideas coming and don’t realize until much later how profoundly they have reached your heart.”


Scott W. Smith

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