Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Great Adventures

Gerard Lambkin's short film Great Adventures secured Best of Show as well as Best Narrative at New York's One Show - One Screen awards at the Sunshine Cinema, in New York City's Lower East Side, back in January 2014.

First posted: 23 July 2014

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The making of 'Lagaan'

My experience of Indian films is that when they are good, they are very good, and the rest of the time, they're boring. Even with the dancing.

The first problem you run into when trying to identify some good Indian movies is the fact that Indians, between them, speak some 1,500 languages. According to the Census of India of 2001, thirty languages are spoken by more than a million native speakers each. When you apply that to mass entertainment, conflicts emerge. Ask your taxi driver for a recommendation and the answer given will vary with his language preference. 


I found a list of recommended Indian movies online a few years ago and showed it to an Indian woman who was studying in Adelaide. She had previously been employed in television somewhere in Mumbai. She was outraged by the list because they were all made by the 'wrong people.' I don't speak any Indian language; I just get by with the subtitles, so all the in-fighting is wasted on me. I just want an interesting story, preferably with readable subtitles.

One of the best Indian movies I have seen, Lagaan, revolves around a cricket match between untutored Indian villagers and the cream of the local British garrison in 1893. The film was the third-ever Indian film nominated for an Academy Award. It can be found on the list for The 100 Best Films of World Cinema. The soundtrack is listed on's The 100 Greatest World Music Albums of All Time.

Below we have the trailer and a video outlining the making of Lagaan.

Meanwhile, if you get the chance, try some of these Indian films. (I don't know what language they are in, sorry.)
3 Idiots (2009)
Devdas (2002)
Don (2006)
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghan (2001)
Munna Bhai MBBS (2003)
Lagaan (2001)
Rang De Basanti (2006)
Veer-Zaara (2004)

First posted: 22 July 2014

Monday, 16 October 2017

Movies within movies

This celebration of cinema within cinema was put together by Clara Darko and
Brutzel Pretzel. It consists of 139 clips taken from 93 different films. Have a look and see how many you can recognize first, then scroll below the video to see the complete list of films used.

0:01 Ed Wood
0:02 Singin’ in the Rain
0:03 Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
0:04 The Purple Rose of Cairo
0:06 The Aviator
0:08 The Majestic
0:11 An American Werewolf in London
0:15 Donnie Darko
0:17 Grease
0:19 Blazing Saddles
0:22 Annie Hall
0:25 The Final Destination
0:29 The Purple Rose of Cairo
0:31 The Majestic
0:33 Ed Wood
0:34 Annie
0:35 Holy Motors
0:37 Up
0:38 The Perks of Being a Wallflower
0:39 The Life Aquatic
0:40 Cinema Paradiso
0:41 Explorers
0:42 The Flintstones
0:43 Taxi Driver
0:45 The Third Man
0:46 La Haine
0:47 In the Mouth of Madness
0:48 Public Enemies
0:49 True Romance
0:53 Hugo
0:54 Curly Sue
0:55 Matinee
0:56 The Purple Rose of Cairo
0:58 Bachelor Party
1:00 The Shawshank Redemption
1:04 Cinema Paradiso
1:06 Avalon
1:08 Biloxy Blues
1:09 Scream 2
1:10 Gremlins
1:11 Inglorious Basterds
1:12 The Artist
1:15 Son of Rambow
1:17 All That Jazz
1:18 Twilight New Moon
1:20 Hannah and Her Sisters
1:22 The Departed
1:24 The Player
1:25 Taxi Driver
1:28 Pierrot le Fou
1:31 Not Fade Away
1:40 Who Framed Roger Rabbit
1:41 Sullivan’s Travels
1:43 Burn After Reading
1:44 Singin’ in the Rain
1:46 Cape Fear
1:53 Bonnie & Clyde
1:59 You’ve Got an Email
2:01 How To Lose a Guy in Ten Days
2:07 True Romance
2:18 The Notebook
2:20 Notting Hill
2:22 High Fidelity
2:24 Brokeback Mountain
2:26 Sunset Boulevard
2:28 Midnight Cowboy
2:29 Amarcord
2:32 Summer of 42
2:34 Diner
2:37 L.A. Confidential
2:38 Donnie Darko
2:40 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
2:41 Lucas
2:42 Who Framed Roger Rabbit
2:47 Midnight Cowboy
2:47 Sherlock Jr.
2:49 500 Days of Summer
2:50 Twelve Monkeys
2:58 Last Action Hero
3:03 The Blob
3:04 Outbreak
3:05 Inglorious Basterds
3:07 An American Werewolf in London
3:08 Hardcore
3:09 The Tingler
3:11 Scream 2
3:13 Barton Fink
3:14 The Hard Way
3:16 Bachelor Party
3:18 Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
3:20 An American Werewolf in London
3:21 Manhattan Murder Mystery
3:22 Saboteur
3:23 The Hard Way
3:24 Inglorious Basterds
3:25 Matinee
3:28 Gremlins
3:29 Gremlins
3:30 The Blob
3:32 Silent Movie
3:33 Twister
3:35 Cinema Paradiso
3:38 The Final Destination
3:42 Inglorious Basterds
3:43 Matinee
3:44 The Final Destination
3:48 Inglorious Basterds
3:53 The Cider House Rules
3:58 Sherlock Jr.
3:59 Cinema Paradiso
3:59 Inglorious Basterds
4:01 Waking Life
4:02 Fight Club
4:03 Sunset Blvd.
4:04 The Bad and the Beautiful
4:12 Catch Me if You Can
4:20 L’armée des Ombres
4:21 Leon
4:25 El Espiritu de la Colmena
4:29 Be Kind Rewind
4:30 Bonnie & Clyde
4:33 Interview with the Vampire
4:37 The Green Mile
4:39 Cinema Paradiso
4:40 Cinema Paradiso
4:43 Simone
4:46 Amelie
4:48 The Artist
4:52 Atonement
4:54 The Majestic
4:56 The Aviator
4:58 Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
5:00 Ed Wood
5:03 Gremlins
5:05 The Cider House Rules
5:07 Hugo
5:09 The Purple Rose of Cairo
5:25 Singin’ in the Rain
5:36 Matinee
First posted: 20 July 2014

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sympathetic doesn't have to mean likeable

Yes, we've heard all this before.
Your protagonist does not have to be likeable. ~Bill Froug

Characters don’t have to be nice to be likeable. Nice is boring. But they do have to be entertaining. ~Nigel Cole

I don’t care if people like a character or not; we don’t always like everybody. But you have to be able to understand them. ~Julianne Moore

It doesn’t matter if your lead character is good or bad. He just has to be interesting, and good at what he does. ~Justin Zackham
Jennine Lanouette, who made this video clip, believes that characters need to be vulnerable. Her point is made with examples from movies. 

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First posted: 5 July 2014

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Art of Silence - Martin Scorsese

Even though Martin Scorsese is famous for his use of music, one of his best traits is his deliberate and powerful use of silence. Take a glimpse at fifty years of this simple technique from one of cinema's masters. “The Art of Silence” also examines the depreciation of quietude in Hollywood blockbusters, from 1978′s Superman to 2013′s Man of Steel, alongside Spielberg’s inventive deployment in Saving Private Ryan.

First posted: 3 July 2014

Friday, 13 October 2017

The Rules of Film Noir

Matthew Sweet explores his rules of 1940s and 50s American film noir thrillers:
* Choose a dame with no past and a hero with no future
* Use no fiction but pulp fiction
* See America through a stranger's eyes
* Make it any color as long as it's black
* It ain't what you say, it's the way that you say it

First posted: 26 June 2014

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Ten movies which start with a guy leaving prison

I was watching The Yards (2000) the other night—with the remarkably young-looking Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron—having watched London Boulevard (2010)—with Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley—just a few days earlier, when I wondered how many movies I could think of that opened with a guy leaving prison.

I thought I'd go for a list of the best ten. See if you agree with this: 

10. High Sierra (1941)  -  Humphrey Bogart

9. London Boulevard (2010)  -  Colin Farrell

8. The Brink's Job (1978)  -  Peter Falk
7. The Getaway (1972)  -  Steve McQueen
6. The Blues Brothers (1980)  -  John Belushi
5. The Italian Job (1969)  -  Michael Caine
4. Carlito's Way (1993)  -  Al Pacino
3. Hudson Hawk (1991)  -  Bruce Willis
2. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)  -  Sterling Hayden
1. Rififi (1955)  -  Jean Servais
Honorable mentions to:

Le Cercle Rouge (1970) - Alain Delon
The Hot Rock (1972) - Robert Redford
The Outfit (1973) - Robert Duvall
Tough Guys (1986) - Burt Lancaster & Kirk Douglas
Rounders (1988) - Matt Damon
South Central (1992) - Glenn Plummer
Palmetto (1998) - Woody Harrelson
The Yards (2000) - Mark Wahlberg
Reindeer Games (2000) - Ben Affleck
10th & Wolf (2006) - James Marsden
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) - Michael Douglas
Welcome to Collinwood (2002), which is a George Clooney remake of:
I Soliti Ignolti (1958). As usual, the original is the best, by a long way, and deserves a place in the top ten. Probably right after Rififi and Asphalt Jungle, the movies which inspired it in the first place.
I Soliti Ignolti (1958)
Welcome to Collinwood (2002)

And just for heartfelt expression, there's Bird on a Wire (1990) - David Carradine.

First posted: 22 June 2014

Monday, 9 October 2017

Edgar Wright - How to Do Visual Comedy

If you love visual comedy, you gotta love Edgar Wright, one of the few filmmakers who is consistently finding humor through framing, camera movement, editing, goofy sound effects and music. This is an analysis and an appreciation of a director by Tony Zhou.

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First posted: 9 June 2014

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Michael Caine Teaches Acting In Film

In this documentary Michael Caine teaches the art of movie acting to five young actors, who perform scenes from Alfie, Deathtrap and Educating Rita. He talks about how to perform in close-ups and extreme close-ups. He warns about the continuity dangers of smoking cigarettes or fiddling with props. He talks about screen tests, special effects, men who are cavalier about your safety and speaking to someone who is off camera. The movie camera is your best friend and most attentive lover, he says, even though you invariably ignore her (BBC 1987).
"The theatre is an operation with the scalpel, I think movie acting is an operation with the laser."

First posted: 14 June 2014

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Film School Generation

A Timeline of Cinema is a documentary web series which follows the history of cinema over the last century. The series introduces landmark films, influential filmmakers, and critical ideas in film theory from cinema's birth to modern day.

In this episode they discuss the New Hollywood: The Film School Generation.

First posted: 8 June 2014

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Buck Henry

Here's the guy who wrote The Graduate (1967), Get Smart (the original TV series), and Town & Country (2001), among others, chatting about his life. Buck Henry.

First posted: 1 June 2014

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Writer Speaks: Billy Wilder

Here is a one hour conversation with Billy Wilder, courtesy of the Writers Guild Foundation.

First posted: 23 May 2014

Monday, 2 October 2017

The mystery of storytelling

How we tell stories seems to be a mysterious process that millions around the world want to be able to do, but 99.9% effectively fail. Why is it so hard for storyteller and audience to be one? What we communicate can change the lives of the writer and the audience. However, why stories matter and how to tell them better may not be as mysterious as it seems. 

Julian Friedmann is an agent. He has worked with writers for over 40 years. He believes understanding that storytelling is more about the audience than the writer, will result in better storytelling.

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First posted: 23 May 2014

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Golden Age of Hollywood

A Timeline of Cinema is a documentary web series which follows the history of cinema over the last century. The series introduces landmark films, influential filmmakers, and critical ideas in film theory from cinema's birth to modern day.

In this episode they discuss the Golden Age of Hollywood.

First posted: 23 May 2014

Saturday, 30 September 2017

The Spielberg one shot

Tony Zhou is a camera operator who was the key grip on Space Nazis Must Die, and who loves movies. He pours some of his energy and intelligence into making videos which deconstruct some aspect of filmmaking. Here it is the one shot or "oner." My favourite one shot isn't that great scene from Touch of Evil, but rather the opening to The Player, in which Robert Altman not only created a ten minute scene, but managed to get the studio off his back by completing it in less than a day, leaving him free to make the movie he wanted.
One overlooked aspect of Spielberg is that he's actually a stealth master of the long take. From Duel to Tintin, for forty years, he has sneakily filmed many scenes in a single continuous shot.

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First posted: 26 May 2014

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Rise of the Studio System

A Timeline of Cinema is a documentary web series which follows the history of cinema over the last century. The series introduces landmark films, influential filmmakers, and critical ideas in film theory from cinema's birth to modern day.

In this episode they discuss the studio system and its effects on cinema.

First posted: 19 May 2014

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The technology of storytelling - Joe Sabia

Who invented the children's pop-up book? 

Give up? You need to watch this short, short, TED Talk.

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First posted: 12 May 2014

Friday, 22 September 2017

Pre-Classical Cinema

Do you love movies? Maybe you'll love the history of movies as well.

A Timeline of Cinema is a documentary web series which follows the history of cinema over the last century. The series introduces landmark films, influential filmmakers, and critical ideas in film theory from cinema's birth to modern day.

In this episode they discuss the birth of cinema, following its pre-classical roots before the invention of the feature film.

First posted: 11 May 2014

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Top 10 Screenwriting Tips From Script To Screen

The Independent Filmmaker Project held its Script to Screen conference in New York City recently. Nick Dawson, Managing Editor of Filmmaker Magazine, was there and he recorded the following words of screenwriting advice from the “Writers’ Roundtable” panel.

During the “Writers’ Roundtable” panel, which featured the writer-directors Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), Liza Johnson (Return), Madeleine Olnek (Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same), and Ry Russo Young (Nobody Walks), I took copious notes. I was also busily typing away as novelist and Bored to Death creator Jonathan Ames, The Believer‘s writer-director Henry Bean, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writer Jen Statsky discussed screenwriting after playing the “Exquisite Corpse” writing game. Many sage words of screenwriting advice were shared, and here are the 10 most essential.

1. Try out different styles

Said Liza Johnson, “Writing is free. Just to keep working and finding out what kind of styles fit for you is very beneficial. Making a feature film is a long project, so you have to make sure you’re going to like it.”

2. Don’t second guess your audience

“I don’t think about what’s commercial,” said Leslye Headland. “I think, ‘Will this question I’m asking in this movie that I find interesting be interesting to other people?’” Johnson agreed, “If you try to anticipate a market, your idea is already over. People will think, ‘I’ve already seen this.’ ”

3. Make something new

After acknowledging that the act of screenwriting inevitably involves borrowing from other people’s work, Jonathan Ames said, “Try to make each line and scene as unique as possible.”

4. Commit 100% to your project

“You have to completely be in love with what you’re doing,” said Ry Russo Young. “You have to listen to the voice in your head. Before I start a screenplay or directing a movie, I ask whether I’m totally behind the movie. If I were to be pushed off a cliff, would I be glad that this were my last movie?”

5. Keep it lean and mean

“The best advice a writer can get is ‘Cut, Cut, Cut,’ so that you can get to the good stuff,” said Ames. Henry Bean shared this opinion, stating, “It’s astonishing how much you can cut and still tell your story.”

6. Listen to your gut

When taking people’s notes into consideration, don’t blindly adhere to their suggestions but instead think about how you’d really feel about making the proposed change. Said Bean, “I have a rule about rewriting: don’t do anything you don’t believe in.”

7. Find the note behind the note

Again in reference to people’s criticism of your script, think about what they really mean by their negative comments. “A great piece of advice is ‘What’s the note behind the note?’ ” said Headland. “When somebody says, ‘This character sucks!’, it might just mean they don’t like them. At the end of the day, you’re the writer, not them.”

8. Don’t surrender your script lightly

Screenwriters should battle to maintain control of their vision and find a way to direct their own material if they can. “It’s hard for me to spend 10,000 hours writing something, and then hand the script over to someone who will change it and put their own interpretation on it,” said Olnek.

9. Never stop learning

“I don’t ever feel like I’m a real filmmaker because you learn so much every movie,” said Russo Young. “I’m constantly trying to learn from my mistakes on the last one.” On a similar note, Olnek added, “You should never get to the stage where you think you know everything. You absolutely need mentors.

10 Watch people’s reactions to your work

Whether it’s at a table read or a screening, Olnek says one should “always be present for feedback – people’s spontaneous reactions are the most valuable.”

First posted: 9 May 2014

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

James Cagney and Bob Hope

This great dance and comedy routine is taken from The Seven Little Foys (1955). Who knew Bob Hope could dance?

First posted: 10 May 2014

Monday, 18 September 2017

A Celebration of the American Silent Film

This is an excellent look at the silent pictures and the stunts that made the early movies so successful. It includes interviews with many of the stunt performers of the time including Harvey Parry and Yakima Canutt. Narrated by James Mason.

First posted: 4 May 2014

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The powerful tool people forget when pitching

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She is a regular contributor to and Inc. magazine
     She recently attended the National Publicity Summit to see what it was like to be on the receiving end of the pitches. Here is her report, as published in Inc. magazine. It is not aimed at screenwriters, but you'll be able to translate the key points with a little thoughtfulness.

It was an educational afternoon. I learned that being on the receiving end of a pitching event is much less nerve-racking but much more wearing than being the one doing the pitches, because no sooner is one brief pitching session finished than someone arrives for the next one. I met about forty people, some of them authors with interesting concepts that I was happy to hear about. But to my surprise, almost no one who pitched me used what I've found to be the most powerful tool in these settings.

That tool is asking questions.

All of the people who pitched gave a description of their product or concept and why they thought it would appeal to the readership of this column, and then they waited to hear what I thought about it. None of them asked what kinds of stories I was looking for or what kinds of topics appealed most to my readers.
     Admittedly, they had only a very short time (less than three minutes!) to sell me on their ideas, and I'm sure they thought there wasn't much time for back-and-forth. But even in the shortest of pitch sessions, asking questions is a powerful and smart thing to do. Here's why:

1. You'll break the pattern of endless pitching.

A rhythm develops when you step or sit in front of someone and launch right into a spiel. Pausing to ask a question or two breaks that pattern in a good way and gives the person you're pitching a short breather from the onslaught of sales pitches. And because so few people think to ask questions in this setting, your pitch session is likely to stick in your prospect's memory.

2. You'll engage your potential customer.

"The sexiest sentence in the world is: 'Talk to me.'" A colleague of mine with a very successful track record from pitching events told me this once, and it's really stuck with me. Asking people what they want shows that you care about what they want. And most people are more open to transacting when they feel cared about.

3. You can better match the prospect's needs.

Years ago, I met with an editor from at a pitching event. I had a set of pitches about the credit card industry all ready to go, but early in the conversation, I asked the editor what she was looking for. The answer surprised me: offbeat and unusual topics.
    I didn't have one of those prepared, but I had recently been given a debit card that my bank printed while I waited and that had no raised letters or numbers. I pulled it out of my handbag and showed it to her, and asked if she'd be interested in a piece on these weird flat debit cards. She was, and her company has been a regular client ever since. If I hadn't asked, I wouldn't have known to pitch that topic and might never have landed that first assignment.

4. You won't seem in a rush to make a sale.

Veterans of pitching events all know it's extremely rare for a deal to be completed in a meeting just a few minutes long. Your objective should be to make a connection, one you can follow up later on outside of the hullabaloo of a pitching event. Asking questions signals your intention is to build that relationship rather than just make a quick deal.

5. You'll be better able to continue the conversation.

If all you've done is pitch your product or idea, then the only follow-up you're able to send is more information or a written sales pitch for that same product or company. Asking questions opens up many new possibilities. If you learn, for instance, that the person you're pitching is interested in some newly released technology, you might send an article on the topic with a note reminding your contact of your meeting. Building that kind of relationship puts you in much better shape to make an eventual sale.

6. You'll gain a competitive edge.

Looking for a way to stand out from the crowd? Many people making pitches try to make an impression with a little schwag or a slickly produced piece of literature. I like schwag as much as the next person, but to be honest, asking questions and getting to know what a prospect really wants will make you stand out much more in that person's mind than a gift of the latest cute gadget. Especially because no one else is doing it.

7. You'll make the pitch about the potential customer or investor, not you.

This is the most important reason to ask questions during a pitching session. You came to the event with one goal in mind--to sell your product or gain investment for your company. But the person sitting across from you has his or her own agenda, which may involve buying products or making investments but is certainly not the same as yours. Asking questions lets you quickly focus your interaction on fulfilling the person's needs, not yours.

And that's the quickest way to make a sale.

First posted: 2 May 2014

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Notes on Notes

Brad Riddell once taught a BFA Thesis Class at USC, which consisted of six very talented men and women, each about twenty-one years old. These writers had been in classes, workshops, and at parties together for three years. Over that time they had dated each other, broken up with each other, fought and loved each other, and at one point, when the script notes started flying, the tension popped and things got personal. He ended class immediately, called his fellow professional writers, other professors, as well as the managers, agents, producers and executives he knew, all in an effort to codify a set of principles for the process of giving and receiving notes.

These are
Brad's rules, as he wrote them in Script Magazine. He applies them, as best he can, in every creative setting involving script notes.

1.  Note givers should always begin with what they like about the work, even if it is just a single image or turn of phrase. It’s important that the good things are reinforced. We are not coddling writers; we are reinforcing and appreciating what is working so that it doesn’t get tossed.

2.  Don’t just point out problems when giving notes, but try to offer solutions with each note you give. Barring that, attempt to be as specific as possible about what is troubling you. Whether in features or TV, “working the room,” thinking on your feet, and collaborating with others to solve problems is an essential business skill. Resolving problems will get you much further than simply calling them out.

3.  The writer is interested in what you took from the material, so give him/her your interpretation and your thoughts. Questions like, “Why did you write this scene?” or “What was your intention?” shift the onus away from you. Do the work of forming a well-reasoned opinion for the benefit of the writer.

4.  Delivery is everything. Beginning a note with, “What I need to see is…” or, “You need to…,” often alienates the writer. Foster a tone of “what if” or “maybe.” Offer possibilities, not absolutes. When giving notes, do your best to remove emotion from the discussion. Be helpful, remain invested, but be as objective as possible. Avoid sarcastic, superior, and condescending tones. Such deliveries imply judgment. Receiving notes is never easy. We almost never feel good after getting notes. Do not exacerbate this problem for the writer by delivering your thoughts with an attitude.

5.  There is great benefit in riffing or brainstorming in the room. However, talking to talk, or talking in order to seem as if you are smart when you have nothing truly helpful to say, can cause dangerous digressions, waste time, and make you look inconsiderate, unprofessional, and unprepared. Better to keep listening, keep thinking, and wait until you have something clear and helpful to say.

6.  When receiving notes, a writer should employ a poker face. Looking demoralized and defeated, or acting wounded and depressed will not change a producer or agent’s mind about what they read, and it only makes you look weak. Getting angry is even worse. No rolling of eyes, scoffing, or grunting. Writers must strive to be objective about their own work. You want your story to be better. A note is not a setback, it is an opportunity to improve. Defending your material with an answer to every note comes off as uncooperative, insecure, and precious. Writers are inherently insecure people, but you must set aside fear, tuck away your ego, and listen for ways to make your movie better. The goal is to put a poster on the wall. There are always fights worth fighting, but make sure you’re not just fighting for fighting’s sake.

7.  Readers are your audience. They are visualizing a movie in their minds as they read your script. You cannot argue with the audience in a movie theater, therefore, you should not argue with your readers. They feel what they feel. Attempting to prove yourself right or someone else wrong – be it as a note taker or a note giver – simply wastes time and hinders efforts to make the script better. When receiving notes, you should be listening. You may disagree with what you’re hearing and choose to disregard it, or ask to discuss it further. That’s fine. You may also express your point of view, but arguing gains you nothing. Take the note, be grateful, and move on. If you are giving a note that is not well received, be the bigger person, consider it his/her loss, and move on.

8.  It’s not unusual for writers to develop a sense of the readers whose sensibilities match their own. This is okay! You can’t please everyone, and much of workshopping is determining what to take and what to leave. Some writers paint themselves into a corner by taking all notes, which can be as dangerous as taking none. Use your discretion.

9.  After receiving script notes, do not panic. It is wise (unless you are being pressed by a severe deadline) to leave the material for a day or two. You will find yourself in a better, more objective frame of mind to work, and therefore feel more creative when it’s time to rewrite. Large issues at the note table usually seem less daunting once the swelling has gone down, emotions have subsided, and a more distant perspective has been gained. Your logical, problem-solving brain can’t function until you’ve found a bit of peace.

10. Know when to say when. Unless you are being paid, this is your story. At some point, you have to shut out the noise and remember why you are writing this script, what it means to you, and what you want it to be. Always trust your gut first. Brains are tricksters, but guts tell the truth.

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First posted: 1 May 2014

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Akira Kurosawa - On editing

Here we have the final battle scene of Seven Samurai (1954). In an effort to better understand Kurosawa's technique, Phil Baumhardt made this analysis video, then added a commentary for the benefit of others.

First posted: 30 April 2014

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Hollywood's Golden Age

Here's a documentary about locations in Hollywood and Beverly Hills during Hollywood's "Golden Age".

First posted: 27 April 2014

Monday, 11 September 2017

'Citizen Kane'

Almost from the moment you take a serious interest in film, you start coming across references to Citizen Kane (1941). You can't avoid it. It's on every list of great films. Argue, if you will, about which is the greatest, but Citizen Kane is on your list somewhere.

All this adulation causes newbies (typically young people) to cringe when they finally get to see the actual movie. Shock! Horror! It's in B&W.

The trailer for Citizen Kane is less a sales pitch than a mystery. It shows plenty about the people behind the making of the movie but nothing from the actual film. Based solely on the trailer, you don’t know what Kane is about, short of being about a shadowy, complicated character called Kane.

Welles wasn’t just being cagey for the sake of building audience interest. He was trying to head off a fight. Though Welles publicly claimed that Kane was not about media baron William Randolph Hearst, you can hardly blame the tycoon for feeling otherwise. Hearst was a newspaper magnate with a showgirl mistress who built himself a preposterously opulent castle. Citizen Kane is about a newspaper magnate with a showgirl wife who built himself a preposterously opulent castle.

Hearst did everything he could to stop the movie’s production – and he could do quite a lot. When he failed to kill the picture by pressuring the studio, he pressured theater owners. He used his media empire to slander Welles – using the director’s complicated personal life as tabloid fodder and even implying that he was a Communist. Hearst’s campaign to discredit Welles was so successful that when the director’s name came up during the 1942 Academy Awards, it elicited boos.

If you want to get a sense of just why Citizen Kane is revered then check out this exhaustive documentary below about the film.

First posted: 24 April 2014

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Top 10 Tips - Roger Deakin

Roger Deakins is the director of photography on films such as The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men, True Grit and Skyfall. He's won more than 60 awards for his work, including three Baftas, and was last year presented with a lifetime achievement award by the American Society of Cinematographers.
    Here are his top ten tips for becoming a successful cinematographer, taken from the BBC News Entertainment and Arts.

1. Get some life experience

A cinematographer visualises the film and is a director's right hand on set. I studied photography and then went to the National Film School in England and got into the business that way, but there are all kinds of ways of getting in.
     I think it is more important to experience the world, really. You can't learn cinematography and you can't copy it. The job is just your way of looking at the world. Maybe that sounds a bit pretentious, but I think life experience is always more important than technical knowledge.

2. Be picky

I'm picky about the sort of material I want to work with, always have been. But usually I'm drawn to scripts that are about characters, I don't have a love of doing action movies.
     It is really important to choose which projects you are going to work on carefully. You are going to be on a film for a long time. I've just come back from Australia working on Unbroken with Angelina Jolie, which she was directing.
     It's six months of time and investment, but very worthwhile. I enjoyed it completely, but it was a hard shoot. You work long hours, often you're working six days a week and you are away from home. There are certain kinds of sacrifices you have to make.

3. Choose your collaborators carefully

My relationship with the Coen brothers goes back a long time. We just sort of hit it off and we're good friends, so I'd do anything with them.
     I loved working Sam Mendes on Skyfall, I probably wouldn't have done a Bond movie with anybody else. He had a different take on it and I think that film was far more character driven and that's what drew me to it.
     I turned down working on the next Bond film. I was really torn. I would have loved to work with Sam again but I just didn't feel I could bring anything really new to it. I'd really like to see someone else have the opportunity.

4. Take your time making decisions

My wife James travels with me when I'm working on a film. We've been married for over 20 years and she has been incredibly important to my career. We always talk about what projects are coming up and make the decisions together.
     We like the same kind of movies, we rarely disagree, we just talk things through. Deciding which projects to work on is something that you spend quite a long time considering. I'm very lucky to be in a position that means I can be a bit choosy these days.

5. Don't just copy others

It's no use just thinking you can just learn how to light and copy the best. We all find our own ways of doing things and our own sense of lens choice, composition and the way you move the camera. You can tell one person's work from another quite often, you know.
     So I think it's important to develop as a person. You have to develop your way of being. Otherwise, what are you doing? It's no good just copying, learning a technique and doing it. That's not very interesting, apart from anything else.

6. Understand the importance of lighting

I remember a fellow cinematographer talking about Shawshank and saying, "Well that was really nicely shot but there was no lighting in it."
     We actually shot most of the film in a prison that was absolutely black - I used a huge amount of light to create the look, more or less every shot, even some of the exteriors were lit! So it was a reverse compliment really, because there was a major cinematographer thinking it was shot with natural light when it wasn't!
     So, on the one hand, you need to light a space so you can see the actors - but, more than that, you are creating a mood, you are creating a world for those actors to inhabit and for the audience to get submersed in. Lighting is one of the most important aspects of any great film.

7. Don't cut corners

When you are on a film, because it takes so much time and you are often doing a 12, 14, 16 or even 18-hour day, you're often tired and so sometimes the temptation can be to do something a bit quick and cut corners, but then you regret it.
     Any time that you do something and think, "Oh well, that will be alright even if it's not as good as I can do," you always regret it later. If anything stands out as being untrue within the terms of that movie, then the audience's experience of that world is jolted, they are taken out of it.
     What you do lives on forever, as they say. It's important to persevere, because it's the people who persevere who go on to create something unique.

8. Keep up with new technology but remember the storytelling

You have to keep up with new technology, it all changes rapidly. Film stocks change, techniques like steadycam come along, we've got cranes now and aerial helicopters that can do all sorts of things and gyromounts so you can move the camera in all sorts of ways. We have digital technology now and 3D has come back.
     Technology is changing all the time, but for me nothing has changed in the sense that you are still telling stories by the use of light, the use of a frame, the way you move a camera. I'm still hoping to be part of telling stories about people and the way we are. So, to me, technology is important, but it's only in the background, it's a means to an end, it's like the paintbrush.

9. Wear something you are comfortable in

I cut my own hair. My hairdresser died when I was eleven. He was a really nice man and I didn't have anyone else, so I started cutting my own. I know it sounds silly, but I really don't like people fussing, frankly. It's only hair.
     I've got a really comfortable pair of cowboy boots and I wear blue jeans and a white shirt every day, including today. When I was working in England I wore a black shirt but now I'm in America, I wear a white one.
     I've got 10 white shirts and three pairs of jeans so that when I get up in the morning, I don't have to think about what I am going to put on. I can be dressed and out the door in ten minutes. It's a silly thing but it's like I'm getting ready for work and putting on my uniform.

10. Learn to put things to one side

I've been fired off a movie a couple of times and that's pretty horrendous. When something like that happens, you've just got to look at it and realise it's not necessarily about you. I haven't got a particularly thick skin, but it is important to be able to put things aside.
     Some films were very hard and at times you kind of struggle and you are in conflict with other people to get the job done. But overall, I wouldn't have done anything else. I loved those experiences if only because at the end you actually feel satisfied that you've managed to create something.
     I don't know what's next. I'm hoping to get back with Joel and Ethan and do something with them, really. I love my life and my career so far and I think I've got plenty more to do.

IMDb    Wikipedia

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Christopher Walken on Gene Kelly

Christopher Walken has appeared in over 120 movies and TV shows. Before he was an actor, he was a dancer. Here he tells us a little bit about screen legend Gene Kelly.

First posted: 19 April 2014