Archive for May, 2009

Review: “Up”

Last summer, I came out of a screening for Pixar’s Wall-E shocked, not because I was disgusted or anything like that, but because I had just had a cinematic experience quite unlike anything I’ve ever had before.  What I like about Wall-E is that it told a story quite effectively without almost no dialogue, at least for the first 30 minutes or so.  Sure, when Wall-E makes it to the human ship, the movie becomes slightly less unique and a little more formulaic, but I still walked away in awe of the storytelling prowess of the folks at Pixar.  I began to think to myself, “How can they possibly top this?  Do an all-silent movie?”  If you’ve seen any of the Pixar shorts that usually play before a screening of their movies, you know that they can entertain for minutes at a time without a single word being said.

I started thinking about their other films and why I liked them so much.  Toy Story 2, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille rank as some of my favorite animated films ever.  Now, after much thought, I can add Up to that list.  If Wall-E made its mark by being an almost-silent film, Up stands out because of its refinement of the traditional Hollywood narrative (think 3 Act Structure).  In fact, I think Up may very well be my favorite Pixar movie out of all of them.  This movie has quite possibly everything you could want in a summer movie: adventure, action, romance, and humor all rolled up in a story that also packs an emotional wallop in just the right places.

Up is the story of Carl Fredricksen (voiced perfectly by Ed Asner), an elderly widow who lives out his twilight years in the home he shared with his late wife, Ellie.  All around him, the world has moved forward.  The neighborhood he once lived in has given way to a metropolitan downtown district, formerly unknown places in the world have been traveled, and he’s stuck in the past.  Feeling guilty over an unkept promise he made to his wife, he decides to leave civilization behind and head to South America, where he and his wife were supposed to travel to years earlier.  Instead of going by plane or boat, like in any other kind of movie, Carl goes by house, levitating it off the ground by hundreds, if not thousands of balloons.

Along for the ride is plump Russell (Jordan Nagai), a clumsy boy who’s also a member of the Wilderness Explorers, a Boy Scouts-like organization for young people.  Carl and Russell will meet other companions on their journey, like Dug the Dog (Bob Peterson) and Kevin, a very large exotic bird that follows them around.  Of course, no movie is complete without a villain of some sort.  Christopher Plummer voices Charles Muntz, a childhood hero of Carl’s who turns out to be not what Carl was expecting.

If you look at Pixar’s filmography, you’ll notice a steady progression of technology.  They were the first to do an entire feature film in CG with Toy Story, and each subsequent movie become more visually appealing.  With Up, I had completely forgotten it was an animated film I was watching.  The screenwriters of all the Pixar films have nailed the script structure; they know when to increase the stakes, when to introduce a character or a plot point, and they know how long each act needs to last for just the right amount of time.  Up isn’t just a visually arresting movie, the storytelling is top notch, and the best I’ve seen this year.  As much as I enjoyed a movie like Star Trek, that can’t hold a candle to the story presented here.

The action isn’t just exciting, it kept me on edge.  The first major action set piece happens when Carl and Russell pass through a storm.  What wouldn’t have worked is if we saw young, well-built men in their 20’s and 30’s fighting to save their house.  What worked here was the proper ingredients for a two-minute nail-biter of a scene: a young boy who’s only contribution is his youthful optimism, and an old man, who may be passed his prime physically, but brings years of experience and common sense to the table.  Together, the two weather the storm as best they can, and it was sure fun to watch.  The excitement only ratchets up (no pun intended) as the movie plays along, including aerial dogfights with dogs, a sword fight in and on a large dirigible, and a chase through a canyon while riding Kevin the giant bird.

I’ll admit my eyes sure got teary while watching this.  Throughout the movie, there were moments when everyone in the theatre exclaimed something like, “That’s so sad!” This film will certainly pull on a few heartstrings (that is, if you don’t have a heard made of ice) and leave you searching for a way to dab at your eyes without anyone noticing.  Love and companionship plays a huge part of the film.  The subplot involving not just Carl, but Russell is extremely simple, but that’s what I think a movie needs to do in order to illicit an emotional response.  Most people don’t need elaborate plots, we just need the basics of what we understand as love and friendship.  After all, love is complicated, and yet so simple and basic that many storytellers forget how to convey it.  Director Pete Doctor and the rest of the writing and directing team knew exactly what it took to make us understand love in the eyes of Carl and Russell.

Without a doubt, Up may well be one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, and for good reason.  It’s got everything you need in not just a summer flick, but a good film in general.  Up is further proof that some of the best storytellers are housed in the creative superpower that is Pixar, but I can’t help but wonder when they’ll make a ‘bad’ movie (not that they’ve made anything I’d consider ‘bad’, I just didn’t care much for works like Cars and the first Toy Story).  As long as Pixar keeps churning out high-quality films like Wall-E and Up, I probably wouldn’t worry too much about the sub-par stuff.

10/10

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May 31, 2009 at 4:41 pm 1 comment

Electronic Gaming Monthly Rises from the Dead

Wow, I honestly thought I’d never see the magazine again. As soon as they make it official, I’m re-subscribing. LONG LIVE SUSHI-X!
clipped from www.egmnow.com

BEVERLY HILLS, CA, May 29, 2009 — Steve Harris, founder of “Electronic Gaming Monthly” magazine, announced today that he has entered into an agreement with Ziff Davis Media to re-acquire certain assets, including trademarks and publishing rights, with plans to re-launch EGM in the second half of 2009.

“The re-launch of Electronic Gaming Monthly represents a welcome opportunity to continue delivering quality content to gaming enthusiasts,” said Harris. “I feel honored to once again be associated with this respected magazine. The talented writers and designers who built upon EGM’s original vision have left behind a publication that is uniquely positioned to be successful.”

Additional details and future announcements will be made during the upcoming E3 expo and posted on the magazine’s official website at www.EGMNOW.com or via the official EGM Twitter account at www.twitter.com/EGMNOW .

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May 29, 2009 at 5:42 pm Leave a comment

“Terminator Salvation” Alternate Ending?

Be forewarned, SPOILERS!

According to Entertainment Weekly, the latest Terminator flick would’ve ended quite differently.  The current ending is this: Connor is seriously wounded and Wright offers to have some body parts harvested so Connor can continue the fight.  However, the original ending, the one that supposedly even the studio and Christian Bale signed off on goes something like this:

“Connor dies, okay? He’s dead,” McG continues. “And Marcus offers his physical body, so Connor’s exterior is put on top of his machine body. It looks like Connor, but it’s really Marcus underneath. And all of the characters we care about (Kyle Reese, Connor’s wife Kate, etc.) are brought into the room to see him and they think it’s Connor. And Connor gets up and then there’s a small flicker of red in his eyes and he shoots Kate, he shoots Kyle, he shoots everybody in the room. Fade to black. End of movie. Skynet wins. F— you!”

Holy balls.  Not only would that have been a complete mindf***, it would have been a terrible ending.  Would it have been a gutsy move?  Sure, but a dumb one at that.  If anything, people should be glad we have the ending as is.

Read more here.

May 26, 2009 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

Directing: What I’ve Learned So Far, Part 3

On Story and Screenwriting:

It is said that there’s only a handful of stories that can be told, and all stories told are variants of these.  While I don’t know if that’s 100% true, it is very difficult to find variety these days in movies, books, games, etc.  What keeps us going back to the theatre is how the stories are told.  If it’s a romantic comedy, it’s usually something along the lines of Boy Meets Girl, Boy Embarrasses Himself Trying To Get Girl, or something like that.  However, each person telling this story has their own unique way of telling it.  Annie Hall is different from, say, The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, but on paper they might seem like similar movies.  Don’t focus on creating a unique story, focus on telling your story well. Remember, whatever idea you have, most likely its already been done.

Screenwriting is different from other types of writing in that the style and format are always in flux, and there’s not really room for detail.  Before you sit down at your computer to write a screenplay, you must learn the format. A screenwriting book that teaches format is a good place to start, and there are tons of websites that have screenplays available to read.  Be warned, however, that many ‘published’ screenplays on the Net could be shooting scripts, which have their own format and are not to be used as ‘spec’ scripts, which is what you write when you want to sell your story.  Another good step is to invest in screenwriting software, or plugins for Word (or your word processor of choice) that will format for you.  Keep in mind that not every program is perfect and you must pay attention to make sure the formatting is correct. Screenplay format is so important, many agents, executives, producers, etc. will not even bother reading the rest of the story (no matter how good it is) if the format is bad.

This book by David Trottier is a great place to learn format

This book by David Trottier is a great place to learn format

As I mentioned before, you don’t have room for lyrical, Nobel Prize-winning prose in a screenplay. Be concise, get to the point.  If there’s a fight scene in your story, don’t explain exactly how one character fights, and the movement they make.  That’s boring.  Honestly, I have this problem when reading books.  For example, I was reading The Bourne Identity and Robert Ludlum has a habit of describing, in specific detail, how the characters fight.  This leg moved this way, so-and-so’s arm swung that way, blah blah blah.  That style of writing bored me so much that I couldn’t finish the book (I do mean to, one day).  In screenwriting, a simple “They fight” is all you might need.  Let the director and choreographer worry about the details.  In other places, such as descriptions of settings, details also need to be to-the-point.  If your scene takes place in a jungle, don’t go into detail about the sweat dripping down the characters’ faces, or how the midday sun beat down upon them and baked their skin.  Just set it up as, “They trek across a hot, sweaty jungle” or something to that effect.

If you’re a director, or a producer, consider going to someone else to write your screenplay.  You could have an amazing idea, but you may write poorly; in that case, having a professional (or as close to ‘professional’ as you can get) writing it will probably be your best bet.  Just like with editing, doing everything yourself may cause you to lose sight of what’s important in the story. You may get attached to certain scenes or lines, and may be wary of removing them in rewrites, even if it may seem necessary.

The Final Draft series of screenwriting software is among the best.

The Final Draft series of screenwriting software is among the best.

As for story structure, most people go with the Three Act Structure.  It’s concise, simple, and most successful movies follow this, like Star Wars and Jurassic Park.  There are some that don’t go this route, which is fine (Raiders of the Lost Ark is said to have more than four acts), but I would advise against it for first-timers.  Remember, you must learn the rules first before you can break them. Another thing to remember is that all stories must have conflict.  I’d even go so far as to say that it is impossible to tell a worthwhile story and not have conflict.  Whether it’s Good Guy vs Bad Guy, or Good Guy vs Himself, or whatever, the main character must want something and there are forces at work against him.

Recently, Christian Bale was asked how the filmmakers got him to be a part of the new Terminator Salvation movie.  He said that the script had to be so good that it could be performed without fancy visuals and still tell a compelling story.  Apparently, the script he read was good enough to meet this criteria, and he’s now the new John Connor of the franchise.  This should be true for all movies.  In the rehearsal process, a table read is usually done so that everyone involved (cast, director, producer, writer, etc) can hear the lines spoken out loud and to fix any problems before formal rehearsals get underway.  During the table read, there is not fancy CG imagery or editing, it’s just the actors and their lines.  The story must make sense when told from this point of view.  If the actors alone can’t tell the story, there’s something wrong with the script.

When you’re writing a student film or a low-budget indie flick, consider your budget beforehand. Don’t write a Hollywood action movie if your budget is $50 and you can’t get access to fancy equipment.  Locations are also something to thing about; a 15-minute short doesn’t need 30 different locations.  If possible, keep your locations to a bare minimum needed to tell the story.  Usually, that’s enough.  Also, don’t cram in a dozen different characters.  The less speaking roles, the better, since this will make casting and shooting go by much smoother, and more unnecessary speaking parts may confuse the audience.

Although, in Hollywood, screenwriters are treated as second-class-citizens, that doesn’t mean your story must be treated this way.  As a director, this is your version of someone else’s story.  Even if you wrote the story yourself, consider what looks best on screen.  Remember, filmmaking is, above all, a visual medium for telling tales.  If it looks good on paper, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t work on screen, it must be changed or it must be removed.  There’s an old saying in Hollywood, “You can make a bad movie from a good script, but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” This is 100% true.  Even the most ridiculous premise for a story may have just the visual punch needed to make a good movie.

(images from Amazon.com)

Directing: What I’ve Learned So Far, Part 2 – On Crew

May 24, 2009 at 9:13 am 3 comments

Review: Angels & Demons

Following 2006’s The Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard brings us another adventure with everyone’s favorite Harvard-educated symbologist, Robert Langdon.  This time, he’s not uncovering any earth-shattering secrets hidden within priceless works of art, he’s uncovering secrets hidden in statues and churches throughout Rome.  A secret anti-Catholic cult known as the Illuminati have placed a powerful bomb somewhere in or near Vatican City and threaten to destroy the seat of authority for the world’s 1 billion-plus Catholics.

The bomb, made up of highly unstable anti-matter, was stolen from the CERN laboratory in Switzerland, and tasked with its retrieval is beautiful physicist (aren’t they all?) Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer).  In order to make sense of the clue left behind by a mysterious Assassin (Nikolaj Lie Kaas), the Vatican brings on Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), despite the headache he gave them following the events of The Da Vinci Code.  For the next two hours, Vetra and Langdon will search all over Rome for a bomb that will consume all of Vatican City in a destructive light.

Before going to see this movie, I remember hearing others talk about it and how they were disappointed that several plot points that were in the book were left out in this screen adaptation.  That doesn’t surprise me in the least, considering that virtually anything based on a book and transferred to a movie is going to lose something.  Not everything in a book will work well as a movie, it’s one of the golden rules of screenwriting.  That being said, I have read the book (I liked it more than The Da Vinci Code sequel), but I honestly don’t remember most of the major events; I remember the beginning and the very end, that’s about it.  So, watching this movie was almost like experiencing the story for the first time.

The story in itself is pretty easy to follow: there’s a bomb in the city, and our heroes have only a few scant hours to find it.  What will confuse some is the motivation behind the events.  Why do the Illuminati hate the Church so much?  Who is the Assassin, and is he really part of the Illuminati?  None of this is helped by the wealth of Italian terms thrown at the audience (camerlengo, preferiti, etc.), so it’s easy to see how a movie goer expecting to see a typical summer action-thriller could be confused 15 minutes into the movie.

Language barrier aside, Angels & Demons is a fairly enjoyable thriller.  While there’s nothing in this story that is as controversial as The Da Vinci Code, some Catholics may be put off by the portrayal of the Catholic Church.  The movie doesn’t take a stand in showing the Church in a good or bad light, it does brush upon certain social issues like gay marriage, and the Church’s reaction (or lack thereof) toward them.  The movie does, however, raise the eternal question of: “science or religion?”  To be fair, the movie handles it well enough, stating that many believe science and religion can coexist, with one supporting the other.

Without delving too far into weighty theological discussions, Ron Howard is able to keep the pace of the book going well throughout the movie.  Once Langdon and Co. learn their first clue, it doesn’t really stop until the climax (which I thought was nicely done, but I won’t spoil it for anyone here).  One thing that I liked about the book is that it was much more of a page turner than The Da Vinci Code, and the actors handle the breakneck speed well.  Hanks is good, as usual, and Ayelet Zurer, while lacking something that Audrey Tautou had in the previous movie, was believable as a brainy physicist.

Unfortunately, Stellan Skarsgard, who plays the head of Vatican City’s Swiss Guard, Commander Richter, isn’t really given much to do except scowl at Hanks.  And as much as I like him, Ewan McGregor as Camerlengo McKenna may not have been the right fit for this role.  While he wasn’t necessarily bad, I just didn’t really get a sense that McGregor was owning the role.  There’s also something that was pointed out to me, about how Langdon goes about finding his clues.  It’s almost like sheer dumb luck, like he could sneeze and see something on the ground that looks like whatever he’s looking for.  I preferred the way they did it in the other movie: a visual representation appearing in the air, showing us how Langdon is piecing together the clues.

Angels & Demons won’t win over anyone that disliked The Da Vinci Code.  To me, this is the better movie, just as the book is the better of the two books, only because it moves faster and doesn’t let up until the story is done.  Fans of the series should enjoy this, as it did feel like sort of a roller-coaster ride through Vatican City and Rome.  Viewers willing to go on another clue-hidden-among-works-of-art adventure should be moderately pleased with this one.  It’s almost guaranteed that Hollywood will try and develop a movie version of Dan Brown’s next Robert Langdon novel The Lost Symbol, and I think the series is in Ron Howard’s capable hands.

7.5/10

(images from Yahoo!)

May 22, 2009 at 10:49 pm 3 comments

Review: Terminator Salvation

Hoping to bring the series back to its ‘darker roots’, director McG brings us Terminator Salvation, the fourth in the sci-fi series about humanity’s desperate fight against the supercomputer Skynet.  Picking up about 15 years after Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Salvation features a more grizzled John Connor (Christian Bale) as he leads his team of resistance fighters, TechCom (sort of like a special forces group within the larger human resistance military), in the early years of the War Against the Machines.  With him are his wife and second-in-command Kate Connor (Bryce Dallas Howard), brother-in-arms Barnes (Common), and pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood).

Bryce Dallas Howard and Christian Bale

Connor spends most of the first act living up to his destiny as ‘leader of the resistance’, sending out radio addresses to all the small groups of resistance fighters spread throughout the world.  However, that destiny is put into question as Connor stumbles upon a Skynet plan to round up humans for experimentation.  Fearing a new breed of Terminator, Connor and the rest of the resistance work to stop Skynet’s latest plot.  Added to the mix are Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), an ex-con who can’t remember the past 15 years, and Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), a teenager who lives in the ruins of Los Angeles.

Sam Worthington and Anton Yelchin

Supporting the plot are some pretty inventive action scenes.  This movie has the most Terminators so far seen in a Terminator movie: water-bound Hydrobots, road-racing Moto Terminators, giant Harvesters, flying HK’s (Hunter-Killers), and hulking T-600’s.  All this variety lends itself to some great moments involving a thrilling escape as a Harvester rounds up survivors, and a highway chase with Reese and Marcus swinging a tow truck cable at Moto Terminators.  Unfortunately, there really isn’t anything as inventive as the truck chase scene from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but for a summer movie, this will please action junkies.

That looks absolutely terrifying

That looks absolutely terrifying

Peppered throughout this movie are nods to the previous 3.  Famous lines like, “Come with me if you want to live” and the now-legendary “I’ll be back” make their returns.  Also, the previously-mentioned tow-truck chase is reminiscent of a similar chase from T3 and T2.  Many shots and camera angles are also obvious homages; watch the final battle in this movie and its easy to see T1 and T2 in it.  There’s even a moment that made me smile, which involved a certain Guns ‘N’ Roses song.  Fan will know what I’m talking about.  What I also appreciated is how the screenwriters didn’t completely ignore T3, a movie that wasn’t nearly as good as T2, but is still a decent action movie.  The character of Kate Brewster (played by Claire Danes in the previous movie) is given a bigger role other than complaining of being ‘kidnapped’; in Salvation, she is seen as an equal to John Connor, and not just Connor’s wife.  Her opinions also affect the decisions that Connor makes.

McG brings a little bit of visual flair to the story with some nice unbroken takes during action scenes, and generally keeping the visual palette to a bleak grey or sandy brown.  The editing is also tight and keeps the story moving.  What I was disappointed in was the music; it wasn’t nearly as strong as Terminator 2 and I heard the classic Terminator theme only a couple of times throughout the whole movie.

Also, there are some plot points that I just didn’t fully buy.  There’s a relationship that develops between Blair and Marcus which didn’t feel fully explored.  And there’s something about what the story focused on that didn’t sit right with me.  In the previous movies, they focused on stopping Skynet from killing someone.  Here, we stay in ‘the future’ and we get a better glimpse at the human resistance fighting the machines.  But, it keeps going back to this story that leaves out the larger global human resistance movement, something I wanted to see more of.  Yes, there are small scenes of survivors living in other parts of the world, but they were very quick and amounted to little more than a montage.

Bale and Worthington turn in the best performances of the flick.  Edward Furlong’s portrayal of John Connor in the second film was appropriate: a rebellious kid who just wants to goof off and ignore the responsibility his mother is bestowing upon him.  In T3, Nick Stahl’s Connor was a young adult who knows full well what his destiny is, and tries to run from it.  Here, Bale’s Connor is a man who has accepted his role as humanity’s savior, and now works to secure the planet’s future against the machines.  He is determined, relentless, and at times rebellious, going against authority to ensure that Skynet’s schemes fail.  Worthington is fine as a confused prisoner, and due to his amnesia, he sees the world as having gone to hell overnight.  He, too, has embraced his place in Connor’s destiny; my only issue is that he seems to have accepted it a little too quickly.  What happened to him is quite horrific, all things considered.  Worthington’s Marcus Wright does a quick turn around from “What the *&^$ is going on?!” to “I’m gonna go and kick everyone’s ass” in no time.

Terminator Salvation is a return to the series’ origins.  Action fans should be pleased as it provides more violence on a grand scale as opposed to X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Series fans should enjoy this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some that have serious issues with the story arc.  Still, it’s an entertaining action flick that brings attempts to do something new with the ground-breaking Terminator brand by telling the story from the future point-of-view.

8/10

Oh, and look (and listen!) for some cameos from some of the stars of the previous movies.

(images from Yahoo!)

May 21, 2009 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

Directing: What I’ve Learned So Far, Part 2

On Crew:

Assemble your crew early, and do it carefully.  As a director, you should understand that you can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything by yourself.  Your primary resonsibility on the set is to the actors.  Everyone else on the crew has another boss, the actors have you. So, in order to make sure your vision comes across clearly in the movie, you have to make sure your crew knows what they’re doing since you won’t be able to micromanage every aspect of the process.  Just like with actors, passion comes first; a less-skilled cameraman that is enthusiastic about the project might be more beneficial than an experienced cameraman who may not give a damn about your vision.

On the set, the director is like the American president.  Just like with any commander-in-chief, they have a cabinet of officials to help them out.  The first person you should look to hire is an assistant director.  The AD is like your Chief of Staff, they’ll help you set your agenda for the day, manage your resources, boss around the production assistants, and keep you on schedule.  You worry about telling the story, they worry about the time it takes to tell it.  I’ve worked with one AD who took my watch from me so I wouldn’t constantly be looking at it.  To my surprise, it was very helpful, as I was more focused on talking to the actors and the other crew, while he would let me know what our time looked like.  The title “assistant director” is a bit misleading, as generally the AD doesn’t do any directing; it should be more like “director’s assistant”.

On the set of the Academy of Art short "Chop Chop Silly Billy"

On the set of the Academy of Art short "Chop Chop Silly Billy"

In order to make your movie look good visually, you’ll need a strong cinematographer.  The Director of Photography is responsible for the look of the movie, and everything visual within the frame, minus the acting, should be approved of by the DP.  To continue with the Presidential Cabinet analogy, your DP is like your Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The Chairman works closely with the other Joint Chiefs from different branches of the military; on the set, the DP is in charge of the grips, gaffers, electricians, cameramen etc., plus they work closely with the set designers, costumers, make-up artists, etc.  If the AD is spending his or her time yelling at PA’s and chasing after runners, the DP will generally be by the director’s side during filming, making sure everything the lens sees is exactly what the DP and the director wants.  Because of the responsibility given to the DP, the director must trust them completely; in a perfect world, the director should never touch a camera (save for looking through the viewfinder or something), let the cameraman handle the the movement, and the DP is their boss.

The producer is, in the current Hollywood studio system, the head honcho of the production.  They have a hand in assembling the creative team (which includes the director), managing the budget, overseeing the marketing campaign, and finally the home video release.  It is said that the producer is the main driving force behind a project, which is true in many cases, as the producer is the one that finds the project and gathers the talent needed to make it.  In Hollywood, projects are started when producers buy scripts, then finds the director needed to make it happen.  In indie and student-level film-making, the producer is like the blocker to the director’s running back.  If there’s an issue, the producer’s job is to intercept it before it becomes a problem for the director. On the set, directors have enough food on their plate, and any more would potentially have a negative impact on the director’s performance, akin to a stomach problem.  Producers must also be good in talking to people, as they are the ones who will have to deal with getting locations, permits, free stuff (like food), etc.

Shooting the Academy of Art short "It Isn't Working", Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Diane Baker co-instructing

Shooting the Academy of Art short "It Isn't Working", Emmy and Golden Globe nominee Diane Baker co-instructing

In post-production, you’re going to spend lots of time with your editor.  In general, I’d say it’s unwise to edit your own movie, as you may be too attached to certain shots or scenes that aren’t needed (a lot of student filmmakers make the mistake of writing, directing, and editing their movie.  Not that it’s always a problem, but very few are actually good at doing all three, especially writing).  As with your DP, you must make sure you let the editor know what you want, but don’t be hovering over their shoulder all the time.  You do not want to be that guy.  The art of editing motion pictures has its own set of rules, and while it benefits the project overall if the director knew those rules, it’s the job of the editor to enact them.  Let them do a cut the way they see it, then work from there.  Make sure you give them plenty of time before a final cut is due, in order to experiment and to see what works best for the story.

Of course, there’s bound to be problems.  I’ve seen more shoots deteriorate due to conflicts with other crew members than because of anything else.  You must listen to your crew, because they have a different perspective on the project than you do.  If there’s a specific shot you want, and your DP or AD is telling you it may not be wise to get it (due to time constraints, or the necessity of the shot as it relates to story), take it into consideration.  It’s similar to working with actors: try it how they want it, then try it how you want it.  If time isn’t a luxury (which it often isn’t), it’s time to make some touch decisions.  Ultimately, it’s your vision, as director, that is guiding the movie, so you have to make sure each and every crew member, no matter their position on the totem pole, understands it.  As Sun Tzu once said, “If the orders are not clear, it is the fault of the general.”

Directing: What I’ve Learned So Far, Part 1 – On Actors

Directing: What I’ve Learned So Far, Part 3 – On Story and Screenwriting

May 20, 2009 at 10:25 am 3 comments

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