Making the Movie

Filmmaking tips, resources, reviews, news and links.

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Your Wednesday Links: 70mm is Hard Work Edition

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

FilmDrunk: An IMAX Projectionist Shows What It’s Like Preparing A Massive 70 MM Print Of ‘Interstellar’

Movie Title Typos – Cartoonist Austin D. Light brings a Reddit thread on mis-spelled movies and brings it to life.

BBC Health: Watching stressful films can endanger weak hearts

No Film School: Afraid of Recording ADR? Don’t Be! This Sound Tutorial Will Show You How

New York Times: Hollywood Ending Near for Orson Welles’s Last Film

Medium: The Evolution of the Rom-com

Hollywood Reporter: Jill Soloway: How a Detour Into Indie Filmmaking Led to Amazon’s ‘Transparent’

Chg: HDTV Manufacturers: Please STOP making “smooth motion” the DEFAULT setting on all HDTVs.

David Bordwell analyzes the plot of Gone Girl – See also Making the Movie’s review.

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” –Orson Welles

Movie Review: Nightcrawler

nightcrawler-posterNow that the bright light of summer has receded, the worthy films are slinking out from their dark holes. From the slick surfaces of Gone Girl to the virtuosic staging of Birdman. And joining them is the creepiest dark hole dweller: Nightcrawler.

‘Nightcrawler’ is slang for independent news gatherers who listen to police scanners and vie to be first to shoot video of scenes of murder and mayhem. Those looking for a movie about a teleporting mutant or worms used for fishing will be disappointed. Instead, a sallow, sunken-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular role. And he makes it iconic. A petty thief with a gift for gab and unscrupulous self-improvement, Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom quickly finds he has a hidden talent for the gruesome job, not least of which is figuring out how to sell the footage to the highest bidder.

The fearmongering bloodlust of local news is an easy target, and while Nightcrawler often invokes Network in its dark vision of a media landscape devoid of ethics, it is the capitalist system that is the film’s real target. Characters again and again sell their bodies and their souls to make a bargain with small-business owner Lou (short for Lucifer?) Bloom.

Written and directed by a Gilroy (Dan), produced by a Gilroy (Tony) and edited by a Gilroy (John), this film might make me think twice about attending their family Thanksgiving. As skewed as the view is toward business dealings, someone knew how to make a deal on the producing team. For a reported $10M this film has some tremendous talent, not least cinematographer Robert Elswit, who makes Los Angeles at night shimmer like firelight over a storm-tossed ocean.

Acting standouts besides Gyllenhaal include Riz Ahmed as Rick, the quasi-homeless “intern” hired by Bloom, and Rene Russo as the struggling local news producer Nina. The best thing about the performances is how they sell Gilroy’s script. You feel filthy after watching this film, but then you realize the real world isn’t much cleaner.

Your Wednesday Links: The Coming Superhero Surplus

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

ScreenRant: Over 40 DC & Marvel Movies Will Hit Theaters In The Next 6 Years – Is there any scenario where the public doesn’t burn out on superhero movies? Already the Spiderman franchise is showing fatigue. I think Marvel has demonstrated demand for franchises that involve loosely-connected stories in the same world. We already knew franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean, which involve one-off or interlinked adventures of the same characters, were popular. Hollywood has long dined out on sequels, from Chaplin’s Little Tramp movies to the Thin Man series to, yes, Aliens and Terminators and Batman and Superman and even Jaws the shark.

Canon PR: Canon Introduces The World’s Longest 4K Ultra-Telephoto Zoom Lens For Large-Format Single-Sensor Cameras – The 50-1000mm motorized CINE-SERVO comes in EF and PL mounts. If you’re going to buy one lens…

Quora: What is the one film that changed Hollywood the most?

Go into the Story: The ‘shortening’ of movie scenes – I hate when people make blanket pronouncements that could be easily tested by data. Scene length can be sampled and tested both on the page and as edited. But let us grant it. Even so… so what? I would not be surprised if, in any storytelling medium — including stage plays — as audiences get more familiar with the mechanics of the medium, the storytellers are able to ‘shorthand’ more and more.

SlashFilm: How to Shoot a Nightclub Scene Using Almost No Money and see also No Film School: 5 Things You Should Think About After You Pass on Your Distribution Deal for more tips from the same $6,000 film.

Vulture: Is This a Clip From a Trent Reznor Score or a Household Appliance?

“Simplicity of approach is always best.” – Charlie Chaplin

Award-winning Short “Flesh Computer” Now Online

Ethan Shaftel on the set of Flesh Computer“Flesh Computer” — the weird and amazing sci-fi short we profiled earlier — is wrapping up its festival run and is now available to view on Vimeo.

In honor of the web premiere, I asked writer and director Ethan Shaftel to give us an update on how the film fared fest-wise, and what he’s learned…

Filmmaker Ethan ShaftelWhen my feature Suspension hit festivals in 2008, the landscape was very different. The internet wasn’t as central to the experience of production and exhibition yet, basically because speeds were not high enough for handling large video files routinely. There was a lot of DVD-burning and -mailing involved. On the post side, many tape formats were still in use for masters and copies — which means a lot of expense at post houses and dubbing companies to make professional formats for festivals or distributors.

Entering your film into festivals is easier now, since almost all have gone to online screeners instead of mailing in DVDs. The problem is that it’s hard to decide which festivals to enter and which not to enter. With entry fees ranging from $20-60 a pop, you just can’t enter everything and stick to a reasonable budget. I’ve been going to festivals with my films since I was a teenager, so I have festivals I’ll enter because of a history there. Others I just select case-by-case, usually because I would like to attend in person or they are close by where family, friends, or collaborators live and I know they would go if the movie is screened there.

I have some ambivalence about film festivals. There are so few that are game-changers for a project. I’ve never been to any of those festivals with my work. But I do genuinely enjoy festivals and in some cases have met long term collaborators only because of attending them. I think the key is to think of them as something for you as much as for the project, something to celebrate the movie after all the work you’ve put into them.

In terms of distribution: since “Flesh Computer” is a short film, no other distribution besides putting it on Vimeo was ever a goal. I just can’t conceive of a distribution “opportunity” for a short that is worth the trade off of having the film seen by far fewer people, or having it be much harder to find online. The deterrent effect on the online audience of having to pay for a short film (or maybe anything) is totally disproportionate to the actual amount you might charge — you could charge 25 cents and the views would fall off as steeply as if you charged $2.99. So what’s the point? Getting a quarter per view of the much smaller audience is not going to get you anywhere, and it’s not why you made the short in the first place. Short filmmaking is not a profit-making venture on it’s own. It’s only a business decision if you consider it an advertising cost for yourself as a filmmaker or media professional, which is perfectly legit. But mostly it’s a passion to make a particular film.

* * *

Flesh Computer is also currently being featured on the Short of the Week website. So hop on over there to learn more about how it was made.

Movie Reviews: Birdman and Gone Girl

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman is my favorite film of the year so far. Right out of the gate, it is 100% manic energy. The gunfire bursts of drumming mixed with the half-cocked sneers at Hollywood, Broadway, and the whole enterprise of entertainment hooked me immediately. Sure, the masterful use of “seamless” editing is showy, but it’s the kind of showy that a great stage show wants and deserves.

Of course, the pace can’t always sustain. To wit: the first scene where Amy Ryan’s character showed up was when the tone started shifting a bit more serious, and I found myself disengaging a bit. Emma Stone’s eyes sure are preternaturally ginormous…

Not that a daydreaming, meandering mind isn’t welcome in the film, which is almost certainly meant to emerge from the inner thoughts of Michael Keaton’s washed-up movie star, Riggan Thompson. I guess it would be gauche to call Mexican-born director Alejando González Iñárritu’s approach magical realism? In any case, the script — by Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo — is some kind of unique blend of realism and surrealism. It shouldn’t work, but it works like gangbusters.

I went to a screening sponsored by the Editor’s Guild, so I had the good fortune of hearing top gun Stephen Mirrione and longtime colleague Douglas Crise talk about the process of making the film. (Mirrione took the lead during pre-production and at the end phase of post, and supervised throughout. Crise, it seems, did the bulk of the cutting.)

Mirrione asked Alejando to shoot the rehearsals (which were done with Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki and the cast mostly in the same locations). This allowed the editors to make comments like “that line is redundant” or “I would probably go to a closeup of Ed Norton here”. So the reason the pace is so rapid, even though the takes are long, is that the “editing” was front loaded, as much as possible, before shooting. The sound team was also allowed to rehearse microphone placement, allowing for clean sound in many locations where booms were impractical.

Crise and Mirrione were cagey about where the cuts were hidden, but they praised Lubezki’s smooth camerawork (much of which was hand-held and digitally stabilized) and the actors’ ability to sustain long takes. They were also cagey about the meaning of that final shot, turning the question back on the audience. “How did you interpret it?”

I’ll tell you what I think. SPOILERS AHEAD! Continue reading

Your Wednesday Links: Went Girl

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Rolling Stone: ‘Gone Girl’ Author Gillian Flynn: ‘I Killed My Darlings’ – It sounds like the film was a rather faithful adaptation. Except that the book was less misogynist, because you could get inside Amy’s head. Or more misogynist, because you got more of what was going on in Amy’s head.

The Hairpin: Patriarchal Parody: The Rom-Com Logic of David Fincher – My review of the film will be forthcoming, but until then, know that I agree with many (but not all) of the points raised in the SlashFilmCast discussion.

iO9: How To Turn Star Trek Into The Next Marvel Movie Universe

HomeMedia Magazine: Redbox Instant Was Doomed from the Start – and on a related note, Drew McWeeny’s rant on why Marvel’s universe is “driving Hollywood crazy”

Hollywood Reporter: Hollywood Salaries Revealed, From Movie Stars to Agents (and Even Their Assistants)

People will say, “There are a million ways to shoot a scene”, but I don’t think so. I think there’re two, maybe. And the other one is wrong.
-David Fincher

Your Weekend Viewing: The Ocean Brothers – replaced bad link

Movie Review: Believe Me

official-movie-poster-for-believe-me-in-theaters-and-on-demand-starting-sept-26-2014Believe Me is a sharp, thoughtful film about a group of college students who start a fraudulent ministry. When Sam (Alex Russell) sees how willingly Christian congregations will part with their money, he devises a fake charity and recruits his three frat brothers, Pierce (Miles Fisher), Tyler (Sinqua Wallace) and Baker (Max Adler).

There is some good-natured poking at Christians, especially their love of free-trade coffee, but the film does an admirable job in walking the very thin line between being insulting to Christians and being pro-Christian propaganda. Because of the fine performances by the four would-be charlatans, Johanna Braddy (as the inevitable love interest), Christopher MacDonald (as the ambiguously ethical leader of the touring ministry they are piggybacking on) and Nick Offerman (in a brief but memorable cameo), the characters are allowed to speak for themselves, not for a particular religious perspective.

The film was shot in Austin in just 20 days. Kudos to DP John W. Rutland. The film looks stylish and polished; I find it hard to believe this is director (and co-writer) Will Bakke’s first feature.

There are a couple times where I might’ve made different story decisions. The flashback tease at the open doesn’t actually pique my interest in the story, as I think it was meant to. Some of the montages go on longer than needed to make their point. While it lacks the edge of a festival darling, it’s edgier than most films which satisfy mainstream sensibilities. All in all, this is a promising debut for Bakke and has put some new young actors on my radar. Believe it.

Believe Me opened in theaters and on demand on September 26. It is rated PG-13. Official website here.

Your Weekend Viewing: The Ocean Brothers

Some nicely-done underwater photography. No VFX needed.

[via CPN]

UPDATED 8 Oct 2014 with new YouTube link. (Original Vimeo link pulled down.)

Making the Movie: The First Decade

Ten years ago I started this website to chronicle a film project I was producing. The project never got off the ground, but the website has continued.

Big round numbers like this seem like they need commemorating. So… yeah.

Thanks for reading. I’ll keep writing and making movies; you do the same.

Your Wednesday Links: The YouTube Reboot Edition

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Fast Company: Rebooting YouTube – A profile of new head Susan Wojcicki and her strategy of promoting ‘home-grown’ YouTube stars.

TechCrunch: Netflix Is Available In France, But It Still Needs Work – Headline: no House of Cards. The foreign rights were already sold to competitors. Rights issues are what continue to confuse consumers — difficult to know what movies and T.V. shows are available on what service at any given time. See also Forbes’ article on the negotiation dynamics between Netflix & the movie studios.

NYTimes: Kickstarter D&D doc leads to lawsuits – A cautionary tale for tabletop game designers leads to a cautionary tale for filmmakers.

The Film Stage: Quentin Tarantino on Creating a Film-Only Haven, How Oscar Obsession Ruins Festivals, and More

News Shooter: Kinogrip’s new Grenoble wooden handgrip

ProdHub: 5 Ways To Give Your Low Budget Film More Production Value

Zeitchik in LATimes: On the set of Birdman with Iñarritú, Keaton and Lubezki – An early awards favorite, along with Imitation Game. Can’t wait to see.

Quora: I think I have written a great first draft of my new script, is it worth using a screenwriting service to take it to the next level? – See also What’s it like to have your film flop at the box office?


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