Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thoughts on Bones

So my girlfriend has been wanting me to watch Bones for a long time, probably about a year. So I started watching the show about a month ago. I'm currently towards the end of Season 2 and having watch this much so far I've got a few thoughts on the show that I've observed.

The first is that Jack Hodgins is the man. If you haven't watched the show then I recommend it solely because of him. Hodgins offers a bit of comic relief for the show, which in dealing with grizzly murders can get a little serious at times. With his sarcastic demeanor, Hodgins lightens the mood in the lab. He counters this sarcasticness with his obsession of bugs and soil, which he specializes in to help solve crimes.

The second is that you just absolutely want Booth and Brennan to get together. (SPOILER) I know they do get together in the series, but already in the first two seasons I keep asking myself why they aren't a couple yet. It drives me nuts seeing them with other people when you just know that the two are perfect for each other. Oh, and theres also the fact that Booth went to Ithaca, so maybe thats why I love Booth so much.

The last thing, and I can't find a picture of it currently, is that every episode ends with a bloom effect that transitions between two shots. Just something I've noticed.

How to not get the Rights to a Doors Song in 3 Easy Steps

Have you ever been fiddling around with a trailer for your thesis film and thought, "eh, what the hell, let me throw "Break on Through" in here until I get an original piece of music from our composer, just for shits and gigs."? Have you then thought, after hearing how weirdly well the song works with your compilation of clips, "Well damn, that sounds pretty good! It's probably completely impossible to get the rights to this song, but what if I tried anyways?" If, for some overly coincidental reason, you've had those exact thoughts, this short, fairly unhelpful blog post is for you.

1. Find a Loophole.

The first step in not getting the rights to a Doors song is to find a semi-shady legal loophole, cause god knows you're not going to get it any other way. The best way to go about doing this is to find the contact information for whoever owns the rights to the song you'd like to use. Turns out, ASCAP has the rights, but you should be able to find an email address to contact a third party at. Using this email address, explain how you'd like to use "Break on Through" for free - since you won't be making anything that even resembles a profit off of this project - and that the only use of the song won't be in the actual film, just in the promotional trailer. Be polite, but then also include this crucial statement: "If we don't hear back from you within a few days, we'll assume that the answer is yes, and will include the song in our trailer." Gotta love those loopholes.

2. Fill out an official request.

After a bit of time has passed, you should get an automated response from the owners of the song, asking you to please click on an additional link to fill out a request to use the song. "Ok," you'll think. "Now we're getting somewhere. Maybe I can use this after all." Don't worry, that's just the false hope. You will not get the rights to this Doors song.

But you keep trying! You fill out the whole form, explaining again how it's a non-profit student production. You offer to show them the content of the trailer and explain what the overall film is about. Butter them up a bit, and say that you think the song really exemplifies the tone you're going for in the trailer, blah blah blah, all that good stuff. Then submit the form, and keep your fingers crossed!

3. Get rejected.

Pretty self-explanatory, really. You will get an official looking email from Kim Stockemer, the Director of Copyright and Licensing for Wixen Music Publishing, Inc. that basically turns out to be a cease and desist letter. She'll include some copy and pasted line about how they carefully deliberated and seriously considered the proposal, but unfortunately won't be giving you the rights to use the song.

And that's it! That's how you (pretty predictably) can find yourself getting absolutely no rights to using a Doors song in a movie trailer. Hope that saves a very niche portion of you a couple minutes of your time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Close calls in downhill skateboarding and how they're portrayed/shared in the community

Downhill skateboarding is inherently dangerous, regardless of how you look at it. There are so many variables (cars, telephone poles, animals, other skaters, guardrails, rocks, road conditions etc) that skaters are doomed to fail eventually, and some of these fails happen to get caught on video.

While Ed remains completely safe and in control, there's a guard rail on one side of the road, a truck in the oncoming lane, and rocks to avoid in his own lane.

Everyone loves to watch videos of people failing, falling, getting hurt, you get the point. When it comes to downhill skateboarding its no different. However, downhill skateboarding is currently in limbo with legality and the public eye. Many people do not understand how "in control" we are while skateboarding, and how easy it is for us to stop quickly and in our lane. However, most of this knowledge stays within the downhill community, as does most of the standard videos. However, occasionally a video with someone hitting a car, guardrail, or extremely close call will go viral. 

The above video went semi-viral, and I chose not to share a video of someone getting hit by a car on purpose. When videos like this come out, its often the first and only video someone has seen of downhill skateboarding. They then get the impression that all downhill skateboarders have encounters like this very often and these things are unavoidable. 

This is a video that did go viral (3 Million + views), and features no unsafe riding. As a downhill skateboarder, watching videos where people mess up is fun, and I know not to judge all downhill skateboarding like this. However, I think it severely harms the sport when people do share those videos, which only hurts the downhills public image.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Music Videos of Kendrick Lamar

I'm going to make a (possibly) bold statement and say that the music videos that Kendrick Lamar has released to go along with his newest album are some of the greatest music videos ever made. Period. Not just some of the best rap videos, because that would be unnecessarily lumping them into a subcategory of music. The best ever, throughout all genres, all years, everything.

The videos in question - for the songs "i," "King Kunta," "Alright," "For Free?" and "These Walls" - have very little in common with each other, with the exception of an incredibly passionate Kendrick and the same themes that tie his (beautiful, sprawling, important) album "To Pimp a Butterfly" together. Unfortunately, all of the videos are on Vevo, so instead of posting those nice little Youtube boxes for this blog post, I'll just use some screenshots and throw the links down at the bottom of the page.

To Pimp a Butterfly is a dense album, and I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly what it was about. Some of it's about being sick of fame to the point where you're alone, screaming, in a hotel room. Some of it - as Billboard points out - is about self-actualization, appreciation, and what it takes to stay sane. A lot of it is about blackness, and social injustices, and race. But through it all, there's this bit of positivity that seeps through the cracks, this sometimes overwhelming sense that that, yeah, okay, maybe everything is going to be alright after all.

His videos, more so than any other music videos I've ever seen, are an extension of his album. They're more than just Kendrick mouthing the words to a rap, trying to make a couple extra bucks and maybe nab a VMA. A few of them have verses that never made it onto the album. And they're all incredibly beautiful.

His newest video for "These Walls" is an 8-minute long extravaganza that includes (what at least appears to be) a 2 minute tracking shot through a house full of people. Guys fight, someone falls down the stairs, and Kendrick gets twerked through a wall. But then all of a sudden, something changes, and Kendrick does something that you'll find seems to be another theme throughout his album/videos; he plays with our expectations. The camera is put in the backseat of a car with three guys talking about what could only be interpreted to be a breaking and entering. 30 seconds later, however, and we find out that they've been talking about a talent show, where they proceed to dance to a song - that isn't Kendrick's, by the way - for a good portion of the video.

Kendrick's crowning achievement, though, is his video for "Alright." Shot in black and white and featuring a floating, otherworldly Lamar throughout, the video opens with the poem that Kendrick refers to throughout the length of his album over some various B-roll shots: a skyline, smashing glass, police brutality. It transitions into a rap that, again, isn't even part of the actual song, featuring Kendrick and the rest of Black Hippy in a car carried on the shoulders of police officers, like they're carrying a throne. Kendrick throws money from cars, raps from on top of a lamppost, and dances with his friends, ending with one of the more powerful visuals I've seen in a long, long time; Kendrick, still on top of the lamppost, getting "shot down" by a white officer. Blood spurts out from his coat as he falls, re-reciting the poem from the beginning. And when he hits the ground? He smiles.

Maybe they're not the most beautifully shot, or maybe some people won't be able to get past the general goofiness or rap video tropes that Kendrick tends to play around with, but I think in light of current events, they're incredibly important. I honestly think that this is an example of art in it's purest form; imitating life, but also trying to transform it. Anyways, they've got some great messages, and you should check them out.

 - Alright - King Kunta - i - For Free? - These Walls

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Red Bull's Latest Video & Forced Perspective

Red Bull just released a new BMX video, and it plays heavily with forced perspective to add an interesting element for all viewers, BMX fans or not.

Wikipedia defines forced perspective as: A technique that employs optical illusion to make an object appear farther away, closer, larger or smaller than it actually is. It is used primarily in photography, filmmaking, and architecture.

Here's a picture for example:

and here's a video Arturo showed me a few years ago really highlighting forced perspective.

So after seeing some other examples of forced perspective, here's the BMX video:

Editing Comedy

This week my production hit a small roadblock that led to a great conclusion. After meeting with my editor the unfortunate truth was revealed, she didn't know how to edit comedy. It's something you don't always think about when picking an editor, the genre they're used to working in that is. However it soon became apparent when I saw a rough cut of some of the film. Jokes that the characters were saying were being cut off. Worse than that sometimes when the joke was being said the camera was put on the non-speakers face for a reaction. Jokes weren't landing because they weren't being given space to breath. It was a mess. Luckily my assistant director and I figured out a solution that will allows us to keep back on track but for me it was a learning experience I won't soon forget. Throughout writing, directing and producing the piece my mind was always focused on making sure that above all the comedy always came out on top. I tried to control the entire process but when it came time to edit I assumed it was best left in someone's hands who had more experience than I. It was a careless mistake and one I'm lucky to have been able to remedy but it's been an eye opening experience that has allowed me a more in depth look into making comedy.

Atmos Updates (or lack thereof)

As many of you may know, I sent my Ninja 2 in for repair a few weeks ago due to a faulty HDMI input that was no fault of any mistreatment on my behalf. When I sent it in (on a Wednesday) they confirmed that they had received it and promised me to have it returned within one to four business days. Theoretically, this means it should have been back to me over a week and a half ago.

Yesterday I sent an email their way, questioning what had happened with the unit since I hadn't received any updates on it yet. Today I received back a plethora of emails apologizing and confirming that my unit was officially moving along the repair process. It was put "on the bench" as they call it at around 7pm today, and had been shipped out with a new outer casing within 45 minutes. The kicker was the note they attached with the shipping confirmation - letting me know that there was "extensive damage to the outer case of the unit, but it has been repaired anyway and shipped out."

If this unit actually makes it back to me in the promised two days I will be absolutely amazed, 0/10 for customer service Atmos - zero out of ten.

Why Props Matter.

 A new, Doc/Spoken Word piece, focusing on the importance of props in cinema, will engage you fully. Using footage from classic cinema, edited together to a brilliant compilation of music, this project has made an incredible experimental film. In 10 minutes you learn an immense amount about story telling and symbolism. Please watch at least two minutes of it, I promise it will be worth your time.

Why Props Matter from Rishi Kaneria on Vimeo.

This beautifully scripted piece touched upon objects are universal to all. They can hold so much meaning and can be used to move the story along. A level of authenticity is needed in any film, in order to make audiences believe the story. Props hold so much value and can even be the sole desiring factor of the movie. Its filmmakers job to make it seem as nothing is out of the ordinary, if the audience isn't questioning anything, you've done your job!

Assistant Editors

Assistant editors are the unsung heroes of the post-production world. While the editor puts together the film and gets a lot of the credit for the film's final creation, their job would be a lot more difficult without the work of an assistant editor. Assistant editors are integral to the post-production process.

To be an assistant editor one must know a great deal about the editing system that is being used. Most post-production houses use Avid as their editing system. The AE must know the ins and outs of the editing program and know technical knowledge as well in order to maintain the system. Most day to day duties involve ingesting film, labeling footage, looking through selects, creating rushes, and other behind the scenes steps that help to make the editor's job run more smoothly. Organization is key when it comes to this job. You must figure out a system to stay organized and stick to it, or the project will be absolutely confusing. The job is less than glamorous, often because this is considered grunt work, compared to being the editor and cutting together the film. However, it is an integral part of the editing process. As assistant editors progress the opportunity for editing gigs becomes more and more likely to occur.

One day I want to work as an editor. After I graduate I plan on finding a job working as an assistant editor and getting my foot in the door. Only time and patience will land me where I want.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Star Wars Countdown

With the Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere just about a month away and the release of the new trailer, it's clear it is all anyone can talk about. Continuing a franchise such as this can be a risky venture, with diehard fans analyzing every frame, worried their beloved series is going to be ruined with the addition of another film. In fact, many fans still have PTSD from the prequel franchise. So can you blame them for being worried? As a Star Wars nerd myself, I am not worried and feel confident in the direction JJ Abrams is taking the film. He recently announced that the 7th installment is a self-contained story, and is not about just trying to get more toys for the large corporations to sell. Most importantly, Abrams says the movie is "not about trying to appease anyone". That statement makes me the happiest, because in my opinion that's when movies fail. Of course it's probably the largest audience you have to cater to, but you can't cater to everyone. When movies try to please the audience too much than it becomes a mish-mosh of stories with little direction and depth. It's the directors who believe in their story and the process that have success because they stick to their own creative ideas.

Abrams also explains that because it is a self-contained story, you do not necessarily have had to see the previous Star Wars movies. It has a beginning, middle and end, but at the same time hints there is a rich past and potential for more stories to follow. These are new characters in new situations, so you do not have to be a diehard fan to enjoy the story. So in case you haven't seen the new trailer yet, here you go...and don't forget to get your customs ready for December 18th.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

SNL Breaks My Heart

This weekend Donald Trump will be hosting Saturday Night Live. A 40 year old institution Americans turn to for its take on the issues, SNL is known for its impact on elections. But in this case instead of going after the political agenda they're inviting one of the candidates to do it themselves. The reason they're doing this is hardly a questionable matter, ratings baby. People are going to watch Donald Trump on SNL. A trick that might be expected from any other show but from SNL? An institution that prides itself on its content and voice above cheap tricks, well so a seasoned comedy fan like myself would like to believe. But what's more upsetting is the lack of outrage surrounding his appearance. Donald Trump is known for his famous remarks, where he called illegal Mexican immigrants "rapists". Imagine instead of Mexican immigrants it was replaced with Jews or black people? Would NBC so quick to allow him onto one of their shows? Of course not. Because advertisers would be fleeing left and right. However because Trump's remarks were towards a group of people our country deems fitting to criticize without limit, there he will be on Saturday night, being as welcomed into our homes as Alec Baldwin or Steve Martin.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">A protester holds a sign reading "SNL stop the hate" in front of the entrance to NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center on Wednesday.</span> 

That's not to say there aren't some people taking a stand against his appearance. According to a report on the Huffington Post "Several dozen activists gathered Wednesday in front of NBC’s headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center demanding the network rescind an invitation to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to host “Saturday Night Live" on Nov. 7 and vowing to pressure the network's advertisers to join their cause." The activists have gained over 500,000 signatures on their petition to get him off the network but to no avail. SNL has never been one to bow to pressure and with the network and the anticipated ratings on their side they're not likely to start now. As SNL fan myself, I just hope they have a few tricks up their sleeves, and knowing SNL they're likely to as well.

Spec Work

We will all be entering the workforce soon, if we have not already done so. For a lot of us this will mean freelancing. An inevitable part of freelancing is doing spec work. Google gives me the definition of spec work as "any job for which the client expects to see examples or a finished piece of design before agreeing to pay a fee or compensation."

Basically you make the video for the client, show them a preview, then they can decide if they want to use you for the full product. Which, personally I think is bullshit, and a lot of people are beginning to agree. To make the preview you are required to do preprod, prod, and postprod, to a high standard. Work you are typically paid for, and work that will cost you money to create. Which you may not be reimbursed for.

This is a pretty standard practice within the film industry. However, when applied to other industries this sounds completely ridiculous. Here's a video that shows just how ridiculous this sounds.

I'm curious to see what other people's thoughts on this are.

A New Way to Rent Gear!

As a student filmmaker, you typically only have so much gear at your disposal. Yeah, you probably have your DSLR, a few lenses, and a DIY soft box, but sometimes this isn't enough for your creative needs. As Ithaca College students, we are very lucky to have PPECS, but soon after we graduate we will just be poor college graduates who won't be able to afford the prices of large rental houses without a proper budget. HAVE NO FEAR! There is a new online rental house that may just be your saving grace.

KitSplit is a new rental company based out of New York City that functions very similar to Air BnB. Just like Air BnB, the site focuses around a specific area and the resources, in this case camera gear, available. On the site you can create a profile and list the gear that you own and are willing to rent. Other users can look at your gear posted and have the option to rent it from you. This is perfect for students to make a bit of cash on the side. Not only can you make the money back on your gear but this allows you to save up for future gear.

The delivery option is quite unique. You can either arrange a pick-up through KitSplit or directly from the owner of the gear. This option opens numerous opportunities for networking. Each time you would use this service you have potential to make new business connections, you could even get work because of the rental you were picking up for another gig.

This rental service is revolutionary. While it is only in New York currently, they plan to expand to the west coast as well, which is where I think it will do very well. However, the niche market they truly need to target is smaller cities throughout the country. Mainly cities with colleges and universities that have strong communication programs. My thinking is that if this company expanded to Central New York, this would be used as a rental service for colleges like Ithaca, Syracuse, and many more, when the rentals at their school could not provide what they needed.

Overall, I'm looking forward to watching this business grow and expand, hopefully in a direction that benefits, students and filmmakers a like.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Size 0

Finally an update about Size 0!! Now that I'm in the exciting process of editing, I can share some of my highs and lows of the documentary life. First, I've learned that no matter what vision you have at the beginning, it will not be the same as the final result. This is because all of my footage is based upon how non-actors act in front of a camera. This can yield some really unique moments that are so real and touching which could never be planned. This also means your final product is based on whatever your subjects say, and if they are awkward in front of the camera, then so be it. You take what you are given.

That being said, I've sorted through hours of footage and still came up short. My thesis talks about the importance of diet and exercise for weightloss or to simply maintain a healthy lifestyle. By editing a rough cut, I've discovered my lack of footage that represents the diet side of everything. I've got plenty of great work out footage, but little to balance out the importance of nutrition. Lucky for me, I still have time to fix that. This weekend the soccer team will be traveling to New Jersey for playoffs. This will give me plenty of opportunities to film the team eating and get great examples of what types of food they eat and how much. Once that is done, my thesis will look a lot better and will have a bigger impact.
Although things didn't end up like the vision I started with, I'm proud of the message I am trying to get across to people and I can't wait for the final result.
Oh, and here's a sneak peak....

Steve Jobs and Story Structure

Steve Jobs - the new Aaron Sorkin-scripted movie, not the person - is incredibly unique. Certainly not in its subject matter, since Jobs has been featured in like, four dramas/documentaries in the same amount of years, but in the way it's structured. Because of this (and the acting, and directing, and everything else that makes this movie great) I would venture to say that this movie, this iteration of possibly the most well know technological innovator of our time, should be considered the definitive screen version of Jobs and his life story. Everyone else wanting to make a Jobs movie, just stop. It's not worth it. You can't win this one. I don't care if it's not the most accurate, or if "Apple Experts" hate it, or even what your most basic opinion of the real Steve Jobs is. This is the one.

Even if you push aside most of the things that you'd normally focus on when seeing a movie, things like actors, direction, and cinematography, and focus solely on Sorkin's story structure, you've got something that is far more original than most films being made today. For a studio-backed biopic to break away from a more traditional "follow our main character throughout their entire life" story is huge. If you haven't seen it (and judging by the way it's doing at the box office, you probably haven't) Steve Jobs is broken down into three main scenes, with each one taking place before a major product launch. With the exception of a few brief, well placed flashback scenes, all exposition, all character introductions, everything is done in real time, within the boundaries of these three product launches. Is it what happened in real life? No, probably not. But Sorkin uses this structure to tell a damn good story.

There will always be movies that try to radically change the structure of a typical story, films like Memento, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. These can be fun, a nice break from the monotony of characters going from point A to point B over the course of a film, and some of them (these two may be some of the most notable) use non-linear storytelling to a stronger effect than just trying to confuse the audience. Other than these handfuls of non-linear scripts, movies tend to stick to the same basic structure. Sorkin broke this with Steve Jobs. It wasn't the most radical idea in the world, and you still see the development of Michael Fassbender's Jobs over the course of the film, but even Sorkin expressed his surprise at being allowed by the studio to follow through on such a different premise. In a way, it really mirrors its subject matter. A big part of the movie is how Jobs focused on adding a human component to a scary new machine (one of the major crises in the first act is how they can't get the Macintosh to say "hello) and that's more or less what Sorkin did with the script. Instead of of looking at the big picture, at Jobs' entire life, he narrows it down to five or six particular conflicts, and shows how they develop from '84-'88, and then again from '88-98.

It's also, in general, an overall compellingly human film. Again, was it totally accurate? Maybe not. But when you see the character of Steve Jobs struggling to admit that his daughter is actually his daughter, or when Wozniak is demanding that Jobs show some retroactive respect for the Apple II team, accuracy kind of stops mattering. It's a character portrait of a man who wants to change the world - who is actually in the very midst of that change - but of one who loses and finds his priorities along the way. And it's all done in a neatly wrapped, beautifully designed, three act package. It's aesthetically and emotionally fulfilling, and I'm sure Steve wouldn't have wanted it to be any other way.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Relitivity Post Complaints

We have officially begun post production on Relativity, and I can say that I'm so excited to get back into this project. Although I've taken a few weeks off to work on other projects it's time to get back into this one. 

And of course something is going wrong.

I've made several films at Ithaca College, and I haven't had one go to post without hitting one glitch or another. This time it's sound (again, for that matter) which is... Terrible. Our recordist recorded everything below -30db, and even boosting it isn't going to save this sound. I've begun syncing and working with the sound during this edit, and there is nothing worse than cutting with poor sound. I just thank my lucky stars that I have a solid post sound artist, because this project is going to be a lot of work. 

I suppose it wouldn't be a film without some sort of issue.

Tips from Cinematographers for Cinematographers

The Black and Blue, a popular website for camera assistants, released an article called "88 cinematographers share the best professional advice they've ever received." I read the article some time ago when I was first getting into student filmmaking. Recently I read over the article again and found some really useful ones. I've compiled a list of a few of my favorites below. 

‘Keep it simple.’ It’s always exciting to try a new piece of gear, but sometimes two grips pulling a camera on a blanket is still the best solution.

                 This piece of advice is especially relevant with student filmmaking. We often have not enough equipment, not enough money, and not enough crew. Keeping it simple and keeping it smart helps to avoid a lot of those problems. 

Don’t let yourself become too obsessed with technology. Find a balance with your creativity.

                 I always hear people talking about new technology and what new camera they're shooting their film on. Or how after looking into some student budgets you realize that close to a third of their budget is spent on camera department but they're still getting free sheet pizza for all their meals. If you have a sound process and story the film will look good no matter what camera you shoot with. 

From my grandfather, Carmine Coppola: What you do with your non-working time is more important than what you do with your working time.

                Constantly on set I see people sitting down or goofing off when they have nothing to do in the current moment. Then later everyone is waiting around for them to do their job that they could have been prepping for earlier. Think ahead, and if you're doing your job on set there should never be down time. 

When Levie asked me to work with him at Corman’s, the pay was $50 a day. Levie said, ‘They’re not paying for experience. Take the job and you’ll meet people.’

                This I feel is incredibly important for those of us about to graduate. Out of school we will all be working for shit pay, or for free. But that is where we need to start and on those jobs we'll work hard, gain experience and meet the people who can get us on better sets. Always remember, you're getting paid in more than just money. 

There are a lot more good pieces of advice in that list that we should all take to heart. You can read them here. The best piece of advice I've ever gotten on set:

If you wear pants to set, bring shorts. If you wear shorts to set, bring pants. 
Grant Harrison

A Movie Inside a Movie

James Franco and Seth Rogen come together yet again on another film project and I can practically hear the cheering. This time, Franco will be directing The Disaster Artist, which will tell the story of the making of The Room (2003), considered to be one the worst drama films of all time. Franco will not only direct the movie, but will also star as Tommy Wiseau, the director of The Room. After The Room was pulled from many theaters due to lack of audiences, Wiseau began to get requests for the film to be shown. Celebrities like Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd began to show up to watch the film and soon it became ritual for movie goers. This cult classic tells the story of a love triangle between a man, his fiancé and his best friend. Tom Bissel and an actor from the The Room, Greg Sestero, wrote a book together about the making of The Room and named it The Disaster Artist. The book explains life on set with a director who had no filmmaking experience when he decided to write, direct and produce this famously bad movie.

We can expect to see some other big names in The Disaster Artist. Dave Franco is already set to play Greg Sestero. Rogen will undoubtedly have a part in the movie, and will possibly feature Evan Goldberg and Vince Jolivette as well. Franco and Rogen have had a fairly successful past collaborating together, with projects including The Interview, This Is The End, Pineapple Express, and Freaks and Geeks. With such an interesting premise for their new movie, I look forward to this project which will start production in December.

Music in Short Films

Growing up I had numerous influences of music in my life. From playing the saxophone from 4th-12th grade, to listening to my classically trained sister sing in concert. Music has always been prevalent and I have found that melodies are what drives my mind. For the life me I couldn't remember lyrics without studying a printed piece of sheet music. But the way music progressed was something I could always follow and even predict.

I've always wanted a good musical accompaniment with any video work I've done. For the video below I had found a song I enjoyed the melody to and from there all I needed was something to put on screen. With a little help from a friend, I was able to make one of my favorite pieces of work.

Air from Skyler Bocciolatt on Vimeo.

Using both the hits of the choreography and the music I had a blast editing and the possibilties of which direction  I took the short were endless. While this was just a small project I shot on a whim. I applied the same idea of music being a character in the film with my Junior level film "Before Your Eyes." 

"Before Your Eyes" follows a young man who is given the opportunity to look back on his life. Drawing upon the strong bond that can exist between father and son, this story looks at the actions we make when pushed to our greatest limits. Throughout the film there are only two scenes with written dialogue. Music was able to fill this space and help evoke any emotion from the film that typically would be exposed through dialogue. 

Last night I also began to watch "Walt Disney's Animations Studios Short Films Collection." Each short animation was introduced with interviews of the creators of the short. They talked about how music inspired them and that for a specific short "Lorenzo" they searched hundreds of tango scenes just to find a song to use, and in the end it was the first one they had listened to. The trailer can be scene below and all of the shorts are available on Netflix.

It was so interesting to me that the creators were able to make a story out of music they found. Even if there aren't lyrics the melody and progression of any song is a story. For me, I want to continue to find these stories and provide a moving image for as many as I can. The ways music and film complement each other is like no other thing in this world. These mediums are what people turn to to escape there problems and worries; they are necessary for society to function and I want to create them for the rest of my life.

3 Things The Shining can Teach you about Making a Horror Film

I've never particularly enjoyed watching horror films, but recently, I've been really interested in figuring out some of the different techniques involved in making something scary. I know that quite a few directors get their big breaks helming scary movies (mostly because of the generally low budgets and good audience turnout) but I thought it would be cool to go back and revisit some of the classic staples of the genre. Tis the season, right?
So I started with Kubrick's The Shining. Not only had I never seen it before, but this was my first time watching any movie by Stanley Kubrick. Putting aside all of the myths and reputation that surrounds the guy (I mean, 127 takes for one scene? Come on man.) I gotta say that I was really impressed. I haven't been that drawn in and held by a 2.5 hour film - or any film, for that matter - in a pretty long time. I've read the book, and even though it differs significantly/Stephen King hated the adaptation/Nicholson is just a littleeeee too over the top, it really worked as a standalone product. It was also the kind of horror movie that I can get behind; creepy, but never made me feel like I was going to piss my pants.

Kubrick pulls out pretty much every horror movie trick in the book, but uses them all in ways that never feel trite or cliched. I'll go over just a couple of them, and try my best to explain why they're so effective.

1. The Jump Scare

Ah, the old go-to, and the real reason why I hate a vast majority of horror movies. Kubrick uses these sparingly in Shining, but when he does, he uses them to great effect. Typically, the jump scare will be the payoff after a bit of increasingly brutal tension-building, partnered with a loud, punctuated sound effect. It works, but 80% of the time it just comes off as a cheap, annoying scare. The only time Kubrick uses these are when you least expect it. There's no build up, for example, the first time that he cuts to the blood pouring out of the elevator doors - that entire montage comes out of nowhere and is terrifying. Same goes for when Jack kills Halloran towards the end of the movie. It's entirely unexpected, and all the better for it.

2. The Reveal

A little less extreme than a jump scare, and usually a bit more predictable, the big reveal scares can still have a strong effect. Kubrick toys with this a few times, but most notably in the "redrum" mirror reversal. Mirrors have a big role in the movie throughout, but the one in the Torrence family bedroom - having been teased for the first two or so hours - has the biggest one of all. All of the shots of Danny pedaling around the hotel corridors also use more or less the same tactic: the smooth steadicam shots lull you into a sense of security, but keep you wondering just what exactly will be around the next corner. Which brings me to the last thing...

3. Sometimes the scariest thing is never shown on screen

Pretty self-explanatory, I think. More often than not, your imagination is capable of scaring you way worse than any image actually could. This is what makes scenes like when Danny first shows up with a bruised neck so powerful. We know that he goes into room 237 and we know that HE SHOULDN'T FUCKING GO INTO ROOM 237, but for the moment, the lack of any visible antagonist is worse than anything they could have shown in the room at the time. We know it's not Jack or Wendy, so...we imagine the worst. The same thing goes for any horror movie. I've never seen It Follows or Rosemary's Baby, but apparently in both, the lack of something makes it all the more scary. Sometimes, the best way to create this sense of dread is by showing your entire environment in a wide shot, and let the audience's imagination work overtime, trying to predict where and when something will pop out. The indefinite waiting is usually worse than than the actual monster.

Also, last but not least, those whip zooms? Seriously digging it.

No Comedy, No Confidence

This week Ithaca College president, Tom Rochon, called an all campus meeting to discuss the racial climate on campus. On his part it failed spectacularly, on the part of the students involved in POC at IC it was a energizing success. A few days before this meeting the comedy clubs on campus released a statement that read:

"Comedy is at its best when it is honest, contains complex ideas, and expresses diverse experiences. This cannot happen on a campus where the college administration does not support people of color and invalidates their experiences. The comedy community at Ithaca College representing IC Comedy Club, IC Stand Up, The Acahti Players, and IC Sketch would like to formally voice our support for POC at IC and express a vote of no confidence in President Tom Rochon and the Board of Trustees."

As president of IC Sketch I partly released and stand by this statement. Good comedy cannot exist in spaces where authority dictates which experiences get brought to light and in which light they are brought. This lack of confidence is mirrored in the greater entertainment community, although the problem of authority tends to be more insular. The reason we end up with racially insensitive (to say the least) comedies such as "Get Hard" and Adam Sandler's latest movie "Ridiculous Six" isn't because of an outsider force, it's because Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell are the authorities on how experiences are dictated. Adam Sandler has decided they would be dictated with jokes, that caused Native American actors to walk off set, such as these:

1) Sandler’s character, Tommy, aka Three Knives, a white man raised by Native Americans since childhood is married to a woman named Smoking Fox. A recurring joke refers to her "sweet zum-zum."

2) A female character named Beaver’s Breath, is propositioned by a male character, asking, "Hey Beaver’s Breath." To which she responds, "How did you know my name?"

3) A "sexy" female character named No Bra (originally named Sits-on-Face in the 2012 script), is depicted crudely squatting to urinate behind a teepee while stereotypically lighting up a peace pipe.

4) Will Patch (Will Forte) propositions Sits-on-Face by asking her, "How about after this, we go someplace and I put my peepee in your teepee?"

5) Cicero (Danny Trejo) interacts with Sits-on-Face by calling her "Strawberry Tits," to which she indignantly corrects him, saying "I am Sits-on-Face." Cicero responds, "Well, then I’m Stiff-in-Pants!"

6) There are numerous instances of crudely-punned pseudo Native American names like Five Hairy Moles, One Eyebrow, and Four Pickles.

Adam Sandler has declared himself the authority on how to portray the Native American identity leading Native American actors to unsurprisingly cast a vote of no confidence in Sandler and the industry he represents. We must recognize that this problem exists outside of IC and that the comedy battleground does not get more leveled upon graduation. We need to continue to evaluate our confidence in the institutions we have previously lauded, especially if those institutions starred in Jack and Jill.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Organization is easily one of the best ways to quickly get anything done in the film world. In most cases it can be almost impossible to get things done in a  timely manner if you don't have organization. It's one of the major reasons there are so many different positions on a film set. There is too much to be done by one person. When everybody is organized and does their job well is when a film comes out its best.

Every area of a film needs to be organized. I've taken part in many different positions on a  film set. To be honest when it comes to my daily life I tend to be very disorganized. Yet, when it comes to anything film related i become a complete neat freak. All of my camera gear is organized in a very specific way. In certain cases it has been extremely beneficial. In the world we live in inspiration can come from anywhere and the ability to quickly take out your camera and be ready to shoot is imperative.

My AC station on the film Before Your Eyes

Just the other day I was in my kitchen making dinner when I saw a hot air balloon flying just over the lake. I knew I had to get a picture of it. So in a boot I ran upstairs assembled my camera and ran outside and snapped some photos. I was able to do this all before my dinner started burning. Without my camera being organized in its bag there is no way I would have been able to get the shot in such a timely manner. I could have missed or worse, ruined my dinner.

The Picture I took while making dinner

my camera bag

Organization is most important to me when it comes to post production. You can have so many hundreds of files for a small project that if you lose the ability to stay organized then the project as a whole can suffer. Every project that I do has the same organizational process. The only thing that differs is the project itself. The folders stay the same. So if you want to succeed in the film industry start by cleaning up your act.

The five folders that make up every film I edit

Friday, October 23, 2015

Big Brother Steps in to Help Little Sister

"In May, the ACLU asked state and federal governments to investigate the hiring practices that leave women with only a minuscule fraction of directing jobs. Now the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking them up on it: According to Deadline, the EEOC will start interviewing female directors next week about the discrimination they've faced." a direct quote from the article on entitled"The Federal Government Is Getting Involved in Hollywood’s Female-Director Problem". Our industry has gotten so terrible at hiring female directors that they are being investigated by the federal government. The article goes on to articulate how women and minorities have before been cautious filing a class action lawsuit because they, most likely rightly, believe they would be "blacklisted". This news comes alongside of more reports popping up about actresses' salaries being lower compared to their male costars. News that women are calling "water is wet". 

Some prominent male voices have spoken up in this conversation as well, Bradley Cooper has vowed to share his salary information with his female co-stars in preproduction negotiations so as to make sure they are getting equal pay. However, Avengers star and kind of asshole (who plays Hawkeye so like bring it down a peg) Jeremy Renner has said that it's not his job to negotiate his salary and that he has people to do it for him (hopefully not for long).
Jeremy Renner Equel Pay in Hollywood

As a female director and writer, finding out that "In the top 100 films of 2014, women made up only 11 percent of writers and 19 percent of producers, while female DPs make up only 4 percent" is certainly discouraging but hardly surprising. But, looking at our class and seeing how many of the projects were written and directed by women, I can't help but say I'm also a little hopeful. 

Ninja 2 may be cheap, but what's the real cost?

Recently Atmos dropped the price of both their Ninja Star and Ninja 2 models and made them super affordable for entry level film makers such as us. But what is the real cost of this price drop?

My Ninja 2 broke within three weeks of me getting it. Perfectly kept, in its protective case, without abusing it on set at all. Then spontaneously it stops accepting HDMI input. I talked with our resident camera tech expert Phil Wacker, and although he graced me with some helpful advice it wasn't what I was hoping for.

Turns out (since PPECs owns several of them) that he'd actually opened one up in an effort to fix it, but found that the motherboard inside was so tiny and intricate that there is no way to fix it by hand. The mere fact, however, that the technology can be processed by one little motherboard is impressive within itself, but I digress. The point being that its made so cheaply that they can malfunction super easily. That combined with the fragility of the HDMI interface in general and the fact that it has no locking/holding mechanism definitely added to the problem. There is an addition that allows 3G SDI input, but at the same price as the unit itself.

Long story short, because of the cheap manufacturing tactics of Atmos I am unable to use my Ninja any further. It was too good to be true I guess.


I'm having a pretty difficult time making sense of Sicario. Coming fresh off the heels of my first Villeneuve film viewing (the weird, overly metaphorical yet somehow beautiful "Enemy") I had pretty high expectations going into the movie. It's got Roger Deakins behind the camera and Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, and Benicio Del Toro in front of it, and I heard that the tension alone would make the 2 hour running time fly by.

Well. Here we are. Two hours later, and I'm not exactly sure what to think. All of those mentioned above did their job exceedingly well: Deakins killed it as always, and the performances of the three lead characters - specifically Blunt's - were riveting. The film definitely went by quickly, and it was tense throughout, and yet I can't help feeling that something is missing. Which is weird, because everywhere I look, all I can see are glowing reviews and praise being thrown at Villeneuve and Co. for making what some people are calling the best movie of the year (for example, check out Rolling Stone's review here and the AV Club's right here) So... am I wrong here? Am I missing something?

To make a long answer short; yes. Probably. The more I read about the film, the more I feel like it deserves an immediate second viewing. Specific complaints of mine, like the sense that I was never quite sure what was going on throughout the movie, were more or less put to rest when I realized that Blunt's character is supposed to be in the same shoes as the audience, with the lack of info supposedly pulling us along throughout. I'll buy that, I guess, and watching it again could take away that distraction of trying to figure out what the hell is going on and the constant worry that I'm missing something.

The more I think about it, the more that I realize that I just didn't particularly care about any of the characters (spoilers coming if you haven't seen Sicario). Sure, the scene where Blunt's character almost gets choked to death by the undercover hitman was suspenseful, but I never particularly cared if anything bad happened to her. Same goes for Brolin's and Del Toro's characters. They all did a fantastic job with the acting, don't get me wrong, but the movie more or less failed to connect with me on a personal level of any kind. In retrospect, I understand that the point was, as the AV Club puts it, to "squeeze the protagonist out of her own story." It was dark and futile, and every time you wanted to see Emily Blunt kick some male ass, she didn't. This wasn't a movie about the good guys winning, or even about the bad guys winning. Nobody won. Even the characters who managed to achieve their goals didn't win. I don't mind bleak movies, or even movies that subvert audience expectations, but with something this bleak, I at least like to be left with some sort of tidbit to ruminate on as I leave the theatre. In reality, I was kind of just frustrated.

Again, I feel like I'm just shitting on this movie, but it really did have some incredibly well executed scenes. The beginning had me 120% hooked, and might be one of the better intro scenes to any movie that I've seen in a long time. Roger Deakins filmed the whole thing beautifully, with what seemed to be a tendency to center his shots more so than I've seen him do in the past. All of the night vision/infrared scenes were really well done, and it's safe to say that the whole film was more or less a visual pleasure.

So. I don't know. I want with all my heart to say that this was a great movie, but right now I can't muster up the strength to call it anything more than decent. I'm not mad that I paid to see it, but at the same time, I wish I had enjoyed it just a teensy bit more. Denis Villeneuve has a history of making morally ambiguous films, and Sicario fails to break that trend. Maybe I'll feel different on a second viewing, but I don't exactly have high hopes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

What would you do to get the shot?

When it comes down to it, it's not about what camera is used to obtain a shot but what the actual shot is of. Many filmmakers go the distance by sending their cameras into the air, under water, or even attaching it to their pet. But this filmmaker has to take the cake. Having stumbled upon a rattlesnake pit, they attached their GoPro to a stick and dove in to receive some amazing footage. 

As you can see these reptilian beasts reacted surprisingly well to camera for a bit, but eventually started to strike. I've never seen any sort of footage of the sorts.

It felt like a horror film as they began to attack the camera, but nonetheless the technology that we have at our fingertips these days is what enables this sort of filming making. A camera attached to a stick is all it took to enter this rattler nest and that hockey stick is what also enable the filmmaker to get it out after it fell off its mount.

It's because of the accessibility of this sort of technology that results with these immersive videos. It makes you not only wonder if the camera operator is crazy but also how you can take a simple set up and capture something brilliant. You won't be finding me near a snake pit like this anytime soon but I definitely will take the concept of this video and apply it to my work. Live the moment and think outside the box because this may just be the reason you walk away from a day of filming with a viral video.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Saturday Night Live: Comedy Daycare

I like to think of Saturday Night Live as a daycare for comedians with Lorne Michaels as the overruling nanny for all the little kids who don't know any better. After 40 years on air, it's a proven staple on our television line up. It's popularity has only risen in recent years because of Internet video sharing, and sites like YouTube, in which 4-6 minute videos are all anyone's attention can handle. Not only that, but we've seen the success of past SNL comedians and the all the brilliant work they've done after leaving the show. With people like Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy and countless more, the potential for success after leaving the show is very high. So like I said, it's a daycare. Young, talented comedians come in and play around with their funny and creative ideas. They grow and step into their comedic talent, mastering impressions and nailing their punchline timing. It's very obvious which cast members are brand new and which are the veterans. All the while, Lorne Michaels watches over with an insightful eye and approves or disapproves of whatever skit is being pitched. He turns these no name youngsters into show runners and head writers. It's a given that some skits will work and others will completely miss the mark, but that's part of the growing process for all these comedians.
 After leaving daycare, many of these talented jokesters have gone on to write and/or star in our favorite television shows. Most recently, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have finished their long running shows, 30 Rock and Parks and Rec. In addition, many of SNL's recent departures are now putting their footprint on the industry. Fred Armisen, who was on SNL for 13 years, is now in his 6th season of Portlandia, which he created. Last Man on Earth, Fox's new hit comedy, stars Will Forte who spent 10 years at SNL. Andy Samberg, digital short genius and 8 year cast member, is now the star of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and recently hosted the Emmys. Kristen Wiig gifted the world with Bridesmaids, and Seth Meyers is the host of Late Night. These recent SNL grads are only at the beginning of their post-SNL career and have a lot of room to grow. 

All in all, we should thank Lorne Michaels for creating such a program to help these comedians grow. Who knows if Tina Fey would have ever written Mean Girls or if Will Ferrell would have starred in dozens of hilarious comedies. Maybe? Probably not. So for all those new cast members who are awkward and mess up their lines, you may have your own show in 5-10 years. Hell, you may even host The Tonight Show.

Pushing the Limits of Film

When you think of filmmakers pushing the boundaries of film making the first thing that pops into your head is Hollywood. Big budgets big stages doing big things. Yet, how come every story seems to be something we've seen before with a touch better cgi. Shot on a new expensive camera and in front of a green screen.
In my opinion film making is pushed to its absolute limits in backcountry adventure filmmaking. In recent years the advances in camera technologies have allowed filmmakers to do more than they ever could before. One of the best films of the year Meru, which won best documentary at sundance, is one such film. While the cameras were nothing incredible, a 5d mkii and a point and shoot hd panasonic the journey they were able to capture was something completely different. Pushing themselves to the limit as well as their gear is what adventure filmmaking is all about.
This is where true filmmaking really comes into play. You can bring your fancy slider up the mountain with you but you may have to sacrifice bringing food. To survive and to succeed you need to be very particular with what you want to do. Life and death can be a matter weight when on a mountain. Also having the pure ability to film incredible footage while also climbing is a task for true adventurers. Losing focus for a second can be deadly. It is an intricate balance.
So is filmmaking progressing in Hollywood? Yes it is, but it is a completely different game from people literally risking their lives for their films. That is where the true essence of filmmaking lies. In the lines between life, death, nature, and art. Here is a film that documents the tricky balance between packing gear and supplies all while telling an incredible story.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Drones, Regulations, & The Holiday Season

In the recent years drones have been skyrocketing (ha) in popularity. With the holiday season approaching experts are estimating that over a million drones (WOW) will be given as gifts.

This rise in popularity has been a cause for concern among the FAA (Federal Aviation Association), as drones are still mostly unregulated. Drone companies such as DJI, 3DR, Parrot, etc. have been ramping up production in hopes of a successful holiday season. They have been making deals with distributors such as Costco, Sam's Club, Walmart, Amazon etc. to make the purchase of drones more available.

With the recent rise in drone popularity many people and organizations are calling for regulations to be placed on drone use. Drones have already been in the news with cases such as one landing on the white house lawn and another almost colliding with a commercial aircraft. 

Currently there are very little regulations placed on drones and their operators, with very little room for punishment for misuse. There are no licensing or registration standards, with the only current laws being that they must not fly above people and must stay in the pilots line of sight. I fully expect more strict laws to be created soon. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Do What You Have To

We've all been there, you're standing on set with a DSLR, flimsy tripod, half a roll of gaff tape, two thirds of a c stand wishing you had a technocrane and a hundredth of the budget of any given Spielberg film. The shot you want is a jib up from their feet to their head as you swing around the scene. Well why can't you? Film is all about doing what you have to, to get the shot. If it takes the rest of that roll of gaff tape and unscrewing one of those tripod legs to use the C-stand as a makeshift jib then why haven't you already figured out a way to do it. The film industry waits for nobody and even on the largest of productions grips have to make incredible things happen with some not so incredible situations. You can make it on any given film set if you can quickly and safely rig something. Be a problem solver and don't wait for a solution to come to you. Sometimes the most amazing cinema can come from the most unheard of solutions.

I've done some pretty... how do I put this, not so great riggings in my life and i'd prefer not to go into too much detail for fear of having my rental card being snapped in two and burned. I've hung a camera from a tree with a rope as a makeshift jib, used skateboards, cars, and cardboard as dollies, and even propped my camera up on my wallet to get the right angle. To be completely honest not all of these shots were perfect but I made do with what I had to make it work. That's part of learning and growing as a filmmaker. Remember if you don't have the money there is always a DIY option of putting it together.

I've written about them many times before but look towards shitty rigs for inspiration. It is a collection of the most nonsensical film riggings you will have ever seen. I promise.

So remember
-Don't wish for more
-Do It Yourself
-Try not to break the equipment

Also don't tell any rental houses I told you to do this

Without further ado here are the videos that inspired this post.

And the final product.

Doc Work

During Monday’s lighting workshop with Chris Scarafile, he said something toward the end that really stuck with me.  When someone asked him whether he enjoyed his fiction work or his documentary work better, he answered that without, documentary was where he his heart was. It’s the part of media creation where he can really make a difference, to tell real stories about people and places we otherwise would never be aware of. As he talked about the photos he had, the certainty in his voice made that very clear.

While I had never been much into documentary work myself, a few years ago I came across a small production company called Gnarly Bay. It’s a small group of five young filmmakers who aim to inspire people and tell stories that are worth giving people pause and spread positivity. I didn’t realize it in the moment but the short videos and films I had been watching on their website were documentaries or sorts. The sorts that I began to get really into.

This past Summer, I spent a lot of my free time walking the nature trails in Ithaca and listening to podcasts, two in particular: Radio Lab and Invisibilia. Both of these podcasts tell extremely fascinating stories in a way that is both entertaining and inspirational. It was through these podcasts that I began having the realization that there are so many amazing, heart-wretching, inspirational, shocking, and otherwise fascinating stories out there happening everyday, and if told right, can empower people to change the way they think and to take action. All of these stories floated around my head and I continued to find myself surprised and inspired. It wasn’t until our road trip to Virginia a few weeks ago that I realized my own new passion.

As we drove and talked about the film that were driving to shoot for, Shai said something to me that put to words what I had been feeling. “I want to use media to make people care about people.” That’s it. That’s what all of these videos, these podcasts, these documentaries were doing. They were making people see each other differently. When Chris Scarafile told our class that his heart lay in documentary work because of the real impact it had on other people, I didn’t need the pictures or his voice to convince me that he was telling the truth; I was feeling the same thing and just didn’t know how to express it. This semester, Shai and I are working on a short documentary that’s sole intention is to remind people to reach out and help each other every day in whatever capacity they can, to remind people that others are doing good things despite the terrible news stories and the tragedies that fill our newsfeeds. Shai, Chris, and the guys from Gnarly Bay are right; there are a lot of stories out there that need to be told and documentaries are a great way to do it. As we continue to work on this project, I am realizing more and more that while I had never been much into documentaries before, I’s never too late to realize another passion. I’m glad I still have this opportunity to get my feet wet in this field of work before I graduate because at this rate, I may end do much more documentary work after school than I ever would have thought a few years ago.