Friday, February 28, 2014

Makeup: Another Essential Part of the Story

So we all know that in order to make an awesome video (film/show/etc.) you need a camera, a tripod, an audio person, lights, a script, costumes, actors, and so much more. One aspect that I personally forget about is makeup. Makeup can really help set the mood of the video and can actually make or break it too. For example, think of "The Walking Dead" series; imagine if they used no makeup. They would look horrible and the show would be nonexistent. Luckily for "The Walking Dead" they have amazing makeup artists who create amazing works of zombies, or should I say art. I have watched a couple behind the scenes videos of the makeup artist creating these zombies. It is crazy what they use and how they use it to create these creatures. Here is a tutorial that "The Walking Dead" crew put up as tips for Halloween.
They used oatmeal, gelatin, latex, and a lot of makeup to create this realistic look. There have been a number of scenes within the series that have characters who have missing jaws, lips, arms, etc. How the heck do they do that? Well here is bicycle girl, who is the first walker to be seen in the show. This is how they got her ready.

So imagine this production of bicycle girl takes about three hours. There are scenes within the series that have twenty to fifty walkers walking the streets. Imagine how much time that has to take making everyone look like a legitimate zombie. While it probably only takes them a half hour or so for the smaller characters having to do twenty to fifty of them is insane. Really appreciate the work that is done by makeup artists because they are extremely talented and creative. Also I totally recommend watching "The Walking Dead"! It is an amazing show!!!!

East of Kensington: The Process of Filmmaking

Recently, I've been surfing the internet for short films to help with our process of filmmaking for this class. I came across an awesome website called Short of the Week, that displays innovative and worthwhile short films regularly. In addition, they publish articles regarding the short film world and post news about awards and film festivals.

Anyway, while browsing the site I found an interesting short thesis film created by students of Chapman University, (the same university that the student thesis film "Into the Silent Sea" came from, directed by Andrej Landin) and decided to check it out. It's called "East of Kensington", a thriller written and directed by Kellen Moore during his time at Chapman. It tells the tale of Peter Pan after he drops off Wendy, Michael and John back home to London after their adventures in Neverland. The film takes a disturbing turn, which captivates you till the very end. It's twenty minutes long, which is the same length as the films we're making, so I made sure to pay attention to the structure of a film that's already proven to be successful.

I thought the short was visually impressive. The dark color theme was cohesive during the entire film and gave it a certain tone and mood that was very effective. Also, the dreamlike scenes with Wendy were haunting and beautiful. Overall the shots were truly appealing to the eye and very well executed. Furthermore the attention to detail was spectacular. Everything from the scenery to costumes to the pictures on the walls and in the newspaper were accounted for. This is something to keep in mind when designing our sets and collecting props and costumes for our own films.

Now that we're in the writing and story creating phase of our process, there is a lot to consider about structure and story. A short film only has a certain amount of time to leave an impression, so every part of it must be well thought out and purposeful. Specifically this film, I learned a lot about ways to include back story without taking up too much time or hitting the audience over the head with exposition. Granted, the characters and plot for this film are well known to the audience, so a lot was dependent on that, but there was still an entire implicit history of the characters lives fit into a twenty minute time frame. The use of the dream sequences and careful dialogue to explain what happened to the children while Peter was away was well done.

Another important characteristic of a short is feeling like a full story, even though it's really only a snippet or event of something larger. "East of Kensington" jumps right into the story, without much background. Then at the end, although it doesn't seem like an ending, has a feeling of completion and finality. This is something that I believe is significant to contemplate while writing the script to our own films. Watching other peoples' short films is extremely helpful and rewarding when you are attempting to do the same, and a lot can be learned from the trials, errors and successes of those who have created films before us.
Nathan Fielder is a comedian taken to the next level. His show Nathan for You follows him as he tries to help individuals create successful businesses. The catch is that his ideas are actually ridiculous, but the best part is; they are just so ridiculous, they sometimes make an impact.
Nathan for You is set up like a reality show, Nathan himself is the only actor involved, and the businesses that he features are all real. The ideas that he has span from making a haunted house so scary that the customers would sue the company, to charging people a dollar for gas after a rebate that can only be claimed at the top of a large mountain. His ideas show just how hilarious and brilliant Nathan is. More than not, the companies he tries to help are reluctant to try his ideas, but they always go along with it in the end.

One of the ways in which Nathan translates even more comedy into this show is through his personality; he is a scrawny, awkward, and nerdy guy, which makes his humor all the more appealing. Beyond simply being funny, his show makes a statement of how ridiculous certain aspects of our society are. There is one episode where Nathan goes as far as creating an entire fake reality dating show parodying the bachelor that everyone down to the host thinks is real. In this episode he “tries to find love and gain confidence,” but in the end, shows how people will do anything just to get on television.

American Hustle

The 86th Academy Awards are in just a few days, and the movie American Hustle has been nominated for 10 awards including Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Production Design.  Not only is the story captivating, but the acting is phenomenal.  When watching the film, you truly believe you're in the disco era.  The costuming, hair, and makeup was spot on, and accompanied by a "groovy" 70s soundtrack. The movie is built around reinvention -- a concept of the American Dream. During the 2 hours and 20 minutes the audience follows a scam-artist (played by Christian Bale) as he ambitiously pushes boundaries.  American Hustle perfectly balances comedy, tragedy, and romance.

American Hustle will be most closely competing with Gravity this year at the Oscar's...both films were nominated for 10 awards, and 12 Years a Slave follows closely behind with 9 nominations.  All 3 films are nominated for Best Directing and Best Picture.  While I can't speak for Gravity and 12 Years a Slave (I still have yet to see them), I am very optimistic that American Hustle will walk away from the Oscar's with a few awards.  I guess we just have to wait until March 2nd to find out!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Pretty Little Liars

This show is way more than it seems at first glance. There are people who are alive that should be dead, there are bad guys who are actually good, good guys who are actually bad, so many turns that my head hurts just trying to piece it together. Although I think the story is being dragged out a little too much, I am very curious to see how the writers tie up all these loose ends.

My current issue with this show is that it has turned away from the secret observer pulling strings story line. We haven't seen "A" in action in a long time and it just doesn't seem right. The Liars haven't received anonymous texts or notes or strange packages. Now that they think they have figured out who it is (I'm not sure I believe it's who they think it is) A has almost entirely left them alone with the exception of providing Spencer with pills after she promises her family she will stop.

One thing I really appreciate about this show is how they portray the mental states of the girls when they go through these traumatic situations. When Aria finds out that Ezra was using her to write her story she becomes very numb and empty. Spencer's addiction to the pills plus the stress she is under is very well done. Even the way her character looks physically on screen is accurate to what a girl in her situation would look like.  I feel like some of the topics in this show could be sort of touchy for some viewers and I believe that the show has handled them with a lot of class.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Comcast and Time Warner Merger

Two of the largest US TV providers are planning on forming a merger that seems a bit... illegal? Comcast a proposed to purchase Time Warner for a staggering $45.2 billion making it the largest network TV provider in the US. It sounds an awful lot like a monopoly is being formed yet for some reason the deal is going through. It really makes you wonder if this is actually a fair merger or if politics are involved. It leads one to wonder who is getting a nice paid vacation to allow for this to happen. At the same time there may be an angle of this that I'm overlooking and this agreement is perfectly savvy.
 This new conglomerate would allow for Comcast to hold a lot of power amongst any media contract that could be formed. Comcast seems to believe this merger will prove beneficial to the customers in that it will allow for them to impliment their new cloud system and faster broadband speeds. Personally I could live with out these new benefits if that means not increasing my monthly cable fee but I don't think that really matters. It seems that anything really is possible in this country if you have enough money and power. This isn't the first time Comcast has pulled a stunt like this. A few years ago they ventured to purchase NBC for $17 billion dollars and were successful. Where is the line drawn? When it comes to this kind of control it's not just about the the viewers but also the advertisers. I'm assuming you understand that by practically having a monopoly Comcast can charge advertisers virtually any price they want to be on their programs (or as much as the law allows). In conclusion it I am not a fan of this acquisition and hope that someone puts a stop to it. An example needs to be made showing that there is a limit to how large a market an individual business can control.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tony Soprano: Greatest Television Character of All Time

            Tony Soprano is the greatest television character of all time. He also happens to be my favorite. The large, New Jersey mobster reigned over cable television for eight years, and while there have been many great successors to the throne of anti-heroes, none can live up to Tony’s engrossingly disturbing battle with himself.
            One of the reasons Tony was so engrossing was that he was so relatable. He may be a murderer, philanderer, and later on a sociopath, but he dealt with the same anxieties and problems many adults in their forties do. We got access to all these anxieties to his time with Dr. Jennifer Melfi, his therapist. These therapy sessions revealed a man who, though definitely a bit of a thug, have a sensitive side to him. And he had to work, in his work and professional life, to constantly suppress this emotional side. And while this may seem tedious, it never was. And the series evolved this dynamic over time.

            As the series went on, Tony clearly became less and less interested in solving his emotional issues and much more interested in using the therapy to understand how to manipulate others. He slowly became a monster (or revealed his true colors, depending on who you ask), using all around him for nothing other than to benefit himself. For almost any other show, this would make the character despicable. And yes, this happened for the Sopranos too. But somehow, even when he was being absolutely repugnant, there is something intangible about him that made him likable. He could do horrible, atrocious, selfish things and I would still enjoy watching him exist and genuinely care about him. No other television character has pulled of that dynamic of love and hate as well as Tony Soprano has. And that is why he is my favorite.  

Authors and Movie Adaptations of their Novels

The film industry has been adapting novels to the big screen for many years. Most of these movies become big successes in the industry but surprisingly some of the best movies have been disliked by the authors who wrote the original idea. Most of the reasons why the authors dislike the film adaptations of their novels is because the director may tend to leave some things out of the book or not follow the story exactly as it was written. The author of Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers, had some heated debates with the producers as his script edits were mostly disregarded. Steven King had said he was largely disappointed with Kubrick's The Shining because he didn't like Jack Nicholson's performance and also because Kubrick couldn't grasp the concept of the evil of the Overlook Hotel. Because the producers of Forrest Gump omitted plot points and downplayed sex and violence in the movie, The author, Winston Groom, started his sequel with the lines "don't ever let anyone make a movie of your life story". Even the author of The Clockwork Orange regretted writing the book in the first place because the movie made it seem it was all about sex and violence.
These are all movies that have become hits in the film industry. It is hard for me to decide whether the authors or the producers are the right ones with the right decisions in the movie making process. Although I see how most film adaptations aren't completely "puritan" to the novels, they end up becoming hits and become some of the most beloved films in our society.

Friday, February 21, 2014

ASMR: An Underground Community

Recently, a subculture has emerged from the depths of Reddit and Youtube. Known as ASMR, (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) it is a widely unknown phenomenon where a person feels a "tingling" sensation in their head, spine, back or other parts of the body in response to certain auditory or visual triggers. ASMR videos are meant to trigger this euphoric sensation in their viewers. This is done by a person whispering (usually a female) or making sounds with objects into a 3D microphone, which creates a realistic atmosphere. Although the word "meridian" is basically a more polite word for orgasm, ASMRers swear that the sensation is not meant to be sexual, but caring or loving. The videos may seem extremely strange or boring to the average viewer, but to thousands of people these videos are a source of relaxation and pleasure. Many people even use it to calm anxiety or battle insomnia.

Here is one of the most popular ASMR videos by youtuber GentleWhispering, with over four million views. To get the full effect, you must wear headphones.

Yes, this is probably one of the strangest things you've ever seen in your life. But for a second, just put aside the fact that you watched either all or part of a video of a woman whispering nonsense into your ears and playing with hairbrushes. What I find interesting about these videos is their use of binaural recording. People who produce these videos use 3D microphones, which are basically two omnidirectional microphones, to make it feel like the listener is actually in whatever situation the actor is portraying. When you put the headphones on and listen to some of these videos, the effect is jarring, because it sounds like someone is actually speaking into your ear. Whether you feel a sensation or not, it is an interesting use of audio that I have never experienced before being used in this way.

There has been no scientific research as to why people feel these sensations or what the sensation actually is, but with such a large following, it's hard to ignore this abnormal phenomenon. The community of ASMR is growing exponentially, and if it proves to be medically beneficial, it may be a better alternative to drugs for those who suffer from anxiety, insomnia or other issues such as these.

Naked Dating?!

It’s no secret that sex is one of the biggest sellers in today’s world.  Because of this, nudity has become an increasing trend in broadcast television (this includes blurred or pixelated nudity).  Popular shows including Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, and Girls have all show shown nude or pixelated nude images. The Parents Television Council found that a majority of the shows displaying any kind of nudity are comedies.

Some networks have chosen to direct the trend a different way: nude reality shows.  Discovery Channel premiered Naked and Afraid in June 2013, and other shows like SyFy’s Naked Vegas and TLC’s Buying Naked have also been aired.  Now, VH1 has ordered a new reality dating show revolving around nakedness called Naked Dating. The series is meant to “explore the art of romance -- preconceived notions, stereotypes, and yes, clothing.”  It’s produced by Lighthearted Entertainment, the same company responsible for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

The reality show follows a naked man and a naked woman as they each go on dates with a naked partner.  At the end of the show, they’ll discuss their discoveries from the nakedness, and decide whether or not to pursue the partner.  It's definitely a strange concept, and I'm not too sure it'll last. They’re literally ‘stripping’ away all dating pretenses (ha ha).

Skins: UK vs. US

There are so many reasons why the British series Skins is so innovative and entertaining. It is a show that breaks barriers and explores taboo subjects such as sex, drugs, and mental illness in adolescents. It is a teen drama that focuses on different “generations” of students that are all struggling with the hardships of life. Upon the shows success in the United Kingdom, and seeing the large U.S. audience that it had attracted, it was soon adapted into an American series. Unfortunately it was ineffective and failed before the end of its first season. For some reason, it did not capture audiences like its U.K. predecessor.
I believe that the reason the show failed in the United States was because of the censorship and an aversion to nudity that we have in this country. If our television industry was more open and honest about sexuality and other taboo subjects, then the show might not have been such a failure. Another reason that it was not a success was because the American series tried so hard to be almost identical to the U.K. series. The first few scenes of the U.S. pilot were almost word for word and shot for shot to the original series. Due to this lack of originality and creativity, along with the censorship issues, the show was dumbed down and did not translate well, especially to those who had been long time fans of the British series.
            There were other aspects of the American series that I found interesting. Because of their need to be so similar to the original, it was strange to me when I found out some of the character changes I made. For one thing, I thought it was interesting that they changed the gay male character in the British version to a lesbian cheerleader in the U.S. series. I am not sure what their reasoning behind this was, but my theory was that this was a way to bring more sex appeal to the show and entrap a male audience. If this is the case, it is yet another reason why I dislike the American series.

            The United Kingdom version of Skins was groundbreaking. Although it definitely may have crossed the line to some in multiple instances, it was a show that teens could watch and not feel as though they were being babied. It treated its audience like adults, which I think is one of the main reasons that it developed such a following. Skins is a great show and one that I definitely recommend. I will say that like most of the shows I watch, it is an acquired taste, but if you are into something different, I would totally check this out.

"Dark Horse" Music VIdeo

Today one of my friends ran up to me and told me that he just watched the new music video, Dark Horse by Katy Perry and was going to have an aneurism after watching because it was so good. I decided to check it out because obviously it had to be SO amazing since he was going to have a freaking aneurism! I love Katy Perry and I am a fan of that song, however I can honestly say I have no idea what I just saw. The cinematic techniques used were very well done, however I found the story incredibly odd. It takes place in Egypt and Katy Perry is some queen of some sort. These Egyptian men constantly are bringing her new gifts to woo her and she is not accepting any of them. Instead she turns the men into some kind of powder..? I honestly could not explain the story to you if I tried. Ultimately the theme of the video is about the power she has over all these men.

This being said, the way this music video was shot was very well done. The lighting is very bright and really sets the mood. The color techniques are incredible along with the special effects. The camera movements are very smooth and work with the entire video as a whole. There are a variety of close ups and wide angle shots. One really well done shot was when Juicy J comes into the song. There is an egyptian statue and when it opens up, Juicy J's face is framed perfectly. Overall I thought the music video was very well done in terms of the way it was shot and produced.

This music video also reminded me of an intriguing conversation I once had with my friend who is very interested in culture. She told me that when adopting specific elements of one culture and appreciating it is called cultural assimilation. However, she said that cultural appropriation is taking elements from a culture and using it in the wrong context. One example she used was when Katy Perry (ironically enough) performed on the VMA's. She dressed up as a geisha, however that culture was completely misrepresented. Katy wanted it to seem as though she was appreciating other cultures, however it came across the wrong way. Dressing up as a geisha does not mean you are representing the Japanese culture. Very similar in this music video, she dresses up as an Egyptian and maybe not intentionally, but she makes Egyptians seem selfish and materialistic. When creating any music video, film, television show, etc it is important to keep in mind how one represents a certain culture.

Needless to say, I found the production of this video interesting, however I did NOT have an aneurism

What Editing Can Do to Feeling

Many people have seen the popular she show the seriousness, like the emotion of the actors in the scenes, what the actors are doing within the shot, how the show is composed, what music is chosen, and so many more. You can really give a show a certain feeling by the way you edit it. A perfect example of this is Breaking Bad The Sitcom. Many people have seen the popular show Breaking Bad. The show is a very serious crime drama. Youtuber Sacha Proctor created many videos from many different episodes of Breaking Bad. It is funny, but at the same time really hard to watch. Here is an example of Breaking Bad The Sitcom and an original clips from Breaking Bad.
Breaking Bad The Sitcom

Clips from the original Breaking Bad
So as you can see there is a huge difference in the feeling, even though many of the same scenes were used. The way it's edited can really set the mood. I definitely recommend watching some more of Sacha Proctor's videos.

The Fourth Wall

     The fourth wall is a term that comes from the theater. Typically on a stage set there are three visible walls, one in the back and one on the left and the right. The fourth wall is an imaginary wall at the front that is left open so the audience can see into the room and watch the action. This "wall" is used to separate the audience from the action and keep a sense of realism about the story. Television and movies also have their own version of the fourth wall. Although there is no actual wall in those media the camera creates its own. So what happens when some one acknowledges the wall?
      Talking to the audience directly, noticing the camera, or talking about being in a show/movie/book is all called "breaking the fourth wall". Why would someone break the illusion and the reality that is created in their medium? Originally it started out as a comical action. It was funny to see a character realize that they are in some work of fiction and see how they react to it. A character that commonly breaks the fourth wall for comedic purposes is Marvel's Deadpool.


     Unlike Deadpool comics some shows will only do it once and awhile for a quick joke. Such as in an episode of "30 Rock" the Character Liz Lemon is talking about how great Verizon phones are and then asks "Can we get our money now please?"
     Breaking the fourth wall doesn't always have to be a used in a comedic way some serious dramas break the fourth wall and it at first seems jarring and uncomfortable, but that is the perfect feel to fit a show like "House of Cards". In both the American and the British version the main character Francis will look into the camera and have a one sided conversation with the audience. This makes the character feel even more all knowing and intimidating.

After the Fact

Before you say anything about the content of this video, you should probably watch it first. Watch it with the sound off if you hate techno that much...or turn it the f*** up if you want to jam out by yourself. This is the official Ultra 2013 after movie which only exists to remind you to buy tickets for next year or remind you of how much fun you had that you possibly don't remember. I've never been to Ultra but from what I can tell by this video they have a large camera crew going around talking to concert goers and capturing the big DJs performing on stage. Whether you enjoy techno music or not making a 17 minute music video out of raw footage from a music festival is no easy task. The shots are absolutely beautiful and it seems like the cameramen were looking in the right place at just the right time to catch the drop in the song or this super hot girl dancing in a crowd. But lets say Ultra is too much to handle for you right now. Posted below are two videos, one from Electric Forrest and one from Bisco. Both are official videos I assume produced by the company running the concerts.
As you can probably tell by now, all three use similar techniques and camera movements if you watch them closely. Slow motion is also a very popular technique usually used in both these videos. The effect is a closer look at the grand picture of the whole event, which is tough to capture at a large festival event like Ultra. What both of these videos do well is capture the excitement and energy of the event while syncing the frames you see on screen with the music you hear in the after movie. Obviously a techno music festival will play the same music in the after movie video because it matches up to what's going on onscreen. Another element that shouldn't be ignored is the overall narrative of the video. It is a three day event and it takes you from the beginning when "you" arrive at the gates of the festival grounds to the end when girls are crying their faces off over Swedish House Mafia's last performance ever. I feel like this is important not only for the casual viewer to see what it's like but also for the hardcore Ultra fans to say "Wow, that's exactly how it went down." In the end, these videos and the many more that exist of this nature, are a nostalgia-based recap of what ticket holders' experiences SHOULD have been in addition to their own supplementary memories. After-movies...replacing memories with better ones one year at a time.