Saturday, December 6, 2014

Cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema

Hoyte Van Hoytema is a cinematographer from Sweden, who went to the National film school in Lodz. Now working in the United States, his work is seen in big hollywood movies such as Her, Interstellar, and The Fighter. In some of his work he discusses using a real earthy color palette such as in Interstellar, he plays off of the natural green of the crops when in the farmland setting. His approach is also clearly seen the opposite when he creates the futuristic world of Her, utilizing LED lights to make the look and color of the film - a soft and intimate, near-future setting. His work is stands from Digital on the alexa in Her, to film in the Imax camera with custom made lenses for Interstellar. In each, there is significant camerawork and several handheld sequences.

This is an interesting video which is worth checking out, selling a little of Imax, but it is important to see some of the huge Imax reels, and the handheld work of Hoytema with the Imax camera.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Ladies and gentleman, as the title suggests this weeks blog post is treading into uncharted territory were none of my blog posts have dared to go before, yes I am talking about....

Also if you haven't seen the trailer yet, I am going to post it below this and then proceed to tell you why I am particularly excited for this film by using both examples from the soundtrack and visual that director, Mr. Rob Marshall has created. 

Below is the trailer....


This trailer is a prime example of the reason why I am so excited for this movie. If you study the visual style that Mr. Marshall employs throughout the film, it is meticulously and delicately articulate in such a way that might draw to comparisons to such masters of the visual world of film like Baz Lurhmann. Also, Mr. Marshall does something amazing as demonstrated in the clip below. I'll let you watch the clip before I tell you what it is.  

As you can see in the clip, Mr. Marshall is keenly aware that the action is stopped by Cinderella's song and that the song is functioning as an internal dialogue between what the character wants for herself. So what does Mr. Marshall do, he completely freezes the action around Cinderella in order to allow us to begin to get inside of what the character is thinking or feeling, something that the medium of film often eschews. It is this kind of genius thinking that has me hoping that this stage to screen adaption will be successful.  

Also, the soundtrack of the film is another appealing aspect of the movie. Above is the full version of On the Steps of the Palace as sung by the Anna Kendrick. The music and lyrics and film scoring are handled by one of arguably the most talented and beautiful composer for musical theatre Stephen Sondheim. And yet, even though not on the stage but rather the screen, the music still soars high, a true gem of any Sondheim musical if ever there was one. 

Because Mr. Marshall has adapted Chicago from the stage to the screen and done it very successfully I am beyond excited to see what he is going to do with Into the Woods. 

And so it is for these reasons that I say: INTO THE WOODS AND OUT OF THE WOODS AND HAPPY EVER AFTER!!!! 

Jackie Chan and Editing Action

Tony, the man behind the youtube channel Every Frame a Painting released a new video this week specializing in Jackie Chan. If you haven't seen any one of his other videos I can't recommend them enough, they are very well edited and Tony knows a lot about all kinds of films. But what I found interesting in his new video is how action and comedy are quite similar. In terms of how they should be filmed to get the best reaction and how showing everything is always better. Just like a joke showing the action and in the same frame showing the reaction is the best way to pull everything out of the picture. If someone is hit on screen showing the hand and then the reaction from the hit draws more effect from the audience. The video goes on to explain more about the differences in action between American and Asian films. The editing in Hollywood for action has become more about cutting from one shot right as they get hit to the next. Tony goes on to explain that in many asian action films editing has been used to alter the continuity of each hit. So as someone throws a hit the hit is quickly shown and then cut to close up and quickly see the hit again. With only a couple frames it's barely noticeable but adds an extra force behind each hit. I find it extremely interesting how editing can be used in this way and can not wait for Every Frame a Painting's next video.

Check out the video below:

Where Are The Women?

     The 2015 Sundance Film Festival has officially released the lineup of films to be screened! [You can sneak a peek for yourself here.] A plethora of uniquely intriguing synapses scrolled down my screen before I caught myself exploring deeper into the depths of the Sundance website. In particular, the "Womens Initiative" caught my attention. 

Full Disclaimer:

     In essence, the Womens Initiative is a group of organizers that promote gender equality in the film industry by supporting female filmmakers in developing their stories into projects as well as assisting them sustain a career. My first reaction was pleasant. I thought, "Well that's nice. While we may have progressed significantly since the first wave of feminism we certainly are far from the cusp of equality." Shortly thereafter another monsoon of thoughts emerged. Just how much of a "banana republic" was the film world? The results of my research were surprisingly unsurprising. Surely, males make up more of the workforce than females do. But just how much men dominated wasn't clear to me... until today that is.
From Sundance Institutes press release from Womens Initiative's research 
     As if that chart isn't horrifying enough... these numbers are rapidly declining in all but one or two categories (which have increased 1% or remained stagnant) between 1998-2014.

     Why oh why?
  There are many things one can attribute to the lovely ladies that are interested in this wonderful art form closeting themselves from the industry. One in specific I'd like to focus on is how women are often written out of film history. For example, even in our hallowed halls of Ithaca College, we face male dominated tales of cinematic genius. Though, there are some pretty influential ladies who are responsible for shaping the art of filmmaking as well. 

Alice Guy Blaché 
The first female director - a key figure in the development of narrative film
(Wait, who? I've never had to study her name or achievements for a test...)
In conclusion the odds of me finding film employment after college is slim and even if I make waves with anything I create, I'll most likely be ignored historically. 

Yet... I haven't filled out any paperwork to transfer schools or majors. While the odds of me making it are repulsively slim... I'm going to continue creating and pushing forward. Film-making is underestimated and difficult stuff, but the outcome is one that cannot be explained into words. Maybe the film didn't turn out as grand or funny or shocking as you had hoped, but I bet something worthwhile blossomed from the experience that wouldn't have blossomed if we said, "naaah it'd never work." 
     Our deadlines are quickly approaching and I encourage everyone, both ladies and gentlemen, to stick with this. The road ahead is demanding and holds minimal time for sleeping and perhaps the road further ahead holds an eleven percent chance for employment but... keep at it? I know I will whether my budget is four million dollars or just four hundred. 

Other Helpful&Related Links:

Beth Greene

For those of you that watch The Walking Dead and have not seen the recent episode…….there are spoilers ahead.
 I started watching The Walking Dead not too long ago. I binged on all four seasons on Netflix for probably a straight two weeks, meanwhile I should have probably been doing homework, but watching this series was more important to me. I heard the hype over the walking dead when it first premiered and I did not really see what everyone was talking about. The concept of zombies can either be really good or just plain horrible. Being that I was a fan of Resident Evil, I thought maybe it will be good. I started watching it, and at first I did not see the obsession, but I found myself wanting to watch what happened in each next episode. I became addicted and obsessed. It was good, and so I added another television shows to my list to watch.
The walking dead was interesting because of every character. Every character brought something different to the table. And being that every couple episodes you learn more about one character, as well as introduced to several news ones, you have to keep watching what happens to each person. You grow an attachment to what each character does and what they represent in the world. You want to see how this character develops and who they become. Even though I prefer some characters over the others, they all have some kind of interest. 

One character that I never really liked or hated was Beth Greene. Beth Greene is introduced in the second season when the main characters are brought to a farm. A farm where Beth lives with her father, sister, and other people from before the outbreak of the apocalypse. When I first was introduced to Beth I did not think much of her, she was kind of just there. She was the sweet farmer’s daughter, pale, blonde, and blue eyed who sang songs for everyone. Although she knows about the outbreak in the world, she still has not been that exposed to what it’s really like
out there. When the other group joins her family, she’s shown here and there helping out with providing food, and anything anyone needs. People do not really get a sense of who Beth is until the episode where she says she wants to kill herself. To me at least, I kind of expected that. I expected her to be a weak girl who couldn’t hold on. After she tries to kill herself, she soon realizes death is not what she wants. Death would not fix the world, she would just be gone. After that episode we see that Beth more. When all the characters have to leave the farm due to the fact that walkers overran it, they stay at a
prison. While at the prison, the people make it more homely. Once they have developed a system, Beth becomes somewhat of a motherly figure for character, Rick Grimes’ daughter, Judith. Judith’s mother, Laurie was killed during the birthing of her. Rick so destroyed from this, payed little attention to Judith because it reminded him of Laurie’s death. Although sad, this was a great moment for Beth to shine and show what kind instincts she has. Her singing also became more prominent and she slowly became closer with more of the main characters.

Everyone was seeing the prison as their new home, and somewhere they could live during all of this madness. Unfortunately the prison was attacked by other people. Once they were attacked many people were fleeing the prison and the group did get very separated. Being that Beth was one of the last people to stay around and help fight, she was left with Daryl Dixon, one of the group’s best fighters. 

Daryl’s character in the beginning was one of an asshole. Him and his brother were typical redneck low lives. Many people did not like him or his brother Merle. However once Merle was gone from the group, there was a side of Daryl that came out. He became more sensitive, and loving. He felt like it was his job to protect everyone, and now that Merle was gone and did not have a bad influence on him, he could finally show the caring side of him that was always there. Daryl’s character has become one that viewers love now, a protecting, caring, sympathetic man.  When Beth and Daryl were stuck together, it was kind of their first real close interaction. At first Daryl was very short, and rude to Beth. Beth did not understand why he acted this way, and being Beth she tried to stay positive, but he kept shutting her down. Finally he reveals to Beth that he feels responsible for the prison’s overtake, even though it was not his fault. Being that he was a protector to them, he felt like it
 was his one purpose to keep everyone safe, it was what he was good at, and he felt like he failed everyone. He was upset that they found somewhere wonderful to live, and it was so easily destroyed. Of course he says this under intoxication, and it comes off a bit rude to Beth, however it is under that circumstance that we see a side to Beth that we can’t help but love.

She faces the fact of what happened, and she feels
nothing but compassion for Daryl. She tells him that he can’t give up just because of everything bad that happens in their lives. She says this with force, and we truly see Beth for who she is, a strong woman full of hope even in the saddest of times. It is through her hope that Daryl continues and moves on from his guilt. It is her hope that guides him back, and helps him find their way.

 After this time together, they become very close. Many fans began to ship them as a couple because together they were a balance. She was full of hope and brought out all the love in him, and strength to continue on even when something goes wrong. He brought out more strength in her, showing her how to be strong physically, and never giving up on her. However their time together was ended when beth was kidnapped by a group of cops from Atlanta. Daryl destroyed by this, eventually finds the group and tells them what happened and how he is going to find her. When we finally see Beth, she wakes up in a hospital. The people taking care of her say they saved her life and that she couldn’t leave until she repaid them. We begin to see how unstable this hospital is and how no one ever leaves. Beth however, is determined to get back to Daryl, and tries her hardest to find an escaped. After a failed attempt in trying to leave she realizes that even though she’s failed she cannot give up. While at this hospital Beth proves how strong she is. She is no longer that sweet weak girl that we first met. She is no longer that girl who tried to kill herself. She is determined, strong, and full of hope, never ever giving up.

In last week’s latest episode, the group that Daryl finds finally comes for Beth. When they negotiate a trade for Beth, everything is going fine. However, when they are about to leave, the main officer in charge, Dawn Lerner, wants one Noah back (one of the people at the hospital that escaped and joined Daryl’s group). When beth hears this, it hurts her so much that something that we would have never expected to happen, did. As Beth goes up to Dawn, and basically insults Dawn, she pulls out a scissor she had in her cast and stabs Dawn. However, Dawn already had her gun in hand, and shot Beth in the head immediately after this. 

The symbol of hope, dies. The one person who never gave up, and always encouraged others to keep going, is gone just like that. After the writers built her character up so much, the took her away that quickly. Everyone in the group is affected by this death. They were so happy to finally get her back safely, the one person they all looked to. To them Beth was the one of the only things pure left in the world. Without her and her guidance, everyone feels kind of lost. 
I was kind of surprised the writers killed her off. Especially after all the praise fans were giving her character. People are outraged that she is dead. There is already a petition to bring her back from the dead, signed by more than 10,000 people. As well as plenty of conspiracy theories as to how she is going to come back to life. Basically, no one really wants to see a world without Beth Greene. I don’t really blame them either. I was really upset by this too. Even though she was never really my favorite character it was very sad to see her go. And not only seeing her go, but seeing everyone’s reactions to her death. Seeing Daryl’s reaction, someone who she loved for all of the purity that she contained.
Seeing Rick’s reaction, someone who grew a family bond with her over his daughter. And seeing Beth’s sister’s reaction, Maggie, someone who only had one family member left.

The episode overall was just heartbreaking. And while I’m devastated to see Beth go, I think it was necessary. These characters are living in a world where death happens every second. After the world has turned into this apocalyptic state, people become scared. When people are scared they do stupid things. And that resulted in Beth’s death. The writers had to show that the world they are living in is scary, and not everyone lives. At any second, any could be killed. And not only that, but they also have to show some kind of development in the other characters. How everyone will be effected by this, will show what kind of person everyone is. And personally, I believe that while at first everyone will feel down about everything and not want to survive at first, they will fight through it. They will fight through it and survive for as long as they can because that’s what Beth would do. Beth would continue to survive, because it’s what you have to do. She would not completely lose hope because of someone’s death. She would honor that person’s death by continuing on and fighting for her life. 
Overall I just wanted to talk about her character because it is a prime example of strong character development. And her character will have a huge effect on the other characters and how they develop.

R.I.P. Beth Greene. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Star Wars: The Advertising Awakens

The big news this past week was the release of the first Star Wars: Episode VII teaser. For the two people who haven't seen it or for anyone who wishes to watch it again here it is:
Within hours of its release, minutes even, speculation and strong opinions were flying. Complaining drooling, attacks and parodies...every aspect of internet reaction to new content was present. Personally, I was thrilled to see some footage so early, but as time went by, I started to become more interested in analyzing people's hyperbolic reactions than analyzing the trailer itself. The theories ranged from reasonable to outlandish and the conclusions people were jumping to were nothing short of hilarious. Whether the comments come out of enthusiasm or derision, I think everyone's going a little crazy about this and we all need to take a breath and really consider what it is we're looking at.
First of all, let me just say that I've been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid, so while I have become detached from the series in the past few years, the announcement of a new film (several, actually) is definitely a source of excitement. At the same time, I'm reigning my feelings in and not allowing myself to be swayed too much by the new footage. I certainly liked it, but it doesn't assure anything.

Most important to realize here is that this trailer is a gift (or at least that's how I'm considering it). This early on, I didn't expect anything from the marketing department. Principal photography ended only a month ago, so the fact that anything is ready (most surprisingly a couple of VFX shots) should be seen as miraculous. Also, this is a in meant to tease. There are only 11 shots in the whole thing and how anyone can make broad generalizations from that is amazing to me. We get a slight feel for the tone and visual style, but nothing more. It's a great teaser precisely because it only gives us that small taste without hinting any plot strands. It whets the appetite, provides some nostalgia and stirs up buzz. And man, is there buzz...
The last Star Wars film was released nine years ago and in that time social media and the nature of the internet has changed, radically shifting the way people engage with such early marketing for hyped films. I remember the excitement for Revenge of the Sith, but it's nothing compared to what I've seen this past week. Various articles and blogposts (just like this one) have been written, breaking it down shot by shot. Memes have been created, trailer re-cuts have been done, a couple new fan posters (like the one above) based on the imagery of the teaser have been made...hell, a guy got a tattoo of the little soccer ball droid (a droid that is likely an insignificant element in the film- I wouldn't be surprised if it was some transition piece that ended up getting cut). Being Star Wars, the most beloved film series of all time (a subjective statement, but you know it's true), I can't blame people for buying into the hype. At the end of the day, folks are just having fun with it, which is exactly what JJ Abrams intended, I'm sure. It'll make over a billion dollars easily next year and toy sales will be just as impressive, but until then, we'll just have to wait for that second trailer to drop. Take your time, Disney, what you just delivered is more than enough to satisfy this fan for months.

Strong Characterization in Six Feet Under

Few shows have ever involved me as much as Alan Ball's Six Feet Under. The show premiered in 2001 on HBO and ran for 5 seasons. Its about one family who runs a funeral home out of their house. The first scene in the first episode of the first season the father, and owner of the business, is killed in a car accident. The rest of the show follows the family as they spiral out from this event. My mother and I binge-watched this show when I was in high school and when the last episode ended we took ourselves out for a mourning dinner. We felt like we had lost a part of our family. This sounds super cheesy and corny but its true. Six Feet Under has some of the strongest, most developed, most realistic characters on TV, and anyone who's watched the show can tell you that you can't help but get entangled in their drama.

One of the main things that makes these characters so special is the fact that they have flaws. Not just little things, like they're messy or disorganized, like big, reoccurring flaws. But it's not far-fetched or random things like "they're evil" or "they're crazy" its much more subtle and realistic things that everyone can relate to. For example, one of the main characters David Fisher is a closeted gay man in the first season but even when he comes out he struggles with deep feelings of shame and guilt which ruin relationships and lead him to some of his lowest points. I have not seen any other shows which allow a character's flaws and past to impact their present, and the show, as much as Six Feet Under does.

Another remarkable thing about the Fisher's is that they change. Again these are not superficial changes like getting divorced or getting a new job, they change on a deeper level than that. For example in the beginning of the show, Claire Fisher, the youngest, is an angsty high school student who smokes crack and leaves severed limbs in her ex-boyfriends locker. Over the course of the show she realizes she wants to be a photographer and the show follows her on this journey. We see her grow up and mature. The Claire in season 5 is completely different than the Claire in season 1, but yet she's still her. I feel that not many shows that I've seen give characters changes like this. They may change on the surface or be depressed for half a season, they might have a completely random personality change that doesn't make sense but in Six Feet Under people age and mature and change with their experiences.

Because the characters in this show are so realistic and relatable the show is realistic and relatable. If  more films and TV series strove for this, we would have much better things being produced. If a show or film can get audiences engaged with the characters, they can keep that audience interested. The show can be on the melodramatic side, but its the strong characters which ground it, and make it an exceptional show.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Basic Sound Design

As Arturo has made clear, successful sound design can make or break a student film. With our limited financial resources, taking the time to really nail the sound of a project can enhance the visuals and create production value almost out of thin air. Think about the student film about astronauts that we watched earlier in the semester; the sound of the film created a great sense of scale and offscreen space that is really difficult to achieve in student film. However, if you're like me, you might only have the (very basic) ProTools knowledge that you acquired in CP1, which might not be enough to take your sound to the next level. Luckily, NoFilmSchool just posted a nice little introduction to basic sound design and foley: sound-design.

The blog post links to a 15-minute introduction of foley and sound effects, emphasizing that very little of the sound that makes it into a completed film was captured on location during shooting. Take a look at some basic techniques for creating sound effects, and try to nail the sound of your film. But hurry!