Friday, August 28, 2015

Universal Quick Disconnect?

This week Edlekrone revealed their latest essential innovation for the cinematographer's toolbelt - a universal quick disconnect attachment for any cameras use on any piece of equipment. Essentially this would allow a camera operator to seamlessly move from, say, a tripod to a jib to a crane and then back without ever screwing in a new plate. Although it is a seemingly painless process, anyone who has been on set before knows how it can suck up an unwanted amount of time.

This tool continues Edelkrone's streak of simplifying things that I thought couldn't be made easier. Nowadays the film process has been fairly standardized, and we don't expect creations such as this to comoe along and improve the process. It's boarderline annoying how innovative they are, making such elegant, simple pieces that make one think "Dang, I should have thought of that." The one big downside for me has to be the price - coming in at around $140 for what essentially is three screws and a plastic handle puts it out of the budgets for many young film makers. I think the best course of action for a piece like this is to wait until a third party (in the style of Samyang, Rokinon, ect. bringing down prices for comparable lenses) makes a knock off. Until then, we can only keep switching plates.

Will & Grace and the Importance of Not Forgetting What You're There to Do

Many people think of Will & Grace as a show that was groundbreaking for LGBT rights. It's not a bad legacy to have and not illegitimate either. Will & Grace normalized the gay experience while also being unapologetic in it's portrayal of gay characters (even if they came off as stereotypical at the time). However, a more fitting remembrance would be that of a perfect sitcom.

Let me be clear, by perfect sitcom I don't at all mean the best sitcom. That is of course subjective and usually a title taken by Cheers, Friends or Seinfeld among many other top shows. However, a "perfect" sitcom is one that doesn't forget what it's there to do, make people laugh. Shows like Friends and Parks & Rec often forget this, they sometimes find themselves relying heavily on sentimentality and extensive character arcs. It doesn't make them bad shows or cheapen their quality, however it bends their genre to their own whims instead of succeeding in its established guidelines. And while this may seem like a narrow set of requirements, such strict guidelines can actually allow for a more polished product, especially for novice television creators. It allows them to serve the genre, and more importantly their audience, when creating. And teaches them not to allow their voice and own creative desires have precedence over what best serves their characters, story and audience. It's the same reason writers rooms exist, to create an environment that values input over personal voice.

Will & Grace, partly because of it's groundbreaking content, exemplifies this best. It would have been easy to create a show that was specific to the creators', David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, voice and experience. It would have also failed. To create a show that could only speak to the gay experience of two men would fail to reach a substantial audience. Instead they decided to serve a comedic voice, to put comedy over perspective, to fit into a genre so they could tell their story instead of pushing their voice. It's what keeps the consistently funny, while shows like Cheers and Friends have ebbs and flows to their series run, partly due to their extensive character arcs. Insread Will & Grace focuses on short storylines and characters arcs which the put the characters into situations that explain their character as opposed to relationships. It also allows for comedy to take precedence over the easier alternative of sentimentality. Will & Grace knows what it's there to do, make people laugh and serve the audience over the experience of the creator

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"James Kelly - Burn It Down" and my thesis project.

I had to choose between taking Thesis and Motion Graphics in order to complete my degree. Last Spring when we were choosing classes I went through a long internal debate, but here I am, enrolled in thesis. After graduation I plan on working in rentals in addition to freelance camera assisting. I have little desire to direct/produce/shoot fictional narratives, so I was kind of at a loss for ideas for my thesis. Naturally I turned to skateboarding to fix my problems, and I decided to make a skateboarding film.

Random unrelated skateboarding photo I took
Pulling directly from Arturo's preliminary class email... "for some of you this will be your calling card in the job market you will soon be entering", " intellectual proposition you can defend" were just some excerpts that pushed me more towards doing a skateboarding film. Just as I have spent the past three years studying film, I have also spent the past three years learning the ins and outs of downhill skateboarding, the industry, and the culture, and I cannot think of a better way to tie the two together.

Arbor Skateboards :: James Kelly - Burn It Down from Arbor Collective on Vimeo.

This is by far the most impressive downhill skateboarding video I have seen in both terms of skating and production quality. This is the video I am taking inspiration from for my thesis film. I do not have access to the Sierra mountains or unique run down houses like Jack Boston, the creator of this film, does. However I do have access to a numerous amount of Ithaca hills and waterfalls, which will make this video unique in its own way. My knowledge of both video production and the Ithaca skate scene will be able to create a video in a way that no one else would.

Another unrelated skateboarding photo I took

My good friend and Ithaca local, Edward Kiefer, is currently ranked the number 1 junior (under 18) downhill skateboarder in the world by the Internation Downhill Federation. He's agreed to be the subject of my video. Matt Shalkoski is going to shoot it, and I have a slew of other talented individuals working on the production and I am excited to make a film that both season skateboarders and average viewers will enjoy.

The Characters We Need, In Their Own 'Universe'

With everything I create, I always think about the implications of my work and the affect I want it to have on my audience. This week, as we develop characters for our theses, it's important to think about how we can break stereotypes and better represent the diverse world we live in. I recently (as in today) started watching a show on Cartoon Network called 'Steven Universe,' and it is easily the most revolutionary program on children's animation.

Steven Universe is the coming age of a young boy (Steven) who is half human, half alien. As a member of the Crystal Gems, magical defenders of the earth, Steven is given magical powers that he is still trying to harness at the start of the show. His mentors are three power woman named Pearl, Garnet, and Amethyst, who have devoted their lives to defending the earth from the weekly supernatural monster or universe-threatening phenomenon.

Steven Universe is a show that takes it's responsibility to represent diversity very seriously. It's very clear to see that it was created with awareness of the fact that their audience is made up of little kids longing to see themselves as the heroes on screen, and that seeing heroes that look like them would change these kids' lives.

The very first thing that I noticed about Steven Universe was the bodies. And I'm not talking about the Disney princess/Barbie body type. I'm talking all body types. Bodies that look like mine! And yours! In the world of Steven Universe, all sorts of people who look all sorts of ways get to be heroes that you've never seen before. Even the title character, Steven himself, is a chubby little kid with big bushy hair, and no one ever comments on this or calls him fat or tells him that he needs to loose weight or even ever acknowledges it. So Steven is pudgy. Who cares?

And it's not just their diversity in body image that makes Steven Universe revolutionary. The show also pushes gender roles and breaks stereotypes overused in television. The fact that these three strong women are raising this boy while defending the earth is progressive in itself. But each of the gems are far from perfect and come with their own set of flaws. Just like you and me!

This is just the tip of the iceberg and I'm sure I'll expand on this show's groundbreaking diversity later in the semester. Steven Universe is one of the most positive, progressive shows on television and you should probably drop what you're doing to start watching now. Season 1 is available on Hulu. Just saying.

I Know That Voice

Have you ever wondered who that guy is that says "In a world...." at the beginning of a movie trailer?  Or who tells you the side effects of that medication you are now too afraid to take? Or maybe you never noticed. These people are called voice actors, and they are some of the most famous people you'll never recognize. Director Lawrence Shapiro and voice actor/producer John DiMaggio wanted to not only give the actors recognition, but the craft itself. In 2013, they produced the film "I Know That Voice", a documentary of countless famous voice actors talking about their personal experiences and the career of voice acting in general. It provides tremendous insight into a world that not many know about, or even consider a career at all.

DiMaggio narrates the film as well as gives his own story. He is best known for his roles as Bender from "Futurama" and Jake from "Adventure Time", but his talents expand far beyond that. He is also an actor, stand up comedian, producer and beatboxer. He is extremely passionate about his craft, and cares about the community of which he is he a part of, hence the creation of the film. DiMaggio skillfully tells the tale of the voice actor from the start of voice acting, to the start of their careers, to their daily lives, to the reason why each and everyone one of them has a passion for it.

One of the most fascinating parts of the film is how they explore the concept of fame in the voice acting world. Unless they were speaking like the character they play, or are also a famous screen actor, most people would have no idea who they were. The title of the film, "I Know That Voice", is a comment on the reaction that most people experience when a voice they recognize comes on television, the radio or video games, but they can't pin down exactly who that person is, due to the facelessness and namelessness of the job.
Some of the cast members of "I Know That Voice"
Another interesting point the film makes is the broad range of areas that voice actors cover. Most people think of animated films when they think of voice acting, but it covers so much more. As previously stated voice actors are required for movie trailers and commercials, as well as video games, television shows, dubbed foreign language films, radio, and audiobooks, among many other fields. Each area comes with it's own challenges and rewards, which the film covers in great detail.

As someone who loves to do voices and comedic bits, this film felt extremely close to my heart. Voice acting seemed like a career that only a select few were chosen to do, and was completely unobtainable. After this film, I realized it was like any other Hollywood job, it required three main things: talent, determination, and luck. This film made voice acting real to me, not just something I wondered about after watching "Inside Out" or "Family Guy". Currently, I'm enrolled in a voice and narration class, which I became more inspired to truly learn about after watching "I Know That Voice". Hats off to John DiMaggio and the rest of the cast of this documentary, this one is a must see for anyone interested in the film and television business.

"Cry Baby" Drops Hard

Following closely on the heels of o
ther young female musicians like Lorde, Melanie Martinez first appeared on the scene in 2012 after she appeared on The Voice. While she didn’t win the show, she scored a deal with Atlantic Records took her song writing to the next level. Paired with hip-hop duo Kinetics & One Love, the writers of B.o.B.’s hit “Airplanes”, she has been working for the past few years on her debut album.

Thirteen days ago, “Cry Baby” was released. The album is dark, creepy, hard-hitting, and in some cases too real. Following the story of a character named Cry Baby, it explores an array of childhood themes with a dark adult twist. For example, the song “Mrs. Potato Head” takes a classic children’s toy and uses it as a metaphor to expose society’s conditioning of how young girls feel they should look and the desire for plastic surgery.

The trio of songwriters (with a few other co-writers on some of the tracks) is the perfect blend. Melanie brings the haunting melodies and a perspective on growing up that the mainstream media seems shy away from but is all too real. Jeremy Dussolliet (Kinetics) bring his expertise in lyricism as a rapper from Manhattan, and Tim Sommers (One Love) beautifully produces tracks to fit the songs that are strongly hip-hop influence and yet carry the dark childhood themes that pulls the whole album together.

Keep an ear out for Melanie Martinez; it wont be long before she hits the Top 40 charts, even as a 20 year old new artist. She brings dark themes to surface through music in a manner much like Bo Burnham, but in a hip-hop production style of Top 40 music. It almost seems like she’ll be the anti-Taylor Swift; relating to masses of young girls with the corniness stripped down to the honesty beneath that most people growing up in today’s society, young girls especially, can relate to.  Just wait. Like every cry baby that needs to grow up, Cry Baby will grow up to the top of the charts.

Entourage (The TV Show)

This past summer I finished watching Game of Thrones and moved my focus towards Entourage, the HBO series that follows movie star Vincent Chase and his group of friends. The show is loosely based off of executive producer Mark Wahlberg's life as a rising film star. As a movie star, Vince's life revolves around his friends Eric Murphy or "E", Johny "Drama" Chase (Vince's older and less talented brother), Turtle and Vince's agent, Ari Gold.

I can't get enough of this TV show, which is hard now that classes have started! Each episode runs for 30 minutes, and it makes a great show to binge-watch easily. Since I started watching it a few weeks ago, I've already finished the first half of season 3, which is a sad accomplishment now that I'm already halfway through the second part of the season.

Entourage brings forth two main themes throughout the series. The most prevalent and thus easily noticed are the heavy undertones of male friendship and machoness. Entourage boils down to a bro-tv show, of four friends and the endless fun that being rich in Hollywood brings you. Because of the high stakes of such a lifestyle, this bravado brings out the testosterone. Throughout the series, this can mainly be seen with Vince's agent, Ari Gold. Dealing with clients and studios often leads Ari to act...angrily...often his phone is thrown, or someone is yelled at, like Lloyd, oh poor Lloyd. The second theme, if we'll call it that, (probably more of a characteristic of the show) is the embracing and focus of the lifestyle of the rich and famous in Hollywood. There are scenes where we see Vince buys his friends $10,000 watches, Aston Martins (I don't even want to know the price) and countless other expenses that add up to an enormous credit card bill. The group frequents expensive restaurants, Rodeo Drive, flies in a helicopter and take private jets wherever they need to go. This all goes along with countless parties, clubs, drugs, and alcohol.

All-in-all Entourage is an excellent show that warrants a look for someone searching for a new series to watch.

What do you need?

It was the night of June 15th and I sat on the floor of my room surrounded by my camera gear, with two of my three bags packed. In two days I would be traveling to Ghana for two months of volunteer work. While my work had nothing to do with film or photography I was determined to produce at least one documentary and shoot photographs until my shutter fell out of my camera. It's rare you get an opportunity like this as a filmmaker. This wouldn't be such a complicated idea if it wasn't for the circumstances of my trip. Everything I needed for the two months would have to be able to fit on my person and walked indeterminable distances. This included camping gear (sleeping bag, mosquito net, etc.), clothes, medication and anything I would want to donate to the school I would be working at. If you've ever been backpacking you know exactly how detrimental overpacking can be.
So back to my floor. The last thing left to pack is the moderately sized camera bag in front of me. Designed to carry two lenses and a medium sized camera, I tried a variety of different combinations. Trying to fit as much as I could into the bag. In the beginning I refused to leave my prime lenses behind. It makes perfect sense. If I wanted the best possible footage I would need my best lenses. I couldn't get them to fit.
 Then I changed the question. What do I need versus what did I want to bring. Within 5 minutes I was packed. My final bag consisted of
  • Canon t2i
  • 17-55
  • 70-300
  • Zoom H4n Recorder
  • Batteries
  • Benro Aero 4 Tripod
  • 4 SD cards (assorted sizes)
  • NexToDi
With this combination I was able to shoot ultra wide as well as get anything in the distance. It gave me the greatest range and versatility with the lightest camera package. I would lose some quality without the primes but less quality is always better than missing the shot all together. I was able to travel anywhere with this package. I never had an incident where I wished I had brought something else with me and every situation was more than covered.
So my message is think of the difference between between need and want. You can make an amazing film with much less than you think.

Nightfire: Filming in Verona, Italy

While many of you may have either seen the trailer, or even the full film, Nightfire is probably a talking point you've heard about when hanging out in the Park School. I was lucky enough to travel to Verona, Italy this past January to work as the 1st Camera Assistant for this thesis film. It was a great opportunity to work on a professional run set with amazing actors, crew, and of course gear. Oh, how I miss that gear.

Now as demonstrated in the trailer above there were some quite intricate scenes that occurred throughout the film. From bike chase scenes to explosions, every day was an adventure to say the least. But you must know that this film wasn't made over night, well yes we constantly shot through the night, however, the production lasted 3 weeks and most days we worked for 16 hours with the occasional all nighter shoot. Well choreographed shots and blocking was the name of the game, because when explosions and special effects come into play there are only so many takes you get before you must move to the next shot.

(16mm ARRI Ultra Prime used with the Red Dragon.)

As 1st AC I was in charge of everything from making sure batteries were charged before we went on set(or right before the next big explosion), calibrating our DJI Ronin, even making sure the DP was out of bed in the morning. Now while I look back fondly on this trip, there were some serious road bumps we ran into across the way. 

(View from the watchtower located on the set of the military base.)

First off, the weather. We were filming in the middle of winter in northern Italy, seeing the Alps as we drove to set became a normal part of our day and it was a clear reminder of the winter cold. Not only did you have to bundle up before venturing to set, but we had to make sure the electronics would work properly. 
(Director of Photography, Garret Nicholson, preparing a shot on the Jib)

The entire film was shot on the Red Dragon which had quirks we constantly had to deal with. The first thing to know about Red cameras is that to have a clean image at higher ISOs you must perform what is called "Black shading". Black shading is the process of obtaining the functioning temperature of the Red. Typically this rests around a 45/65 split. There are two temperatures of the camera as you can see in the picture below.

To perform a black shade you will wrap the camera in a sound blanket or jacket, whatever is around really, and ensure that no light is getting to the sensor. It takes about 20 minutes but this will eliminate any grain obtained through high ISOs. However, after the one black shade is run, the camera needs to stay at that temperature of 65/45 (a few degrees off doesn't hurt). With the cold affecting the camera we would always have to have the Red otherwise the camera would drop below operating temp and the grain would trickle back into the shot.

Battery life was short lived and like most sets we needed a charging station. Sometimes it was a room indoors located on set, other times it was out of the back of a van or running off a generator.

(DJI Ronin)

Due to the calibration needed for the DJI Ronin's 3-axis gimbal we were forced to used RED volt batteries. To ensure smooth movement from the rig we had to have perfect balance and the larger batteries would not cut it. These RED volt bricks only last about 30 minutes when the weather is warm,  so when the cold was added it was cut down to 15 minutes at best. To keep the volts warm we resorted to holding onto batteries beneath our long johns and armpits. 

When using a tripod the larger Anton Bauer V-mount batteries were able to be used, but the majority of the film was shot on the Ronin so we had to troubleshoot this problem. When we were constantly running around I would carry the V-mount adapter. After we completed a shot we would set the Ronin on it's stand and plug the AC power adapter in and prepare for the next shot. This was a huge stressor of the trip, since the responsibility of battery master fell upon myself. However, having the AC power truly helped our situation.

Another issue we ran into was difficulties with the wireless follow focus. Due to the cold and issues with the receiver the follow focus would not deliver it's signal. We tried everyday to get the follow focus to work but still struggled to find the solution. In the end we had to just close our iris, cross our fingers, and keep our distance. The follow focus would have been an extreme help, especially for the long tracking shots the movie had. It just goes to show you never know what will happen on set, but you better be damn ready to work around anything that gets in your way. 

(Paul Wolter getting Wild)

Overall, I had the time of my life. Being able to travel across the world for film is something I want to continue to do for the rest of my life. I met amazing people, learned so much about the filmmaking process and how to become a better DP, and the wine made up for any sort of mishaps we had on set during the day. There is so much that I took away from this project but I'd have to write a book to do explain it all, so until then this will suffice. Until next time.

Pulp Fiction and the Power of Characters

Last week I had the not so fun experience of getting my wisdom teeth removed. Getting teeth ripped out of your mouth or drilled out in multiple pieces, as was the case with me, is a pretty awful time. Certainly not the way you want to spend the last week of summer break. But I had big plans for this week, plans that involved smoothies and movie binging, with Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction being at the top of my list. Many view this as one of Tarantino's top films and I was tired of the criminal look flashed my way when mentioned that I hadn't seen it. So I popped a few pain killers, pressed an ice pack to my cheek and settled onto the couch for this 2 hour 34 minute film.

A lengthy Tarantino movie is not unusual as most of his recent films are over 2 hours, sometimes pushing 3. I personally struggle at times sitting through long dragged out movies, but have never really had a problem with Tarantino. Both Django and Inglorious Bastards had a rich plot that carries the viewer through the experience, so I was unfazed by the long run time of Pulp Fiction.

The film draws you in quickly with it's strong dialogue and early action, bringing you into this dark and seedy world. Each seen brings a new circumstance that makes you question who's good and who's bad, what the consequences will be for each character and overall where is the plot heading? Every time I tried to convince myself that the story was leading to something big, it cut to something else, something new. It wasn't until around the 1 hour mark that I accepted the fact that plot was secondary in this film.

The thing that makes Pulp Fiction so captivating are the many personalities throughout. Each scene is pretty much used as a character piece giving the actor a spotlight to shine. Every character is so interesting and unique in their own way that as a viewer you stop thinking about the plot and more about the people. Tarantino doesn't diverge completely from formulaic story arcs as each little part of the film has a climax that is resolved before moving on to the next sequence. And things throughout the film are not actually in chronological order which is nowhere near as confusing as it sounds. Tarantino does a great job in navigating the viewer through by breaking up the different plots by titling each sequence change. For instance we see "The Golden Watch" flashed over black before jumping into Bruce Willis' story. Thanks to strong writing and direction all the actors in this piece were able to shine in this film.

What Tarantino has also done well in past is his ability to write and make a movie within a genre. A recent example is his most recent release, Django. In this film he was able to create a new and creative twist on the old school Spaghetti Westerns. With Pulp Fiction, Tarantino does a great job of creating a film that falls within the Pulp Noir genres. For those like me who didn't know what that means I looked it up. According to the internet, "Pulp noir locations are often seedy, run-down and degraded urban landscapes, where the lack of law, morals and even the proliferation of crime and drugs are common themes. Another common trend in pulp noir is the glorification and/or demonization of its urban locations." This definition almost perfectly represents the world created within the film. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino was able to create an all time great movie built on it's characters and setting.

Creativity and Originality in Film

I've been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be creative. Pre-production does that to you, apparently. Am I creative? Should I be more creative? Are there even levels to how creative somebody can get, or is it just like this big, overarching bubble of creativity that once you're in it, you're in it? Is creativity the same thing as originality? Does any of it even matter?

Those aren't rhetorical questions either. If someone has an answer, feel free to let me know.

You can find tons of articles online about how different writers and directors go about their personal creative processes (here's one that talks about how it took Chris Nolan 10 years to finish writing Inception, while Steven Soderbergh knocked out a script for Sex Lies and Videotape in 8 days - neither of which makes me feel particularly good about myself) but I've found very little about how to inspire creativity in yourself. There'll always be clickbait-esque pieces like this, suggesting different activities that might open your mind to new ways of thinking - thus bringing about creativity - but there's no tried and true formula. 

Because in the scheme of things, it's almost impossible to have a truly, never-before-thought-of idea. And that's kind of a bummer. It's an issue I've run into time and time again when working on scripts. Last year, I co-wrote a script about a washed-up TV star and had to listen to people go "oh, so you're making Bojack Horseman?" 

No. Dick.

But that's understandable. With so much media constantly getting thrown in our faces, it's impossible not to regurgitate some of that back out into our own work. It even happens to people who have already made it big, like the whole confrontation between Dane Cook and Louis CK - reenacted and dramatized in this clip from Louie - about how Dane might have, possibly, maybe, stolen a teensy bit of a joke from Louis. We all strive to make something that people think is "new" and "refreshing," but how do you do that when literally everything has already been done, one way or another?

The more time I spend writing, the less time I spend thinking about being original. After all, every story you tell - no matter who you are or where you're from - is going to have the same basic structure when you get down to the bones of it. There's no breaking away from that. And I don't know if that's awesome or horrible. Instead, I just focus on making something to the best of my ability, with characters that I find interesting and a plot that ties things all together, with the hope that it will all culminate in some tiny spec of originality. 

I guess I'm not really sure how to end this blog post, apart from giving what I - rightly or wrongly - assume to be the definition of being creative with a film. Creativity can't be quantitatively measured, despite what Cinemetrics seems to think. Films should make you feel something: whether it's happiness, love, fear, or anything in between. Shot lengths and camera settings and color palettes and every other "technical" aspect can be a part of this as well, as long as you play them to the overall effect that you're going for. You don't need to do anything groundbreaking. You don't need a 10 minute tracking shot (but oh man they're so cool). Emulate good films, take the techniques that you think will best help tell your story and use them.  In the end, as I've slowly learned, all you need is a camera, a story, and people willing to work their asses off to make something good. The rest will come. 

New Sons of Anarchy Spinoff Gives the Mayans Motorcycle Club the Spotlight

Kurt Sutter, the man behind The Shield and Sons of Anarchy, is in development for a Sons spinoff involving a rival gang, the Mayan Motorcycle club. The Mayans were heavily woven into the plot of the original series as rivals-turned-partners with the Sons gang, SAMCRO. By the end of the original show's finale, the Mayans and SAMCRO built a working relationship between the two gangs as business associates and partners in crime. This daring and smart move gives room for Sons stars to pop in and guest star from time to time. While Sutter has not released details on who will come back and when they will be featured, we know it we are guaranteed to see some familiar faces.

Emilio Rivera will return as the Mayan's president, Marcus Alvarez, but from there will be a lot of new faces in his gang. Unlike the Sons who obtained their income by selling black market guns, the Mayans create their profit from dealing heroine. I can only imagine what kind of trouble heroine distribution will get this gang into.

Sutter is looking to continue the success that Sons grew into over its seven season course. It became one of FX's most watched shows the station had ever produced, and it's looking to feed off of that growing fan base. I find it a smart move of the network to step away from SAMCRO and the gun business, in light of all the recent mass shootings. A gang with heroine will definitely stir up trouble and we can expect to see a lot of people dead at the end of each season, but the focus will be off illegal guns. So cheers to every Sons fan who is going through SAMCRO withdrawal, and is ready for some more good old fashion Southern California gang wars.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Music makes the musical... Or any film really...

One of the many things that gets reiterated time and time again at film school is this: "Please don't forget that audio is just as important as camera". This is something that I firmly believe can't be stated enough. Yes, we ARE going to hold for room tone. Yes, we ARE going to spend that much money on the proper composer.  It really does matter.  On our last project, "Before Your Eyes", we took these notions and really ran with them. Our score was as critical to the film as the camerawork (okay Skyler... fine... maybe not quite as critical...). The composer we worked with was out of the UK, his work can be found here and while I do get tired of the film, I never tired of listening to the music. That film had almost no dialogue and was largely motivated by the music, which was incorporated into a beautiful soundscape/design. One of the major criticisms that project received was actually a lack of dialogue. People felt really uncomfortable by the lack of it. To be honest, I'm still not certain if we overdid the lack of dialogue, some loved it, some hated it, but that's filmmaking. That project really hit home for me how music can speak just as effectively as dialogue.

Between a summer in NYC and my return to IC, I spent a quick weekend in my hometown in Western MA. While there, I was able to visit Tanglewood. You don't need to know much about this place, other than that it is a beautiful outdoor concert venue which also houses the Boston Symphony Orchestra during the summer months. I'm not usually one for what this venue puts forward, but the night I went was a night that is very near and dear to my heart: John Williams' Film Night at Tanglewood. To give you a sense of that. It is hours of John Williams conducting the BSO in not only his own music, but the music of other famous film composers. At some points they show films on the screen with the score omitted, so that portion can be played live.  This year the highlight in that sense was the opening scene from Star Trek Into Darkness:

If you haven't seen the entire film, I highly recommend it (J.J. Abrams is a genius). Regardless, this scene is incredible as a standalone scene, so give the 9 minutes a watch.  If you play as close attention to the score as I did on film night at Tanglewood, you'll see just how critical it is to the scene. The main theme that pops up near the end is this one here. It is unique and beautiful. That theme is as much the calling card to this rebooted franchise as Chris Pine or the tricked out Enterprise. If you have seen these movies and you hear this track, your mind goes there. Michael Giacchino did a brilliant job of repurposing the original Star Trek theme to something that is modern and gorgeous in its sound (and a sight better than this old clunker)

So where the hell am I going with this? Well now we are making a musical! Just as much as the last one, music is still key! This time it might be even more key! Not only is the music enforcing the plot, it is plot! Major things will be happening during musical numbers. This is one of the hugest differences between the films of freshmen and the films that come out of thesis, music.  If you haven't already done so, shop around for your composer, that person will help define your film.