Thursday, December 10, 2015

10 things I've learned from doing thesis

1. Write shorter scripts
2. If you're a control freak and you know this about yourself don't let someone else edit your movie
3. If you really want a certain shot, make your DP get it even if they don't want to
4. If your DP really wants a certain shot let your DP get it even if you don't want to (they are probably right)
5. Don't tell your DP he is right about anything until the movie is wrapped
6. If you're going to act and direct find an assistant director who can keep track of time and what hand you had the flowers in
7. If you're going to edit your own movie let someone who is better at it edit it with you
8. The semester you plan to take thesis make sure all your other classes have very understanding professors
9. I am very tired
10. If the acting is the same in both takes use the one where the person's hair looks better

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Berrics Push Editing Contest

There is a contest that was put on by a skate company called The Berrics. The contest, called the Push Edit, asked those participating to download some footage of skateboarding and re-edit the footage into a video. There were no directions besides this. Participants were allowed as much creative freedom that they wanted.

I've been working with action sports filmmaking since I was in the 8th grade. I've done both snowboarding and BMX bikes, but never skateboarding. However these different types of action sports for the most part had a pretty straight forward recipe. This involved weaving lifestyle shots with scenes of tricks being performed. The focus of the film was on the tricks, as these represent the most interesting thing in an edit. Here's an example of one of my short edits that I made two years ago: 

Reverse Apathy from Wendell Frink on Vimeo.

To me, this is the way to go with action sports videos. It gives a nice combination of lifestyle and trick shots, with a majority of the clips being of tricks. With the Push Edit contest, many contestants entered in their films but emphasized lifestyle shots in slow motion, heavily edited trick shots, or had more lifestyle shots than trick shots. This really took away from the part that mattered: the skaters performing their tricks. Here are several examples:

The Berrics Push Edit Submission from Andrej Bucalo on Vimeo.

Now I'm not knocking these individual's ability to edit, just commenting on the fact that these videos are emphasizing the wrong parts of the video which make it difficult to follow and less like a skate film.

The Beauty of Sisters and Trying Something New

On December 18th, the movie Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hits theaters, the same day Star Wars is released. It's a pretty bold move to try to follow Show Off- er I mean Star Wars but this movie has already shown itself to be one that's not afraid to try something new.

According to the Sisters' website the movie is about "two disconnected sisters summoned home to clean out their childhood bedroom before their parents sell the family house. Looking to recapture their glory days, they throw one final high-school-style party for their classmates, which turns into the cathartic rager that a bunch of ground-down adults really need." However this time around it's not Poehler who's playing the instigator of these bad acts. While usually the one to play the good to do responsible adult, Fey now takes on the role of Maura, the wild child of the two sisters who has never really grown up; Poehler plays her foil, Kate, a responsible recent divorcee who needs to learn to spice up her life. It's a new territory for both actresses, most noticeably Fey who from 30 Rock to Admission to Baby Mama has more or less played the same fuddy duddy adult nerd. Watching her in this role might at first be uncomfortable for audiences but important for Fey's development as an actress. Interestingly enough it's her co-star, Poehler, who has been quoted as saying "great people try things before they are ready" advice I took to heart when deciding to take on the huge project that was and is Show Off.

I think this project will introduce both Fey and Poehler as new types of characters to audiences in America and probably for the better. Women, specifically in comedy, are often pigeonholed into roles audience's have decided they feel comfortable digesting. But awesome ladies like Fey and Poehler are changing that standard and making it a little easier for the rest of us to follow suit!

The Art of the Single Take

When Birdman was released last year, the art of the "single take film" was brought back into the spotlight. Alfred Hitchcock was (of course) the pioneer for this technique, with his 1948 release of his film Rope. Birdman was also shot in a similar manner, but took advantage of digital masking techniques in addition to using natural transitions. There is an absolutely incredible video describing every cut here:

When I heard about Victoria, a German film that also was done with one take, I knew I had to see it. First going into Birdman, I had little idea what to look for as I'd never seen anything of the like. Going into Victoria, however, I was prepared with my newfound eye for match cutting and transitions. I loved the film, and I walked out not only satisfied with an amazing story, but also knowing that I had identified several of the cuts that they had used.

When I was researching it afterward, however, I found out that they used NO CUTS. That's right, one hundred percent done in one take. It only took them 3 attempts to make an entire movie using mostly natural lighting and their few locations. Knowing now it now makes sense why the story seemed to drag at points - there was no way that improved dialogue would have the pacing expected of a feature script.

Absolutely amazing job, I highly recommend you see this film when it is released.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Scream Queens is a Hoot

Scream Queens might just be the surprise of the television season. Well, maybe not surprise, if you read reviews of the pilot season beforehand. I claim it is a surprise because it is so much more than the trailers suggest and definitely better than the way it was advertised. Set in a college sorority, these rich, stuck up girls are a story that's already been told. Emma Roberts' character Chanel Overlin, the queen bee, is the cruelest of them all yet she still maintains a ring of minions around her. Nothing new there. Even a killer who is on the loose on campus isn't what makes this show different. What really stands out about this show is the humor and the way it doesn't take itself too seriously. Everything is over dramatized and has a highly satirical, cartoonish tone. Creator of the Scream Queens, Ryan Murphy, explains the differences between this show and his other thriller American Horror Story. AHS tells a more serious story which is darker and sexualized. Scream Queens remains lighter and frequently laughable.

Not to mention Scream Queens is the voice of our modern college generation. Even though the dialogue may seem over the top at times, I can guarantee whatever you've heard on this show, you've probably heard a friend say. When they are not running from the killer, they talk about the same things you would find most college aged kids talk about. They do not try and dumb these characters down, but instead they reflect an inflated version of young adults today. In the pilot episode, superstar Ariana Grande guest plays a sorority girl who is murdered in her bedroom. Grande is not only texting the murderer as she stands in front of him, but then proceeds to live-tweet her death as it's happening. The laughable moments like that reflect who we are as a society and we can only choose to laugh at ourselves.

Overall, my goal is to spread the word on this comedy thriller and to urge at least the college aged demographic to check it out. With a star studded cast, it's impossible not to love. The actors and actresses we watched make a fool of themselves on Nick and Disney many years ago are now real actors who put on a great show. And if you weren't a fan of Jamie Lee Curtis beforehand, you will be.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Room" and Directing Child Actors

If you haven't seen Room, you should stop reading this blog post, turn off your computer, drive down to Cinemapolis, and see Room. Here, I found the showtimes for you. Oh look, it's playing at 9 tonight, why not head down, grab a big bucket of popcorn, and cry your damn eyes out for two hours?

If you've never even heard of Room, here's what you need to know: it's about Ma (Brie Larson) and her five-year old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who have been held captive my a man only referred to as "Old Nick" for the past seven years. All that they have, their entire life, is now currently contained in the confines of one single room. A fridge, a stove, a bed, a wardrobe, a TV. The film is nothing to write home about, technically speaking, but it presents a scarily convincing, character driven story that focuses on the relationship between a mother and a son and how your environment can shape your entire world view. Plus the acting is phenomenal.

Let's talk about that acting for a second - specifically, Jacob Tremblay, who was only 8 years old when the movie was filmed and for all intents and purposes deserves to be nominated for best lead actor in every single awards show there is. He was that good. Sometimes, it can be hard for child actors to play a convincing enough version of a normal child, and we tend to let this slide. It almost feels like a given, at least among viewers, that kids can't really act. I've personally run into this problem a few times; the first was when we shot that godawful "Kitchen Council" last year, and again when we needed to bring in not one, but two child actors for "Syndicated." Unless you're really good with kids and know exactly what to tell them to get a point across, they can be a nightmare to work with.

Which is why it's impressive that Tremblay - again, only eight years old - was able to perfectly capture the essence of a kid who's spent his whole life in one single 14''X14'' room. He goes toe to toe with Brie Larson (who, don't even get me started, is phenomenal in everything she does) and steals every single scene that he's in. Which is almost all of them. This nuanced, beautiful performance, all coming from someone whose response to the question "what made it (the wig that Tremblay had to wear for most of the film) so bad?" is "I didn't like it. I looked like a girl."

A good portion of getting great performances from children, however, comes with the directing. There were a few really interesting tidbits that I took away from this interview with Lenny Abrahamson, the director, many of which seem like they could be useful if I ever have to work with kids again. For starters, they didn't introduce Tremblay and Larson until right before the shoot (they casted Tremblay at the last minute, since kids change so rapidly), and even then, they started things naturally: the two would play legos and hang out in the actual Room set for long chunks of time before they would film. It was in large part thanks to this relationship that the two were able to have such great chemistry in the film.