Monday, February 29, 2016

Apples To Oranges: Tangerine's Interesting Use of Camera Equipment and Transgender Inclusiveness

As per recommendation by Walker, I watched the film 'Tangerine' to see a fresh narrative with transgender characters. From a plot line standpoint alone, I was amazed at seeing the film not only having central, rich transgender characters, but also seeing these characters played by transgender actors. We are quickly seeing more and more trans characters displayed on film (Transparent's Maura played by Jeffrey Tambor; The Danish Girl's Einar played by Eddie Redmayne) but the bigger question is: why aren't many of these productions employing transgender talent? Yes, there is Laverne Cox, who is currently at the forefront of popular culture, but as 'Tangerine' actress Mya Taylor said in her Spirit Awards acceptance speech (for which she was the first transgender actor to win a major film award) “There is transgender talent. There’s very beautiful transgender talent,” the 24-year-old actress said. “So you better get out there and put it in your next movie.".

So that leads me to one of the bigger questions I aim to answer in my documentary: what problems arise when cisgender actors are hired over transgender ones? If there is so much talent out there, why is Hollywood not employing them? On a further note: what are the benefits to being more inclusive in media? I'm not saying that Eddie Redmayne and Jeffrey Tambor aren't talented actors who have put their all into depicting their characters, but I do think that the lack of representation in film, tv, media, etc does have a negative impact on both social perceptions of transgender people and impacts on individuals who are trans or gender questioning viewing this media.

On an interesting production note, not only did Tangerine have talent that both worked in front of the camera and behind the scenes, but it was also completely shot on an iPhone. It just goes to show that you do not necessarily need fancy equipment to make a meaningful, amazing, and visually appealing production. The filmmakers go into greater depth at how they achieved a visually interesting film in the video below:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Oscar Predictions:

This Sunday marks the 88th Academy Awards. It's the time of year when everyone argues what film was the best of the previous year and why is should win/have been nominated. For this week's blog post I thought I would give my predictions for what should and what probably will win in a few categories at the Oscars this Sunday.
No they won't all be Mad Max, a lot will, but not all of them,


-Bridge of Spies
-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Big Short
-The Revenant
-The Martian

WILL WIN: The Revenant.  While for a while it looked like Spotlight has this one in the bag, it seems that Inarritu's film about Hugh Glass will triumph, making him the second person to win consecutive best picture trophies. 

SHOULD WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road. As the subject of an earlier blog post, Fury Road was a near perfect film in every aspect. It's high octane action, beautiful cinematography, and feminist message, Fury Road excels in every aspect of the craft of filmmaking. One may sight the hardships of the lead actor and the crew as reason to sight the film's deserving to win the award but it's important to not confuse good filmmaking with a good film. 


Leo and Brie Larson will take home the trophies for their respective categories.


-Mad Max: Fury Road
-The Revenant
-Big Short

Will Win: In all likelihood this one will go to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for The Revenant. Shooting chronologically using almost entirely natural lighting is certainly deserving of recognition. However there is a chance that George Miller will win this one for Fury Road. To make a two hour chaotic car chase work and be comprehensible makes Miller more than deserving to win this award. 
Should Win: Fury Road. See Above.


-Big Short
-Steve Jobs
-The Martian

Will Win/Should Win. 

It looks like this is Adam McKay's award to lose. Based off the novel of the same name surrounding the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Any film that makes a confusing event and makes everything that happened clear deserves the win.


-Hateful Eight
-Mad Max
-The Revenant

Will Win. It strongly looks like Lubezki will win for the third year in the row for The Revenant. Chock full of his signature tracking shots and shot using natural lighting, The Revenant is a gorgeous movie that will give Lubezki his well deserved third award.

Should Win: Fury Road. John Seale went against the typical ways of shooting a post apocalyptic and made his film explosively colorful instead of the usual grays that plague the genre. This causes the film to pop off the screen and make an already explosive film that much more impressive.

God Grew Tired of Us

I've been looking for examples of documentaries about refugees to get a better idea of how to structure a story for ours. I came across "God Grew Tired of Us," a 2006 documentary produced by Christopher Quinn that won Sundance's Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. The film follows three of Sudan's "lost boys," a group of displaced young men who fled the wars in Sudan in the 1980s and have been living as refugees in bordering countries ever since, as they move from Kenya to the United States. One of the most interesting parts of this film is the beginning. The filmmakers actually filmed them in their refugee camp and got scenes of the boys getting assigned to their new areas (two are going to Pittsburgh, one is going to Syracuse). It even shows them as they take their first plane ride (a highlight is when they're served airplane food and can't figure out what everything is).

The "lost boys" boarding a plane from Kenya to the United States. 
The film continues, and shows them getting acclimated to their new home. The lost boys learn about their new apartment and get introduced to amenities they've never seen before (flush toilets, showers, electricity). They are also shown around a grocery store and learn about common American foods (broccoli, hoagie buns, donuts). These scenes are comical but also very interesting. It's difficult for most people to imagine the conditions these people have lived in for most of their lives, and it's hard to illustrate that. However, in seeing their amazed reactions to things that have become so commonplace to us in America, the audience gets a better sense of where they come from and what things they've been deprived of in their life.

In their first trip to a grocery store, the "lost boys" are offered to sample a donut.
Without including direct interviews, it's also apparent through dirty glances on the street that many Americans aren't comfortable with the "lost boys" living in their community. This is more subtle and, in my opinion, more powerful than having a talking head interview with someone rattling off their xenophobic beliefs. The film is mostly talking heads, which I think is one of the main detractions. It does include a lot of footage of the main characters going about their daily lives — Working, shopping, eating, etc. It just combines these scenes with talking head interviews, which is effective but at times gets a bit boring to look at. If they had just asked them the interview questions while they were working, shopping, eating, etc, then I think the visuals would have been slightly more interesting. 

A typical (and poorly lit) talking head interview from "God Grew Tired of Us."
Another detraction is that the camerawork looks slightly amateur at times. As you can see in the screenshot above, interviews are often very badly lit. It was likely a challenge because the main characters are very dark skinned, but in a seated talking head interview with one subject, I don't think there's much of an excuse for poor lighting. The camerawork in other parts is smooth but uninteresting. You do get the sense that you're given a privileged view, being shown something you otherwise never would have, but the cinematography borders on almost home-video style with little composition. 

Overall, though, this film is a success due to the storyline it crafts. There's a clear beginning, middle, and end. It follows its main characters as they prepare to leave their refugee camp, take their first plane ride over, adjust to their new home, and build a life here. Dani and I would love to have similar scenes in our film, but I know much of that will be unattainable. For one thing, as of right now we can't travel to a refugee camp to film a group of people preparing to come to the United States. We'd love to, but budgets and time obviously wont allow it. We are also doing our best to try to meet refugees who are brand new in the country, as we'd like scenes of people adjusting to their new culture. However, the refugee organizations we're working with are understandably hesitant to introduce us to people who are brand new in the country. They have enough to worry about without having a camera shoved in their faces. It's possibly too lofty a goal for this semester, but Dani and I are both interested in continuing to work on the film after the semester is over. So, given enough time, perhaps the organizations we're working with will feel comfortable enough to introduce us to refugees who have just arrived in Buffalo. 

This film has given me ideas for things we can do in ours. To begin with, I'm thinking more about specific main characters we can follow. At the moment, Dani and I have a good problem: there are so many organizations and refugees in Buffalo that we have almost too many people to talk to. Though we don't have access to anyone who just got here, we do have access to people who have become leaders in the refugee community. I think we should pick two of them and follow them as they work with newcomers and discuss the issues new refugees face. Toward the end of "God Grew Tired of Us," one of the "lost boys" becomes a community leader and works to bring more refugees to Syracuse. I think we have characters who are similar, and I think this could be an interesting storyline that highlights the issues we'd like to address in our film. 

John Bul Dau, one of the main characters in "God Grew Tired of Us," discusses the conflict in Sudan and his life as a refugee. Bul Dau has become a community leader in Syracuse and is working to help bring more refugees over to the United States.
Though we can't follow many of the storylines "God Grew Tired of Us" does (though maybe one day!), I think this film sets an example for how to show issues facing newcomers to this country. Even though it's a bit heavy on talking heads, there are many issues that are shown rather than told to us, and I think that's the standard we should try to achieve moving forward. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Real Birds vs. CGI Birds

The Hollywood debate over whether to use real birds or CGI birds is a heated one.

Some people say they can tell the difference between real and CGI birds and some say they can't. Can you tell which of these pictures of birds is real and which is CGI?

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Which one is real? Exhibit A, or Exhibit B?

I asked my two roommates to see what they thought. One of my roommates guessed that the second picture was the real one and my other roommate said that he thought it was a trick question and that both pictures were real.

You might be as surprised as my roommates to find out that it was in fact a trick question, but the trick was that they were both CGI!

CGI birds are very convincing in Hollywood these days, but filmmakers have a history of staying away from CGI, especially CGI birds. One of the most famous examples of movies that used non-CGI birds was Hitchcock's The Birds (1963)

Hitchcock didn't know what he was getting into when he wrote the script for this movie, but with the help of his animal-trainer/friend Ray Berwick, he was able to pull it off. Hitchcock had planned to use machines in place of birds for shots but quickly realized that if he wanted his movie to look realistic he would need to use real birds.

One tactic he used to train his cast was to put them in giant cages the week leading up to filming and literally throw birds at them to get them used to it, meanwhile training the birds to do certain moves to get ready for filming.

Nowadays, we have the ability to use real birds but often use CGI because it looks so good and it's so hard to train a bird. Animated movies have still decided to abstain from using real life, practical birds in their movies. It makes sense from an aesthetic point of view but I can't help but imagine how much money they could save by using real birds at least some of the time.

Disgust Down By The Sea

In less than 11 months, "American Reflexxx" has accrued 1.5 million views on YouTube. The video, a social experiment by artists (and couple) Signe Pierce and Alli Coates, follows Pierce the night she strolled Myrtle Beach wearing just sky-high neon green heels, a micro mini-dress, and a chrome face mask. Against a backdrop of blinking amusement rides and technicolor souvenir shops, Pierce is spat at, verbally assaulted, tripped, hit on, laughed at, run away from, called a man, and pushed to the ground by total strangers-- all in less than an hour.

I first saw Pierce's work--as a self-proclaimed "reality artist"--on Instagram. In an onslaught of colors pulled from the Lisa Frank ads of yesteryear, she aims to question traditional notions of gender and sexuality and disrupt patriarchy, capitalism, homophobia, and other societal tendencies. "American Reflexxx," specifically, brings attention to the terrifying reality of transphobia and mob mentalities in the US.

The production is markedly low-budget, Coates recording with a single handheld camera and only editing the clip's speed. Both the editing, the theme, and the aesthetic of this video remind me of Harmony Korine's Spring Breakers, an homage to the gritty (but beautiful) reality of drug- and sex-dominated beach cultures.

"American Refluxxx" is uncomfortable to watch, and that's the point. By also being weirdly mesmerizing, Pierce manages to gets eyes on her works and--more importantly--minds on her various troublesome subject matters. And 1.5 millions minds realizing how tragic and warped the behavior in "American Refluxxx" is, is a start in the direction of positive change.

The Popularity Contest

The Oscars are coming up as most of us know. There are some amazing films nominated this year, especially documentaries. The Look of Silence is a disturbing look into mind of killers who took part in the Indonesian genocide, Winter On Fire follows the Ukrainian uprising day by day, and Cartel Land is a thrilling story about those who fight back against the cartel. 

All thrilling and important documentaries. Also nominated is Amy, a bio-doc on the singer who died at the age of 27. I must admit I have not seen it like I have the other documentaries but I hope this year does not go the same as 2014.

That year, the best documentary I have ever seen, The Act of Killing, was beat by a feel good show business doc, 20 Feet from Stardom. I could go on forever about how important of a film The Act of Killing was, both socially and artistically. It was the perfect documentary. But unfortunately, the Oscars are a popularity contest. It is likely Amy will win over the other films, but I hope it doesn't.

Art in the Caribbean

In researching St. Lucia, I decided to look at some of the art that originated on the island. Art shows not only the history of a place, but also how those living there see the space they occupy. Some notable artists I found include Llewellyn Xavier and Stanley Greaves.

Llewellyn Xavier's work reflects his interest in the environmentalism and conservation. He uses mainly recycled material in many of his works. His landscapes use watercolors to create an interest study in both the Caribbean landscape and modernism. His collage work dives into post-modernism, exploring recycled materials that engage the remnants of the industrial age. From his watercolor paintings, I'm interested to see how his images reflect St. Lucia.


Louis CK's Horace and Pete

     Louis CK is a busy guy. He's both an acclaimed stand up comic, who's the only comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden three nights in a row, but he also writes, directs, and edits a critically acclaimed tv show Louie. He hasn't stopped there. Instead Louie has put out another self created show called Horace and Pete.

    Horace and Pete is a pretty experimental project even for a creator whose show is often described as surreal. H&P is only available on Louie's website and are pay per view. The first episode runs 67 minutes and costs $5. Each remaining episode runs progressively 10 minutes shorter and costs $3. Stylistically the show is a strange set up for television in 2016. The set is plain and the lighting is flat and it's clearly a multicam but there are never any shot reverse shots, only different angles. This lack of cutting and this open set design makes the show feel more like a recorded play than an episode of television.
The show is about a bar in New York called Horace and Pete's which was founded 100 years ago by a Horace and operated in conjunction with his brother Pete. It has passed down for generations to the current Horace and Pete's, Horace portrayed by Louis CK and Pete portrayed by Steve Buscemi. 
The cast is filled with older comedy and drama stars: Alan Alda plays a curmudgeonly Uncle Pete, Steven Wright plays a bar patron, Edie Falco plays Horace's sister, and Jessica Lange as the dead Horace's old girlfriend. All the actors obviously have the entire script memorized and their are no cuts to help with lines or no close ups to convey emotion.
     Thematically the show is sort of an anti-Cheers. There is a surprising amount of topical discussion, in the first episode the bar patrons discuss Trump and the coming election and the Super Bowl. However this banter is the only place, if any, the jokes lie. Steve Buscemi's character is the only one that seems likable and he's having a mental breakdown. The family drama hinges on keeping with the old and going with the new and none of the characters seem to like each other very much. If Louie is a surrealist comedy, Horace and Pete is a tragic play.
     I wrote about Horace and Pete because it's something I'm trying to do with this thesis. I usually make comedies, between stand up and sketches that's what people know me for. I, like Louie, want to try something new and more realistic. But I'm not sure I like Horace and Pete. It's draining and gives me a sense of anxiety as all the characters fail to get along. Hopefully I can make a film that is emotional significant, yet not emotionally taxing.

Clowns Portrayed in Media

Clowns in current media have not been portrayed very nicely. In fact, the majority of clowns in movies and television have been down right terrifying. Why? Because it’s easy. It’s easy to take something perceived as innocent and friendly and turn it into a raging psychopathic killer.

“Coulrophobia” is the fear of clowns. Thanks to Merriam-Webster, we have a standardized definition for the red-nosed nemeses. And there’s a reason for why Merriam-Webster created a definition for this specific phobia. That reason being: too many scary clowns. Big Hollywood studios have spent decades defaming clowns and creating clown monsters for their own personal agenda. One could even argue that the big studios are conspiring against clowns, viewing them as a competitor of entertainment, and trying to manipulate the masses into fearing them (if one were insane).

But here’s a short list of clowns portrayed in media:

Let’s start with the obvious. 

We have Pennywise the Clown from IT. One can argue that Pennywise started the clown terror. But we cannot blame the studios for creating the horrid Pennywise. Prolific writer Stephan King is responsible for this powdered-face monster. It wasn’t until King’s novel IT was adapted into a film did the masses learn the terror of Pennywise. Through his menacing, clawed and fanged Pennywise the clown (played by Tim Curry), King created a truly frightening character. Pennywise shows up everywhere: sewer drains, showers, daydreams and nightmares.

Then we go on to other scary clowns.

The clown-zombie in Zombieland (2009). (Where the main character played by Jesse Eisenberg is already afraid of clowns prior to confronting the scary clown-zombie. Wonder why?)

Everything From Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988).

Captain Spaulding from House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Twisty from American Horror Story (2009)

All of these clowns are fucking terrifying. No doubt about that.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Okay, Jake, where are you going with this?” Well, I’m creating a character that is a clown in my film. And my film is by no means a horror film. It’s about a clown that is tired, washed up, and done with life. It’s a comedy set in the real world where the main character, Flex the Clown, must deal with real-life everyday problems.

But to really develop this character, and to get to the root of his consciousness, I need to understand that he is not be dealing with problems that a normal person would be dealing with. He lives in a world where clowns have an awful reputation – where people generally hate clowns. And living in a world where you’re generally hated and feared cannot be easy.

So, with this into consideration, I need to really understand my character. Why does he continue to be a clown? Why does he get up in the morning and continue to put on the clown suit? Even in a world where he doesn’t fit in? What really drives him and his passions? Thinking about these questions will add an entirely knew level to Flex – making him a complex human being but also extremely relatable. Because, it doesn’t matter who you are, everybody has felt the pain of being hated, excluded, and ostracized.

Tinseltown: Home of the Chatter Clatter

This post is not a joke

A couple days ago a friend of mine made a post about the advantages of using bird chatter over music in films. I thought there were some excellent points brought up, especially regarding the financial and legal costs that are involved in using music in a film. It seems like the advantages of using bird chatter completely outweigh that of using music. So this got me thinking, how come more people don't take this route? Well it turns out that there is a lot more that goes into using bird chatter than some would like to think.

I stumbled across an article a couple of days ago that talked about Hollywood's bad rap when it comes to using bird chatter, and it turns out that a lot of birders are disappointed with Hollywood's effort to use bird chatter properly.

Let me give an example: Lets say you are an avid birdwatcher. You love to explore wooded areas in search for birds, not only to watch them, but to hear them as well. So imagine you are watching a movie  about some murder case that happened in a small town in Minnesota. You are completely sucked in, almost as if you are in the movie yourself. But then out of nowhere while the protagonist detective is examining a body left in the woods, you hear the chatter of a California Towhee, a bird indigenous only to California and parts of Oregon.

To a hardcore birdwatcher, this would instantly ruin the mood for them. It would be almost as bad as seeing a boom mic enter the frame.

Kenn Kaufman

“In my experience, inaccuracy is the norm,” says bird guide author and Audubon magazine field editor Kenn Kaufman. “It’s typical and expected for films to have the wrong bird sounds in the background. Which is sort of bizarre when you consider how much birdsong lends to a sense of place. Even if you don’t know what the birds are, you still might associate the sounds with the place if you’ve been there.”

I find this funny because Hollywood spends millions of dollars to try and create realistic atmospheres and to avoid any continuity issues, and then they just brush over the tiny details like bird chatter thinking that no one will realize.

David Sibley, the author and illustrator of The Sibley Guide to Birds, a person that Tom and I personally reached out to for help, commented in this issue.

David Allen Sibley

Sibley: “One of my personal favorites is in one of the Indiana Jones movies. The opening scene in a steamy tropical jungle includes the sound of a displaying male Willow Ptarmigan [a bird of the Arctic tundra]. Another, like many other examples, was a movie set in the Colorado Rockies in winter that included Alder Flycatcher and Mourning Warbler singing, both extremely rare in Colorado at any season, absent from the US in winter, and I think the scene had them singing at night!”

It's apparent that Hollywood's mistakes haven't gone unnoticed and I think it is a great opportunity to learn from their mistakes and make sure to put the proper bird noises in our film.

Cartel Land

Unless you have been living under a rock, you probably know that the Oscars will air this Sunday. As a mixed girl and sociology minor, I want to boycott this major night on television (#OscarsSoWhite), yet the film student in me will probably win out and I can pretty much guarantee I'll be watching. 

This past week I was looking for inspiration for the documentary I'm working on in class, and decided I may as well check out one of the docs nominated for the Academy Award this year. Since I had heard about it around school, I decided to check out Cartel Land. As I sat in the hall between classes watching the film, my mouth continuously dropped in amazement. How did Matthew Heineman get access to all the characters in the film?? How in the world did he convince people to let him film at a meth lab?? How could he possibly have so many documentary appeals AND amazing cinematography???? After watching the documentary I felt simultaneously inspired and terrible; this is the type of documentary that seems nearly impossible to achieve, so why not give up now?

But alas, I am not a quitter. So, I took some notes and figured out how I could implement some of Heineman's techniques into my own film. One of the main aspects of the film that I felt could benefit my own was how he used the audio from news reports under his own footage. I was feeling very conflicted earlier that day, because I wanted to use news reports while editing, but I also felt like it was a cliché technique. However, I soon realized that just by simply pulling the visuals out and only using the audio, it gave a fresh feel to what I was trying to edit. 

After I finished watching Cartel Land, I decided that Heineman must be super-human and I needed to know his secrets. After reading through several interviews, I found exactly the inspiration I needed to make my thesis film. It turns out that Heineman is just a regular guy who had the patience to capture such an incredible story (he didn't even go to film school!). I realized that if he could make such an incredible film, then one day I can too. 

Now, to end this rant about the amazingness that is Cartel Land, I would like to share the biggest piece of inspiration I found while reading and watching Heineman's interviews, a quote by Albert Maysles: "If you end up with the story you started with, then you weren't listening along the way."

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Touch My Soul

Because we see all celebrities on television we sometimes tend to view them as objects and not human beings. And because we have all this technology, its so easy for us to rip all of these celebrities apart for every little thing that they do. But at the end of the day, these people are the ones that have touched our lives in some way shape or form. Whether we like them or not, we will always remember them for the art they have created, and the impact they made on us. For example, in 2005 the king of pop Michael Jackson was accused of sleeping with a 13 year old boy. And I guarantee that year, most people would immediately relate Michael Jackson to the horrible thing he may or may not have done, instead of his lasting impressions as an artist. On July 25th 2009, the day he died, we only remembered Jackson as the musician he was, as the king and creator of pop music. Overall what Im trying to say, as we all venture into our careers in media, we need to remember we are the sole impact for human connection and thought. If we like it or not, technology will exist for ever. Its inevitable. But because we are everyones news source, we need to keep in mind, whatever we make, post, or even just do, we are always touching somebody's soul.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Power of 'Love': A Visual Assault

The other day I opened my Netflix and found Gaspar Noe's mixed-reviewed film Love and, having heard the buzz regarding it's explicit depictions of sexuality that many question its merit as art, I knew I had to watch it.
The film follows the story of Murphy, a young 20-something American man that is self-indulgent to the core. While studying film in France, he meets a girl named Electra whom he dates for year before sleeping with another women, Omi, who becomes pregnant. The news ends the relationship between Murphy and Electra on a very devastating, intense note. Years later on a dreary day, Electra's mother calls Murphy to ask him if he has heard from Nora, because she has not and is worried given Nora's suicidal tendencies. The news causes Murphy to reminisce about their time together, time spend rich with shared drug use and sex.

The film is sensationalized for it's raw depictions of sex--which were unsimulated. Bordering between art and pornography, Noe manages to assault the senses with stunning visuals and, when it was shown at Cannes, its presentation in 3D. The effect is quite interesting, and leaves a "looking into a fishbowl" impression. Noé is so captivated by the idea of breaking the boundary between art and pornography that neither the story nor the sexuality "flows".  Some may be shocked by the hardcore scenes in Love, but there is barely any spontaneity or heat.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Advantages of Using Bird Chatter Instead of Musical Soundtracks in Movies

Hollywood producers are always looking to find new, innovative ways to create a hit movie. Some movie producers have gone as far as putting talking dogs into their films to try to make them successful, but many overlook the power of music.

One technique that a lot of Hollywood producers haven't tried yet is to use bird calls as the soundtrack of their movie.

There are many advantages to replacing the soundtrack of your movie with bird calls, but this short essay will detail a few of the most obvious ones:


According to David Bell, author of "Getting The Best Score For Your Film," a high budget feature film can cost up to $400,000 plus a $200,000 to $400,000 composer fee. That is an awful lot of money to spend on music.

When your movie is about a haunted house for example, it would make a lot of sense to invest money into bone-chilling and spooky music because that can play a big role in giving the audience they haunt they paid for, but for movies where music is less important, it might be smart to consider using bird calls to fill the dead air.

When dealing with a medium-budget film, you could decide to use bird calls instead of music and re-allocate your funds to another part of the production because you don't need to pay a bird for the music they produce.


Under U.S. law, in order to use a song in a movie you must acquire a Synchronization License from the publisher to use the song in synchronization with the video and a Master Use License from the record label to reproduce the song in your film.

The advantage of using bird chatter in your film instead of music is that you can circumvent the acquisition of these music licenses because birds won't sue you unless a human lawyer is representing them.

The chances of a human lawyer representing a bird in court are extremely low and there have been no known cases in the history of film of somebody being sued for using bird calls instead of music.


Other than scent, which is known to be the human sense most strongly linked with nostalgia, hearing might be the next. In terms of hearing, here is nothing more nostalgic than hearing a bird you remember from your childhood. That memory can be very therapeutic for people and very enjoyable for others. These emotions can add to the overall enjoyment of a film.

All in all, replacing your soundtrack with bird chatter should not be overlooked by mainstream Hollywood.

Hail, Caesar!

    This last spring I was lucky enough to sit in for a Q&A with Joel Coen. The Coen Brothers are one of my favorite directors and I reference them often in this blog. So when asked about his next project and Joel described a movie called Hail, Caesar! about George Clooney being abducted by a group of extras, I was thrilled. I finally saw Hail, Ceasar! last weekend on a Valentine's date with my Mom. I was not thrilled.

    So let's get this clear. The movie is not awful. It's not Battleship or some other Hasbro garbage. But is not a good movie for them and is one of my least favorites by them. I like the visuals, the jokes, and the acting. But there were some key story elements that did not happen. For example, there's a plot line that involves a dastardly act George Clooney's character did on his first Hollywood film. The act was revealed at the end of the movie in an offscreen conversation and written out quickly. Additionally a lot of the characters don't have purpose or a desire, other than create work for Josh Brolin's character Eddie Mannix.

                                                            Mannix is the protagonist of this twisty, seemingly meaningless comedy-drama. That description in itself shows how scattered the characters are. Huge stars like Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, and Scarlett Johansson pop in and out of the story with very little to do and loose ends that get tied up by a simple walk and talk with Eddie Mannix in the last five minutes.
The only actor who is given any other meaningful screen time is Alden Ehrenreich who gives a marvelous performance as country good ole boy Hobie Doyle. Hobie is a stud with horses but is brought into a adapted play directed by Ralph Fiennes' Lawrence Lawrence. The scene provides the only true moment of comedy of the whole film with an endearing Hobie and the artist Lawrence. 
     Now at the Q&A I learned about Hail, Caesar! before while it was shooting. This could be me only hearing what I wanted to hear but I could have sworn that Joel Coen said that Hail, Caesar! was going to be a musical.

     It fits with the current cut of the movie. There are large musical interludes with Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson, and Alden Ehrenreich and music and old Hollywood is a big theme. Additionally the explanation of major off screen plot points through dialogue would make sense if these were originally supposed to be shown in a musical number. Channing Tatum's character is given a full length musical number and then has no dialogue until what seems to be the climactic scene. And this climactic scene has absolutely no context. 

     I think Hail, Caesar! was supposed to be in a musical and somewhere in the production that was cut. What was left was a hodge podge of actors, characters, and story lines tied together by Eddie Mannix and Roger Deakins.

Broad City

Last night was the season three premiere of the Comedy Central show Broad City.
4 and 3 and 2 and 1 and

The show focuses on the lives of two best friends Abbi and Ilana, trying to make it work in NYC. Some might argue that the "two friends just trying to make it work in the city" is an overdone cliche for a show. (See Two Broke Girls, Girls, Garfunkel and Oates, etc.) However Broad City is far and above these other shows.  As mentioned earlier, the show Abbi and Ilana is their various madcap adventures throughout NYC. What makes the show to great is that it takes often mundane tasks and aspects of day to day life and heightens them to the extreme often resulting in very surreal situations.

For instance, take this episode where Abbi must retrieve a package she was supposed to get for her neighbor, however she misses the dropoff window and must go pick it up herself.
Many of the show's episodes follow this structure; Abbi and Ilana need to get something or somewhere and must resort to drastic measures to do so. As the link above shows, these tasks often spin wildly out of control. But even in these surreal adventures, there is a realness to the show. It's through these bizarre adventures that the mundaneness and annoyances of everyday life in NYC can be seen.

One personal aspect of the show that I love is how unabashedly queer it is. For instance, in another episode Ilana meets and hooks up with a girl. Instead of having her engaging in a same sex hookup be the punchline, the joke comes from the fact the the pair looks exactly alike. Instead of using its queerness in a masturbatory or self congratulatory manner, the queerness is just part of the show and it celebrates it without making a huge deal about it.
All in all Broad City is smart, witty, and well done show. Be sure to check it out.