film

5 Lessons Hollywood Learned from Bollywood

In terms of sheer numbers, Bollywood (a portmanteau of Hollywood and Bombay) is as big if not bigger as Hollywood. Based in the city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Bollywood isn’t just the largest industry in Indian cinema, it’s the largest film industry in the world, in terms of film production as of 2017.

This fascinating culture of dance, drama, and traditional values have given us iconic scenes of colorful weddings, dance parties in the middle of streets, and sweeping love stories. Bollywood has come to influence Hollywood and other film industries in multiple genres, but none more than musicals.

Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge was directly inspired by Bollywood musicals. If you watch it again you will see a mix of cultures and dance, incorporating Bollywood styles and even including the song “Chamma Chamma” from Bollywood film China Gate (1998). The success of Moulin Rouge ushered in a new wave of Hollywood movie musicals, including Chicago, The Producers, Rent, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Across the Universe, Disney’s Enchanted, and Mamma Mia.

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Here are some other tropes of Bollywood that have become more prominent in the recent musicals made by Hollywood:

Catchy music in the form of song-and-dance epic numbers

“Razzle Dazzle” in Chicago. “Dancing Queen” in Mamma Mia. “That’s How You Know’ in Enchanted. The mise-en-scene is shot with a wide-angle lens like in musical numbers found in many Bollywood sequences, where the camera shoots as if on the stage and more directly brings the audience into the choreography itself. It has become a hallmark fo the new wave of Hollywood musicals.

Epic fight scenes

Bollywood films aren’t afraid to take themselves too seriously. Often shot with a comedic sensibility, fight scenes between heroes, villains, and anti-heroes alike can take on exaggerated proportions. Hollywood translated this element with expanded nuances and artistry to their fight scenes. Kill Bill is a perfect example of a hero fighting dozens of bad guys at the same time, by herself, driven by a single objective of revenge. And, of course, seasoned with bits of humor. Directed by film buff Quentin Tarantino, the scene takes direct inspiration from the Hindi film Abhay (2001).

Love triangles

Love triangles have been around pretty much since the dawn of storytelling, but Bollywood has made it a part of its DNA and revels in the over-the-top emotive tropes of love, passion, jealousy, and betrayal. Perhaps in response to this, love triangles had a resurgence in the romantic comedies of the 1990s and early 2000s.

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Melodrama

For many Bollywood films, everything is done 110%, from the stunts to the drama. Melodrama is as common in Bollywood films as it is in American soap operas and Mexican telenovelas. With Peak TV and an influx of new content from Netflix, Hulu, and other new media providers, every genre under the sun is available. Melodrama is included with this, especially for younger audiences on networks like Freeform and The CW,

Convenient coincidences

Just as melodrama plays up the emotions of a film, many Bollywood films aren’t afraid to play up their story, allowing themselves to indulge in broad plot devices like divine intervention and over-the-top, convenient coincidences. While these films ask for an even greater suspension of disbelief than most Hollywood films, Bollywood has shown that audiences are willing to indulge in the illusion in order to escape and be entertained. Hollywood films, from increasingly outrageous Marvel movies to the more directly-inspired Slumdog Millionaire, where each question in the title gameshow leads to even more over-the-top coincidence, have started to learn this as well.

If you’re interesting in filmmaking and want to learn some pointers from the largest film industry in the world, this weekend might be a great time to select the Bollywood category on your Netflix!

6 Tips For Building Your Film Portfolio

Even with all the connections in the world, and the most expensive camera money can buy, you probably won’t go too far in the film industry without a great body of work. Your portfolio is arguably the most important asset you have, and in order to gain the attention of the people you want to meet and work with, your portfolio must be relevant and meaningful.

How do you build this portfolio? If you’re struggling on how to get your portfolio in motion, here’s six useful tips for getting started:

Stay Active in School

As a film student, it can be easy to get caught up in exciting plans for the future (or even the weekend), but you should keep in mind that the school projects you’re currently working on aren’t just for a grade – they are your time to build a portfolio.

Your time in film school, while it can sometimes seem neverending, is perhaps one of the few times in your entire career where you sit down and entirely focus on YOU. Not your clients, your boss, your producer – no, you are focusing entirely on self-improvement during film school. Taking advantage of this time and taking it seriously will be the biggest way to get a jumpstart on your portfolio.

Get ahead in school and make the most of it by:

  • Quit procrastinating and get started early. Act like you’re getting paid to work on every project.
  • Stay humble and assume your work needs improvement whenever possible.
  • Ask instructors lots of questions and don’t be afraid to bug them.
  • Volunteer to assist other classmates with shoots and edits.
  • Ask for feedback on your work from classmates and instructors.
  • Attend extracurricular workshops and events whenever possible.

Search the closest job boards and attend school functions to connect with your most experienced teachers or fellow students. Initiating relationships with these people will provide you with a valuable network of directors, editors, and actors. Your network will follow you when you graduate.

YouTube

Start a YouTube Series

When you’re competing for gigs in the film industry, it’s highly advantageous to showcase a multifaceted skill set. Soon after graduation, challenge yourself to write, produce, and direct an original series. Execute the entire process from inception to final product to marketing it.

Regardless of the success, completing this project will give you real world experience creating and producing a project from end to end. It will also send the message to potential hiring producers that you have the work ethic and diligence to finish what you started. Many people coming out of film school have never put together their own project or have what it takes to see something through outside of film school. Don’t get too caught up in view counts or trying to launch the next Stranger Things, the key is that having the ability to show that you can produce a whole series will speak volumes.

IMDb Pro

IMDb pro is a useful resource for obtaining the contact information of nearly anyone in the film industry. There is a monthly membership fee, but you will benefit greatly from being able to reach thousands of producers, directors, editors, and crew. The service provides filmographies and credits for millions of titles along with access to in-development projects not listed on IMDb. Many of these features will gain importance as you progress in your career and must evaluate track records, cast relationships, and search for casting alternatives.   

When you’re first developing your portfolio, you should use this tool to contact people you’re interested in working with. Get creative on how you can become a part of their network and give them a call. Rather than spam the entire catalogue, do your homework on the person you’re contacting and know the right time to make your move. Lead with your strengths and learn to project confidence rather than desperation. If you are genuine and effective, doors will open.

Start In Commercial Work

Every artist would like full-time film work, but sometimes things don’t line up immediately. Commercial & corporate video work can help keep you active in the general video production industry. Apply for corporate video jobs or offer services to business owners in your personal network to make web videos, commercials, marketing content, and other videos they might need. Even if you make a few thousand dollars, it’s money that can be used to refine your portfolio even further. You can pull shots from these videos that look more film-like to build your overall demo reel and they’ll never know it was a small business video.

48 Hour Film Project

The 48 Hour Film Project is a multi-city contest in which teams of participants draw a genre from a hat and then write, shoot, and edit a movie in 48 hours. Teams have full control over plots except for a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film. The award for Best Film and a cash prize is awarded to entries that demonstrate artistic merit, technical merit, and adherence to the assignment. Films are then premiered at a local theatre for friends and family.

An event like this is a fun way to add a completed project to your portfolio. Additionally, if you produce a good piece, there’s always a chance you could win. Contestants have gone on to have success in other film festivals and others used recognition of their film to get paying work. Film Festivals are also great vehicles for making connections with people in your craft, particularly those who have an interest in your preferred genre. Make the most of the platform these organizations provide in order to get new people talking about your work.

Photo Editing Photoshop Lightroom

Produce Music Videos

Music videos are one of the more fun ways to bring good work to your portfolio. There is constant demand for this service from young people who are rappers, singers, or in bands. Building a network of music artists is considerably easy to do via Twitter or Instagram. As you acquire more paying clients, shooting music videos can turn into a solid source of money for new equipment. It is actually much easier to get funding for these videos than a short film.

Creating videos for music artists allows you to explore creatively and will add things to your portfolio that commercial work won’t. Try to find artists who are looking to incorporate elements of film to their videos. While music videos are generally 2-3 minutes long, they usually welcome obscure or artistic concepts. It’s the perfect chance to showcase precise visual storytelling, and to capture a few extra shots for your demo reel.  

 

Article by Mike Clum.

Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 16 full-time video production professionals.

 

Forgotten Best Pictures: 6 Oscar-Winning Films You’ve Never Heard Of

How many films can you name that won the Academy Award for Best Picture? Probably quite a few, if you think hard enough, but could you name most of them? Or even half of them?

Among the ninety films that won the Best Picture Oscar, many have been forgotten by modern movie audiences, even if being the toast of Hollywood for one glorious night, or even several years after before fading from cultural memory. Here’s just a few:

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)

Directed by F.W. Murnau, this movie won Best Unique and Artistic Picture at the first ever Academy Awards in 1929 (Wings won for Outstanding Picture; both categories were replaced by the modern Best Picture category.) It also helped Janet Gaynor, who later played the lead in A Star is Born (1937), win the first ever Best Actress Oscar. If you’re curious to see cinema history, the film is available to watch on YouTube in its entirety.

Cimarron (1931)

Starring Academy Award-nominees Richard Dix and Irene Dunne, this pre-code western was RKO studios most expensive project up to that date. In addition to Best Picture, the film took home two more Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay (for Howard Estabrook who later adapted David Copperfield in 1935) and Best Art Direction (for Max Rée who later worked on John Ford’s Stagecoach.)

Grand Hotel (1932)

Adapted from a Broadway play by by William A. Drake, this lavish romantic drama was Hollywood’s biggest film of the year and one of the first production to bring together an ensemble of several A-list actors — in this case, Greta Garbo, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, and Joan Crawford! It was remade twice in the first two decades after its release, and screenwriting juggernaut William Goldman tried unsuccessfully to adapt it in the 1970s. To date, it is the only film to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture without being nominated in any other category.

Cavalcade (1934)

In addition to Best Picture, Cavalcade won Best Director for Frank Lloyd and Best Art Direction for William S. Darling at the Academy Awards. Diana Wynyard was nominated for Best Actress but lost out to up-and-coming star Katherine Hepburn. The epic drama depicted the life and times of English citizens in the first quarter of the 20th century as the world transitioned into a more modern society. In 2002, Cavalcade was preserved by the Academy Film Archive.

The Life of Emile Zola (1937)

The second biopic to win Best Picture was The Life of Emile Zola, the 19th-century French novelist who penned J’Accuse in response to the imprisonment of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. The film received ten Academy Award nominations, winning Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Joseph Schildkraut, who portrayed Dreyfus. The lead role of Zola was played by Paul Muni, who had already won the Oscar for playing Louis Pasteur a year prior.

The Lost Weekend (1945)

The Lost Weekend is probably not the first film that comes to mind when people think of Hollywood legend Billy Wilder. Nonetheless, the film was nominated for seven Oscars and won four: Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director and Best Screenplay for Wilder, who shared the latter with co-writer Charles Brackett. These were the first two Academy Awards Wilder won, but not his last. The film noir also shared the Grand Prix at the first Cannes Film Festival.

Asian Representation in Film: The Impact of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

With box office hit and the critically well-received 2018 romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood has come a long way since Asian and Asian American stereotype characters like Long Duk Dong in 1984’s Sixteen Candles, or, even worse, dated, racist portrayals like that of Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Prior to Crazy Rich Asians, it had been 25 years since the world saw a predominantly Asian cast in a big-budget Hollywood — with 1993’s The Joy Luck Club — that isn’t about martial arts, nerds, or a period piece with subtitles. Rather, Crazy Rich Asians is a moving, funny, beautifully shot romantic comedy showcasing a modern Asian diaspora who speak English as their primary language.

According to the most recent report by the United Nations, Asians represent close to 60% of the world’s population, while a separate report conducted by USC Annenberg in 2017 revealed that out of 1,100 popular films, 70.7% of the characters were Caucasian and only 6.3% were of Asian descent.

With this significant imbalance, movie audiences have had very limited exposure on the big screen to the diversity they most likely see in everyday life, as well as alienating Asian viewers and doing nothing for preconceived, problematic notions of Asians as the funny sidekick, the kung-fu master, the chopstick-yielding exchange student, and every other broad stereotype that has played out in film.

Beyond the predictable and limited examples of Asians depicted in mainstream film, Hollywood also ostracized Asian actors through its tendency to whitewash films by casting Caucasian actors in Asian roles — something that Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, the novel that was adapted into the 2018 film — was no stranger to.

When talking to The Guardian about the buzz circling around his book and being approached for movie deals, Kwan mentioned a particular, prominent producer who told him he’d be interested if they changed the protagonist, Rachel Chu (played by Fresh off the Boat’s Constance Wu) into a white character. “I think it was a request born out of sheer ignorance about the project, and it was a very … kneejerk reaction that was indicative of how Hollywood saw its industry, how they felt movies needed to be made, and how they felt a movie with all Asians would just never work,” he said.

Sticking to his guns, Kwan eventually teamed with Chinese American director Jon M. Chu, who shared his belief in the importance and necessity of Asian representation in the film adaptation. Chu was originally offered a healthy sum of money from Netflix (exceeding that of Warner Brothers’ which went on to produce the film) but turned it down. Justifying the decision to do so, he told NBC Nightly News, “we knew the importance of the project was to get it on the big screen — there’s a sign there that says ‘we are worth that energy, we are worth your time’ — for a big Hollywood studio to send that message, we knew was an important message to send the world.”

For many, that message was heard. Beyond the actors in Crazy Rich Asians being diverse in more ways than one, they also portray a deep humanity of the characters through their individual hopes, dreams, relationship problems, and longing for love and acceptance, creating a more fleshed out and truer representation of Asians in the real world.

Continuing to break box office records with a global total of $236 million, Crazy Rich Asians is now the highest-grossing romantic comedy in the last decade. The message Chu refers to has been received with open arms; and with that, comes open doors, open minds, and hopefully, many more diverse and stereotype-free films from the entertainment industry.

2019 Academy Awards: Best Cinematography Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Achievement in Cinematography:

Cold War, Lukasz Zal

Polish director of photography Lukasz Zal was previously nominated by the Academy for Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, which he co-shot with Ryszard Lenczewski. Both Ida and Cold War showcase Zal’s immense talent with black and white photography. He has shot mostly documentary shorts and a few short films, making the nominations for two of his only features that much more notable.

The Favourite, Robbie Ryan

This is the first Oscar nomination for Irish cinematographer Robbie Ryan. He has shot previously for director Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank, American Honey) and Stephen Frears (Philomena). In total, Ryan has been director of photography for over 80 features, shorts, commercials, and music videos, including the films Wuthering Heights, The Last Days on Mars, and Slow West.


Never Look Away, Caleb Deschanel

Caleb Deschanel is a veteran director of photography who has shot such Hollywood films as Being There, The Right Stuff, The Natural, National Treasure, The Passion of the Christ, and Jack Reacher. This is Deschanel’s sixth Oscar nomination for cinematography; among others, he was nominated for Fly Away Home and The Patriot. His next film will be Disney’s live action remake of The Lion King.

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

In addition to writing and directing Best Picture nominee Roma, Alfonso Cuarón also shot the semi-autobiographical film, a rare distinction for Hollywood directors. Roma was filmed in black-and-white on an Arriflex Alexa 65 digital camera, giving it a stark, unique look that has been near-universally praised. Other cinematography credits for Cuarón include several short films in the 1980s, as well as the television series Hora Marcada. While typically Cuarón delegates the role to other talented directors of photography such as Academy Award-winner Emmanuel Lubezki, this is his first credit as a cinematographer in nearly three decades.

A Star Is Born, Matthew Libatique

Matthew Libatique is a Queens-born Filipino American cinematographer who has previously worked with directors such as Spike Lee, Jon Favreau, and Darren Aronofsky, and was previously nominated for an Oscar for shooting Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Libatique was director of photography for the first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Iron Man, and is currently working on the latest DCEU and Harley Quinn film, Birds of Prey. His other cinematography credits include Requiem for a Dream, Gothika, Everything Is Illuminated, Inside Man, Straight Outta Compton, and Venom, among many others.

 

Check out the New York Film Academy Blog after this year’s ceremony for a full list of the 2019 Oscar winners and losers!

Filming for a Movie vs. Filming for a TV Show: What You Should Know

The entertainment industry continues to grow at a rapid pace — according to Stephen Follows, a data researcher in the film industry, more than 700 films were released across the U.S. in 2016 alone. What is even more surprising is that the number that Follows reported doesn’t even include film festivals, private screenings, and other types of showcases such as broadcasts of opera or theatre productions.

And even while the number of films keeps growing, the amount of original television content continues to peak. In an article published by Variety, writer Maureen Ryan wrote that there were more than 450 scripted original programs released in 2016.

Don’t expect the expansion of movies and television shows to slow down any time soon. The entertainment industry continues to dominate a complicated, turbulent world. But when it comes to creating these stories, what are the differences between filming for a movie and television show?

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Storytelling

Most television series are created with the idea that the show will be around for an extended amount of time. Typically, writers intend for each episode to have a small story arc that often ties in with a larger story arc told over the course of a season or more.

This added amount of time allows writers to develop characters that are more in-depth and have greater dimension. Additionally, there can be a much larger cast over the course of a series because of the time afforded for an audience to get to know them. Tension can be ratched up between characters and other story elements much more slowly than in a feature film as well.

Budget

A budget for a movie is usually bigger than a budget for a television series. In Hollywood, more money can mean more and stronger special effects, more high-profile talent in front of and behind the camera, and more diverse and exciting locations to film on.

Besides a few notable exceptions, television series don’t normally have the same type of budgets that movies do. This forces directors, producers, and screenwriters to be more creative with the storyline and character development, as well as scale back the effects and scope of their projects. This is a good reason why Wonder Woman and Spider-Man may have giant CGI supervillains while Daredevil and Luke Cage will fight mostly fairly straightforward stunt actors.

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Audience Experience

Viewing a film in a theater can be a very different experience than watching one from your couch at home. Television series, outside of events like Comic Con, are almost never seen in such a way. Scaling your story so that it can work on a screen as tiny as the smallest smartphone then is an important thing to consider when producing a television series as opposed to a movie.

Additionally, when it comes theatrical releases, viewers don’t have the same time commitment they may give to a television series. Shows give the audience flexibility in a way a movie can’t — you can pause the television show whenever you want, and or resume it at another time. Viewers may binge watch an entire series in one weekend, or take months or even years to get through the entire story. In a theater, an audience is more-or-less committed to sitting through and experiencing the whole thing in one sitting.

This is important when considering certain plot and narrative elements. If you’re worried certain story choices may scare off your viewers, you might want to make sure you pace these moves in a smart way in a television series. If it’s in a film, you may get away with it for the whole two hours!

These are just a few key differences between longform and shortform cinematic storytelling. And, of course, movies and television series (especially these days) also share many similarities. If you’re interested in learning the craft of filmmaking for either, or both, of these mediums, check out the programs offered by the New York Film Academy today!

When is it Right to Expand Your Documentary to a Docuseries?

There’s no denying the growth in popularity of documentaries in the last 20 years. From Morgan Spurlock’s fast food adventures in 2004’s Super Size Me to the focus on SeaWorld’s controversial orca in Blackfish nearly a decade later, documentaries have been making a difference as more people show interest in factual and not just fictional stories.

Docuseries, however, have shown the greatest surge of late, almost entirely due to the rise of streaming services like Netflix and the expansion of HBO’s original content output. Audiences have a better ability than ever before to watch what they want when they want — the perfect platform for episodic content.

If you’re entertaining the idea of expanding your documentary to a docuseries, consider the following to help you decide if it’s the right (or wrong) move for your project:

Netflix

You have something truly unique

Perhaps one of the best ways to gauge if your documentary would be more effective if expanded into a docuseries is by asking yourself one question — is your subject fresh and exciting?

Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President of A&E, shared an interesting nugget of information concerning how vibrant and competitive the docuseries market has become: “In the world of the DVR and trying to be Netflix-and-streamer-proof, it’s the subjects that people haven’t seen before that feel the hottest,” she said during a talk with realscreen.

Additionally, your access to the story should be unique. Whether that comes through your own personal drive and good research (see below) or a natural, personal connection to a subject, your documentary should be one that only you can tell. It is this unique angle that will make your story fresh and interesting to an audience looking for something new.

You have a story you really care about

If you’re putting in the effort into making a film, be it documentary or narrative, you likely already have a personal investment in the story. When it comes to creating a docuseries that requires following a subject or people for an extended period of time, you will need that passion throughout the process.

Docuseries often need extra time as you research, plan, shoot, and edit each and every episode. The less interest you have, the harder it may be to maintain a high level of creativity and dedication. Find a subject that you’re so passionate about that you are willing to give your all to tell its story.

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Your subject is interesting enough

If you feel that your subject matter is unique and you have a lot of passion for it, the next thing to ask yourself is if people will still be interested after the first two or three episodes of your series.

Many of the most groundbreaking documentaries in recent years were effective because they formed an emotional connection with viewers. Although docuseries can provide powerful and thought-provoking content, the story needs to be especially captivating if you want to preserve interest for several episodes as opposed to single feature-length sitting.

You’re ready to do the work

Filmmaking is tough endeavor, no matter what kind of project you have in mind. The fact that docuseries are episodic and require additional hours of content means you’ll inevitably have that much more work to do.

This includes through research, following leads, fact-checking, creating outlines, shooting and editing content, and so much more. If you don’t think you’ll have the time or energy to take on such a feat, expanding your documentary film into a docuseries is probably not the right choice.

Interested in studying documentary filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s documentary school programs here.

H40: The Five Timelines of Michael Myers and “Halloween”

Cue the haunting piano music: Michael Myers is back in theaters this October with a brand new Halloween sequel. In true 21st century filmmaking fashion, this sequel is also somewhat of a soft reboot – a sequel that is technically in the same timeline, but retains many of the classic beats (and the title) of the original.

But which timeline? The Halloween franchise first began in 1978 as an independent horror film written and directed by John Carpenter (and produced and co-created by Debra Hill) and was an instant classic. The silent, hulking serial killer Michael Myers became a Hollywood icon as he murdered babysitters and their boyfriends in a painted William Shatner mask. Halloween quickly spawned a series of sequels, spin-offs, and remakes — all of which interweave with distinct continuities.

Here then, are five different timelines of the Halloween franchise in its first 40 years — who knows how many more retcons will come about in the next four decades!

Timeline #1
Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

This could be considered the original timeline, as it incorporates the first six films of the franchise (with one exception, which we’ll get to.) The first two films are very closely linked, filmed close together, with the same leads, taking place all in the same night (October 31, natch.)

After a brief departure from Halloween III, the real star of the franchise — Michael Myers — came back due to popular demand. He wasn’t joined by lead actress Jamie Lee Curtis, however, who had gone onto movie stardom in the 80s with smash hits like Trading Places and A Fish Called Wanda. Fortunately for the producers, veteran actor Donald Pleasance, a big get for the first two films, stayed and helmed the series as Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Loomis for the next three films.

Jamie Lee Curtis’s character, Laurie Strode, was killed off-screen in a car accident and the fourth film shifted focus to Laurie’s niece, Jamie Lloyd. Halloween 4 was released ten years after the original, in 1988, and quickly followed up with Halloween 5 in 1989.

The timeline finally came to an end in 1995, with Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. The movie expanded the franchise’s mythology and dove deep into the supernatural, dark mystical side of Michael Myers. One of its stars was a very young Paul Rudd playing Tommy Doyle, a character from the first two films. The movie ends with the death of series constant Dr. Loomis, and was dedicated to the memory of Donald Pleasance, who died just a few months before its release.

Timeline #2
Halloween III: Season of the Witch

The reason the franchise is called Halloween and not Michael Myers is because John Carpenter envisioned the series as an anthology of distinct horror stories, each set in their own universe with nothing to do with each other — much like Twilight Zone, Black Mirror, and the Cloverfield films.

However, the huge success of the first film led to a direct sequel, Halloween II, which came out in 1981. This film started the notion that Michael Myers was superhuman, which was continued and explored in the rest of Timeline #1 (see above.)

But by the third film, Carpenter finally wished to move away from Michael Myers and the town of Haddonfield, Illinois. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, produced by John Carpenter and Debra Hill, came out in 1982, and had none of the cast or characters from the first two films. It was also a completely different story — about evil Celtic magic from Stonehenge and androids that wish to kill the trick-or-treating children of a Northern California suburb.

Halloween III most certainly doesn’t take place in the same universe as Michael Myers. In fact, one of the characters in the movie is watching a commercial for the original Halloween, meaning the Jamie Lee Curtis films are just as fictional in the world of Season of the Witch as it is in ours.

Timeline #3
Halloween, Halloween II, H20: 20 Years Later, Halloween: Resurrection

It was only three years in between Halloween 6 and H20, but filmmaking was already evolving and Wes Craven’s Scream had upped the horror genre for moviegoers everywhere. In 1998, to celebrate two decades since the dawn of Michael Myers, the franchise released another sequel, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning to the role of Laurie Strode for the first time since 1981.

With the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, the series had to retcon her character’s death, and so this film takes place after Halloween and Halloween II — but NOT Halloweens 4, 5, and 6. While this brings Laurie Strode (and presumably, Dr. Loomis) back to life, this change in the continuity did not bode well for Nurse Chambers, a character played by Nancy Stephens in the first two films. She appears again as the character in the opening scene of H20, where she is quickly dispatched by a middle-aged Michael Myers.

By the end of the film, Myers has attacked Laurie Strode and her family, but is decapitated by her to make sure he never comes back. He does come back, however, in the film’s sequel, Halloween: Resurrection.

Halloween: Resurrection, released in 2002, is very much of its time, with a story revolving around webcams and the Internet, and the then-brand-new medium of Reality TV. It also stars Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes, who might play the only character in any of the timelines to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.

The film opens with a cameo by Jamie Lee Curtis, once again portraying Laurie Strode, who dies for a second time in the franchise — this time on screen as she falls from the roof of a psychiatric hospital.

Timeline #4
Halloween (2007), Halloween II (2009)

Sound familiar? These two films take the exact same titles as the original two, but they are 100% remakes in the truest sense of the word, and which was very much in fashion at the time. Fresh off his critical gorefests House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie decided to tackle the Michael Myers franchise next, remaking Halloween in 2007.

Dr. Loomis is back, this time played by yet another British veteran actor, Malcolm McDowell. Zombie’s Halloween has much more focus on Michael Myers before his breakout and All Hallow’s Eve killing spree. It’s also more of a tension-builder and slower horror film, very much in style then and even still now.

The film received mixed reviews but made a decent amount of money at the box office, enough to warrant a direct sequel and the tenth film overall in the franchise. This new Halloween II harkens closer to the convoluted plotlines of Halloweens 4-6 than it does the original sequel though, dealing with hallucinations and flashbacks and revealing, like Timeline #1 eventually does, that Laurie Strode is actually the sister of Michael Myers. It ends with the death of Dr. Loomis (that makes two for him) and with Laurie now committed to a psychiatric hospital (that’s twice for her.)

Timeline #5
Halloween, Halloween (2018), ???

After considering a sequel to Zombie’s films or yet another reboot, the rights holders and producers of the franchise decided to do a sequel to the original Halloween. This film, once titled Halloween Returns, would have followed the first two, just as 4-6 did in Timeline #1. Soon indie director David Gordon Green and frequent collaborator Danny McBride (yes, that Danny McBride) came on board to work on the film.

In the writing process, Halloween II was taken out of the continuity, so that this sequel, which takes place forty years after the original (and twenty since the release of H20) is a direct sequel to only the original Halloween, and ignores the events of every other Halloween film that follows it.

The film will harken back to the original in plot and tone as well, as Myers will slowly make his way around town on Halloween night, picking off babysitters and anyone else who gets in his way.

It also brings back, once again, Jamie Lee Curtis as character Laurie Strode, who, as far as we know, isn’t the sister of Michael Myers. Whether Laurie Strode will die for the third time in the series or live for yet another sequel remains to be seen.

It’s doubtful Busta Rhymes will be back to karate kick Michael Myers through a window.

“A Star Is Born” – We Just Wanted To Take Another Look Back at the First 3 Films

It’s the story we just can’t seem to get enough of [SPOILERS AHEAD for those who’ve never seen any version of the A Star is Born!!!!!!!] – an alcoholic male star discovers a talented yet unsuccessful woman, they fall in love, he boosts her career, her stardom eclipses his own, his demons get the better of him, and just as his decline carries the risk of taking her down with him, he commits suicide. But the tragic love story has always been about more than just about the romance – A Star is Born has also been a deeper exploration of the Faustian bargain of fame and the balancing scale on which success sits on the opposing end of loss.

In short, it’s a story that’s been irresistible for Hollywood’s storytellers and thus never dies. It’s no surprise then that A Star Is Born has undergone yet another rebirth – now its fourth official version – under the hands of Bradley Cooper in his directorial debut. George Cukor’s 1932 film What Price Hollywood? is largely considered to be the original prototype of A Star Is Born (Cukor went on to direct the 1954 remake) but it’s different enough to warrant its exclusion from the franchise. Throughout its number of versions over the span of eight decades, the basic plot remains quite consistent to where the exact line “I just wanted to take another look at you” occurs in each film.

But with each remake, the current generation making the film molds the skeleton of the plot to its own culture and style, and reflects an adapting perspective of stardom and the entertainment industry. So, let’s dive in and take a look at the first three films and how they evolved through each iteration:

A Star is Born (1937)

Directed by William Wellman and starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, the “original” A Star is Born came at a time where Hollywood had room to be hopeful and self-reflective; it both acknowledged the industry’s veneer and endorsed it. Gaynor’s character, North Dakotan farm girl and aspiring actress Esther Blodgett, has a distinct origin story – an important characteristic of movie stars of that era.

Esther’s stage name is changed to Vicky Lester and she’s given a makeover to boost her star quality. The film largely focuses on a relatively young film industry during a time where it became a beacon of light for Americans amidst the Great Depression, promoting a message of “anyone can become a movie star” despite (and because of) the way in which it could completely manufacture such adored Hollywood personas.

A Star is Born (1954)

Directed by What Price Hollywood?’s George Cukor, this adaptation starred Hollywood legend Judy Garland as Esther Blodgett, alongside James Mason, who plays leading man Norman Maine. Among other key changes in detail from its predecessor in order to suit the time, the most obvious difference is that it’s a musical. Moreover, as opposed to Esther in 1937 whose aspirations lay specifically in becoming an actress, Garland’s character has more of a vague goal of becoming a successful singer.

Cukor’s remake also takes some tonal shifts, focusing more on character development and the relationship between the two protagonists. Unlike the 1937 film where Norman is quite aggressive and lacks introspection, the Norman of 1954 is a much more sympathetic character who is refined and self-aware. His sincerity makes Esther’s love for him more tragic, thus creating a more effective climax.

This adaptation also garnered more interest in the real life stories behind the scenes than other versions, namely due to Judy Garland’s tumultuous career at the time. Four years after her contract suspension with MGM following a suicide attempt, A Star is Born was intended to be her big comeback. Interestingly, Garland saw herself as both the talented, ingenuous star Esther and the older, fading star Norman, which propelled her powerful performance.

Despite the immense popularity and critical acclaim of the movie, her status as a film star never fully recovered after losing the Oscar to Grace Kelly – a controversial topic to this day.

A Star is Born (1976)

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This remake was directed by Frank Pierson and stars Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson as Esther Hoffman and Norman Howard. The changing of the protagonists’ surnames was a subtle, yet necessary adjustment to feel more relevant to the 70s, much like the strategic move to supplement alcoholism with cocaine addiction. But what became the most significant change in this film was changing the leads from Hollywood celebrities to rock stars, as this new type of fame during that era bred its own legend of success and failure with the likes of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin.

Additionally, with the UN declaring 1975 as International Women’s Year during a decade that revolutionised the women’s movement, Streisand’s Esther reflected more of a freedom and confidence that her previous iterations may never have imagined. She’s the most self-assured of the protagonists and also proposes to Norman, whilst hyphenating her last name in the final tribute scene as opposed to announcing herself as “Mrs. Norman Maine.”

Despite some mixed reviews – most negative ones attributing Streisand’s actual fame to the overshadowing of Kristofferson’s performance and subsequently, his character – she is the only actress to have won the Oscar for her portrayal of Esther. Unless, of course, Lady Gaga follows her next winter with a win for her lead role in the newest A Star is Born remake. The buzz is already undeniable.

 

10 Inspiring Latinx Movies You Need to Watch

National Hispanic Heritage Month lasts from September 15 through October 15 and celebrates the contributions of Hispanic and Latinx Americans to the heritage and culture of North America and beyond, whether it be through films, music, books, art, or more.

Originally lasting a week and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, it was later expanded into a full month in 1988 and signed off by President Ronald Reagan. Events related to National Hispanic Heritage Month include the El Barrio Latin Jazz festival in the Bronx and events hosted by the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

One of the most visible contributions of Latinx and Hispanic Americans are the films made for and about Hispanic culture. There are countless films that cover a wide array of genres, themes, and topics. It would be impossible to name all of them or rank even the best of them, but here is a list of just ten Latinx movies that need to be watched:

Amores perros

Amores perros is a 2000 drama thriller featuring an early breakout role for Gael García Bernal and was the first feature film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Iñárritu is now one of cinema’s most unique, talented voices — the first person since 1950 to win back-to-back Oscars for Best Director (for his films Birdman and The Revenant) and only the third director ever to do so.

Pelo malo

Pelo malo is a 2013 drama from Venezuela about a boy named Junior who is constantly trying to straighten his curly, unruly hair. Written and directed by Mariana Rondón, the film was critically praised for its exploration of adolescence, mother-child tensions, gender identity, sexuality, and other themes in the context of Venezuelan culture. Its release in 2013, shortly after the death of Hugo Chavez, also pivots the film in an important, transitional moment for the nation.

Sin País

Sin País is a documentary short that tells the story of Sam and Elida, who are deported from the United States and try to reunite with their son. Released in 2010, it is more relevant than ever in today’s contemporary political climate — although it is more an emotional story about humanity than a political disquisition on immigration.

Frida

Directed by Julie Taymor, Frida stars Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina and tells the true story of Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo. Kahlo was a fascinating figure in the art world, all the more notable for being a woman in a time where culture was very much dominated by men. The same could be said to be true for Hollywood, which made the film — also produced by Hayek, who picked up an Oscar nom for her acting in the movie — all the more important for both female and Latinx voices.

El secreto de sus ojos

The 2009 crime drama El secreto de sus ojos is a co-production between Argentina and Spain and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The epic nonlinear story tells of two officials investigating a rape and murder case over the span of 25 years. El secreto de sus ojos has been voted one of the top 100 greatest motion pictures since 2000 by a BBC poll of international film critics.

Biutiful

While nearly every one of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s films could be included on this list, Biutiful is especially notable for the lead performance by star Javier Bardem. Bardem received high praise for his acting in the film, and his Oscar nod for Best Actor was the first nomination ever given to a performance that was entirely in Spanish.

Selena

Selena is a 1997 biopic telling the tragic story of the eponymous Tejano music superstar who was murdered in the prime of her career. Eventually becoming the 13th highest-grossing musical biopic of all time, Selena might be most notable for launching the career of Jennifer Lopez, whose acting and musical fame skyrocketed and hasn’t abated since.

Y Tu Mamá También

Y Tu Mamá También is a 2001 Mexican coming-of-age drama about two teenagers who take a road trip with a 20-something woman. Critically hailed at the time of its release, the film is also notable for helping launch the careers of its stars Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, as well as writer-director Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón instantly became one of Mexico’s most prominent directors, following the film up with series-highlight Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and later directing Children of Men and sci-fi epic Gravity.

City of God

City of God is a 2002 Brazilian crime drama directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund and adapted from the 1997 novel written by Paulo Lins. The film depicts the growth of suburban crime in a Rio de Janeiro suburb over the course of several decades, and was an instant critical hit, eventually earning four Academy Award nominations. It was later followed by the spiritual sequel City of Men.

El laberinto del Fauno

El laberinto del Fauno may be the purest expression of Mexican writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s dark, whimsical aesthetic. The film, which found huge mainstream success in the United States as Pan’s Labyrinth, combines historical drama with fantasy in telling the story of a young girl living in Spain five years after its Civil War. The film was nominated for and won countless awards after its release, including winning three Oscars, and certified del Toro as one of Hollywood’s strongest, most successful voices.

Interested in making a film of your own one day? Find more information on the programs offered by the New York Film Academy here.

Meet New York Film Academy (NYFA) Faculty Member & Award-Winning Film Critic, Peter Rainer

Peter Rainer

Peter Rainer is a lecturer at the New York Film Academy Los Angeles (NYFA-LA).

Rainer is also the film critic for the Christian Science Monitor and can be heard regularly on NPR’s Film Week on KPCC-FM. He was one of three finalists in 1998 for the Pulitzer Prize in Criticism and is a three-time winner of the Arts and Entertainment Journalism Award for Best Online Film Critic. Rainer is also president of the National Society of Film Critics and has appeared as a film commentator on CNN, ABC News World Tonight, Bloomberg Radio, and Nightline.

Additionally, Rainer has served as film critic for New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, New Times Los Angeles and Los Angeles magazine. His writings have also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and GQ. He has also written and co-produced two A&E biographies–on Sidney Poitier and John Huston–as well as co-authoring the 1977 film Joyride. He has served on the main juries for both the Venice and Montreal film festivals.

Rainer continues to immerse NYFA students with decades of film history, knowledge, and insight.


Rainer’s Roundtable at NYFA

In this series, Peter Rainer sits down with NYFA students and discusses film production, critique, and the filmmaking process.

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Rainer on Film: 60s & 70s

In the debut episode of Rainer On Film, Peter Rainer discusses films of the 1960s and 1970s. The longtime film critic points to the war in Vietnam as well as other tragedies and anxieties of the time that influenced the films that were produced during this period.

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The NYFA Hour on Popcorn Talk

Popcorn Talk Network is the online broadcast network with programming dedicated exclusively to movie discussion, news, interviews, and commentary. In The NYFA Hour, the New York Film Academy hosted an array of knowledgable industry personalities, with multiple guest appearances with Peter Rainer.

In the episode below, Rainer joins host Pegah Rad to discuss the art of film critique and how cinema has changed since he started writing about the movies:

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Be sure to bookmark this page as we will be updating it regularly with all the newest videos and content with Peter Rainer!

How Does a Producer Get Paid?

The film industry is brimming with roles that contribute to the creation of fun, unforgettable experiences. While a typical moviegoer is well aware of what writers, actors, and directors do, if there’s one position that often gets overlooked, it’s that of producer.

Producers are there from start to finish, overseeing the film’s production while usually filling a number of roles. From budgets and schedules to helping to cast the right actors, they are expected to make big decisions during every stage of filmmaking. Producers are also one of the main creative forces in production, often seeing their own vision and ideas come to life on the big screen for many to view.

But with a complex role comes a variety of compensation options that aren’t always as straightforward or risk-free as other jobs in the industry:

Development Fee


A development fee is what a producer might get paid for their pitch and thoughts during the time that the studio is filling other key roles, such as screenwriters, and figuring out if the project is worth greenlighting at all. As mentioned, many
project pitches are abandoned by studios before they can move from development to production, which means producers will need to take their project elsewhere.

Development fees are up to the studio and vary. Where one producer is getting $15,000 for their input during development, another may receive up to $60,000 or more. At the end of the day, the amount of cash a producer makes across an entire film production — starting with this development fee — relies heavily on both the producer’s participation and previous experience.

Production Fee

If a studio does decide to move forward with a film, producers can expect to receive a guaranteed fee. This payment is also up to the studio and thus can also range widely — a normal estimate is somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000. The power a producer has when it comes to negotiating their production fee relies on a number of factors, but perhaps the most important is how impressive their resume is.

The more box office hits and critically acclaimed films a producer has been a part of, the more leverage she or he has for getting a good deal. Also important is how involved the producer plans to be during productions — performing more services means you should get more money. This payment is also not usually given all at once and is instead divided throughout a film’s production. For example, a producer may receive 20% of the total production fee before principal photography, 50% during photography, and then the rest after.

Film Profits

Most producers are also promised a cut of the film’s profits. Again, how high of a percent you get usually depends on your reputation and level of success. The truth is, the average producer doesn’t expect to make a lot of money from profits considering how much of it gets divided up among other players who were involved in the process.

For example, movie theaters usually get to keep about fifty percent of gross revenues. What’s left is often used to repay the costs of making the film in the first place, including added interest since the money was likely borrowed years ago. In short, producers may obtain back-end points (i.e. percentage on profits) on net profits, at the most. However, some post-release profits to look forward to — if the producer has a share in the copyright of the film —  are things like DVD and rights to streaming services like Netflix.

Bridge Between Art & Business

A common misconception in the film industry is seeing producers as these high-stakes gamblers who often bet all their chips on ideas, either earning nothing or become millionaires. The truth is, being a producer is all about using your knowledge and experience to minimize risk and maximize opportunity. As the bridge that connects the artistic vision with the business goals of the film, it’s on you to help foster creativity and build relationships while making sure the project stays on a promising financial course.

If you want a role that requires both imagination and strategic thinking while letting you work closely with people trying to impact audience’s lives with memorable films, look no further. It also doesn’t hurt that you’ll likely make very good money if you know what you’re doing.

Interested in taking classes at the producing school at New York Film Academy? Check out more information here.

8 Recent Indie Movies That Made Their Mark on Filmmaking

Although it’s usually the big-budget films raking in the cash and getting all the commercial attention, film’s greatest strength as a source of entertainment for its variety. When the market is saturated with enough A-list actors and adrenaline-fueled blockbuster rides, many look to independent films for fresh faces, stories with creative risks, and more. The following movies recently striking a chord are just the latest icing on the cake that is the current indie film industry:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

You know you’re dealing with a good documentary when it not only sits at the top 15 highest grossing non-fiction films of all time but also beat four Disneynature documentaries despite a smaller theatrical run. Using a tone both elegant and tender, director Morgan Neville helps capture minister Fred Rogers’ magical ascent in television while embodying what children’s programming should be about.

Hereditary

As Ari Aster’s first feature, this supernatural horror film does more than give viewers a scare. Toni Collette’s character creates a memorable look at the grieving process as she struggles to cope with several deaths in the family. Critically acclaimed and standing as American independent entertainment company A24’s highest-grossing film worldwide, Hereditary sets a high bar for horror films looking to provide tension and terror through means other than your average shock tactics.

Get Out

Jordan Peele put on the director’s hat for the first time with this indie horror film that earned its spot among the ten most profitable movies of 2017. Viewers praised the film’s excellent mix of humor and its creative visual style. Perhaps most importantly, Get Out does what horror films do best: provide an entertaining story that touches on real world issues — in this case, racism.

The Florida Project

Sean Baker’s drama film tells the story of a restless mother and her young daughter as they do whatever it takes to avoid homelessness. Strong performances and a powerful, sensitive look at poverty in today’s America earned this movie a number of notable nominations, including a spot on the National Board of Review’s and American Film Institute’s Top 10 Films of the Year lists. (One of The Florida Project’s producers is Darren Dean, a NYFA producing school instructor.)

A Quiet Place

Grossing $332 million worldwide after being made with a budget of around $20 million, this sci-fi horror film has been the talk among scary flick fans in 2018. Writer/director John Krasinski’s reliance on visual storytelling paid off as his use of silence and excellent sound design, along with strong performances help drive its eerie atmosphere. Notable figures such as Stephen King and Nick Allen specifically praised the expressive silence that allowed viewers to feel terror not through words but mostly from the expressions of the characters alone.

I, Tonya

Craig Gillespie’s biographical film recounts the story of Tonya Harding, the American Olympic figure skater connected with the brutal attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan one day before the Ladies Singles competition the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The film earned numerous nominations, including a win for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards, and was praised for its great execution of humor and tragedy thanks to its strong, emotional performances.

Mudbound

Directed by Dee Rees, this American period drama follows two World War II veterans — one black, one white — as they battle against racism and PTSD in their post-war life. Widely praised for its strong cast, Mudbound earned many nominations, including four at the 90th Academy Awards, and led to Rachel Morrison becoming the first woman ever nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar.

The Big Sick

One of the top grossing indie films of 2017, The Big Sick is a romantic comedy based on the actual romantic beginnings of writers and interethnic couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. Audiences and critics both enjoyed the film’s original spin on a true love story that succeeded despite illness, cultural differences, and more. Director Michael Showalter’s film turned a $5 million budget into a $56 million box office worldwide, while also earning several dozen awards and nominations.

How to Find Space to Improvise in the Filmmaking Process

Who could forget Heath Ledger’s Joker applauding Gordon in The Dark Knight or Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter making the “hsss” sound in The Silence of the Lambs? Whether it was an actor being spontaneous or the team unexpectedly having to rework a scene on the spot, improvisation is a fun and occasionally necessary part of filmmaking. Beyond the many hours behind writing screenplays, planning shots, and preparing scenes, you’ll find that some of our favorite film moments weren’t originally planned.

If you’ve ever been involved in a film production, then you know how crazy schedules can get. This means that if you want room for trying out spontaneous ideas while filming your own project, you’ll have to find time for it in your schedule. Fortunately, there are a number of time management tips to consider if you want to create some extra space for these opportunities.

It All Starts With a Solid Shooting Schedule…

There’s no better way to tackle a creative endeavor as demanding as filmmaking than with a plan of attack — with the understanding that things will almost certainly not always go as planned, and improvisation may be required!

Even if you’re project doesn’t have a large scale of time and dollars on the line, a good shooting schedule will usually directly impact the quality of your film. Thus, you can kiss any room for improvising goodbye if a poor shooting schedule has you pressed for time while you juggle tasks that need to be done and should have already been completed.

A good start for an effective production schedule is making sure your team’s key players sit down and make decisions. These days it’s easier than ever to all stay on the same page, thanks to online communication and project tools like Slack and Google Hangouts.

A rule of thumb in the film business is to plan for extra time — be it more days in a month or hours in a tough shooting day — so you can prepare for the unexpected, and leave space for opportunities to play.

Read: How to Plan an Effective Shooting Schedule

Let Your Budget Work For You!

If you’re a student or new to filmmaking, chances are your first big projects will have pretty limited funds. Even so, it’s important to make sure your budget will meet your main project goals — especially if you plan on having one or two expensive scenes that will impact viewers.

So what does budget have to do with making room for improvising? The better you are at planning according to your budget (and sticking to it), the more breathing room you’ll have during production.

In other words, staying on budget means the entire production will be more relaxed and focused because there’s room for emergencies, extra takes, etc. A rushed, stressful day with an entire team worrying about going over budget or not getting paid will certainly put a damper on things. The less pressure everyone feels while working, the more likely you or someone else will be comfortable enough to offer a fresh, creative idea on the spot — like Don Corleone’s cat in The Godfather.

Read: How to Get Big Production Value Out of a Little Budget

Take Breaks to Refresh Yourself & Your Team

Going with the idea of keeping your team fresh, there’s no better way than to plan for moments where you set the project aside and let your batteries recharge. On a union project breaks are mandated, but even student and non-union projects can benefit from this practice. Breaks can make a world of difference; just like that terrible essay or exam you rushed through due to being exhausted and anxious, your film’s quality will be affected by how strung out you let yourself become during production.

From fueling creativity to increasing work productivity, there are countless studies that convey the importance of taking breaks and practicing self care even in the midst of a hectic or high pressure situation — like working on a film set. Setting aside time for the crew to eat and relax, or an entire day where you can stop to do things you love, will have you coming back with refreshed energy, creativity, and stamina.

If you plan for breaks, taking a break won’t feel like a waste of time; it is a productive part of your schedule. You wouldn’t be the first filmmaker who has a brilliant idea or solves a problem during the time they set aside to NOT think about the project!

Read: How NOT To Make A Movie: 5 Tips Every Amateur Ignores

Ready to learn more about Filmmaking? Check out New York Film Academy’s degree, conservatory, and short-term Filmmaking programs.

4 Tips for Getting Full-Time Work in Corporate Video


Every year tens of thousands of students across the country graduate with film degrees and get ready to join the workforce. Some of these graduates will go on to enter the film industry, while others will move into the rapidly growing corporate media landscape. More and more corporations and marketing companies are hiring and developing
video production in-house.

While a film degree or certificate from a school like the New York Film Academy is a huge step towards becoming employable in corporate video, there are additional things you can do to optimize your ability to get full-time work. This article outlines five tips for getting a full-time job in the corporate and commercial video industry. Here they are:

1. Know your Audience

Working in corporate video is very different than trying to get work in traditional filmmaking. In filmmaking, the end goal of the process is to output content that will sell to a distributor or be a commercially viable product for entertainment audiences. In corporate video, however, you are primarily aiming to make content that will please a client’s expectations and solve a real world business problem. In order to optimize your ability to work in this sector of the video production industry, you must align your priorities with those of the company you’re aiming to work for.

People hiring in corporate video will care about your ability to:

  • Understand the theory and process how marketing works (lead generation, brand awareness, sales, etc)
  • Be able to think of and develop video ideas that solve problems within any of these areas of marketing and sales
  • Develop marketing messaging and video concepts that align with business goals
  • Develop thoughtful brand-centric creative writing
  • Present ideas, storyboards, and concepts to clients
  • Shoot & edit in a way that matches the client’s or company’s overall brand standards and guidelines
  • Communicate respectful and empathetically with clients
  • Handle varieties of projects at once and work quickly

Understanding the goals and priorities of your hiring audience will inform your interviews, resume building, and overall strategy for finding work. Start to embrace the above points and skills.

2. Invest in Yourself

Hands-on training is a powerful way to build serious experience and stand out amongst other candidates. Beyond the four walls of school there are a variety of other investments one can make to build your network and create ongoing opportunities for full time work. Utilizing some of the following, while not essential, can help develop your career, skills, and ultimately make you a more valuable & hireable professional.

  • AMA or AAF: Groups like the American Marketing Association (AMA) or American Advertising Federation (AAF) allow you a great opportunity to create one-on-one relationships with both potential marketing employers and people who could refer you to others for work.
  • LinkedIn Premium: Linkedin is a great tool to network within corporate America. Linkedin Premium affords you the ability to network even deeper by messaging hiring managers, sending portfolios, and with other powerful tools to help you get in touch with just about any marketing or business professional.
  • Redbooks: Redbooks is a database of targeted decision makers and potential hiring managers of ad agencies and brands. With over 250,000 decision makers from 14,000 agencies, you’ll have the direct contact information of just about anyone in marketing. Having this will allow you to network, send work examples and resumes.
  • Hands-On Workshops: You can never be too experienced to get your hands back on production tools to hone your skills. Keep your skills relevant and honed, and also do some valuable networking and resume building.

There are hundreds of other things you can invest in to help build your career, but the above are great ways to get in front of the right people — which at the end of the day is one of the most vital aspects of getting full-time work in corporate video.


3. Become a Brand

Just like a company must brand and market themselves in order to sell their products, you as a video professional must brand and market yourself to find full-time work. This means you must have the ability to package your skills, communicate your experience, and have the tools to effectively market yourself. The following tools will be valuable:

  • A Simple Website: Creating a simple website through SquareSpace or WordPress can help bring all your information together into one place. Making a website shows you can put the effort in, and shows you’re serious about your craft. Include contact information, work examples, your resume, and references.
  • Completed Social Media Profiles: Create all the relevant social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, Tumblr, etc) and upload all of your video examples and other information to these sites. Add your contact information and experience, as well as linking to your website.
  • Logo: Have a simple logo that represents who you are. It can be as simple as just a text-based logo of your name, or something more artistic. Either way, having a simple logo can help your resume pop, and help make your overall professional brand be engaging.
  • Demo Reel: Your demo reel is essential in summing up your video production capabilities and experience. Have this easily accessible on your website and resume so that employers can quickly get an idea of your skills. Make your demo reel 60 seconds in length and speak to the experience that relates to the type of work you’re aiming to get.
  • Relevant Video Examples: Demo reels don’t always tell the full story. If you’re aiming to work at an ad agency, have example videos of commercials you’ve directed, or web marketing videos you’ve produced. Having this in addition to your demo reel on your website is essential.

The above are the basic branding and marketing tools for your professional brand, and should be updated even after you find your first full-time job. They should evolve with your career and be ongoing tools for you to communicate your value.

4. Follow Up … And Follow Up (Again)

Of course, you must apply and reach out to potential job creators after you have your resume and demo reel, etc. But if you think you’re just going to apply to a job or email a manager once and immediately get a job, think again. Working in corporate video is competitive and it requires consistent and respectful follow-ups to the companies and agencies you’re trying to be employed by.

In business development, 80 percent of sales happen after five follow-up attempts, and finding work is essentially sales — so don’t be bashful in sending follow-up emails or making follow-up calls to jobs or companies you’ve applied to. However, don’t be annoying or spammy, as you might create the opposite effect. Here’s a simple follow-up email script that will help increase your ability to engage a hiring manager:

“Hi [First Name] –

How are you? My name is [Full Name] and I’m following up regarding the video position I applied for last week. I understand you have a lot going on, but I wanted to say hello and send you another example of my video work for your consideration.

Here you go: [insert link]

Let me know what you think. If you’d like to speak with any references, let me know and I can send any email introductions. I appreciate your time!”

The above approach does not apply to every situation, but in general is a solid starting email template for following up with a manager. Remind them of your name, that you applied, and send them something referenceable like a new video link or a particular project you’ve done.

Between knowing your audience, investing in yourself, building your brand, and mastering the follow-up, you’ll be in a great position to land a full-time job. Stay engaged throughout your studies at NYFA, and network with fellow graduates. Whatever happens, never give up, as there is incredible opportunity in the corporate video industry.

 

Article by Mike Clum.

Mike Clum is the founder of Clum Creative, a corporate video production company that employs 10 full-time video production professionals.

Editing Like an Oscar Winner: Why Learn Avid Media Composer?

by NYFA Instructor Igor Torgeson

Avid Editing

With a new semester beginning, students at NYFA campuses are starting their first introduction to Avid’s Media Composer system.  Hard drives are being formatted, project directories are being created, and folks everywhere are wondering to themselves “What is YCbCr anyway?”

As Post Production instructors, we often get the asked how Media Composer became the software of choice at the New York Film Academy. I can only assume that question is also asked at the many film schools where Media Composer is the required software.

This uniform approach to editing software comes from three basic facts about Media Composer that have been consistent since the 1990’s and look to continue to be true for at least the next five to ten years.

1. Avid Media Composer is the Industry Standard Editing Software.

All of the films nominated the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2018, as well as all the films nominated for Best Editing for 2018, were edited using Avid Media Composer.

If you’re going to be working in feature films or episodic television, Media Composer is simply the standard for editing software.  Post facilities are set up to use Media Composer and that is the expected workflow.

2. Proficiency in Avid Media Composer Translates to Proficiency in Other Editing Platforms

Students sometimes find the first few sessions with media composer a bit challenging, as the interface does very little to inform you what everything is and what it does. This is a legacy of the software’s creation by engineers for technically-inclined individuals.

The thing to remember, however, is that all the other Non-Linear Editing software on the market is at least in some part inspired by or reacting to Media Composer. That means the general workflow of every platform is the same.  Media gets into the software. A window allows the editor to view and listen to the media.  The editor chooses the media to include in the show and places it in a timeline, which can be viewed in another window.  This is the same in every platform!

Once an editor becomes comfortable with this process in Avid Media Composer, moving to other platforms becomes easier, as the switch is simply a matter of finding the same tools in the new software, as well as understanding which tools the new platform has automated or eliminated.

3. Avid Editors Earn More Than Editors On Other Platforms

Of course, success as an editor is first and foremost a result of talent, skill, and experience — whatever the platform. Nevertheless, the data shows that there is a positive difference in income for Avid editors. For students hoping to move into editing, or at least have a gig that can pay well between other projects, Media Composer is the clear choice.  According to Payscale.com, the median nationwide salary for an editor with Avid skills is over $50,000.  For an editor with Premiere skills, $37,475. In Payscale’s survey, Premiere editors topped out at $53,727, top Avid editors made $105,126!

According to Glassdoor.com, Avid Editors in major markets, depending on experience, can expect even higher salaries, getting to over $135,000 annually. The same site currently lists Premiere Editor positions for $40,000 to $51,000.

For gigs and on an hourly basis, Avid Editors expect between $45 and $75 an hour.  Final Cut Pro Editors fare even worse — Glassdoor currently lists a Final Cut Pro Editing position for $20-$22 an hour.

As we saw above, once an editor learns Avid, it’s relatively easy to shift to a new platform.  So not only does an editor have an economic advantage by knowing Avid, in the absence of Avid jobs, it’s easy to shift to another software, even if it means a lower rate for a while.

Sweeteners

So with those three basic facts in mind, Avid Media Composer has been the clear choice for editing software.  Avid has also sweetened the deal a bit for students and New York Film Academy in particular.  First, Media Composer is available to students for about $10 a month, which is an enormous discount off the retail price.  Second, Avid has partnered with NYFA to make us an Avid Learning Partner, which allows us to offer our students the possibility of earning Avid User Certification (if they successfully pass the exam).  

With those things together, our goal continues to be giving students a thorough training in Post Production, on industry standard software, with a competitive advantage when entering the marketplace.  And maybe even a passing knowledge of YCbCr.

Our 2018 BAFTA Predictions

While the Oscars are still a few weeks away, the 71st British Academy Film Awards are finally upon us. The ceremony will be hosted by Absolutely Fabulous star Joanna Lumley on February 18, at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall.

The BAFTAs are one of the major award shows of the season. Because so many actresses, actors, and filmmakers come from the United Kingdom, the nominations and winners often overlap with many of the Golden Globe and Oscar categories. However, because the Academy is made up of different voters, sometimes the results can be wildly different.

Here then are the nominees for some of the major categories, along with our best guesses at who will be taking home the BAFTA award bronze mask statue this weekend — though like always, anything can happen.

The BAFTA Award
Leading Actress
Annett Bening – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird

While Margot Robbie is considered the favorite for the Oscar in this category due to her stellar performance in the wildly enjoyable I, Tonya — the story of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan isn’t as much of a cultural milestone outside of the United States. This may give the edge to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, star of Lady Bird, a film with near perfect critical acclaim.

Leading Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kayluuya – Get Out
Jamie Bell – Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool
Timothee Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Our Predicted WINNER: Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour

It’s hard to bet against Daniel Day-Lewis, especially in a thoroughly British role that may also be his last. But Winston Churchill is about as legendary as you can get in Great Britain, and Oldman’s performance as the Prime Minister in his finest moments has already won several awards.


Supporting Actress

Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Kristin Scott Thomas – Darkest Hour
Laurie Metcalfe – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water
Our Predicted WINNER: Lesley Manville – Phantom Thread

While Day-Lewis may not win, his co-star Lesley Manville certainly has a good shot just for being able to go head-to-head with him in several scenes, matching his intensity and emotional subtlety every time.

Phantom Thread

Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread

Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Hugh Grant – Paddington 2
Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

There’s a lot of momentum behind Sam Rockwell this season for his complex performance as a bigoted cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. That momentum might be too much for any of the other very talented actors in this category, including co-star Woody Harrelson.


EE Rising Star Award

Daniel Kaluuya
Florence Pugh
Josh O’Connor
Timothee Chalamet
Our Predicted WINNER: Tessa Thompson

Daniel Kaluuya made a huge splash with his haunting starring role in Get Out, but we’ve got to give the edge to Tessa Thompson, the talented American actress who is quickly becoming an A-list movie star thanks to her scene-stealing performance in Thor: Ragnarok.

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson

Editing
Baby Driver – Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss
Blade Runner 2049 – Joe Walker
The Shape Of Water – Sidney Wolinsky
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Jon Gregory
Our Predicted WINNER: Dunkirk – Lee Smith

The editing in all of this year’s nominees was impressive, but Dunkirk’s style was a crucial part of the narrative — telling the evacuation of Dunkirk in three distinct timelines cut back-and-forth. The epic World War II film will probably come away with at least one award this weekend, and odds are it’ll be this one.


Special Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War For The Planet Of The Apes
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water is essentially a classic romance tale, except one of the romantic leads is a computer generated seven-foot fish creature. By making the character not only believable but emotionally relatable, the special effects team for The Shape of Water more than proved they’re worthy of this year’s award.


Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049 – Roger Deakins
Darkest Hour – Bruno Delbonnel
Dunkirk – Hoyte van Hoytema
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Ben Davis
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape Of Water – Dan Laustsen

Blade Runner 2049 is a dark horse in both the Special Effects and Cinematography categories for its fully realized portrayal of a near-future America, but The Shape of Water will probably come ahead in both. The film is a visual marvel in multiple ways, and slides between multiple styles and genres with ease.


Adapted Screenplay

Armando Iannucci, Ian Martin & David Schneider – The Death Of Stalin
Matt Greenhalgh – Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool
Aaron Sorkin – Molly’s Game
Simon Farnaby & Paul King – Paddington 2
Our Predicted WINNER: James Ivory – Call Me By Your Name

Paddington 2 is a smash success and both Aaron Sorkin and Armando Iannucci are screenwriting legends, but Call Me By Your Name manages to adapt the 2007 novel of the same name in a way that preserves all its raw emotion that audiences can’t help but be affected by.


Original Screenplay

Jordan Peele – Get Out
Steven Rogers – I, Tonya
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

Gerwig is making history as only the fifth woman nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and her film Lady Bird is easily considered one of the best of the year. It’s had a tougher time at the BAFTAs, so if the overall film gets recognized it’ll have to be here for its remarkable screenplay.

Lady Bird

Lady Bird

Animated Film
Loving Vincent
My Life As A Courgette
Our Predicted WINNER: Coco

All three films are visual works of art, but it’s hard to bet against Pixar and their soulful, supernatural masterpiece about a 12-year-old boy trapped in the land of the dead.


Documentary

City Of Ghosts
I Am Not Your Negro
Icarus
An Inconvenient Sequel
Our Predicted WINNER: Jane

Primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall is a hero and legend to naturists and to her fellow Britons alike. Jane, the 2017 documentary about Goodall, has already picked up several festival and critics awards and will probably get the BAFTA as well.


Outstanding British Film

Darkest Hour
Death Of Stalin
God’s Own Country
Lady Macbeth
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Paddington 2

There might not be anything more loved and more British than Paddington 2, a film with a rare 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. While all of the other nominees could win as well, especially Irish playwright Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards or the Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour, the world really needed an adorable teddy bear in a raincoat —again— and Paddington 2 delivered.

Paddington 2

Paddington 2

Director
Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
Luca Guadagnino – Call Me By Your Name
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: Guillermo del Toro – The Shape Of Water

The Shape of Water leads the BAFTA nominations with twelve total — and it takes a masterful director to bring all of these nominated elements together into a fantastical tour-de-force. Guillermo del Toro already picked up a Golden Globe for his efforts, and while his competition is stiff, he’ll most likely pick up a BAFTA as well — even if the film falls short in other categories.


Best Film

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Our Predicted WINNER: The Shape of Water



It cannot be overstated just how important the Second World War is to modern Britain, and both films in this category dealing with the subject —Dunkirk and Darkest Hour — do so in masterful ways. For different reasons, Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards have connected with and sparked conversation for their audiences. But The Shape of Water has a slight advantage over its competition with its overwhelming amount of nominations this year, as well as its perfectly executed fairy tale with just enough of a twist to make it unique. It doesn’t hurt that avid movie buff Guillermo del Toro also managed to make the film a love letter to cinema. Look for this film to take home the biggest BAFTA of them all.

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water

Super Bowl Sunday: Innovative Ads That Have Changed the Game & What You Can Learn From Them

Apple’s “1984”

There’s two types of people that watch the Super Bowl—those who want to watch football, and those who want to watch the commercials. Either way, that’s a lot of people—the NFL’s championship game is typically highest-rated event of the year, and 19 of the top 20 most watched TV broadcasts of all time are all Super Bowls (the M*A*S*H finale being the only exception at #9.)

It’s hard to stand out from the crowd of countless ads that have aired in the previous 51 games, though dozens have managed to become iconic—including the dancing Pepsi bears, the Budweiser frogs, and the screaming squirrel.

But only a few commercials have actually changed the game when it comes to advertising or filmmaking, introducing new concepts and employing out-of-the-box techniques. By doing something unique and influencing future spots for years to come, these game-changing ads are lessons in themselves.

Here’s five such Super Bowl ads, and what you can learn from them:

1. Apple’s “1984”

“1984” is possibly the most famous commercial of all time, Super Bowl or not. Released the same year as both the Summer Olympics and the 1984 cinematic adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” it was a relevant short film that audiences easily identified with, and introduced Apple’s Macintosh desktop PC, which would shortly go on to revolutionize the home computer lifestyle.

The commercial, while signifying major change, was also a short film — a dark, moody, science fiction epic directed by the perfect person for the job, Ridley Scott. Scott was fresh off his own dark, moody, science fiction epics “Alien” and “Blade Runner.”

To this day, the “1984” commercial is a testament to spectacle — influencing countless advertisements that went very, very big to make themselves heard.

Apple's "1984"

Apple’s “1984”

2. GoDaddy’s Teaser Ads

GoDaddy, the company that web hosts and sells and registers domains, doesn’t typically offer highbrow advertisements; indeed, they’ve gotten a lot of flack for tasteless, sexist commercials on more than one occasion. Several of these have been rejected for the Super Bowl, so GoDaddy’s marketers came up with an innovative solution — using their 30 seconds of Super Bowl time to advertise their full-length, real commercials online.

By playing teasers of their actual ads, GoDaddy made a name for itself purely on buzz, while also incorporating social media into advertising well before most of the industry had caught on to the Internet’s potential in such regards. While their actual content was nothing worthy of emulating, this unique innovation has led to an entire industry of “commercials for the commercials.”

3. Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene”

One of the earliest iconic Super Bowl ads came in 1979, though it had already premiered a few months earlier before making a splash during the big game. This Coca-Cola ad featured NFL star “Mean” Joe Greene chugging a bottle of Coke in the halls of a football stadium before tossing his towel to a 9-year old fan.

The heartwarming moment was a perfect storm of Americana, celebrity, and — of course — football. By using a celebrity most of the television audience already idolized and combining it with a cute kid and some good ol’ fashioned sentimentality, the advertisement formed the basis for countless imitators, including other Coke ads.

If a commercial can give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, the “Mean Joe Greene” ad argues, then maybe so can the product it’s advertising?

"Mean" Joe Greene

“Mean” Joe Greene

4. Nike’s “Hare Jordan”

Michael Jordan was as famous for his TV commercials as he was for his basketball skills, but the “Hare Jordan” spots that advertised his Nike-brand Air Jordan sneakers took marketing to a whole other level. By appearing on screen with an animated Bugs Bunny in modern-day “Looney Tunes”-style shorts, Jordan changed yet another game.

Cutting edge special effects and combining live action with animation was typically only seen in the movies (and in the latter case, only very rarely.) By putting money and unique visuals into their advertisements, Nike proved the investment could be worth it. The ad first hit the Super Bowl in 1992, when computer-generated effects were just hitting the mainstream but were still a rarer, more expensive option than traditional hand-drawn animation.

The ad ended up being a harbinger of the special effects-heavy commercials that would follow in the next two decades as CGI became cheaper and easier to implement. A Super Bowl doesn’t go by these days without several CGI-assisted commercials, but Nike’s hand-drawn/live action combo “Hare Jordan” can be considered the grandfather of them all (and the predecessor to Jordan and Bugs Bunny’s feature-length collaboration, “Space Jam.”)

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

Michael Jordan & Bugs Bunny

5. Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl”

For 10 years, the Doritos approach to their Super Bowl ads was to hold a “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, where anyone could film and submit their own Doritos commercials. The winner of the contest would have their amateur project aired for TV’s biggest audience.

The ads were highly successful. By opening up their commercial pitches to millions of amateur filmmakers, Doritos also had way more choices to choose from than any advertising firm could offer. And audiences could connect to the DIY-style low-budget ads — it was a democratic solution that showed that anyone could potentially be seen or heard.

Aspiring filmmakers, advertisers, and just funny people who liked Doritos instantly had a shot at the big time. In the age of YouTube and Instagram stories, Doritos’s “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign couldn’t be a more relevant, decentralized way of telling stories — even if those stories were selling Nacho-flavored tortilla chips.

Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl"

Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl”

 

Interested in learning the skills to make your own Super Bowl commercial one day? Check out NYFA’s filmmaking program here.

SERVICE INDUSTRY: How to Work with Cinematographers

“What can I do for you?”  

The above question is the first thing I ask my director.  You, the director, answering it ensures that you’ll get the most out of me – your cinematographer or DP (director of photography).  

Before you meet with your cinematographer, you should have a good grasp of what the film is about and the story you want to tell. What do you want your documentary to look like? Start with visual references (documentaries, narrative films, still photos, paintings, etc.) ready to show and discuss. After reading the script or treatment, it’s the first thing a cinematographer will want to talk about.

As a visual artist, my job is to translate words and concepts into images. Cinematographers bring loads of ideas to the table. Once I know what a film is about, I shift into visual hyper-drive.  

In the meetings — there will be more than one — you’ll want to discuss the tone of the movie:  Should it be pretty or gritty? Formally composed or “fly-on-the-wall?” Some handheld work perhaps? Why? Will the subject matter benefit from cool, somber tones, or warm, inviting colors?  

Once you’ve discussed tone, your documentary film is well on its way to visual coherence. Some directors just like to chat and pull up images to discuss. Others spend a considerable amount of time preparing a lookbook. Either is okay. It’s whatever works for you.

The style of your film is comprised of more technical questions – the different modes of documentary (See Bill Nichols “6 Modes of Documentary”) beg for different approaches.

Some questions to answer for yourself and communicate to the DP:

  • What lenses will best depict the characters?
  • Is the style up close and personal or are we taking a long view?
  • Will the interviews take place in a home, a workplace, or some neutral ground?  
  • Are you thinking formal compositions, or something more edgy?  
  • If there are re-creations, will they be stylized or realistic?
  • Finally, and not least important, you’ll want to discuss visual metaphors and transitions that serve to link the sequences.  

But what about “shooting from the hip,” some will ask? Let me share an experience I had in the field.

A while back, I was starting a documentary television series that, in addition to archival footage, involved interviews, re-creations, and establishing shots. In pre-production, we spent some time discussing the re-creations, but the director and producer weren’t ready to discuss overall tone. I knew it would come back to haunt us.

On day one, our first interviewee waited patiently while we went back and forth about the location, then the background, then the lighting. It was decided the lighting should be soft with strong contrast. It became the interview tone for the show. We met later to clarify things going forward and avoid further embarrassment of the interviewees watching a confused approach.  There were new challenges for sure, but the solutions were more intuitive for me because the tone and style were set.

The DP is the director’s confidante, the “ace-in-the-hole,” the side-kick to the superhero. But most importantly, he/she is the director’s collaborator, who wants to help make the best documentary film possible. To do that, communication is key.

Ready to learn more about documentary filmmaking? Check out the New York Film Academy’s Documentary School.

Written by Carl Bartels. Bartels is a director and cinematographer whose credits include “Taken,” “The Fantastic Four,” and “Greedy Lying Bastards.”

How to Learn From Other Filmmakers by Watching Films

Anyone with dreams of becoming a successful filmmaker has probably seen a good number of movies in their lifetime — in fact, for many of us, watching movies inspired our own desire to make them.

If you’re a movie buff who wants to take their cinephilia to the next level, try these useful exercises to help you improve your knowledge about filmmaking and pick up new skills and inspiration — all while watching films!

  1. Study the filmmaker’s use of their signature trademarks.

Many filmmakers have their own distinct patterns that can be seen across their works. This can include anything from specific types of shot to a focus on certain body parts.

For example, if you’re watching a Michael Bay movie then you can expect — you guessed it — explosions and fast action scenes.

From Hitchcock’s voyeurism effect and Tim Burton’s dark color schemes to Spielberg’s iconic extreme close-ups, the best filmmakers have trademark methods we’ve come to know and love. Watching their masterpieces to study why they rely on the same techniques is a great way to start developing your own style.

  1. Do a shot breakdown of an important scene.

If there’s one exercise that every ambitious filmmaker has to do at least once in their life, it’s the shot breakdown.

Although it’s a long and arduous process, it’s one of the most effective ways of mastering the complex language of film.

More importantly, you’ll gain a stronger understanding of editing when you consciously watch with the question in mind of why filmmakers and editors chose to cut where they did. A shot breakdown is also great way to study and learn the basic shots and angles in the industry and their best uses.

  1. Focus on camera movement.

The director’s role is to position the camera where they think it will better capture their vision on film. Pay attention to where the camera is and the distance between the camera and subjects. Why did the filmmaker go from a very wide shot to a close zoom for a specific moment? Asking and answering these questions as you watch a film will help you make your own decisions when it’s time to choose how your camera will tell your stories.

  1. Pay attention to new things.

The power movies have to enchant us is all due to the numerous elements filmmakers have at their disposal. Of course, directors want all these parts and pieces to blend together so well that audiences are too busy being captivated by the story to notice how or why the movie is keeping their attention so firmly. But as someone who hopes to improve their own craft while watching films, you should be able to shift your focus to notice and study new elements of the films you watch.

How are they using sound to sculpt a mood? What is going on with the lighting? Shadow? Texture? Are there subtle changes in grade/coloring? Does a certain color continue popping up, and does it have any symbolic meaning? What role does the landscape, city, or setting play? Camera angle?

The list goes on and on. Challenge yourself to notice and question new elements as you watch film to try to understand the choices the filmmakers made behind the scenes.

  1. Examine the most important character action.

There’s a reason why the film industry pays its leading actors well: They’re often the part of a film the audiences connect with first, embodying the characters who drive the story forward and delivering performances that bring scripts and storyboards to life.

Everything audiences see characters do on screen — and includes background extras — plays a part in telling the story of a film. That is why a director’s style with actors plays such an important role in guiding the story.

Who can forget the way Joker laughs in “The Dark Knight”? Or the way Frodo looks at Sam when refusing to destroy the ring at the end of “The Return of the King”? These moments came out of a collaboration between the director and the actors. As you watch, ask yourself how you would direct your actors to reach the performance you envision.

  1. Watch a new movie thrice.


When a good movie comes out that you want to learn from, watch it the first time purely as a cinephile. Throw all your knowledge and vocabulary out the window so you can simply be entertained by the film’s story and mood.

During the second viewing you can focus on the things we covered above to sharpen your understanding of excellent filmmaking.

The third time you sit to watch the film is to catch things you didn’t before, such as foreshadowing, what background characters are doing, and how sets are arranged.

 

How do you learn while watching films? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’re ready to learn even more, study filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.