Philippines native Gino M. Santos only attended New York Film Academy (NYFA) for one week, at the Digital Filmmaking workshop in Kyoto, Japan in the summer of 2010, but his short time at the Academy has left a lasting impression.
Since graduating the 1-Week workshop, Santos has returned to the Philippines and built a successful career as a professional filmmaker, working on numerous commercials and feature films. New York Film Academy spoke with Gino M. Santos soon after he attended an alumni reunion in Manila.
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Gino M. Santos (GS): My name is Gino Santos and I’m a filmmaker here in the Philippines. I’ve been in the industry for almost eight years now, directing mainstream films and TV commercials.
I first found out about NYFA through my college friends who were planning a trip to Kyoto to take the 2-Week workshop—we were all film majors in our sophomore year at that time. I told my folks about it and they asked me, “Aren’t you going?” I was surprised! So I packed my bags end embarked on a fun learning adventure with my friends in Kyoto, Japan.
NYFA: Why have you decided to focus on filmmaking?
GS: As a kid I’ve always been a moviegoer, and when I was growing up I used to play with my dad’s video camera and cameraphones, while making my brothers act for me. I didn’t know I was already directing. When I was 15, my mom introduced me to a local basic film workshop which sparked my interest and soon made it my college course and my NYFA adventure.
NYFA: What has been the most challenging film you’ve worked on so far, and why?
GS: I did a movie for Star Cinema, the biggest film studio in the Philippines, called Love Me Tomorrow. It was about a DJ in his 30s who fell in love with a woman turning 50. It was a coming-of-age love story filled with club scenes and music festivals. I had to recreate and make my own outdoor music festival, including hundreds of background talents. It wad pretty epic! Until now, I look back at it and wonder how I was able to get everyone grooving in the shot. We shot that scene for three days.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on?
GS: I’m doing an international project with Black Sheep and ABS-CBN this January. I cannot disclose the details yet, but it will be a period piece focused on the Japanese occupation of the Philippines.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on filmmaking, or your work in general?
GS: When I went to NYFA, it was a different kind of learning for me, which was the standard Hollywood knowledge elevating my prior knowledge from here. I got used to the particular film terms from foreign production houses and agencies. Also the learning process of working with your peers and friends.
Until today, I still work on projects with the same people I went to NYFA with.
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
GS: Maybe more to the parents who are scared of sending their kids to another country for a workshop, I say just do it! My time at NYFA was one of the most memorable moments of my life—I got to meet people who are just like me, and passionate about film from all parts of the world. We all learned together and experienced new things in the classroom and in a foreign country. It was worth every penny.
New York Film Academy thanks Filmmaking alum Gino M. Santos for taking the time to speak with us and looks forward to following his continued success as a filmmaker!
New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking alum Ilya Rozhkov moved to Los Angeles from Russia to follow his passion. He always knew he wanted to direct films, and he’s always been hungry to learn and expand his horizons, but it wasn’t until he experienced VR for the first time at a convention in Las Vegas that he realized the amazing potential virtual reality holds for the future of storytelling.
Rozhkov is putting that lesson to action, literally, with his new groundbreaking VR film, Agent Emerson. New York Film Academy spoke with Ilya Rozhkov about his film, the vast possibilities of virtual reality and VR filmmaking, and about how his studies at NYFA gave him the tools to evolve into a whole new kind of filmmaker:
New York Film Academy (NYFA): First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you’re from, and what brought you to New York Film Academy?
Ilya Rozhkov (IR): I was born and raised in Moscow and all my life I wanted to direct films. In 2014 I was honored to be inducted into the Directors Guild of Russia as one of its youngest members. In 2013, after extensive research, I was excited to go and become a part of New York Film Academy in Los Angeles because of its intensive, practice-driven approach to studying film. LA has been my home since.
While at NYFA I shot three short films (We Are Enemies, Dying to Live, and Sabre Dance, starring Greg Louganis as ‘Salvador Dalí’) which have been distributed worldwide, featured on NBC, and screened at over 50+ festivals winning numerous awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
I was also very fortunate to have met a lot of my collaborators at NYFA. I have been working with amazing alums—producers Radhika Womack and Jane Kapriss, and colorist Roy Sun—since my first short films.
I have had the honor of being selected to participate in the coveted Oculus Launch Pad VR Bootcamp at Facebook headquarters and be a recurrent guest panelist at Digital Hollywood.
In 2016, I set out to make on my first VR Film, Agent Emerson, and partnered with Academy Award-nominated veteran production studio CTB, along with The Rogue Initiative—a leading entertainment and technology studio driven by multi-award winning industry veterans.
Lyndsy Fonseca & Ben Aycrigg filming ‘Agent Emerson’ Photo Credit: Billy Bennight
NYFA: Your background is in traditional filmmaking. Why have you decided to focus on virtual reality?
IR: VR is a creative challenge, a whole new way to experience cinematic storytelling. With my knowledge of film and passion for technology I was truly excited to take on this challenge. And this wonderful medium is just beginning to grow—the current state of VR content feels reminiscent of the early 1900s in the history of cinema: so many things yet to be discovered.
The future is happening today and cinematic entertainment is evolving to be bigger than movies, both artistically and as a segment of the entertainment market.
NYFA: Can you tell us more about Agent Emerson?
IR: Agent Emerson is an immersive 360 degree first-person POV VR film. It utilizes breakthrough technology—the Identity Capture Camera®—and other proprietary innovations to drop the viewer into a visceral, action-packed 3D cinematic experience unlike anything the medium has yet offered. It is a cinematic experience we are used to seeing in movie theaters, only this time YOU are the action hero.
We follow CIA Operative David Emerson, who awakens to find himself a subject of an experimental program with his body under complete remote control of the imperious General. With the aid of a rogue operative named Alexandra, David has to retake charge of his own actions and fight his way through the top security facility inside the most complex live-action VR film ever made.
Directed by me, Ilya Rozhkov, and starring Lyndsy Fonseca (Kick-Ass, How I Met Your Mother) and Tony Denison (Major Crimes, The Closer), Agent Emerson was shot in Los Angeles and in Louisiana.
NYFA: What inspired you to make Agent Emerson?
IR: Virtual Reality itself is quite an inspiration. When I studied at NYFA I visited NAB Convention in Las Vegas to explore the latest technology of cinema, and this was where I experienced VR for the first time. My mind was blown with its storytelling potential. The moment I received my first Oculus VR kit, I stepped inside the virtual reality and took off the headset only after exploring all the content available.
I kept thinking, what makes VR different as a storytelling medium? A theatre performance shot on a film camera does not become a movie. And in exact same way a movie shot on VR camera doesn’t automatically become VR cinema. So what type of storytelling is possible only and exclusively in VR?
Agent Emerson was one of my answers to that question. And finding tools to direct the audience within VR Film was a challenge I was excited to take on.
NYFA: What are some difficulties of shooting in VR as opposed to traditional filmmaking that you didn’t anticipate?
IR: It’s hard to anticipate every challenge when talking about a territory as uncharted and unexplored as VR from both creative and technological point of view. Before shooting the film on set with our amazing cast and crew, the majority of the film was shot and tested in a lab. We prepared and primed everything and were ready when unexpected challenges presented themselves.
The biggest challenges were definitely in post-production. Every aspect of post was affected: CGI, editing, sound, color, and even music. A lot of the techniques and the toolkit used in traditional film were not enough. My team had to think bigger and beyond, creating new solutions which would allow us to make a better film.
To achieve the artistic goals of the film and the highest possible level of quality, many tools and workflows had to be created by us from scratch. It was like creating a painting and inventing a paintbrush at the same time.
Not only does VR make the complexities of film more challenging, but also it introduces entirely new challenges, some of them from the world of game design. It’s an adventure which makes me thrilled to be a modern filmmaker.
NYFA BFA Alum & Filmmaker Ilya Rozhkov
NYFA: Did anything surprise you when putting together Agent Emerson?
IR: From the many discoveries and surprises there is a clear “top three” list:
1. VR can be considerably more intimate than film, especially when it comes to acting.
2. Understanding game engines and software optimization plays a big part, even though it is a film, not a game.
3. There is a saying that sound is 50% of the film. When it comes to VR and making a convincing Virtual World, sound might be even more than that.
NYFA: What do you see for the future of VR in entertainment?
IR: The potential of VR in entertainment is enormous and the medium will evolve in many ways we can’t even dream of today. It is the fastest growing segment of the entertainment market.
We’re dealing with something completely unprecedented—humans as a species have been telling stories on a flat surface since cave paintings. But VR allows us for the first time to tell stories through worlds which are seemingly real. AND this is mass-accessible.
Think about it—looking at a flat surface with moving images is amazing , it’s a great art form, a fun entertainment, and it is here to stay. But it’s not a natural way to perceive information. In VR we perceive information the same way we do in real life: it’s set in space around us, it is three dimensional, and we can navigate through it. Considering this, I believe VR will become a normal way to consume new forms of entertainment content, both interactive and non-interactive.
Moreover, I believe that VR and AR are going to affect not only entertainment but a great many things. We might be looking at the new age of computing here.
NYFA: What other projects are you working on or do you plan to work on? Are you looking to stick to VR-only content?
IR: Under my Serein banner we have several VR titles in the works. My focus in storytelling is modern cinema which incorporates traditional mediums like film and TV, and cutting-edge technology like VR and beyond.
I believe that to become a market leader one must bring impactful storytelling together with innovative technology. And that is the key to the future of cinematic entertainment.
NYFA: What did you learn at NYFA that you applied directly to your work on Agent Emerson or your work in general?
IR: Shooting on 16mm and 35mm film at NYFA was a phenomenal experience and, ironically, working with this wonderful and more-then-a-century old technology affected my work with a less-then-a-decade old generation of VR.
Not only does working with film introduce one to a proper filming discipline, it also taught me that live playback is not a necessity. It gave me the ability to see the shot by seeing the blocking, the camera positioning, the lighting in the scene and knowing the lens specifics. That came in extremely handy when working with virtual reality where we had no technology for a live VR playback.
Ilya Rozhkov directs stuntman Ben Aycrigg for ‘Agent Emerson’ Photo Credit: Billy Bennight
NYFA: What advice would you give to students just starting out at NYFA?
IR: BE CURIOUS. Enjoy learning, because learning doesn’t stop after graduation. Keep reading, follow the directors, producers, and content creators you admire. Always be expanding your knowledge on film industry, technology and beyond. You are as valuable to the industry as what you know and can accomplish. Grow your value all the time.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPLORE. Film school is the safest possible environment for that and NYFA will be there for you to lean on and learn from. Exploring is the only way to prepare and be ready for everything when it comes to the constantly-evolving landscape of cinematic storytelling.
NYFA: Anything I missed you’d like to speak on?
IR: With all its challenging complexities and unprecedented potential, I find it mesmerizing that VR is just a certain number of still images creating an illusion of motion.
New York Film Academy thanks BFA Filmmaking alum Ilya Rozhkov for taking the time to speak with us, and encourages everyone to check out Agent Emerson when it is released on Oculus Rift (Go and Quest), HTC Vive and Cosmos, and PSVR on November 22.
Whenever anyone talks about Spanish cinema, it’s impossible to ignore the achievements of Pedro Almodóvar, one of the most internationally successful Spanish filmmakers of all time. Born in 1949, Almodóvar has won countless awards for his work, including two Oscars, five BAFTAs, six European Film Awards, two Golden Globes, nine Goya Awards, and four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival, as well as the French Legion of Honour and the Gold Medal of Merit in the Fine Arts from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Recently, he was awarded with an Honorary Golden Lion at the 76th Venice International Film Festival.
Barely 18 years old, Almodóvar moved from his rural hometown to Madrid to pursue his passion for filmmaking, and worked several jobs to support his art. Interested in experimental film and theatre, Almodóvar became a key figure in La Movida Madrileña (the Madrilenian Movement), a cultural renaissance that followed the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.
Here is a look at some of the most important films of Almodóvar’s decades-spanning, award-winning, groundbreaking career as a director:
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Pepi, Luci, Bom was Almodóvar’s first feature as a director, but it was 1988’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown that launched him into the cinematic pantheon. The dark dramedy starred Carmen Maura and was an early breakout role for Antonio Banderas, who has remained a collaborator with Almodóvar to this day. The film, about a woman who is abandoned by her married boyfriend, was nominated for the 1988 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won five Goya Awards.
All About My Mother (1999)
In the eleven years between Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and 1999’s All About My Mother, Almodóvar continued to make films that were critical and commercial hits, including Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), High Heels (1991), and The Flower of My Secret (1993). All About My Mother is his best known film from the 1990s however, and opened the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, where Almodóvar won Best Director. The awards kept coming for the film, which explored themes of sisterhood and family, and earned Almodóvar his first Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as a Golden Globe, two BAFTAs, and six Goya Awards.
Talk to Her (2002)
Talk to Her received nearly universal critical acclaim when it was released, employing unconventional cinematic techniques for mainstream films like modern dance and silent filmmaking. The film tells the story of two men who bond while taking care of a comatose woman they both love. Almodóvar won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and was nominated for Best Director, cementing his status as not just an internationally respected filmmaker but one of the best in the industry.
Bad Education (2004)
Starring Gael García Bernal and Fele Martínez, Bad Education was a drama about child sexual abuse and mixed identities, and employs unconventional storytelling structure in its screenplay. The film opened at the 57th Cannes Film Festival and, among other awards, won the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release, in part for its deft portrayal of transsexuality.
Volver was a very personal film for Almodóvar, who used elements from his own childhood to craft a story about three generations of women as they deal with sexual abuse, grief, secrets, and death. The film was anchored by a powerful performance by Penélope Cruz, who earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the first Spanish actress to do so in that category.
The Skin I Live In (2011)
The Skin I Live In was Almodóvar’s first foray into psychological horror, and is loosely based on a French novel by Thierry Jonquet. The film stars Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon haunted by tragedy who is obsessed with creating burn-proof skin, and ends up keeping a prisoner in his mansion to achieve this. The film reunited Banderas with Almodóvar for the first time since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and employs a variety of cinematographic and editing techniques inspired by genre filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and David Cronenberg.
Pain and Glory (2019)
Almodóvar’s latest film was released earlier this year and debuted at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d’Or. Pain and Glory tells the story of a film director whose career has peaked, and again stars Antonio Banderas, who won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his work. The film was unsurprisingly a critical hit, and became the highest-grossing Spanish film of the year.
What’s your favorite Pedro Almodóvar film? Let us know in the comments or @ us on your favorite social media platform!
Epic adventure film Independence Day was a very big deal when it was released in the summer of 1996, with an emphasis on big. The alien invasion film, a modern take on a classic War of the Worlds scenario, featured city-sized spaceships laying waste to famous American landmarks. One of the last mega-sized films before CGI began to dominate Hollywood special effects, the destructive use of exploding miniatures—including the White House and the Empire State Building—were perhaps the epitome of the art form.
But that’s not all we remember from the popcorn sci-fi crowd-pleaser. Here are eight other things we’ll never forget from Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day.“Welcome to Earth” Will SmithRapper and Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Will Smith had a few film credits under his belt, including a lead role in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, but it was Independence Day that made Smith a household name, putting him at the top of an A-List he still dominates to this day. His charismatic personality was perfected in the quippy, frenetic role as fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The precise moment Smith became a superstar might have been when he greeted one of the invading aliens with a punch to the face and the line, “Welcome to Earth.”“We will not vanish without a fight!”Bill Pullman’s young President Whitmore decides to fly along with the last of his fighter pilots in a last-ditch attempt to defeat the aliens before all hope is lost, but not before giving a rousing impromptu speech as dawn breaks. That speech, simple and corny, has since become legend,played frequently by numerous media outlets every Fourth of July. Pullman has even been requested to recite the speech in full on multiple occasions.The arrival of the shipsThe design of the invading spaceships are brilliant—a colossal, ominous, 90s modern stainless steel take on the classic flying saucer UFO. When they first show up over the coastlines of several major cities, they arrive in miles of flame and smoke, violently shaking the ground underneath and resulting in millions of strained necks as innocent bystanders can do nothing but look up in fearful awe. What an entrance.
“Welcome to Earth” Will Smith
Rapper and Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Will Smith had a few film credits under his belt, including a lead role in Michael Bay’s Bad Boys, but it was Independence Day that made Smith a household name, putting him at the top of an A-List he still dominates to this day. His charismatic personality was perfected in the quippy, frenetic role as fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller. The precise moment Smith became a superstar might have been when he greeted one of the invading aliens with a punch to the face and the line, “Welcome to Earth.”
“We will not vanish without a fight!”
Bill Pullman’s young President Whitmore decides to fly along with the last of his fighter pilots in a last-ditch attempt to defeat the aliens before all hope is lost, but not before giving a rousing impromptu speech as dawn breaks. That speech, simple and corny, has since become legend,played frequently by numerous media outlets every Fourth of July. Pullman has even been requested to recite the speech in full on multiple occasions.
The arrival of the ships
The design of the invading spaceships are brilliant—a colossal, ominous, 90s modern stainless steel take on the classic flying saucer UFO. When they first show up over the coastlines of several major cities, they arrive in miles of flame and smoke, violently shaking the ground underneath and resulting in millions of strained necks as innocent bystanders can do nothing but look up in fearful awe. What an entrance.
“Is this glass bulletproof?”
Midway through the film, the surviving heroes visit Area 51, where an escaped alien takes out a group of scientists and reveals the secret plan of his species behind a wall of laboratory glass. President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) hears enough and asks his military guard if the glass is bulletproof. Major Mitchell, played by Adam Baldwin, promptly replies “No, sir!” and opens fire on the creature in a hailstorm of bullets and broken glass.
Oscar-nominated Judd Hirsch stole the show as comic relief in a film where nearly every single character provides comic relief. Only a few years off a multi-decade run as a sitcom star, Hirsch was old enough now to play the cranky father to Jeff Goldblum’s neurotic genius David Levinson. Hirsch’s character wasn’t just funny—he was smart, discovering the government’s secret base Area 51. “You don’t actually think they spend $20,000 on a hammer, $30,000 on a toilet seat, do you?”
The canyon chase
After the massive destructive set pieces that saw Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York City laid to waste, the United States strikes back with several fighter jets. The aliens surprisingly have smaller fighting ships themselves, defended by impenetrable shields. The pilots are quickly laid to waste, including Captain Hiller’s best friend played by Harry Connick, Jr. Hiller (Will Smith) is the last man flying, and leads one ship into the desert and a deep canyon where he’s able to out-maneuver and crash the alien ship in one of the most exciting chase sequences of the 1990s.
In a film filled with memorable characteractors, Oscar-nominated Randy Quaid (Vacation, Kingpin) makes his mark as a Vietnam vet traumatized by his previous abduction by aliens. In the end, he sacrifices his life to save his family and finally gets his revenge, but not before getting out not one but two quips before he goes. The first, and more crude of the two as he flies up the bottom of the ship to destroy it from the inside, is “Up yours!” (Remember this film came out right in the middle of the 90s.) The second, with a glorious grin on his face is: “Hello boys, I’m baaaaaaaaack.”
Oh yeah, and Jeff Goldblum stars in this movie right smack in the middle of transitioning from idiosyncratic and mysterious actor Jeff Goldblum to walking self-aware personality “Jeff Goldblum.” It’s glorious. He gives the aliens a cold. Need we say more?
The Fourth of July means many things to many people, but one thing nearly everyone thinks about on Independence Day are the fireworks. They’re loud, they’re big, and they’re beautiful–so of course they grab our attention, and of course they are a great way to convey action, celebration, and emotion in a visual medium, including film. Here are five great uses of fireworks in cinema:
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Before several hours of over-the-top groundbreaking cinematic action take place in Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy saga, we get a light show thanks to Gandalf the Wizard and some mischievous hobbits. Gandalf recounts the notable battle between Bilbo and Smaug (later depicted in its own trilogy of blockbusters) with the use of crowd-pleasing fireworks, which goes awry once Merry and Pippin bungle things up and set more off than they can handle.
One of the most powerful dramas ever made, the background use of fireworks by visionary director Ang Lee serve a more subtle purpose than usual. Ennis (Heath Ledger) is a married father struggling with the love he has for another man. When he faces a pair of drunk, troublemaking bikers who challenge him and his wife, Ennis saves the day and beats them in an affirmation of his traditional masculinity. With the fireworks blazing behind him, it seems like a perfect patriotic cheering moment, but masks the unconventional road Ennis’s life has taken. Oz the Great and Powerful
“Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” The Sam Raimi-directed, James Franco-starring sequel had a lot to live up to when it was released nearly 75 years after its predecessor, The Wizard of Oz. That classic film used bright technicolor to bestow wonder on its cinematic audience. Oz the Great and Powerful attempts to do the same with a fiery explosion of color during the heightened climactic battle between the good and the wicked.
Land of the Dead Zombie godfather George Romero’s long-awaited third sequel to Night of the Living Dead introduced some novel concepts to the franchise of brain-eating ghouls. One was a zombie-proof tank of a vehicle called Dead Reckoning that used “sky flowers” to distract hordes of the undead. By firing fireworks straight into the sky, the living could buy themselves some time as the zombies gawked up in slackjawed awe–Romero’s films are often a critique on actual, breathing humans, and this metaphor might not be too far off.
The final battle between Disney warrior Mulan and villain Shan Yu is an epic climax and one of the most memorable scenes in the film. Fireworks are used for good triumphing over evil–a classic trope used with simple yet bombastic fanfare. Fireworks were also invented in China and are an important part of Chinese culture, bringing poignancy to the scene. Will the planned 2020 live action remake outdo this explosive sequence? We’ll soon find out…
Some movies just have a certain feel to them, and summer movies are no exception. Summer movies can evoke the feeling we had when the school year would end, or bring to mind summer imagery like beaches, sunshine, and fireworks.
The best part of summer movies is that you can watch them year-round, whether it’s in comfy air conditioning in the middle of July, or reminding you of warmer times during an ice cold February blizzard. Here’s some summer movies that will always bring the sunshine:
The 1975 classic is the definitive summer movie, not only taking place on (and scaring people away from) the beach, but it was also the first summer blockbuster, making popcorn movies as much of a summer staple as ice cold lemonade. The shark-starring thriller also launched director Steven Spielberg and composer John Williams into the stratosphere.
One of the most famous summer love stories ever takes place before the musical film even starts, but watching the sparks fly all over again between Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) and Danny (John Travolta) makes this film an all-time classic.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
The ultimate road trip movie, Vacation was comic actor Chevy Chase in peak form as the head of the Griswold family on a doomed trip to theme park Walley World. The film, directed by Caddyshack director and Ghostbusters writer and star Harold Ramis, spawned three sequels starring Chase, as well as a fourth sequel that served double duty as a remake.
Lilo & Stitch
Academy Award nominee for Best Feature in 2003, the Disney film showcases the friendship between an adorable little girl and an even cuter alien creature. Even though the movie is animated, its Hawaiian setting will give you summer vibes while giving you all of the feels.
The Parent Trap
Both the 1961 and 1998 versions of the Disney family comedy are must-watches. Stars Hayley Mills in the original and Lindsay Lohan in the remake are perfectly cast in dual roles as identical twin sisters little ready to do whatever it takes to bring their divorced parents back together, even if it means pretending to be one another.
The 1987 film tells the story of Frances (Jennifer Grey), a teenage girl who falls in love with her dance instructor Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) at a summer resort in the Poconos. The film spawned timeless quotes, heated dance moves, and iconic track “(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life,” which won the Golden Globe, Oscar, and Grammy for Original song. Nobody puts this movie in a corner.
Mr. Bean’s Holiday
Rowan Atkinson reprises his iconic role as Mr. Bean in a family-friendly farce that also showcases the stunning vistas of France. Along the way, Bean finds true love and helps a young boy reunite with his father.
Little Miss Sunshine
If you’re looking for a little subdued dramedy in your summer films, Little Miss Sunshine is probably for you. The road trip indie stars Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear, Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano, and Alan Arkin (who won an Oscar for his role), and tells the story of an adorable little girl who wants nothing more than to win a pageant, and her miserable family stuck along for the ride.
The Great Outdoors
Another 80s vacation classic, The Great Outdoors shows off comedic greats John Candy and Dan Aykroyd as bickering, competitive in-laws sharing a summer cabin by the lake. Full of slapstick humor and barenaked bears, The Great Outdoors was written by John Hughes at the height of his Hollywood powers.
You don’t need huge budgets or a major film studio system in place to create a timeless film. While you may be familiar with some well-known American independent films, there are many foreign indie movies that may have flown under your radar. Here’s just a sample of some foreign independent films that should be on everyone’s watchlist:
Amélie (2001), France
Amélie is a 2001 romantic comedy directed by famed French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet. In the film, a shy waitress named Amélie tries to have a positive impact on those around her despite struggling herself to survive in modern-day Paris. Amélie‘s numerous accolades include Best Film at the European Film Awards, four César Awards, two BAFTA Awards, and five Academy Award nominations.
Cronos (1993), Mexico
The first feature film of master director Guillermo del Toro, this horror drama about an ancient artifact is considered one of the best independent Mexican films of all time. Cronos received an overwhelmingly positive critical response from international film critics. Accolades include winning several international film festival competitions and being chosen as the Mexican entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards.
Dreamchild (1985), United Kingdom
Nominated for 1985’s Independent Spirit Award for Best International Film, Dreamchild is a British drama about Alice Liddell, the famous young girl said to have inspired Lewis Carroll’s classic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. While traveling from England to the United States to receive an honorary degree celebrating what would have been Lewis Carroll’s 100th birthday, an elderly Alice begins suffering flashbacks and hallucinations involving characters from the novel that made Carroll famous.
Breathless (1960), France
À bout de souffle, which directly translated to “out of breath”, is a 1960 French crime drama written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard, perhaps the most prominent figure in the French New Wave movement. In the film, a young thief named Michel comes to depend on an aspiring American journalist while on the run after killing a policeman. Breathless is considered an early pioneer of French New Wave cinema and helped bring international attention to the fresh, unique style of filmmaking.
Ran (1985), Japan
Ran is an epic period drama edited, directed, and co-written by legendary Japanese director and screenwriter Akira Kurosawa. Set in Medieval Japan, the story follows a retired warlord who hands his empire to his three sons, only to see them grow corrupt and violent towards each other. Receiving critical acclaim across the globe, Ran was the first Japanese film to earn an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best International Film.
Wings of Desire (1987), Germany
Known as Der Himmel über Berlin (The Heaven Over Berlin) in Germany, this romantic fantasy film directed by Wim Wenders is about angels that dwell in the city of Berlin while listening to the thoughts of its human residents. One angel eventually falls in love with a woman and sacrifices his immortality to be with her. Wings of Desire earned numerous awards and nominations, including winning Best Foreign Film at the 1988 Independent Spirit Awards. It was remade as the American film City of Angels, starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, in 1998.
Before the Rain (1994), Macedonia
Helmed by Macedonian film director Milcho Manchevski, Before the Rain garnered worldwide acclaim, earning an Academy Award nomination, a Silver Condor, Golden Bug, and the Golden Lion at the 51st Venice International Film Festival. In the film, three love stories unravel as civil war begins spreading throughout Macedonia.
Bad Taste (1987), New Zealand
This sci-fi comedy horror splatter film served as iconic New Zealand film director Peter Jackson‘s first feature film. Made with a budget of $25,000, Bad Taste went on to become a cult film despite being banned in Australia for its high levels of gore. Its plot revolves around aliens that arrive in New Zealand in order to harvest humans for their intergalactic fast food franchise, a far cry from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies Jackson would later helm.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), China
Selected in 2010 as one of the 30 Most Significant Independent Films of the last 30 years by the Independent Film & Television Alliance, this acclaimed wuxia film by Ang Lee revolves around skilled Chinese warriors fighting for a powerful sword called Green Destiny. The film is based on a Chinese novel written by Wang Dulu and featured a strong cast of actors, including Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. Winner of more than 40 awards, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s top wins include Best Picture at the Academy Awards, four BAFTAs, and two Golden Globes. It is considered one of the most influential martial arts films of all time.
There are any number of reasons you might have a limited amount of time to create a short film (even from scratch), including intentionally for competitions like the Asian American Film Lab72-Hour Shootout. Time is one of the most valuable resources a filmmaker can have, so creating a short film in a crunch can be quite the challenge.
New York Film Academy has pooled advice from the chairs and faculty of our many different departments—including Cinematography, Producing,Filmmaking, and Digital Editing—to give a well-balanced list of offered tips and best practices for creating the best possible short film in a short amount of time:
Try to come up with a great idea that works in a few minutes. Keep the concept simple and focused. A good logline can help you focus your idea and keep you from wandering too far off course.
Come up with a story that can believably occur in a very short amount of time, even ten minutes. Your actual film’s running time doesn’t need to be that long, but you will be able to dramatize shorter events in a more grounded way.
Cast carefully. Some actors may be more comfortable with ample rehearsal time, so make sure they know the time restrictions of your shoot.
Allow your actors to contribute. If they’re inventive, give them a chance to improvise. Shoot takes with alternate lines of dialogue. This can be especially effective in comedies.
When directing your actors, remember these tips:
Let your actor know what their objective in each scene is.
Make sure you and your actor are on the same page about their character and their motivations. If you disagree, take a few minutes to discuss, listen, and compromise.
Be there for your actor. While some actors may prefer to do things their own way, most seek and thrive on direction, even if it’s just pointing them the right way, metaphorically speaking.
Or literally speaking! Blocking is very important not just for your framing but for the intensity of the scene itself. Work with your actors to find the right blocking for each scene–what feels right for them and what looks best for the camera.
Make sure your schedules are detailed out to the minute and remember that communication between cast and crew is key. By having everyone’s contact information and by communicating clearly where everyone is expected to be and when, you can avoid unnecessary delays in production. Give them directions and expected travel times to the set.
Organize your days so you can shoot several scenes in one day. If you have multiple locations, select the key location for the day and then find your other locations in the immediate area. Moving locations can be a killer and waste tons of time. Try to group scenes together that use the same cast members and costumes. Be efficient in your scheduling and don’t be afraid to shoot out of order or out of sequence. Schedule your exteriors first—that way, if it rains you have the option of delaying those scenes until the following day. And have a cover set (or interior) waiting to go, so you can move inside and not lose a shooting day
Put together an inexpensive but effective equipment list. Your story won’t be improved with more pixels, but you also don’t want your camera breaking down in the middle of your shoot. Test all the gear before you leave for the set.
Once you’re on location, if something breaks and has to be replaced, you’re going to lose valuable time. Don’t be afraid to be inventive. You may not have a professional dolly but some of the most inventive directors come up with novel solutions that actually make their shots more interesting.
Make sure all batteries and other accessories are charged before the shoot, and spares are being charged during the shoot. Remember, with only three days to shoot, every minute counts and every delay needs to be avoided at all costs.
Don’t be afraid of using natural lights and don’t be afraid if not everything is lit and bright. Often enough, beauty lies in the darkness. Silhouettes, high contrast, backlighting, and dramatic shadows can create a very dynamic and powerful cinematographic look.
When shooting a scene, start with your biggest shot first and then shoot all your closer shots looking in the same direction. Then turn around and, again, start with your biggest shot and work progressively closer.
Sound, on the other hand, is another issue. Bad sound is often said to be the hallmark of amateur filmmaking. If your audience is struggling to understand what your actors are saying, there won’t be much room left for emotional involvement. So do everything you can, within your limitations, to get the best sound/dialogue recorded on the set. Whoever said, “we’ll fix it in post,” must have had tons of money, so erase those words from your vocabulary.
Keep sound in mind before you even begin filming–make sure the locations you choose and even the story you tell will be make your sound recording as easy as possible. If you can, have a good portion of your film dialogue free, with scenes that can use music or non-sync sound in their stead, as sync sound will always take longer to shoot.
When working in post-production, remember it’s ok to be ruthless–do not be afraid to cut, even if it means undoing hours of work.Always, always, always back up your project and footage in different locations. Save often so you don’t lose any time due to a computer error. Learn to say goodbye to your mouse and learn keyboard shortcuts to become a faster and more efficient video editor–with only three days to make your film, every second counts!
GENERAL PRODUCTION DO’s AND DON’T’s
Keep your productions simple. Limit the number of cast members. Limit the number of locations. Avoid big scenes with elaborate sets, costumes and props. Stay away from period pieces, children and animals—they are far too unpredictable. And be as professional as you can be. Although you may want to break the rules when it comes to content, there’s a good reason professional shoots are organized the way they are. The better prepared you are, the more likely you will capture your vision.
Screenwriter, producer, and director Larry Cohen, a filmmaker with a passionate and loyal fanbase, has passed away at the age of 82 (his birth year has often been reported as 1941, but his family and census records confirmed that this is incorrect, as reported in the New York Times). Cohen, whose career in film spanned several decades, was best known for his unique work in the B-movie genre scene.
Cohen was born and raised in New York City before going to film school. He had a particular passion for noir films, as well as the work of Casablanca director Michael Curtiz. He turned the former into a career in the late 1950s and 1960s, writing for crime television shows like The Defenders and The Fugitive, and later in the 1970s writing for Colombo.
It wasn’t long before Cohen pivoted to more genre fare, creating the NBC Western series Branded in 1965 and the sci-fi ABC series The Invaders in 1967. He began writing films during this period as well, including the sequel to The Magnificent Seven.
His directorial debut was the 1972 crime comedy Bone, starring Yaphet Kotto, which Cohen also wrote and produced. Two years later Cohen made It’s Alive, a horror film about a killer mutant baby, which was eventually a modest hit. The film was scored by frequent Hitchcock-collaborator Bernard Hermann and its pharmaceuticals-adjacent story showcased a career characteristic of Cohen to incorporate social commentary into his B-movie horror. The film spawned two sequels and a 2009 reboot.
His genre films also typically included police and crime elements to them, including 1976’s God Told Me To. In the 1980s, Cohen built a reputation for producing, directing, and writing low-budget horror films with a cult following. 1982’s Q: The Winged Serpent featured a giant monster flying around midtown Manhattan while also focusing on two detectives following a multiple homicide case.
Cohen’s best-known film, The Stuff, came out shortly after, in 1985. The film includes a killer alien substance that the general public became addicted to, and included social commentary on consumerism, advertising, and the tobacco industry. Despite its over-the-top premise, the film is still regarded as one of the best low-budget horror films of the 20th century.
Cohen continued to write and direct for the next few decades, including the Maniac Cop films; Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth, starring Colin Farrell and Forest Whitaker; and Cellular, starring Kim Basinger, Chris Evans, and Jason Statham. In 2006, he was invited to participate in the TV anthology series Masters of Horror along with other notable filmmakers like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Joe Dante, Dario Argento, James Gunn, Robert Rodriguez, and Guillermo del Toro.
In 2017, Cohen participated in a documentary that profiled his career, King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen, which featured actors and filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams, and John Landis. The film recently screened at New York Film Academy-Los Angeles along with a Q&A panel with the filmmakers. Cohen was scheduled to appear but was ultimately unable to attend; he lamentably passed away two days later.
After news of Cohen’s death became public, there was an outpouring of praise for him on social media by both his peers and by filmmakers who cite him as an influence in their own work, including Guillermo del Toro, Edgar Wright, and Joe Dante.
Many people say they’ve made ‘independent’ films (many financed by majors) but Larry Cohen truly was an independent freewheeling movie legend. For so many fun high concept genre romps with ideas bigger than the budgets, for so many truly inspiring cult movies, I thank you Larry. pic.twitter.com/HVWfuuCFSS
Larry Cohen. RIP. A true iconoclast and independent. I will always marvel at It’s Alive!, Q, Perfect Strangers (what a brilliant premise!) and God Told Me To- Andy Kaufman being in it just adds more special sauce. pic.twitter.com/xzuXH8sa0b
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.
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 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.
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,
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
In addition to Best Picture, Cavalcadewon 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.
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.
Lee has been a figure in American cinema since his 1986 feature debut, She’s Gotta Have It, which was adapted into a television series in 2017. Many of his films have examined race relations, urban life, political issues of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the role media plays in modern society. In 1983, Lee won the Student Academy Award, and has since been nominated for an Oscar five times, though this is the first time he’s been recognized for his Directing. BlacKkKlansman is up for Best Picture and stars John David Washington and Adam Driver as 1970s NYPD detectives exposing the Ku Klux Klan.
Cold War, Pawel Pawlikowski
Pawel Pawlikowski is a Polish filmmaker who has helmed several award-winning documentaries and feature films, including Ida, which won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2015. At the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Pawlikowski won the Best Director prize his latest film, Cold War. In addition to Best Directing, Cold War is up for two other Oscars — Best Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film. Cold War is a period film loosely based on Pawlikowski’s parents, who fell in love and played music in Europe during the height of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the West.
The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos
Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has been making a name for himself since his 2009 film, Dogtooth, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. His film The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell, was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar. His period dramedy The Favourite has generated a lot of buzz since its release, with ten Oscar nominations in total, including Best Picture and three Acting nods for its main cast of Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Olivia Colman. Colman in particular has become a favorite for her leading role as Queen Anne.
Roma, Alfonso Cuarón
Alfonso Cuarón is no stranger to the Academy Awards, having ten nominations total and two wins to date, including Best Film Editing and Best Directing for his 2014 space epic, Gravity. His oeuvre has been varied throughout the years, including Great Expectations, Y Tu Mamá También, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Children of Men. Roma, a favorite in this year’s Oscars with 10 nominations, is a semi-autobiographical story set in the early 1970s and shot in stark black-and-white.
Vice, Adam McKay
Adam McKay has had an unconventional path to prestige filmmaking. The Philadelphia comedian failed his audition to be on Saturday Night Live but earned a spot on its writing staff and eventually became the show’s head writer. He had an instant chemistry with cast member Will Ferrell, and eventually wrote and directed several films starring the actor, including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and Step Brothers. His career moved to the next level with 2015’s The Big Short, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as a nomination for Best Directing. His newest film, Vice, starring Christian Bale as former Vice President Dick Cheney, has eight Oscar nominations, including three nods for McKay.
Scorsese. Tarantino. Sometimes a name alone can signify a brand. We can instantly identify signature styles, techniques, work ethic, personality traits, and many other unique qualities or images associated with those names because of the brand they’ve built as filmmakers.
Building a brand is creating your own identity among the many millions of other filmmakers out there trying to do the same thing. It’s about differentiating yourself from everyone else and giving people a story about you and what you offer – otherwise known as your reputation.
Terms like “personal branding” can repel artists like the plague. but the reality is business can be just as much a part of filmmaking as the art – particularly in our current digital landscape where information is ubiquitous, and every man and his dog has a platform to vie for your attention.
Seeing as filmmaking is synonymous with storytelling, building your brand isn’t as daunting a task as you may think — in a way, it’s telling the story of yourself. With that in mind, the most important things to portray through your brand are:
–Who you are
–What it is you do
–How you go about it, and
–Where you’d like to go
Once you’ve worked out the answers, think about the audience you want to target — one that will best respond to your own style and sensibilities. Establishing a niche is important so as to reflect what qualities you want people to associate with you – your filmmaking identity (FI) – and to manifest that through:
–Your products and services – films, talent etc.
–Your relationships – with crew members, agents, other filmmakers, basically anyone you interact with really
–Your communications – your social networking, business cards, website etc.
Although the current digital landscape has exponentially increased the number of accessible filmmaking voices to compete with, it’s also simultaneously broadened your reach.
As mentioned above, social networking platforms are one of the most basic yet critical components to marketing your FI. If you have a production company, establish a logo and other design elements that correspond with the adjectives you want your audience to associate you with, and be sure to feature this on all of your digital mediums (and non-digital, like your business card). When it comes to branding, consistency is key. So make sure things like the color concept, font, showreel, ‘about me’ sections etc. throughout Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, or any other platform you choose to market yourself on stay relatively similar. And don’t forget to engage!
Creator of Instagram filmmaking community @filmmakersworld, Emanuele Giannini, thinks of the platform as today’s digital portfolio for filmmakers and claims it’s a great way to “build an audience, attract new business, and collaborate online.” Platforms like it are also a great way to build relationships and learn from the best. Because your brand is tied to the emotions or impressions people have of you, your relationships and the way you communicate and engage with others will always play a big part.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be authentic. In fact, always be sure to showcase your individuality and uniqueness. But remember: Filmmaking is rarely a solitary job, so presenting a positive brand through social media can multiply the chances of networking with industry people who’ve never met you to reach out with opportunities.
When all is said and done, a brand won’t garner much positive attention if you’re not putting great care and effort into your work. So be sure to always be working on your filmmaking skills first and foremost, continually honing and evolving your voice. Then go forth and build that filmmaking identity – tell your story and make it great!
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?
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.
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.
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!
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. Halloween4 was released ten years after the original, in 1988, and quickly followed up with Halloween5 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.
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.
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.
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.
Rainer on Film
With Rainer on Film, Peter Rainer dives deeper into film trends with video essays that incorporate clips from films as well as behind-the-scenes photos and footage. In its debut episode, the film critic discusses films of the 1960s and 1970s. In the second episode, Rainer moves on to the films of the 1980s.
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:
The Back Lot – NYFA Podcast
The Backlot podcast aims to offer our students and you, the listener, expert insight into the film and entertainment industry through top notch instructors and A-list guests. Check out the July 22, 2019 episode where guest Peter Rainer discusses the Hollywood artists we lost in 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With television adequately keeping up with the vastly different business model that became necessary with the advent of the internet and digital culture and consumption, it’s no surprise it’s now able to attain huge production budgets, incredibly rich and complex narratives, and Hollywood’s biggest actors – things that were previously only seen in films. Consequently, as an awards ceremony exclusively focused on television, the Emmys are now bigger than ever. Let’s look at some of the trends emerging from this year’s list of nominees:
This is by far the most dominant trend among the nominees this year. Diversity and inclusion of previously marginalized communities are not only being represented at an all-time high among recognized programs but they’re at front and center, with many of the protagonists being LGBTQI+, people of color, and/or women. Not only do the central characters identify as such, but much of the narratives and plotlines largely center around the perspectives and experiences of those within the communities.
With no surprises, Game of Thrones tops the list for most nominations at 22 nods in total, followed by Saturday Night Live and Westworld with 21 nods each, and The Handmaid’s Tale at 20. With exception to Saturday Night Live, given it’s a sketch-comedy show, the top three alone feature characters (and actors) with fluid sexual preferences and have strong, female leads playing roles that challenge the status-quo – both within their plotlines and subsequently in real life. In fact, most of the programs with ten or more nominations, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (14), The Crown (13), Godless (12), and GLOW (10), offer female-centric narratives that focus on the female experience within dominant patriarchal gender norms.
Many have also made significant parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale and our current political climate, connecting it to broader discussions around women’s rights as well as the #MeToo movement. RuPaul’s Drag Race, a reality-competition show featuring drag queens also continues its reign (it’s had 23 nominations since the show began), with 10 nods this year.
Moreover, five of the seven nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series – The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and GLOW, mentioned previously for ten or more overall nominations — are either based on the lives of people of color and/or women: Black-ish, Atlanta, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (the remaining two being Silicon Valley and Curb Your Enthusiasm). Additionally, Sandra Oh’s nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her role in Killing Eve makes her the first woman of Asian descent to receive the lead actress nod in that category.
Diversity in the Emmys has reached to even lesser known demographics. Peter Dinklage, who was born with dwarfism, has twice won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for playing Tyrion in 2011 and 2015, is nominated again this year, officially making him the most nominated person in that category ever. Following his acceptance speech in 2015 where he mentioned the name ‘Martin Henderson’, a 4-foot-2 actor in England who suffered partial paralysis after being physically thrown by an unknown assailant, Dinklage addressed the prejudice those with dwarfism face but pointed out that part of the media portrayal lay in the hands of the actors. “You can say no,” he said. “You can not be the object of ridicule.”
Dystopias, Apocalypses, & Time Periods
Another recurring theme among the programs nominated this year is this end-of-the-world, humans versus [insert varying non-human character] dystopian storyline. Perhaps telling of our current-day political and/or ideological milieu? In terms of time travel, however, most of this year’s frontrunners are set back in time, or in the future, or both. In fact, all seven programs in the Outstanding Drama Series category this year are either entirely set in or have elements of the past in them. In the case of The Handmaid’s Tale, there’s no linear timeline or clear epoch but it plays with the idea of a dystopian world set in the present day but with traditional lifestyles and values more commonly seen between the 1800s-1900s.
Westworld similarly switches between past and present, although the word ‘present’ is more for audience reference — the story is actually set in the future (some devout fans predict maybe around year 2050-2060?), whilst the fictional theme park, Westworld, is based on many Western films like El Dorado and The Searchers, which were predominantly set following the Civil War at the end of the 19th Century. Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Americans, This Is Us, and The Crown are also in said category. GLOW, which is in the Outstanding Comedy Series category, is set in the 1980s, along with Stranger Things and The Americans.
With all these period and otherworldly television series, it’s safe to say this year’s VFX, costume, hair and makeup, and production design teams had their work cut out for them!
This year, Netflix has come out on top with 112 nominees in total, followed by HBO, with 108. Third in line is commercial broadcast television network NBC, but with 78 total nominees, it’s significantly behind the two networks ahead of it. HBO is a cable network, but what differentiates them from the other traditional channels is the innovative way they’ve reinvented themselves to adapt to the digital market by introducing the popular streaming option, HBO NOW, which doesn’t require an already existing cable subscription.
This is a testament to the changing shape of television viewing. No longer limited by locale or device, audiences have more of a ubiquitous television experience and networks have had no choice but to respond. Consequently, more and more shows are being picked up, giving screenwriters and filmmakers a larger reach and more opportunities to take chances and make niche content.