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3 Filmmaking Trends Taking Over the Emmys

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:

Diversity

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!

Streaming

Netflix

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.

 

9 Essential Books on Filmmaking and Directing

Even if you’re at the top of your game or currently getting hands-on at an intensive filmmaking school program, it can pay dividends to do some additional learning behind the scenes.

Thankfully, for those who live and breathe the craft, there are more than a few excellent books in which to immerse yourself and get even further ahead of the game…

… in fact, it could be argued that there are too many to choose from. With this in mind, join us as we separate the wheat from the chaff with:

9 Best Books on Filmmaking and Directing

The following is a summary of the best filmmaking books written by filmmakers, for filmmakers. Naturally, any list of this kind features a certain level of subjectivity, but all of the below are industry renowned titles and come highly recommended.

The Filmmaker’s Handbook

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The Filmmaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for the Digital Age (2013 Edition) by Steven Ascher and Edward Pincus

A staple of filmmaker’s bookshelves for well over a decade, the latest edition of The Filmmaker’s Handbook has revitalized all of the essential knowledge which it has become known for and brought it right up to date. If you don’t own this book already, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

On Directing Film

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On Directing Film (1992) by David Mamet

David Mamet is heralded for both his on-stage work (for which he has won Pulitzer and Tony prizes) and also his work on the screen, having ratcheted up a couple of Oscar nominations. As such, Mamet has more than a few nuggets of wisdom to share throughout the pages of On Directing Film, making it a mandatory read for directors… or really, anyone working in film.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (1999) by Peter Biskind

While not a manual on filmmaking, Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders is essential reading in order to fully understand the foundations on which modern-day Hollywood was built. We could have chosen any title by this highly engaging cultural critic – Down and Dirty Pictures is also highly recommended – but Easy Riders is a great place to start.

Directing: Film Techniques & Aesthetics

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Directing: Film Techniques & Aesthetics (Fifth Edition, 2013) by Michael Rabinger and Mick Hurbis-Cherrier

Another must-read for either those at filmmaking school or looking to make a career hop over to the director’s seat. What isn’t covered on the profession in this book could probably fit on the back of a postage stamp. From start to finish, this truly is one of the most comprehensive books ever written – and frequently updated – on the art and science of directing.

How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000

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How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000 (And Not Go to Jail) by Bret Stern (2002)

Coupled with one of the more authoritative, traditional tomes on filmmaking listed here, Bret Stern’s very liberating approach to the topic will have you on the road to becoming an indie maverick in no time. How To Shoot a Feature Film For Under $10,000 is guaranteed to revolutionize your approach to problem solving (and hopefully make you a much better filmmaker in the process.)

On Film-Making

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On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director (2005) by Alexander Mackendrick, edited by Paul Cronin

Alexander Mackendrick’s seminal volume on the craft of filmmaking has long been an industry standard text, and one that has helped countless individuals find their own cinematographic eye and achieve success in directing. Following the great director and teacher’s death in 1993, the various handouts he would give to his students were collated by Paul Cronin and presented in this book (with a foreword from Martin Scorsese.)

In the Blink of an Eye

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In the Blink of an Eye (2nd Edition, 2001) by Walter Murch

As a thought-provoking treatise on the practicalities and aesthetics of cutting film, In the Blink of an Eye is a book everyone who works in editing should read. Don’t be put off – this isn’t a technical manual on the hows of editing, but more of a meditation on the whys.

Making Movies

Making Movies by Sidney Lumet (1995)

Legendary director Sidney Lumet didn’t see filmmaking as magic, so this magician was more than happy to share his secrets. Lumet wasn’t just a visionary–he was very much a workman, and believed having a clear, firm control of his set would lead to a smooth production that would allow everyone, from crew to cast, to do their best. The five-time Oscar nominee backs up his ideas with sample shot lists and schedules and other practical templates filmmakers can use to this day.

Rebel without a Crew

While Mexican director Robert Rodriguez is now more known for his blockbuster epics like Alita: Battle Angel and the Spy Kids movies, Rodriguez first rose to prominence with his independent film El Mariachi, which he shot with only $7,000. One way he saved money was by serving as his own editor, cinematographer, writer, producer, director, and film scorer–roles he still fills for many of his much higher-budgeted films to this day. His guerilla-style, ultra low-budget take on indie filmmaking is detailed in his book Rebel without a Crew, a must-read for filmmakers who don’t have millions of dollars at their disposal to make the movie of their dreams.

Rebel without a Crew by Robert Rodriguez (1995)

Read any other excellent books on filmmaking that we should be checking out and including here? Don’t hesitate to drop your suggestion in the comments below, and let’s chat books! And check out NYFA’s filmmaking programs to learn more about movie making.

Q&A With Jon Whittaker, Chair, Short-Term Programs, New York Film Academy

John WhittakerQ: What is the first lesson to learn in becoming a successful filmmaker?

JW: Honestly, when you are starting out and are fulfilling an entry-level position, one of the most important things is “being on time!” In this industry, your reputation is all you have, so you better make sure you’re making a good impression on people the first time around — you may not get that second chance. You also want to pay attention. It seems so simple yet so few nascent filmmakers pay attention on set when they are not in a decision making role. If you pay attention, take notes and ask questions, you will learn the most and make a lasting impression. As your career progresses and you take on roles with more responsibility, you need to learn to trust the crew around you. Understand that your role is mainly to channel other people’s talents as opposed to imposing your vision on everyone.

Q: What do you wish you knew when you started your education in your field?

JW: I entered the industry with a high level of naiveté. For me, one hard learned lesson was that no one is ever going to give you anything. In order to make it, you have to actively (very actively) carve out your own opportunities AND when you think you have “made it” and can be a little more lax in your pursuit of the next project, you are in trouble, because you can never think, “I’ve made it.”

Q: How do I get the most out of my program at NYFA?

JW: By putting the most into the program, which is true of filmmaking or any life experience really. You must give everything you have with complete dedication. By working on as many projects with your classmates as time permits (maybe even with students from other departments). By spending extra time with your professors, asking questions and challenging them. By being open to constructive criticism and letting down your defenses. By networking with the students around you, these people will be your future collaborators once you leave school.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your professional career?

JW: Everyone who enters the film industry considers him or herself a creative person, and as a director or cinematographer you have to be open to their ideas, because people will become more invested in a project if they feel that even the tiniest part of the film would not have existed were it not for them. That is what you want, a crew that truly cares about the material and are not there just to garner a paycheck.

Q: Which pieces of equipment do you find most effective in your field?

JW: This may sound a tad lame but what everyone on set needs is a comfortable pair of shoes. It’s a long day, you are going to be on your feet for the majority of it. Beyond my go-to boots, I love my director’s viewfinder app on my iPhone. It allows me to quickly audition different focal lengths and communicate with my DP. Actually, there are some really great apps that I have found useful when on set.

Q: What are the essential first steps to breaking into this field after completing a program at NYFA?

JW: I would say to get as much experience and exposure as possible. Do not be afraid to take any job and never go onto a set thinking any role is beneath you, just because you went to film school. Everyone in this industry started somewhere, and for most of us, that was working for little to no pay as a Production Assistant. When you do get that first PA job, be an active participant on set, pay attention, take notes and make sure you introduce yourself to the key people. Make sure they know you are there. Maybe the most important piece of advice is never stop working on your own projects, whether that is writing, shooting, directing or editing, you still have to keep working. Keep yourself relevant and constantly add to your body of work. When someone does take notice of you and asks what you are working on, you want to have a whole slate of interesting projects.

Q: Who do you consider to be the most influential artists in your field?

JW: There are so many influential artists in my life, but if I had to choose one, it would be Roger Deakins. His work has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to me. From his multiple collaborations with the Coen brothers to his advising work on Wall-E, he consistently produces memorable imagery and beautiful frames without ever having the cinematography get in the way of the narrative. He’s also a very kind and giving teacher to those with whom he works and the online community at large. A very close second would have to be Chris Doyle, specifically his work with Wong Kar Wai — simply amazing. From a directing standpoint, I would have to say Martin Scorsese. He has influenced a whole generation of filmmakers, not just in NYC, but also across the globe. I almost fainted the first time I walked on set and heard him giving direction.