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.
These days, comic books are synonymous with summer blockbusters, with box office records constantly being broken and high-profile names in the film industry vying for a chance to be a part of major cinematic universes and perhaps cementing a legacy akin to Tony Stark, aka Robert Downey Jr.
That’s right. RDJ’s performance as billionaire playboy with a heart, Tony Stark, has merged with the actor and for the public eye become a single persona of the larger-than-life hero that he plays. He’s not the only one–comic book fans around the world now see these actors embodied by the characters they portray and it is simply because they were able to bring to life the stories that they have grown up with.
Stories have molded many a reader from the shy, unpopular kid who can relate to Peter Parker and Spider-Man to the person who feels out of place in society because of their appearance or sexual orientation who empathize with the trials of discrimination in the pages of X-Men.
Many comic books represent the most important topics affecting contemporary society. It wasn’t always this way though. Comics started as a way for struggling writers and artists like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to make a living by coming up with characters with funny names and weird backstories and placing them in the most ridiculous outfits they can think of. A perfect example would be the original costume for Batman, who first started out wearing red tights with black underwear and bat-like wings. It wasn’t until his revolutionary creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger, decided to take these stories and make them mean something more.
Today you can look to Captain America for moral high ground, Batman for discipline and dedication, or the many female characters leading the charge for all young women seeking equality, recognition, and empowerment–including Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Supergirl, and She Hulk, to name a few.
The recent renaissance big-budget comic book adaptations and the performances of perfectly cast actors, paired with years of character development in the pages of comic books are now truly amazing cinema audiences.
Take the upcoming film, Joker, directed by Todd Phillips. Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Arthur Fleck,is a failed comedian spiraling into insanity, who eventually becomes the titular homicidal clown. The film generating so much buzz before its release that it is already an Oscar contender, and broke October box-office records in its first weekend of wide release.
No longer are comic books regarded as silly pulp magazines for kids to entertain themselves with. They now represent the individual reading them, they connect emotionally, and inspire generations of people who strive to tell the stories that can impact people and change their lives. Together, comic books and the film industry has become a juggernaut–with no slowing down in sight.
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!
It’s been said most television sitcoms can fall into three categories–shows about friends, shows about a family, or shows about a workplace. Many dramas typically fall under one of these categories as well. One location that’s seen it’s fair share of television series is the school, which can be a mixture of all three. Here are some of the classic live action television series about school:
Dan Harmon’s show about a group of misanthropes who form a study group at a community college quickly became a cult favorite, and lasted five seasons on NBC before getting cancelled and renewed for a sixth season by Yahoo! Screen. The show, which revelled in both referencing and subverting all things pop culture, launched and boosted several careers, including comedy veteran Chevy Chase, Alison Brie, and Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino.
Freaks and Geeks
Freaks and Geeks, a period drama about high school outcasts in 1980, also launched multiple careers, including Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, producer Judd Apatow, and creator Paul Feig. No wonder the one-season wonder picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Casting in a Comedy. The show had the hallmarks of Apatow’s and Feig’s future work–pop culture-referencing humor with a ton of heart.
The memorable pilot for Glee launched a new wave of musicals on television, including Smash, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and live performances of famous musicals. The show worked with high school stereotypes like jocks, cheerleaders, and nerds, but over six seasons it shaded its characters with a ton of depth. Glee covered nearly every social issue a high schooler might encounter, as well as covered hundreds of famous pop, rock, and musical numbers. The show, which included NYFA alumni Chord Overstreet and Naya Rivera–the latter as the deviously talented Santana Lopez–also wore its progressive heart on its sleeve, and was praised for its three-dimensional LGBTQIA+ and other diverse characters.
Friday Night Lights
Adapted from the 2004 film by Peter Berg, itself adapted from the nonfiction book by H.G.Bissinger, this NBC drama ran for five seasons, earning critical acclaim throughout its run. Like its source material, the show was based around a Texas town’s obsession with high school football, but quickly transcended that material to become a grounded, fully-realized portrayal of working class families. The show, and its characters, wasn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve, and from time to time punctuated its character drama with breathtaking football action and laugh-out-loud comedic beats.
Saved by the Bell
Originally a workplace vehicle for Hayley Mills about middle school called Good Morning, Miss Bliss, the show was renamed Saved by the Bell in season two and re-tooled to be about the students, now in high school, led by the charismatic Zack Morris. The show became both a syndication and Saturday morning staple for an entire generation, and has persisted in pop culture through TV movies and spin-offs like The College Years and The New Class.
My So-Called Life
In 1994, ABC aired this teen drama that lasted for only a season but dealt with several major issues for teens in the 90s in its short time, from drug use to alcoholism to school violence. The show launched the careers of Jared Leto and Claire Danes; the latter winning a Golden Globe for her lead role.
The first season of Veronica Mars was a murder mystery whodunnit with a clever gimmick–what if the hard-boiled private eye was a teenage girl? Suspects and witnesses came from every clique in high school as the title character navigated a murder investigation with her homework and dating life. Kristen Bell’s winning performance as well the show’s shocking twists and clever, snappy dialogue, made the show a cult hit. It lasted another two seasons before being cancelled, but was brought back to life as a feature film and most recently with another season of TV.
Pirate films aren’t as ubiquitous as westerns, but they’ve been a key part of Hollywood adventure films for just as long. Between the high seas action and swashbuckling anti-heros, audiences can’t resist a good pirate movie.
Whether you’re celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day or just looking for a fun popcorn adventure, here are some of the best pirate films Hollywood has to offer:
Muppet Treasure Island
When Robert Louis Stevenson published his novel Treasure Island in 1883, he practically invented the entire pirate genre, including such staples as treasure maps, buried treasure, peglegs, parrots, and “X marks the spot.” The novel has been adapted countless times and in nearly every medium, so it was natural for Jim Henson’s Muppets to tell the story in their own charming way. Brian Henson, Jim’s son, directed this musical adventure comedy, which featured live-action stars Jennifer Saunders, Billy Connolly, and Tim Curry as Long John Silver.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Disney executives weren’t sure what to make of Johnny Depp’s one-of-a-kind performance as Captain Jack Sparrow in a movie adapted from a theme park ride, but once the original Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl became a monster hit in 2003, what they thought didn’t really matter. Depp’s performance instantly minted a new iconic character, and earned him an Academy Award nomination. The film and its four sequels set a high standard for incredible special effects and epic filmmaking, and have earned several Oscar nominations in addition to Depp’s.
If you’re looking for a romance from Hollywood’s Golden era, this is the pirate film you want. Judy Garland and Gene Kelly teamed up for Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical romance, which tells the tale of a woman who dreams about the legendary pirate Macoco. A traveling singer falls in love with her and poses as the pirate to win her heart.
Waterworld, the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release in 1995, takes place in a dystopian future when the ice caps have melted and all of Earth is covered in ocean. The villains of Kevin Costner’s action epic are a mix between classic pirates and apocalyptic oil-slicked Mad Max villains, raiding what little remains of civilization from weaponized jet skis and the Exxon Valdez to pirate and plunder food, gas, and fresh water. Hopper relishes his role as a futuristic pirate, giving maximum intensity in his performance and even sporting an eyepatch.
Errol Flynn is the definitive Robin Hood for many cinephiles, but for many he’s also the definitive pirate. In fact, Captain Blood, directed by Michael Curtiz, was Flynn’s first Hollywood role. Captain Blood is one of several adaptations of the 1922 novel of the same name, and tells the story of an enslaved doctor and his fellow prisoners who escape imprisonment and become pirates in the West Indies. The 1935 film made stars of Flynn and his then-unknown romantic lead, Olivia de Havilland, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Produced and based on a story by Steven Spielberg; director/producer Richard Donner and screenwriter Chris Columbus paired for this family adventure comedy, now a modern classic and launching pad for familiar faces like Josh Brolin, Sean Astin, and Martha Plimpton. The story focuses on poor kids from Oregon who attempt to save their homes from foreclosure with an old treasure map that takes them on an adventure to unearth the long-lost fortune of One-Eyed Willy, a legendary 17th-century pirate. Hook
Master director Steven Spielberg was also able to indulge in the pirate genre through the meta sequel to J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Hook’s plot concerns a middle-aged Pan (Robin Williams), who is forced back to Neverland to rescue his two children from the clutches of stereotypical pirates led by Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook. Bob Hoskins makes a memorable impression as Hook’s first mate, Smee, and the film includes numerous high-profile cameos, including Glenn Close as the bearded pirate, Gutless. Everyone delights in chewing as much scenery as possible, which made the pirate antics all the more fun.
Captain Phillips is most certainly not a popcorn movie, but rather the harrowing true story of real-life pirates who, to this day, prey on tankers containing millions of dollars of cargo. Paul Greengrass directs Tom Hanks as the captain of the Maersk Alabama, who was taken hostage for days along with his crew. The film received six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor for Barkhad Abdi, who in his first role ever, improvised the now-infamous line, “I’m the Captain, now.”
Treasure Island (1934)
Since this list began with a Treasure Island adaptation, it might as well end with one, and a great one at that. The black-and-white film was directed by Oscar-winner Victor Fleming (Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz) and starred Jackie Cooper, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore. While the special effects aren’t quite as sharp as today’s CGI, you’ll still find all the thrills that come along with a solid pirate adventures.
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…
A film is a living, breathing thing, and like all living things, from plants to humans, they start from something small before growing into its final form. If you’re struggling to figure out where to begin when making your movie, or what to do after that, or what to do after that, take a breath and look over this basic map of the 7 Stages of Film Production:
The development period belongs to the project producer, who starts gathering the ideas of the film–rights from books, plays etc., if needed–until the final draft of the screenplay is completed. During this time, a first synopsis is done which will help the lead producer sell the idea and raise funds. Often storyboards other visual aids will be drafted to accompany the script and help the producer communicate the essence of the film.
Networking and making meetings, often in Los Angeles and to a lesser extent New York, is how many producers will meet with possible financiers. Additionally, a lot of producers travel to festivals, both domestic and international to show the project materials to possible investors.
With enough funding in hand, pre-production can begin, starting with the selection of the cast, crew, locations of the shoot, building of sets and props etc. Shot lists and put together and the producer starts working on a schedule for the entire shoot, starting broad and getting more specific as production begins to ramp up.
The assistant director (AD) shines during production as the actual footage is filmed by coordinating all the different teams at once. Actors, possibly after days or weeks of rehearsing, finally shoot their scenes as the production crew–grips, lighting, sound, camera, etc. work hard to make every second count and shot look as great as possible. Writers and producers may be on set but it’s the director who is calling all the shots creatively–with their AD making sure they’re sticking to the schedule and getting the footage they need before it’s time to move on.
This where the editor comes into play, and if the budget is big enough, visual effects teams.
In collaboration with the director, editors begin to assemble takes and shots and create a linear film based out hours of footage. For bigger productions, teasers can be done during this time in order to start marketing. A music composer comes in to orchestrate the score of the movie as final cut begins to loom. Sound design and color direction are important elements during this time as well, and culminate in picture lock–the final edit of the film.
In the case of a major production company, teasers are already out to promote the release date of the film. In other scenarios, promotional posters, festivals screenings, and social media are best to help generate buzz for the film. If the production is small, the creatives involved with the film may have to wear this hat whether they like it or not, though it’s possible for producers to outsource to small marketing companies that do this for a living.
Theatrical distribution is typically divided between domestic and international and involves agreements with production companies to pay for the film to screen at physical theatres. Previously, producers would also concentrate their efforts on how the films would be made into physical copies of VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray and make deals with video rental chains, but nowadays streaming is king. While smaller filmmakers may try to get on as many platforms as possible–Amazon Video, Hulu, Netflix, etc.–getting an exclusive deal with a single platform may be more lucrative, especially if it comes with promotion on the platform’s end. Hand in hand with marketing, promotion for the film during its release is also key, including press interviews, red carpet premieres, and other launch parties.
After all of this, it’s time to get started on your next film!
Fathers and father figures have been a storytelling trope for millennia, from oral traditions passed generation by generation, to the earliest written epics and sagas. Cinema, of course, is no different.
Here’s a look back at some of the best films to watch on or around Father’s Day:
Pinocchio is one of Disney’s earliest animation features, and follows a puppet who was given life by a fairy after his creator, Geppetto, wished upon a star. After a sometimes heartbreaking journey and reunion, Pinocchio is transformed from a living marionette into a real boy, and Geppetto becomes his true father.
The Kid (1921)
This American comedy-drama silent classic focuses on the simple yet powerful journey of a tramp (Charlie Chaplin) who finds a baby on a street and takes it upon himself to look after him. Their special relationship grows through a very physical series of unfortunate circumstances and showcase a lovable and energetic father figure with a very turbulent child sidekick (Jackie Coogan).
Mary Poppins (1964)
Magical nanny Mary Poppins comes to a London house to help raise the children of Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson), a strict disciplinarian. While he initially seems cold and harsh, his deeply sentimental and sincere love of his kids eventually shines through with some help from Poppins.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
The third entry in the Indiana Jones trilogy is decidedly more lighthearted and comedic than its darker predecessors, and a lot of that comes from the bickering relationship Indy has with his bookwork father, played by Sean Connery. The Spielberg film finds its heart in their relationship though, as ultimately they both realize they need each other even more than they do the Holy Grail.
Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
Robin Williams is in peak form in this family classic, playing a divorced dad who misses spending time with his three kids. His solution is outside-the-box, using heavy prosthetics, he transforms into elderly British nanny Mrs. Doubtfire, and is hired as his children’s nanny. A series of iconic comedic setpieces ensue.
Billy Elliot (2000)
Set in England during the 1984-85 coal miners’ strike, Billy Elliot tells the story of a boy (Jamie Bell) who wants to become a professional ballet dancer. His father (Gary Lewis) wants to push him into boxing. Billy’s ballet teacher (Julie Walters) serves as bridge for the father and son, helping Billy both fulfill his dream and be accepted by his father.
Father of the Bride (1991)
This remake quickly became a classic in its own right with comedy legend Steve Martin playing the lead role and learning that part of being a parent is knowing when to let your children go and start their own lives. Buoyed by a stellar supporting cast that includes Diane Keaton, Martin Short, Kieran Culkin, and B.D. Wong, it wasn’t surprising when the film spawned a direct sequel.
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.
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.
With box office hit and the critically well-received 2018 romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, Hollywood has come a long way since Asian and Asian American stereotype characters like Long Duk Dong in 1984’s Sixteen Candles, or, even worse, dated, racist portrayals like that of Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Prior to Crazy Rich Asians, it had been 25 years since the world saw a predominantly Asian cast in a big-budget Hollywood — with 1993’s The Joy Luck Club — that isn’t about martial arts, nerds, or a period piece with subtitles. Rather, Crazy Rich Asians is a moving, funny, beautifully shot romantic comedy showcasing a modern Asian diaspora who speak English as their primary language.
According to the most recent report by the United Nations, Asians represent close to 60% of the world’s population, while a separate report conducted by USC Annenberg in 2017 revealed that out of 1,100 popular films, 70.7% of the characters were Caucasian and only 6.3% were of Asian descent.
With this significant imbalance, movie audiences have had very limited exposure on the big screen to the diversity they most likely see in everyday life, as well as alienating Asian viewers and doing nothing for preconceived, problematic notions of Asians as the funny sidekick, the kung-fu master, the chopstick-yielding exchange student, and every other broad stereotype that has played out in film.
Beyond the predictable and limited examples of Asians depicted in mainstream film, Hollywood also ostracized Asian actors through its tendency to whitewash films by casting Caucasian actors in Asian roles — something that Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, the novel that was adapted into the 2018 film — was no stranger to.
When talking to The Guardian about the buzz circling around his book and being approached for movie deals, Kwan mentioned a particular, prominent producer who told him he’d be interested if they changed the protagonist, Rachel Chu (played by Fresh off the Boat’s Constance Wu) into a white character. “I think it was a request born out of sheer ignorance about the project, and it was a very … kneejerk reaction that was indicative of how Hollywood saw its industry, how they felt movies needed to be made, and how they felt a movie with all Asians would just never work,” he said.
Sticking to his guns, Kwan eventually teamed with Chinese American director Jon M. Chu, who shared his belief in the importance and necessity of Asian representation in the film adaptation. Chu was originally offered a healthy sum of money from Netflix (exceeding that of Warner Brothers’ which went on to produce the film) but turned it down. Justifying the decision to do so, he told NBC Nightly News, “we knew the importance of the project was to get it on the big screen — there’s a sign there that says ‘we are worth that energy, we are worth your time’ — for a big Hollywood studio to send that message, we knew was an important message to send the world.”
For many, that message was heard. Beyond the actors in Crazy Rich Asians being diverse in more ways than one, they also portray a deep humanity of the characters through their individual hopes, dreams, relationship problems, and longing for love and acceptance, creating a more fleshed out and truer representation of Asians in the real world.
Continuing to break box office records with a global total of $236 million, Crazy Rich Asians is now the highest-grossing romantic comedy in the last decade. The message Chu refers to has been received with open arms; and with that, comes open doors, open minds, and hopefully, many more diverse and stereotype-free films from the entertainment industry.
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!
There’s no denying the growth in popularity of documentaries in the last 20 years. From Morgan Spurlock’s fast food adventures in 2004’s Super Size Me to the focus on SeaWorld’s controversial orca in Blackfish nearly a decade later, documentaries have been making a difference as more people show interest in factual and not just fictional stories.
Docuseries, however, have shown the greatest surge of late, almost entirely due to the rise of streaming services like Netflix and the expansion of HBO’s original content output. Audiences have a better ability than ever before to watch what they want when they want — the perfect platform for episodic content.
If you’re entertaining the idea of expanding your documentary to a docuseries, consider the following to help you decide if it’s the right (or wrong) move for your project:
You have something truly unique
Perhaps one of the best ways to gauge if your documentary would be more effective if expanded into a docuseries is by asking yourself one question — is your subject fresh and exciting?
Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President of A&E, shared an interesting nugget of information concerning how vibrant and competitive the docuseries market has become: “In the world of the DVR and trying to be Netflix-and-streamer-proof, it’s the subjects that people haven’t seen before that feel the hottest,” she said during a talk with realscreen.
Additionally, your access to the story should be unique. Whether that comes through your own personal drive and good research (see below) or a natural, personal connection to a subject, your documentary should be one that only you can tell. It is this unique angle that will make your story fresh and interesting to an audience looking for something new.
You have a story you really care about
If you’re putting in the effort into making a film, be it documentary or narrative, you likely already have a personal investment in the story. When it comes to creating a docuseries that requires following a subject or people for an extended period of time, you will need that passion throughout the process.
Docuseries often need extra time as you research, plan, shoot, and edit each and every episode. The less interest you have, the harder it may be to maintain a high level of creativity and dedication. Find a subject that you’re so passionate about that you are willing to give your all to tell its story.
Your subject is interesting enough
If you feel that your subject matter is unique and you have a lot of passion for it, the next thing to ask yourself is if people will still be interested after the first two or three episodes of your series.
Many of the most groundbreaking documentaries in recent years were effective because they formed an emotional connection with viewers. Although docuseries can provide powerful and thought-provoking content, the story needs to be especially captivating if you want to preserve interest for several episodes as opposed to single feature-length sitting.
You’re ready to do the work
Filmmaking is tough endeavor, no matter what kind of project you have in mind. The fact that docuseries are episodic and require additional hours of content means you’ll inevitably have that much more work to do.
This includes through research, following leads, fact-checking, creating outlines, shooting and editing content, and so much more. If you don’t think you’ll have the time or energy to take on such a feat, expanding your documentary film into a docuseries is probably not the right choice.
Interested in studying documentary filmmaking? Check out more information on New York Film Academy’s documentary school programs here.