Archive for January, 2014

team03Among the nominees at the upcoming 2014 Academy Awards ceremony, Dirty Wars, directed by Rick Rowley and featuring journalist Jeremy Scahill, was co-written and co-edited by David Riker, who is the featured Close-Up interviewee of Chapter 5 of Moving Images.  The issues raised when investigating this movie and Mr. Riker’s work in it are highly compelling when examining the themes and objectives of Chapters 5 (Studio Production and Personal Expression) and 6 (Recording and Presenting Reality) of Moving Images.

dirty warsIn these chapters of Moving Images, questions about media formats and communicative methods are scrutinized, as well as a wide range of issues familiar to non-fiction filmmakers and writers, including authenticity, rhetorical and narrative structures, ethical considerations, and platforms.  Mr. Riker, whose work began in documentary but then shifted to fiction, is a seasoned screenwriter (including The Girl starring Abbie Cornish, Sleep Dealerand the award-winning La Ciudad), and he brought his dual perspectives of documentary photography and fiction screenwriting to his work with Scahill and Rowley, saying, “Dirty Wars was an interesting balance because while it is absolutely a documentary… to really tell the story the three of us were frequently looking to the tradition of fiction filmmaking as a way of structuring Jeremy’s research so that it conveys some of the tension and the drama that … was part of their experience.”  I highly recommend this interview with David Riker from the blog Truth Scout.      

On the Academy Awards web site, you can check out clips and information on all the nominees – for Documentary Feature, the others are 20 Feet from Stardom, The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, and The Square.  

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Understanding the effect of aspect ratio is vital for filmmakers, such as in this year's "Gravity"

Understanding the effect of aspect ratio is vital for filmmakers, such as in this year’s “Gravity”

In Chapter 4 of Moving ImagesStorytelling with Light — the primary topic is the investigation of the core principles that one must consider as a cinematographer, whether in digital image capture or celluloid-based film.  A key issue to examine is the aspect ratio of the movie, which links back to earlier explorations of composition starting in Chapter 1.   For educators working on this unit, here is an overview of aspect ratio in motion picture history from the Filmmaker IQ website.  I was led to this page after reading an excellent essay on aspect ratios by Tyler Lavoie, who is one of my former students.  On the subject of cinematography, let me remind readers of my earlier post discussing the movie Side by Side (directed by Chris Kenneally and hosted by Keanu Reeves), which is superb to use in tandem with the work in Chapter 4.

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white house festivalTo start off the New Year, here’s a challenging national competition: make a movie about the use of technology in the classroom and enter it into the White House Student Film Festival.  The assignment could go well with either Chapter 5 (about movie forms, genres, and communicative methods) or Chapter 6 (Recording and Presenting Reality) of  Moving Images: students need to craft short pieces (up to three minutes) that highlight the power of technology in the classroom (well, at least the positive impacts!).  Send it along to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by January 29 and then see what the Obamas think (well, their advisors at least).  I am certainly interested in viewing the results, because assigning abstract topics like this to students is particularly challenging, and it will be fun to discover the most inspiring — and hopefully thought-provoking — award winners.

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