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Archive for the ‘Chapter 3’ Category

night living deadToday is the day — Halloween!  Did you know that Night of the Living Dead is being brought back to life?  A 4K restoration orchestrated by the Museum of Modern Art and supported by the Film Foundation will premiere at MoMA in a week in their “Save and Project” series!

Here is a fun activity for post-Trick or Treat recuperation: an interactive quiz called The Sounds of Horror from the New York Times.  Try it if you dare!

annex-grant-cary-arsenic-and-old-lace_09And if you just want to feel all autumnal and Halloweenish in a warm and comfy way, this old classic really has held up very well: Arsenic and Old LaceTry it out as the days start to get shorter and the last leaves are hanging on.  Frank Capra and his collaborators created quite a lively movie with this classic starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, and an incredible cast of golden age character actors.  Or of course, there is animated fun to be had with the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or the more recent ParaNorman.  

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Maria Schneider and Orchestra Jeff Redel / NYTimes

Maria Schneider and Orchestra
Jeff Redel / NYTimes

In earlier posts such as Fair Use Resources and Guidelines, issues of copyright laws and fair use guidelines for students and media creators have been addressed on mediateacher.net’s pages.  In a recent open letter addressed to YouTube as “pushers of piracy,” the renowned composer and five-time Grammy winner Maria Schneider has written a scathing indictment of the practices of YouTube and current popular perceptions of music and other creative content as fair game for use to the general public.  It is particularly striking and inspiring that this letter is coming not from a pop songwriter or performer but from one of the most respected and exceptional American composers of the past few decades — and a woman who leads an orchestra that is one of the finest ensembles of musicians of our time.  She writes, “…YouTube has substantially influenced the behavior of hundreds of millions of its users toward infringement, fermenting a veritable pirate orgy.   YouTube goes way beyond turning a blind eye to the marauding masses; it actively seduces its users into illegal behavior, and has even managed to make its users believe pirate behavior is beneficial to creators…  The vast majority of music on YouTube is uploaded by people with no legal right to do so – users whom YouTube has carefully molded and brainwashed.”

The attitudes Schneider describes in her letter accurately reflect behavior that I observe day in and out in schools: not only do young people not even think twice about downloading music illegally for projects, most do not even consider arriving prepared with music or other audio for their movies at various stages from pre- to post-production unless they are forced to do so.  They do what they constantly do to play and acquire music: they go online, search around — primarily on YouTube — and pull up or rip the music that they find.  And which in all likelihood has been posted illegally.

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Maria Schneider testifies in Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/WireImage for NARAS)

I highly recommend reading Schneider’s letter, which provides an excellent resource for classroom discussion and further investigation for mediamakers.  It can be quite an eye-opener for 21st century digital citizens, who typically feel very savvy about issues related to the Internet but may not have considered all of the angles and may regularly brush off particular behaviors into the column of “everybody does it.”  (And one more thing: check out her album The Thompson Fields.  In a career of stellar releases, it is exceptional, a jaw-droppingly beautiful musical statement.  It’s a masterpiece.  And her Grammy for working on David Bowie’s Blackstar is certainly deserved as well.)

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Can you already hear it?

Can you already hear it?

In earlier posts, we have immersed ourselves in the work of creating soundscapes for movies, from Sinking into Sound with sound designers to the work of foley artists and voice specialists.  Here are some more great videos from filmmakeriq.com to review these fields: Foley and Sound Effects, ADR and dubbing, or a number of links here for sound design.  And in less than three weeks, we will be hearing what the new (and old) pings, buzzes, crunches, and whooshes and all else of the Star Wars universe sound like in The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams — with veteran sound masters Gary Rydstrom, Matt Wood, and the legendary Ben Burtt returning to this key franchise in movie sound history.

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Jeff Beal conducting string ensemble for House of Cards

Jeff Beal conducting House of Cards string ensemble

In earlier posts, mediateacher.net has shared profiles of such classic composers as Henry Mancini and contemporary masters like Cliff Martinez.  One of the most interesting current examples of an extremely successful and acclaimed musician and composer making the transition to scoring music for television and film is Emmy Award winner Jeff Beal.  At the outset of his career, he began forging an identity as one of the most talented young trumpeters in contemporary jazz who could also compose in a wide range of idioms for projects ranging from solo piano to orchestral suites.

Like many musical artists with his range of talents and interests, Beal began composing for motion pictures, and as part of a trend with some of the most acclaimed composers of the past decade or so, his primary source of exposure has been through composing for television.  In series such as Monk, Carnivàle, Ugly Betty, Rome, and The Newsroom, and movies like Blackfish and Appaloosa, he has established himself as one of the most expressive and compelling creators of music for motion pictures.  Most recently, his work on Netflix’s House of Cards has brought him even further into the spotlight.  This recent article on Jeff Beal (and family members) at work on the musical accompaniment to the most recent season of House of Cards is highly informative both for its artistic insights as well as for practical details on the work of contemporary composers, such as how contracting works.

Jeff Beal StudioI also highly recommend Jeff Beal’s recently redesigned personal web site, which includes his own selections of movie sequences that highlight the importance of his work on the outcome of dramatic scenes.  It is no surprise that there are two examples from his lauded score for Ed Harris’s feature Pollock about painter Jackson Pollock.  These clips can be very useful in media literacy, music technology, and video production courses.

Finally, for those with further interest in the work of Jeff Beal as a composer, I highly recommend his albums Alternate Route and Red Shift which both feature large ensembles as well as the more intimate Contemplations.  

2017 Update: Here is an excellent news report featuring an interview with Jeff Beal as he discusses the powerfully autobiographical elements of his recent piece “The Salvage Men” and his work for film and television.

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One of Mad Men's most distinctive ads

Capturing Style – and getting the period right

How to seduce the viewer, the consumer, the public?  A show that has explored that driving question in very powerful, incisive, and grownup ways has been the series Mad Men, which is reaching its final episode in just a few days.  This article by Brooke Marine from Vulture features the work of co-producer Josh Weltman, who was brought on board Mad Men by creator and showrunner Matt Weiner to create fictional period-appropriate advertising for protagonist adman Don Draper.

The challenges presented by commercial work have been explored in Moving Images and in previous posts on this blog, including an appreciation of Saul Bass and the close-up interview with Kevin Goff, creator of the 2015 Esurance ad featuring the Breaking Bad Walter White character and McDonald’s “Mom vs. Dad” and “The Last Fry,” among others.  Besides “seducing strangers,” as Josh Weltman puts it, how about simply keeping the attention of teenagers or college students?  That’s the enormous challenge faced by any young filmmakers creating ads or PSAs for high school or university contexts.  It’s also a tall order that can help any young adpeople to hone their communications skills for some of the toughest audiences imaginable.  And this helps all students to understand and critique the media messages that they face every day.

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white3f-2-webIn a sly ad that played during this year’s Super Bowl, one commercial messed around with our media literacy backgrounds through the familiar context of the local pharmacy: Bryan Cranston made a new appearance in the Walter White persona from Breaking Bad to advertise issues of trust and authenticity related to an insurance company.  This piece was penned by Kevin Goff, copywriter and creative director for advertising agency Leo Burnett of Chicago.  Yes, that Kevin Goff — our interviewee for Chapter 3 (Sound and Image) of Moving Images.   For those wishing to pursue further explorations of principles of communication linked to short-form pieces and advertising, you might want to check out the earlier post What Exactly is that Movie?  As a matter of fact, I will be using it for the next couple of weeks in my own classes.  You will find lots of fun material to learn from, debate, and play with.

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Pioneer director Alice Guy directing a Chronophone sound film in France

Pioneer director Alice Guy directing a Chronophone sound film in France

Looking for further resources on the invention and development of sound recording?  Here is an excellent half-hour video by John P. Hess on that subject (covering such topics as optical sound and Vitaphone and pioneers like Lee DeForest) by filmmakeriq.com, which is an exceptional resource for film students and developing filmmakers.  For additional info on sound, here are earlier posts on Sound Design, Foley Effects, and the fine art of Dubbing.

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