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Archive for the ‘Chapter 8’ Category

Agnes Varda making first feature “La Pointe Courte”

Couldn’t resist that title.  In Chapter 8 of Moving Images, students explore the positions that correspond to the filmmaking tasks for which they have been developing skills throughout their work with the textbook.  These jobs have been in a pretty constant state of flux for a number of years as the processes of the digital media pipeline and business of media production continue to evolve and transform.

Recently a very interesting piece by Cara Buckley on gripping appeared in the New York Times: What is a Grip?  The Few Women Doing the Job in Hollywood Explain.”  Check out this article to find some answers along with insights and inspiration.

On a topic related to a core theme of this article, mediateacher.net notes the deeply sad news of the passing of Agnès Varda, one of the most important filmmakers of this era and a truly inspiring creator and visionary.

And to continue with another follow-up (related to the earlier references in multiple ways!) to working in the movie industry, here is an interview with Jessica Lee Gagné, the cinematographer of the stunningly shot Escape at Dannemora, a Showtime 7-part miniseries directed by Ben Stiller, released a few months ago to widespread acclaim.  Amazing work both behind and in front of the camera.

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01GHOSTBUSTERS4-COMBO-master675An interesting then / now filmmaking comparison will be on hand this summer with the new version of Ghostbusters directed by Paul Feig and starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon (with the classic original having been directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis).  Here is an article that provides some insight into decision making processes that students do not often think about: art direction and visual design.  Props, vehicles, sets, and more aspects of the world that the filmmakers are creating are featured in this discussion with director/screenwriter Paul Feig and production designer Jefferson Sage.  Put on your Proton Packs and get ready to bust some ghosts!

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rs_1024x759-160228193124-1024-animated-academy-awards-winners

Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala for Bear Story

Want to see those Oscar shorts?  Most of them, including the winners of Live Action Short — Stutterer and Animated Short Film — Bear Story — are available here.  In fact, Bear Story marks the first time a Chilean film has ever won an Oscar, which was movingly noted by its creators, Gabriel Osorio and Pato Escala.

For the documentaries, it is not possible to go to one single source to watch all of the nominated shorts, but the winner directed by Sharmeen Obaid-ChinoyA Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, will be available to HBO subscribers next week since it was produced by the renowned HBO documentary division.

Related to celebrating things, I will add an expression of joy for Emmanuel Lubezki‘s astounding third win in a row for cinematography (after having shot an incredible series of features with  Alfonso Cuarón, particularly Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También, and A Little Princess) shooting essentially without lights.  And add to that a resounding cry of triumph for the maestro, Ennio Morricone, for such a well-deserved victory and one of the most touching moments of the night.  It was a genuine pleasure to see him up there receiving his award with such a wonderful address and message to his respected peer, John Williams.  What a composer.  Ennio Morricone has scored hundreds of movies, and there are so, so many that are absolute masterpieces.  Here is one you have probably never heard of: Gli Scassinatori.  Check it out and you will see what I mean.  Il maestro, indeed.

Margaret Sixel and George Miller

Margaret Sixel and George Miller

Among the many victories for Mad Max: Fury Road (also so well deserved all around) was Film Editing for Margaret Sixel.  Yes, it was a woman who was in charge of editing that furious voyage of footage!  And did anyone notice how many women were among the winners on stage, and not just in acting categories?  For the big winner at the end, Spotlight, it was two women who were speaking from among the film’s producersBlye Pagon Faust and Nicole Rocklin.

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1442501489740“Any girl can be glamorous,” Hedy Lamarr once said. “All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”  Well, Hedy Lamarr did much more than that: along with being one of the most glamourous actresses of her era, once she had become bored with her life being typecast as an exotic seductress in movies she became a successful inventor; her early work brought forth versions of wireless technology that led eventually to what we know as wi-fi and bluetooth.  The exceptional Google Doodle that is being unveiled today is a superb little movie in its own right and a fine homage to this inspiring and very interesting woman.

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By Andrew Rae for The New York Times

By Andrew Rae for The New York Times

Chapter 8 of Moving Images — The Production Process presents ways in which people need to work together effectively to make movies.  In fact, students learn this throughout the book, by investigating media, studying film- making processes, writing for different contexts and platforms, and creating movies of all kinds.  Of course, this process is also a business, which is discussed at various junctures in the book and has been addressed in earlier blog posts here.

A recent article by Adam Davidson (a host of NPR’s Planet Moneyfor the New York Times highlights the tremendous value of examining the intricate processes of moviemaking, which reveals ways in which The Production Process can help us to figure out how a successful workplace functions.  In particular, Davidson highlights how lessons from the world of moviemaking can be instructive in enhancing new trends in the contemporary workplace.  I highly recommend “What Hollywood Can Teach Us About the Future of Work.”

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AmericanSniper_MPC_VFX_04In an earlier visit with visual effects supervisor and current head of vfx at MPC Vancouver Greg Butler, he shared perspectives on the art and business of moviemaking.  At a moment when screens are flooded with summer blockbusters that are dependent on obviously CG action scenes, such as Avengers: Age of Ultron and TomorrowlandGreg Butler’s most recent project as a visual effects supervisor on American Sniper provides very interesting perspectives on one of the most important objectives of a great deal of the effects work in today’s movies: to enhance or significantly fill in visual information from what was created and captured during principal photography in ways so that it is invisible.

Here is a link to a full interview with Greg Butler about his work on American Sniper to understand the degree to which Clint Eastwood’s movie is completely dependent on CG in order to create the world of its story.  Butler had previously worked with Eastwood on the director’s period musical Jersey Boys.  You can also check out earlier discussion of invisible effects in the earlier Close-Up interview in which Greg Butler discusses his work on Amazing Grace, among other projects.

Homemade Visual Effects with Greg Butler

Homemade Visual Effects with Greg Butler

Of course, Butler has also helped to craft some of the most compelling fantastical and imaginative worlds and characters in recent years, including groundbreaking work on both The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series.  Discussing one point in the creation of Gollum that illustrates the attention to detail that one must show in this work, he commented, “In the CG model setup, there was an invisible sphere behind Gollum’s eyelid that meant that whenever his cornea moved, the skin would bulge out in a realistic way. This is the one time we got to use it because he was sleeping with his eyes closed, and his eyes moved as if he was having a bad dream. We were proud of the fact that we got to use this technique. These were the sort of subtle nuances we were seeking out to bring him to life. We want you to be completely in the movie.”  And that is the case whether you are conscious of the VFX being present or not — or if the filmmakers want you to know that they are present or not.

As one last comment on the “Art & Business of Moving Images” that goes back to Part 1, in our visit Butler shared perspectives that students do not often think about: the day-to-day life of working on the movie industry.  He comments, “If you’re interested in working in film, your choices in life become limited – unless you find an interesting avenue that occasionally people are able to find – you’re either going to end up living in the L.A. area, or you’re going to be a nomad… in terms of developing movies, the dealmaking is all L.A.  In terms of making movies, it’s L.A., but all around the world. You’re on a constant road show, touring band, carnival ride, living on a film set. And you have to live that.  Maybe it’s okay when you’re in your twenties, but it’s something to consider.  When it comes to post-production, visual effect, sound editing – your options open up a bit more: L.A. is still the center, but it’s broken down now, and there’s still lots of other places, like New York, London, Vancouver.  And that is continuing to evolve.  In fact, my company, MPC, is now opening up a new division in Montreal.”

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For any teacher of moviemaking, one of the most vital concerns should always be safety.  I know that it always has been for me — and for anyone working with adolescents it must take on the utmost importance.  In class guidelines, the significance of clear rules and principles for safety must be firmly articulated in any agreement to which students and parents must sign.  When developing the textbook Moving Images, I knew that I would need to discuss safety in my notes to instructors and in project guidelines, and I pointed out to the publisher that there must be a clear statement about safety in the front matter of the book.

sarah_jones_train_tracks_insetIn recent months, the importance of safety for all media creators has been at the forefront of discussions of industry standards and production practices and the legal implications of our work as moviemakers in the tragic death of assistant cameraperson Sarah Jones.  Director Randall Miller was sentenced to a two-year prison term for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Ms. Jones during a night shoot on the feature film Midnight Rider.  As reporter Richard Verrier explains, “The crew was filming a scene – a dream sequence for a movie about the life of Greg Allman of The Allman Brothers. And actor William Hurt was lying on a bed that had been placed on a railway track … the crew had been assured that no trains would be coming down the track, that they had permission to film there from the landowner. And what happened was a CSX freight train came barreling down the tracks and hit the bed and shards from the bed struck and killed the camera assistant Sarah Jones… and injured several other workers.”  This piece for the podcast The Frame provides further information and discussion of this tragic incident and its current implications for the industry.  However, it should be pointed out that these are not new concerns: Among the most famous cases of loss of life during film production are the deaths of Vic Morrow and two child actors during the making of John Landis’s segment of Twilight Zone,  the death of actor Brandon Lee on The Crow, and the death of a stunt crew member for the creation of chase sequences in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.  

hill-street-blues_wide-8f94a0b0d3d404e8d705d04b59a99434e38dba7b-s800-c85Related to all of this, I am reminded of the classic recurring line from Sgt. Esterhaus of Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”  For ourselves, as well as for those with whom we are working and for whom we are responsible.

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