Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Film subjects student filmmakers should avoid

Michael Rabiger
Michael Rabiger is a long-time film director and editor who has written a dozen books on various aspects of filmmaking. One of the better known is called Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics. That's a 548 page volume that covers everything you need to know about directing. 

According to Mick Hurbis-Cherrier, Film Professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, it "demonstrates how to plunge into the heart of a screenplay and emerge with a film that reflects the heart of the director.

Jeremy Kagan, Artistic Director Sundance Institute, says: "This is the only comprehensive book on filmmaking that I recommend to my students."

In Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics, Michael Radiger has this advice for filmmakers just starting out:

There are many film subjects that students should avoid.  These come to mind because they are being pumped up by the media or they lend themselves to moral propaganda. You’d be wise to avoid:
  • Worlds you haven’t experienced or cannot closely research.
  • Any ongoing, inhibiting problem in your own life (see a therapist—you are unlikely to solve anything while directing a film unit).
  • Anything or anyone “typical” (nothing real is typical, so nothing typical will ever be interesting or credible).
  • Preaching or moral instruction of any kind.
  • Films about problems to which you have the answer (so does your audience).
Aim to reach audiences outside your peer group and you will be making films accessible to a wide audience. For films of a few minutes, try taking something small that you learned the hard way, apply it to a character quite unlike yourself, and aim to make a modest comment on the human condition. By so doing you can avoid the self-indulgence afflicting most student films. After all, your work is going to be your portfolio, your precious reel that tells future employers what you can do. After you graduate, you don’t want to seem like a perpetual student.
Excerpted from Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics, fourth edition. Copyright ©2008, Elsevier, Inc.  All rights reserved.
First posted:  19 December 2011

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Harvey Pekar - "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

Just the fact that he was buried alongside Eliot Ness (the real one, who was played by Kevin Costner in The Untouchables), would probably be enough to get him noticed; but, without that, Harvey Pekar attracted plenty of attention during his lifetime. When I heard he'd died eighteen months ago, I felt as though I'd lost a dear friend, even though we'd never had any first-hand contact.

I discovered Harvey in the movie about his life, American Splendor.      If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and buy the DVD. It features Paul Giamatti as Pekar, as well as appearances by Harvey Pekar, as himself, and animated versions of him, based on his comic book series, which is also called American Splendor.  

Harvey Pekar won't appeal to the beautiful people. He was the quintessential outsider; a very ordinary looking man, who lived all his life in Cleveland. Anyone who has ever glanced in a mirror, and been disappointed with the reflection looking back, will relate to Harvey. 

Paul Giamatti plays Harvey, here visiting a doctor, where he learns he has a problem with his vocal chords, while a kangaroo looks on. (Australians like to see kangaroos in American movies. Makes some of us think of kangaroo steak and chips. Yum.) 

Harvey's next visit to the doctor didn't turn out quite so well. He was diagnosed with lymphoma and underwent a course of chemotherapy. I bonded with him at that time, probably because I was going through chemotherapy myself. I had chronic lymphocytic leukemia and endured six months of treatment. It was an educational experience.

What prompted me to write this post was an interview I came across with Alan Moore, a long-time friend of Harvey, published in Fast Company. Alan Moore is sometimes described as "the best comic writer in history." His graphic novels have provided the basis for a number of Hollywood films, including From Hell (2001), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), V for Vendetta (2005) and Watchmen (2009). 

It's an interesting interview. Part of it said this:
What Pekar represented to Moore were the small heroics of making one's way in life, of stealing quiet victories against a backdrop of disappointment and disadvantage. "Harvey came from Cleveland, where the creators of Superman came from," says Moore. "But Harvey represented a very different kind of hero that exists in real life.
"What I really admired about Harvey was, he was a resolutely blue collar artist, and one of only working class voices that I'd come across in comics with a level of political commitment, especially a left-wing one," he adds. "I mean, this man had a spectacular meltdown on the Letterman show about a strike going on at the network that it was not publicizing. He never tried to rise above that class."
Anyway, here's Harvey Pekar meeting with David Letterman.

And here's a classic Harvey Pekar story which tends to prove that "Ordinary life is pretty complex stuff."

First posted:  15 December 2011

The great irony here is that I'm now out of remission from the Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and had my first meeting with my oncologist today. Tests (CT scan, bone marrow biopsy) to follow. Then he's talking about more chemotherapy as the only way forward. Some hard decisions ahead!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Free Screenplays - 2014

Here we are again, at the start of the Awards Season. The studios have begun releasing copies of screenplays—For Your Consideration.
    The process will continue in dribs and drabs well into December. I'll update this post as more details come to hand. Collect your copy of each straight away, as screenplays have been known to disappear from their original sites without notice.

A Most Violent Year
Big Eyes
Dear White People
Get On Up
Gone Girl
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Into the Woods
Kill the Messenger
Love is Strange
Mr. Turner
St. Vincent
Still Alice
The BoxTrolls
The Fault In Our Stars
The Gambler
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Wild Tales
First posted:  13 November 2014

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Free Screenplays - 2013

It's November and the studios have begun the process whereby they release copies of screenplays ahead of the Awards Season - For Your Consideration.

This will continue in dribs and drabs well into December, and I'll update this post as more details come to hand. Collect your copy of each straight away, as screenplays have been known to disappear from their original sites without notice.

12 Years a Slave
All Is Lost
August: Osage County
Before Midnight
Dallas Buyers Club
Despicable Me 2
Enough Said
Fruitvale Statio
Inside Llewyn Davis
Kill Your Darlings
Labor Day
Lee Daniel's The Butler
Lone Survivor
Monsters University
One Chance
Saving Mr. Banks
Short Term 12
Spring Breakers
The Armstrong Lie
The Bling Ring
The Croods
The Fifth Estate
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
The Past
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Spectacular Now
The Way Way Back
The Wolf of Wall Street
First posted:  4 November 2013