Wednesday 30 April 2014

Akira Kurosawa - On editing

Here we have the final battle scene of Seven Samurai (1954). In an effort to better understand Kurosawa's technique, Phil Baumhardt made this analysis video, then added a commentary for the benefit of others.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

Interview with Berty Cadilhac

Berty Cadilhac is a Franco-Australian filmmaker based in London. His background is in visual arts, as a freelance photographer. He has worked as an installation artist in Singapore, Australia and Thailand, and also worked as a stand up comedian, performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and in comedy clubs USA, Australia and UK. These days he combines his comedy writing and visual approach to produce feature-length comedies. ________________________________________________________________________

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Paris. Except, when I was fourteen, I spent six months in a boarding school in Ireland. The food was bad, the dorms were cold, the Irish kids were laughing at my French accent. I would write letters to my family (there was no email at the time), and would describe my little daily struggles with a funny tone, because I wanted everyone to think I was enjoying myself. I realized that writing funny stories would make me laugh, and helped me “look on the bright side of life.”

What kind of a family did you grow up with?

I come from a very traditional Catholic family, who had a great consideration for religious arts, classical music or traditional painting. On the other hand, contemporary creation was often looked down upon. Arts was something that should be part of one’s culture, but should never be considered as a career. So I studied engineering. And failed.

When did you first take an interest in writing and performing?

After the boarding school in Ireland, I had no reason to continue writing letters. But one of my teachers suggested his students to write one page every day, to improve our writing skills. And so every day I wrote stories, thoughts, even terrible poems.
     Some kids perform from a very early age, they display great confidence and skills, while their proud parents film the graceful performance and capture it for eternity. I was not one of these kids. I only went on stage because we had to, during mandatory school workshop. I was incredibly shy, and the drama teacher was incredibly sadistic. He would yell at me to smile on stage, the more he yelled the more I cried, the more I cried the more he yelled me to smile.

    A couple of years later we heard that he had died. Only then did I smile. 

What was your first paying job (in any field)?

When I was eighteen, I worked for one month in a bank. They gave me repetitive tasks to do, mostly data entry. I had to process very large transactions to personal bank accounts. Somehow I messed up two transactions in one day, sending about a million euros to the wrong persons. The management freaked out when they discovered the mistake the next day. But they were so busy trying to understand how a secured system could have failed, that they forgot to blame me. Without even trying, I had managed to hack their system. I didn’t mean it, I swear.

What was your first paying job as a public performer?

After what seemed to be an eternity of free gigs, I was excited to get my first paying gig. But the venue that handled the show had messed up the evening advertising, and nobody turned up. Still, they had great ethics and we got paid, around 70 dollars. This was my first paying job as a public performer. I didn’t perform that night, but got paid as a public performer.

You are currently working on a feature film called “Art Ache”. Did you design the poster for the film?

Art Ache is now complete, and we are sending it to festivals everywhere. The poster was designed by a professional designer, I gave him instructions and a few ideas and he did a great job.

Can you tell us a little of what the film is about?

Art Ache is a romantic comedy about a boring British accountant who lives in a massive comfort zone. He meets a lovely French artist, and understands that the only way to get her attention is to pretend that he is an artist himself. And now he needs to win a Contemporary Arts contest to win her heart.
     It is uplifting and fresh, the cast was really awesome and the music from The Magic Theatre is lovely.

You have performed in big cities around the world. Which was the most interesting and why?

I did a lot of short gigs in many different locations, but enjoyed much more performing a full solo show, and that was at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. This festival is awesome, and with a full solo show you have one hour to develop stories, characters, do call backs, etc.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about filmmaking when you were starting out?

I wish someone had told me that directing was not only for gods and titans. You get so much help from the Director of Photography and other people, it’s quite difficult but not as much as it seems. The key thing is to tell a story, and work closely to the actors. The technical side of it does not rely on the director.
     I always thought of myself as a kind and respectful person. I wish somebody had told me that there was a heartless dictator in me. Bringing out that horrible person in me helps me run the show. It might be the ghost of my dead drama teacher.
     Also I wish that someone had told me that I was fantastic and would win an Oscar one day. Not because it’s true, but because it would have made me feel fantastic.

If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book to a newbie writer in Adelaide, which one would it be?

The very first book I bought was The Screenwriter's Bible, by David Trottier. It covers everything, it even tells you how to format properly. Great overview about story, purpose, even the business side of things.
     Again, that’s a first book for a newbie. There are more advanced books, but this one is good to start with.

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?
The Big Lebowski (1998)
Swimming With Sharks (1994)
Garden State (2004)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
Fight Club (1999)
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Punch Drunk Love (2002)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Down By Law (1986)
And, of course, Art Ache (2014)

... you did say, “favourite, not best.”
What’s next for Berty Cadilhac?

I am finishing a feature script, and will soon look for investors and producers.
     But also I just finished a play, and decided to produce it as soon as I can because I want to work with actors again. Producing a play is so much more straightforward than a film, and if it works you can eventually turn it into a film.

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Monday 28 April 2014

Top 10 Tips - Roger Deakin

Roger Deakins is the director of photography on films such as The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, No Country for Old Men, True Grit and Skyfall. He's won more than 60 awards for his work, including three Baftas, and was last year presented with a lifetime achievement award by the American Society of Cinematographers.
    Here are his top ten tips for becoming a successful cinematographer, taken from the BBC News Entertainment and Arts.

1. Get some life experience

A cinematographer visualises the film and is a director's right hand on set. I studied photography and then went to the National Film School in England and got into the business that way, but there are all kinds of ways of getting in.
     I think it is more important to experience the world, really. You can't learn cinematography and you can't copy it. The job is just your way of looking at the world. Maybe that sounds a bit pretentious, but I think life experience is always more important than technical knowledge.

2. Be picky

I'm picky about the sort of material I want to work with, always have been. But usually I'm drawn to scripts that are about characters, I don't have a love of doing action movies.
     It is really important to choose which projects you are going to work on carefully. You are going to be on a film for a long time. I've just come back from Australia working on Unbroken with Angelina Jolie, which she was directing.
     It's six months of time and investment, but very worthwhile. I enjoyed it completely, but it was a hard shoot. You work long hours, often you're working six days a week and you are away from home. There are certain kinds of sacrifices you have to make.

3. Choose your collaborators carefully

My relationship with the Coen brothers goes back a long time. We just sort of hit it off and we're good friends, so I'd do anything with them.
     I loved working Sam Mendes on Skyfall, I probably wouldn't have done a Bond movie with anybody else. He had a different take on it and I think that film was far more character driven and that's what drew me to it.
     I turned down working on the next Bond film. I was really torn. I would have loved to work with Sam again but I just didn't feel I could bring anything really new to it. I'd really like to see someone else have the opportunity.

4. Take your time making decisions

My wife James travels with me when I'm working on a film. We've been married for over 20 years and she has been incredibly important to my career. We always talk about what projects are coming up and make the decisions together.
     We like the same kind of movies, we rarely disagree, we just talk things through. Deciding which projects to work on is something that you spend quite a long time considering. I'm very lucky to be in a position that means I can be a bit choosy these days.

5. Don't just copy others

It's no use just thinking you can just learn how to light and copy the best. We all find our own ways of doing things and our own sense of lens choice, composition and the way you move the camera. You can tell one person's work from another quite often, you know.
     So I think it's important to develop as a person. You have to develop your way of being. Otherwise, what are you doing? It's no good just copying, learning a technique and doing it. That's not very interesting, apart from anything else.

6. Understand the importance of lighting

I remember a fellow cinematographer talking about Shawshank and saying, "Well that was really nicely shot but there was no lighting in it."
     We actually shot most of the film in a prison that was absolutely black - I used a huge amount of light to create the look, more or less every shot, even some of the exteriors were lit! So it was a reverse compliment really, because there was a major cinematographer thinking it was shot with natural light when it wasn't!
     So, on the one hand, you need to light a space so you can see the actors - but, more than that, you are creating a mood, you are creating a world for those actors to inhabit and for the audience to get submersed in. Lighting is one of the most important aspects of any great film.

7. Don't cut corners

When you are on a film, because it takes so much time and you are often doing a 12, 14, 16 or even 18-hour day, you're often tired and so sometimes the temptation can be to do something a bit quick and cut corners, but then you regret it.
     Any time that you do something and think, "Oh well, that will be alright even if it's not as good as I can do," you always regret it later. If anything stands out as being untrue within the terms of that movie, then the audience's experience of that world is jolted, they are taken out of it.
     What you do lives on forever, as they say. It's important to persevere, because it's the people who persevere who go on to create something unique.

8. Keep up with new technology but remember the storytelling

You have to keep up with new technology, it all changes rapidly. Film stocks change, techniques like steadycam come along, we've got cranes now and aerial helicopters that can do all sorts of things and gyromounts so you can move the camera in all sorts of ways. We have digital technology now and 3D has come back.
     Technology is changing all the time, but for me nothing has changed in the sense that you are still telling stories by the use of light, the use of a frame, the way you move a camera. I'm still hoping to be part of telling stories about people and the way we are. So, to me, technology is important, but it's only in the background, it's a means to an end, it's like the paintbrush.

9. Wear something you are comfortable in

I cut my own hair. My hairdresser died when I was eleven. He was a really nice man and I didn't have anyone else, so I started cutting my own. I know it sounds silly, but I really don't like people fussing, frankly. It's only hair.
     I've got a really comfortable pair of cowboy boots and I wear blue jeans and a white shirt every day, including today. When I was working in England I wore a black shirt but now I'm in America, I wear a white one.
     I've got 10 white shirts and three pairs of jeans so that when I get up in the morning, I don't have to think about what I am going to put on. I can be dressed and out the door in ten minutes. It's a silly thing but it's like I'm getting ready for work and putting on my uniform.

10. Learn to put things to one side

I've been fired off a movie a couple of times and that's pretty horrendous. When something like that happens, you've just got to look at it and realise it's not necessarily about you. I haven't got a particularly thick skin, but it is important to be able to put things aside.
     Some films were very hard and at times you kind of struggle and you are in conflict with other people to get the job done. But overall, I wouldn't have done anything else. I loved those experiences if only because at the end you actually feel satisfied that you've managed to create something.
     I don't know what's next. I'm hoping to get back with Joel and Ethan and do something with them, really. I love my life and my career so far and I think I've got plenty more to do.

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Sunday 27 April 2014

Hollywood's Golden Age

Here's a documentary about locations in Hollywood and Beverly Hills during Hollywood's "Golden Age".

Saturday 26 April 2014

"Inside The Edit"

The one hour long documentary, Cities At Dawn, was created by following Californian photographer Anthony Epes around as he shot magic hour in various European cities. The original consists of thirty-five hours of film. Now, those original 35 hours are available to students of editing.

Inside The Edit is the world's first creative training course for television editing.

No buttons, no short cuts, no pull down menus... just creative.
This video gives you a taste of the kind of material you would be working with, if you signed up for the course.

If you're not sure what the editor does? Watch this.

Friday 25 April 2014

Anzac Day

The Gallipoli Campaign took place during World War I on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire (modern Turkey), between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916. The British and French aimed to secure a sea route to Russia. They launched a naval campaign to force a passage through the Dardanelles. After the naval operation, an amphibious landing was undertaken on the Gallipoli peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). After eight months the land campaign had failed, with many casualties on both sides, and the invasion force was withdrawn to Egypt.

The Gallipoli campaign was one of the greatest Ottoman victories during the war and is considered a major failure of the Allies. In Turkey, it is perceived as a defining moment in the nation's history—a final surge in the defence of the motherland as the Ottoman Empire crumbled. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the founding of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a commander at Gallipoli.

The campaign marks the birth of national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand, and the date of the landing, 25 April, is known as "Anzac Day". It remains the most significant commemoration of military casualties and veterans, surpassing Remembrance Day (Armistice Day).

The film version of the event, Gallipoli, was made by Peter Weir in 1981. It stars a remarkably youthful Mel Gibson, as well as Mark Lee, Bill Kerr, and Harold Hopkins.

Here's a short documentary which should fill in a few details for you.

Thursday 24 April 2014

'Citizen Kane'

Almost from the moment you take a serious interest in film, you start coming across references to Citizen Kane (1941). You can't avoid it. It's on every list of great films. Argue, if you will, about which is the greatest, but Citizen Kane is on your list somewhere.

All this adulation causes newbies (typically young people) to cringe when they finally get to see the actual movie. Shock! Horror! It's in B&W.

The trailer for Citizen Kane is less a sales pitch than a mystery. It shows plenty about the people behind the making of the movie but nothing from the actual film. Based solely on the trailer, you don’t know what Kane is about, short of being about a shadowy, complicated character called Kane.

Welles wasn’t just being cagey for the sake of building audience interest. He was trying to head off a fight. Though Welles publicly claimed that Kane was not about media baron William Randolph Hearst, you can hardly blame the tycoon for feeling otherwise. Hearst was a newspaper magnate with a showgirl mistress who built himself a preposterously opulent castle. Citizen Kane is about a newspaper magnate with a showgirl wife who built himself a preposterously opulent castle.

Hearst did everything he could to stop the movie’s production – and he could do quite a lot. When he failed to kill the picture by pressuring the studio, he pressured theater owners. He used his media empire to slander Welles – using the director’s complicated personal life as tabloid fodder and even implying that he was a Communist. Hearst’s campaign to discredit Welles was so successful that when the director’s name came up during the 1942 Academy Awards, it elicited boos.

If you want to get a sense of just why Citizen Kane is revered then check out this exhaustive documentary below about the film.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Book review: Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays

Lucy V. Hay is a qualified teacher, novelist, script editor, screenwriter, a blogger who helps writers, and one of the organisers of the London Screenwriters' Festival (LSF), where she currently holds the position of Director of Education. She is the associate producer of the British thriller Deviation, and author of Bauchentscheidung ("Gut Decision").
    She also wrote Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays. I've been on the verge of writing a review of that since late last year, but health issues and the release of a novel of my own crowded the schedule. Anyway, here we are. ________________________________________________________________________

Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays is a 223 page paperback, with index (thank you), arranged in three parts. 

The first settles the question of "What is a thriller?"
    I used to be quick to say I wasn't a huge fan of thrillers, but it turns out I've watched a lot more of them than I'd realised.
    Lucy breaks the thriller genre into 22 sub-genres, and explains and illustrates each with examples. That's twenty-two sub-genres.

   Then she analyses thrillers from the point-of-view of the protagonist, and comes up with eight common male protagonists in thrillers, and ten female equivalents. That's another eighteen ways to slice up the thriller pie. If you decide you want to write a thriller, you have some homework to do first.

How much conflict is enough?
Part two addresses the business of writing your thriller screenplay. Please note: this has nothing to do with outlining formulas or beat sheets or any of those aids other people have written about so ably.
   The "writing of" section covers tools which are frequently underrated by newbie writers: premise, logline and story outline. What elements will you find in the logline of a marketable screenplay? Lucy will tell you, with real life illustrations. Everyone knows that the first ten pages are vital in grabbing a reader's attention, but what are the traps to avoid? They're listed here. 
    We know that screenplays are about conflict, but how much conflict is enough? When does your protagonist move from flight to fight? How do you bring your story to a resolution?

How do you bring your story to a resolution?
Part three is all about selling your screenplay. It opens with a short pep talk, which is pure Lucy. I used part of the pep talk in this post back in February. 
    As someone who has been asked for feedback on screenplays in the past (I don't do that any more), I know that many newbie writers have no idea of how to handle it. Lucy provides five questions the writer should ask about feedback that will put a boundary in place and help them maintain their equilibrium. 
    Probably the biggest single question to ask about a screenplay, before you thrust it before the eyes of a startled world, would be, Is this screenplay ready? Most I've seen were so far from ready that a few honest comments generated despair. Good work was thrown aside, interesting projects abandoned, and writers with potential were left tottering on the edge of true failure, which is to quit writing altogether.
    Assuming the screenplay is ready, the next step is to pitch it to people with the power to get it made into a film. What are the basics of a pitch? Do you know how to handle an emergency pitch, a one-page pitch, an advanced pitch? Can you write an appealing treatment? What are the common mistakes that turn readers off a pitch?

No one has ever said after hearing a pitch, 'I wish they had talked longer.' ~Stephanie Palmer
Is this screenplay ready?

At this point you'll be dreaming of a simple sale, a large cheque and an Academy Award. Keep dreaming! Better yet, stay awake and read Lucy's observations on the myriad tracks that can open up before you as you wend your way through the undergrowth of Potential-Filmmaker Forest. Careful. There's bears in there!  
    Have you considered transmedia? How can your sample screenplay open a door into the industry? How should you respond to an offer of an option? How do you find a producer, or a director?

There's a lot to consider and Lucy lays much of it out before you. If you've sold several screenplays, you don't need this book. If you're a newbie—somebody standing on the edge, looking in—this might be the book you've been searching for. And if you're even thinking about writing a thriller, you'd be nuts not to buy and read Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays by Lucy V. Hay.


Here are a few of Lucy's more quotable lines from the book.

  • Knowing what has gone before in produced movie content is absolutely key in writing your low-budget thriller spec or your blockbuster script sample.
  • Agents and filmmakers don't care what a great writer you are; they care whether your screenplay is an easy sale.
  • There are two things everyone in the industry wants from a screenplay, regardless of genre: a great story, with great characters.
  • Hollywood mantra: Write me a low-budget picture that creates a $200m sequel.
  • It's not the execution that counts; it's the concepts that sell.
  • The uncomfortable truth is that execs, agents and filmmakers know a good idea when they hear it.
  • First impressions count in the industry. It's rare that agents and producers consider redrafts.
  • Too many writers in meetings simply look like rabbits in the headlights when asked about their premise.
  • There are so many spec scripts out there, why should people pick yours?
  • Learn to recognise feedback with an agenda attached; don't let others impose their own vision on your work.
  • Actors' skills and experience are frequently underestimated by spec screenwriters.
  • There is no 'right' way to write a one-pager (only multiple 'wrong' ways).
  • Treatments are frequently left out of screenwriters' arsenals and this is always a mistake in my opinion.
  • The more people who know you and what you do, the more likely you will hook up with someone who will be able to take your work somewhere.
  • There is always money available for the 'right' project.
  • Forget about art and think on this: your thriller screenplay is a business opportunity.
  • I see no point in writing without an 'end point' in sight, whether it's a production or a contest deadline.

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Tuesday 22 April 2014

Interview with Michael Facey

Michael Facey is an Australian film producer, based in Perth. He has produced award-winning short films, which have screened at festivals around the world. His short film Kanowna was the only Australian film accepted into the Canada International Film Festival in 2011, where it also won a Special Jury Award. He is a founding member of the production company Archangel Pictures.

Michael is the great-grandson of A.B. Facey, the author of one of my favourite Australian books, A Fortunate Life, so when I met him online I took the opportunity to ask a few questions.

On the left we have A.B. Facey in 1914, and on the right we have Michael Facey a hundred years later.

Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in the gold mining City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the largest outback city in Australia, some 550 km east of Perth, W.A. (or 3,000 km west of Sydney).

Where did you go to school?

I was educated in the goldfields, first at Kalgoorlie Primary School and then Eastern Goldfields Senior High School. I would later move to Perth to study at the Perth School of Art, Design and Media before studying at the W.A. Screen Academy at Edith Cowan University.

Muster of students at Kalgoorlie Primary School

When did you first take an interest in movies?

I’ve always been a major fan of movies. If I wasn’t going to the cinema, I would be at the video store. Watching films with my parents kick-started my love of cinema.

What was your first paying job (in any field)?

My first paying job would have been delivering pamphlets when I was twelve years old. It bought in some pocket money, which my parents wisely set up into a bank account until I was eighteen.

You are a founding member of Archangel Films. Can you tell us a bit about the people involved with you?

Archangel Pictures was formed by myself and director Chris Richards-Scully, once we realised we both enjoyed and wanted to make the same kind of films. Archangel Pictures was born during the development of our first short Kanowna and has grown from there. We are both passionate about what we do and are searching for new projects and teams to develop and work with.

Your short film, Kanowna, reached the Top 50 in the Final Draft Big Break Contest, from over 6,600 entries worldwide. Amongst other honours, it was one of the first ever Australian films screened at the 2012 Cyprus International Film Festival. What have been the longer-term positive results of that project?

Kanowna as a short was incredibly successful for us. It took a while to gain traction, first screening in regional festivals and then it took off overseas, especially in Canada.
    The success of the short, and the rich history behind the true events it was based on, has inspired us to develop it into a feature film. There is an epic story to be told about our gold mining history. The script has been developed through ScreenWest’s feature Navigator Program and recently finished in the top 10 for its genre in the Final Draft Big Break Contest.
    Last year we were invited by the Perth Actors Collective (PAC) to have a live reading performed in front of an audience which has allowed us to hear the script and to continue developing.

You put a lot of effort into fundraising for a project called Super Fresh, but fell short of your Pozible goal. The team you compiled to make that film is quite impressive. Can you tell us about the formation of the project and where it is up to today?

Super Fresh came to us through Heather Wilson, who is a very talented writer and her career is set to take off in a very big way. I read the script when ScreenWest announced their 3:1 initiative with crowdfunding website Pozible.
    Super Fresh seemed like the perfect project for such a program. I’m a little disappointed we were unable to make that film. I still believe it had the makings of an entertaining and exciting sci-fi/action/comedy. We still have a lot of interest in the script and hopefully can bring it to life through other avenues as it is certainly a project I would love to see on the screen.

You’re the great grandson of A.B. Facey, the author of one of my favourite Australian books, A Fortunate Life. (My mother’s father had a parallel life story. I recommend that anyone interested in the traditional Australian character/mindset/value system read that book.) Did you know him at all? Have there been any consequences (positive or negative) as a result of being the relative of such a famous man?

Sadly he passed away a couple years before I was born so I never had the pleasure to meet him.
    His book has become a family bible of sorts. His attitude and mindset has been a major inspiration to my family and serves as great reference material when life doesn’t go to plan. We have a tradition where every new member of the family gets given a copy of the book, in fact my partner has only just finished reading it for the first time.
    There haven’t been any negative consequences, apart from my old high School English Teacher selecting the book to be broken down and analysed for an English Assignment. I remember her telling me that she expected nothing less than my best work because I knew the material...
    A lot of people ask me if I would ever adapt it into a film. I believe that it was done perfectly as a mini-series for Channel 9 in the late eighties. There is just too much rich material to condense into a two hour movie and it wouldn’t do the story justice.

What are three things you wish someone had told you about making a living from movies when you were starting out?

The best advice I ever got was day one of film school, where a producer was a guest lecturer. Her opening statement “ I’m a producer. I have an Academy Award, and I’m broke. If you want to be rich and famous, I suggest you quit now.”
    Making a living in this industry is incredibly tough, there is only a small amount of funding available and it is such a high risk venture for investors that can be easily scared off by the prospect of waiting 2-5 years of ever seeing a return on their investment, if any.
    But we all knew this when we started. It’s the desire to create something that gives us the energy and will to continue fighting everyday. To be able to tell stories and entertain audiences is a reward in itself.

What are your ten favourite (favourite, not ‘best’) movies of all time?

Hahaha, It’s hard to pick just ten as I have so many favourite films. I love films that entertain me. They might be scoffed at by critics, but I enjoyed the journey they took me on. So if I had to pick just ten, I would select ten films that I’ve just re-watched recently and still enjoyed the experience.

In no particular order:

The Godfather (1972)
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Halloween (1978)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Aliens (1986)
Casino (1995)
Se7en (1995)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Goodfellas (1990)
The Rock (1996)

What’s next for Michael Facey?

Currently we are developing a slate of feature films which include:

  • Sunday’s Driver: an action/crime/comedy has received development financing from ScreenWest and was recently taken to the 37° South Market and pitched to distributors and sales agents. 
  • Kanowna: "Place of no sleep," which went through ScreenWest’s Feature Navigator Program.
We are also working on a couple more short films for upcoming funding rounds.

A scene from Kanowna.   Western Australian goldfields, 1902,
a lawman does the unforgivable and fathers a child to a Japanese prostitute.

For the benefit of those who have never read A Fortunate Life, here's page 1.

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Monday 21 April 2014

Havana Mambo - “Malaniña”

Havana Mambo are a salsa/Afro-Cuban band based in Italy, formed in Havana, Cuba, in 1994 by ten Cuban musicians who had been members of the New Pérez Prado Orchestra—a so-called "ghost orchestra" that was modeled after the bands of the seminal Pérez Prado, who was among the most influential Cuban artists of the '40s, '50s, and '60s.
     Cuba was the birthplace of the many rhythms that comprise what is now known as salsa music—son, cha cha, mambo, guaguancó, and danzon, among other things. Havana Mambo realized that there was also an audience for salsa in Europe and embarked on an extensive European tour in 1996. They found audiences to be especially receptive in northern Italy and spent several months at a club called Sabor Latino.
    In 1997, Havana Mambo was asked to perform at Umbria Jazz, Italy's most famous jazz festival. The bandmembers decided to remain in Italy permanently and settled in Milan. Although the name Havana Mambo implies that they are mambo-oriented, the musicians don't play mambo exclusively and are quite capable of embracing a variety of Afro-Cuban styles.
    In 2003, Putumayo World Music included one of their songs on the compilation Salsa Around the World, which was meant to demonstrate that not all salsa or salsa-influenced bands are based in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Miami, or New York City. Here’s their song: Malaniña.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Good-Bye, New York City

Luci Westphal has packed up her apartment in Brooklyn and moved out of New York City after 15 years of calling the Big Apple "home".
My first cut of the "Best of 3 Years of NYC" was over 9 minutes long... too many great places, too many meaningful shots. Consequently, I had to chop a lot - kind of with one eye closed. I can't say that this is my best material or that these are the most significant place of NY - it's just what ended up on top while making lots of Sophie's choices. To see more of Brooklyn, Manhattan and even Queens (sorry, Staten Island and The Bronx, I never got around to film you for this series) and to make up your own mind as to what you like best, please check out all the In A Brooklyn Minute videos here:
Here's her final New York video. The song featured is the instrumental version of "Hell Came For Breakfast" by Jason Matherne, who provided most of the music in the series. Check out his Soundcloud page for lots of free music downloads:

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Saturday 19 April 2014

Christopher Walken on Gene Kelly

Christopher Walken has appeared in over 120 movies and TV shows. Before he was an actor, he was a dancer. Here he tells us a little bit about screen legend Gene Kelly.

Friday 18 April 2014

The Wilhelm Scream

The Wilhelm scream is a film and television stock sound effect that has been used in more than 200 movies, beginning in 1951 for the film Distant Drums. The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion.

Sheb Wooley played Private Wilhelm in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River. In a scene where Wilhelm is shot, he lets out a scream that has been used as stock scream footage in numerous films. The scream has become known as “The Wilhelm Scream,” although the scream appeared in an earlier movie, Distant Drums (1951). Wooley played an uncredited role (Private Jessup) in Distant Drums, and he is listed as a voice extra for that film.

Thus, Wooley “is considered by many to be the most likely voice actor” for the scream, according to various sources, including Wooley’s website. The scream is so well-known that sometimes filmmakers add it to their own movies because they think it is funny. If it is correct that the scream originally came from Wooley, he has indirectly appeared in numerous movies, as shown by this video collage of The Wilhelm Scream.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Daniel Nelson: Posters

Daniel Nelson is a graphic designer/web developer from Sweden and the creator of the From up North website. He collects images from around the web and arranges them in useful subsets. Take a look at these:

Wednesday 16 April 2014

5 Skills Not Taught in Film School

Brenna Erickson is a film producer/screenwriter, who owns a film company called Em.K. Productions. Her first feature film, Anatomically Incorrect was released in 2011.

These simple practical steps toward becoming a more efficient filmmaker were first published by Raindance New York. ________________________________________________________________________

There is a LOT of work that goes into filmmaking and when you are working with bare bones equipment and production staff, there are just some things you need to know how to do. These are the things I know how to do, or have had to learn.

Be Prepared!  Boy Scout Rule.

1) Survival Training/Basic Tools

So far, in my personal experience, the most important skills for filmmaking can be learned either through the Boy Scouts or Military Basic training. Learn how to tie knots, start a fire, the buddy system, how to not get lost in the woods, leadership skills, the ability to solve problems creatively, and organize a team of people are all ESSENTIAL skills when on set. 

My essential basic toolkit always contains the following:

Yes, I am a female filmmaker.  And, yes, I have my own personal toolbox that comes with me to set. Every shoot.

Your toolbox should contain the following:

1) a cordless drill (for screwing stuff in place)
2) hammer (for making sure nails don’t get loose, or adjusting where pictures and mirrors are hung to reduce camera glare)
3) wrench set (basic taking apart things or putting them back together)
4) screw driver (for when your drill won’t do the trick)
5) duct tape (It fixes everything.  No really. It’s first aid, car repairs, plumbing, lighting, fixing clothing, hanging temporary pictures, ghetto-rigging anything... I’m not kidding.  If you can’t afford Gaffers Tape, have 2-3 rolls of duct tape at all times and you almost don’t need anything else.)
6) box knife (for cutting things, like tape)
7) extension cords (more than 1.  And 2-3 power strips to power your lights, camera, monitor, laptops, and phone chargers)
8) gloves (for holding lights, or for when it’s a cold shoot)
9) pliers (for bending or straightening wires, pulling nails, etc)
10) safety pins (wardrobe) and clothespins (for holding gels)
11) plastic tarp (for protecting floors when you are throwing messy things around, or for creating shade in a scene for your actors aren’t squinting)
12) paint brush (for touch-ups on set in case the paint chipped during transportation)
13) a blanket and/or a sweatshirt  (to keep the actors/actresses warm and happy)

And when there are props to build, you should know how to use a circular saw, a nail gun, and a paint roller/tray.

Having these skills qualify you as a competent adult human being.

2) First Aid

Being able to do basic first aid comes in useful, especially when making films out in the woods. Being able to put a splint on a sprained finger, having band-aids, tweezers to remove that bee stinger. And I hope you never need to know the correct way to tie a tourniquet.
    All of these prepares you for the Worst Case Scenarios in filmmaking.
    Always keep some bandaids in your wallet so you have them on hand when actors get blisters or Make-up burns themselves on a hair straightener. Or a PA cuts themselves with the sandwich knife.
    It’s just common sense. You can also use them to fix some wardrobe problems.

3) Sewing

Please learn how to sew.  If a costume rips while on set, you need to be able to sew the button back on.  At the very least, learn how to safety pin it back together so it doesn’t show. Learn the basic stitches, how to thread a needle, and how to replace buttons, hooks and eyes, and do some basic fitting and tailoring.  If you are buying costumes, knowing how to fit them to the actors always improves the overall look of the film. Especially for emergencies on set.
    It’s better to be prepared  than needing to stop filming for a wardrobe malfunction!

4) Cooking

Nothing says “I love you for working for free” to a film crew like bringing them home-cooked meals or cupcakes.
    A fed crew is a happy crew, and if you can’t afford craft services, it’s actually cheaper to make food yourself and bring it to set rather than buying McDonald’s for everyone. It’ll be healthier and taste better too!
    Personal Story: One of my brilliant actresses met us on set, coming straight from work. She hadn’t had time to grab dinner and was thrilled when I opened up a tupperware full of steaming hot chicken, broccoli, and rice. She did a beautiful performance and was very appreciative and easy to work with.
    Cooking is a nice gesture to thank people for working for free.  It reminds them that everyone is a team, and the Director and Producer are there to make sure everyone is happy and taken care of.

5) Communication

Being able to communicate effectively will make organizing everyone on set easier and keep expectation realistic.  Knowing your way around Social Networking sites are a bonus because you can find crew members, and promote new projects more easily, as well as build up an online reputation.  This makes distribution easier as well.
    After you have mastered all of these skills, you are officially a Jack of all Trades, or just a very very useful Filmmaker.