Category Archives: Movies

Thoughts on Film: La La Land

My favorite film I saw last year was, without a doubt, La La Land. Typically, I avoid musicals like the plague. I find them cheesy and full of cliches. I was, however, pleasantly surprised with how much I loved La La Land.

After reading an interview on Provideo Coalition with Thomas Cross, the editor for the film, I gained an even deeper love and understanding for the film.  Cross, who was also won an Oscar in 2015 for his editing for Whiplash, is a genius when it comes to his vision and skills, but editing a musical was a whole new challenge. “Usually you make an edit decision based on a number of different factors which include emotion, story, continuity, geography, etc.  In the case of a musical film, you consider those factors but also have to consider how your cuts line up with the music,” said Cross in his interview with Steven Hullfish.

“Damien (the director) is very well prepared when he shoots and plans every shot and every move. When you get into editing, however, you invariably have to revise or refine. Sometimes you lift out a part of a scene. Other times, the you need to perfect a camera move or moment that was very difficult to nail on set. Either way, you have to find a way to put the pieces together to make sense emotionally but also to be in perfect solidarity with the music.” – Cross

After watching the film, I was impressed with the fluidity of the scene changes. But after reading this interview and re-watching the film, I had an even better appreciation for the film and all it accomplished.

The editing had a realistic approach, but with a slight lean toward the modernistic style. The whole film felt dream-like, almost as if you were watching the movie from above. It is very evident that the director, Damien Chazelle, and Cross worked very closely together to make sure the vision for the film was clear and understood. Cross even mentions in his interview how closely he worked with Chazelle during pre-production and filming to ensure the style for La La Land would be exactly what Chazelle had intended.

La La Land, was at the forefront of many award shows for film this year, and I believe is a great example of how hard a film team must work (and work together) to create a masterpiece.

Thoughts on Post-Production: Editing

Once a project has been filmed and the production process is complete, the film then moves into post-production where the editing process begins.  The craft of editing consists of selecting, combining, and trimming sounds and visual images after they have been recorded.In classical, analog style editing, this was done at the end of the filming process and required a whole separate team. Now in the digital age, editing can be done side by side the film process.

The editing team has a lot of control over each individual clip, and decides whether how each shot if cut or faded, depending on the director and producers vision. This takes a lot of time and skill to edit large amounts of video and audio, especially under a tight deadline.

Like I’ve discussed in previous posts, editors will choose to follow a certain aesthetic that the director has set forth in the filming process. In realism, the editor will do everything in the editing process to make sure it looks as true to real life as possible, whether that means edited from the first person perspective or third person, viewing from afar.

In modernism, the editor will make the editing process evident, rather than trying to hide the edits like in realism. The editor can draw attention to a certain aspect of film by causing a dramatic edit that draws an emotional reaction from the audience. Editors in the modernism aesthetic are given a little more freedom and creativity to showcase their artistic side.

Postmodernism takes the editing process even further by piecing unlike sounds and images together to create dramatic scenes. The audience might even find the collages of video to be disorienting or hard to follow, but it is done on purpose to achieve a specific reaction to the scenes in the film. An example of a dramatic enactment that was staged as a direct cinema interview, was in Mitch Block’s No Lies.

One of my favorite films, Fight Club, definitely varies between realism and modernism editing aesthetics. While the film feels authentic and real in many scenes, there are times the editing process takes a turn toward the modernistic approach and creates dramatic, jarring scenes.





Thoughts on Production: The Producer

A producer is often the only key member of the production team who guides a project through all phases of production, from pre-production planning through post-production editing and distributor. The producer on a project is largely responsible for moving the entire process along, from drafting the proposal and gaining financial support, to assembling a team and overseeing the entire production process.

The role of a producer can be summed up as the middle man or liaison between those who financially support the project and the artists who are working to create the project. This can be a very stressful and hard job to fill, as it requires someone who can not only manage time and money, but also people.

Producers often rely on production strategies to help ensure that a project is successful in hitting each area of their job description. They must organize and come up with a plan to help them obtain necessary funding and reaching an audience. The development of a production strategy involves at least these four steps:

1. Turning a provocative idea into a funded and marketable media package

2. Defining the goals and objectives of the project

3. Researching the topic

4. Assessing the potential audience

Some famous producers have been Jerry Bruckheimer, Steven Spielberg, and Michael Bay. As producers are responsible for organizing their production team, you can always tell the producers style by the artists he or she chooses to help make their movie/television show.



Thoughts on Movies: Are Critics also Journalist?

At the time I saw the film, Get Out, it had a rating of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are the rankings of some other films:

Moonlight 97% Current Oscar Winner
Pulp Fiction 94% Best Pic Nomination / Winner Best Screen Play
Return of the King 95% Won 11 Oscars including Best Picture
Goodfellas 97% Nominated for 6 Oscars

When I went to see Get Out, I was expecting a cinematic masterpiece. I had incredibly high standards for a film with such high ranking, and I was utterly disappointed to say the least.

The reviews for Get Out seem to amount from the critics being afraid to call the film mediocre for fear of being labeled out of touch, not culturally relevant and in extreme cases, even racist. I have long considered the art of film making and the review process sacred, thus my disappointment leaving the theater after seeing the film.

While Get Out wasn’t a horrible horror film, I certainly didn’t see the revolutionary contributions it made to world of film and production. The gush of “it’s so revolutionary,” or “it hasn’t been done in cinema” is quite a stretch. I was hoping for some intricate, tightly woven social commentary, which is suppose to be the main selling point. The problem is that “deeper meaning” was all hype and what you are left with is a film that should of been ranked about 70%.

And I wonder if, sadly, our cinemas quality will be determined by those on social media and not the keen eye of learned critics. Critics, like Journalist, should have a keen understanding of what it takes to report the facts based on experience, knowledge on the subject, and desire to tell the truth rather than tell what the masses want to hear.

Like the other highly ranked films above, it takes a brilliant director, production team, and writers to create revolutionary film. It is hard to create something that has never been done before, but there are films out there that show through technique and timing, it can be achieved. Unfortunately, Get Out didn’t do it for me.

Thoughts on Film: The Director

In Chapter 5, the text discusses the role of a director and how significantly it can influence the artistic influence of a project or film.  Depending on a director’s aesthetic focus, a film can create a completely different look and feel from another director’s vision.

In order to better create a specific artistic expression, a director must know how all facets of the film making process work together to create the final project.  Once the director understands lighting, sound, angles, filming, and editing, the director then has complete control over their entire project beginning to end.

Growing up, I had very little exposure to movies and television. It wasn’t until I started college that I began going to the movie theatre and watching film regularly. It was during this time that I developed an appreciation and love for Quentin Tarantino and his artistic approach to film.  With a modernist style, Tarantino takes moments of realism and moments of postmodernism and blends the two worlds together to create something audiences might not have experienced before.

In any director’s film, you can typically identify the aesthetics of film: Function, form, and content.  These things are what drive the purpose and vision of each project and provide clear direction for the film maker and crew.

Some directors use traditional shots and angles to create realistic images, while others choose to integrate angles and shots, providing a jarring visual for the viewer. While these modern and postmodern styles of film are valuable in film, often times it is important for a director to follow more “realistic” styles when filming professional interviews, news packages, or educational material. The Rule of Thirds, Essential Area, Framing, Speed of Motion, and Scale and Shape are all things that are important for a director to know before he/she can break the rules.


Thoughts on Film: Lighting

When it comes to artistic creativity on a film set, the lighting director or director of photography has the freedom and ability to create any scene from any time and place.  By creating and manipulating light, those who are proficient in the complex art of lighting can make the directors vision come to life on screen.

Following with the styles of film, expressive design and effect of lighting setup are typically described as realistmodernist, or postmodernist.

Realist lighting appears to come from actual light sources in a setting or location.  The goal is to create an illusion of reality and enhance how a scene should normally or naturally appear.

Modernist lighting has no real-life basis, which leaves the design director free to design a light setup that can be more abstract or more subjective to emotional criteria.  The goal is to achieve a specific emotional effect or abstract design through sequences and design that might not seem natural.

Postmodernist lighting usually mix a variety of styles that comes from many different genres.  This style often is used to evoke a strong emotional reaction from the audience, either by bombarding them with powerful sensations or to highlight extreme moments.

The book lists an example of postmodernist lighting in Batman Forever which was released when I was five years old.  I remember watching this movie many times, in awe of the lighting effects and stylized scenes.  I didn’t quite understand what postmodernist lighting meant until I read this example and was immediately reminded of the disorienting feeling I would get when I watched certain scenes.  The film is truly a blend of moments of realism and modernism, creating lighting that is unlike anything else.

Light can also be distinguished by the color temperature the light emits, which is measured in degrees of Kelvin.  Light sources have different color temperatures that give various amounts of color wavelengths (red, green and blue), which together make up white light and the visible spectrum that we can see.  Depending on the light source, there will be different hues of the white light we see which is why it is important to white balance before filming.

Light can also be classified by the way it is housed, which we refer to as lighting instruments. These instruments are further classified according to the directness or indirectness and hardness or softness of the light they emit.  Some examples of these instruments include spotlights, floodlights, portable lights and various types of lamps.

In order to understand lighting control in the studio or on location, the director of photography must be proficient in understanding how light is measured and translating that to using patch panels or dimmer boards in order to get the appropriate amount of lighting in each shot.

While learning about lighting and how to control it takes patience and practice, becoming an expert in this field can allow to endless amounts of creativity and ability to design new scenes and aesthetics for movies and television.

Thoughts on Film: The Camera

In Chapter Eight, The Camera, the author explains the importance of the camera operator and the camera itself.  The operator must try and get the best pictures in order to enhance whatever aesthetic approach is needed.  They must know the proper techniques for framing, positioning and movement, as well as understand the numerous aspects of the camera and its lens.  Digital and analog cameras give a camera operator many options, just like other aspects of production discussed in previous chapters.

Camera placement is a large part of capturing the best possible images.  There are three camera operations that must be learned by those interested in the art: Framing, Positioning, and Movement.

Framing refers to the arrangement of action within the cameras frame.  The operator creates the perfect frame for each shot by considering the essential area, the walkspace, the lookspace and the headroom.  By placing the subject in the correct spot that allows for these four things, the photographer can achieve a photo that tells a story.

Positioning simply refers to the position of the camera to the subject and the angles it creates.  The operator must understand the rule of thirds and know where to place the camera in position to the subject. He/she must also know the appropriate terminology when giving directions like pan, tilt, truck and dolly.

Movement can be accomplished by various camera-mounting devices that allow the camera to move freely around the set.  Possibly the most sensitive and difficult of the three, achieving the right amount of movement can be tricky.  Each shot should begin and end with a stationary shot, so the scene can be edited appropriately.  Too much movement can become distracting and take away from the scene.

Not only must a camera operator understand everything happening on the outside of the camera, but also inside the camera.  A camera lens is made of glass that allows focus, and can frame an image within the camera.  In order to control the lens, the operator must be familiar with basic optics.

The lens bends light and help the camera operator control an image’s field of view, brightness, focus, perspective, and depth of field. Lenses can be categorized by their focal lengths and offer a wide variety, allowing for various types of photography and film.

Thoughts on Film: Production & Distribution

In chapter one of our text, the reader is given a deep look into digital production.  Even before a TV show, movie, or commercial is made, producers must take a deep look into their intended audience.  After much analysis, the producer then must decide the method in which medium he/she will be used, which requires a vast understanding of each possibility for production.  Technology has evolved rapidly over the last twenty years, so production of music, movies, and television also had to adapt.

With the rise of digital brought exciting new ideas for production, but also complicated distribution and storage.  Despite some of the negative possibilities in the digital world, if those in production have a good idea of their audience, then they can better utilize the many forms of media production.  Once there is a clear understanding of the intended audience, research analysis should lead the production team to answers surrounding content, advertisers, budget, etc.

Continue reading Thoughts on Film: Production & Distribution

Thoughts on Movies: Film VS. Digital

The film documentary, Side by Side, takes a thorough look into the evolution of film to the digital era. I found the film to be incredibly interesting, and learned a lot of things I didn’t know about some of my favorite movies. Digital journalism and film production are foreign to me, but the documentary, narrated by Keanu Reeves, is easy to follow. Following a linear timeline, Side by Side takes the audience through the history of film production and it becomes quickly evident that there are two “camps” among those in production and the art of film making: movies that are made with photo chemical film and movies made digitally using pixels to create images rather than traditional film.

To many filmmakers, making a movie isn’t just about the end product, but the journey taken to create a piece of art. Most of these directors, cinematographers, producers and actors believe, that while more time consuming and expensive, the use of traditional photo chemical film is crucial is creating the art that is filmmaking. Since the 1980s and 1990s, digital slowly made its way into the hands of filmmakers in the form of digital cameras and camcorders. Directors were able to see their recorded scenes instantly, rather than waiting on reels of film to be developed over night. Continue reading Thoughts on Movies: Film VS. Digital