Filmmaking is for Warriors: Our Greatest Weapon

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Here’s a question for you:

Before the use of social media, how did we know what filmmakers believed on certain important topics?

Here’s another one:

If I didn’t tell you outright, would you be able to guess what I religiously believe? What about politically?

Last question:

Is it important for you to know these things about me in particular or the filmmaking world in general for you to watch my films and appreciate them?

Debates swirl through our Facebook feeds. Name-calling and bullying abound. Twitter is increasing the source of hate-speech and calls to hurt specific individuals. It’s now fun to disagree with people so much that you now define them as your enemy and must mount a personal vendetta against them.

So in this war against your “friends” and followers, what weapons do we filmmakers use to defend our ideals, morals, point-of-view, personal convictions and desires? What do we have in our arsenal that has the ability to reach not just the American people or your neighbors or that guy you hate on your social media field? How can you be heard and understood and shown compassion for your differences rather than crucified?

Our most powerful weapon is our driven desire to make films. Real films. Films with heart. Films with action. Films about change. Films about the past. Films about the future. Films about people. Films about the galaxy, the universe, the stars.

Pick up a camera. Look through that lens. You see the world differently than any other person. And you have the opportunity to give that view to the world, to wield a weapon that has succeeded in changing the views of a nation (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?), keeping the political policies of a nation (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, AKA, one of the main reasons we still have the filibuster in the USA), connecting social injustice with audiences that wouldn’t normally choose to watch “that type” of film (District 9, apartheid), and showcased the bitter and painful struggles of war (Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down), protecting the innocent (Hotel Rwanda, The Book Thief, Shindler’s List, Argo) and making the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good (The Passion of the Christ, Harry Potter Series, The Iron Giant, Hercules).

Your weapons as a filmmaker can include social media. You can definitely impact people through the impersonal inter webs. But your impact will be greatest in the stories you tell, because the stories we tell show far more about our character and our beliefs than the brief words we spout on social media.

“Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime, we need to keep them alive.” ~Martin Scorsese (quoted from here)

“I always want to make films. I think of it as a great opportunity to comment on the world in which we live. Perhaps just because I just came off The Hurt Locker and I’m thinking of the war and I think it’s a deplorable situation. It’s a great medium in which to speak about that. This is a war that cannot be won, why are we sending troops over there? Well, the only medium I have, the only opportunity I have, is to use film. There will always be issues I care about.” ~Kathryn Bigelow (quoted from here)

“I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to express the views of black people who otherwise don’t have access to power and the media. I have to take advantage of that while I’m still bankable.” ~Spike Lee (quoted from here)

“I’m never going to be shy about anything, what I write about is what I know; it’s more about my version of the truth as I know it. That’s part of my talent, really — putting the way people really speak into the things I write. My only obligation is to my characters. And they came from where I have been.” ~Quentin Tarantino (quoted from here)

I have a voice here, and I’m using it as a secondary weapon against my world. But my primary weapon is my films.

I dare you to watch through my films and comment with what you think I believe religiously and/or politically. Start with this one, and let me know how far ya get before you have some ideas.

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Filmmaking is for Warriors: Does gender matter?

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I think it’s pretty clear at this point that I am a woman. I don’t consider that to be a good or bad thing especially. I am who I am.

I’ve been making films for 10 years. When I started I was a teenager so leadership was relative. I mean, we were all kind kids so me being in charge was just as valid as the next person.

Not that ANYTHING we made back then was good. But that was entirely due to ignorance and inexperience (ain’t nobody blaming equipment or money here – you can make a good movie on a zero budget if you are a good filmmaker).

College made it clear that the film sector, as far as the production side, was primarily made up of men, but there were strong women in my department. I mean, the main teachers were successful female filmmakers. But again, their gender had very little to do with their abilities as filmmakers.

Haters of Hollywood appear to believe that there’s some kind of specialness attached to filmmakers who are considered to be in the “minority.”

Good filmmakers are good filmmakers no matter what race, religion, gender, color, disability, ability, painting techniques, silliness quotient, bilingual status and whatever other demarcation is so popular by which to group individuals.

Are we not all human?

To quote Harry Potter, “…While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”

I’m not a better filmmaker because I am a woman. A man is not a less interesting filmmaker or less capable filmmaker because he is a man. This silliness that is rampant in our thinking is just ridiculous.

Filmmaking is for warriors. There is no value distinction between us, just our work.

Filmmaking is for Warriors: CineBeauty

 

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The eye of the camera is a window into the filmmaker’s soul.

Seriously.

Think of it this way, Peter Jackson took on the awesome beast that is LOTR and he created images like this;

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What you’re seeing is Mr. Jackson’s soul, as it experienced Lord of the Rings. He saw the mountains like his home of New Zealand, the Orcs like creatures brewed in the ground mixed with the warrior prowess of the Maori, and the captivating beauty of the land of the elves like the hidden paradises around which he grew up.

But he didn’t just envision the look of these things, he envisioned how the audience would see these things. Take the following for example:

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Boromir is currently the coward in this scene. He gets a basic CU (close-up), which is traditionally from the mid-chest to the top of the head. Legolas on the other hand is defending his honor, showing that he is honorable and the one to pay attention to of the pair. He gets a closer CU.

He probably also gets that because someone thought he was prettier. Well, he was cast as the Elf.

Do you see how Mr. Jackson is showing you his soul? He shot The Fellowship of the Ring in a specific way so that you would feel the same way he feels about everyone and everything on screen.

But he didn’t just do it in a basic, boring, lets-cover-all-the-angles way. He created something gorgeous. CineBeauty – the act of using a video camera to create something beautiful.

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Even hideous, creepy, evil things are somehow beautiful as seen through the eyes of filmmakers like Jackson.

There are so many things in the cinematography of the Fellowship of the Ring that are beautiful. And I haven’t even seen it in years. We could talk about the use of lighting to convey good vs. evil. We could talk about hero shots and sweeping angles and maximizing tension and showing the connectedness of a team…but this is just a post scratching the surface of beauty and the soul of the filmmaker.

What is CineBeauty to you? What other movies and filmmakers create gorgeous visuals to tell their stories? Go watch a movie and find out.

12 Months of Movies: September

In September we made a film that turned out a lot longer than I first anticipated. We worked with a fantastic new actor, who continuously went out of his way to be helpful, offer suggestions and step out into the street to make this film special.

When I wrote this script I was thinking about one of my best childhood friends who was deployed during some of the really bad parts of the War on Terror (not that any part is good, mind you). I am also married to a veteran, my brother is a veteran and my grandfather fought in WWII.

So here is SPC Lisa.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, suggestions or projects of your own!

Fail the System: A short film with a long process

I’m working on the short film for October. I’ve been working on the short film for October since…June 12th. Originally I wanted to write a short about a very controversial subject that I have never seen in a film. But when I started writing Working_Title Red I realized that I had to have a primary storyline that was more accessible to a general audience.

I wanted to write a drama. So I started doing research on dramas, especially dramas that were dialog-driven, which is not the way I have been writing for years. The above show was recommended to me. I watched A LOT of it and found that the representation of family drama is the best I’ve seen onscreen.

This show, Broadchurch, was also recommended to me as a quality drama. It’s about a small English town that experiences the murder of an 11-year-old boy and struggles to come to grips with the reality. It is one of the most cinematically beautiful stories I have ever seen. The editing is superb, the acting is flawless and the writing is arresting.

It’s also one of the most depressing things I’ve ever watched and I had to take it in parts to better deal with the emotions it brought on (I don’t like watching things that make me that sad, but it was very good).

The following images I found as a reference for very good cinematography composition. The DefineFast Productions film will employ this kind of style.

So what is Working_Title Red about? Well, it became Fail the System, and it is about a sister and brother who work together to outwit a devious college professor and deal with some serious relationship issues. Yes, a drama. With dialog. Although it is not as dialog-driven as something like Gilmore Girls.

Since Your Sister Sent Me, a short film DefineFast made in 2013, I have not made anything this intense as a large-scale project. The cast and crew is currently being assembled for this and I am excited to see it become a reality.

Just a little info into the process of making a short film. As always, feel free to comment with feedback, critique or projects of your own!

12 Months of Movies: July

I know it’s been a long time. I’m sorry. I got involved in a project in July that turned out to be a bigger commitment than I realized, along with a lot of other things (Like moving. Which I did this weekend).

Since I wasn’t the writer, producer or director of this project, I was hesitant for it to count as my July film. And it happens to be a web series, so that’s a thing. BUT, I was brought on board as the Cinematographer, which was HUGE. I’ve never been the cinematographer for anyone else’s project (Except commercially and for the TV show JDtR, of course).

So I really enjoyed working with the people from Masked, a modern retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I do have my own short films planned for August, September and October. 🙂

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, suggestions or projects of your own!

12 Months of Movies: June

The unsinkable DefineFast Productions has struck again.  This time to bring you a short film about co-workers.

This film was unique in that it takes place entirely in 1 location.  We tried to vary the shots to emulate the movie Buried, which is cinematically fabulous and also an incredibly disturbing movie.  Our film does not compare to Ryan Reynolds being locked in a coffin under ground, but that was the inspiration.

Here is Marketing & Numbers.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, critique or projects of your own!

12 Months of Movies: March

We set out to make a short drama, but that got put on hold.  So we made this other thing.  I came up with the idea, Cody wrote the script in about 30 minutes, then I revised it.  Paul and I came up with a rough shot list, mostly just coverage.

Then we filmed for about 3 ish hours.  We shot the barest minimum I’ve shot of any film since 2007.  That includes films made for the 10-Hour Film Competition and the 48 Hour Film Competition.  That made editing interesting.

Special thanks to Jeremy Wood, who allowed us to use his office.  And had grace with us when…well, you’ll see what we did.

Enjoy the tiny story that is night.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, ideas or films of your own!

12 Months of Movies: January

A truly collaborative project is unlikely.

Seriously.

Pixar does it.  Game design companies do it.  I suppose the Coen Brothers do it all the time.

My husband and I made a film.  When we filmed the majority of it I didn’t even know the ending.  Here’s some advice:  if someone wants to film something without a script and just wing and don’t even storyboard, don’t.  Don’t do it.  You’re gonna waste a lot of time and get frustrated.

That being said, this project worked.  In part because Joshua doesn’t really know what he’s doing.  He listened to me, he filmed, he set up shots the way I described and let’s face it, we are pretty happy together no matter what we’re doing.  That’s why people get married, isn’t it?

So here’s the film.


Special thanks to my dad for some props.

As always, feel free to comment with feedback, film suggestions, or movies of your own!

Rules, Anyone?

Welcome to 2015.  The Earth is still round.  The USA is still my home.  Gravity still keeps us trapped on the surface of the only habitable rock in nearby space.

Stop that.  What I’m saying is this; a new year has begun, but humanity remains the same.

Last time I posted I told ya’ll of my new goals for this year.  I briefly mentioned something I dubbed “12 Months of Movies.”  I’ll elaborate.

In this illustrious 2015 I shall complete a film every month.  A “film” in this instance is anything motion captured that exceeds a minute in length and tells a story.  Whether the story is true (or a version of truth, called a documentary), or fiction, animated (drawn, generated, stop-motion), or live action, silent or full of diegetic sound, filmed by me or another person, written by me or another person…it’s all an open field.  When I say “I” in this instance I mean that I will be the driving factor behind the film, whether I produce, direct, write, edit or shoot it, I must be either the main reason or the partnering reason the film gets finished.

So:

  1. I shall complete a film exceeding the length of 1 minute each month.
  2. The film can be any genre and any medium.
  3. I must be the driving force behind it’s completion.
  4. I must post it here, whether it succeeds or utterly fails.  We learn more from our failures than our successes anyway.

(Joss Whedon)

You may be asking me why I am doing this.  After all, I had a fairly successful year last year with 52 creative projects.  Why trouble my life by seeking out a new way to suck my time and energy away?

There is a terrible burden in being an artist.  It is this:  does my work, my life, my soul and heart and time mean anything?  Is this art actually worth anything?

I don’t know yet.  I don’t know what kind of stories I should be telling.  I know what kinds I like to see, but I don’t always make those kinds of stories real.

What I can tell you is that I shall make some comedies.  I shall make some dramas.  I will hopefully make an action film or two, since I enjoy those greatly.  And I shall want, desire and ask for your feedback.

Tell me what works.  Tell me what doesn’t.  Give me your opinion.  Even if it’s “I hated this movie a lot”, tell me.  And when I ask you why, please be specific.

That’s the only way I’ll ever really know if it means anything.

Following that line, what story or genre or type of film would you like to see, if anything could be made?  A vampire movie?  An epic?  A drama about a big family?  An action movie?

Next time I post, it will be a film.  Talk to you then.