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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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!

The Longest 48 Hours

Tip #1:  Make a film.  You don’t need another tip.  (But if you do, read about it on this blog.)

Over a week ago my team and I participated in the 48 hour film project.

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I think.  It’s all a bit fuzzy.

Friday night my DP, editor, sound guy, co-writer and I drove to the mall where the whole kick-off was supposed to go down.  We tried to relax by eating supper ahead of time, but that didn’t really work for me.  Maybe outwardly I ate food and said words, but inside I was running around in circles and screaming.

Wigging out, as I’m always accusing others of doing.

My DP and I finally made it to the event room, where we stared at a staircase for about an hour until the actual ceremony thing started.  I think we chatted with fellow filmmakers.  I remember laughing appropriately and smiling too much.

Announcements.  Rules.  Blah blah blah I’M ABOUT TO DO A 48 blah blah blah….

THEN.  The announcer guy gave us the elements:

Line of dialog:  Let’s take it from the top (let us take it from the top).

Character:  Celebrity chef Deborah Gordon.

Prop:  A necklace.

Okay, those are all pretty cool.  I mean, a necklace is easy.  That dialog can be worked into anything.  A celebrity chef…I can work with that.

Like good little filmmakers and producers, we wrote it all down and my DP texted it to our editor, because my hands shook too much.  Stupid hands.  I was doing so well hiding that nervousness.  I guess they didn’t get the memo.

“DefineUncommon,” the announcer called.  That was my cue to walk to the front.  I wove in between the chairs and I didn’t even trip.  I reached my hand into a hat (I’m pretty sure it was a hat…) to pull out our GENRE.

That tiny piece of paper flipped open in my hand.  ROMANCE, it said.  Romance.  What in the monkey…?

I made my way back to my seat.  I sat.  I hope.  And I made my DP text our genre.  And I took a deep breath.

I have never written a romance film, I thought.  I just haven’t done it.  How am I going to write one in a few hours?  How am I going to film it?  How can I know that I won’t let my team down because of my inexperience in this genre?

You know what I was doing?

WIGGING OUT.

But my DP leaned over and asked if we were going to keep the genre.  See, we have the opportunity to draw a wild card.  The wild cards are ALL harder than the normal genres.  All of them.  And I said, “I don’t think we should.”

He said, “Me neither.  We got this.  I think we got this.”

I thought of my team:  twenty some people.  I thought of my actors:  half a dozen.  I thought of my editors and my co-writer waiting out in the mall.

And I thought, “We can do this.”

Because the 48, and all filmmaking really, isn’t about one person.  It’s a team.

Jib Operator       Editors and DP

Here’s a trailer for our film:

Starting Off

I’m starting the year off right.  Why?

Making a film tomorrow.

Okay, so it’s not my film.  I’m actually just acting AD–assistant director.  I was already slotted to help on the production in a different capacity, but the director kinda had to bow out for this weekend.

His wife had a baby a little earlier than expected.

It doesn’t really matter what I do on a film set though, I’m happy.  I’ve always been more comfortable around cameras and actors and the whole process.  Think of it like a football player stepping out onto the field.  That’s where he belongs.

You don’t want to see me on a football field though.

For this film we’re making, Iris, the DP is that crazy friend of mine.  He is deep in shot-listing right now, which is not always normal for a DP.  These are the kinds of things that the director would worry about if he were able.

Remember when I talked about the length of time film productions usually take?

We had five weeks for this one.  It’s part of a film contest, a lot like the 48 Hour one.  We were given a set of objects, concepts and locations to include in a script.  The writers wrote the script.  We muddled through pre-production–babies mess things up, ya’ll–and now we are shooting.  Tomorrow.

After we finish shooting next week, the editors will do their magic and voila, a finished film.  Then we submit and all of the KC film scene will view it, contemplate it, judge it.

At the end of all that, hopefully we still look like this:

Because otherwise…

California

Landed at LAX last night.  Actually left the airport this time.  First time in the city of angels, free to move about.  

Thoughts?

It’s big.

Really, really, really big.  The bigness of this city is astounding.  From the air I had a perfect view of the traffic, which is intense, let me tell you.  I never understood how crazy the traffic really was.  All those tiny cars down there, millions of them, tracking along the highways with their tiny lights, trying to get home.

Crazy.

This had me thinking about the film community.  Sometimes I don’t understand how massively huge is the crowd of people making movies.  I’m not talking about the Internet, either.  Yeah, we can get online and see a film made by someone in Sweden or New Zealand or Kentucky with a few clicks.

That’s awesome.

But I’m actually talking about the community even within my own city, KC.  In the past three months I have met so many filmmakers I can’t even put a number on it.  Some from the 48.  Some through the friends from the 48.  Craigslist.

We are not lonely artists.  Maybe we were once.  Not anymore.