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Friday, January 30, 2015

Sundance 2015 Cinematographers on How They Captured Their Most Difficult Shots

Good article on how some DP's came to shoot some scenes. For example:

"There is a montage in the middle of the movie where all four of our characters are in a swimming pool. We knew we wanted to have some underwater shots as part of this montage, but I was worried about the time and resources it would cost for us to put a camera and operator in the pool for just a couple of shots. I ended up having the idea to put a GoPro on an old $10 monopod and just dunking it in the water and following the action around. This was difficult because I couldn’t monitor the camera while shooting. I was just hoping for the best and luckily, it worked out great." -John Guleserian, "The Overnight"

For full article:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hal Ashby on winning the Oscar

Hal's take on winning an Oscar for best editor for In The Heat of the Night --

"All awards are kind of strange, because if you go along with the idea of winning, what you're basically doing is hoping someone else will lose."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


The SWINGERS lounge in a booth against the cork-paneled walls sipping cocktails. They watch Marty and Elayne, the resident lounge act, perform an off-key cover of “Staying Alive” on synth and upright bass. The '70s are alive and well here, but they’re starting to yellow around the edges.
-From Swingers by Jon Favreau
Perhaps no other film depicts the reality of young people chasing the Hollywood dream quite like 1996’s Swingers. The independent comedy known for coining such pop culture phrases as “You’re so money, and you don’t even know it,” and “Vegas, baby, Vegas!,” rejuvenated swing dancing and showed us what it was like for 20-somethings trying to establish themselves in the sprawling metropolis of L.A.
Mike, a struggling actor and comedian, played by Jon Favreau (who also wrote Swingers), has recently moved from New York to Los Angeles to try to make it in Hollywood. The sacrifice was moving away from his family and breaking up with his longtime girlfriend back in Queens. Unable to move on from the breakup, Mike is encouraged by his L.A. friends, including fast-talking actor Trent, played by Vince Vaughn, to get back out there and realize how “money” he is.
Doug Liman, the director of Swingers as well as blockbusters The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, tells the Weekly that because L.A. is made up of so many transplants, friends become family. “Everybody, including me, moved there from somewhere else,” says Liman, who now lives in New York. “I think there’s something that’s kind of special that happens socially when you have all these people who aren’t tied down, are away from home. Everybody has left their family behind, and suddenly Thanksgiving isn’t with grandparents and distant cousins; Thanksgiving is with a group of friends.”
Liman met Favreau, appropriately, because of a girl at a party. Favreau famously sold the screenplay of Swingers to his new friend for $1.
Swingers is mainly set around the nightlife of Hollywood – bars, parties in the hills, 24-hour coffee shops. “I’m somebody who maybe doesn’t appreciate L.A. by day, but once the sun goes down I think it’s a beautiful city,” Liman says.
A number of the places where Liman and Favreau hung out together, forming their friendship, were written into Swingers. An establishment where the struggling actor and director spent many a Wednesday evening is the only nightspot featured in the film that is not around today: The Derby, one of L.A.’s iconic live-music and dancing venues, located on the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Hillhurst Avenue, closed in 2009. Favreau and Liman would often go there on “swing night” to hear bands such as Royal Crown Revue or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. In the late '90s, Swingers almost singlehandedly brought swing dancing back onto the scene in a big way, and the film’s two-volume soundtrack went gold.
For full article:

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Screenwriters Choice Awards

The Screenwriters Choice Awards recognizes the best screenplays and teleplays of the year. Unlike any other industry award, the Screenwriters Choice Awards allow you, a registered Final Draft user, to cast your votes for the talent behind the best scripts and teleplays of the year.
Voting for the 2014 Awards is now open! Click the "Vote Now" button below to cast your vote.

Power to the people.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Amazon is getting into the movie business

Amazon wants a chunk of Hollywood's business, too.
After a string of successes in television—including multiple Golden Globe wins forTransparent—the e-commerce company wants to produce 12 movies per year. The movies will debut in theaters, but they'll also be available on Prime Instant Video in the United States only four to eight weeks after they're released in theaters, Amazon announced on Monday. That's at least 30 weeks faster than the average movie.
Amazon's movie division, which film producer Ted Hope will head, will get to work this year.
Hope cofounded the Good Machine production company, known for films such asCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was sold to Universal Pictures in 2002.

Monday, January 19, 2015

low-cost digital marketing techniques

History Buff, Buy Our Movie: Indie Film Team Tries the Direct Approach

Friday, January 16, 2015

8 Oscar-Winning Actors and Where They Trained

Good little bit on some great actors and where they trained. I love the "we're all characters" by Strasberg. 

The two-time winning actor (“Rain Man,” “Kramer vs. Kramer”) studied with one of the Method acting greats: Lee Strasberg in The Actor’s Studio. “I was very affected by Lee Strasberg when I studied with him,” said Hoffman in an interview with American Film Magazine in 1983. “He would say over and over again, ‘There is no such thing as a juvenile or an ingenue or a villain or a hero or a leading man. We’re all characters.’ I was maybe 21 years old, I’d just come to New York to study, and it hit me very strong, because I was a victim of casting. Even today, casting people can kill you. Because you sit down, and before you say a word they’re going to look at you and without knowing anything about you tell you, ‘Well, you’re not a leading man. You’re not a juvenile. We’ll cast you as a doctor, or a scientist, maybe.’ ” Hoffman has been nominated for an Oscar a total of seven times.

Washington trained first at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre but it was at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y. that he took his first acting class. After his film “Flight,” Washington told the New York Times, “Being a movie actor wasn’t on my radar at all. I took an acting class at Fordham, and it was kind of easy, or I enjoyed it, I should say, and people told me I was good. When I started out, I was just thinking about the stage; it was never my goal to get to Hollywood. But here I am.” He went on to win Oscars for “Training Day” and “Glory.” New York audiences got see Washington on stage in the latest revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

To read the full article click below:

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Film Screening: Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard - tonight!

January 14, 2015
7:00 pm
University Park Campus
The Ray Stark Family Theatre (Map)
Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP at the links below beginning Tuesday, December 9, at 9 a.m.

USC Students, Staff and Faculty: To RSVP, click here.
USC Alumni: To RSVP, click here.
General Public: To RSVP, click here.
Join us for a 50th-anniversary screening of Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard. Set in a public hospital serving the indigent in rural, feudal Japan, the 1965 film asks profound humanist and existential questions relating to social injustice. Is there a way out of the dispiriting cycle in which victims express their pain by hurting others? How can we break cycles of suffering and violence? Red Beard is the last black-and-white film by Kurosawa, and the last Kurosawa film starring legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune

Akira Kurosawa (1910–1998) was a Japanese filmmaker who is regarded as one of the most important directors in the history of cinema. Drunken AngelRashomonHigh and Low and Seven Samurai are just a few of his many critically acclaimed films. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rules for Writing Short Films

I love short films. Love short stories. Love one act plays. Yes, I love the short form.  I have written in all of the forms above, and still do. I'll be making a short this spring/summer, and I teach students how to make shorts, or at least try(at USC).

I've been teaching film students on and off for the past 10 years on how to write and direct short films. Here's a list of what I think one could refer to as rules for the short form:


It always is, and I don't mean just in running time. Yes, short films today should be just that - short! From one minute to five at the most. But what I really mean by less is more is do not try to do too much. Do not try to tackle a story which really needs more pages to tell, ie; a feature length idea. It's very important to develop the right idea for a short, and this idea needs to be rather simple. Which leads me to my next rule:


This ducktails well with my first rule and they are true companions. Simple on the outside allows readers of the script/viewers of the film to understand the story simply and immediately. Complicated on the inside refers to what the film is really about, what the story really deals with.  I'll use the feature film JAWS as a perfect example. On the outside the film is about a shark - the shark is killing people and people need to kill the shark. This is simple on the outside. On the inside the film is about much more; greed, corruption, fear, friendship. etc. Being complicated on the inside fulfills us. Gives us something to chew on.

So, when we say a good short film idea needs to be simple - only in production, ie; locations and number of characters. Not simple in scope, as you can see in this Ray film, it is not simple in its scope.

As for a great short film example, here is one by Satyajit Ray:


Have your protagonist want something! Yes, exclamation point as I consider it the most important rule. So does Kurt Vonnegut who says: "every character should want something, even if it's a glass of water."


Conflict. Drama or comedy, you need conflict. When you give your character a goal/something to want, you also must create obstacles - which prevents them from getting what they want, and this bring us to what a story really is: protagonist overcoming obstacles. 

So if your character doesn't want anything, and you have no obstacles, you have no story. Period! No ifs, ands or butts. Nada. Niente. Nothing.


All great films need to have wonderful, well written characters, but even more so in shorts. Best way to create a real character is by giving them something to want. Also give them flaws. Character flaws. Things to overcome - internally and externally(obstacles).


Everything counts in short films. We have so little time, so little real estate. Get as much as you can out of your location. Think of it as a 3rd character!

Your location should inform us of your character. It can help develop your character. It can also serve as an obstacle, or create tension. 


Be cinematic. You are not telling a story in words, but with pictures. 

Lastly, go back and read that SK quote at the top. Again. He's right. Understand the form, so you don't try and squeeze a feature into a short.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Born in Wisconsin, Gena Rowlands launched her career as an actress with a move to New York City to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. As she was enrolling, another up-and-coming performer was graduating from the school - John Cassavetes. The two married in 1954 and balanced acting careers in Manhattan; the stream of stage, TV and film roles was steady for both but rarely substantial.
That changed as Cassavetes began writing and directing his own independent films, which explored unusually complex emotional terrain. Rowlands flourished playing such rich characters as Jeannie Rapp, the young woman for whom an older man leaves his wife in FACES, or Minnie Moore, a museum curator who falls for a parking-lot attendant, in MINNIE AND MOSKOWITZ. Rowlands earned Oscar nominations for her work on A WOMAN UNDER THE INFLUENCE and GLORIA, portraying a housewife who suffers a mental breakdown and a tough former mob moll, respectively.
Her acclaimed work has continued in both film and television (for which she has received eight Primetime Emmy nominations including three wins). This month, the actress will receive the Career Achievement Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. The honor testifies to Gena Rowlands’ unparalleled ability to coax the inner lives out of complex characters and bring them to the screen with grace and realism.
Series programmed by Gwen Deglise and Grant Moninger. Program notes by John Hagelston.
Actress Gena Rowlands regrets that she is unable to appear on January 9th as previously announced. She hopes to reschedule her appearance with another event in this series. Please check back here for updates.

Films in this Series at the Egyptian
Egyptian Theatre • Thu, Jan 8, 2015 - Sun, Jan 18, 2015
Buy Tickets SHARE
Thu, Jan 8, 2015 - 7:30pm
Egyptian Theatre
Fri, Jan 9, 2015 - 7:30pm
Egyptian Theatre
Sun, Jan 11, 2015 - 7:30pm
Egyptian Theatre
Sun, Jan 18, 2015 - 7:30pm
Egyptian Theatre

Friday, January 9, 2015

The times they are a changin' - YouTube filmmaker gets deal!

Vimeo Inks Exclusive Deal for 4 Series from Digital Studio Backed by Discovery, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard

First two 10-episode series, 'Oscar's Hotel' and 'Parallax,' come from YouTube creators PJ Liguori and Sawyer Hartman

Vimeo signed a deal with New Form Digital Studios — a joint venture whose partners include Discovery Communications, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard — that will bring two scripted series from YouTube creators exclusively to Vimeo’s on-demand service, with two additional to-be-announced series in development.
The deal includes series adaptions of short films from YouTube filmmakers Sawyer Hartman, who has 1.76 million subscribers to his channel, and PJ Liguori (a.k.a. KickThePj), who has about 620,000. Liguori’s “Oscar’s Hotel” and Hartman’s “Parallax” debuted as part of the New Form’s inaugural short-film incubator project with 14 YouTubers in late 2014.
Both 10-episode series will be available via Vimeo On Demand later this year, along with additional content including behind-the-scenes video. Pricing has yet to be determined.

To read full article:

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"20 Short Films You Can't Afford to Miss."

You've probably seen one of James Schamus' movies. The former CEO of Focus Features was the screenwriter for The Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and producer for Brokeback Mountain and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But his two newest films are perhaps even more important than anything he's done in the past. Schamus recently took part in the new series We the Economy, part of an anthology of films called "20 Short Films You Can't Afford to Miss." The series, which is produced by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the mechanics of the US economy, with each film produced by a different acclaimed filmmaker.
In his two contributions, That Film About Money (parts I and II), Schamus, a self-described "economic theory junkie," sets out to address the question: "What is the real value of a dollar?" The answer, as Schamus puts it, is going to "freak you out."

To read full article:

Monday, January 5, 2015

Iñárritu Turns ‘Birdman’ Into Risk Central

Great NY Times article on Birdman.

Mike Nichols Told Him Not to Do It

“What I like is the question, what is art and what is commerciality?” said Mr. Iñárritu, who made the psychological thriller “21 Grams” and the Spanish-language drama “Biutiful.” “How many ‘likes’ do we have to have that we feel that need of validation?” The spiraling story line is echoed in the camerawork, choreographed by Mr. Iñárritu and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, as a swooping, feature-length single shot. The technical audacity and creative depth have now landed Mr. Iñárritu, the Mexican-born filmmaker; his cast (including Edward Norton and Emma Stone); and Mr. Lubezki on many 10-best lists. Mr. Keaton, especially, has been touted for his triple-edged performance: the comeback that Riggan would have dreamed of.

For full article:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions with Werner Herzog

Good interview with the always intriguing Werner Herzog. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"I want to be involved. I want to shape and sculpt, to stage things, to intrude and invent. I want to be a film director. I was the only person at the festival arguing against these morons. . . . I couldn’t take it any longer. I grabbed a microphone and said, “I’m no fly on the wall. I am the hornet that stings.” There was an immediate uproar, so not having anything more to say, I shouted out, “Happy New Year, losers.” And that was that."

 “Those who read own the world. Those who watch television lose it.”

To read full article: