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Screenwriting - A Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Coming up with movie idea and writing a script treatment are what I like to call the honeymoon phase of screenwriting. You’re excited with the newness of the story you want to tell. That newness slowly begins to fade as you prepare to dig in to write. If you’re a newcomer to screenwriting it’s like your first marriage. How do I make it through this?

Formatting Your Script

First off your movie script should look like a real movie script. If you can afford screenwriting software get it before you put one word to paper. All the formatting is done for you freeing up your mind to focus on writing a script instead of dealing with formatting issues. I currently use Final Draft 7 and love it. If you’re going to run a marathon you would buy cool running shoes. Same thing with writing a script. Get cool screenwriting software because writing a script is a marathon. Moving on from formatting.

There Is No Right Or Wrong Way To Work On Your Script

I like to work alone without a writing partner. If you’re going solo writing your script, prepare yourself for a lot of late nights inside your own head. No one will be there to brainstorm with or motivate you. If you do not see yourself as the self-motivated type look into finding a writing partner to work with. It’s like a marriage, so make sure it’s the right person or you’ll drive each other crazy. Remember it’s thin line between love and hate when writing.

Some screenwriters like to schedule a block of time each day to work on their script. Some lock themselves in a room weeks on end. There’s no right or wrong way to work on a script in my opinion as long as you are making progress and are happy with what’s being written on the page.

When I get into writing a script I can write 10 hours or more a day losing track of time. I don’t have a set writing schedule. I work hard when I feel the story flowing, pull back when I hit a block, and sometimes don’t touch the script for a few days. Your life situation will often dictate how you work on your script. I know writers that work on their scripts before going to work or after the kids have gone to bed. What you feel works best for you is the path to follow. Creativity can be found anywhere when you’re in the right frame of mind to write.

Hitting The Wall

Marathon runners sometimes experience fatigue where they feel like they can’t go any further. It’s called “hitting the wall.” Sometimes screenwriters experience “hitting the wall” on a mental level. The newness of the script has worn off. You’re feed up with your story, what you’ve written, and tired of looking at this script that never seems to be what you want it to be. Maybe you could have been more prepared before coming? Maybe there is something else you can do as a writer to save your relationship with your script? Or do you walk away?

Hopefully you found this article useful. If you want to read more about one filmmaker’s story making movies please pick up my new book. The First Movie Is The Toughest by Sid Kali is packed with no nonsense advice, help, and entertaining stories about making movies outside of Hollywood on limited budgets. This book is for aspiring Screenwriters, Directors, and Producers along with the casual movie viewer with their own great story idea for a movie. No hype. No bull.

Posted in Film, Film Maker, Film Making, Filmmaker, Filmmaking, Films, Movie, Movie Making, Movies, Screenwriting by KeyserSoze : May 16, 2009 - 5:00pm


The Art Of Editing A Movie

Editing a movie can be referred to as tailoring a movie. Just as people don’t want to wear ill-fitting clothes, similarly no viewer is ready to see an unedited movie. An unedited movie is not compact, brief or tight, so it does not lure the spectators. The art of editing a movie means arrangement of shots according to an understandable viewpoint so that the viewers can derive aesthetic pleasure.

In cinema, generally two techniques are followed, viz., mise-en-scene and montage. Mise-en-scene refers to the composition part of movie making or in other words, whatever is being shot with the single switch-on of the camera till the single switch-off of the camera. Whereas, the editing style and technique are known as montage.

Some years ago, editing a movie was a difficult as well as a lengthy task when the films were shot in celluloid. Edit actually means ‘cut’ and the editors sliced the unwanted strip from the master roll and used to paste all the perfect shots into one. However, a duplicate of the master, known as dupe print, is used for all the experimentation. The viewable celluloid is prepared through such a rigorous process.

This was the time of linear editing. However, computers have provided the scope of non-linear editing. It is generally known that when the movie is shot, it is  much more lengthily than what we actually see in the cinema hall. The unedited footage is known as ‘rush’.

All the unwanted and NG shots have to be edited from the film to give you the compact film. Therefore, it can be said that editing a movie is an art and the editors need to perfect the art with dedication and practice.

A good editor is able to play with the emotions of the viewers. While editing the shots, the sound which was ’synced’ or recorded with the shots like the ambiance noise, needs to be edited or else a re-recording of the sound is needed.

Here the editor gets the scope of creating artificial things. Some practice folly, where the object is actually thrown and then the sound is recorded. Editing is the post-production stage of movie making and since it is one of the vital stages, poor editing can mar a good movie.

Many people believe that a movie is made on the editing table, as everything from the effect of lightning and thunder to the squeaking of a mouse is available. Shots are built up, as not every shot is a key shot. While editing, the shots are arranged so that the weaker shots act as parasite to the stronger ones and sometimes editing hides the mistakes made in the production stage.

It can be said that the argument between the linear and non-linear editing is often subjective. Whatever  the type, editing a movie is not the selection of shots but the right collection of shots and presentable summary of the shots.

Victor Epand

Posted in Camera, Editing, Entertainment, Film, Film Making, Film School, Filmmaking, Films, Mise-en-scene, Movie, Movie Making, Movies, Post-production, Video by KeyserSoze : May 19, 2008 - 6:06pm


Top 5 Ways to Become a Pretentious Auteur Filmmaker

Ever wondered what it takes to become a truly pretentious, so-far-up-yourself-you-could-cry, auteur filmmaker? You’ve seen them; either in Hollywood or the independent sector - film directors who think they’re God. Film directors who think they’re conducting work that will change the world as we know it. Danny De Vito once quoted an often heard saying in the industry, “the reason why you become a director is because the position of God has already been filled!”

Today, I’m here to share with you my experience with an absolute insane auteur film director simply called ‘Sputnik’. Filmmakers with one name are always strange enigmas worthy of report somewhere; especially ones named after a Russian space probe. Sputnik has managed to drive everyone he’s worked with totally mad despite his ‘artistic’ achievements. The legend began with his first masterpiece, the five minute opus simply titled “SHORT FILM”.

I had the chance to catch up with Sputnik recently and he provided me with some tips for what he thought would make a great film director like him. And rather than paraphrase, I’ve decided to list his top 5 tips in his own words:

1. “It really is all about the film” – And by extension, it’s about my vision. Every film has to have a vision and everyone who works on the film is serving the director’s vision. If you want to make it in this industry, you have to be prepared to serve the director’s vision. If not, you can go back to your garage with your little handheld camera making movies and distributing them on some cheap internet site. Being a director is not a popularity contest. Some times you have to push people to get the best, and if that means stepping on a few toes along the way, so be it. As long as the results are up there on the screen. I don’t care if they don’t like me! Neither should you!

2. “Actors are window dressing” – Actors have this misconception that they are important to film. What they don’t realise is that they’re just providing elements of a performance to be manipulated later in the editing room. That’s why when you hear famous actors talk about quitting film, it means that they’ve learnt that they’re not the centre of the universe, which is a disturbing thought for most actors leaving their fragile egos crushed in a frenzy of sobbing. Remember, it’s all about the film not all about the actors. Better still, when any actor says a director is a self-absorbed, egotistical wannabe, it means that the director has changed the actor’s performance in editing despite what they discussed on set, and they feel violated. Too bad. It’s not the end of the world. They can always go back to the theatre.

3. “Pick a good title” – The title must encapsulate everything to do with the film. Take my first masterpiece; it really was all about the film. So my first thought was to simply call it, “FILM”. Works well, yes? But then I realised it was only five minutes long, so I decided to call it, “SHORT FILM”. Make sense?

4. “Be dedicated” – You know, most people can’t get off their sorry asses for even two seconds to concentrate and do something worthwhile. When I made “SHORT FILM”, I concentrated for four days to make that film. FOUR DAYS STRAIGHT! And sometimes, I even worked up to seven hours in a day! It was intense, but I was up to it. And that’s why I’m such a brilliant director.

5. “Digital is evil” – I’m stating the word ‘digital’ on this one occasion only because I want filmmakers to understand; ‘digital’ is the tool of the devil. Films are made on film! All these pathetic little upstarts with their whiz-bang digital amateur cameras and their supposedly powerful computers thinking they can break through in to the industry with their backyard prowess. Let me tell you something now: you’re setting yourself up to fail. If you haven’t listened to anything I’ve told you, make sure you listen to this: Films are made on Film. Look at Spielberg, he knows what I’m talking about. Not like his buddy Lucas. Those ‘Star Wars’ films were just great weren’t they?

There you have it. In Sputnik’s own words, what it takes to get yourself to the top of the industry. Sputnik is currently working on a number of projects including his debut feature masterpiece, “Feature Film”. If my experience with him is anything to go by, the behind the scenes footage from the making of that film could potentially be as fascinating as the film itself. Only time will tell!

Author: Todd Murphy

Posted in Auteur, Cinema, Director, Entertainment, Film, Film Maker, Film Making, Filmmaker, Filmmaking, Films, Hollywood, Movie, Movies by KeyserSoze : May 16, 2008 - 9:01pm


Robert Rodriguez’s 10 minute film school

Good Morning Class!

Now a famous film-maker a while back said something about ‘Everything you need to know about film you can learn in a week.’ He was being generous. You can learn it in 10 minutes.

Set your watches we will be out of here in ten kids.

Okay, so you wanna be a film-maker?
(Class choruses ‘YES’)
Wrong! You ARE a film-maker. The moment you think about that you want to be a fillm-maker you’re that. Make yourself a business card that says you’re a film-maker, pass them out to your friends, soon as you get that over with and you’ve got it in your mind that you’re one you’ll be one, you’ll start thinking like one. Don’t dream about being a film-maker, you are a film-maker. Now let’s get down to business.

Let’s Play!!

What you need to learn is that being creative is not enough in this business. You have to become techinical. Creative people are born creative - you’re lucky. Technical people however can never be creative. Its something they’ll never get. You can’t buy it, find it, study it - you’re born with it. Too many creative people don’t want to learn how to be technical, so what happens? they become dependent on technical people. Become technical, you can learn that. If you’re creative and technical, you’re unstoppable.

Experience - Do you have experience in movies? You do, right - you WATCH movies. Now you need to have movie experience - you’re not going to learn from just watching movies, you’re learn some things, you’ll learn more picking up a camera, making your own films, your own mistakes - mistakes don’t have to be mistakes, everything is subjective - a mistake to one person is actually a piece of art to someone else. Hide behind that, tell everyone its art, you can get away a lot.

Start with a screenplay. Does anybody here know how to write? No - good. Everyone else writes the same way. Start writing your way. That makes you unique. You can take writing classes, that’s good, but don’t bother to go to film school or you’ll be making films like everybody else. We want to see your film.

How do you write a script? Well, you obviously don’t have a lot of money or you wouldn’t be in my class. So you wanna make a movie but you don’t want to spend a lot. You’re gonna come up with problems everyday on your set. You can get rid of the problem one of two ways - you can do it creatively or you can wash it away with the money hose. You got no money, you got no hose. So let’s make a screenplay for a movie you can actually make without having to make your parents poor. Let’s make a cheap movie.

How do you make a cheap movie? - Look around you, what do you have around you? Take stock in what you have. Your father owns a liquor store - make a movie about a liquor store. Do you have a dog? Make a movie about your dog. Your mom works in a nursing home, make a movie about a nursing home. When I did El Mariachi I had a turtle, I had a guitar case, I had a small town and I said I’ll make a movie around that.

How do you visualise a movie? With storyboards, you can do that. You can previsualise your movie and draw them out, but what you should really do is make a blank screen for yourself and watch your movie. Close your eyes and stare at this. Imagine a screen, imagine your movie. Shot for shot, cut for cut. Sit there, close your eyes and get rid of everybody, get rid of all your thoughts in your head except your movie and watch your movie. Is it too slow? Is it too fast? Is it funny? Does it make sense? Watch it and then write down what you see. Write down the shots that you see. And then just go get those shots.

The man and his 16mm cameraEquipment. OK let’s go over the equipment. The worse the better. You don’t want anything too fancy, remember this is your first movie - you’re not Spielberg yet. I used this one for El Mariachi, almost the same one, I used a 16M this is a 16S, this is exactly what I had. It helped me move fast because it was light, it was very noisy so I could do the sound in a wacky way, but this thing here would cost you about $2000. Don’t spend that kind of money, find some monkey that own’s one. I found somone who had one of these sitting around, he wasn’t using it. I borrowed it from him, I shot my movie.

(Points at what look’s like a damn heavy tripod) Look at it, this is a nice stand, its a very solid stand, y’know what’s gonna happen? The camera is gonna stay on the stand, you’re just gonna keep it there, ‘cos its so nice, meaning your movie’s gonna look…stiff. Take it off of there, sit in a wheelchair, push yourself around, get some energy in your film. That’s the great thing about first films is that they have so much life and so much energy. Big productions can’t even duplicate that energy, because they’ve got too good a stand and too much crew and everything is really smooth and polished and its lifeless. Add life to your film by getting rid of the fancy stuff. (Points at the tripods) Too good, too heavy, too good - just use your hands.

Here’s a lightmeter, this isn’t the write one, I broke my other one. This is a spotmeter, that’s OK but it’s too fancy. You just need one with a little white dome on it, point it to your subject, read the light, look at the number on your lightmeter - remember your lightmeter is your friend - feed that into lens and the iris, and then you’re set. Start shooting.

Don’t overlight. On Mariachi I had two lights, regular lightbulbs, they were balanced for indoor film, so look fine. In fact everyone said the lighting looked moody because there was very little light . Your mistakes, your shortcomings suddenly becomes artistic expression.

Finally, postproduction. When you’ve finished shooting your movie what do you do? (Picks up video mixer) These are your friends my friends. Video editing systems, computer editing systems, anything like that, its immediate, its easy, its cheap. Do not cut on film. Film is your enemy. You may be shooting on film but don’t cut on film. If any of you want to cut on film get out of my class right now. Go spend $20,000 on a real film school and do that. You’ll never get a job though - believe me.

Everything is on computers or video these days. Film is slow, film is expensive, film is not creative - film take’s too long. Cut on tape that’s what I do. I shot Mariachi for nothing. I edited on video. I had a three-quarter inch master that looked beautiful because the negative was transferred right to tape. There was no middleman so it looked like 35mm - clean, pristine. I made VHS copies of this, sent them out all over Hollywood. I never made a film print. (Picks up film strip) Waste of money. You have to string them up, they get worn out. They’re expensive. They’re copies of your negative. You don’t want that, you don’t want copies of your negative, you want your negative…on tape. Where people can duplicate it and watch it and get you work.

OK so you’ve made your movie, you’ve cut it, you’ve got it out, people want you. What do you do? The first thing you want to do is get an agent - right away. Hollywood is full of sharks, you need a shark working for you. These guys go and get you the best deals, they get you the best prices, they get you the best movies.

What you’ve learnt is what no one else has. How to make a movie dirt cheap. No one else in Hollywwod knows how to do that. You guys can make them cheap, you guys can make them better, don’t get swallowed in the system, take advantage of your position.

Now I make movies that are still low budget but they look like big budget movies because I learnt the techniques that I just showed you today.

…and this is an e-flat - twang ! All right I’ve got to go back and do my own films so I hope you guys learnt something today, I hope you grab some of these cameras and go shoot something of your own, I hope you write down the ideas that you have, the dreams that you have.

Stop aspiring, start doing.

See you in Hollywood - be scary!

Posted in Entertainment, Film, Film Making, Film School, Filmmaking, Films, Hollywood, Movie, Movies, Robert Rodriguez, Video by KeyserSoze : May 13, 2008 - 11:50pm


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