It's been a while since we had a "what have you learned recently" thread -- so here it is:
What have you learned in the last couple of months about any aspect of film making?
Here are mine -- as the last couple of months I've been writing, mine are mainly about that -
1) That my first feature film failed in the market place because when I wrote it I didn't sufficiently understand two relatively simple things about screenplay structure
a) That my protagonist had to actively engage in the struggle on page 15, not page 50.
b) That even if my protagonist dies at the end, the audience needed to see good come from it.
2) That research is the heart of any screenplay and that the more you do the easier/better the writing is.
and a business one
3) That there are only two possible mistakes you can make when taking a screenplay to market
a) Over valuing your script [for example -- putting it out there before it's properly developed because you think it's God's gift to the industry]
b) Under valuing your script [for example -- giving the option to the first PWOC with a fist full of promises because you believe it's all you deserve]
The motto of indietalk [if we had one]
If you don't know, ask someone who does :yes:
04-20-2006, 06:01 PM
I've learned the rapture of wrapping! it's also very sad, but that's probably from my stage time, that last curtain call is an emotional killer.
Stick with it, it will get finished, it just may take a bunch of extra time and way more effort than you were expecting. Schedule as if every thing will go wrong, so that when it goes right, you will have plenty of extra time.
<edit>Oh yeah and if you don't know, ask someone who does! ;)</edit>
04-20-2006, 07:03 PM
I've actually learned this a while back but in my quest for screenplay structure, I've been watching films like crazy and one thing seems to stick out quite a bit in the best films...
You've gotta "like" the Protagonist...
Sure, there are films where this doesn't happen but I don't care about those right now... In my attempt to figure all this out, I can clearly see that the best films i.e., box office and critical success films always seem to have a nice little beat in some scene where the Protagonist does something nice... Something nice that we can identify with.
Even if the Hero is an asshole... He or she must do something fairly early in the story to get us on their side cheering him or her on the rest of the way...
I've known this to be true for quite a while but it's only been recently that I decided to see how it's been done...
Jack Nicholson in AS GOOD AS IT GETS feeds the neighbor's dog...
Al Pacino in SEA OF LOVE lets a guy that brings his kid to a sting get away... He even says to the guy: "Catch ya later..."
I've got a lot more examples but you get the point...
I think I'm starting to see how this tiny aspect of character can really get us behind the Protagonist of a story...
EDIT: I guess that I should also add to this post that giving your Protagonist some "undeserved misfortune" also helps us feel sympathy for the character but doesn't necessarily make us like him or her. It's specifically when the Protagonist does something nice... Ususally for another character in the film... Could be a very minor character or even an animal...
04-20-2006, 10:55 PM
I've learned that subtext is incredibly hard to write until you can become every character in your mind. Therefore, backstory is important to writers.
I also am learning that action is an important word to filmmakers- not only does it mark the beginning of the each take, but its absence in the life of a filmmaker leads only to nothing. Always keep your motion or you'll.. stop.
Also, nobody knows anything. Everyone THINKS they know everything, but that's actually nothing. Not even Bill Gates knows everything. Anyone who asserts they are right about anything is not to be trusted. Only trust those that know nothing.
04-21-2006, 03:28 AM
Only trust those that know nothing.
That would make me and Jean Paul Sartre the two most trustworthy guys in the world. :lol:
You've gotta "like" the Protagonist...
I was discussing this very point with my wife last night...
We were watching House, the Hugh Laurie character in it has no obvious redemming features and yet remains likeable.
I wondered whether with both him Jack Nicholson from As Good as it Gets, what the audience get behind is the honesty of the character. Both of those characters are blunt, they say exaclty what they mean without any thought for social consequences. They say the things that most of us think but don't say.
Maybe that trait alone is enough to bring the audience on side providing they grow in the course of the series/feature.
One of the biggest TV comedy characters of all time in the UK was a guy called "Alf Garnet" he was rabidly right wing, racist, homophobic, arrogant, cowardly, treated his wife like a slave and insulted everyone he met. -- Now, it's true that every episode was him ranting about the problems with the country and then getting humilatated by the very people he ranted against, but for some reason he still managed to survive as a highly sucessful protagonist.
I wonder if what the audience warms to is the extreme nature of the character and that if they are going to awful, they also have to be harmless. Someone like Alf Garnet, but with the power to enforce their views is never going to make a good protagonist.
I think it's the actual vulnerabilty that people link into, the idea that behind the front there is a scared and essentially harmless person. In "As Good As It Gets" that's the story, I think.
I think that really ties into what Spatula was saying about understanding the character's back story.
04-21-2006, 07:00 AM
I have a lot that I learned but I rather not mention them publicaly cause it might deem like an attack, but it's something I've learned that it would be good for my future references.
at least, during my feature film The Rapture teaser shoot, I've learned that out of 38 people that were there, 35 of them were actively involved in doing something, so it's good to know that (this info was provided to me by others). I've learned that no matter how much you make things move forward, there always someone going to find something to complain about, even the complain was groundless.
I've also learned that not what you see with your own eyes will be SHOWN on video, because afterall, you are going to color correct your piece during post and many of the small 'detail' in wide angle shots will NOT be seen.
I've also learned that I can't edit the teaser without having the score first, cause no matter I do, it just didn't work out, so I had to work very close with the composer to adjust the visual and the score together (You'll find out soon why once the teaser is out).
I've also found out that I'm glad we did a 2 unit teaser shoot (2 teams simultaneously) and thanks to good orgnization, we managed to finished both days of shoot, 1 hour ahead of schedule.
I've learned that for certain shots, a wide angle that covers everyone on screen would make the scene look more of high production (the scene whre 4 military men was pulled backward with wire) instead of just showing 1 person being yanked back, when you see 4 of them going at once, it makes that particular scene given a 'wow' perspective. Luckily, we had 1 camera with that, but due to having 4 cameras going on at the same time, it was very difficult to look through the monitor assist
I will give more stuff later when I come back from an interview.
04-21-2006, 08:04 AM
I finished my first feature last October. What have I learned from that project?
1.) Make sure you have enough crew for a feature film.
2.) Make sure your crew actually can do what they claim. My sound guy actually only did sound for bands so when he showed up and we tried to shoot in the middle of the woods we were screwed because he didn't have phantom power. (Actually, I don't think he even knew what the term meant.) Needless to say I fired him after day two and replaced him with another crew member.
3.) Even shooting on DV make sure to slate EVERYTHING. Unfortunately we didn't have enough hands and we were on a very tight schedule so we stopped slating. Big mistake. When I went into editing it tripled the amount of work I had to do.
All-in-all, the project still came out very well and it's something I'm extremely proud of.
04-21-2006, 11:54 AM
Gee, I hope I was one of the 35 people working Johnny's set! :) And that his learning curve had nothing to do with me. :)
04-21-2006, 01:27 PM
Lesson #412, 413, 414, 415
When editing, cut to the chase - don't fall in love with your footage. Don't be afraid to cut, cut, cut. A slow pace will kill you almost every time.
When writing, always try to use action to reveal character. The same goes for directing. Add to the words with action that reveals character.
It's extremely hard to write a really good script. The script you're working on can always be better. Learn to relish all criticism. Rewrite your opening beat at least ten vastly different ways. Before you call your script 'done,' delete ALL slams; be wary of elipses; rarely, if ever, start a line with 'well,' 'um,' 'oh,' 'uh,' 'hmmm' or 'ya see' (your actors will chew words like that up and you're stuck with dead air time. I've done and seen it done by very good actors. Don't give them the option).
Seriously consider doing one take for speed for every set up.
And one more: Always, always give yourself a cutaway option. Find an object, whatever, at every location and get some footage.
04-21-2006, 03:36 PM
You are fine Christine, you were one of the top 10 that work work work :)
We didn't slate with the teaser, cause I didn't need it, yes we have dialogues but after working with events videography with over 2 hours of footages without slating, I've got really quick and good at synching up soung with video (like within 10 mins) and knowing which takes goes where (provided that the dv cam's sound is on as well to use as reference point) if not, then I can use their mouth, and probably spend an hour but it's still quick in my perspective. :)
However, I don't avocate anyone to do it without a slate, just because I know my capacity and know how to sync doesn't mean you would ;)
Also, LIGHTING is VERY important, was at a premiere lastnight and was sadden that it was shot with dvx100 but with very poor lighting ;(
04-21-2006, 04:13 PM
Ok in the last year i realise the following is very important.
1. From my previous film reviews its obvious i need to get an external microphone to improve my audio quality. Or perhaps i should buy a new camcorder? Canon XL2?
2. Always check if the costume fits and not assume too much.
3. Get proper authorisation when filming within a building.
4. Ignore all the idiots from the anti Eddie Rex league who insult me and my films!