Category Archives: Film

Lens

Some people need a lens to see the world through. I’m one of them.

Without glass, everything is out of focus. Without the lens, memory fades.

This piece of magic will hold sight for you, and sound. It’s your eyes and your ears.

The editor will tell the story, weave together the memory as you saw it.

A new angle and everything is new.

Different light, different scene.

Without the lens, it’s all a blur.

Look through the lens, and see.

“The Earth is Art, The Photographer is only a Witness”
-Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

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The One Reason to Attend Film School

Film school touts many benefits for those willing to enroll and pay to work instead of work for pay. Learn how to make films and tell stories is one of the supposed benefits, along with access to equipment and a respected credential, not to mention the great people you’ll meet along the way.

When it comes to graduate film school, unless you know you want to teach and get that terminal degree, there’s only one benefit that could possibly be worth the cost of attendance: the Network. The people you meet, work with, and establish a rapport with are your keys to the industry. The degree means next to nothing if your work doesn’t speak for itself—in fact, there’s a decent chance the degree will work against you, showing that you’re overqualified for the entry level positions you need in order to get your foot in the door of the industry. Chances are you’ll still have to start as a PA anyway, whether you’re fresh out of graduate film school, undergraduate film school, or an accomplished filmmaker with a high school degree.

The equipment is something you can get yourself. The money you pour into film school could have got you tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. That said, forget equipment! No one needs fancy gear to make good movies. You need to be able to tell stories, and that’s something you learn from reading, writing, watching movies, and paying attention in general, whether you’re in film school or not.

Film school is for those who have money and want a structure that will keep them focused on (somebody else’s version of) their craft. You could save thousands by being unemployed and just focusing on your craft without being attached to any one school, but your resume might take a hit when there’s gaps without an official employer or school attendance. The best route for anyone who wants to get into the industry is to just start working in the industry. Work your way up. Skip the schooling. You’ll make connections like you would in film school, and have to fund yourself like in film school, but you’ll probably spend less and have a better chance at getting paid sooner. And before long, your film school peers will be coming to you looking for work.

Make no mistake, I highly respect the work and devotion to craft I see in my film school peers. These people are passionate about film and highly talented. I think they’d be better off blessing the industry with their abilities rather than hanging around, paying tens of thousands of dollars, for a behind-walls education in the hands-on blue-collar people-centered industry of film.

The Best Way to Watch a Movie

What’s the best way to watch a movie?

As the theatrical release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens approaches, this question is weighing heavily on my mind. I rarely go to theaters anymore, and SW:TFA is going to be an event. So how should I watch it?

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Official Theatrical Poster

In my world, there are two mutually exclusive ways to watch a movie: as passive audience, and as director. Passive-audience style is the most popular mode of viewing for the casual moviegoer—it involves ignoring editing decisions, framing, camera movement and story flow in favor of just sitting back and letting yourself get sucked into the story. Passive-audience viewing requires little to no effort, and tends to result in a more entertaining viewing session—but you can miss so much this way!

If you want to better appreciate the decisions that went into creating a film, you’ve got to watch it like a director. Notice all the decisions you can—camera placement, transitions, editing choices, what’s been left out. This mode of viewing gives you a completely different experience, and I’ve noticed that when I watch films this way, I’m better able to remember them afterwards. However, there’s a catch—analyzing the film like a director separates you from the immediacy of the story and hampers your imagination. That means you trade enjoyment for understanding.

I’ll only have one first-time viewing of SW:TFA this December. A passive-audience approach will give me more immediate enjoyment, but may be forgettable in the long term. A director’s eye view will decrease immersion in the story, but lead to a deeper experience overall. So how should I watch it?

When all’s said and done, I’ve watched many movies that I’ve intended to analyze like a director, only to give up early on because I wanted to enjoy the story. If Abrams’ Star Wars is good—and that’s an assumption I’m willing to make—I’ll probably end up getting sucked into the story and forgetting the decision-makers that crafted every word and image on the screen.

Stealing the General

It began and ended on April 12th, 153 years ago. A civilian man from the North called James Andrews took a band of soldiers deep into the heart of the South, in Georgia, during the Civil War, risking life and limb to take a locomotive. They captured her on the 12th and hijacked her, heading North while cutting telegraph wires and sabotaging Confederate railways as they went. And they couldn’t slow down, because one William Fuller was hot on their trail. First on foot, then by handcar, and finally in a locomotive of his own, Fuller gave chase until the raiders ran out of fuel and were forced to abandon their stolen locomotive.

The locomotive was called General, and William Fuller was her conductor. Some of the raiders were caught and executed, and some were caught but escaped. Some lived to receive the Medal of Honor. William Pittenger was one such raider, and he authored a book, The Great Locomotive Chase. This book provided the inspiration for Buster Keaton’s loose reenactment of the Great Chase in his classic 1926 film, The General.

If you watch this film (and you should—it’s on the AFI’s top 100 list), and do some fact-checking, you’ll be surprised how accurately this movie represents the events of April 12th, 1862.