December 24, 2010
Need fresh eyes? Put your film in stasis.
Lately I’ve been slowing down my post-production schedule to allow for a four week break between the cleaned up assembly and picture lock. This has allowed me to put the film I’m working on at one time into perspective. When working on a project of any scale it’s easy to be lost in the cloud of creativity that a single project can create. Keeping ideas and strategies in order is tough, especially with projects that are kinetic in nature.
A break may not be possible if you have a deadline, but I find the more time you can spend away from the project before locking the picture, the easier it is to make sound decisions on the final edit. It allows for a true appreciation of what has been accomplished. Prior to this practice, I found it difficult to keep my attention where it needed to be: on the project. From writing it, organizing the production, filming and then editing – well, let’s just say it’s understandable why some filmmakers don’t watch their films once they’ve finished them.
Put the project a way for a few weeks and then go back and finish it. I call it stasis, my sci-fi obsession taking hold.
On a side note, this blog and website updates will be going on hiatus until mid-January.
Merry Christmas and have an excellent 2011,
December 20, 2010
My New Reel
Every now and again I make it a point to throw together a short reel that compiles excerpts of some of my latest work. This doesn’t happen a lot, mainly because I’m usually too busy working on client projects to get the job done to satisfaction. While many filmmakers have extensive reels that compile footage from their entire career, I have found it to be quite a difficult task as over the years I have shot on so many different formats that it never seems to cut together. The amount of time it takes to get used to a certain style of “look” is wasted as the next clip will have a completely different rhythm to it, thus throwing the viewer into mental chaos. At some point I would like to do a reel of nothing but my own films, regardless of their format but I don’t think I’d benefit much from being the editor. My mentality is that people should watch the entire project from beginning to end as no excerpt adequately tells the story that’s supposed to be told. This is of course not possible and I don’t feel I’m qualified to judge my own work that way. This is why there aren’t a lot of trailers or featurettes for my work.
This past year I’ve had a fascinating body of work, many pieces which are still in post-production. It was tough selecting clips to go into this demo as I love just about every single thing I’ve done this year (give or take a few exercises). For the pieces that have not been completed, I did find some short clips to throw into the montage sequences, in an effort to get this footage some exposure. I also grabbed footage from the spring of 2009, when I went up to Maine to shoot a scenic for a Maine Real Estate spec. This is some of the best magic hour footage I’ve ever shot and includes some incredible Glidecam work by Branden Geistert.
Additionally the only work of fiction I included was a montage of clips from my upcoming film “Caroline of Virginia”, which if you haven’t noticed I’m promoting heavily. I included one commercial, the Luzzo’s 1 minute spot which never got exposure except on my Vimeoand YouTube profiles. The 30 second spot did get time at the cinema pre-show in Westbury, Long Island, however I am not fond of this version of the commercial. I also included excerpts from both OutoftheStormNews pieces, which I worked on with the amazingly talented Dan Shor.
A new Outpost video is due in January so keep your eyes peeled. I couldn’t include it in my reel for this reason, however The first Outpost video is still available on my Youtube and Vimeo profiles, an excerpt is included in my reel.
ALA Stair Climb:
I also have a video in the works to promote next year’s 2011 Stair Climb, an event put on by the American Lung Association of New York. Some of these clips are included in the reel, but nothing concise as we will not be finishing this work until after the new year.
Caroline of Virginia:
We still have extensive work to do on the post-production aspects of the film, including completing the score, sound design and mix plus the master of the entire film and creating a print. This won’t happen until January.
Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year!
December 14, 2010
Creating A Good Trailer
If you’re at all like me then you’ll probably be able to relate when I say the best part of going to the movies are the trailers. A trailer is the most effective and exciting promotional tool available and is the key component in the anticipation and spectacle of the finished product: the movie. A good trailer can make or break an audience’s interest in a film… regardless of the quality of the finished work. In many cases this is unfortunate, in some cases it solidifies many works’ place in box office history. Like any work of art, the tools can be used with both good or bad results. There are two types of trailers: the full length trailer which runs at about 3 minutes give or take and the teaser which usually doesn’t exceed 2 minutes. If you know anything about general audiences, you’ll know that the public is generally deprived of the ability to pay attention over a prolonged period of time. This is why many trailers tend to give away more information on the film than they should, revealing the entire plot. This fear that the audience won’t “get it” is why many trailers have so much unnecessary exposition. A well done teaser will serve the full trailer once it’s completed as well as the finished film.
The primary thing to consider is the pace of your trailer. It should match the overall tone of the finished film (or what you intend the finished film to be). The music doesn’t necessarily need to be the original score, chances are the score may not be done. However if you’ve been editing the film to a temporary music track, the temp score may be the most sufficient for the trailer. Syncing pop songs is useful in getting your viewers to relate the film to a previous experience. This can be risky if the viewer attributes the song to a bad experience, but this isn’t normally the case. Teasers may not include music at all, but a series of accents and sound effects to keep the tone of the film a mystery. Make sure you have the rights to any music you utilize.
Dialog: find phrases that describe the characters, their needs and the story. Short concise one liners cut together in a pace that matches the film’s pace. Some producers even shoot scenes specifically for the trailer, many of which have no place in the finished film. The impulse for me is to provide a list of trailers I found to be useful in the writing of this installment, but I feel it’s about the specific project and the taste of the filmmaker in general and my taste in entertainment is irrelevant here. However, if you’d like to provide a link to trailers you consider good or bad examples, the comments are open.
December 08. 2010
Writing Good Suspense
Good suspense vs. bad suspense…
It’s important to understand the different elements that make for good, entertaining suspense that intrigues and the irritating bad suspense that is all too often written into many films and television programs. Good suspense will contain a number of elements to build such a feeling: character arcs, cleverly strategically designed action and appropriate moments of hesitation. Sometimes all it takes is a love for a character and the lack of knowing what has happened to them (e.g. the end of Ron Howard’s film “Apollo 13″).
Bad suspense would be characters flaking out and threatening to make an already bad situation worse. This has happened a lot in shows like Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Unnecessary “misunderstanding” or “greedy intentions” that put the characters in even more danger than they are in. The flaw here is it makes for unnecessary added tension, which tends to drive viewers crazy rather than create a sense of tension on an entertainment level. This has also been a constant through most of the early episodes of Lost.
Sometimes a character flaking out works, but not most of the time. I understand that this is subjective, but it seems that more and more Hollywood writers are resorting to this device. It’s a cop out and a new standard for conjuring up tension needs to be designed if film and television entertaining is to remain sustainable. Otherwise it’ll seem that all of our shows are set in worlds where the breeding of panicy intolerable characters are a common occurrence: which doesn’t exactly make me want to root for the characters in question.
December 02, 2010
One of the most common questions I’ve gotten from fellow filmmakers is what fonts I use for the titling in my films and videos, as well as promotional material. The movie poster font used for credits is the most commonly requested, followed by a font called Trajan which is often used in movie trailers of “epic proportions”.
The history of Trajan as I understand it is that it was designed to promote epic Romanesque films (which makes sense considering it’s called Trajan). It was then primarily used to promote any epic films, Roman subject or sans Roman subject. It is now used in just about every genre. There is a movement among graphic designers who work within the film industry to cease using it, however this has only aided in the identification of the font and is now used more than ever.
This is not the font used for credits at the end of the trailer ‘nor the credits located at the bottom of the standard one-sheet. There are many fonts used, one free font that works for this purpose is called Steel Tongs.
The websites that offer both of these fonts free of charge tend to fluctuate, so providing a link would, over time, yield negative results. I suggest using Google or Bing as being ideal in finding them. Keep in mind that they are offered for non-commercial use. If you are to utilize the fonts in promotional material that will go to broadcast or cinema exhibition, you may be required to purchase a license or have a firm that has purchased a license and have them finish the promotional work on your behalf.