Filmmaking Tips

BrianKoppelman

It’s unlikely that you’ll see Brian Koppelman plugging a screenwriting how-to book anytime soon. The writer/director behind Ocean’s Thirteen and Solitary Man publicly denounced the hoodwinkery birthed by the cat-saving industry and felt strongly enough about the seminar culture to make it the message of his first six-second screenwriting tip. Those tips come in the form of Vines (what else?) that he produces daily. Each comes with a kind of scorched earth sincerity that you don’t often get from working filmmakers, and by next week, he’ll have amassed one hundred of them. That’s a full ten minutes of helpful jabs where his face and nearly two decades of insight fill the frame. Typically with this space we focus on 6 filmmaking tips and offer further challenges and exploration, but for Koppelman’s unique delivery, we’re making a special exception — particularly because there’s so much here (and because digging deeper would be like analyzing a punch with the person who’s on the mat). These bursts of advice easily stand alone. So here are my favorite six minutes of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a true grinder.

read more...

spike-lee

To watch Spike Lee’s feature narrative films is to only understand a fraction of his career as director. If you count his documentaries, Spike Lee has, when next week’s Oldboy remake hits screens, helmed 32 features in the 27 years since She’s Gotta Have It. And that doesn’t even include the numerous shorts, music videos, commercials, and TV pilots he’s directed. Of all the things that are misunderstood about Spike Lee, his largely under-recognized and uniquely prolific output of work might be chief among them. As both public figure and producer of culture, Lee has meant many things to many audiences: co-pioneer of the 1980s American independent film renaissance, restless observer of popular culture, connoisseur of African-American popular music, firebrand provocateur, native new Yorker, and brand name. He has also helped define and expand the possibilities for contemporary African-American filmmakers inside and outside Hollywood. It’s difficult to imagine what American cinema of the past quarter century would look like without Spike. So here’s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man behind every Spike Lee joint.

read more...

roger_deakins-620x361

There’s a moment about halfway through Denis Villeneuve’s sprawling, occasionally brilliant yet sharply uneven film Prisoners that finds Jake Gyllenhaal’s Detective Loki do something that we’ve seen so many detectives do in movies before: in a bout of frustration, he swipes his arms across his cubicle desk, violently sending his evidence and other materials into a labyrinthine clutter. But this fit of anger ends up leading to a serendipitous discovery – the chaotic new arrangement of papers on the floor reveals for the detective a clue that had been hiding under his nose in plain sight the whole time. This is moment is, in short, a cliché. Yet on the other side of cinematographer Roger Deakins’s lens, the moment takes on a plentiful, foreboding, and eerie quality. The muted tones, carefully composed yet slightly agape mise en scène, and rich depth of field collectively transform a moment we’ve seen so many times before into something considerably more. Through brilliant lensing, a cliché is elevated into the possibility that something, anything can happen in the detailed and uncertain world of this film.

read more...

warhol_mario_montez

When Andy Warhol made the switch from painting to filmmaking, he took popular culture by surprise. Warhol was hardly the first artist of his era to traverse media, but he was one of the most prominent and famed, a decidedly off-kilter celebrity who created a personality not fit for prime-time yet nonetheless held a continued presence in prime-time. But the most shocking thing about Warhol’s films was the ways in which they presented the exact opposite of his notorious artwork. Where Warhol’s paintings and prints explored the ubiquitous presence of major movie stars, his own films cast a troupe of eccentric outsiders deemed the alternate universe superstars of his own downtown “factory.” Where Warhol’s paintings created “original” works of glossy, mass-produced products familiar to everyone in a society inundated by advertising (e.g., the infamous Campbell’s soup can), his films were raw, deliberately unpolished, often unedited events that challenged the inherently manufactured nature of the film medium (and, thus, they’re frustratingly hard to see outside of big cities). Whether you delight for a rare screening of the double-projected Chelsea Girls or scoff at the very idea of Empire, Warhol’s films captured a unique place and time in which uninhibited self-expression was king and even the movies could be a happening. So here ‘s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the snow-haired savant who did with cinema what an extraterrestrial might do with the English language.

read more...

tumblr_mb2f9cQuQm1qcx3szo1_1280-1

Watching Hunger for the first time is not an experience that I’ll soon forget. British video artist-turned-director Steve McQueen imbued this vision of the 1981 IRA hunger strike with such a potent visceral sense, with such a rich and detailed tapestry of sound and image, that watching it is truly a corporeal endurance test of stark immediacy. McQueen’s approach didn’t require traditional methods of character identification and narrative pathos – he simply used the reality of shared flesh and blood to connect the viewer with the events depicted onscreen. The result of McQueen’s efforts carries a profoundly haunting, disturbing, and ultimately revealing insight into the politics of the body, told through a symphony of blood, shit, and urine. McQueen’s latest reportedly doesn’t pull its punches. I have yet to see Twelve Years a Slave, but it is hardly surprising that an artist whose life of work has been so invested in exploring the human body’s use as a device for subjugation, domination, and othering has created such an affecting vision of the horrors of American slavery and institutionalized racism. While Twelve Years a Slave is by most accounts McQueen’s most “accessible” work to date, he doesn’t seem to have lost the touch that made his museum-based work so unique during his quick rise in mainstream critical consensus. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from not that Steve McQueen.

read more...

Kimberly Peirce

It’s a shame that Kimberly Peirce has only made three feature films in 14 years. Boys Don’t Cry was a stunner of a debut, announcing a bold new talent to keep tabs on. Stop-Loss wasn’t quite as strong but it was still absolutely powerful enough to make her a sophomore with a bright future. For whatever reason, that future dimmed, but with Carrie coming out this weekend, it hopefully puts Peirce back on track to be artistically in our lives far more often. After all, it was her name that provided a much-needed legitimacy to a remake no one was asking for (of a De Palma film no less) and the optimism that the story could tackle difficult interpersonal drama underneath all the blood-drenched screaming. It’s fantastic to have her back, so here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a director who has been away too long.

read more...

yasujiro-ozu

In the 1993 documentary short Talking with Ozu, filmmakers from around the world including Wim Wenders, Claire Denis, and Paul Schrader attest to Yasujirō Ozu’s subtle yet resonant influence on their own filmmaking and their understanding of cinema as an art form. But rather than discuss how Ozu’s intricate and subtle shot compositions or elliptical depiction of consequential narrative events had a direct contribution on their own techniques, they each offer strictly personal tales, typically memories of the first time they saw one of Ozu’s films. Even though there is a lot of mastery in Ozu’s work to dissect and drool over, the real miracle of Ozu’s filmmaking is the personal connection that develops between the audience and the work. One does not have to be a filmmaker to understand how profoundly one can become tethered to deeply humanist character studies like Tokyo Story or Late Spring. There is something profoundly revelatory about Ozu’s work, something that speaks to the emotional and social undertaking of simply being a person in a world with other people. This is why his films have traveled with such potency across nations and history. Ozu’s influence can’t be measured in terms of references or innovations. His movies resonate in ways that a viewer might not initially realize. That’s incalculable. That, of course, doesn’t mean his specific techniques and contributions can’t be explored concretely. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from perhaps the one director whose incredible contributions to […]

read more...

I have a pet theory that Ron Howard is like Spielberg without all the cinephile love. They’ve both done broad genre work, fantasy adventure and prestige films that earned Oscars. They’ve had giant successes in just about every realm, and they’ve also had monumental failures. They also both continually push to learn new things, both from a content standpoint and technical perspective. It’s also impressive that Howard has evolved so thoroughly that we often don’t even think about him as a child actor who emerged to continued success. For several generations, Howard has always been a sophisticated filmmaker with a wry sense of humor and a keen ability to deliver a fist-pumping moment of Hollywood satisfaction. Every once in a while, the realization that he’s been in the industry since he was six hits home and puts his career into both a surprising and completely sensible context. Of course he’s done what he’s done…and yet how many child actors can make the same claim (or have enjoyed the same enormity of success)? So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a guy who just can’t grow a beard as well as Spielberg.

read more...

TABLOID_-_ErrolMorrisStill

In 1988, a documentary about a man in Texas convicted of a murder he did not commit made it to the top of numerous critics’ best-of lists, became one of the most widely-seen non-fiction films of its era, and even created enough publicity to overturn the conviction of the film’s subject.  However, The Thin Blue Line, despite the considerable attention and critical praise it attracted, was absent at that year’s Academy Awards because it was reportedly not considered a documentary. One can easily make a case inverse of the Academy’s evaluation, that this particular work actually defined what the documentary is, and can be, in North American filmmaking since. In what seems to be a decade-plus-long mainstream renaissance of the non-fiction form, The Thin Blue Line’s influence is palpable to a level nearing ubiquity. At the same time, nobody makes films quite like the intimidatingly intelligent and perceptive Errol Morris: filmmaker, investigative journalist, essayist, perceptive tweeter, and arguably (depending on who you ask) the first postmodernist documentarian. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who inspired Werner Herzog to eat a shoe.

read more...

SONY DSC

James Wan is one of the most adaptive directorial personalities in modern genre filmmaking, but his career didn’t always seem like it would turn out this way. Wan’s Saw was an indie mega-hit, spawning the most extensive horror franchise of the 21st century thus far. But Wan quickly distanced himself from the films, attempting to establish himself as a genre auteur of diverse skill sets. With his underwhelming one-two punch of Dead Silence and Death Sentence in 2007, he failed to develop a reputation away from the franchise that found continued success beyond him. But with Insidious and The Conjuring (this summer’s sleeper hit and one of the few pieces of Hollywood entertainment that actually entertained in the past few months), Wan found himself the modern master of the supernatural haunted house thriller, a horror sensibility miles away from the “torture porn” craze Wan’s franchise inception became associated with. This weekend sees the successful director helming his first sequel, Insidious Chapter 2, and Wan has signed on to make the next entry in the recently revived Fast/Furious franchise. Point being, Wan has proven himself against the limitations of the subgenre constraints he helped create, showing that he is a filmmaker interested in appealing to mass audiences through a variety of popular genres. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the director who forces us to ask how creepy dolls will fit into a movie about race cars and muscle-y bald men.

read more...

"A Prairie Home Companion"

It’s sort of fitting that Robert Altman was nominated 7 times for Oscars but never won. He was naturally gracious when awarded an honorary statue for a truly distinguished career, but handing him the hardware earlier might have been a bit like offering an anchor to a man as reward for clearing a new path out of the jungle. A product of the wide open mindset of the 1970s, Altman nonetheless successfully navigated decades of changing tides within the industry, carving out a career that took him from effective workman to pioneer to contemplative auteur. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who was always a bridesmaid and yet still a legend.

read more...

wongcannes

As a British colony until 1997 and Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong has created a popular culture completely unique to East Asian metropolitan living. This is demonstrated, in part, by the rich cinema tradition that has been continually exported from Hong Kong since the late 1970s, which bore films that distinctively combined East and West. While the region has produced some of the most memorable martial arts and action films of the late 20th century, the “Hong Kong New Wave” also witnessed the emergence of several great dramatists including Stanley Kwan, Yim Ho, Ann Hui and, of course, Wong Kar-Wai. For someone unfamiliar with Hong Kong firsthand, Wong’s films provide a resonant, bewitching, perhaps even definitive portrait of the city. In his international breakthrough Chunking Express, the densely populated metropolis’s kinetic movement and globalized circuits are accentuated by the film’s restless camera and Cranberries-infused soundtrack. In the Mood for Love stages several intimate meetings of traditional and contemporary life in the claustrophobic corners in an exponentially vertical Hong Kong. The dizzying 2046 presents a Hong Kong ever at the concurrent precipice of the past and the future. With The Grandmaster opening wide this weekend, Wong’s dramas now meet with that other signature Hong Kong genre, the martial arts film, providing as good of an opportunity as any to explore what makes his work so distinctive. So here’s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the director who somehow convinced us that beauty lies in a slow […]

read more...

Edgar Wright

For most of us, our perfect Sunday includes a quiet read of the paper, a piping cup of our favorite tea leaf or coffee bean-based beverage and a hundredth screening of one of Edgar Wright‘s movies. With Shaun of the Dead and everything beyond, he’s been able to blend intimate character arcs (right down to the music) with genre tropes in a way that pretty much no one else has managed. He’s lovingly subverted genres while delivering us new fence-hopping heroes and a honed sense of comedy. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man famous for his work on Going Live!.

read more...

Sam Peckinpah

Perhaps the single most illustrative fact about Sam Peckinpah is that he was developing a script while fighting against the heart disease that eventually killed him at the too-young age of 59. After alcoholism, cocaine abuse and a tempestuous personal life (involving divorce, infidelity and drunkenly shooting guns at the mirrors in his house), Peckinpah refused to stop working despite his terrible health. He was an artist up until the end, and one steeped in unnervingly realistic violence and gripping dramatic conflict. It was a strong signature that earned him parody by Monty Python, consistent controversy and (strangely) only one Oscar nomination. From the outside, the hard-living and the storied battles with colleagues make it feel like Peckinpah was a man who belonged in the wild west of his stories. A guy born a century too late. But from The Wild Bunch to Straw Dogs to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, this human dust storm left behind some truly amazing movies. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who couldn’t direct sober.

read more...

nicolas-winding-refn-directs-ryan-gosling-in-drive

While doing press for Valhalla Rising, Danish American filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn announced that the film marked a new stage in his career. After the manic, Brechtian anti-biopic Bronson; the sprawling Pusher trilogy that’s more Gaspar Noe than Gaspar Noe; and the little-seen Fear X, Refn began a series of films about quiet, enigmatic supermen. He continued this focus with Drive, his commercial breakthrough, and has now followed it up with Only God Forgives, which sees a VOD and limited theatrical release this Friday. While Bronson and the first Pusher film were justifiably celebrated, it’s this current stage of his career that has, for many, defined what “a Nicolas Winding Refn film” means: atmospheric, ultra-violent, deliberately paced, heavy on style. Refn is one of the strangest young auteurs working today, in terms of both his esoteric films and his occasionally bizarre interviews. And his career is only going to get more interesting: his vast slate of possible subsequent projects that include a Logan’s Run remake, a Wonder Woman movie, an adaptation of the comic Button Man, a prequel to the 80s midnight flick Maniac Cop, and an erotic horror film titled I Walk With the Dead. So while he’s on the up and up, here’s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man responsible for Mads Mikkelsen’s one eye, Tom Hardy’s curly mustache, and “The Gosling Stare.”

read more...

Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro abides by zero perceived distinctions between high and low culture. Whether working with Hollywood popcorn properties like Blade II or Hellboy, or creating imaginative, dark arthouse fare like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro has demonstrated a singular creative vision that stands out against an unimaginative Hollywood. That’s why this weekend’s Pacific Rim, despite being marketed as Transformers 4, promises to be a gloriously geeky respite in a summer of largely unsatisfactory blockbusters. Coupled with the recent news that del Toro might be directing a Charlie Kaufman-scripted adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, there are many reasons to celebrate the fact that the restlessly imaginative man who introduced himself with Cronos bounced from the streamlined Hobbit adaptations. Equal parts Jim Henson, Brothers Quay, and Terry Gilliam, del Toro is a visionary who also happens to be a bankable name. That’s a pretty rare commodity these days. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the guy who we’ve forgiven for making Mimic.

read more...

David Slade

Editors’ Introduction: Normally this feature is created by diving into the deep end of interviews, but when David Slade agreed to write an entry himself, there was no way for us to refuse — partially because he’s a very talented filmmaker and partially because he has us tied up in his store room. Slade earned cinephile street cred with Hard Candy and then scored genre love for 30 Days of Night before doing his best to beef up the Twilight saga. Now he’s the executive producer and director of Hannibal – a cooking show, we think — whose season finale is this week. He’s opened up about the Daredevil movie that never was, waxed at length about his role as a storyteller, and now he has some tips for those of you who may want to hop behind a camera. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) directly from a man who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty in the kitchen.

read more...

Jodoroskwy_as_El_Topo

Alejandro Jodorowsky is, perhaps more than any other living filmmaker that comes to mind, a visionary who stands entirely alone. His influences come from multiple sources – surrealism, the spaghetti western, theater, etc. – but he is loyal to no particular artistic movement or historical moment. He’s a brazenly original, playfully anarchistic, uncalculating provocateur and walking anachronism whose work speaks to and across various artistic traditions, belonging exclusively to none. Born to Jewish Ukranian parents in Tocopilla, Chile in 1929, Jodorowsky grew to acquire such a dedicated interest in arts and theater that he moved to France in the 1950s to study mime with Etienne Decroux before starting a career in cinema with his short La Cravate in 1957. Since then, Jodorowsky became the helmer of midnight classics like the acid western El Topo and his psychedelic John-and-Yoko-funded Brechtian epic The Holy Mountain (The IFC Center puts both these films on midnight rotation at least once a month). Jodorowsky also famously attempted an ambitious but never-realized adaptation of Dune and recently completed his seventh feature film, The Dance of Reality. Both The Dance of Reality and the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune premiered at this year’s Cannes film festival, so the esoteric filmmaking veteran (at age 84) is suddenly experiencing a peak in the spotlight. Here’s some free film school wisdom we can learn from the man who officiated Marilyn Manson’s most recent wedding.

read more...

Richard Linklater

John Pierson, the producer of Slacker and several other early features by notable directors of the American independent filmmaking renaissance of the ‘80s and ‘90s, once described Richard Linklater as the voice of a generation that wasn’t part of it: an art film brat who found himself at the center of a microbudget filmmaking movement who would “much rather talk about Robert Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac than either Jaws or The Brady Bunch.” Yet Linklater’s filmography suggests that he’s just as comfortable with ascetic French minimalism as he is with American broadcast television. His career covers everything from no-budget chamber dramas like Tape to studio-backed kids’ movies like School of Rock to cult classics like Dazed and Confused and animated experiments like Waking Life. While Linklater is notably comfortable making movies in his native Texas (he arguably defined Austin’s filmmaking and twentysomething scene without overtly seeking to instigate or capture either), as evidenced by the enthusiastic reception surrounding the third entry in his much beloved Before trilogy, he’s just as comfortable working on the continent that housed Bresson as he is the one that birthed Matthew McConaughey. Time and again, Linklater has proven that all he needs to make a film is a camera, a setting, and some interesting conversation. So here’s a bit of free film school from the creative mind behind Before Midnight and general slackerdom.

read more...

Shane Black

If people really pay attention to directors, a lot of them found out who Shane Black is this weekend. Iron Man 3, his second best film as a director, sees him transitioning to a phase that he’s lived in before as a screenwriter. He found success in his twenties after acting in Predator and selling his script for Lethal Weapon, following-up with even more stories about kidnapping and Christmas. He’s brash, great with a comeback, and known for inserting fourth wall-breaking jabs into his scene descriptions, but he’s also been on both sides of the studio coin. That’s given him a front row seat for great success, backlash, a re-emergence that didn’t strike it big, and now another resurrection. It was clear before that he had talent, and now he’s got wisdom. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who knows what you find when you look up “idiot” in the dictionary.

read more...
  PREVIOUS PAGE
NEXT PAGE  
Some movie websites serve the consumer. Some serve the industry. At Film School Rejects, we serve at the pleasure of the connoisseur. We provide the best reviews, interviews and features to millions of dedicated movie fans who know what they love and love what they know. Because we, like you, simply love the art of the moving picture.
Fantastic Fest 2014
6 Filmmaking Tips: James Gunn
Got a Tip? Send it here:
editors@filmschoolrejects.com
Publisher:
Neil Miller
Managing Editor:
Scott Beggs
Associate Editors:
Rob Hunter
Kate Erbland
Christopher Campbell
All Rights Reserved © 2006-2014 Reject Media, LLC | Privacy Policy | Design & Development by Face3