Filmmaking Tips

  • As many successful American filmmakers who get their start in independent filmmaking quickly find themselves comfortable in Hollywood studios, Jim Jarmusch feels like the anachronism that the economics of filmmaking rarely find room for but the culture of cinema certainly needs. After making the No Wave-era Permanent Vacation on the seemingly...

  • The 1980s proved a difficult time for many notable American directors of the 1960s and 70s. Sure, filmmakers like Altman and Coppola came out on the other side of the decade with renewed vigor, and at least one – Scorsese – even managed to arguably realize some of the most interesting...

  • Shirley Clarke grew up wealthy, the daughter of a manufacturing magnate and a family fortune. She had an extensive education between four universities, and married to escape her father’s tyrannical control of her adult life. At first Clarke pursued modern dance in New York City but, failing to secure a...

  • James Gray seems like an anachronism. Between visually noisy blockbusters and indies that display a greater interest in bending narrative conventions rather than mastering them, his adherence to a more classical form of storytelling feels out-of-touch with contemporary filmmaking practice. His evident influences and forerunners include Robert Bresson, Roberto Rossellini and Francis...

  • The release of any Terry Gilliam film is a big deal. More so than any living filmmaker of lauded repute, Gilliam’s work has been unusually burdened by outsized circumstances that render it astonishing that he’s even accomplished the work he has, from Universal’s re-cutting of Brazil to his lead actor dying...

  • When the biggest movie of the calendar year is a nearly three-hour festival of noise starring automotive robots, it’s easy to fear that the human element of filmmaking is slowly being lost to digital effects and bottom line corporate interests. But the career of Andy Serkis provides a powerful demonstration...

  • There’s a reason that, 33 years after its release, John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London remains a gold standard in on-camera special effects. The detailed and inventive use of makeup and animatronics by Rick Baker and his team meticulously fashioned a transformative threat to one man’s body that proved to be enduringly...

  • Three weeks before Alain Resnais died this past March, he had premiered his newest film, Life of Riley, at the Berlin Film Festival, which he completed at the age of 91. Resnais enjoyed a uniquely prolific streak of filmmaking in his later years that laughed at the prospect of retirement...

  • William Friedkin began his directing career on television, where he helmed numerous documentaries and even an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in which, during filming, young Friedkin was reportedly chastised by the Master of Suspense for not wearing a tie. Friedkin is the blue-collar outsider of New Hollywood, the...

  • This post is in partnership with Cadillac Cadillac and the Producers Guild of America recently launched Make Your Mark, a short film competition with the late Oscar-winning producer Saul Zaentz as its spiritual center. In celebration of Zaentz, contestants are being asked to draw thematic inspiration from his work. Fittingly, the 30-second Cadillac...

  • Hearts have been rapturously breaking in Woody Allen’s Manhattan for 35 years, and will likely continue to do so for as long as human beings cherish cinema. Last week marked the anniversary of the film often hailed as Allen’s masterwork. It’s easy to see why Manhattan is so beloved. The film is a perfect confluence...

  • One of my favorite aspects of Abbas Kiarostami’s films is how thoroughly he realizes the world within and around his characters. You hear the “world of the film” used often to describe the visions of directors attendant to detail, but no other filmmaker manifests a world of the film at quite the...

  • You can call Darren Aronofsky many things, but what you can’t call him is unambitious. From a stylized depiction of a mathematician’s gradual descent into madness to a story of one man’s love and loss that traverses across a millennium to an unrelenting journey into the life-or-death stakes of the...

  • It’s hard to imagine a career as provocative and unrestrained as Lars von Trier’s taking a turn for even greater extremes. But with 2009’s Antichrist, that’s exactly what the Danish purveyor of human suffering accomplished, making a film that inspired massive walkouts, presumed on the surface to take seriously the...

  • In the context of American animation, Hayao Miyazaki’s films seem nearly unfathomable. With their conspicuous absence of exclusively kid-centric theatrics and their eschewing any burden of pop culture topicality, Miyazaki’s films are instead allowed to explore the limitless imaginative possibilities of animated filmmaking. And there are few imaginations quite like...

  • Lynchian. Hitchcockian. The Lubitsch touch. Transforming a filmmaker’s name into a qualitative term has been a common practice in tracking the style and influence of those who have contributed to the art form. But few proper nouns-turned-adjectives carry a greater reserve of meaning than Felliniesque. Felliniesque can refer to a...

  • Even if you don’t buy into the game and you prefer not to live in a world in which the term “Oscar snub” is used with a straight face, sometimes a lack of recognition for worthy nominees can still sting a little. Such was the case with the conspicuous absence...

  • This past summer marked the 10th anniversary of The Room’s opening at two theaters in Los Angeles. Since its cult reception began with a couple of college students during the last week of the film’s initial 2003 exhibition, The Room accelerated into a bona fide cultural phenomenon complete with Rocky...

  • When assessing what present and future filmmakers can learn from David O. Russell’s ideas and practices, it really depends on which David O. Russell we’re talking about. Is it David O. Russell the mad genius auteur, who was as notorious for insisting on his vision as he was for getting...

  • 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...