Filmmaking

Picnic at Hanging Rock

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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david-o-russell1

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 in much-publicized spats with actors on set? Or is it David O. Russell the comeback king who, with this weekend’s American Hustle, seems all but guaranteed a third critically lauded and commercially successful film in a row? In several notable ways, the themes of David O. Russell’s films haven’t changed all that much – he’s still as preoccupied as ever with depicting various types of dysfunctional, untraditional, and ultimately affirming oddball “families” – but his filmmaking has changed greatly, a switch that he chalks up to lessons learned from the troubled shoot and reception of (the still-underrated) I Heart Huckabees as well as his unfinished film Nailed. Whatever you think of Russell’s films, he’s found himself in a position to speak about filmmaking from an encyclopedia of experiences (good and bad) and attitudes (egotistical to humble). So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the guy who got Bruce Wayne and Katniss Everdeen their first Oscars.

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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.

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Sinister

Scott Derrickson, the writer/director behind The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, joins us this week to explain how to scare the hell out of someone at the cinema. Plus, FSR head-honcho-in-chief Neil Miller shares what movie prop he desperately wants to own, and we hear some of your responses. You should follow Scott Derrickson (@scottderrickson), Neil Miller (@rejects), the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #39 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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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.

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"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.

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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!.

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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.

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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.

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Michael J. Lerner Barton Fink

As we all know, Hollywood is imploding. Steven Spielberg is on the case, millions of angry comment section responses to remake announcements are on the case, and now producer Lynda Obst is on the case. In an excerpt from her new book, “Sleepless in Hollywood,” Obst laboriously details her drive to former Fox CEO Peter Chernin‘s house while repeating the phrases New Abnormal and Old Abnormal until they seem clever. Okay, so I didn’t like the chapter, but it did feature at least two clear insights into the current production mindset of the major studios. The New Abby Someone, if you will. First: DVD sales numbers are the real killer. According to Chernin via Obst, “The historical studio business, if you put all the studios together, runs at about a ten percent profit margin. For every billion dollars in revenue, they make a hundred million dollars in profits. That’s the business, right? . . . The DVD business represented fifty percent of their profits. Fifty percent. The decline of that business means their entire profit could come down between forty and fifty percent for new movies.”

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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.

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Charlie Chaplin Directing

The 124th anniversary of Charlie Chaplin‘s birthday was yesterday, and the date represents both the birth of a man and the birth of a cultural icon. Perhaps the biggest of them all. Chaplin made a name for himself during the early years of cinema where silent films had a natural global appeal and became a worldwide name as an actor, producer, writer and director. He took comedy seriously, building upon silly slapstick with The Tramp and taking on Hitler with The Great Dictator. It’s more than likely that the world will never see anyone rise to his kind of prominence. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin.

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Sam Raimi Directing

Bridging two worlds, Sam Raimi has done something incredibly difficult as a filmmaker. He’s proven himself as the capable creator of massive budget spectacle with heart while remaining the cult hero that early fans continue to worship. He sold out without selling out. That in itself is a bold lesson in staying true to your own sensibilities no matter what the bottom line is, but there’s a lot more to learn from the man who grew to prominence by cutting off Bruce Campbell’s hand. The key? You can’t just take a hand; you have to replace it with a chainsaw. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a very snappy dresser who doesn’t mind getting covered in blood.

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Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper is fucking awesome. I use the present tense there because the man, though gone, is eternal. At least when it comes to his art. He definitely had some experiences. Several that no one could be proud of, but he also came to represent a free wheeling sensibility that came with defying the establishment while learning from it. The man’s resume remains formidable (and it will only continue to grow with more “Very Special Thanks” entries). So instead of listing his best movies, take your pick. You can probably name 10 you love just off the top of your head. There are a ton of them. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a real easy rider.

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Harmony Korine

That fuzzy guy on the end there came up in filmmaking with Kids when he was just a kid. With that, and with his following projects, Harmony Korine has awed a rotating audience while confounding all the people that his audience convinces to  please, please, please just watch for fifteen minutes. He’s the fresh voice most people claim they want in filmmaking, but he doesn’t fit in with any grand tradition. It’s not like others have made Korine-style movies while orbiting around a shared stylistic vision. At least, if they have, they haven’t reached his stature. Since there won’t be a Weird Wave that grows out of what he’s doing, he remains a vibrant loner and a wonderful army of one. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from Mister Lonely.

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Ang Lee Oscar

Coming off of his second Oscar win for Best Director, Ang Lee is as fierce a filmmaking force as ever. But even if his name comes with a sheen of prestige, it doesn’t change a broad range of topics and tones that he’s been able to capture on screen. This is the man who made the Civil War-era Ride with the Devil and contemporary dramedy Eat Drink Man Woman. Not to mention Brokeback Mountain right after Hulk. The man’s versatile. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the Crouching Tiger From Taiwan.

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Oscar Statue

You know how sometimes your favorite series will do a clip show, or how a popular radio broadcast might replay old segments that tie-in thematically in order to take a vacation? Well, I’m using the occasion of the Academy Awards to do pretty much the same thing. It’s sort of obvious that several of the directors featured in this column are also Oscar winners. It’s a veritable Hall of Fame. Doing an Oscar-themed entry is a little bizarre because several weeks feature a gold-owning alum anyway (so this isn’t a complete list of the Best Directors featured on 6 Filmmaking Tips), but it’s still worth packaging their advice as a kind of collective knowledge set held by people who have statues on their mantel. Which means, depressingly, an excerpt from our most popular entry won’t be featured here. Not to mention others like Kubrick, Cronenberg or PTA. Fortunately, there are some truly immense talents who have hoisted Oscar on high even if some towering talents never had that particular honor. So here are some filmmaking tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from an incredibly elite club of Best Director winners.

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TouchEdit

For $50, you can own the editing program that Jon Favreau and Dan Lebental will use to edit their next film. Lebental (who edited Iron Man and Zathura among others) has designed a new iPad app called TouchEdit that will grant access to pros and enthusiasts to 90% of the tools that Lebental would use to edit a studio-funded feature film (and he’s promised to use it on his next project with Favreau). It’s available on iTunes, but if it’s the future, it’s been inspired by the past. “It was such a badge of honor to touch film,” Lebental told The Hollywood Reporter. “I realized that is one of the things we lost. I miss interacting directly with the media.” Now, the touch screen facilitates that for him. The app even includes a tool called a Grease Pencil that allows editors to “physically” mark in and out points directly on the digital frames. Isn’t it great how common stories like this are now? We live in a world where important filmmakers are toying around with smart phones, and, yes, this story is essentially an announcement that an editor is going to use a computer to edit a film, but it’s also one more small step toward everyday digital devices harnessing the tools to make expensive-looking art. It might also be another small nail in the coffin of physical film. With the ease created by the proliferation of technology, it’s looking more and more like film will be cinema’s answer to vinyl records in […]

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John McTiernan on Die Hard set

He’s made some amazing films, he stands as an icon of a lengthy era, but I submit that John McTiernan is still an unfairly maligned filmmaker. He’s relegated by many to a position as merely a mindless action director, and maybe, yeah, Rollerball was tough to stomach, but there’s a reason why Die Hard is still used as the template in thousands of pitch meetings every year. Plus, the guy went to Juilliard (so he’s probably also an incredible dancer). Those who dismiss him do so at their own peril and have clearly never heard the man speak about the craft of filmmaking. He knows a production truck’s worth of practical information and can condense it into lessons that make sense to all of us rubes. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who started his studio career by having an alien attack Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Han and Greedo

There were far too many news stories about Star Wars this week. It was a shock and awe campaign of rumors, half-truths and legitimate plans that all pointed to Disney making 29 new films featuring all our favorite characters for the next seventy years. To help dig through it all, Full of Sith podcast host Consetta Parker and Jovial Jay from TheForce.net join us to explain whether a movie about Yoda, Boba Fett or Han Solo should shoot first. Plus, Identity Thief screenwriter Craig Mazin explains how to make an uninteresting character interesting, and Geoff and I tackle a listener question about overcoming the fears of rejection and imperfection by talking about our own biggest failures. Download Episode #5

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