Filmmaking

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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Lawrence Kasdan Star Wars

A lot of people who comb through movie news will recognize Lawrence Kasdan‘s name next to all the Star Wars developments that have been pouring out in the past two weeks. Some will know the franchise (as well as Indiana Jones) as his legacy while others would point to his intimate portrayals of life’s difficulties in movies like Grand Canyon and The Big Chill. He’s gone through eras of great prolificness and droughts where work seemed impossible to find, and after four decades, he’s amassed a great amount of wisdom and expertise. He’s also in the unique position of abandoning (and being all but abandoned by) the studio system years after having been a mid-wife to massive franchises. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who told us who Luke’s father was.

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Harold Lloyd in Safety Last

An icon of the silent film era, Harold Lloyd first appeared on the silver screen in the short film The Old Monk’s Tale. Its release in February 1913 means this is the 100th anniversary of the start of Lloyd’s movie career. A decade after that not-at-all-illustrious beginning, he would star in Safety Last!, which is almost definitely his most famous film — an unbelievably funny film where a simple store clerk organizes a contest to climb a tall building and ends up having to do it himself. Like Buster Keaton, Lloyd was a master of stunt work, making it look so effortless that audiences could be simultaneously stunned, awed and relieved. Laughter often followed gasps. He was also a director and producer with a unique perspective on the birth of a popular art form. The question is whether his viewpoint can still teach us a few things about the process of filmmaking. I think there is, so here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man we’ve known for a hundred years.

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IntroBehindScenes

It seems very rare that a behind-the-scenes documentary will earnestly try to show how the movie is made over trying to sensationalize the process. After all, who exactly is the demographic watching these things? Is it people who are genuinely interested in learning the techniques, or is it casual fans of a particular movie peeking behind the curtain? A good documentary caters to both – but above all should be honest in how the film was made. I’d like to explore some of the most earnest examples that I’ve come across. Either as stand alone films or DVD extras – these are documentaries that show, for better or for worse, the good and the bad aspects of the movie making process. This is stuff that no film goon should miss.

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Christopher Nolan at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival is one of the largest independent fests in the country, but it probably has the best reputation for launching filmmaking careers and being the only thing in January that will be remembered around Oscar time 13 months later. It’s debatable just how “indie” it is — especially with studio shingles routinely picking up audience favorites for distribution — but it’s difficult to deny the raw directorial power that’s moved through Park City over the years. Names like Christopher Nolan, Kevin Smith, The Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh can count themselves amongst the Sundance ranks, but there are many, many more. In that (independent) spirit, here’s a double-size list of tips (for fans and filmmakers alike) from 12 directors who made a name at Sundance.

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Quentin Tarantino

Emerging from a nitrate fire in 1963, Quentin Tarantino was fed only exploitation films, spaghetti Westerns and actual spaghetti until he was old enough to thirst for blood. He found his way into the film industry as a PA on a Dolph Lundgren workout video, as a store clerk at Video Archives and by getting encouragement to write a screenplay by the very man who would make a name for himself producing Tarantino’s films. Peter Bogdanovich (and probably many others) think of him as the most influential director of his generation, and he’s got the legendary story to back it up — not to mention line-busting movies like Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained under his belt. He’s also the kind of name that makes introductions like this useless. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a guy who really loves Hi Diddle Diddle and plans to keep 35mm alive as long as he’s rich enough to do it.

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Kathryn Bigelow on The Hurt Locker set

Hanging with bikers, vampires and surfing bank robbers, Kathryn Bigelow has made a name for herself chasing after adrenaline. After mixed reviews and a bad box office break for her Soviet submarine flick K-19: The Widowmaker, Bigelow developed one of writer Mark Boal‘s articles into a television series for Fox called The Inside, then chose to work with him to turn his experiences embedded in Baghdad-patrolling bomb squad into The Hurt Locker. The film — which she never took to studios, opting instead for independent financing and freedom — was a marvel, earning a massive amount of critical love and earning both the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Director for Bigelow. She’s a fierce talent who has weathered a decades-long career to emerge as an important modern storyteller who takes on difficult, true-life events and spins them into profound works. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a woman who likes to blow things up for a living.

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Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings

We can all hoist accolades on the filmmakers found in this series, but there are few who are as transparent about their process and actively engaging when it comes to including fans on set (at least via video) than Peter Jackson. Not just a minimal-effort chore for marketing, Jackson seems to relish with childlike abandon in making the Making Of videos and taking audiences behind the scenes of movies while they’re being made. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising for a details-oriented storyteller who has built entire worlds for us to visually visit. But he wasn’t always sitting on top of Middle-Earth. Before The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it was more likely you’d catch him with a lawnmower in hand and a bucket of fake blood close by. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from someone who fought in the Battle of Helm’s Deep.

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Akira Kurosawa

The Movie King. The Emperor. Even at their height, words fail to capture the towering legacy of a master like Akira Kurosawa. Growing up with a movie fanatic father, the writer/director was educated with thousands of silent films, and he would go on to make perhaps more masterpieces than any other singular filmmaking force. With Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, Ran, Rashomon and many more, he became immortal. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a man who had the heart of a child and the mind of a genius.

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Life of Pi

Fans of our Filmmaking Tips feature and those who love to hear how the sausage is made might especially enjoy this lengthy video featuring a discussion with Ang Lee about the art of movies. The filmmaker is coming off of Life of Pi, which is either a transcendent experience with stunning visuals or just a bunch of stunning visuals depending on who you ask. Still, Lee is one of the most diverse directors currently working. It’s a rare storyteller who wrestles with both The Hulk and Mr. Darcy in between Wire fu adventures and cowboy love stories. Here, he talks more than a bit about the process of making Life of Pi as it fits into his usual framework of methods, and even though there’s a bit of translation to slog through, it’s well worth the effort. Hat tip to Roger Ebert for sending it out into the world.  

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Michael J. Lerner Barton Fink

If you thought it was hard to get a major Hollywood studio to give you a bunch of money to make a movie, you’ve been wrong all this time. In fact, not only is it pretty easy, there are only 29 steps to making it happen. According to Maria Full of Grace director Joshua Marston, who’s written a simple-to-use flow chart for NPR’s Planet Money, fame and glory can be yours just by following the arrows. Of course if there’s one thing this instruction manual illustrates, it’s how crappy things are in the system for screenwriters – something  we seem to be talking about more and more these days. Not to mention anyone with original ideas. But enough of the depressing stuff! Show us the money! How do we get the go-ahead on a blockbuster idea? How do we convince the top brass that we deserve their millions? How do we become the next Brett Ratner?? Step one: check out Marston’s chart below.

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George Lucas

By at least two metrics, George Lucas is the most successful independent filmmaker of all time. He’s made other films, sure, but it was Star Wars that took everyone – including the director – by surprise. Ultimately, the largeness of that movie swept Lucas up, driving him further into his own universe, and he’s lived there for three decades. Now he’s sold the property to a company that has vowed to continue the story without him, and that comes with a promise to retire from big movies. What that means is anyone except Lucas’ guess, but it’s not hard to imagine that his next projects will be more American Graffiti than Amidala. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who invented and tore down your childhood.

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The Wachowskis

The Wachowskis haven’t directed a ton of movies. They also haven’t given a ton of interviews. If we can look at their output versus their impact (and in the case of Speed Racer, divisiveness), they look an awful lot like auteurs. There’s a number of themes they enjoy working with as well as a brand of visuals that seem conflicting movie to movie even as they share a kernel of The Future between them. At the very least, it would be easy to call them auteurs, but they completely reject the title and the concept. After Bound, The Matrix series, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas and their non-directorial writing (most notably V for Vendetta), they’ve maintained a firm view of film as a truly, inextricably collaborative process. For them, that goes even above and behind the standard meaning. They’re a bit enigmatic, but that’s fantastic. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from two totally normal, crazy people named Lana and Andy.

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As far as I can tell, regular folk don’t care for movies about movies or films about filmmaking. They used to, back when Hollywood was a more glamourous and idolized place for Americans. Classics like Sunset Boulevard, Singin’ in the Rain, The Bad and the Beautiful and the 1954 version of A Star is Born were among the top-grossing releases of their time. But 60 years later, it seems the only people really interested in stories of Hollywood, actors, directors, screenwriters, et al. are people involved with the film industry — the self-indulgence being one step below all the awards nonsense — and movie geeks, including film critics and fans. If you’re reading Film School Rejects, you’re not one of the aforementioned “regular folk,” and you probably get more of a kick out of stuff like Living in Oblivion, Ed Wood, Get Shorty, State and Main, The Hard Way, The Last Tycoon, The Stunt Man, The Big Picture, The Player, Bowfinger, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Argo than those people do. While it is true that The Artist faced the challenge of being a silent film, another major obstacle in the way of box office success must have been its Hollywood setting. Argo isn’t really literally about filmmaking, though, and that might be working in its favor. Ben Affleck‘s period thriller, which is expected to finally take the top spot at the box office this weekend, is about not making a film, so it should have the opposite result of most movies in which […]

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Dario Argento

The word “Giallo” is Italian for “Yellow” which was the color of the covers of old pulp novels from the Mondadori publishing house. It’s also the color of the urine that’s scared out of you while watching the best horror flicks. There are a lot of names associated with the film movement (which usually focuses on the very stylish, very violent removal of blood from someone’s body), but at the top of the list is Dario Argento (sorry, Fulci fans). The Italian filmmaker has delivered the truly bizarre and beautiful, making movies like Suspiria and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage amongst many, many others. He was also instrumental in bringing Dawn of the Dead to life and influenced a new generation of horror directors (not to mention leagues of fans). So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the master of Yellow.

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published: 12.23.2014
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