3 of Them

WE LIVE!! Not only that; we actually got off our butts and did a little filmmaking. We just got back from another epic trip to Paducah and the Rivers Edge International Film Festival where we debuted our newest short. That means today is online premiere day.

3 of Them is a behind the scenes account of the making of Kenny Rogers’ hit song, Coward of the County. The song itself is a bit weird, but chances are you didn’t know just how much weirder the backstory is. Allow us to share…

Filmmaking: Storytelling With Sound

Your filmmaking lesson for the day comes courtesy of the fine folks at The Royal Ocean Film Society.  (And they have to be massive Wes Anderson marks with a name like that, right?)  Anyway... we can never have too many reminders of the importance of sound in film.  In fact every legendary filmmaker I've ever seen weigh in on the subject agrees that, if they have to choose, audio is more important than visuals; that an audience can acclimate to weird or sub-standard cinematography, but never bad audio.

Filmmaking: 3 One-Light Set-Ups

My favorite cinematography tips are the simple kind because whether I'm on the job or making a short film, we are normally 1) short on time 2) short on manpower 3) short on equipment. So, anytime I can improve my shots and add style in fast and easy ways, I'm going to take notice.

Here are three highly stylized looks using only one light. Yes, they are often used in music videos as the title says, but you should flex that imagination and use them for any application that fits.

Filmmaking: Stranger Things Titles

I know I'm not the only film geek that has been burning through Stranger Things and wondering just what process they used to make those retro titles. Did they turn back the dial and do it optically? Recreate the look digitally? ...Turns out a little of both. Check out the whole story with this nice little piece by Vox.

Filmmaking: Visual Comedy

We run into a lot of good filmmaking advice on the webs and the least we can do is share it, right? Hence a new Tuesday feature on ye olde blog.

Tony Zhou put together this great video essay on how to make visual comedy; specifically a comparison of Edgar Wright's style versus most contemporary American comedies. For the most part I think Tony is spot on. Scott Pilgrim was released four years ago and I still think it's a decade ahead of the rest of us. (Full disclosure: I love Edgar and the fact that he isn't making Ant Man makes my heart hurt.)

Now, let me interject that Wright didn't invent all of his tricks. You can see plenty of direct reference to guys like Sam Raimi in his work. And most of his films are heavy on action which lends itself to whip pans and sound effects. The same style would be off-putting in a subtle, character driven comedy. However, the point still stands. Look at Wes Anderson who also uses pans and close-ups to similar effect (as well as symmetry and lateral movements) while achieving a different comedic tone. Look at the long takes and masterful blocking of Blake Edwards. The important takeaway is that these directors mine every possible nook and cranny of their gags.

If you don't employ every tool you have visually and aurally, you're leaving laughs on the table. American comedies definitely tend to be lazy or at least stylistically impaired and let the dialogue do all the work.

So, basically, don't be lazy. Like Tony says, everyone's sense of humor is different but no one can argue for lazy filmmaking. If you have a good joke, there's a better way to shoot it. Find the extra laughs and use what could be the boring parts of your script to get creative. Just like the great example of how Edgar moves Simon Pegg from one city to another in Hot Fuzz.

Filmmaking: Deep Focus

These days, years into the DSLR revolution, shallow depth of field rules the indie filmmaking scene and for good reason; it's a beautiful aesthetic. But now, let's all take a step back and remember that all that bokeh should just be one weapon in your storytelling arsenal.

Let's remind ourselves that deep focus can be a powerful tool as well. This clip is from Citizen Kane. (I know, I KNOW, but the film really is a technical clinic.) So, let's take a look and then I'll make a couple of observations.

It's an amazing long take (or oner) by Gregg Toland. The first thing that jumped out at me is how carefully crafted the blocking and framing are. When everything is in focus, you need different methods to direct the eye, otherwise you've just got a big ugly mess of a hundred things going on.

It's why most of us hate deep focus. We associate it with a video look because rarely do we construct our scenes and shots as carefully as this one. The window frames the child, there are three staggered levels of depth in the actors' blocking, and even the contrast of wardrobe against the backgrounds sets our subjects off; dark against snow, light shirt against the wall, then dark again in the foreground.