A Dreamer Walking

The Scarecrow

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 30, 2010

I actually really like the picture. I wanted to use texture to bring more character to the photograph. It is actually a interesting lesson in film as well. You do not need all the characters you create to be completely detailed, new, and easy to read. It is often the flaws that make characters unique.

Earn the Moment

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 28, 2010

Earning your moment is one of the most pivotal parts of film making. I just watched the movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, where the director Zack Snyder tried to combine three children books into one movie. The attempt failed! The movie was full of unearned moments. One of the things you need to do when adapting a long book to a two hour film or trying combine three volumes of a story into one movie, is simplify. With Legend of the Guardians, it seemed that they tried to combine all the big characters and relationships you see in the books, into the movie. This in return created a mediocre story line along with very mediocre characters.

The movie had many big moments. There was the moment where Soren, the main character, is betrayed by his brother. We have the moment where Soren learns to fly for the first time. There is the moment where Soren and his gang finds the Guardians and their secret city. We also have the relationship between Soren and his mentor Ezylryb and the “epic” battle at the end where Soren saves Ezylryb from death. The problem with all these great “moments” is that they were not earned. We did not know Soren’s brother well enough to care about the betrayal. We did not see Soren struggle with his ability to fly enough to give two hoots (no pun intended) that he eventually was able to. The journey to the Guardians and their secret city was so fast, it hardly felt like a journey at all. The relationship between Soren and Ezylryb was so cliche it was hardly worth watching. Nothing stuck out, the “big moments” were never earned and thus I cared very little about them.

Every film should have big moments. However, it does not matter how much money you put onto those moements nor how great of effects you have to show off the moments, if you have not yet earned it. In a movie like Braveheart, would we care much about William Wallace’s cry for “Freedom” at the end, if we had not spent the first two hours of the movie learning what that “Freedom” was? The “big moment” is the pay off, but first we need to get the audience emotionally involved. We as filmmakers must get the audience intimately involved with our characters and story before we start to think about the “big moment”.

Most of the time you will find it is good to simplify stories so that you have more time to concentrate on and create depth in characters and relationships. The beauty of sequels in my opinion is that they give us the opportunity to understand characters more fully and more time to see them evolve. With a good sequel you will find that the first movie is less heavy on plot and more oriented toward getting to know the characters. I think the new Batman franchise is a great example of this. In Batman Begins, we see the main character Bruce Wayne and his personal journey in becoming a superhero. The movie has very little to do with the antagonist and everything to do with what makes Bruce Wayne choose to become Batman.

If you have watched the first Batman movie, Batman Begins, you will no doubt be more involved with the second film, Batman Dark Knight. We know Bruce Wayne in quite a bit of depth when he faces the Joker in the second film. The big moments in the second film are much more impacting because we have been given time to care about the characters.

Walt Disney might have been the best at creating a relationship between the audience and his characters. You look at many of the old Disney animation classics and you will see the stories are usually quite simple. In the beginning of the movie Pinocchio we are given twenty plus minutes of just being introduced to the main characters, where hardly any story plot happens. We are able to watch Jiminy Cricket and Gepetto in normal every day life. By the time the story does start to develop, we have a growing interest in the characters. We actually care about what happens to them and at the end we are so involved with characters like Pinocchio and Gepetto, that the big moments really pay off. At the end of the movie Monstro the whale is much more evil and what he does is much more interesting because of our connection to the main characters.

The story of Pinocchio does not get too complex on us. We see that there is only one main story point in Pinocchio, and that is Pinocchio’s goal to become a real boy. Everything is concentrated on the obstacles Pinocchio needs to go through to become a real boy. Walt did not cloud his movies with too many big goals, he knew the art of simplicity and it made it so that the “big moments” we see in his films really pay off.

A good movie does not consist of epic shot after epic shot. A good film is a film that people care about. If you can get your audience emotionally involved with the story you are telling and the characters you are portraying, you have earned your moment.

Golfing in Paradise

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 26, 2010

This is a picture of my Grandpa golfing. We live in Montana but my Grandpa came to visit from Michigan. At age 82 my Grandpa still is very competitive with his golf game. Just last year he and his team came in 1st place in their golf league. However I am posting this picture because I think anyone would find it visually pleasing no matter if they do or do not know my Grandpa. I wanted to heighten the color and soften the surrounding, creating a dreamy effect. I did the color fade so your eye is drawn to my Grandpa. Hope you enjoy. You have to admit that it looks like a pretty cool golf course.

Some Practice with my Painting Program

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 23, 2010

So I have been working on my computer painting program. This is a just a little portrait I did. The first picture is what I did outside the picture on my sketchbook. The Picture below is what I did on my painting program inside the computer.

Suspense Vs. Heart

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 21, 2010

I have been studying two directors who seemed to be the best of the best at two very different specialties in film. One is known for being the master of suspense and the other is considered to be the master at creating the heart felt emotion. The two I am talking about are the two that you see on your left, Alfred Hitchcock and Frank Capra. These are two of the greatest film directors in history and both seemed to have completely different ideas on what film making was all about.

Alfred Hitchcock knew exactly how to use the camera in order to create that curtain feeling that completely held us back in suspense. We were both dreading and longing to see what was going to happen next. Hitchcock thought it was his job to be the audience’s entertainment. That is why he thought the audience went to movies, so they could be “entertained”. He created entertainment through drawing our attention completely to what was happening on screen. Hitchcock demanded the audiences complete attention and made us get involved with the film. We needed to put two and two together. He made it so we thought we knew what was going to happen next, creating an extreme suspense because we did not want our theory to be correct. Hitchcock’ mastery was in the ups and downs and twists and turns he was able to put us through. As soon as we thought we knew what was going to happen next, Hitchcock would change it on us. Hitchcock would intentionally lead us  to believe one thing in order to surprise us with the reality of a completely different thing. In the best of Hitchcock movies we were entertained throughout the picture, always interested in what was going to happen next, and completely surprised throughout the unfolding of the story.

Frank Capra was not a man full of twists and turns. His movies were not built on suspense or on a fear that a murderer would pop out of nowhere and kill the main character. Frank Capra’s movies were full of ups and downs. They had some deep and often meaningful but sad commentaries on real life. His movies were full of villains that were not about physically kill the body but instead they were about destroying the soul of the protagonist. Frank’s movies seemed to be more about overcoming the corruption of society through the belief in the best of human nature. Through Frank’s great direction in comedy and depth in character development, he created very entertaining movies. However, it seems that film making was more then just entertainment to Capra, it was a way to make his voice heard in the world, film was his appeal to make the most out of our lives and use the examples from his films as inspiration to make this world a better place.

I no doubt think that Frank Capra’s style of film making is more interesting and meaningful then Alfred Hitchcock’. I think that film needs to be first and foremost about appealing to the good in human nature and a beckoning to make this world a better place. However, I think that Alfred Hitchcock’ suspense is loved by so many people for a reason. Suspense is entertaining and I have been learning a great deal through the way Hitchcock went about creating his films.

So this finally comes to the blog title, Suspense Vs. Heart. The title accurately expresses the difference between Capra films and Hitchcock films. However, I think good filmmakers will learn from both styles of film making, for good films have both suspense and heart. We as filmmakers are essentially entertainers, our job is to keep the audience interested in the story we are trying to tell . It does not matter how powerful of a message we have if we can not attain and keep the audience’s attention. Suspense can often be a powerful tool for holding attention. We need to give enough information for the audience to stay on the edge of their seats and we need a good pay off at the end. Having our worst fears come to realization often creates a strong immediate emotion, however I feel that it often wears off after a short while. I think the greatest pay off is the kind that sticks with you. We want to build suspense and then give the audience something they will talk about later that night and remember for years to come. We as filmmakers should have ambitions to create emotions that go much farther then immediate shock.We need to create emotions that appeal to the heart, where we can start to break molds and create change.

I think entertainment is the best way to get a message across to a group of people. In all my movies I want to create stories and characters that people have not seen before. Both Capra and Hitchcock created the type of movies that were never seen before and have not quite been seen sense. You as a filmmaker want to create an experience that the audience has never had before. However, we must always remember why we are doing what we are doing. I consider film making to be about expressing images and ideas that go farther then plain entertainment. The filmmakers viewpoint must not just be dropped after the audience leaves the movie theater, our films need to appeal to the very reasons to why we live our lives. The greatest type of films are the ones that stay with us and change us. In order to get those kind of films we need both suspense and heart.

Identify With The Villain!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 19, 2010

What makes for a good villain? I think the main answer is a villain that you can identify with. I know that most would say, “make sure the villain is SCARY”, or, “Make sure the audience loves to hate him”. Personally, I do not find those things work as well as finding a way to have a villain, while being truly evil, be relatable towards the audience, even to the point of having the audience feel a little sympathetic towards the character.

Alfred Hitchcock seemed to be a master at making the audience feel for the villains, to the point that we are even rooting for them. In the first three Alfred Hitchcock movies I saw, I found the antagonist to be just as interesting as the protagonist. In Rear Window the villain is the neighbor across the street who is suspected and eventually proven to have killed his wife. However, with the suspected murderer, Lars Thorwald, we are not prone to hating him, in fact at the beginning of the movie we feel a sort of pity for the character. He is helping feed and take care of a bed bound wife who seems to take his charity for granted. When the main character Jeff (played by James Stewart) eventually finds out that Lars had killed his wife, we don’t immediately feel hateful toward the Lars, in fact we could understand why the character did what he did.

We the audience need to be able to relate with the villain. the villains intentions need to be understandable in order for us to understand him as a character and more importantly in order to understand the protagonist. In order to understand what the hero is fighting towards, we need to know what he is fighting against. A good villain brings out the best in a hero. We create the villain in order to push the hero forward, to push the hero to do things he would never have done without that evil force.

I have always liked the type of villains that are almost mirror images of the hero. In Star Wars we have one of the greatest villains of all time in Darth Vader. Darth Vader was in fact at one point a good guy. Vader is the father of the antagonist Luke Skywalker. This idea that Vader was good at one point just like Luke, makes Vader’s lust for destruction and power all the more interesting. We immediately have more empathy and concern for Luke because we see a character in Vader, who was just like him. The empathy and concern builds up until the very end of the sixth movie, where the Emperor is trying to draw Luke to the “Dark Side” of the force.

With Hitchcock’ films there is an almost eerie feeling to most of his villains, as if Hitchcock believed more in the evil of human nature then the good. I personally think that the villain needs to be used to help us understand the main character in the film and used to further the good in human nature. However, to do that we need to be able to relate to the evil which often comes in the form of a living and breathing villain. We need to understand to some point why the character is doing the evil he or she is doing. Not all good villains need to have our pity, for instance almost every Disney villain ever made seems to be on the outside of us feeling sorry for them. They are usually portrayed as extremely cold and dark. But, even with the wicked Queen in Snow White, there was the natural understand of lust for beauty and power. That natural understanding made the villain identifiable. They portrayed that lust to a high extreme which in return created a very scary villain. The Queen also represented a fear that caused the main characters, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to act, which allowed us to understand them to a much greater extent.

If you have a character that is doing evil for no reason you have a character that doesn’t really strike fear in the audiences hearts. It does not matter how evil a villain is if there is no way of identifying with him or her. The scary part of a character like Lars Thorwald, is he can literally be your next door neighbor, the character was understandable and you could see that temptation of evil in your own life and in those around you. The power of a villain like Darth Vader came from the heightened example he represented, of who we can truly become if we gave into fear and lust for power. The Queen in Disney’ Snow White was maybe not a character any of us could see ourselves becoming, but she did have root reasons for why she was doing what she was doing, things that we as the audience could identify with.

Daisy

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 17, 2010

This picture posed a problem. How do I have your eye focus on the main daisy when it is surrounded by other daises that look just like it. I couldn’t use color to separate you eye from the main object and the surrounding, so I used a focus tool. I softened everything around the flower so the main Daisy popped out. Hopefully it is subtle, but you will see that the main daisy has much more detail to it and you can really see its texture.

The Power of Subtlety

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 15, 2010

In film, the most subtle parts of the characters and stories often are the most powerful and meaningful to the audience. As a filmmaker you often want to create a BIG film. If you are given a big budget you often want to use the money to enhance the visual effects and action sequences, so you can make your movie “bigger and better” then anyone else.

The idea that “bigger is better” is a lie. Movies always need to be lead by the heart of the story and often the heart of the story asks for depth in character and plot rather then action. It is a fact that almost every sequel has a bigger budget then its original film. Sequels often have far more impressive actions sequences where the visual effects “blow our minds”. Why then do sequels hardly ever get as good reviews as the original films? The answer is subtlety. We are not given the subtle things in sequels that are often needed to create good films.

Things like character depth and story development are often rushed in sequels. It is easy to be impressed with a big effect, they don’t take much effort from the audience, they often happen right in front of you, and they are instant gratification. It is much harder to be impacted by a individual characters or the meaning behind a story, for those things require more indepth thought from the filmmakers and  the audience’s participation. With meaningful stories you need to trust your audience and you as a filmmaker need to have more confidence with your ability to tell a story.

Story telling in general can be very generic. There is always a beginning, middle and end, and we often see the “happily ever after” theme come at the end most films. Even if you have the sad ending, that kind of thing has been done a million times before. The question is how will you make your film unique? What is different about the way you tell the story, from a Steven Spielberg or Alfred Hitchcock? Usually it is the subtle things that make all the difference. The individual performances and the unique messages that you bring to your films is why audiences keep coming back to the theater.

The actor can make all the difference. I am often impressed by actors like Tom Hanks, Russell Crowe, and Will Smith because of the subtle differences they bring to many of their roles. Someone like Captain John Millar from Saving Private Ryan, seems to be a very ordinary Character. Put in less capable hands, Captain Millar could have easily fallen flat. Captain Millar seemed to be nothing special, he was a middle aged, middle classed, school teachers forced like most Americans to do his duty in the war. The power came in the way Tom Hanks portrayed Captain Millar, we became sympathetic to him as a character and the situation he was in. Tom Hanks owned his role and all the subtle things seemed to be thought out. We were not even shown Captain Millar’s wife and kids, but we feel his love for them through out his journey and his compassion for his regiment is clearly seen. The little subtle decisions and the way Captain Millar carries those decisions out, makes all the difference, it creates a unique character that we have not seen before.

With the story of Saving Private Ryan, it was the small subtle moments that impacted me the most. When Captain Millar is dieing because of his choice to stay and help Private Ryan, he tells Ryan in a whisper, “Earn this”. This was the most powerful statement in the movie, the audience was tremendously impacted by what Captain Millar said. It did not need to be a shout, the power actually came in the subtle way Millar said the words.

Film is a very subtle art form. Subtlety demands that you pay attention, but you will find that the subtle things can often impact the audience the most. Even when Alfred Hitchcock made his suspense films, it was the subtle things that made his films so powerful. When it comes to horror and suspense you would think that bigger is better, but Hitchcock realized that often less is more. There are scenes such as at the end of Psycho, where you are impacted in maybe even subconscious ways. At the end of Psycho you see the recently revealed murderer Norman Bates face change slightly, Norman’s face is combined slightly with his mothers skull, right before we see the end title.  We don’t even know if we saw something, but we did, that subtle image will stick with us long after the movie has ended.

Think hard about what makes your film Unique. What can you bring to your characters that has never been seen before? Messages in films do not need to be obvious. Make the points of your film subtle and give the audience something to talk about afterword. “Less” is often is “more” in film. Sure, have those big actions scenes if your story calls for it, but never forget about the little things that make your movies unique and that can influence the audience the most.

(IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS DO NOT WATCH THIS CLIP OR READ ANY FURTHER!!! This is a scene at the End of Pursuit of Happyness. The power comes in the subtle way Will Smith first reacts to the news of getting the Job. The controlled and subtle emotion impacted me far more then any outburst or uncontrolled reaction)

Studying the Environment

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 13, 2010

I have been trying to do something I really hate doing and that is studying landscape. I thought I might as well post a few of my better drawings, of curtain objects I have been studying, such as bushes and trees.

I try to start with basic shapes and work my way from there

It is hard to create the feel of something without spending a HUGE amount of time drawing it. With trees, the difference has a lot to do with the shading and shape. I am trying to make different scribbles mean different things. I think first you need to closely and slowly study a curtain object and then figure out a quick way to do it.

No doubt, human made objects are the hardest to draw for me. They all have a curtain structure and we know when they look off. This I am afraid is a sad attempt to draw a few of my house hold items.

The Disney Problem!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 11, 2010

There has been a lot of controversy around Disney animation lately. The next Disney Animation movie Tangled seems to be looking shallower and shallower every day. The reason is “safety”. The executives at Disney, have changed the title of the upcoming animation movie from, “Rapunzel Unbraided” to the much safer “Tangled”. Also, after watching the last few trailers for Tangled, it seems that Glen’s Kean’s (The original Director who recently needed to stepped down) original vision of a artistically unique film has turn into a more dazed “Traditional Disney” style of a film, where the color schemes and character designs are similar to many animated movies we have seen in the past, such as Dreamworks Sinbad and Disney’s Treasure Planet and Bolt. Also the only advertising I have seen for the movie seems to be built entirely on gags, where the characters do not seem to have any depth and the “entertainment” comes from characters getting beat up or from pop references that will be forgotten in five to ten years.

The problem is Disney is playing it SAFE. There are still many good artists at Disney, however the artists are not the ones calling the shots the executives are the ones calling the shots and they are all business majors with hardly any artistic background. Money is the top concern for the decision makers at Disney. To be guaranteed good money you need to have a reliable formula, the only problem is there is no formula to good film making. So instead of good films we get mediocre films, where metaphorically, some of the top chiefs in the world are reduced to cooking hot dogs. The artists at Disney are capable of so much more then what they are doing now.

A similar kind of thing happened in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. There was a whole slew of talented artist that had just began to graduate from the school CalArts. CalArts was founded by Walt Disney (the actual man) and taught by mostly old Disney artist who worked during the Golden Age of animation in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Students who are now looked up to as masters at animation such as John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, and Brad Bird, were taught in CalArts to keep on pushing the limits of animation, to always strive to be unique and look at storytelling in different ways, so they could push the animation medium forward. These CalArts students had some big visions and wanted to apply their visions to the Disney Studio.

The Disney studio did not want to push the medium of animation forward in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The graduates from CalArts were extremely disappointed. Brad Bird, Tim Burton, Joe Ranft left the Disney Studio. John Lasseter was fired because he had too high of ambitions.

The Disney heads denied people like John Lasseter and Brad Bird, because John’s and Brad’s ideas were not “traditional Disney”. The heads of Disney wanted to have a reliable formula they wanted their workers to create reliable movies like the ones done in the late 1930’s through the mid 1960’s. However, the reason why the movies from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, were successful, was because the artist were always striving to do something new. It was the people who taught John Lasseter, Joe Ranft, Tim Burton and Brad Bird, that created the masterpieces in the 1940’s, such as Pinocchio and Bambi. The way the artists created those masterpieces was through NOT following a formula but instead taking risks and driving the technique of storytelling forward.

How ironic it is that the executive heads of Disney are using “traditional Disney” as a excuse to stay the same. Walt Disney was one of the first people to try new things and push his medium forward. The Disney problem is that those in charge, are no longer interested in traditional Disney. The heads of Disney need to play it SAFE and by doing that they are slowly dying away. Their movies don’t last as long anymore, there has not been a huge hit at Disney animations sense the Lion King and the great artists at Disney are given less and less freedom. Creativity requires risk. A risk seems to be exactly what Disney is not willing to take.