A Dreamer Walking

What is King?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 19, 2010

The title of this blog, “What is King?“, comes from a question I think everyone should be asking themselves if they are wanting to get into the film business. Figuring out what is King for you is key to understanding how much you can get out of the film medium.

I have studied many people in Hollywood who have money as their King. They have an extreme amount of dedication and talent, but their decisions are based on what will bring them the most profit. When people make money be their king, they often sacrifice quality and have a hard time figuring out what “sells”. Sure, if they are talented they will have one or two hits, but they never can get a consistency going. Usually they make up for the lack of consistence through a tremendous amount of commercialism and pop humor. The reason why someone like Jeffery Katzenberg is no Walt Disney, is because he makes money King when it comes to film making. It is also the reason why his Dreamworks animation studio has not come out with a streak of critically acclaimed successes.

Pop humor is part of another thing that people make out to be King when it comes to film. In definition “pop humor” is popular today and dead tomorrow. It does not have a long life, it is created because it is popular at the moment. All the filmmakers I have ever studied have fallen victim to putting the audience member in front of the actual vision of the film at some point in their career. Trying to please all audiences usually leads to weak stories that take no risks and have extremely predictable characters. We get pop humor or as I like to call it poop humor, from these films because the filmmakers know that someone will laugh if there is a fart joke or clever insult in the movie. When we base decisions on the “poplar vote” rather then our own creative intuitions, we create films that have many inconsistencies and a muddy message.

Another thing that many filmmakers make out to be King (this can be especially applied to Christian film organizations) is the “message” of the film.  You can not make the message of the films be King if you want to be a successful filmmaker. A King is a ruler, the one you as a filmmaker serve. Everyone serves something in their life. You can either serve self serving things like money, popularity, or even a message, or you can serve something greater then yourself. The key is to put the story above everything else and make it King. That means you can not be set on any given message.

The “message” of your film, if not shown the proper respect and put in the proper place, can be very self serving and destructive towards the audience. It is easy to make the mistake of giving a message to glorify yourself. You don’t think about the reason you are giving it, just about the importance that it brings to you. Messages like “Don’t commit abortion”, or “Don’t be homosexuals”, are useless if you can not explain the reason behind them. With Christian films specifically, quality is often sacrificed because the filmmakers are too clouded by the self serving message. The way the message is expressed and the flaws the message might have, are ignored because the message in and of itself is too important.

When you make the story be King, the message will fall into it’s proper place. I am a firm believer in having there be a message in any given film. The message does not need to tell the audience what to think or what is right and what is wrong but you at least need to have a point to your story, a point that you can clearly express. The message or the point of the film is not the end all, it only should come through the development of the story. We as the audience want to see  development just as much as the end product. The filmmaker needs to earn his moments. Before making a statement you need the audience to buy into your characters and story.

The story must always guide the message. One of my favorite filmmakers, Andrew Stanton, related figuring out the story to a paleontologist discovering the bones of a dinosaur.  The paleontologist might have a good idea of what kind of dinosaur he is uncovering right off the bat, but it is not set in stone until he has all the pieces. The question is, do you have the guts to change the message if you discover a “bone” that leads the story in a completely different direction?

A story represents a vision and it is the filmmakers job to follow that vision. No artists vision is completely the same. It will beckon you to go out and try new things. Letting the vision lead is hard because you are not necessarily in complete control of the vision, it is organic and will grow the more your characters, environments, and stories grow.  Sometimes the vision seems to be going in a ridiculous directions. Sometimes you wonder if can find any profit from the vision. You wonder whether or not the message is good enough and whether or not the audience will resonate with it. I am not saying to ignore all those questions or insecurities.

I am just saying film takes faith sometimes. You can not rely on talent alone. If you have faith in yourself then have faith in your vision. Make the vision be the King. Throw away the doubts and the insecurities. I am tired of films that are made because the higher ups want more money. I am tired of films that are made to satisfy our shallowest desires. I am tired of movies that try to shove messages down my throat with no consideration to who I am. Great films come from great visionaries. Stop worrying about what will bring you profit and start serving the vision you have been given!

The Silence of the Lambs- Extra Features Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 17, 2010

The Silence of the Lambs:

Blu-Ray Review:

Breaking The Silence: 7 out 10: This Feature had about 20 minutes of interviews and a few pop up facts about the film scattered through out the 2 hour movie. It is like a commentary but with less information, because they are not always talking. I would much rather just have a commentary, but there was a good amount of insight give through the interviews. The main actors talk about their roles and the screenwriter gives you more depth into the story and some of the characters. The main focus seems to be on Hannibal Lecture and Clairce’s relationship. We also get a little insight from the screenwriter Ted Tally.

Understanding The Madness: 7 out of 10: A 20 minute documentary about what goes into a cereal killer’s mind. In my opinion it is too broad. I could have reasoned out most of what they said about cereal killers. However, a good documentary to watch if you are trying to figure out a villain in the basic sense.

Inside the Labyrinth the Silence of the Lambs: From Page to Screen: 8.5 out of 10: A great documentary on The Silence of the Lambs. It goes through three different chapters that all run about 20 minutes. Chapter one entitled, Putting it Together, is about how the story was created by the author of the book Thomas Harris and how/why the filmmakers and cast became interested in the book. Chapter two entitled, “The Cast of Characters“, is about the performances and what went into the actors owning their roles. You get some particularly good information from Anthony Hopkins on how he developed Hannibal Lecture. The third part of the documentary entitled, “Production, Protests and Awards“, talks about how the whole movie came together and the publicity it got when it first came out. I felt that the documentary could have separated the chapters a little better so the individual subject matter in the chapters were more clear. I also felt like they were missing a few key voices such as Jodie Foster and director Jonathan Demme talking about roles in the film. However, everyone interviewed gave a lot of good information on the production as a whole and what they as individuals felt they brought to the table.  Over all I would recommend this one hour documentary. It concentrates mostly on the acting, writing, and direction of The Silence of The Lambs.

Silence of the Lambs: From Page to Screen: 7 out of 10: A good documentary on the writing through the publicity of The Silence of the Lambs. It is very much like the “Inside the Labyrinth” documentary except shorter (40 minutes instead of one hour). We do get the hear from Jodie Foster but not Hopkins. Was able to get a slightly deeper look into the anthers Thomas Harris’s vision and how the book got popular. Over all it was pretty good and nice to hear Jodie.

Scoring The Silence of The Lambs: 8 out of 10: Some really good insight on Howard Share’s way of going about composing The Silence of the Lambs. We are able to hear what he was thinking when starting the film and when dealing with the big scenes in the movies. He talks about following his instincts when composing and how doing that lead to creating a better score. He also talks about the value of collaboration and how that is usually more important then individual talent.

The Making of: The Silence of the Lambs (1990): 6 out of 10: You do get to hear a little from Johnathan Demme in this eight minute documentary, which is nice. The rest is pretty basic and we have already heard it in the other documentary. You do see a little more behind the scenes footage.

Over all I think some of the extra features were on par with the quality of the movie while others were not. The main extra features I would recommend are the “Inside the Labyrinth” piece and “Scoring The Silence of the Lambs” piece. Would recommend you buy  the Blu-Ray copy if you are looking into developing a interesting villain. Seeing Hannibal Lectures development gives you good information to what goes into a good villain.  Also, there are some good extra features for those looking into screenwriting and adapting books to script. I think we also get to see the Clarice character in a lot of depth and unlayered . She really is a unique character for Hollywood, and the extra features do a good job explaining why.

Gold Bark

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 10, 2010

First off sorry for the lack of posts. I have been a busy week. However, I did want to post this picture. I found this bark color interesting, so what I did was extract all the other color from the pic. I just wanted the eye to see the interesting pattern of the golden color bark. More of a artsy picture then anything else. I hope you enjoy!

The Diamond in the Rough!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 4, 2010

There are many different ways you can go about creating your protagonist. Sometimes the protagonist consists of somebody who is shy and meek; a character who does not believe in him or herself and through the movie somehow finds his or her voice.  The protagonist can also consist of the fallen hero; a character who had everything and lost it and through out the movie finds a way to get it all back and then some.

This post however concerns the protagonist who is the “diamond in the rough”. The character that we the audience usually finds snobbish and self observed at the beginning of the film. He often lives his life in a way that most of society frowns upon. The character has a sort of “me Vs. the rest of the world” mentality. These type of protagonists are often the most complex and hardest to buy into. If you do not go about telling their story and expressing who they are in just the right way, you will end up having a audience who is not interested in your film and frustrated rather then sympathetic towards your main character.

Above you can see four examples of the “diamond in the rough” type characters I am trying to describe in this post. I call them “diamonds in the rough”, because of their rough blocked off outward attitude they usually have when the audience first meet them. These type of protagonists usually have had hard lives, where they have grown up in abusive or neglectful situations and have needed to rely on their hatred toward the world to survive.

Out of all the characters you see in the picture above, Aladdin is probably the least oriented toward the character I am trying to describe. However, I felt the need to put him in sense I was taking from a phrase once used to describe him.  Even though Aladdin was more likable then the rest of the characters you see in the picture, when we first meet him it is obvious that he is considered a sort of outcast towards the society he lives in. Aladdin was a outcast because he was a lowly street urchin who stayed alive through stealing food from the local market. He is angry at the rest of the world because of the way they treat him. Aladdin is a very insecure character and he expresses his insecurities by trying to pretend to be someone he is not. This is how he blocks both the characters in the story and us the audience from discovering who he really is. In the second act of the movie Aladdin tries to woo Princess Jasmine of Agrabah through pretending to be a prince. Aladdin builds a relationship with Jasmine on lies. He is hiding from who he is because he thinks he by himself is not good enough.

Charlie Babbitt on the top right of the picture is another character who does not think very highly of himself. Charlie hides his insecurities through his selfish greed which blocks anyone from being able to see who he really is. Charlie is a character that the audience doesn’t really like at the beginning of the film. He too is part of a business that we as a society do not look too highly upon. He is a ruthless cars salesmen who can talk his way in and out of anything. Unless, he is stuck with a character that can not be swayed.

That is exactly what happens when Charlie Babbitt is reunited with his long lost autistic savant brother Raymond Babbitt. Because of Raymond’s autism, Charlie can not reason with him. Raymond has his routine and it must be followed. This consistent and very innocent character that comes into Charlie’s life completely turns Charlie around and allows him to find redemption and see humanity in life.

This leads to the next big thing you must have with “a diamond in the rough” type of protagonist. It is vital you have a constant character to balance the “rough” character out. In the movie Blood Diamond, Danny Archer (bottom left in the picture), played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a ruthless con man in South Africa. His job is to find and smuggle diamonds into countries like the UK and America. Naturally we do not think very highly of Danny at the beginning of the movie. What changes Danny is his companion Solomon Vandy. Solomon is a Mende Fisherman who’s only goal in the movie is to find and save is lost son. At the beginning Danny cares little for Solomon. Danny’s only goal is to travel the land in order to find a extremely valuable diamond that Solomon had stolen away. Through out the story however, the integrity of Solomon can’t help but impact Danny in very profound ways. Because Solomon is a constant and selfless character, he is able to impact Danny. You must have one or more of these characters when dealing with a “rough” type of protagonist. Because of the relationship Danny has with Solomon and the charm that Leonardo DiCaprio brings to Danny’s role, we buy into his character at the end and are rooting for him to do the right thing.

Charm is the last thing you need to have for these “diamond in the rough” type roles to work. On the bottom right of the picture I posted you can see Pvt. Trip, played by Denzel Washington. It is common now a days to see Denzel play roles like Pvt. Trip. In the 1989 movie Glory, Pvt. Trip is a young black man who signs up to fight in the civil War.  Pvt. Trip is a rebel. The fact that he is black makes him a outcast and because of the prejudices that have been unfairly thrown onto him, Pvt. Trip builds up a attitude that defies almost all authority. Pvt. Trip makes fun of other black solders for trying to act like white men, he disrespects authority, and tries to pick fights for no reason. It would be easy to not care for Pvt. Trip, but Denzel brings a charm that demands our attention. Little by little we see the abuse he has taken from the world and the reasons to why he hates it. Little by little we see Pvt. Trip change. He is changed by the constant characters around him. Through the attitude and the defiance we begin to see a human. And at the end he does the right thing. This is the key. Seeing and believing the change of Pvt. Trip is what makes him work as a protagonist.

Yes, the character needs to be a jerk. We do not need to like him or her at the beginning of the film. In fact, some of the entertainment comes from us not liking him, or in other words, “loving to hate him”. But slowly through out the movie we need to be able to see into the soul of the “diamond in the rough” protagonist. Yes, by definition the character is “rough” and hard to get to know. But, we need to slowly figure out how to get through the rough part and find the beauty on the inside. The movie needs to be about pealing off layers so the true character can be seen.

All these characters were hard to figure out at the beginning of the film. However, through out the film we see more depth. We see why they are the way they are  and we begin to see the good they are capable of. Then we begin to see them choose to do the right thing and we buy into it. The “diamond in the rough” character is often the most fulfilling protagonist you can have because of the complete turn around the character goes through. The contrast from the beginning of the film to the end of the film is the most extreme. Yes it is hard to have the audience go from hating a character to loving him. But, if you as a filmmaker are able to do just that, you have created the ultimate redemption story and your audience will leave the movie theater extremely satisfied.

Rock’s Shadow

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on December 1, 2010

I was lucky enough to come upon this rock on one of my walks. It creates some interesting shapes both with the rock itself and the shadow. I softened the stuff around the rock and the shadow so it didn’t distract and take away from the main piece. This is a picture that does not have much color appeal, the appeal is actually all in the framing and how the light hits the rock.  Hope you enjoy!