A Dreamer Walking

Perfectionist Vs. Naturalist

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 30, 2011

David Fincher and Clint Eastwood are examples of two very successful filmmakers with two extremely different ways of going about directing a film. I have spent several weeks researching both Fincher and Eastwood and I have studied many of their films. It is striking to me how differently these two go about creating a film. It is also exciting. Studying these two has made me realize how truly open the medium of film is. Personally I think it is wise for any up coming filmmaker to do a extensive study on both these filmmakers.

I would describe David Fincher (top of the picture) as a perfectionist who goes into every little detail of the filmmaking process and is absolutely set on bring out the images and ideas he has in his head onto the screen. Fincher is known for doing two to three times the amount of takes for a scene as a normal director does. He also is known for giving extremely specific directions on everything from what is written in the journal of a characters prop that is never opened on screen to the marks he wants not only his main actors to hit but also the dozens of extras that might be inhabiting a small fraction of the background to hit.

Clint Eastwood (bottom of the picture) is what I would call a naturalist. He treats film like his favorite type of music, jazz. He wants to create an environment where the creativity can naturally flow. Jazz is never completely planned out but rather just a reaction of the mood and feelings of the musician at the time. A big motto of Eastwood’s is “go with your gut”. You can see this motto applied to Eastwood’s filmmaking process again and again over the decades. He wants to create an environment that produces very natural reactions from his actors. This means that the set is always quite and the crew is never allowed to bring anything onto the set that would distract from the piece he is working on. Eastwood is known for being a actors director, he wants them to create a performance that comes from the heart.

It is not like Fincher and Eastwood completely counter each other. However, I believe that both would be very uncomfortable with each others film style. A good place to begin would be in regards to the directors way of dealing with the Camera. One is very natural and one is very mechanical. One creates a perfection that is incapable of being achieved by actual human hands and one tends to use imperfections to comfort the audience into falling deeper into the story.

David Fincher is known for his use of motion control in film. Ever since his movie Panic Room David Fincher has been a big fan of using cameras controlled by a computer to create a more sophisticated shot. This technique known as motion control, allows the filmmaker to create complex movements with the camera that would be impossible for a human camera man to achieve. The smoothness and preciseness we see in movies like Panic Room, Zodiac, and The Social Network is usually the result of motion control.

Clint Eastwood is much more simple in the way he goes about shooting a film. His idea is to create something that is done professionally but still has the inherent flaws that come with being human. Clint’s belief is we as humans resonate more with these types of flaws because of our inherent realization that nothing is perfect. Making things too perfect takes us out of the picture because the material stops resonating to us as human beings. This is one of the reasons Eastwood does so few takes. He does not need the movement to be perfect just well thought out and executed.

The amount of takes Fincher and Eastwood do is Another key difference between these filmmakers styles. As I said before, Fincher is known for doing two to three times the amount of takes as regular directors. Eastwood is known for doing very few takes. This is one of the many reasons why Eastwood shoots his films so quickly. He shot the film Million Dollar Baby in less then 40 days. Fincher on the other hand shot the film Panic Room, which basically was all shot in one location, in 100+ days.

Eastwood would probably say Fincher’s extreme amount of takes and excessive amount of coverage he has on his scenes is due to a lack of confidence. Eastwood has explained in interviews on Charlie Rose that he believes a filmmaker and actor can often talk themselves out of something that was good in the first place. Instead of talking himself out of anything, Eastwood has learned to trust his gut and go with what resonates with him at the time. Because of the simplistic way Eastwood shoots a scene he is usually done quickly. His style of filmmaking does not exhaust his actors but rather invigorates them through the realization that they will only have a few takes to perfect their performance.

Fincher seems to want to exhaust his actors in curtain ways while shooting. He wants to get rid of any pre-conceived ideas the actors might have had coming in and he wants them to rediscover the performance at the energy and pace he feels would serve the story best. It does not matter whether the acting has to do with small details like the way an actor looks down the stairs or reaches up his hand, Fincher will question the performance and ask for them to do the action very specifically to the vision he has in his head. The actors in Fincher’s movies are able to try a scene many more times then they would with Eastwood however the freedom is often taken away to a point because of the control Fincher demands as director.

From studying both Eastwood and Fincher it seems that the two concentrate on two very different things. Eastwood is all about creating a mood on set that helps everyone function to their highest potential. Fincher wants his crew to function to the highest potential as well, but he usually does this through questioning them and pushing them to be better then they originally thought they were capable of. He demands perfection and he will tell you exactly what he thinks no matter how it might feel. It does not matter if a Cinematographer has spent hours setting up a curtain lighting for a scene, it does not matter if a set decorator has spent days working on a curtain prop, and it does not matter if an actor feels like he came in with a well planned performance, if Fincher does not agree with it he will have you change it.

Both these filmmakers are masters at their art. Both have had a tremendous amount of success through the way they go about making films. However we need to pause to understand why they are so good at their techniques. Clint Eastwood would not be good at following his gut if he hadn’t spent several decades learning to develop a natural feel for directing. David Fincher would not be much of a perfectionist is he had not spent literally hundreds of hours figuring out exactly why he wanted the specific shots, acting, and environments for his films. Eastwood can not go with his gut with no clue to where it will take him. Fincher can not insist on a detail without understanding how the details fit into the whole of the film.

These artists have mastered their art by being completely dedicated to one mutual goal, story. It all comes down to story and how you as a filmmaker can serve that story best. Some try to bring it out very naturally through years of experience and learning to trust their fellow filmmakers. Some do it through developing an idea that absolutely must come out and demanding the perfection needed from the fellow filmmakers to make that idea a reality. To be honest I think most of us need a little bit of both. Clint Eastwood and David Fincher represent two extremes. However, it is not like Eastwood does not have details that he wants see expressed on screen and it is not like Fincher takes complete control away from his crew. It all comes down to what works for you and finding that happy medium. The film medium is open to a vast range of talent, it does not demand for you go one rout more then another. The key is finding how you can best serve the story.

Andrew Stanton- Screenwriting Expo

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 27, 2011

You really do not get better then this. This is a recording of Andrew Stanton talking many years ago at the Screenwriting Expo. Basically Andrew breaks down story development through talking about mistakes he and Pixar made from Toy Story all the way to Finding Nemo. It is a brilliant lecture. Often you learn better through mistakes then through success. All the Pixar movies that have come out so far ran across problems somewhere in their development process that needed fixing. This is a lecture all about the problems Pixar had with their movies and how they were able to work through those problems to create some of the best animated films ever made. Andrew Stanton has come out of nowhere to astablish himself as one of the greatest screenwriters in the film business. I would strongly suggest any filmmaker out there to take notes. Enjoy!


Danny Boyle – An Observation – Confidence

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series, Uncategorized by Jacob on March 24, 2011

Danny Boyle 1Danny Boyle said something about his way of filmmaking that I originally thought was lame. He told a interviewer that he NEVER goes away from the script. He said his greatest job as the director is to serve the script. I originally felt Boyle was limiting himself by saying this. I was thinking he probably was losing out on a lot of opportunities because he was so one track minded. What if in the middle of shooting he or one of the crew members came up with a revolutionary idea that would make that scene turn out ten times better? What if he felt after a while the script wasn’t funny enough? What if the script didn’t have enough drama or contrast between the characters? Bottom line I thought, what if the script was simply not good enough?

After looking into Danny Boyle a little bit more I found out he has always been a big part of the script development process. In all his movies he has pushed the writer to go as far as possible. Boyle’s philosophy is to make sure the problems are taken care of before the production begins. Boyle’s main concern however is remembering how the script first influenced him. While shooting Boyle tries to remember the way he first felt when reading the script. The script is the reason he is doing the project, because of this his main obligation is to recapture the same feeling he had when first reading the material. This to me made sense. Boyle knows his job as a director is not to be the dictator to what happens in the story. His job is to figure out the story and be the guide to how it is visually told.

But what if they figure out a way to make the scene better? What if they come up with a much cooler idea on any given day of shooting? Even though a idea might be cooler or more revolutionary for that day, it doesn’t always mean it is better for the story as a whole. A script does not consists of many individual scenes that just happen to be combined into the same script. A script is about how each scene connects to each other. The script is not emotionally impacted by the days shoot, it is the only thing that sees the complete story. Directors can easily get caught up in the moment while shooting and forget about the overall arc of the story. Following the script solves this problem.

There is also the second guessing that always comes into play. After watching something again and again, take after take, it starts to not be as stimulating as it once was. There is only a curtain amount of times you can listen to a joke before it stops being funny. This is just another crucial reason to have confidence in the original material. It is key to remember that you committed to the project because it stimulated you. The script is not influenced by the ware and tear of the production process.

If you have a tight budget, sticking to the script will help stop you from using unnecessary money. Boyle said, “Money can go a long way by being disciplined”. Boyle is one of the most disciplined directors in the business because of the confidence he has for the script. Danny is known for making low budget movies go a long way. Boyle’s movie Slumdog Millionaire had a production budget of 15 million dollars and earned over 377 million dollars in the box office worldwide.

I still do not think it is a bad thing to go away from the script at times. Sometimes you do see things that aren’t possible to see while writing. The acting, the locations, and the crew all influence the way you shoot. However, when filming the director needs to never forget about the underlined reason he committed to the project. The dedication needs to be about bringing the script to life. There are many ways to do this and it is all up to the director to figure out what way is best. Boyle has a very unique way he looks at a script. The life he brings into a film through the way he directs is simply amazing. The life we see all comes from the confidence Boyle has in the story he is telling.

A Call to Help Japan!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 19, 2011

Well I am sure everyone has heard about the devastation in Japan. This post is inspired by Daisuke Tsutsumi’s plea to help the people of Japan. Daisuke is a artist working at Pixar, click on his name to go to his blog. Dice was a big part of a charity project in 2008 by heading up the Totoro Forest Project. Just recently he has posted a blog encouraging artists and whoever else who could, to give money to help out Japan’s recovery process. HERE is the link to the Give2Aisa charity Dice has united with to give to Japan. I know that Give2Aisa is a well known charity organization and obviously Dice likes them. However, looking at the BBB (Better Business Bureau) review I found that Give2Aisa was missing three out of the twenty standards BBB has for charity accountability (HERE is the link if you want to see the review). Because Give2Aisa does have a good reputation I still donated money, however HERE is a link to the American Red Cross organization which met all twenty of BBB’s standards (link to review HERE) if you are not sure about Give2Aisa.

Both donation links only take a few minutes. I think the people in Japan need our prayers but they also need physical and financial support. I sadly am not able to bring them physical support so I hope two out of three is good enough. God bless those in Japan. It is truly inspiring to see how they are helping each other up after being so brutally knocked down.

Again Here are the Links:

Artists Help Japan Charity Link

American Red Cross Charity Link

DP/30 Slumdog Millionaire Director and Writer

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 17, 2011

If you look to the right in the Blogroll section you will see I have a link to Movie City News’  DP/30 section. The DP/30 section of Movie City News consists of dozens of thirty minute interviews of some of the top filmmakers in Hollywood. I ran across a especially insightful interview of  the director and writer of the award winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. The director is Danny Boyle, someone who I have just began to study. I hope to have some papers up on him soon. The writer is Simon Beaufoy, a critically acclaimed screenwriter who won an academy award for his screenplay of Slumdog Millionaire. You do not see interviews much better then this one. These filmmakers are very upfront about their philosophy on filmmaking and they give us some very good information about the film industry and their personal process. I especially liked hearing what Danny and Simon thought of going to India to film the movie and the energy that they felt they caught. They talk about how filming in India changed their entire way of looking and filmmaking. We also see the passion Danny has for filmmaking and we hear about the trust he puts into the screenplay. Slumdog Millionaire had a great partnership between writer and director which resulted in a incredible movie. I hope you enjoy and find this interview as informative and as enjoyable as I did.

Fence Depth

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 16, 2011

I first need to apologize for being a little lazy at getting consistent posts up. I am hoping to get more posts up soon. My goal is to average about a post every two days. Hopefully the posts aren’t just links and photography either. I am using this blog as a measuring tool to how much I am learning in my studies in film. Right now I am in the middle of several movies. I hope to write a review on some of them and post them soon.

Anyway, this is a picture I took of a wooden fence. I wanted to establish a sort of depth mainly through the way it was focused and the way the lines of the fence get closer together the farther away it goes. It is fascinating to me and I like the balance between black and white. Hope you enjoy!

(Click on photo to see completely focused)


SBIFF- Film Panels

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 13, 2011

I have been enjoying some of the filmmaker panels for this years award season. These panels are good because they allow us to see opinions from a diverse group of filmmakers. These panels I am about to post are from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. I think any up coming filmmaker will find these to be insightful. Hope you enjoy!

Here are the part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 links to the 2011 writers panels.

These are the links to the 2010 directors panel. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

Make It REAL!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 10, 2011

Film is such a interesting medium. Most of it consists of the filmmakers trying to create something that feels real to them. The ironic thing is that usually the more work you do in creating something that feels real the more inherently surreal it actually becomes. Filmmaking is a complete illusion. We need to compress life into two hours or maybe, if we are lucky, two hours and a half of film.

Each director has his or her own unique style because each director has a different point of view. All directors are trying to tell a story and need to use the camera, lenses, sets, and sound to help tell that story.  As soon as you change something in order to help tell a story in film you are in essence stylizing your film. The kitchens, the bedrooms, and the offices we see in film do not come from experts at making kitchens, bedrooms, and offices, they come from experts at making sets for film.

Everything is made for the sake of telling to story. If the filmmakers want to have the movie feel claustrophobic, they make sets that feel claustrophobic. If the filmmakers want the scene to feel romantic, they use lights and lenses that romanticize the moment. The great point of the filmmaking process is to create a film that does not look real but rather feels real. If we had a film that looked completely real we would be in trouble. James Cameron’s Avatar wouldn’t have worked because there is no such thing as big blue aliens. Star Wars wouldn’t be possible because there really is no such thing is the Force or ships that could go light speed. Pixar’s Ratatouille wouldn’t work because lets face it…….rats can’t cook.

As filmmakers we need to look at our subject matter and ask ourselves, “how can we get our audience to buy into this?”. Sometimes we are called to go completely abstract to buy into something. A great example would be the Pixar movie Up. Pete Doctor the director of Up realized from the start that it would be hard for the general audience to buy into a flying house. In reality it is not possible for a house to fly by tying a few thousand balloons on the roof, yet that was the premise of the story. So, Pete Doctor decided to make it clear right away he was not making a film that had it’s physical rules grounded in our reality. We saw the main character Carl had a head that was one third the size of his body and we saw his body was way more square then anything we would see in actual life. The boy scout Russel was extremely round with hardly any neck. The environments seemed to be more like locations you would see in impressionists paintings then anything you would see outside. Pete Doctor created an environment where everything was abstract so the story elements that were abstract, such as a house being carried in the air by balloons and dogs talking, could make sense. Yet, the movie was kept real to us by how it resonated with eternal realities in our lives. The movie Up dealt with fundamental truths in all our lives, such as the need to get away from every day life at times, the need to think outside of the box, and the idea that adventure is just as much about the personal moments as it is the action packed moments.

Our job as filmmakers is to hit on inner truths. When we get to the end of a movie the question shouldn’t be, “did we surprise them?”, or “did we make them laugh enough?”. We need to ask the question, did we hit on something real with them? Did we touch the audience a foundational way? It does not matter if we do it through blue aliens, ships fighting in space, or rats cooking. We have an unlimited amount of ways we can make film real for the audience. The key is to have the foundations of our films come from the inherent truths we as humans all have.

David Fincher – An Observation – Exploring the Scene

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series, Uncategorized by Jacob on March 6, 2011

David Fincher 2One of the directors I have chosen to study for this month is David Fincher. Fincher has made many extremely successful movies both critically and publicly in his career. He is a man who has come from some interesting origins. He did not go to film school like most Hollywood filmmakers. Instead he got a job in the 1980’s at Industrial Light and Magic where he worked on movies such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. There he learned many of the film techniques he applies so well to the films he directs today. After Industrial Light and Magic Fincher worked at Propaganda Films and directed many music videos for the company. I believe a lot of the energy and rhythm you see in Fincher’s films today came from his experience at coordinating image with music at Propaganda Films.

This post is about one of the great qualities I have found in David Fincher. Fincher has gotten a lot of flack for his directing style when it comes to working with actors. There are many who consider him to be too controlling. He often gives actors  very specific directions for his movies and expects them to be fallowed. He is also known to exhaust many of his actors by doing several dozen takes for almost all of his scenes. In his most recent film The Social Network, there were times where the takes for a scene went above eighty. This kind of directing would not work very well with actors  such as Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall. In fact in one of the Actors Roundtables I posted a while back Robert Duvall almost freaked out after hearing Jesse Eisenberg explain how many takes he had to do for for some scenes in The Social Network. Duvall explained that the director who does a lot of takes is the actors worst enemy. Duvall sighted Stanley Kubrick as a director who did many takes and got bad acting as a result of it. This is a clip of the interview right after Duvall explained his frustration about Stanley Kubrick.

This video poses both arguments quite well. I think Duvall has a point when he talks about not messing with something that works already. However that simply is not the way Fincher seems to work. For better or for worse Fincher goes into a scene wanting to explore as many possibilities as possible. I just listened to a very insightful commentary Fincher did on his movie Se7en. In this commentary he talks specifically about what he feels his job is as the director in regards to directing the acting. Fincher explained one of his jobs is to know how each scene fits into the whole of the story. However Fincher does not want to have scenes solely to move the plot along. What Fincher wants is to find is the life in the performance. He is concentrated, as Mark Ruffalo pointed out, on everything that is happening on screen. Fincher wants to makes sure the background characters are just as believable as the main characters.

Contrary to what some might think Fincher is not trying to hurt the actors by making them to do a scene again and again. He actually explained on the Se7en commentary that he wants the actors to be selfish about their characters. Fincher has a good idea of many of the things he wants to see visually however he realizes the actors are the experts on who their characters are. Fincher explained that if you try to control it too much the acting gets stale and you are just going to be miserable. He explained how the director needs to realize the performance is going to be imperfect and Imperfection is ultimately what is going to make the performances personal.

David Fincher explained directing as a juggling act. There is the job of keeping the narrative going however there is also the job of exploring the life of the scene. As Mark Ruffalo explained, you get to the point that you just want him to fire you. However, there is also the point where you get over that hump and start getting good again. This is what I think Fincher wants. He wants the actor to lose their preconceived idea of what the scenes should be about and start to explore what the scene could be. Sometimes, as Duvall said, you can never get better then what you had in the first few takes. However, sometimes you might find out there is much more to the scene then what you originally assumed and you will be happy that you kept going and explored all the possibilities.

(Here are links to my other two Fincher Observation posts. 2. Finding the Meaning Behind the Movment 3. A Cynical Man 4. The “B” Movie)

Fog City Mavericks

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 4, 2011

I just recently watched a documentary on San Francisco Filmmaking called Fog City Mavericks. I highly recommend it. It is a very well made documentary about the history of this creative film city. We see the magic that comes from artists taking control of their creative material. We are introduced to the origins of film and to curtain films that changed the history of Hollywood completly, such as The Godfather and Star Wars series. I hope you Enjoy!