A Dreamer Walking

Colored Foot Print

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 28, 2011

I just found that foot comforter in the middle of some rubble. I found it made for an interesting picture especially if I took away a lot of the other colors. I wanted the color of the foot comforter to stick out. One hard part was figuring out how to frame the picture. I decided to not have it quite in the middle of the screen, it is a little farther up and to the right. I added a slight amount of grain to have the picture feel like it fit the subject matter. Hope you enjoy the picture!

(will have to click on the picture to see it in complete focus)

Invisable Ink- Is Something There?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 26, 2011

“Why do people tell stories? The stories that tend to stick to our bones are those that teach us something. This, I believe, is the primary reason we tell stories–to teach.”

This is how Brian McDonald started the third chapter of his book Invisible Ink. I don’t think I can open up on this subject much better then the way he did… so I have chosen not to.

Why do we write stories? It seems one big “no no” is to create stories that have a message. I can not tell you how many commentaries and film documentaries I have watched or listened to in which the director and other filmmakers try desperately to avoid saying they are giving us a message through their movie. For some reason they feel if a film is admitted to having a “message” it begins to be more like an after school PBS TV special then an actual piece of entertainment. Why this concept has spread I do not know.

We must not be afraid of embracing the kind of storytelling that will impact our audience in more profound ways then making them say “ooh” and “aw” whenever they see a cool camera move or special effect. Storytelling that lasts is storytelling that impacts. You can not impact someone with your story if you do not have anything to really say. As McDonald says, you need to develop an armature. McDonald explains an armature like this, “For us story-crafters, the armature is the idea upon which we hang our story”.

What is the fundamental idea you are wanting to hit on with your story? What makes the story worth telling? Simply put, what is the storie’s heart? Usually you can explain the heart in a sentence or two. A good example would be Pixar’s The Incredibles. The armature for The Incredibles could easily be, “Family is more important then any possession or title“. At the beginning and through the middle of the film we see Mr. Incredible desperately trying to regain the affections and luxuries of being a Superhero. The heart of the story is about Mr. Incredible realizing his most valuable possession is his family. Everything done in the movie is in support of the overall message of family. We learn from Mr. Incredible’s experiences. Throughout the movie the story teaches us fundamental values in extremely entertaining ways. The values are the things that are going to last long after we leave the movie theater, not the sweet special effects and camera movements (and let me tell you The Incredibles had a lot).

In essence McDonald explains the armature as the theme of our story. One crucial detail to understand is a theme is not a word, it is a sentence. Our theme can not be something like “Anger”. Theme is not a subject like “Baseball” or “Hacking”. The theme is the moral or point of our story. It must be explained. An example would be, “Anger will lead to destruction” or, “Baseball is a game of discipline”.  Everything else in the story we are telling must be built to support our theme. If a character or a scenario is not contributing to our overall theme, there is no reason to have it be in the story.

A good way to study theme is to study Pixar and Disney animated films. Animation usually tries to simplify everything. In animation usually there is a clear antagonist and clear protagonist and the story has a clear and usually simple message. All the extra weight is cut off to create a simple 90 minute film that will entertain all age groups. In no way am I trying to demean the significance of family films. I find the simplest of messages are often the most profound. Finding Nemo, Up, Beauty and the Beast, and Pinocchio, are some of the most influential movies I have ever watched. They are also movies that have a message the rest of the elements of the story are supporting to the highest extant possible. As I started to explain in my last post, the hard part of movie making is not making the story more sophisticated but rather making the movie have meaning that is supported by all the elements of cinema. This is what takes a overwhelming amount of effort, dedication, and time. But I guarantee you it is worth it!

David Fincher- An Observation- Finding the Meaning Behind the Movement

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 24, 2011

One thing you have to admire about David Fincher’s directing style is his constant dedication to finding the meaning behind everything that is seen or heard on screen. It is why, as I talked about in my last Fincher Observation post, he so thoroughly explores his scenes. Fincher wants to talk about every little detail of his films with all the key crew he works with. Everything needs to have a reason behind it. The acting,  props, visual effects, composition, lighting, sound, and cutting all are in efforts for something greater.

For the movie The Social Network Fincher held a three week rehearsal session with some of his key actors and his screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. You would think there would be a lot of staging and going over lines in a rehearsal, not the case with Fincher. Andrew Garfield (key actor in The Social Network) said they only read over each scene once, the rest of the time was spent going into depth on what they thought of the story. Fincher debated with Aaron and the actors about every key movement and every key piece of dialogue.  Because the movie was so heavy in dialogue, the actors needed to know why they were saying what they were saying. Fincher said The Social Network was just as much about the reactions as it was about what was verbally being said. Fincher wanted to have a clear idea of what the characters thought of each other and how the dialogue and movement would enforce the meaning behind those things.

Jesse Eisenberg, the star of The Social Network, talked about his first meeting with David Fincher. He said he was extremely nervous about meeting Fincher so he memorized about half the script in just a few days. He arrived to his meeting only to find out Fincher didn’t want to hear anything he had memorized. What Fincher wanted to talk about was what Jesse thought of his character and the overall story. They spent four hours just talking about the arc and qualities they saw in Jesse’ character and how they could best express those things visually on screen.

One key documentary to watch in order to observe David Fincher’s directing process would be the one and a half hour documentary on the making of The Social Network (here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4). There are many people who do not understand why Fincher’s production time is so much longer then normal directors and why he makes his actors go about even the smallest of scenes several dozens times before moving on. One thing to realize is Fincher has a very precise idea of what he wants and thus he will work his actors and the rest of his crew until he gets it. Everything has a purpose for Fincher thus everything is scrutinized by him.

David once compared directing to painting. However, rather then being able to hold the brush and paint on the canvas himself he needs to rely on his crew to do the actual painting. He said to imagine the canvas as the size of a football field. Then he said to imagine the crew holding the brush while he stood several dozen yards away shouting out extremely specific directions. It is a long tedious process, but if done correctly he and the crew will create something that will last much longer then any one of them.

It is important for us all to know why we want to see what we want to see on screen. There are directors out there who are very talented in many areas of film. They know how to create excitement through camera moves and cutting. They know how to use special effects in order to give the audience an immediate thrill. However the excitement and thrill goes away quickly and the audience usually goes away unsatisfied because the directors had no meaning behind what they were showing on screen.

Fincher’s goal is not to make us feel happy all the way through the film. He doesn’t even like giving us happy endings in his films. In Fincher’s films there seems to be something that goes beyond the immediate  feeling of happy or sad. His films often have characters that provoke thought. His camera movements and special effects are often subtle but have a purpose. The relentless conversation and debate he has with his film crew is in order for him to figure out what the overall meaning of his film will be. As a director Fincher needs to know exactly what he wants so he can clearly express to his crew how they should handle the brush. His goal is to create something with meaning, which makes us think, and encourages us to come back again.

(Here is a link to my other Fincher Observation posts. 1.Exploring the Scene 3. A Cynical Man 4. The “B” Movies)

Water Drops

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 21, 2011

Wow guys! Sorry about the absence of posts. I am back and will be posting about every other day. I found out I just went above a year a few days ago on the 12th. I think the first year went pretty well. In all I did 133 posts and I will leave it up to you to judge if they were good or not.

Here is a series of pictures I did of raindrops on a nice blue car my housemates own.

These first two pictures were not given much editing. The top picture is a wide shot expressing really how many drops are covering the car. I wanted the picture to feel balanced between the care and the background. The blue car contrasts with the green and brown background pretty well.

The second picture is a good close up of the raindrops. I found the extra texture of the dirt went well with the drops. My main goal was to have the water drops feel balanced all the way through the picture. I like the highlights in the rain drops, they make the picture really pop. Of course this picture just consisted of one color, blue. I think it worked out pretty well.


These last two pictures were worked on pretty extensively on Photoshop. I was not interested in making the viewer realize right off the bat what they were looking at. It is pretty clear we are looking at rain drops still but that is about it. I liked going from dark to white in the top picture. The goal was to create a balance between dark and white in the picture. I found taking away the color helped us concentrate on the actual highlights in the water drops.

The last picture consists of hundreds of water drops. They happened to be on the windsheild of the car. If you look closely you will see that many of the drops are reflections. The picture kind of has a stary look. I also like the color scheme. We go from blueish green, to aqua blue, to a slight bit of violet purple. The cool colors creates the feel of open space, which helps create that stary feeling.

Thanks for checking in. Hope you enjoy!

(You will need to click on the pictures to see them completely in focus)

Invisible Ink- Simplicity

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 12, 2011

In Invisible ink Chapter 2 we are introduced to the Seven easy steps to a better story.  In this post I will not be repeating the “seven easy steps”. To hear about them please buy the book. The underline point Brian McDonald was trying to make in the chapter however was a good one. He expressed his frustration with writers who usually try to create a overly complicated story.

What makes for a overly complicated story is when the writer tries to bring more plot into the story then what is actually needed. Simplicity is usually key when developing a story. Your job is to not lose the audience on the ride you are taking them on. You entertain the audience not through creating a twist at every corner but rather digging deeper into the story you do have no matter how simple it might be. You can have the most complicated plot imaginable, if you do not create a connection with your characters to the audience however, nobody will go along for the ride.

One of the masters at creating a connection between audience and character was Walt Disney. Hardly any Walt Disney movie was heavy in plot. He had simple beginnings, middles, and ends in almost all his movies. What Walt cared about was the connection between the audience and his characters. Walt was one of the first to push the cartoon industry into developing character personalities. In some of Disney’s first full length animated films, such as Pinocchio and Bambi, the first half hour involves hardly any plot at all. He just allows us to be introduced and get connected with his characters.

At the beginning of Pinocchio we are introduced to the cynical Jiminy Cricket and see him observe Pinocchio being turned to life. The whole movie is character driven. Walt does not do anything without the purpose of helping us understand Pinocchio more. The story line is simple; a toy puppet who wants to become a real boy. The first act consists of us understanding the toy maker Geppetto’s wish to have a real boy and seeing Pinocchio come to life to potentially fulfill that wish. The second act consists of Pinocchio’s wrong turns in his pursuit of becoming a real boy. The third act is about Pinocchio finally realizing his mistakes and setting out to save his father from Monstro, the whale. As a result Pinocchio sacrifices everything. The blue fairy comes and revives Pinocchio and turns him into a real boy creating the happily ever after ending.

Let me break it down for you. In the first act we are introduced to the environment and the characters. As Brian McDonald puts it, “It tells the audience everything they need to know to understand the story that is to follow”. In the second act the story actually begins. Everything should be cause-and-effect based on what happened at the end of act one. In Pinocchio the end of act one was hearing Pinocchio’s ambition to earn the right to become a real boy. The second act consists entirely of the mistakes Pinocchio makes in his efforts. If you are thinking it in visual terms, the second act consists of the climb to the top of the mountain.

The third act is when the character makes it to the top of the mountain only to find out he needs to face a dragon in order to survive. In Pinocchio’s case it was a whale. The third act begins at what ever point sets off the chain reaction for the climax of the picture. In Pinocchio you can say the third act begins when Pinocchio sets out to find his father. After defeating Monstro the whale and saving his father there is one scene showing Pinocchio being turned into a real boy and Jiminy Cricket closing the book to a happily ever after ending. As McDonald says, the key is to not have too much story after the climax of the film, just enough to let us all know life goes on.

The Pinocchio story was not overly complicated. As I said before, Walt was an expert at simplicity in his plots. However this does not mean the movie was easy to make. Disney and his artists worked very hard to figure out the meaning behind the stories he was telling. Creating meaning is actually the hardest part of storytelling. We as storytellers need to have something relevant to say.  I will touch up more on this subject in my next Invisible Ink post.

Instead of putting extra time into making a story more complicated, find ways to simplify it. Simplicity is key. What the audience wants is an interesting world to explore and characters to get to know. Understanding this is crucial. Plot can often get in the way of these things.

Just like the drawing on the top of the post, you must get rid of all the lines that are not necessary for telling the story you want to tell. With the medium of animation in general the filmmaker’s job is not to create a realistic replica of life. The filmmaker’s job is to simplify until all we see is a few lines that describe the characters and environments on screen. This simplicity allows the audience to follow the characters’ movements more easily and not get distracted by the backgrounds. Storytellers could learn a lesson from the medium of animation. All animation is, is a few lines that move creating the illusion of life. All storytelling is, is a few words put together in order to let our imaginations run free. Too many lines or too many words can ruin it all.

Invisible Ink-Beginnings

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 4, 2011

I just started reading this insightful book by Brian McDonald called Invisible Ink (Click on the title to go to the Amazon page). In a effort to understand the book to a fuller extant I am going to start a series on what I have personally gotten out of reading each chapter. So each one of the posts that come from me studying this book will start with the title “Invisible Ink”. However, my goal is not to copy and paste from the book. My goal is to use this blog as a testing device to see if I am able to own the material I am reading and give you my personal perspective on what Invisible Ink means.

I have found most of the lessons in this book, so far, are not new to me. However, Brian has expressed them in such a structured way that I have found them easier to understand.

As Brian McDonald puts it, “Invisible ink is the writing below the surface of the words”. It is crucial before we get too far into the facts of the story we are creating, we think about the meaning behind it. When we are able to figure out the meaning of our story everything else starts to fall into place. Film is not just made up of duologue and the dialogue we do see can never be taken at face value.

All the obvious points of a story need to have a greater meaning that are not obvious to the audience. When we look at a movie like Pixar’s Up, we don’t just see a story about a old man flying his house with balloons. We see a story about a man who wants to go on an adventure and flies away in his house because he wants to get away from the rest of the world. In essence the flying house represents a need to be alone along with a need to uproot oneself from tradition in order to experience the world or life in general in a new way. The grand adventure the old man Carl and his neighbor Russell go on is only a story device to make them, along with the rest of the audience, understand the beauty of the quite moments in life.

The underline meaning of a story is much more difficult for one to figure out. But here lies the key to great storytelling. The true beauty of a story comes from the invisible ink. It comes from the things that are not necessarily said but are communicated through the foundations of the story and characters you have created.

You as a person might be able to talk the smooth talk and have all the right looks on the outside. However, if what you say and what you do does not ring true with others on the inside you will quickly be forgotten. The same concept goes with storytelling.