A Dreamer Walking

Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy – Screenwriters – 127 Hours

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 29, 2014

Danny Boyle

I am not posting this to talk about how great of a visual it is. Although I want to point out really quickly how director Danny Boyle is using the rule of thirds in the way he frames this piece. The main character Aron is placed perfectly at the right third of the frame and his eyes are at the top third of the frame which is considered the most pleasing visual placement a character could be placed. Our eyes go to him right away. The digital camera screen also represents another framing device to focus us.

The reason for posting this image is to talk about how brilliant of a writing device Aron’s digital camera was for telling the story of 127 Hours (2010). For those who don’t know 127 Hours is a movie based on a true story about Aron Ralston who got his arm wedged between two rocks in the Utah Canyons. Most of the movie takes place with just Aron trying to get out of the nasty situation he found himself in. This kind of situation sounds very un-cinematic really and would be a hard sell for a studio to finance. The only reason Danny Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy were able to get the financing is because they had both just earned a huge box office an Oscars for their last movie Slumdog Millionaire (2008). This movie could have easily have become boring in a hurry. Most of it revolves around just one character who is stuck in one place. Audiences usually rely on changing environments and character interactions to boost their interest. Danny Boyle and his crew needed to find a way to keep this situation interesting and let us know what is going on inside Aron’s head. Where in most situations the audience can get a clue about the psyche of a character through how he or she interacts with other characters Aron is by himself. Thus in comes the digital camera.

The digital camera is actually an item the real Aron had when he got stuck. The writers Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy were able to see some of the videos Aron had shot from his time stuck in the canyon. However, Boyle and Beaufoy were less interested in re-shooting exact footage of what Aron shot and more interested in using the digital camera as a tool to tell their story. During the movie Aron begins to turn on the camera periodically to give updates of his situation. We are first exposed to Aron’s more practical side. He explains how he has tried to get out, how his body is feeling, and how much water he has left. After a time Aron begins to go inward. He begins to talk about how stupid he was to not leave a note for where he was going. He begins to explore the idea he might not get out alive and uses the camera to express some of his regrets and say his final goodbyes. By doing this we get inside Aron’s head and are able to track his arc. The more malnourished Aron gets the more vulnerable he is with the audience. When he is giving his updates Aron is staring the audience directly in the face. The term used when a character does this is breaking the fourth wall. By doing this a special connection is created between the audience and Aron. The brilliant thing is the writers found a way to break the fourth wall without making us feel their main character is addressing an alternate universe like you see in most movies where they break the fourth wall – such as House of Cards and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Beaufoy said they would not be able to tell the story if they didn’t have Aron’s digital camera. The logs Aron makes serve so many different purposes. We also see the camera’s battery slowly going down suggesting there is only a limited time Aron has left. The great thing about movies like 127 Hours is it forces you to think outside the box. The goal is to allow the audience in so they can feel they are part of the Story. With Aron’s digital camera we were able to see Aron at his most vulnerable. It just goes to show working with limitations can be the inspiration for the most creative solutions.

Anthony Dod Mantle – Cinematographer – Slumdog Millionaire

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 17, 2014

Slumdog Millionair Title shot

Slumdog Millionaire is completely full of fantastic imagery. However, I thought I would concentrate on this one because it is quite literally the only time Danny Boyle chooses to dwell on a moment and freeze the frame.

There are a few things about the Cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, you might find interesting. First off Mantle was one of the first to start experimenting with digital filmmaking in Hollywood. He took on digital filmmaking in the 1990’s, far before it was a popular choice. He even said he resided himself to never get nominated or win an award for cinematography because the media industry was so against digital filmmaking at the time. Some big Hollywood names still refuse to got to digital (Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and Joe Wright to name a few).

Lucky for Mantle there were two filmmakers who jumped the boat quickly in terms of digital filmmaking; one was Lars von Trier and the other Danny Boyle. After his huge flop, The Beach (2001), Boyle was looking for something to reinvigorate him in terms of filmmaking. He began to look into digital film. He sought out Mantle and they have since become one of the greatest collaborators in the film industry. The point and shoot quality that comes with digital filmmaking was perfect for Boyle’s loose ‘shoot on the go’ style of storytelling. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was the perfect kind of subject matter for both Boyle and Mantle to exhibit their skills they had been developing since they first shot together on the movie 28 Days Later (2002).

With this shot particularly we see how the quality of digital film has advanced since the 1990’s. There is no grain in the picture and the colors are extremely vibrant. The title is introducing us to the world of the movie. Even though the boy you see is not the main character Jamal, he is representing him symbolically. Jamal is in fact the “Slumdog Millionaire”. However not everything in the frame is supposed to represent Jamal. The yellow you see actually represents Latika, the girl Jamal falls in love with. I think the yellow sun represents her spirit and the yellow font suggests she will end up falling in love with the “Slumdog”. If you don’t believe me in terms of the color, just look at the color of Latika’s dress when Jamal has his flash backs of her at the train station. Or look at the scarf she is wearing at the very end of the movie. Already the two characters are being connected symbolically. The last thing I want to highlight is the action. Even though this is actually a still image in the movie, it does imply action by having the boy be in the process of throwing the ball. This is an action film in the purest sense of the word. Almost all the narrative and characters emotions are communicated through their actions rather then duologue. From here on Boyle will be going a hundred miles an hour and rely on the audience to keep up. It is one wonderful ride.

Oh ya, I almost forgot. One of the greatest trivia facts about Slumdog Millionaire is it was the first time a digital film won best Cinematography at the Academy Awards. Congrats Anthony Dod Mantle!

Danny Boyle 127 Hours Links

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on August 3, 2011

I have been doing a pretty big study on director Danny Boyle. My favrite film of his is 127 Hours so I decided to find as many video as possible on him talking about 127 Hours and take notes. I thought I might as well share with you the ones I found most insightful. Relize, not all these videos will have Danny Boyle in them but they will all be concentrating on 127 Hours and the majority will be talking quite a bit about Danny Boyle’s directing style.

Sadly none of the video’s I watched can be posted on my site, so you will need to click on my links and go somewhere else to watch the videos. But they are well worth it.

DP/30: 127 Hours: Director Danny Boyle, writer Simon Baufoy, and producer Christian Colson: In this interview the filmmakers go deep into the storytelling process of the film. They talk about how they were able to use the limited resources they had to create a structured story that would entertain an audience for a hour and a half. They talked about what the lead actor  James Franco brought to the project. Danny talks the most in this interview. He talks about what attracted him to the story and what he learned through making the film. He especially concentrates on what he learned from working with James. The interviewer, David Poland, asks some great questions and seems determined like usual to get deep into the reasoning behind the making of the film.  The interview lasts thirty four minutes.

DP/30: 127 Hours: Director Danny Boyle, production/Costume Designer Suttirat Larlare: This is actually a good contrast to the last video. Instead of concentrating too much on the story they talk more about the art direction and production design of 127 Hours. Even thought Suttirat is a bit nervous she is able to give you a good explanation on what her job was for the film. She talks a little about how it is working with Danny, then she goes into how she visually tried to translate the story through costuming and set design. Danny talks about some of the principles he and the rest of the crew established for the film. The Interview lasts about thirty four minutes.

Making Of: 127 Hours: Writer Simon Baufoy: This is actually a great video of Simon talking about his journey into screenwriting. He also talks about the great benefit of making Aron Rolston’s true story into a drama instead of a documentary. Simon explains the difference between something being factually true and emotionally true. This is a great twelve and a half minute interview on Simon’s basic philosophy on screenwriting.

Making Of: 127 Hours: Production/Costume Designer Suttirat Larlare: Yes this is another interview with Suttirat. However she is by herself in this interview and gets to do a lot more talking. Suttirat talks quite a while about how she got into the film business and gives some useful advice for anyone else wanting to get into the business. She also expands on the problems that came with creating the main set for 127 Hours. The interview ended up being fifteen minutes long.

Making Of: 127 Hours: Directors of Photography Anthony Dan Mantle and Enrique Chediak: Oh how I wish this was longer. These guys say some good things about the visual style of the film. They talk about why it is so great to work with Danny and a little about how they used the visuals to tell the 127 Hour story. Sadly it is only a four and a half minute interview.

Direct Effect: 127 Hours: Director Danny Boyle: I believe this is a video worth watching because it covers some different aspects on Danny and his film philosophy. He talks about what he feels film is. He also talks about how it is impossible for him to judge his work and what he thinks about giving test screenings. The interview is only five and a half minutes.

First Showing: 127 Hours: Director Danny Boyle: I believe this is one of the first interviews Danny did  for the film and I believe this interview shows Danny at his most comfortable. He talks more about his philosophy on filmmaking and he seems to very much relate to the young interviewers. He talks about using two DP’s and how they rejuvenated the acting. He also expands on the importance of giving a film momentum. The interview is nineteen and a half minutes.

Obviously through some of these interviews you will hear the filmmakers repeat themselves. However, I feel they are diverse enough interviews to all be listened to and take notes on. It is actually a good thing in my opinion to hear someone say something more then once, because you begin to have the idea take shape in your head more clearly that way. I hope you enjoy the interviews as much as I did.

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.

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.