A Dreamer Walking

A True Artist

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on August 19, 2011

Did you know I do not like Alfred Hitchcock very much? Yes that is right, I do not like the master of suspense. The thing is I am fine with calling Alfred the master of suspense. He has done some brilliant things with suspense. My favorite movie of his is Psycho. I was dreading every turn in that movie. Killing off the main character half way through the film was brilliant. You had no idea what was going to happen after that. Hitchcock could give you a fright like no one else in the film business. However, none of this stuff makes me think Hitchcock was a great filmmaker. I personally think he was a very shallow filmmaker. After watching Psycho I was ready to eat not think.

Hitchcock’s films never felt like they went very much farther then the movie theater. They were admirable from a filmmaking standpoint but not from a personal standpoint. His suspense and storylines all felt like a means to an end not a beginning. I was reviewing a interview the other day on the artist Ralf Eggleston. He is a art director at Pixar. He talked about the importance of getting the idea down. He explained if you are not doing your art for the idea and emotion but only to make it pretty, it is not worth your time. Even though he was talking about the art of animation in his interview I think what he says applies to filmmaking in general. It is not good enough to have one of the two. If we create a movie with a lot of emotions, like Hitchcock did, but there is no real idea behind your film it won’t be worth much. If you create a movie with a lot of good ideas but don’t get the audience emotionally involved, we won’t care. Filmmaking is about the emotion and idea. Only when it is about both the emotion and idea, does it stop being a “nice thought” or “pretty picture”, and become something that will impact generations.

Most filmmakers these days don’t need to worry about falling low on the “emotion” aspect of movie making. They have all the tools to take us on an emotional roller coaster ride. However, most of the emotions they give us are pretty shallow. They know how to give us magnificent action sequences, luxurious love scenes, and gut wrenching shock moments. However, the ride ends as soon as you leave the movie theater. Their films usually do not satisfy because they don’t make us think. The audience is not as stupid as most movies these days lead us to believe. We can think, we actually want to think. The great filmmakers know this and they create characters, stories, and worlds that can be explored far after the audience member leaves the theater. Painting should never be about just making something look pretty and neither should film. We should not do our job just to give the audience eye candy.

Filmmaking is a personal medium where the emotion and idea is everything. Your films will stand and fall based on the strength of the idea and how well you are able to connect your audience. You are not a great artist because you can draw a pretty picture. The piece of art does not need to be pretty, it needs to be impacting. A great artist is someone who can impact us through the picture he draws, paints, or films. I personally want to make films that impact and at times even change peoples lives.  A true artist is a servant to the idea not the audience. Just, usually the best way to express the idea is through entertaining the audience. The reason why I want to give the audience a piece of “entertainment” is so they can be open to the actual idea I am presenting. You want your films to be warm enough to have audiences feel they are allowed in. However, don’t show them everything they want to see. Show them something that will impact and challange their thinking. People go to the movies to see things they haven’t seen before. Our jobs as filmmakers and artists is to explore new ideas, show the audience new perspectives, and unlock their imagination.

Martin Scorsese – An Observation – Perfecter Of The Elements

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

Martin on rightI have just begun to appreciate Martin Scorsese’s ability to use both visuals and sound to enhance our understanding of what his characters are feeling. We are not just told what emotions the character is going through, we see it. The most vivid example of this is in Raging Bull during the fight scenes.

In many ways Scorsese is at his best in Raging Bull. We are literally transported inside the main character Jake LeMotta. During the fights when Jake is doing well we are right in on the action with him, as if seeing most of the fight from Jake’s point of view. The camera is steady and the image is clear. The lights glamorously applaud Jake as if he is the king of the world, or in boxing terms “The Champ”.

This clip from Raging Bull is a perfect example of how the camera, sound, music, and lighting, are all glamorizing Jake’s climb to fame.

This section of the film represents Jake’s professional career at it’s best. Martin tries to stay in the moment as long as possible by doing a continuous shot from the locker room to the ring. The farther down the hall we get the more we are able to hear the glorious applause for Jake. On top of that we have music playing romanticizing the moment. Everything is smooth and there is no extreme close ups. Jake is in total control and thus the visuals and sounds are supporting that control. It almost ends as quickly as it starts. The opponent gives up and Jake is now Champion with all the elements of cinema supporting his victory.

Now take a look at this scene, where Jake finally falls and gives up his title.

Immediately we can tell the audience is not quite on Jake’s side anymore. The punches to Jake seem louder and the lighting is much more dim. We even see steam coming from the fighters and the ring, as if we left the real world and are in some kind of hell. Finally we see Jake has given up. He drops his hands and beckons his appointment to come and finish him off while leaning against the ring. Then it happens. We leave reality completely. We get a shot of Jake in the middle of the frame, a abnormal, wide angled, and uncomfortable perspective. Everything  goes quiet (Martin understands sometimes the greatest sound is silence). Then the camera does a tilt down covering the opponent in shadow. The opponent sounds more like an animal then an actual human now, breathing in and out slowly. Behind Jake the steam is more visible then ever before. Jake looks almost distorted in the frame.

The beating begins. Everything seems to go extremely fast now. For the audience the fast abrupt cuts are just as painful as the punches. The camera lights go off like they are attacking Jake along side his opponent. The sounds of the journalist’s camera lights going off are like machine guns emptying out clips. We get extreme close ups of Jake’s face and the blood spurting out in all directions. It no longer matters whether the scene is realistic or not, what Martin cares about is the feelings and emotions he is expressing. We finally end seeing Jake completely destroyed yet still standing.

These are just a few examples of how well Scorsese uses his cinematic skills and experience to further the journey of the viewer. In his movies we will not always see deep attention to plot. All of Scorsese’s cuts will not match up flawlessly. Sometimes we might be frustrated with the characters he is trying to express or the story he is telling. But one thing is for curtain, Scorsese knows how to use the camera. He knows how to literally express emotions through the medium of film. Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Aviator are just a few other movies of Scorsese’s where we really are able to explore the inner being of one of his characters.

I think Scorsese does not care if we do or do not like his films. What he wants is for the audience to experience something unique and different. He wants to express himself through his films. He knows the best cinema comes from within.

(He is the LINK to my first Martin Scorsese “Observation” post)

Eric Goldberg

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on April 8, 2010

Eric Goldberg is an animator/artist that I really admire. He Has done some great stuff for animation, including being the lead animator for the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin and Lewis in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. I  respect what he thinks of animation in general and more importantly, what he thinks about telling a Story. His characters always seem to be pushing the story forward.

His greatest piece of advice is to believe your character exist. It is not about imitating the voice acting or imitating yourself, it is about expressing your character. The way Eric works is to do an extreme amount of studying on his characters before he even puts pencil to paper.

Eric also talks about the warmth of a character. Eric talked about the Genie and how so many people loved his off the wall actions, but Eric made it clear that what grounded the Genie and made him real for others, was the warmth you saw in him. When the Genie talks about being free, you can see that he believes in what he is saying with every action he makes.

Feeling the emotions is a big thing for Eric. When Eric animates he thinks more about the emotions of the character then the actual dimensions. Because of this we are able to see some really powerful extreme poses where you completely understand how the character is feeling. Any type of actor should be realizing what their character is feeling at all times. Too often I see movies (both animated and live action) where a character is walking or moving without any thought process to why he/she is moving the way he/she is. Because of the detail that Eric puts into the thought process of his Characters, I find almost every frame of movement entertaining. It gives me a reason to go back and watch it again.

On top of being the lead animator on the Genie and Lewis for Disney, Goldberg has also co-directed Pocahontas and directed two sequences in Fantasia 2000, The Carnival of the Animals and Rhapsody in Blue. His style of animating is truly unique. Eric went to Pratt Institute and Majored in illustration, he then went into the animation business in the mid 70’s and studied under legend animators such as Art Babbit (Lead animator of The Queen in Snow White, and Geppetto in Pinocchio), and Richard Williams (Director Animator for Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Eric’s knowledge of animation is outstanding and he has more importantly been able to express his knowledge through his work.

Here are some links to some interviews and lectures he has made on animation. VERY GOOD STUFF!!!

Animation Mentor Interview

Academy of Art University Lecture

Animation Podcast