A Dreamer Walking

The Future

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on May 15, 2015

“I dream for a living”

This quote comes from one of my favorite filmmakers, Steven Spielberg. It speaks to the essence of why I want to make films myself. If you think about it cinema has more in common with dreams than reality. Not just in the stories that take place in galaxies far far away or lands full of mystical creatures and magic, but also in the very form of cinema. The language of cinema was never developed to replicate reality. Rather the technique of filmmaking is more reminiscent of dreams then anything else. Cuts, lenses, and music are all used to entrance the audience and give them an experience they could never have in reality.

As a child I was someone who loved to live in the dreams of people like Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney. The stories they told made me laugh, cry, and filled me with wonder. Their worlds were so enthralling I would explore them farther in the back yard with my brother. Eventually we began to create our own stories in our own worlds. Little did I know at the time, I had the keys to fairyland and was never happier then when I was able to play beyond these invisible gates.

The sad part is I grew up. And growing up seems to require one to wake up. The famous writer L. M. Montgomery wrote,

There is such a place as fairyland – but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day.

The path to fairyland became harder and harder for me to find. Reality had too strong a grip on me.

I began to experience life; where the imagination was dwarfed by my struggles in school, inability to fit in, and the raw reality of the bigger picture. The world I actually lived in was overwhelming. Planes crashed into skyscrapers, countries declared wars, and governments had corruption in every corner. Who could dream in a place like this? The only result seemed to be nightmares. The ideals dreamt up by filmmakers such as Disney and Spielberg began to feel more like naive notions than anything else.

Still, throughout this time of growing up I never lost interest in telling stories and making movies. My gaze however turned from the idealists to the pessimists (though they would simply call themselves realists). Filmmakers such as David Fincher and Martin Scorsese caught my eye. At first I had a difficult time understanding my draw to them. I watched Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and couldn’t believe people hailed the movie as one of the greats. The main character was revolting and lacked any kind of arch. Fincher’s stories took place in a world of cynicism. The first movie I remember watching of his was Seven. The movie revolves around two detectives trying to find a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins as his catalyst to murder. Fincher never tries to deny these victims were guilty of these immoralities. Even the hero of the movie, played by Morgan Freeman, tells a woman she should have an abortion to keep her child out of the dark world they live in.

I soon realized Martin Scorsese and David Fincher interested me because they were unflinching in their mission to seek out the truth in the darkest corners of society. I resonated with the characters and worlds they created because I saw myself in them. Sure, I wish I could see myself as a flawless human being and the world I live in as this wonderful place where good always triumphs in the end. However, reality suggests differently and filmmakers such as Fincher and Scorsese were not afraid to highlight the dark side of this world; the side most of us would like to keep hidden.

Yet, even though these filmmakers looked at the world through a more cynical lens, they still kept a hold of the keys to fairyland. Scorsese and Fincher’s imagination was just as strong as my childhood inspirations in Disney and Spielberg. Their mission was never to reproduce the world we live in, rather a world where the truths of our society are seen even more clearly. With these filmmakers the camera was a paintbrush. And just like the great artists of the past their goal was to express humanity. Each cut, choice of lens, and use of music represented a stroke made to describe a greater whole.

The more my view of storytelling evolved the more I began to understand the words of writer Lloyd Alexander, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” Just because I had a stronger grasp on reality did not mean I needed to neglect my imagination. At the same time, I refused to get barred down by the dark truths of this world. My goal became to transform the society I lived in. For this is what I believe dreamers do best; they transform our reality through the visions they cast.

Here is where I must come back to the quote from L. M. Montgomery. It would be a true tragedy if she left her views about growing up on such a gloomy note. Yet she goes on from the quote above,

Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.

As dark as Scorsese and Fincher’s worlds may be and as pessimistic a commentary on life as their story may have, they still play pretend for a living. There is nothing about an artist that is necessary for our society to survive. Yet the artist knows better then anyone, deep down we were not made to survive we were made to live.

I would like to leave you with the words of poet, D. H. Lawrence. He gets to the heart of where I want to live as a filmmaker. “All people dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their mind, wake in the morning to find that it was vanity. But the dreamers of the day are dangerous people, for they dream their dreams with open eyes, and make them come true.” The greatest filmmakers are those who live in the world of the dream so they may cast their visions into the world of the real in order to inspire the world of tomorrow.

As someone who is determined to dream for a living, my greatest inspirations were filmmakers such as Spielberg and Disney. They taught me how to dream. Mentors such as Scorsese and Fincher helped give my dreams an edge. My task now is to cast my vision into the world and see what future my dreams hold

My Hero

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on March 12, 2015

This is my fourth attempt. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really have a good outline. But I know I don’t really believe that. Outlines have never been much use to me. But, most of the teachers in my life didn’t really care to understand how I learned. For most of my teachers, writing always needed to follow a specific process which I was never able to walk out well. Honestly, it is pretty crazy I can write in any kind of legible way, at all.

If I am going to accomplish this unsung hero paper I think I need to throw the rules out the window. I am not going to concentrate on a thesis. I am not going to follow an outline. And, I am not going to give a crap about whether or not I am using proper grammar… wait a second… okay, out of respect to my unsung hero, I will try to use proper grammar. The bottom line is, the only teacher in my life who got through to me about how to write a proper paper and express my ideas in a comprehensible way, was my Mom.

My Mother homeschooled me for the first thirteen years of my life. Sadly after telling people this I have a huge urge to explain exactly what “homeschool” was for me. I get this feeling few people have respect for the concept. Let me explain in the best way I know how. When I eventually entered the public school system my mother taught English at my high school. My older brother and I would have friends come to us and ask how we could possibly survive living at home with the monster we called, “mother”. She was a taskmaster in the classroom and she bled all over the papers her students turned in.

Yes, I know I need to explain, “bled”.

So let’s start with the origin story. One of the great unsung hero’s in my mother’s life when growing up was her Grandmother. Great Grandma Ferguson was not the typical kindhearted grandma who always had fresh baked cookies when you came to visit. She was an independent woman who wanted to do something valuable in the world at a time when society said her job was to stay at home and take care of her house and family. World War II allowed her to break away from traditional roles. She taught English in North Dakota after she was married and had her own children. When she and her family moved to Montana she worked outside the home and opened a woman’s sweater shop. Great Grandma had an expectation for excellence and the determination to contribute to society which she wanted to pass on to those she cared about the most, such as her granddaughters.

My mom told me about the times she used to send letters to her Grandma. Where the typical Grandmother would take the letter and post it on the fridge or tuck it away in a treasured envelope, my Great Grandma would send them back… corrected. She would write all over my mother’s page, pointing out the grammar errors and suggesting ways to make the piece of writing stronger. This instilled a passion in my Mom that she has since passed on to me– the desire to express herself well. Where many would simply give up and stop writing, my mom became bound and determined to become a better writer. It’s no surprise she went on to teach English. She has always claimed she wasn’t the greatest at English, but my Great Grandmother instilled something in my Mother I believe she wanted to share with others.

So now we get back to the blood. When correcting papers my mother uses a red ink pen. She covers each page with notes and corrections and then sometimes has the gall to say, “You did well”. No wonder she became known as a “taskmaster”. I told most of the students who complained to me that the red ink was from the actual blood of her veins. I always felt the red pen was used for dramatic effect and when you first look at her corrections one does feel quite overwhelmed. Most students felt my Mom graded their papers too harshly. Those who were used to getting “A’s” on all their papers began to realize my Mom required more than proper grammar and correct mechanics. I remember her going over dozens of papers and spending forty-five minutes to an hour grading each one. She graded content, dictation, organization, and style. Now, imagine all this dedication going to just four students rather than dozens. That is how homeschool felt for my siblings and me.

Sure there were weak areas where my mother wasn’t the greatest teacher. However, by no means did we get away with being lazy. When homeschooling during my grade school and middle school years my mother concentrated less on English and more on developing a sense of independence in her children. She encouraged us to work in the areas we were strongest. She quickly realized all my siblings learned differently. She knew an hour of physical activity was necessary for my older brother if she wanted him on task when sitting down for math later in the day. She knew some one-on-one time with my little brother would make him more enthusiastic about spelling afterword. She understood I would be much better at understanding material if I verbally talked about it rather than simply read about it in a book. For some reason my Mom gave us extra time during recess when we wanted to continue playing pretend. Little did I know at the time, but playing pretend would do more to get me started on a career path than any class I ever took. Suffice to say, I left home feeling confident in myself, understanding I had many gifts to give the world.

You would think we would be fully ready for public school when it came around. My first year out of the house was 8th grade. I need to admit, my 8th grade year is in hot contention for being the worst year of my life. The problem was I didn’t know how to play by the system’s rules. It didn’t take long for the school system to decide there was something wrong with me. Actually, three out of my mother’s four older children were diagnosed by the school system as dyslexic. Because my siblings and I had a difficult time with reading and spelling we were immediately considered as less then. I was put into a class for the mentally challenged. Every minute felt like a bombardment of patronizing explanations from my teachers. My counselors spoke to me like I was some kind of lazy drug addict who didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other.

My Mother would constantly meet with counselors and teachers to explain exactly what “dyslexia” meant. Unlike the vast majority of the teachers, mom did her homework when her children were diagnosed. She quickly realized dyslexia was NOT a disability. Rather it was simply a different way of thinking. She constantly needed to explain to teachers her kids did not need to be given easier material or be treated as if they were less than. What was needed was an understanding that dyslexics don’t think linguistically as much as they do visually, interpersonally, bodily kinesthetically, verbally, and aurally. When she spoke with my History teacher about my dyslexia and was bluntly told, “I don’t think your son has the capacity to understand my material”, my mom knew she needed to step in.

I was desperate to get out of the system. When I asked if my mother would consider homeschooling me my senior year, she jumped at the opportunity. What she didn’t realize was she was speaking to a kid who went through four years of mental abuse by the school system and wasn’t interested in traditional education. Not only did she need to deal with an insecure kid who questioned everything having to do with formal education, she also needed to deal with a school system and a father who felt she was making a major mistake. In fact, my grandfather told her quite bluntly she would be ruining my life if she chose to homeschool me again.

All this is what makes my Mother the hero I am determined to one day have the world recognize. It’s a moment you usually only see in the movies. The time when everyone else says it can’t be done. When the person who needs to be saved is all but gone. It’s here my mom came into my life and changed it forever. I went from a D grade student who didn’t know how to write a proper sentence to a 3.5 GPA college student who is now blessing you with the masterful piece of writing you see before you. My mom did not teach me by demanding I play by her tune or the school system’s tune. She worked tirelessly to figure out how I thought and what I felt. And, she used my strengths to build upon my weaknesses.

My mother gave me my voice. For this I am eternally grateful. The most unbelievable part is she is willing to do for all her student what she did for me. She devotes her blood, sweat, and tears to helping others learn who they are and how to express themselves. Sadly, in the vast majority of cases all she gets in return are frustrated students who feel she is too tough on grades. I can hardly stand it. But my mom, well, for her it is not about praise. The true hero only has one goal, and that is to help the other. I know of no person who helps others better than my Mom.

Akira Kurosawa – Director – Kagemusha

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on June 1, 2014

Kurosawa #1

This might be the most beautiful shot I have ever seen of Akira Kurosawa’s. And believe me there have been plenty of beautiful shots in this old legend’s career. Kagemusha (1980), which means “shadow warrior”, is chock full of great shots. The movie is Kurosawa’s third venture into filming with color and I believe his best. It is pretty amazing this is only his third film made in color since it was made in 1980 and Kurosawa had been making movies since the 1940’s. Those who don’t know Akira Kurosawa is a director from Japan and considered one of the greatest filmmakers to grace this earth. His movie Seven Samuri (1954) is hailed by many to be the greatest movie ever made.

With the movie Rashomon (1950) Kurosawa was able to put the cinema of Japan on the map after the movie won Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. The movie was one of the first time a filmmaker ever shot with the lens looking directly at the sun. Before this many thought film would burn up if you shot directly at the sun. However, after Rashoman the sun became a big theme in Akira Kurosawa’s work.

Getting Kagemusha made was extremely difficult. Kurosawa painted hundreds and hundreds of storyboards. He knew almost every shot of the movie before he even started shooting. He was just waiting to get backing for the project. Sadly at this time in his career the film industry in Japan was at a all time low and many considered Kurosawa to be passed his prime as a filmmaker. Thankfully however two successful young filmmakers from America, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, stepped in and helped finance the picture. This might have suggested to Akira Kurosawa there was some hope for the next generation. Though his industry might have given up on him, there was dedicated group of young filmmakers from the 60’s and 70’s who considered Kurosawa a legend in the realm of filmmaking.

In some ways I feel this shot is melancholy in nature. The troops in shadow look tired and defeated. Where during 1950’s Rushomon Kurosawa shot directly up into the sun that was in the middle of the sky, the sun now is setting representing and end of a way of life. Yet, the picture’s beauty is overpowering and the image of troops marching onto battle is quite inspiring. The deep oranges you see in the picture don’t feel like they represent doom as much as it represents a sort of beautiful momory Kurosawa wants us to keep a hold of.

Akira Kurosawa was a huge admirer of John Ford and Ford was known as the king of the master-shot. Ford told a very young Steven Spielberg that if he could learn why a shot is better when the horizon line is on the top of the screen or at the bottom of the screen instead of in the middle, you might just become a good filmmaker. As you can see Kurosawa places the horizon line at the top of the screen. There is no vast open space in this master shot. The world once full of possibilities is now coming to a close. This is an end of an age. In the movie it represents the ending of the Samurai. However, for Kurosawa I believe it means the moving on of an age in filmmaking. His light is about to go out, there are only a few more movies left in him.

The Battle Within

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on October 27, 2012

Film needs to impact us emotionally. We are drawn to stories because of the battle within. If the film does not impact us emotionally it will fade and be replaced. Three movies which can’t be replaced in my eyes are Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and Walt Disney’s Bambi. These are all films responsible for making me want to be a filmmaker and all of them are more than half a century old. Their outer stories are much different from anything I have experienced however their inner substance connects to the core of who I am. The themes in these movies transcend age groups and cultures.

When creating a story the last thing you should do is create something about normal everyday life. To be honest most everyday life is quite boring. Even those working in the military spend more of their time eating, sleeping, and walking around then participating in life threatening combat. No, if there is one thing the films of the past have shown us its that we don’t need to base our stories on the physical realities of this world. Films are supposed to be impressionistic. They are supposed to send us to new worlds where animals talk, ships travel through time, and dark wizards rule the earth. One of the reasons I admire animation so much is because none of it is real. Animation effects your emotions through a bunch of pixels created in a computer or through a bunch of drawings created with a pencil. How crazy is it that a pencil can bring life to a puppet, make an elephant fly, and give a beast a soul? The shapes and lines you see in animation are never meant to represent outer reality, they are meant to connect to the audience’s emotions. They add or subtract things based on whether or not they are relevant to the battle being portrayed within.

The outer part of your story must draw your audience inward. Sometimes you draw the audience in through creating an abstract world, sometimes it is through diving into the details of the world we live in. Some storytellers are afraid if they go into too much detail they will lose their audience. I believe the more detail you go into with your story the more you will hit on universal truths. We all have the need for happiness, joy, and love. We all go through times of sadness, bitterness, and anger. We all fight battle within ourselves about our lust for power and our need of humility. Dive deep enough into your stories to find these basic truths. Don’t hesitate going into a story because you think part of your audience won’t find it interesting or won’t like it. If you find the story interesting it is worthy enough to be seen. Find ways to make the story entertaining and push your audience’s comfort zones. Create worlds we haven’t seen before or dare us to look at the world  in a different light.

All the things happening on the outside of your story deal with the present. The inner battle involves the past and the future. We never fight for the moment. The fights are caused because of something that happened in the past and/or something that you want for the future. This is what I mean by “inner battle”, it’s the context in which the fight is taking place. The context must transcend culture and time. Your character.s battle must connect to what we fight in daily life. Even though Chaplin’s City Lights was made and takes place during the beginning of the depression, we are able to connect to the story because the characters express emotions independent of a specific time or place. Key themes such as the outsider in the lead character The Tramp, the power of kindness expressed through The Tramps concern for the blind girl, and prejudice seen in the movie through the separation of classes, are all things we can relate to a half century later. Chaplin uses his key universal themes to bring understanding on what it was like to live in the depression and as an outsider. Not only does he allow us to understand the battles we are facing today a little better, he also gives us insight to what it was like back then.

Great movies are able to bring us understanding. They remind us even though the battle on the outside at times couldn’t be more different, the inner battle is something we all face and understand. At the end of every story the conflict on the outside and the conflict on the inside collide. At the end of Bambi, Bambi  needs to face hunters and a forest fire in order to emotionally prepare himself to become the king of the forest. In It’s A Wonderful Life the main character George Bailey spends his whole life selflessly helping his town while all the while questioning his worth. At the end through the physical example of seeing life without George Bailey we are able to understand his emotional and spiritual worth.

There are many who would say The Movies are supposed to be an escape so the audience could forget about the everyday realities of life. I disagree. The Movies are supposed to be a reminder about what is important in life. They communicate even though we will go through rejection, physical danger, and feelings of self doubt, we can come out on the other side stronger. The Movies don’t take us away from the realities of this world they give us perspective and insight that brings understanding. We begin to understand the battle within is universal. The Movies give us the weapons and inspiration to fight it.

Walt Disney- An Observation- Worthy of Admiration

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on August 8, 2011

I was reading an interview on this man who spent more then thirty years working for Walt Disney. In a interview he said, “When you were having a conflict with Walt, you were having a conflict with someone who probably had more on the ball than you had, and whose judgment was probably better”. This might not be seen as a very huge compliment. It is nothing new, you have probably heard those types of compliments before. This however is not the only thing this guy has said about Walt. In other interviews this man has talked about how Walt was able to push artist to do things they didn’t feel like they were capable of doing. He talked about the phenomenal intuition and story instinct Walt had and how he was willing to put everything, even his life insurance, on the line to keep the studio and his dream alive. He called Walt a “genius” and a “brilliant storyteller”. This man said Walt was the kind of guy “who only comes along once in several generations”. Now we are getting to some generous compliments no matter who might be making them. However, I think the authenticity of these compliments is cemented by knowing who they came from.  The man who said all these things about Walt was none other then legendary animator Milt Kahl.

Milt was one of Walt’s Nine Old Men. Many consider him to be the greatest of the Nine Old Men. Milt was known for his dedication to perfection. It was a daunting and nerve racking task to clean up his drawings or to work on his inbetweens, out of fear that you might mess up his animation. He produced the final character design sheets for almost all the Disney full length features from the 1940’s-70’s. Most of the other big animators at the studio, including majority of the Nine Old Men, went to Milt for advice and help on working out complicated movements or designs. Milt was given the most complicated animation scenes. He needed to bring warmth to the puppet Pinocchio, he needed to give flight to Peter Pan, and give Madusa, from The Rescuers, her evil charm. If Milt thought an artist was being lazy he would let him or her know. He was known for his temper and not holding back a insult. He made it clear he thought most of his fellow Disney employees, especially after Walt died, were a bunch of  “lazy bastards”. I have heard stories of things getting so heated sketchbooks went flying. Milt was even willing to get into arguments with the big boss of the studio, Walt Disney.

See, Milt Kahl is not the kind of guy to compliment someone, let alone say someone is a “genius” or confess someone else might have better judgment then him. I have heard Milt Kahl complain about more then one of the Nine Old Men, and all those artists are considered some of the greatest to ever work in animation. Because I knew this about Milt, what he said about Walt truly impacted me. I heard a man who struggled with complimenting more then anyone I have researched (including Walt) give some of the greatest compliments a man could give. And I finally began to realize why. You see, even though Milt was a perfectionist I think Milt realized Walt was something more. Walt was a dreamer. Walt helped create the medium Milt strived most of his life to perfect.

After Walt died Milt kept on working at the studio. However, the films he worked on were not nearly as good as the films of old, such as Pinocchio, Bambi, and Landy and the Tramp. Milt had a limit. He only could perfect the material he was given. Walt however was the one with the limitless imagination, he was the one who created the material. After Walt died the material became much less precious. For Milt it was like trying to create a sculpture out of a block of mud rather then a fine piece of diamond. Milt had all the tools to create something that was visually stunning, however much of the visuals were lost because of the poor material.

Milt said in 1976, the year he left the studio, “Here I am, a person at the height of my powers, and I feel there’s not a place for me anymore.”.  Walt created stories that entertained and inspired. His philosophy was about creating better material for his artists to work with. After his death Walt’s philosophy was lost. Milt did not admire Walt because he gave out compliments, was a flawless leader, or because of his money and fame. Walt was admired by Milt Kahl because he gave him a place to perfect his art form.

I have been studying Walt Disney for years now. I want to understand what went into the creation of such fine material that resulted in great films like Pinocchio and Mary Poppins. I want to know what drove Walt to create even better material. Before his death Walt was moving from theme parks to cities. He wanted to create an art form that would be completely intertwined with everyday life. His creativity had no limits and that is worthy of anyone’s admiration.

(Here are the links to the material I quoted. First off is Michael Barrier and Milton Gray interview of Milt Kahl. Second is Side 1 and Side 2 of a lecture Milt Kahl gave at Cal Arts in 1976. Also, Pixar animator Carlos Baena has some great resources on Milt Kahl on his website.)

Spielberg Tribute

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on July 9, 2011

Here is a link to a GREAT interview of Steven Spielberg. It just happens that J. J. Abrams and James Cameron are asking most of the questions. Let me tell you guys it does not get much better then this. Grab a note pad and get ready to listen to some invaluable advice. When it comes to studying filmmakers you can not get much better then Steven. (Click on the photo to go to the video)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Thanks On Animation for the link)

Real Life

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on June 27, 2011

Well I got back from my vacation a few days ago. Sadly I have not written anything until now out of laziness and trying to get over a sickness. The vacation part was fun but the traveling part was not. I began to get sick about a week ago and the sickness was in full throttle while driving 1800 miles back to Montana from Kalamazoo Michigan. However, even though I felt sick through part of the vacation I could not help but feel inspired by most of the traveling and interaction with family members.

The vacation we went on was to our Grandparents living in Kalamazoo Michigan. We went for a anniversary involving my Grandma’s side of the family. The anniversary ended up being the most mediocre part of the trip. However, hanging out with my uncles, aunts, and grandparents was fantastic. The vacation actually reminded me of the most important lesson I have learned as a storyteller. The foundations of any storytellers stories must come from real life. It does not matter if the story is located in a far away land with dragons, fairies, and witches or in a futuristic land with aliens, monsters, and robots, what the story needs the most is something unique and personal. It is important to remember even though there have been stories about cowboys, fairies, and monsters before, there has not been anyone who has lived the life you have lived. When you take from your own personal life to create the foundations of your stories, you make any kind of story unique.

I have stories I am developing that are about  far away lands where the main characters are goblins, cavemen, and flowers. However, all of these characters are directly linked to my family and people who have influenced me in my personal life. Even the situations and themes of my stories are inspired by struggles and lessons I have learned in real life.

The life I live will be the key to unlocking the heart of the characters and stories I create. My greatest mission should be observation and a dedication to understanding. In the last two weeks I have been able to hang out with the people I care about more then anyone else in this world. I observe both their strengths and faults, and try to learn from them. In the end I realize they are the ones creating the characters in my head and making me want to tell stories for a living.

 

Martin Scorsese’s Favrite Movies

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 12, 2011

First off, I am sorry that I have not been updating this blog on a more consistent basis. I will try my best to remedy that.

I have been doing some research on Director Martin Scorsese. He is the next director that I have chosen to really dig into. I have bought the blu-ray’s of both Raging Bull and Goodfellas and plan on dissecting (looking into and abstracting as much information as possible) them both. At the moment I am looking into Martin’s movie Taxi Driver. I will try my best to get a review of the Collector’s Edition DVD up soon.

However, I have run across some Youtube video’s that I think are worth posting on this blog. It is a a three part all together about 25 minute interview on the movies that influenced Martin the most when he was a kid and a young filmmaker. He talks a little bit about how he inccorpuated some of the qualities of the movies he liked, such as The Searchers and The Public Enemy, into his own movies. I would suggest you do as I did and write down a few of these movies names. After looking at some of their reviews, they seemed like movies worthy of looking into.

This is really one of the things I like the most about Martin. He has a huge vocabulary of film that he seems to draw from in every piece of work he does. It is undeniable that Martin is one of the most intelligent film directors of his generations. The vast amount of knowledge that Martin seems to have in regards to how to use editing, the camera, the acting, and the music in order to bring about the vision for his film, is magnificent. He in himself is very much worthy of studying.

Walt Disney: The Inspiration for Great Animation

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies by Jacob on November 23, 2010

Here is a LINK to a letter that Walt Disney wrote to Don Graham, a art teacher from Chounaird Art Institute. Don was given the daunting task of leading art classes for Disney Animators. Walt was dedicated to perfecting the art of animation. He knew the better artists he had the better films he would produce. This letter shows you some of the things he wanted Don to teach his artists. Walt and his wife would often personally give artists rides to these classes since it was in the middle of the depression and few people had transportation of their own back then.

Many people have a hard time with Walt because they say he was not really a good artist. Walt was not very talented at painting or drawing. He stopped animating entirely in the late 1920’s. Walt did not create any of the beautiful drawings you see in so many of the “art of Disney” books. He didn’t even bring a pencil to his storyboard meetings.

However, this letter makes you realize that Walt knew his art form. Walt basically lays out the foundations of animation in this letter. He was not good at drawing, but he did know the animation medium. Walt knew how to direct his animators. He knew how to inspire them. With Walt you got more then the basic drawing that might inspire a way to animate a character or go about creating a scene. With Walt you had someone who could inspire whole films. His imagination produced literally millions of drawings and tons of classical films. Yes, his artists were the ones who did the drawings and without them the movies couldn’t be made. However, Walt was the person who drove everyone forward. He literally had hundreds of artists who woke up wanting to go to work each day because of his imagination and love for their medium.

Some of the greatest animated movies ever made were inspired by Walt Disney. Walt is a perfect example of not needing to be able to draw or paint in order to be a great artist. I think you will find his letter very insightful and inspiring. It was written in 1935. It is pretty cool when you realize Walt is laying out what became the philosophy behind the great animation you see in Snow White, Pinocchio, Bambi, and all the other Disney films that have come out since.

Foundations

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on May 30, 2010

I have been going over all my major story ideas and writing a paper on each of their foundations. I think that is is crucial for you to have strong convictions on what your films foundations are in order to make a good movie. There many good filmmakers out there, some who are very talented when it comes to cinematography, action sequences, music, and acting. But, if you do not have strong story foundations your film will not last.

Conviction is key to making a good story foundation. I have found that my stories are strongest when I am able to draw from real life. I have many convictions in life that I think is essential to express in my films. In no way am I asking anyone to be “preachy”, but do not make the mistake of being shallow. You need to be able to respect your audience, being “preachy” would not show much respect at all, you can not go about having your character telling the audience what exactly to think. However, being shallow is showing just as little respect, I have a duty as a filmmaker to not undermined my audience intellect.

I think it is important for me as a filmmaker to give the audience something to think about. I do not want the first thought after watching my movie to be, “What should we go get to eat?”. I want my films to make people think, make them ask questions and see stuff in a different light. All this happens if you have strong foundations. I have stories that deal with discrimination, addiction, and loss. I must do my research on these issues, I must be able to find places in real life to draw from so that I truly have something to say about these issues. Strong foundations are not easy to come by, it takes a lot of effort. However, your story will only be as strong as your foundations.