A Dreamer Walking

Leaf Lifespan

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on July 5, 2010


I found three leaves around the same spot that were in three stages of life. I decided to put them in a row and take a picture. Life goes buy so quickly sometimes.

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.

Fiddler on the Roof

Posted in Movie Reviews by Jacob on May 11, 2010

Fiddler on the Roof was a gamble especially during the time that it was made. The late 1960’s and early 1970’s was not a good time for big production films, Fiddler on the Roof was actually one of the only big production films being made at the time. The task of making a movie out of a stage play musical is easier said then done. There are many elements the director and writers need to work through in order to make the transition feel natural. When shooting the movie, Norman Jewison, the director of Fiddler on the Roof, ran into several problems with  the weather while shooting on location. There was a point in the process of making the film where Norman stopped shooting entirely because the weather was not doing what he wanted. This in turn made the MGM studio very frustrated with Norman because they were losing a lot of money.

Through the frustrations and hurdles of the making of Fiddler on the Roof came one of the greatest musicals ever made. Fiddler on the Roof will be one of those movies that I look to for inspiration before embarking on my own films. I think that the combination of powerful music, heartfelt characters, and touching story created a masterpiece that will be enjoyed for generations. Fiddler on the Roof is a movie that has reached through the test of time and cultures to become a classic in every sense of the word.

I think the heart of Fiddler on the Roof was driven by a great director. Norman Jewison was no veteran at making films. He had made less then a dozen in his career when asked to do Fiddler on the Roof. Norman freely admitted that he was no expert in the technique of filmmaking. However, Norman Jewison was an expert in the emotion of filmmaking. The characters and story is what Norman knew was going to connect the audience to the film. Even though Fiddler on the Roof was vast in scale and music it was driven by the characters and story. Norman wanted the music to push the story forward, he used the detailed sets and exclusive locations he had at his expense to bring a better emotion and reality to the story.

Norman might not have been an expert at the technique of filmmaking, but he assembled a team around him who were the best of the best at what they did. Norman had Oswald Morris as the cinematographer, who had just been nominated for an Oscar for his work on Oliver Twist (he won the Oscar for Fiddler). Two of the best illustrators in Hollywood, Harold Michelson and Mentor Hubnor, were brought on by Norman to story board the movie. Norman saw the talent of John Williams and brought him in to take the classic Fiddler on the Roof stage play music and adapt it to the big screen.

John Williams did a fantastic job adapting and conducting the Fiddler on the Roof music. Norman and John did most of the recording of music before filming the movie so the actors and rest of the team could use the music as inspiration and a blueprint of how to act while doing singing and dancing in their scenes. Every night before shooting Norman would listen to the music and get inspired. He said that he used that time to figure out what he wanted for the next day, so when the next day came around he already knew what he was going to shoot and what he wanted from his actors.

Norman tried to bring a reality to the music by not having many professional dancers and not having the dance routines completely rehearsed. Norman wanted each dance to look like it was made on the spot, he wanted the musical numbers to flow to and from reality smoothly so it looked like the songs were just another part of the culture.  Norman tried to get away from the theatricality of the stage play by having his camera men get in the middle of the dances so the dancers were limited in space and needed to improvise with what they were given.

Behind all the dance numbers and acting there was passion. The songs are memorable because the actors performing them were passionate about what they were doing and believed in the songs they were singing and dancing to. The music helped us relate to the characters and culture we saw on screen. Norman was not Jewish but he did do a lot of research on the culture he was trying to represent in his film. The movie takes place around 1910 in Eastern Europe  in a small town. The movie concentrates on the Jewish people in the town most of whom are consumed by traditions. The movie is about the breaking down of traditions where the main character Tevya is mae to test some of his strongest principals and beliefs out of love for his daughters and their happiness.

Both young and old could relate to the breaking down of traditions. The audience was able to relate to both the young and old characters in the movie.  In this movie we are allowed into the core of the main character Tevya. Tevya literally talks to us, the audience, immediately getting us involved with him as a character and the story he is in. We see the genuine relationship that Tevya has with his God, where constantly he shows faith by talking to Him through the good times and bad.

The Fiddler in Fiddler on the Roof, represented a symbol of the Spirit of Tevya and the rest of the Jewish people. Through out the film we see the Fiddler playing his violin, seeing if Tevya will still allow the music to bring him life. The Fiddler is a great representation that you can still allow your spirit to live through even the worst of times.

Norman Jewison said that when you are in charge of a movie you need to attack it like a lion, with conviction and courage that everything you are doing is RIGHT! Norman needed to tell his story, and trust in his emotions to what was right for the film. Topol, the actor who played Tevya, said that Norman would literally show you if he liked what you were doing on screen or not. If the performance was truly funny, Norman would laugh. If the performance to Norman was truly touching, he would show it through tears or excitement.

In the making of Fiddler on the Roof, Norman Jewison followed his convictions and his voice was heard. We were told a very personal story where we got emotionally involved with the characters around us. The movie made me take a look at the other side. I needed to see the older generations thought process and convictions just as much as my younger generations. Fiddler on the Roof allows us to see the world in a different light and it gives us hope that through even the hardest of times our spirit can still dance to the music of life.

Johnny Depp

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies by Jacob on April 27, 2010

Johnny Depp is a very interesting fellow. But, I think that one goes without saying.

When I started to research Johnny, I found out that he has always been drawn to characters that had flaws, that were considered by many “losers”. However, in the beginning of Johnny’s acting career, he only took roles to support his first love, music. Because Johnny did not take acting seriously or as something he was wanting to go places with, Johnny excepted roles that did not necessarily draw him in. The first big hit Johnny got as an actor was playing one of the lead roles in the hit TV show 21 Jump Street. By taking this role Johnny became a Teen Idol. He became a product of Hollywood, something that he was extremely uncomfortable with.

After getting out of the TV show 21 Jump Street, Johnny began to take acting seriously and he made a promise to himself, that he would stay true to his path and not steer away no matter the outcome. During the next decade Johnny picked some very unique roles all were different from each other. One thing did stay the same, all the characters would be considered outcast by most of our society.

Johnny got a lot of recondition for his talent when he played the character Edward Scissorhands in the Tim Burton 1990 movie Edward Scissorhands.  It was a pretty big deal for a young actor like Johnny to be cast in the main role of popular Directors film, like Tim Burton’s. Tim Burton took a liking to Johnny and cast him as a main character, in many more movies in the future. We see Johnny go from being the cowardly Ichabob Crane in Tim Burton’s 1999 film  Sleepy Hollow to the evil monster Sweeney Todd in Tim Burton’s 2007 musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Johnny talked about having a different language with Tim Burton, where both of them finish each others sentences and knew what each other wanted without needing to verbally pick at each others brains.

Johnny said that Tim Burton is able to give you suggestion and plant seeds, but still allows you to be free with your acting. Freedom is what Johnny wants the most with his acting. In every character he has played, Johnny seems to take the character places that most Directors would be uncomfortable with. Johnny talked about the “first impression” you get while reading a script or listening to a story, being a gift. Johnny is big on letting his first impression guide what he does. He takes characters in mostly unique places so you never know exactly what is going to happen or how the character will turn out. Most executives and even directors are scared when they do not know the results, it means they are not in complete control. With Johnny’s acting, you do not know what the result will be, the executives and directors need to rely on the talent of the actor.

Johnny has shown much talent through out his career. His dedication to stay true to himself has allowed him to go down paths that very few Hollywood stars can walk. Johnny has made it a priority to know the story the Director wants to tell, so that his performances can help push the directors vision forward. This balance of taking the role in his own direction but also staying true to the directors Vision, is what I think makes Johnny such a good actor.

In every movie Johnny has done, he has put the Character he is portraying first. He said that he strives to be a character actor. Johnny is not huge on the prince charming who does all the great action but does not have any depth as a person. As I said before, Johnny took a liking to the outcast. Most of the films that Johnny did at the beginning of his career were not considered the “happily ever after” kind of stories. In fact, many of the stories he did showed a pretty accurate but negative  look at the world.

Johnny’s seemingly negative look at life did not interest me. I do not understand why you make a film just to show how bad things are. I listened to Johnny talk a few times in his young career and he seemed to be a very sad man. Johnny was hurt by Hollywood and by how aggressive the paparazzi were toward him and his family. Johnny said that he never had many friends during his childhood, everyone considered him a bit odd. Something however happened during the second half of Johnny’s career. He still was picking characters that were very unique, but I began to see a life in these characters, that I did not see in the past.

Johnny began to act in movies such as Chocolate, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Finding Neverland, where there was a life the characters he played. I was especially touched in the movie Finding Neverland, where Johnny played the main Character James Barrier. James Barrier was the creator the the stage play Peter Pan and Johnny played the role magnificently. In this movie Johnny played a character who was about living life through the power of the imagination. In this role I finally saw Johnny play a man who stood for life no matter how hard it got.

In 1999 I saw an interview of Johnny Depp. They asked him what the most important thing to him was, and Johnny replied, “Family is Everything”. Johnny then talked at length about his daughter just being born and how she meant everything to him. Johnny said that his daughter being born was like breathing for the first time. He seemed to finally find a reason to live and a reason to create the stories that stood for life. Johnny talked about roles like Captain Jack Sparrow being for his children.

This “hope” that Johnny seems to have found is what I like the most about him. I think that Johnny Depp is a extremely talented actor, and occasionally he puts that talent to good use when he creates characters and works on movies that have life at the center.

   

Finding Neverland

Posted in Movie Reviews by Jacob on April 25, 2010

Finding Neverland is a wonderful movie about the power of imagination and friendship.

The movie is loosely based on the true  1904 story of James. M. Barrie and how he created the story for his stage play (and later book) Peter Pan. The filmmakers said that they were inspired by true events but never wanted to have the movie be an exact representation.

No matter how true the movie was to the real event, Finding Neverland was a great film. The movie deals with some very mature issues. We are introduced to James Barrier in a very depressing time in his life. He just has had a play flop at the theaters and his marriage seems to be declining. Through the efforts of trying to make a new and successful stage play, James runs into a family consisting of four boys and a single mother. The mother of course has her hands full with four children, so James decides to help out. There are many things that interests James about the family, he find great qualities in all the children, but James takes a particular liking to one boy named Peter.

Peter is a boy around age 9, that has sadly already grown up. His father died from a sudden illness and Peter has never been able to deal with what happened. Peter is a boy who does not want to show his hurt and because of that he has hidden himself away from anything that could give him life and then be taken away again. James is able to impress most of the children though the power of his imagination, but Peter stays reluctant to buying into James stories and imagination. I think that James sums up Peters problems at the beginning of the film by telling him, “With those eyes lad you will never see”. Peter has cut ties to everything that could hurt him and by doing so, Peter is blind.

The beauty of the film for me was how James was able to let Peter become a kid again and see. James makes Peter realize that you truly lose those you love by cutting ties with them, but when you allow them to be part of your life and infect who you are, they will never leave. James uses a journal that he gave him as an example. James points out that those people who Peter loves will always be in the pages and stories he creates. James shows Peter that the imagination is is the gateway to those he loves, no matter where they are physically.

Mark Foster was the director of Finding Neverland. I think he filmed the movie quite well. There was a curtain rhythm to the way he shot each scene. Mark talked at length about how he thought the way the director and actors staged each scene has a just as much to do with getting the audience into a rhythm as the music and cutting. Mark let us as an audience see James imagination. When ever there was a scene of James playing with the kids, we went to and from reality and James imagination. Mark was able to show us someone who was not limited by reality, we saw that James had a imagination full of  creativity that infected the people around him.

Mark talked about approaching the film from a child’s eye. He and the rest of the crew did this with great success. The basis of the movie was about holding on to that child within and never letting your imagination die. This is one of those movies that touches on one of the cores of what life should really be about, because of that I think it will always be relevant.

Finding Neverland is able to give you new eyes. You will see the power the imagination holds and how it can be a light in the hardest of times.