A Dreamer Walking

Free Film School!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on August 4, 2014

I am sad to announce I am taking a blog break. I know it probably looks like I already took a blog break. I mean come on! I was on such a role for a while posting a paper every week or less for several months. But then summer came. The time I was supposed to be the least busy I ended up doing a bunch of things. Only half of the stuff I ended up doing was really productive, but the bottom line is I have really let down the few followers I have for this blog and I do apologize for that.

So I will be taking the rest of the month off and then try to maintain a post a week from the beginning of September to the foreseeable future. I thought I would leave you guys however with a bunch of links to really productive information and study material for those interested in the foundations of film and storytelling.

Filmmaking:

  • Cinephilia and Beyond: This might be the most valuable resource out there for all things film. Cinephilia is on a unstoppable mission to find as many interviews, articles, and documentaries on filmmaking around the internet. If you have a particular filmmaker in mind just do a search on Cinephilia’s site and you will most likely find a huge archive of information. P.S. you should also follow Cinephilia on Twitter!
  • DP/30: My advice is for you go get a pen and paper and start taking notes on interviews. David Poland has been able to accumulate hundreds of hours worth of interviews of some of the biggest names out there. His subjects range from actors, writers, directors, and sometimes a popular Cinematographer or Editor. Because of the length of his interviews (majority of them going 30 min or longer) Poland is able to go into much more depth then an average interview has time for. Poland studied filmmaking in collage and has a deep knowledge of it’s history which only helps raise his interviews to another level.
  • The Treatment: Elvis Mitchell is yet another great interviewer who is determined to go beyond the common insights a writer or director gives in most of their interviews. You can also find Elvis’ more recent interviews free on iTunes.
  • 35 MM: Here is a Vimeo group that collects tones of Vimeo videos dealing with film. These are a little more hit-or-miss but there are certainly some gems worth looking into.
  • Steven Benedict Podcast: How this guy isn’t known by every cinephile out there is beyond me. Though considerably short compared to other material I linked to, Benedict is a true student of film and gives deep insights on each one of the movies he goes into. My suggestion is you download his podcasts on iTunes and listen to them while on your way to work or something.
  • [micro] TUTORIALS: Here you can find a vast archive of film production tutorials. [micro] is determined to provide you with a wealthy amount of free information to get started in digital filmmaking. Their subject matter ranges from pre-production through post-production and will give the beginning film student many hours worth of material to study in order to make his or her first film.

Animation:

  • Deja View: This is the sight of the famous animator Andreas Deja. His knowledge of animation history (especially Disney’s history) is superb. As the lead animator for classic characters like Jafar from Aladdin, Scare from The Lion King, and Lilo from Lilo and Stitch its obvious he has a vast understanding of the principles of animation and with everyone of his posts he goes into more and more detail about those principles and the animators responsible for creating them.
  • Temple of The Seven Golden Camels: The author of this blog, Mark Kennedy, is a storyboard artist for Disney Animation. Unlike most animator blogs I visit, Kennedy is determined to go into detail about the nuances of telling good stories. His focus usually is storyboarding which basically means he goes into all kinds of different principles of animation- staging, costuming, action, design, etc… Though sometimes long winded it’s obvious Kennedy knows his subject matter and he provides valuable insight in each one of his posts.
  • Splog: Sadly this blog hasn’t been updated since February. However, I am sure you will find enough in the archives to keep you busy for several months. Michael Sporn and his artists give a much more well rounded example of the history of Animation and many of the blog’s posts go into great detail about well known and long lost pieces of animation through out it’s rich history.
  • Podcasts: Rather then pick one of these I thought I would just link to several of them. Here are several valuable podcasts on animation I have listened to through out the years. Each one features interviews of people working in the field of animation and are quite valuable for anyone interested in going into the field themselves. I will post the links to their sites but the majority of the podcasts can be found also on iTunes. 1. The Animation Podcast 2. Spline Doctors 3. Speaking of Animation 4. iAnimate.

Writing:

  • Writing Excuses: Each fifteen minute podcast carries a wealth of information about writing and story structure. The podcast is also extremely entertaining and quite humerus. The four hosts are all well known authors and have a great chemistry with each other. They are usually able to cover a lot of ground with the little time they have. The podcast has also been around since 2008 and thus has a huge archive. I suggest you subscribe to their iTunes page; they post a podcast consistently every week.
  • The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith: Here you will find interviews all kinds of writers across the medium of film. Jeff Goldsmith is a wonderful interviewer with a great upbeat attitude. Best of all is he knows story and the questions he asks are always informative and allow us deeper into the creation process. His lengthy archive can be found on iTunes as well.
  • Scriptnotes: John August and Craig Mazin are two established screenwriters in Hollywood and every week come out with a full hour long podcast covering all things writing. The two personalities work wonderfully with each other and they also at times have guests who share their personal insights on how to be a screenwriter in the daunting world of Hollywood. Not only do these guys have good screenwriting advice they go into the politics of working in Hollywood. Here is the link to their iTunes page.

Film Criticism:

  • The /Filmcast: This is one of the most enjoyable podcasts I listen to weekly. The hosts, David Chen, Devindra Hardawar, and Jeff Cannata are all bonafide film geeks who love talking movies. David Chen is one of the best hosts out there; someone who can just be himself while keeping a strong grasp on the conversation so it doesn’t get out of hand. I listen to these guys more for entertainment, but occasionally they can provide some fantastic insight on the film premiering that week. And due to their “What have you been watching?” segment I occasionally hear about a really interesting film I would never have discovered on my own. The best way to listen to these guys is via iTunes.
  • Filmspotting: This is the modern day version of Siskel and Ebert. Though maybe not quite as oppositional and competitive the two hosts, Adam Kempenaar and Josh Larsen, do a wonderful job expressing their thoughts on the latest movie of the week. Rather then go with the typical blockbuster Adam and Josh usually concentrate on more Independent films. A common visitor of the podcast is the famous critic Michael Phillips who was also a common visitor on Roger Ebert’s Ebert Presents show. The show is now known for ending with their top 5 list which allows the audience in on just how vast these critics knowledge of filmmaking is. This is by far the podcast with the largest archive, just recently celebrating it’s 500th episode. This is also a great podcast to listen to on iTunes.

Well there you have it. These links have turned out to be invaluable in my pursuit to becoming a great storyteller. It’s just a small example of how much you can learn for free outside the realm of a collage. I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave a comment if you have links to more valuable filmmaking resources!

Bill Peet- Storyboard Artist- Song of the South

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 23, 2014

Song of the SouthThis is a drawing from the great storyboard artist Bill Peet. He is considered by many to be the greatest to ever live. In all honesty he is a storyboard artist from a time long past. With most features today you don’t see this kind of detail, composition, and character work in storyboards. Most storyboard artists in animation still try to express character and work with composition, but they need to make literally hundreds of drawings to complete their scenes. Because the director wants to see more detailed action from the storyboard artist they do not have as much time to work on the fine detail of any one drawing. In the 1930’s and 40’s, when Bill Peet came to Disney, storyboard artists just drew a few dozen drawings for an average scene.

Bill Peet believed in telling stories through visuals.  Walt saw Peet’s talents early one. He sent Peet to the story department for Pinocchio (1941) and he mostly stayed there until his work for The Jungle Book  was denied by Walt for a lighter version of the story in 1964. Walt and Peet had fights through out their careers. Peet considered himself one of the only people who actually was willing to stand up to Disney. In the mid fifties through the sixties Peet began to grow concerned that Walt wasn’t as in tune with animation because of all the other things on his plate (Walt was in the middle of creating Disneyland and developing live action movies and television shows). I believe Walt also understood he was growing busy because he gave Peet more authority over his stories. 101 Dalmatians (1961) and Sword in the Stone (1963) movies were story boarded entirely by Bill Peet, a feat unheard of in today’s animation world.

Peet claimed Walt always saw storyboard artists like him as expendable while over idolizing the great animators at Disney. Some say Walt did this because he knew how to tell stories but could not animate worth a darn. I do believe Walt was the best storyteller in the Disney studios, but I don’t agree with Peet when he suggests Walt didn’t value his talent. I understood just how much Peet was valued by Walt when I learned about Peet participating in the 1941 Disney strike. Whether it was justified or not Walt considered all the people who participated in the strike traitors of his generosity and friendship. None of the big animators who participated in the strike continued to work for Disney. Walt even named some of the lead strikers at the House of Un-American Activities Committee when he was called as a friendly witness. The strike hit Disney hard and he was never the same afterword. However, for Walt to accept Bill Peet into the studio after the striker suggest he had a tremendous respect for his storytelling abilities. To have Bill Peet constantly confront Walt and Walt resist firing him also suggest a respect.

In terms of this feature Song of the South, Bill Peet was given the time to develop each drawing. He was allowed to make every one of his storyboard drawings be an inspiration for the character designers, layout artists, and animators work. Look at the way Peet captures these characters personalities. The action is clearly expressed. The world feels completely formed. Even though this is a simplistic pastel drawing, it feels much more detailed. Peet drawings in a way that allows the imagination to fill in the rest of the action. He doesn’t direct the animation by giving a pose for each second of movement but rather inspires the animator to find a movement that best fits the feeling you get from looking at the drawing for the first time. This shows Bill Peet at his most playful and the final animation for the film is just as inspired.

Taxi Driver-Extra Features Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 27, 2011

Taxi Driver:

Collectors Edition 2-disc DVD Review:

Martin Scorsese On Taxi Driver: 8.5 out of 10: This is a very good 16 minute interview with Martin Scorsese. He explains his feelings on the project as best as possible. Martin talks about why he wanted to direct Taxi Driver and what he got out of it. He also goes into detail on what influenced him. Martin names several directors, from Francesco Ross all the way to Alfred Hitchcock, as being strong influences for Taxi Driver. This feature is not about how Martin approached each shot or how he got the film accomplished. The feature does have a tremendous amount of information of what Taxi Driver meant to Scorsese. I think it is good that this interview is taped many years after the making of the film. He seems to have had time to think about the reasons to why he did Taxi Driver and why it was a success.

Producing Taxi Driver: 7.5 out of 10: A good 10 minute look at how the Taxi Driver film was started. You hear mostly from producer Michael Phillips on what the movie meant to him. We are told that the movie was very controversial but sadly do not hear of much detail to why. We also see why some of the filmmakers were attracted to the film. There is a nice little look at the new generation of filmmakers that were coming up from the 1960’s and 70’s.

God’s Lonely Man: 9.5 out of 10: This is a great 25 minute documentary on the origins of the Taxi Driver film. We go into the life of the screenwriter Paul Schrader and see how the film was created from his own personal experiences. He talks about the foundations of the main character Travis why he was appealing to him. Paul gives us a lot of insight to what the philosophy is behind the screenplay. He talks in detail about what he thinks the job of a screenwriter is and what it is not. This documentary is a must for anyone studying screenwriting. The documentary helps us understand Taxi Driver in a much deeper way.

Influence and Appreciation: Martin Scorsese Tribute: 8 out of 10: This is a great 18 minute documentary on Martin Scorsese. It talks a little about how he got associated with Taxi Driver. They talk about him as being a student of film who always had a independence and exhilarating energy for filmmaking. We hear a lot about the kind of influence Martin was on the rest of the Taxi Driver crew. It is a documentary about why Martin is such a good director, only concentrating on the making of Taxi Driver and before. I wish they used the Taxi Driver as an example more often. I wish they went into more specific examples of how Martin’s shooting was revolutionary for his time. All in all a very good documentary. It was very well told and I liked hearing about the revolution in the 70’s for Hollywood filmmaking.

Taxi Driver Stories: 7 out of 10: A interesting look at a few New York taxi drivers. They talk about what taxi driving is all about for them. We hear how the business has changed from the 70’s to the present times. They explain what drew them to the job and some of them explain why they chose to leave the profession. It is a 20 minute documentary on some unique peoples lives as taxi drivers. Does not really have anything to do with the making of the actual film Taxi Driver.

Making Taxi Driver: 8 out of 10: This is a well made 1 hour and 10 minute documentary on all the stages of making Taxi Driver. All the way through the documentary we hear about the philosophy behind the film and how it resonated with the cast and crew. Many people talk about their role in the film and specifically how Paul Schrader, Martin Scorsese, and Robert De Niro pushed the film to be the classic it is today. Jodie Foster has some good things to say about her role as a 12 year old prostitute. She talks about what both Martin and Robert did to take her acting to a whole new level. Paul brings us a lot of insight into the meaning behind the movie. I would have liked to hear from Martin a little bit more. They never really get into much detail about the conflict that came with the film. I did enjoy hearing about Robert De Niro’s contribution to the film and what his attitude was as an actor back then. A good all a round look at the film making process.

Travis: New York: 5 out of 10: This was a okay look at New York in the 1970’s and how it has changed to present times. The documentary was very short however and not nearly enough of an explanation was given on how Now York has changed. We are told by some high up officials that the City has changed from back then to now. But, we don’t hear how it has changed or much of why. We are told that the City is Rich, but never are given a explanation. We also are not told why New York City is the place of opportunity, even though there are some interviews who say it is.

Story-Boards by Martin Scorsese: 8.5 out of 10: This is a fantastic 4 minute explanation by Martin about the beauty of storyboards. I really enjoyed it and think he explains well the general benefit of self made storyboards. We are given good explanation to how the storyboards help both him and his cinematographer understand how to go about shooting the film.

Commentary: By Professor Robert Kolker: 8.5 out of 10: Professor Kolker seems to have done his research on Martin Scorsese and Taxi Driver in this commentary. He makes us understand to a much higher degree why Taxi Driver is considered by many to be a great piece of Cinema. He goes into detail on how Martin uses the camera to push the story and it’s meaning forward. He talks about Travis and explains his view on many of his scenes for us. Sometimes it feels like he is trying to put meaning into things that never had any. But, for the most part we dissect the Taxi Driver movie and see a lot of the fine details that make the film great.

Commentary: By Screenwriter Paul Schrader: 7.5 out of 10: I have some mixed feelings about this commentary. First off, Paul does a good job giving us his unique and valuable perspective on the film. He mostly sticks to his thoughts on the script. One of the frustrating things was the long gaps without him saying a word. It really felt like he was only talking half the time or less. There were several scenes I very badly wanted him to talk about that he just skipped over. He does a good job when he does talk. Paul is very honest. He tells us what he thinks a screenwriters job is and what he thinks is not a screenwriters job. He has experience with both directing and writing, so his comments on what the directors job is and what the screenwriters job is, are very valuable. Overall I did get some valuable information from him, but wish he talked and discussed much more then he did.

From these extra features I think we get a very good view on the making and importance of the Taxi Driver. We hear a fair amount from all the major people who took part in the making of Taxi Driver. For me it was a great introduction to Martin Scorsese. I was able to see some of his passion for film. I was also able to see what got him started in the film business and how his philosophy started to change the rest of Hollywood. Paul Schrader and Robert De Niro were also interesting people to look into. Paul Schrader’s screenplay really was something else. This is just as much Paul’s movie as anyone else’s. I respected the trust that Paul seemed to have with Martin, it is a good look at how a screenwriter and director should work together. These extra features explain very well the reasons to why Taxi Driver is considered one of the greatest films ever made. It also inspires the independent artist to make his own film, no matter how gutsy the story is.