Archive for the ‘Films & Filmmakers’ Category

Keith Fulton / Brothers of the Head

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Keith Fulton — co-director, with Lou Pepe, of Brothers of the Headanswers indieWire’s questions today.

Favorite quote, both because of the Temple shout-out and the philosophy:

I made a bunch of experimental super-8 films in college and then attended an MFA program in film production at Temple University. Temple’s program encouraged its students to learn all aspects of film production and did not follow the industry model at all. There was no structure where you played at being “the director,” “the writer,” or “the producer,” an approach which I think is unhealthy. There’s enough time to experience the hierarchy of film business later on, and I think the most important education you can have if you want to direct films is to learn every aspect of the process.

Indeed.

On paper Brothers of the Head looks gimmicky (“conjoined twin rock and roll band mockumentary”), but it’s smarter than that — intense, demanding, and weird (as in “Ken Russell weird”). Definitely not your typical summer fare. Go see it.

Tom Schroeppel: SRF Interview

Tuesday, July 18th, 2006

You won’t find Tom Schroeppel‘s face adorning the cover of Film Comment, Filmmaker, MovieMaker or any other film magazines that champion American cinema, yet, in his own way, Schroeppel has exerted a quiet influence on aspiring filmmakers in film schools across the country for the last twenty-five years. How? As the author of The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video, one of the simplest — and by simplest, I mean best — textbooks to cover the basics of motion picture production.

When you get a copy of Bare Bones in your hands the first thing you realize is that Schroeppel’s not kidding with the title. It starts with the brown (think: “paper bag”) cover and block lettering. Open the book and you find text in double-spaced 12 point Courier font and simple hand-drawn images. The content is standard film/video textbook stuff, only it’s distilled to its most essential, readable essence. It’s like the film textbook equivalent of one of those incredible, out-of-nowhere independent films from the late 70s or early 80s. What it lacks in production values it more than makes up for in content and handmade charm. But don’t take my word for it — no less than Nestor Almendros called it “a marvel of clarity and conciseness.”

In true “self-reliant” fashion, Schroeppel took the DIY route to publishing and distributing the book. What’s unusual, though, are his sales, which are approaching 120,000 copies sold. When you stop to think about the number of student filmmakers that have learned about such basic concepts as “color temperature” or the “rule of thirds” from him, well, that’s what I mean when I say quiet influence.

After I decided to use Bare Bones this fall for the production courses I’m teaching at Virginia Tech, I approached Tom about doing an interview. Happily, he agreed, and over the last few days we emailed back and forth about his 89 page/$8.95 wonder, and its sequel, Video Goals: Getting Results with Pictures and Sound.

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Some folks call it the herd instinct….

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

… but in the movie business we call it “word of mouth.”

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Transcription Tools for Mac Audio/Video

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Here are two useful transcription tools for Mac users:

First, there’s Inqscribe, which lets you watch your footage and transcribe it at the same time. No more switching back and forth between applications, or using two computers. Haven’t tested it, but it looks promising. Free trial for 30 days, then $69.

The second is Transcriva, which is an audio only transcription tool. Same as above, but no video. I used this to transcribe the Joe Swanberg interview from a few days ago, which I had recorded using my iPod and iMic. It works like a charm. Cost: $20.

The LOL Team: SRF Interview

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

The biggest joke in LOL, Joe Swanberg’s second feature, may be the one that the filmmaker plays on the audience. Neither romantic (though there’s plenty of frank sexual content), nor a comedy (though there are many funny moments), LOL feels less like the rom-com that its title suggests and more like a digital age mash-up of Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game and David Cronenberg’s Crash ““ on the one hand, a humanistic, if occasionally bitter, social critique disguised as an ensemble comedy and, on the other hand, a chilly, unsentimental look at the ways that our fascination with technology (in this case, cell phones and the internet) keeps us apart when it’s meant to bring us together.

While Swanberg’s lo-fi digital images and casual sense of plotting may not achieve the cinematic heights of either of the aforementioned masterworks, LOL has a charm all its own. Some of that charm, no doubt, is a product of its production history: The whole thing was made by Swanberg and his friends in Chicago without a script for a mere $3000. What’s even more impressive, though, is how the movie starts as a comedy of awkwardness and gradually molts into a bleak satire with a mature, dramatic punch. For this, credit goes to the non-professional performers and Swanberg’s sharp editing of his improvised source material.

After premiering in March at South by Southwest (where it was very warmly received), LOL had its East Coast premiere at the Philadelphia Film Festival. The night after its first screening in Philly, I had dinner with Swanberg and two of his collaborators, Chris Wells and Kevin Bewersdorf. All three, as actors behind the improv, are credited as “co-writers.” (Bewersdorf also composed the soundtrack.) Among other things, we talked about improvisation, choosing one’s collaborators, and making a feature on the cheap.

Here’s some of that conversation:

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