Archive for the ‘Production’ Category

Dialect Resources for Actors and Directors

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

The lead actress of the new film I’m working on is doing some dialect research. She shared this link with me, and I just have to share it here. It’s the International Dialects of English Archive (IDEA). From their website, an explanation of the purpose:

The International Dialects of English Archive, IDEA, was created in 1997 as a repository of primary source recordings for actors and other artists in the performing arts. Its home is the Department of Theatre and Film at the University Of Kansas, in Lawrence, KS, USA; while associate editors form a global network. All recordings are in English, are of native speakers, and you will find both English language dialects and English spoken in the accents of other languages. The recordings are downloadable and playable for both PC and Macintosh computers.

It’s an amazing audio archive of dialects from around the United States. Maybe this is old news to actors, but it’s new to me, and quite exciting.

And, just in case you were wondering, we’ve been listening to Tennessee Eight.

Costuming Forms and Resources

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Wardrobing on my previous films has often amounted to browsing through each actor’s closet and, if they’re lucky, making a quick stop by the Goodwill.

For my new project, though, there are about 20 characters, not to mention 150 extras, all of whom we have to dress for a mid-19th century masquerade ball.

Just kidding.

In all seriousness, we’re going to have to do a little costuming for the new project I’m working on. It’s nothing elaborate — just a uniform for a baseball player — but a even single costume means taking measurements. I found the following forms online, and they’ve been useful for me. Maybe they’ll be useful for you.

How To Take Measurements

Measurement Form

The first form listed above comes from The Costumer, a costume rental house.

The second form comes from MIT’s OpenCourseWare website, specifically their Fall 2004 course entitled Costume Design for the Theater. I browsed the site for a few minutes. It looks like it could be a great, and free, resource for budding costumers.

Also, while I’m on the subject, MovieMaker Magazine had a pretty good article about low budget costuming last summer.

Finally, if you’re serious about looking at the art of the costume designer, it’s tough to go wrong with Screencraft: Costume Design. It is a good book and, as an added bonus, there’s a large photo of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman on the cover. Meow!

A Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking at William & Mary: Pt. 1

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

The College of William & Mary brought me to Williamsburg, Virginia this weekend to participate in a “long weekend of short filmmaking.” It’s been a busy, and rewarding, weekend.

Friday, after arriving to town, I was a judge at 24Speed, William & Mary’s variation on those twenty-four hour filmmaking contests that have grown in popularity throughout the country.

In this case, eight teams of six filmmakers each were provided the same line of dialogue (a line from one of last year’s videos: “I’m not taking you out, I’m taking you down”) and a 1920s yearbook from the college’s archives, which they had to use as a prop. After a drawing in which they received two film genres at random each team had to choose one genre in which to work. They then had 24 hours to produce a three-to-five minute video.

By the time of the screening the place was packed. Each of the eight videos had their charms and their share of cleverness. Of course, all of them had their rough spots, too — what video produced in 24 hours wouldn’t? It’s funny, though, how those “rough spots” (some out of sync dialogue, say, or let’s-roll-with-the-first-and-only-take-performances) become charming in and of themselves when you consider the context of how quickly these things were produced.

After watching all the videos, the two other judges and I had a healthy debate about the merits of the eight videos. Every video, to its credit, managed to produce at least a handful of laughs, jolts, or cringes.

Speaking only for myself, as a judge I was looking for videos that had adequate craft, for starters. Beyond that, though, I wasn’t necessarily looking for the best shot or best edited video. I was looking for videos that gave me a fresh take on the genre instead of merely rehashing it. That might sound like a tall order, but there were more than a couple that did this.

Ultimately, after forty-five minutes, the other two judges and I had settled on the prize winners. The winner was a mockumentary that used consistently smart deep-focus cinematography to execute its jokes with a lot of subtlety; an honorable mention was awarded to some ambitious students that came this close to nailing their chosen genre, the musical. That’s right, in 24 hours they wrote, scored, shot and edited a musical. It was rough around the edges, sure, but it definitely had me eager to see what these guys could accomplish in 48 hours, and that’s worth something.

***

That night, after the screening was over, I realized that I had experienced a change of heart about competitions like 24Speed. In the past, to be perfectly frank, I’ve had some reservations about the benefits of such competitions. I guess I feared that the 24 hour time constraint reinforced bad habits (mainly, thinking that making a film is something you can rush through) and emphasized competition over collaboration. I see, now, that I’ve been wrong.

First, the competitive nature (at least at this one) was entirely overshadowed by the fun everyone was having. That was great to see. Competition can push people to do better work, even (especially?) with art. You just can’t take it too seriously.

Secondly, and even more importantly, I see now that what these competitions can do is remind us that there are times when it’s better to make something as quickly as possible just to do it.

More than anything else, watching these videos (and meeting the students that produced them so quickly) I was reminded of the collaborations I have undertaken in the past with friends on videos for Termite TV. To an outsider, such projects might seem “insignificant,” but I always learned something by making them, even if the final product sometimes ended up being kinda rough.

This afternoon, browsing Termite TV’s website, I ran across a quote from Manny Farber‘s “White Elephant Art vs Termite Art” essay, which reads as a kind of found poem for what I saw at 24Speed:

a peculiar fact about termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art
is that it moves always forward,
eating its own boundaries, and
likely as not, leaves nothing in its path
but evidence of eager, industrious, unkempt activities

***

Part 2 of W&M’s Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking coming soon…

ADDENDUM:All of the entries for the contest are now online for viewing by the general public.

Life (and Filmmaking) During Wartime

Monday, February 5th, 2007

Let this article serve to remind us that, whatever production troubles we might be enduring producing one of our films, it could be a lot rougher.

From an LA Times article about Mohamed Daradji’s Ahlaam, a fiction film shot in Iraq that is now screening at festivals:

The last straw: a chaotic 24-hour period in December 2004 when Daradji and several crew members achieved a sort of modern Iraq trifecta — kidnapped and bullied by Sunni Muslim gunmen, then kidnapped again and bullied by Shiite Muslim gunmen, and finally jailed and interrogated by American soldiers.

As inspiring as it is to read about Daradji’s attempts to make art in the face of war, sadly, the bleaker news is this, says the article’s author:

Daradji’s film may end up being the last movie to come out of Iraq for a while. The country’s artistic life experienced a brief resurgence in the year after the U.S.-led invasion, with musicians, painters and actors all striving to restore Baghdad’s legacy as one of the Arab world’s cultural capitals. That trend has died as Iraq descends into civil war, with much of the educated, artistic class fleeing the country.

When you read something like this it certainly makes even the most astounding filmmaker “war stories” (e.g., comments like Coppola’s “This movie isn’t about Vietnam. It is Vietnam”) look pretty silly.

[via GreenCine]

Some Sound Links

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Sync.sound.cinema is a promising new blog by Christian Dolan. As you might guess from the title, its focus is all things related to production sound. One of Christian’s first posts links to an Open Letter from your Sound Department.

And while I’m at it, here are two other helpful sound-related sites:

Equipment Emporium

FilmSound.org