Archive for the ‘Production’ Category

Google Earth Movies

Thursday, August 3rd, 2006

I was screening the rough cut of a friend’s documentary the other day and, in this doc, there was a map shot that had the “Ken Burns effect.” It seemed somewhat out of place in the movie, so after about 30 seconds of digging I found someone that had figured out how to do what I was going to propose: Capture Google Earth movies to video.

And now the link is passed along to you.

No Time to Waste: 48-Hour PSA Project

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

A while back I wrote about a 48 hour documentary project, now along comes a 48-hour PSA project that is the brainchild of Asian Arts Initiative Executive Director Gayle Isa and Sara Zia Ebrahimi, who shared some thoughts on this site about film co-ops.

Because of the meetings, the event is largely Philadelphia-based, but if you’re interested in participating you might send them an email (info below) to inquire if you can play along. (They’re planning on uploading to BlipTV, after all.)

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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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October Camera Workshop with Bernie O’Doherty

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

In January, I wrote effusively about the private film camera workshop that Bernie O’Doherty led for two friends and me. Now he’s opening them up to the public.

If you can make the trek to Maine, and if you have more than a beginner’s knowledge of shooting with film cameras, I encourage you to check it out.

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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