April 30, 2009

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Trailer for Still Walking by Hirokazu Kore-eda

April 30, 2009

Still Walking is a family drama about grown children visiting their elderly parents, which unfolds over one summer day. The aging parents have lived in the family home for decades. Their son and da…

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April 28, 2009


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Comedy is Serious Business

April 11, 2009

For people who want to do comedy, I though it would be helpful to think about the following.  Comedy comes from two basic things.  One is taking the world you are creating seriously.  So whether it’s Will Ferrel or Richard Pryor, you need to create a world that you take seriously and that an audience can take seriously.  Then within that serious, realistic world, your character does unbelievable or crazy things.  It’s that combination of acting strangely in a realistic world that makes things funny.  So this is what Seth Rogen has to say about his new film:

“There have been a lot of ‘safe’ comedies, where everything’s a wink to the camera. I thought if you could root it in reality and then still have these crazy things go on, that it would have more impact.”

The second thing about comedy is that comedy comes out of a character who has truly committed to something.  Who has committed utterly and seriously to their goal, even as we realize or people around them realize the goal is ridiculuous or over the top.  So here’s what Vince Vaughan says about comedy:

“That’s the heart of comedy. You have to have a point of view. You gotta commit. And the more you commit to it, sometimes the funnier it gets. Like in Mr. and Mrs. Smith, I’m convinced that something’s going to go down.”

Vaughn starts looking around the restaurant, jittery and bug-eyed, seeing imaginary vampire bats swooping down from the rafters.

“It’s crazy, but the more I’m past questioning it, the funnier it is. Or in Swingers, I make such a big deal over how many days you have to wait before you call a girl. I think it’s funny because I’m so particular, as though it really means the world to me. I have friends in real life, the way they see stuff, they can be so narrow in their perspective, it makes me laugh. You could have a friend who’s dating someone and he can get hung up on the smallest thing. It’s like…”

And here Vaughn starts shouting, hitting the table, and the people in the restaurant who’ve been pretending not to look at him stop pretending.

“She wrote me an e-mail! At the end of that e-mail it says, dot dot dot. What does that mean? No, no, seriously, if that was a period, that would be the end of the sentence. There’s closure. Dot dot dot, there’s no closure!”

He shrinks back down.

“It’s that kind of commitment that makes it sort of funny. If I take an extreme, absolute position, that becomes funny. Because the reaction doesn’t warrant the reality. It’s just dot dot dot.”

And this is one reason why comedy is much harder than drama.  To create the realistic world and have an actor commit totally to their goal and point of view, is difficult.  The shooting has to be better, the production has to be more solid, in order to create the realistic world.  And you need an actor to totally commit to what they’re doing.  Both those things are tough for students to be able to do.  Not impossible, but difficult.

Of course some folks try to do comedy, cause it seems easy.  Because taking things seriously seems hard.  Of course, listen to any comedian and they’ll tell you just how damn hard comedy is!

Alphabet Soup

April 11, 2009

So here’s the thing we shot in class yesterday.  I call it Alphabet Soup.   It’s just a rough cut, and the sound is a mess (which I take full responsibility for) but take a look at it.

Remember that this is the standard way to cover a conversation, when two people are next to each other.  This is paint by numbers, but you should be able to do it.  So,  after watching, now think about the following:

1)It took me about an hour and a half to slop together this rough cut.  Which means that for a sequence that’s roughly 80 seconds we shot for 45minutes and I edited for 90min.  Which give us a ratio of 2hrs 15min of work to get a Rough Cut of 80 seconds.   Your webisodes will be about four times that length.  Plus you’ll have a script and not just the alphabet.

2)Notice how the closeups really draw you into the character’s emotions.

3)Notice how because you have all the coverage you can create reactions and make the characters seem like they’re really reacting to each other.  Notice how Corey and Rob react to Zeke.  Notice how the editing creates a sense that the characters are looking at each other.  This is, at the very least, what you want to create.  That sense of interaction.

So, that’s your lesson on basic coverage.  Wide shot, Medium Shot, Close up, Close up.  Plus cutaways to Zeke.  That’s it!

Use it wisely!

This Is Not a Pipe

March 11, 2009

This is a painting by surrealist painter Renee Magritte. Actually it’s a translation as Magritte’s was in French. It succinctly sums up what we were discussing in class yesterday. An image of an egg mcmuffin is not an actual egg mcmuffin. And the difference between the image and the thing is, literally, the only thing that we as image makers deal with.  Look at it, try to really wrap your head around it.pipe

This painting also inspired a short book by philosopher Michel Foucault.  He points out that 1)”This” is not a pipe.  2)”Pipe” is also not a pipe 3)The image itself is not a pipe. But because we clearly see that it is a pipe, our way of communicating and referring to real things in the world is short circuited.  No wonder Magritte called this series of paintings “The Treachery of Images”.

If he were reading this post he would point out that my first sentence is technically incorrect.  Why, given the point Magritte makes, would he say this, do you think?


February 23, 2009


Often, with art, context is everything. Context gives you a framework to interpret or make sense of otherwise ambiguous or confusing images. So, if you look at this photo by William Eggleston you might think it’s cool. Or not. But probably not terribly important. But then you learn a little about the context in which the photo was taken and displayed, and poof!, you see the image differently. For instance

Thirty years ago photography was art if it was black and white. Color pictures were tacky and cheap, the stuff of cigarette ads and snapshot albums. So in 1976, when William Eggleston had a solo show of full-color snapshotlike photographs at the august Museum of Modern Art, critics squawked.

It didn’t help that Mr. Eggleston’s pictures, shot in the Mississippi Delta, where he lived, were of nothings and nobodies: a child’s tricycle, a dinner table set for a meal, an unnamed woman perched on a suburban curb, an old man chatting up the photographer from his bed.

In that context, the image takes on new meaning. Kind of like what Voice Over might do to otherwise ambiguous images.

Around the Blogs

February 23, 2009

On the blogs this week some good stuff is happening. Over at her blog, Kristen continues an insightful discussion about the relationship between photographer and subject. I wonder, how does one represent her ruminations visually, in video form?

Lukewarm Spaghetti asks a provocative question. It’s on point with her theme, and it’s fun to watch someone work through important questions. Also, I’d bet lots of people have a take on this question. In addition both of the above blogs have  generated comments from complete strangers! Someone out there is reading…gasp!

Il Capitano continues an informal, though potentially rich discussion, of in “between” complete with appropriate visuals. This line of thinking can potentially make you look at the images he shows you in a new way. Which is the point of creative work, no?

Elsewhere, Johnny Hopkins walks us through one of his favorite pieces of graffiti, Steve shows us a crazy film about leaving, and Brandon finds inspiration in the movie Cars.

In Between Days

February 10, 2009

inbetweendaysSo the Harvard Film Archive is just tempting me this month.  On Sunday 2/22, the HFA is playing So Yong Kim’s In Between Days.  I saw this movie two years ago at the IFFB and it was one of my favorite films of the year.  It’s about a 16 year old South Korean girl who’s immigrated with her mom to some unnamed North American city.  I think it’s Toronto…but there’s definitely a lot of snow on the ground.

There’s not really a lot of story here, but you get a portrait of this girl who is struggling to fit into her new life, in a new country, in a new culture.  As the title suggests, it’s both focused on the difficulty of transition as well as the beauty and poetry of those moments in which nothing special is happening.  But, like life, those in between moments, between big dramatic events, define the bulk of our day to day existence and have a cumulative weight.  Those days when nothing big or especially dramatic happen are, in the end, where we do most of our living.

I love this  movie for how closely and beautifully it pays attention to that.  Stylistically it’s sort of a modern neo realist film.  A lot of subtle handheld camera work, often with the camera sort of hanging back from the action just observing, and a very patient approach to building scenes and story.

Though, for those who dislike lots of handheld close ups, this one might not be your favorite.  But, I know I’ll be there.

Cool Images

February 7, 2009

Images are complex. They communicate a lot, but not always as clearly or unambigiously as words. But that’s what makes them cool. And, some images are just way more interesting than others.

Here’s one example from a series I like called Trees.

At first you’re not sure what you’re looking at, and as you figure it out, you realize what the images are doing. Sort of separating nature from the landscape. Making the natural look somehow unnatural, like a billboard.


I also kind of dig some of this series called Clinic. I like the way the compositions are very orderly – flat, balanced, not a lot of color – but the subjects of the photos suggest trauma and chaos. I also like the way the photos , through composition , color, etc remove the subjects from their environment. This is not documentary photography , it’s more like portraiture.


For people who want to make images, either the still kind or the moving kind, it’s not a luxury to look at interesting images. It’s essential. It’s your job. Finding cool images is the best way to find inspiration and think about the sorts of images we want to make. And trying to figure out, to say, why we like what we like, what we think images are doing, is part of our job.

If you think these are interesting, or you totally hate them, leave a comment. Lemme know what you think.