Tag Archives: directing

CAMERA MOVEMENT IN FILM

Ok. So lets talk about camera movement.

Camera movement is part of the visual language of cinema, and a key part in the screen grammar in the artist kit of a Director, used to tell a story. Unlike in non narrative music videos where movement doesn’t have to be motivated. In narrative story telling , 99.9% of the time, there should be a motivation for moving the camera.

Some motivations are

Subject movement motivated : the subject within the frame is moving and the camera moves along with them to keep them within the frame.

Subjective Camera: this is when the camera sees as the characters sees, and also moves accordingly. This is mostly in POV shots.

Reveal or Conceal : this is when the camera moves to reveal or hide a character or information. This is best employed to uncover critical narrative details or actions which till that time have been off screen.

Actual Camera Movements

Dolly Shot: this allows the camera to move closer or farther from an object(or subject) . Dolly in or Dolly out, are also know as a Push in or Push out.

Crane Shot : this raises the camera vertically up or down in relation to the subject.

Steadicam Shots: Steadicam is associated with free flowing dynamic camera movement. It allows the operator freedom of movement while maintaining a stable and clean shots (free of wobble & shaking)

Handheld: When shooting handheld, it MUST have a narrative purpose. It should just be done because a tripod wasn’t available, or getting the shot as quickly as possible when shooting guerrilla style. It can be used to give a documentary style feel. But if not done right, it can feel tonally out of place and pull out the viewer from the film. If shooting handheld, consider its place visually with the rest of the film, and the purpose of shooting that scene handheld. Are you creating a sense of urgency? Chasing a character? Following a character? Portraying a psychological or emotional state?

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WHAT’S IN THE FRAME – VIDEO ESSAY #2

OK, So i decided to do another video essay and this time it’s on FRAMING . Using examples of films by Nigerian Directors .
Check it out. If you like what you see and want to see more. Click on the subscribe button, leave comment and if you want to you can support the making of more videos( they take time to make) on Patreon

You can see it with some notes on my guest post here

Synergy : Working for the awesomeness of Nollywood

So a few years ago I’m on a break between shoots on a cross country road trip for a talent show i was working on; sitting in my hotel room channel surfing and I stumble upon the umpteenth episode of “Pimp my ride” in one week.

As usual they’re upgrading an old vehicle,or rather tuke tuke/jallopy and putting in all the efizi.

For the un-intiated,”pimp my ride” is an MTV show, where people with horrible cars get a free total overhaul, makeover if you will. Hosted by rapper X-zibit, a battered deathtrap which barely resembles a vehicle goes in the shop & a flashy ampped up Ride comes out.

The custom shop is armed with specialists for each & every aspect of the transformation of the vehicle. They got wheels,Paint,Interior,Electronics,Engine & Body experts each trained in the craft of those parameters. With a specific assignment for different parts of the transformation process each crew member brings his expertise to the table. Each person plays a part to this process.

This reminded me of the synergetic process of film making.

Film making is synergistic and has three stages. Pre-Production,Production& Post Production. All essential to the success of the final out come. But it all starts with script.

The writer is the architect who lays out the blue print for what we eventually see on screen. The story the characters the dialogue, the journey we embark on etc

A good script is VERY essential to a movie cos even with the greatest director and actors in the world. The wrong script is like a bad foundation in a house it will cave in on it’s inhabitants. Legendary and one of the most influencial directors of all time Akira Kurosawa said

“With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. But with a bad script, one can’t possibly make a good film”.

Once the script is locked down the Producer looks for a director that can execute the material and once he does the pre production ball gets rolling. He begins to break down script and detail his vision. An assistant Director is hired to schedule the shoot of the film and make sure everyone and everything is in place everyday of shoot.

They begin to put together a cast . The actors who will breathe life into and interpret the characters .The director is assigned or depending on his clout picks a Director of Photography.

Now picking the right DP is like a wrestler picking the right tag team partner, if the fighter picks the wrong one he’s going to get his ass kicked. Also like a pilot picking the wrong co-pilot . The passengers better resign themselves to the reality that they have boarded the plane to their final destination.

When it comes to actors I’ll just go with the words of three legendary director. If you dont recognize the names, google them, because they are pretty awesome and they likely influenced a directorwhose work you love.

Half of directing is casting the right actors.” John Huston

An actor should be able to get the rhythm of the script,get the joke,sing the line. People like Sam Jackson&Chris Walken don’t grow on treesQuentin Tarantino

I believe directing actors is only really a matter of getting good actors in d first place then you just sit down and have a chat with themAlfred Hitchcock

Right now you are probably going , “i thought he said Nollywood, why is he talking about these oyibo directors “. Please stick with me, im getting to that…eventually.

Ok , lets continue.

With wrong actors everything falls apart no matter how great the script or talented the Director or anyone else on the crew. There has be synergy with the actors, the roles they are playing and the world that it’s set .

It’s not necessarily that the actor is bad, but they may not be right for THAT role,THAT character. Miscasting happens sometimes.

It’s said that a film is made in three stages .The script,the directing and editing and after principal photography is done we move to post production. Editing is another form of story telling and the way the footage is cut determines how the story is told and how we the audience feel ,connect and eventually love,hate or feel nothing about the film.

Another part of post production is the score. The over all musical character and life of the film. The rhythms and melodies that accompany the scenes,sequences et al. Those acoustic sensations that push us to the verge of tears when a character is in a deep emotional moment. Triumphant sounds when the underdog is about to achieve victory and makes us believe that despite the odds we can get up one more time and make it.

Remember how you felt when Rocky went the distance? The roaring score when he and Adrienne embrace after the fight with Apollo?

The awe when Superman takes to the skies after saving the day?

How you felt each time the Darth Vader theme came on and you knew he was making an entrance.

The score at the end of “The Usual Suspects” when Agent Kujan starts to put the pieces together as the mug drops in slow mo and Verbal delivers the last line and it fades to black.

The satisfaction you feel as the credits roll and the score plays on after watching a great film and you tell yourself “I’m getting this on DVD”.

Even the animes have made great use of this. Like the Naruto series. Scores for sadness,goofyness, rising action,expectation etc Each character is even assigned their own score unique to their personality.

A great score adds another layer on the impact will have on the viewer achieving synergy with the rest of the film.

Most movie fans instantly recognise the James Bond,Star Wars,Pink Panther and Superman theme songs even though most of them were conceived over 30 years ago often resurrecting the memories of the viewing experience .

While on the project I began to whistle a movie score and my room mate’s ears arched up. He recognized the song immediately and said he hadn’t heard it in years. It was the score from Speilberg’s War movie “Empire of the Sun”. He last watched the movies as a child. Never underestimate the power of a score.

The work of an art director is another vital role to the creation of the world of the story. They create the rooms,apartments,rendevouz points, and offices of the characters which lend authenticity to their personality and socio economic level . They help the director make the world of the story and character believable.

Without great art directors the worlds of: Gladiator,Star Trek,Star Wars,James Bond, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and many others would have remained just in the head of writer and director.

They and their team of set designers,armory,wardrobe,make up,props department and many others make the past,the future and fictional worlds possible on the silverscreen.

EVERY JOB ON A FILM SET, NO MATTER HOW “SMALL” OR UNRECOGNIZED IT’S TITLE, IS IMPORTANT, SO DO YOURS EXCELLENTLY

All those roles come together to make the final product and great synergy is required. Film making is truly one of those field where the chain is as strong as the weakest link and as possible it for the other links to compensate for the weak link. Everyone has to do their part for the whole process to work.

Picking the right team can make or break the film and the director is like an Orchestra conductor who needs every instrumentalist to bring the best to the game to make the experience of the audience pleasurable. A football team is not only made of a striker, every other team member is needed to win, and working based on the managers plan is essential to victory.

Dont you wish this for Nollywood? Dont you wish all the references i made here were Nollywood films? Dont you wish we had the identifiable score, iconic characters who we can dress up as to costume parties? Put on t-shirts, make pop culture references. Characters we can quote ,monologues we can deliver at auditions.

To get all that we have to work for it, and the Good News is that , the only way is up. We are still relatively a young industry and with a combination of the internet and 100 + years of cinema, we have a lot of resources we can learn from and not have to re-invent the wheel. Their success and mistakes can help us skip several processes and stand on the shoulders of cinema giants.


DONT BE THAT CREW MEMBER WHO HAS TO BE MICRO MANAGED, WHOSE WORK HAS TO BE DOUBLE CHECKED OR EVEN RE-DONE. AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT

Synergy is key to the future of Nollywood. No more solo flying, no more phoning it in, no we more trying to make it all about you and we REALLY need to put egos aside and glory hogging if we want to make memorable, long lasting films which have a long shelf life beyond its time in cinema.

Films which become cultural icons and inseperable milestones from moments in the life of viewers.

We saw how fans came out and mourned the death of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, who was the beloved Princess Leia to the world. The articles it inspired, the eulogies, tributes and memories shared. How she and the character inspired them and what she represented to their lives.

Same for Alan Rickman who was Hans Gruber to fans of Die Hard(1988) and Professor Snape to Harry Potter fans. We need movies, characters which have such powerful impact and we cant have that if we do half hearted work or dont put in our best in the projects we do, whether you are a Production Assistant, a Sound Recorder or Associate Producer.

When Synergy works it’s magical and when it doesn’t it’s disastrous and we all have tales of disastrous films we’ve seen.

2016 was a year of incredible progress for Nollywood, but we cant rest on those laurels because we still have a long way to go. We have to keep up the momentum and build on that progress till a point when making N200m is seen as underformance for any film.

Let’s make 2017 a year of awesomeness.

Directing :How Staging can replace dialogue – The Godfather

One of the things about Cinema, is that it’s a visual language, and a lot of this is conducted through staging, blocking, shot composition and editing. When the actors play their part there is also an aura that is projected which enables the viewers psyche to connect dots even when the characters dont say anything.

In this scene from last act of The Godfather , Tessio has arranged a “peace meeting” between Michael and Barzini but MIchael has made another “arrangement” for Tessio

Fom the staging,the way the Cicci and other capos surround him, like a pack of Wolves closing in on a Bison they plan to take down, nothing needs to be said,we know his time is up, he knows it too.

It then cuts to a  shot of him giving one last try, searching Tom’s face for some help and he says those much quoted lines .

It’s brilliant in its simplicity.

The Life of an Indie filmMaker…the 9th wonder of the world

LOVE THIS VIDEO, very encouraging. Often times in Naija we think we are the only ones that have difficulty financing, making and distributing our films. But the reality is , everyone that is not being financed by the studio system has all those same issues. Even for those financed by the studios, sometimes there is so much interference from the suits, that you cant make the movie you set out to make, and they take it off your hands in post pro and do what they want.

Ultimately, are you making films SOLEY for profit? Soley to make an obscene amount of money?

Or are you making films because you cant see yourself doing anything else but telling those stories, and you just enjoy that privilege and are satisfied with it paying the bills and allowing you to make another film, and the next , and the next.

Will you be satisfied with just enough people seeing it to make it profitable to finance the next film but not getting mainstream distribution or name recognition?

Your reasons for being in the business will determine how you deal with delay, rejection, not getting recognition and even affect the kind of films you make etc

There are many great indie filmMakers out there whose films never cross the shores of their country for one reason or the other, some that are only seen in selected theatres. Not everyone would become a household name. The sooner we learn that the sooner we can move on.

So for all Indie FilmMaker, hope you are as encouraged from this as i am, we may have our down times,be broke, discouraged and maybe even depressed at times, but the satisfaction of making our films and getting a great response, certainly beats doing a “secure” job and living the rest of our lives with “shoulda coulda”

I FIT DO BETTER PASS THIS ONE , NAH

 

There’s something about a feature debut that affects a directors career, sometimes that brilliant debut is what launches a director to getting any sort of project he wants to do. He’s given the keys to the city and it becomes his play ground. People like Tarantino and Soderberg experienced this when they arrived on the scene in the early 90’s. A brilliant feature debut, kinda says, look at what this guy achieved first time out, what else can he do? Let’s give him some money.

The thing about young film makers, the real hungry ones, that live and breath film, they are really eager to come out with something. Sometimes , it’s literally a painful experience for them, when they see some films come out, and they feel, i can do this, i could do better, or they just beat themselves up for not having made a feature to show the world what they can do. This tends to lead to making a film for the sake of making a film, just to have something in the festival circuit, just to have something to show, even if, it’s not what they really wanted to make, but a mix of desperation, anxiety and maybe a little insecurity leads to such a decision. While for the most part, it’s a desire to launch their career and have a calling card to show potential investors or clients,sometimes it doesn’t end in the result they so desperately desired. 

Thinking about that scenario made the quote below all the more poignant

This is my own personal philosophy about first films. I think first-time filmmakers should make a film when they’re ready to make a film and when they have a film that they’re dying to make. I think the worst reason to make a film is just to go out and make one—or because you want to go to Sundance, or you want to be like Quentin Tarantino. The reason to make a film is because you have a story you want to tell, you have something you really, really want to say. – GREGG ARAKI

What do you guys think? What do you think of making a movie just for the sake of getting something out there ? Pls leave a comment. Cheers 

Martin Scorcese on Citizen Kane

My Previous post talked about watching cinema of all era, and studying them, doing this would not only make you appreciate the role of a director but also learn techniques from those that have gone ahead of you. Peak performance coach Tony Robbins ususally say “Success leaves clues”, find someone that has done what you want to do and follow it, like you would a reciepe.

Here is one of the most respected and admired directors of the past 40 years, talking about what he learned from the classic and legendary “Citizen Kane”. If you are farmiliar with Marty’s work, you’d notice what he picked up and infused into his own work

Iconic Characters- In the Performance or Writing that is the Question

A few weeks ago I’m on FaceBook and I come across a question on my time line

Film:Characterisation vs Character interpreters.

Exactly what goes into
creating a memorably remarkable character?”

That question got me googling my brain for answers. I sifted through the archive of movies I had seen and analysed them.

The analysis raised some questions of it’s own.

Was it the way the character was written that was great?

Was it the specific actor that interpreted the character that made it great?

Or was it a perfect blend of both a well written character and a great actor that embodies the role.

Now during the googling process several names came to mind. One of them was Al Pacino.

Between 1972 and 1995 he gave some of the most memorable performances in cinema history. There were several in that decade and Pacino alone has about 4 iconic cinema characters. Michael Corleone(The Godfather),Lefty(Donnie Brasco) ,Sonny(Dog Day Afternoon),Tony Montana(Scarface). And that’s excluding his performancs in “Scent of a Woman”,”Heat” and “The Devil’s Advocate”.

In my opinion the tour de force performances in “The Godfather” & “Scarface” were enough to cement him in the annals of cinema. Cos few actors will ever play larger than life characters like that in their entire life time much less two .

Both characters have become ingrained in pop culture and their lines are instantly recognisable. Even some people that haven’t actually seen the films are still able to recognize the references and quotes. Some fans,or shall I say disciples go as far as adopting the philosophy of these characters ,dressing like them and even copying their speaking style.

So what makes Michael Corleone,Dirty Harry,Braveheart,Maximus,Morpheous,Hannibal Lecter,Jason Bourne,Marty McFly,Keyser Soze memorable characters that penetrate pop culture. Yet other characters played by the same actors make no blip on the radar.

Now, a lot of it has to do with the actor interpreting the role, and what he adds to the character that is not on the page. I remember seeing a screen test in which James Caan read for the part of Michael Corleone. Now, James Caan is a great actor and he was PERFECT in the role of older brother Sonny. But if he had played Michael, the role would not be the iconic role it is today. In that screen test he did not bring the gravitas ,quiet strength and charisma that Pacino brought to the role.

The director working with the actor is also essential to a memorable performance.The layers one director will add to the script, another director would not see and just shoot as it is on the page.The way David Fincher would work with an actor is different from the way Michael Bay would work with an actor.

Some directors have a track record for directing actors to Oscar winning performances, others have never done that in a career that spans decades.

However for the sake of brevity I’ll only focus on scripts.

It all starts with the script which is the foundation upon which everything else stands; and for a character to be memorable. They either have to be extraordinary in form or presentation(Robocop,Terminator) in ability; physical(Batman) intellectual(Sherlock Holmes), valor (Robin Hood,The Three Musketeers),or personality/appeal(Tyler Durden).

The other option is to make them fully formed with philosophies,creeds,and capabilities that facinate us. They are smarter,faster and more capable than us in all they do. Other times they can be normal like anyone one of us but going through a life changing journey we can vicariously engage in and enjoy their victory.

-The underdog that overcomes the odds(Rocky)

-The precocious and gobby teenage girl that gets pregnant(Juno),

-The mother that has to make a choice between her kids(Sophie’s Choice).

Characters that engage us in their life journey.

In creating real characters that aren’t cardboard cutouts/caricatures it starts from conception and construction of the character by the writer.Like a real human being there ought to be a biography, a life they have lived before we saw them on screen.

Everyone of us has nuances and idiosyncracies,likes and dislikes. So should fictional characters for the screen.

They ought to have a favorite food,first kiss,Mother’s Maiden name,Color of his childhood bike. Are they pro choice or pro life. What is their politics?,Religion,Profession? Did they go to a public or private school. Are they working class or middle class? What are their hobbies etc.

A writer armed with the knowledge of these little things would determine what his character would and would not do.Their speech patterns,View of the world and so much more..

The Sensei of Cinema, the Legendary Japanese Director Akira Kurosawa, who influenced George Lucas,Coppola,Scorcese,Sergio Leone and other succesful and respected directors was known to say

“With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. But with a bad script, one can’t possibly make a good film”

Sydney Pollack director also said

“A great script is absolutely essential, perhaps THE essential thing for a movie to succeed”

If get the foundation right, then we have a solid base to build the others aspects of casting,directing upon.

I’m sure most of us have heard the story of the two men that embarked on a building project. The one that built his house on the sand and the man that built his house on the rock and we know the end result of each endeavor.