Green Screen Cinema Filmmaking for the 21st century

Free Film School, Chapter 5

Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 06:51 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 7,805
Free Film SchoolTo recap the points I've tried to make thus far, you should not pursue a film career for the glory (for there is none) you should simply enjoy the process of making film. You shouldn't worry about networking, you should instead focus on developing skills that other people find indispensable. At this point you must be thinking,"OK, great Jim, I'll keep those gems in mind as I fight it out with the thousands of other up and comers that aren't so noble (and who are networking their way to a studio job as we speak)." Relax, you are in this for the long haul. The studios aren't going anywhere. You'll approach them when you finally have something they need, not before. So how about a little education today?

Let's talk about Sergei Eisenstein...

...and the Battleship Potemkin.

One of the secrets of USC Film School is that before you lay a hand on a camera you've had at least two years of film history drilled into your brain. Why do they torture you in this manner? Part of the reason is that they are a university, not a trade school, so they want you to be well rounded. But another reason for doing this is to make you take a longer view of the industry. If you can see where the industry came from you might be able to tell where it's going. Either that or they just like to torture kids, I haven't quite made up my mind on that point yet.

Since you are attending Film Free School we have to cut some corners. Today I am going to try to cram all the useful history that USC teaches into a single blog post. Here it goes:

A hundred years ago there were these guys on the East Coast that had the foresight to get into the film business and show movies in these little theaters called Nickelodeons, but they weren't that smart since they only charged a nickel. Someone should have told them they could charge $11. The movies were short and kinda boring. But no one had ever seen moving, lifelike images before (well, except for people that had looked out a window!) but apparently windows were in short supply and so films like "Workers Leaving a Factory" were a huge hit. Then D.W. Griffiths made a really, really racist film, but it was long. So people watched the long films instead of the short films. Again, no one really seemed to care what was in the films at the time. I mean, A Room With a View and Howard's End both came out around this time, but no one went to see them. Maybe the popcorn was bad. Fast forward to the 50's and apparently kids wanted to get away from their parents and so they made these theaters that you drove a car into and watched the movie from your car. Again, no one cared what was on the screen. This might have also caused a baby boom. Today you can get movies on your iPhone and your TV and your computer and all anyone cares about is whether it contains Jennifer Lawrence. So today people do seem to care what is in the movie, but if its flashy and new you can literally put a guy in an iron suit and gross $100 million.

So is there art? The history of film seems to suggest that all you have to do is come up with a new experience and people will flock to it.

What if I want to make art? I can't remember which studio I was working at when I was told this, but someone seriously said to me,"It's show business, not show art." I think the guy was standing in an iron suit at the time.

Of course there is art, you just can't let anyone in Hollywood know that is what you want to make. Or put another way, forces will working against you if you try to make something worth watching using existing conventions. This is the point of the history lesson. The more adept you are at adopting new convention the easier it is going to be for you to get your work noticed. And that brings me to my final question. Is there any art in adopting a new convention? Can a film technique itself be artful?

If you look at the case of 3-D glasses I think the answer is "no". 3-D glasses did not do much for the development of film as an art form. But what about editing? The early films were not edited (thus they were boring). Once filmmakers started putting scenes together (e.g. juxtaposing images) they were able to deliver a richer narrative. The guy that invented editing must have been some kind of genius! That is why all film schools make you learn about Sergei Eisenstein. He sort of invented editing.

Now don't get me wrong, still art featured juxtaposed images way before Eisenstein ever came along. But film has the advantage in that it can dramatically change images as quickly as it wants. Eisenstein pushed the idea that a montage of images has a certain affect on the viewer (and when I say "pushed" I mean you could not get him to shut up about this). The methods of montage he arrived at were: metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal and intellectual. He also made this film, Battleship Potemkin, in which he demonstrated the impact that montages can have. Believe me, at the end of this film you are really rooting for the battleship. And all of this was before MTV. Or sound.

Cheap effects will get them into the seats, but a technique that advances the art and create a new kind of emotional resonance in the audience can be considered art itself.