Green Screen Cinema Filmmaking for the 21st century

Is Film School For You?

Sunday, May 25 2008 @ 11:55 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 4,758
Free Film SchoolIndie Slate ran a great article this month in which low-budget auteur Jeff Burr (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Puppet Master 4) said,"I think film school can be very beneficial to a lot of people. It all depends on expectation and intent. If you are just going to mark time and then use the school's equipment and feel you know it all already, then don't waste your time and money; just make a movie." Jeff attended USC Film School but left partway through the program after making the short film "Divided We Fall". Jeff said about his student experience,"In making the movie, we broke a lot of rules ... and it was apparent that USC wouldn't back another Burr/Meyer epic, so I felt it was time to leave." Jeff went on to direct over 20 feature films. One could argue that leaving film school launched Jeff's career.

At the other end of the spectrum is the sorrow of Wendy Milette. Wendy's bio says she received her Bachelors degree from USC Film School's Critical Studies program (graduating top of her class) and her MFA from USC Film School's Production program. What Wendy's site doesn't tell you (which you can find out from this incredibly detailed blog) is that Wendy was one of the chosen ones at USC. She was the TA for the head of the editing department. She was selected to direct a 581 (i.e. USC funded her film). She was provided every opportunity that USC could afford. After graduation she shot three short films and then closed down her production company (Laguna Cinema).

What conclusion can be drawn from this tale of success and woe?
read more (307 words)

Free Film School: Mise en scène

Monday, May 19 2008 @ 04:32 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 15,564
Free Film SchoolNow that you've heard more career advice than you'll ever need it's finally time to start developing the technical competency you'll need to make compelling content. There are dozens of departments that you could specialize in, but there is one concept that you must learn first no matter who you are or what you do. Since you're enrolled in Free Film School you should refer to this concept as "mise en scène" (you'll sound more like a film student if you use random french terms like this).

What this concept refers to (other than the literal translation of "put in the scene") is the unique affect that sets, lighting and camera placement have. Why should you care about mise en scène? Well, since you're not developing content for the theater you can move the audience perspective around (you have the option of using different shots, different locations, etc.). This makes film unique and compelling and as a result we need some way to describe this unique effect. Today we will review the mise en scène of "V for Vendetta".

This is V's lair. This is what happens when you have amazing camera and art departments. Notice that even though the focus has been pulled off V and the background is completely blurred you still get a sense of the full depth of the location. This is because the lighting design highlights object edges and at the same time allows for deep shadows. There's also a great three point set-up that really makes Natalie Portman stand out.

Let's look at some additional examples...
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Shelley Winters On Fire!

Friday, May 16 2008 @ 01:18 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 5,047
Free Film SchoolI don't know about you, but I really like "how I broke into the business" stories. Howie Wiseman just sent me a great one about Shelley Winters and the low-budget film City on Fire:

read more (196 words)

One Lumps or Two?

Tuesday, May 13 2008 @ 09:22 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 6,261
Free Film SchoolEven mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

In our continuing "how I got into the business" series one of the greats, George Hickenlooper (Hearts of Darkness, Factory Girl), had this to say about his humble origin:

read more (41 words)

MTV Internship Launches a Career

Monday, May 12 2008 @ 09:03 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 6,219
Free Film SchoolContinuing our "how I got into the business" series is Gabriel Leif Bellman, USC film school grad and co-director of the Frozen Film Festival.

Gabriel writes:
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Free Film School, Chapter 6

Sunday, May 11 2008 @ 08:14 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 6,110
Free Film SchoolBefore we get into the nitty gritty of professional film production I'd like to spend a little more time talking about your career. How much money are you going to make? Are you going to have a nice house? Or will you be living off government cheese? So much of this depends on where you start out and what you strive for. If you are primarily interested in money you should probably head straight for a hedge fund and forget about this film thing. But if you have a love of the cinema then you are probably wondering what your life is going to be like pursuing that one great love. Let's start at very the beginning, as Julie Andews was wount to say. Let's look at some origin stories.

We'll start with a quick tour through Alpha Cine, where I got my first big break.
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Free Film School, Chapter 5

Thursday, May 08 2008 @ 06:51 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 7,808
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.
read more (861 words)

Free Film School, Chapter 4

Wednesday, May 07 2008 @ 01:36 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 3,734
Free Film SchoolWe've talked a bit about the internship problem and the economic hardship it creates for working professionals. Today I thought it would be interesting to look at an internship posting that USC Film School just sent me:

    Summer interns needed for Alexandra Milchan, a very busy independent producer based on the Fox lot. Duties include heavy research, copying, filing, putting together packages for submissions, office errands, some phones. This is a great opportunity to read scripts and observe the development side of filmmaking. Must be reliable, organized and able to thrive in a fast-paced, high stress environment. Must pay close attention to detail and have great people skills (as our office deals with a lot of high-level people and A-list talent). We require a commitment of at least 10 hours per week but the schedule is flexible. Candidates must be able to receive school credit. This internship is unpaid.

    Applicants can send their resumes and cover letters to
This is a real internship, with a real producer. Here's a picture of the producer.

Should you work for this producer for free?
read more (461 words)

Free Film School, Chapter 3

Monday, May 05 2008 @ 02:24 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 2,171
Free Film SchoolSince the previous chapter might have dampened your dream of being a filmmaker I think it's appropriate to build it back up now. You can make a great film. Even if you make just one film it can have a lasting impact for the rest of your life. Look at Pietro Mascagni, he sits down to write a one-act opera for a competition run by a publisher and produces one of the greatest operas of all time (Cavalleria Rusticana). For the rest of his life he does this and that, hangs out with Puccini, travels to South America, scores a silent movie but he never writes another monster hit like Cavalleria Rusticana. And you know what? He rides off into the sunset a happy man because the two months he set aside for that competition changed the world. I mean, c'mon, you got two months don't you?

Mascagni is a great role model.
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Free Film School, Chapter 2

Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 05:07 PM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 2,473
Free Film School

Why would anyone want to work in the film industry? Or more importantly, why do you want to work in the film industry? I only ask because of the many misperceptions that are floating around. It might not be a good idea to embark on a lifelong career with data that is less than accurate. So let's start by covering some of the brutal realities that pock mark the film industry today:
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Free Film School, Chapter 1

Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 06:23 AM UTC
Contributed by: Jimbo
Views: 1,197
Free Film School

Have you ever wondered what they teach the students at USC Film School? Tuition is in the neighborhood of $140,000 and the time commitment is at least four years (if you're an undergrad). USC probably offers the most expensive route to becoming a filmmaker known to mankind. There's got to be a better way...
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