WHAT INSPIRES YOU – Part 12 featuring Ben Wheatley

It’s been a while since I’ve stumbled across these funny forays into the Criterion Collection‘s backroom.

Director Ben Wheatley gets to dig into the Blu-ray collection in this one. I haven’t seen his KILL LIST or HIGH RISE, but our cinematographer Shane Daly continues to champion KILL LIST for its unorthodox structure. It keeps rising up on in the queue (which gets reshuffled or over-stacked based upon recommendations… most recently Tarkovsky’s STALKER was added to one of the top spots… from way down in 50s).

I’m still a huge fan of Blu-ray over streaming because I don’t like the color and contrast reproduction in most streaming services — even Netflix’s 4K. They is still and unacceptable amount of compression that is greater than a Blu-ray’s compression.

And it’s fucking impossible to easily and accurately rewind a movie from a streaming platform, which is sort of critical when you’re looking at a film with a filmmaker’s eye.

Behind The Scenes from BLOOM

Directing BLOOM in Atlanta

Here are some production stills from the TV pilot sizzle we directed in March 2017.

Directing has to be the most intense rush one can get in the entertainment world. You prepare for weeks, if not months, for a few lightning quick days. Days that are filled with joy, exasperation, and revelation.

Setting marks during film of BLOOM Copyright © 2017 ShadowBoxer Cinema

Story Construction – Pixar’s 22 Writing Laws

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We’re not the first to post Pixar‘s 22 Writing Laws and we certainly won’t be the last, but bare in mind — it is always good to review story fundamentals to stay sharp.

Jazz giant John Coltrane would practice scales EVERY DAY for hours, why? To keep his craft at the utmost sharpness. In the film & TV game, the competition is entirely too fierce for one not to strive for the very best each and every time. And the Pixar Brain Trust has an unbelievably impressive track record of winners at the box office and at Oscar time. And each PIxar film’s success came down to an impressive, driving story.

As Bryan Tracy advises: find out what the best are doing and do what they do.

Continue reading Story Construction – Pixar’s 22 Writing Laws

Hearing Your Draft Read Aloud

One of the things that weigh on screenwriters is the number of people who actually read your material. Unless it’s getting made, perhaps 30 people TOPS will read the work you’ve spent countless hours on. Such is the vagaries and frustrating aspects of the business.

What is doubly irksome is a screenplay isn’t a work that is supposed to be “read”, it’s a document that is designed to be performed and to marshall resources and personnel so it can be filmed.

Continue reading Hearing Your Draft Read Aloud

Jenkins Influenced by Wong Kar Wai

The Criterion Collection has a new feature called UNDER THE INFLUENCE… which, as you can imagine if it is from Criterion, is a smart and compelling discussion of what films have influenced en vogue or stalwart film auteurs.

Barry Jenkins, director of the knockout MOONLIGHT, discusses his thoughts and feelings on the two WKW films Criterion has the license for – CHUNGKING EXPRESS (this is now out of print) and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.

WKW is one of my favorite directors, his films are like intimate visual novels with great expanses of poetry interspersed within the scintillating narrative.

Continue reading Jenkins Influenced by Wong Kar Wai

When cinematographers strive for the “ugly”

On Roger Deakins’ Instagram, he recently posted a quote from the incomparable Conrad L. Hall: Connie used to say he wanted his films to look ugly, to capture something that we [cinematographers] shy away from [beautifully lit images] in making movies. Ugliness can have a certain beauty as well. There’s a strange dichotomy going on there.

What is Ugly Cinematography?

What Hall was championing is eschewing the most flattering and revealing lighting set-ups; withholding visual information is just as important as withholding narrative information. And “ugly” cinematography by a Deakins or a Hall or a Libatique or a Debie won’t be ugly-ugly (which for most means poorly composed and lit), but where harshness overrides the glamor.

Take a look at this clip from IN COLD BLOOD (shot by Hall) and notice the high contrast lighting doesn’t illuminate Robert Blake (yes, that Robert Blake) in a way that makes him look agreeable or even handsome. But the beauty of the image is sublime.

Continue reading When cinematographers strive for the “ugly”

Large-Format Cameras and Lenses

The other day my brother Alex and I were talking about large-format cinema cameras and what makes that acquisition format special, considering that the Oscar-winning film THE REVENANT used the Alexa 65, and just prior to that DP Robert Elswitt, ASC photographed the underwater vault sequence in MISSON: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION with the same camera. He needed the highest resolution and frame size for the extensive CG work required to pull off that amazing, high-tension moment.

Large-format cinema, primarily 70mm films from the late 50s through late 60s have always fascinated me, starting with LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

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ARCHITECTS OF CRIME – Behind the Scenes

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DoP Shane Daly and his team get ready for the next take; Peter Lucas, Rhona Bennett, , , Shane Daly (L to R)
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20 stories above the streets of Los Angeles a crime is about to take place… the rooftop video village; Co-writers/co-directors Chris & Will Derrick review the framing, while producers Hilliard Guess and Indra Bartona observe. DoP Shane Daly and his team finalize the camera set-up.
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Ana Zimhart kicks the shit out of David DeSantos during a take. DoP Shane Daly captures the action.
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Ana Zimhart reveals the blackmail footage as David DeSantos looks on as his fate is sealed.
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Ana Zimhart precariously walks the balance beam.
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Co-writer/co-director Will Derrick gives a last minute adjustment to Rhona Bennett and Peter Lucas
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The Derrick Brothers and DoP Shane Daly work out the scene breakdowns and framing options.
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A take in progress; Will & Chris Derrick watch Rhona Bennett and Peter Lucas on the monitor; DoP Shane Daly captures the take.
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Co-writer/co-director Chris Derrick reviews the framing of Rhona Bennett’s close up. DoP Shane Daly lines up the shot.
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Ana Zimhart prepares to flip off the water tower.
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DoP Shane Daly, high up on the building, readies his camera team to capture Ana Zimhart (climbing down the ladder) scale wall — in the one and only take.

These are a few more of the behind the scene photos for ARCHITECTS OF CRIME. MovieMaker magazine was gracious enough to hi-lite our work on its Instagram feed.

Looking at these now, several months later, the project looks ambitious, but every film project one directs can be considered ambitious because of the number of people you have to persuade to be on your same page. This means no one is above the film; that’s why egos must, under no uncertain terms, be checked at the door. The greater (or shall I more fragile) the ego at the department head level or above, the more trying directing a film can be. Everyone’s name goes on the film, and why does that no satisfy one’s ego? Why does that fail to give one satisfaction, because if it did then the yelling, screaming, and sabotaging wouldn’t happen.

We are forever thankful and grateful to our collective team who helped make this happen.