My experience shooting with helium in 8k...
Let me start off by saying, 8K is a big fat gimmick. It is completely useless and a huge waist of money considering the cost in hard-drives and computer horsepower.
Here's the deal with Red cameras and why they are so great... There are two major wins:
Dynamic Range and RAW.
The dynamic range in the Epic-W makes my heart just melt. Red claims you can achieve a total of 16.5 stops under perfect circumstances. But my guess is the average Joe will get 15 or 14 stops on a good day. But it really does make a difference. The depth just adds a whole new layer to digital imagery. The level of detail from the shadows to the highlights are mind-blowing. The colors out of the helium sensor are also great. But that's where we start to get into the RAW capabilities
RAW is probably the most unique attribute of this camera. The flat RAW files allow you to basically rework the entire image in post-production. There is just so much you can do, and the dynamic range allows you to push it so far that it becomes an entirely different beast.
Other than that, the Red is just any other camera: it won't make a sucky script any better.
A film defined by it's title.
There has been a lot of buzz circling around this film in the indie community. I have heard filmmakers rave about it on Twitter and the critics are in love with this movie.
Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to experience this picture in the cinema, which is even more depressing considering the fact that it was shot on anamorphic lenses, and the visuals were outstanding. However, I did rent the movie and watch it with my family; here is what I have to say.
Now, you have to understand that going into this film I knew absolutely nothing. I didn't know what it was about or any plot elements, which is rare these days, I know. But let me tell you, this film lives up to the hype.
Any marketing or posters I saw for this film felt uninteresting to me, so it was a pleasent surprise when this film turned out to be almost flawless.
This is determined storytelling, with passionate direction, and a hyper-focused screenplay. The cast is solid, and performances are amazing.
Focused and fast
"Hell or High" Water is 1 hour & 40 minutes long and it is paced meticulously. It opens with a racing heart beat and takes it's time in the second act to build upon the character's and setting. For being a relativly short film, it had a pitch-perfect length. There is never a dull moment, and the dialogue makes each scene special. There are twists and turns throughout the screenplay that keep you on your feet and your eyes glued to the screen.
Let's talk about the performances in this film. The two leading characters played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster are class acts. They seep into their characters like masters of their craft. Jeff Bridges plays an almost-retired sheriff, patiently hunting these two men. His performance is quick-witted and methodical. His character makes a nice leap into emotinal territory in the final act.
Cowboys and texans
Let's talk about the look and feel of this movie.
The cinematography in this film is just down-right awesome. I don't neccesarily think it is oscar worthy, but it wasn't flawed either. It was just rock solid cinematography that didn't draw too much attention to itself and pleasantly blended perfectly with the story. That is what cinematography is supposed to do.
This film has a very "cowboy" feel to it. It takes place where, everyone wears cowboy hats and has a southern accent. On top of that, the scenery has a very southern feeling to it. The cinematography definitely complimented that, especially the choice to shoot on anamorphic glass, which gives it an almost nostalgic feeling.
And to touch on the writing again, the screenplay really used the environment to its advantage and had some really funny one-liners relating to stereotypes from Texas.
"Hell or Highwater" was directed by David Mackenzie. I haven't seen a single one of his other films. But I am a new fan after seeing this one.
The direction of this film is so focused. Every moment feels precise and filled with intention. I haven't met this director or seen how he functions on set, but I can tell he has a deep understanding of the screenplay.
The material for this film was very patiently and maticulously handled, and I deeply appreciate that. I am very interested to read the screenplay and see how much they stuck to it. Either way, the director took what he saw in the heart of the script, and brought that to the screen. The best part is that he did it successfully.
I love how the vision for this film is conveyed in every aspect of how the film was made: From the cinematography, to the performances, the original soundtrack, and including the selection of location. This film is so solid it drives me crazy. And I feel the responsibilty of having the vision for the film fulfilled by all departments rests on the director's shoulders. Well, I can tell you, this director took on that responsibilty with confidence.
the anti-hero allure
There has been a consistent popularity for anti-hero stories over the time filmmaking has been around. This is most prevelant in television. For instance, shows like Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Game of Thrones have had massive audiences. Looking at this trend, you can tell people are interested in the bad guys. But the question arises - why?
I think it is because anti-heroes can, in instances, be very relatable. We are all flawed, and who is more flawed than an anti-hero? There is also an extra level of depth. Why do these people make the decisions that they make?
It is just so interesting. It's a particular type of disturbing storytelling you just can't turn your head away from.
Anti-hero stories also tend to have more honesty. They don't try to sugarcoat things; they just give you the bare minimum. They show you broken people and don't try to justify them or pity them.
And the conflict seen between the brother's throughout the story and their differences makes for wonderful character work.
The Verdict: why it works
In conclusion, there have been heist films before and there have been anti-heroes before. The bankrobbery movie is nothing new (remember "The Town?"). But "Hell or Highwater" has something special that makes it different. It is probably one of the most grounded films I have seen in a while. I mean, this film is just smart.
The whole movie feels like something that could actually happen and something you could actually relate to. It's the small details like the brothers burying the cars they used to rob the bank or the fact that they exchange their bills for different ones. Every little thing counts and gives this movie an upper hand. You don't have to take a leap of faith with this movie, because you believe it.
That is why "Hell or Highwater" is great. It is a smart, fast, quick witted, and unique film. And there aren't enough of this type of movie these days.
My love of Abrams.
I have a strong obsession with Abrams' Star Trek films. I think the first film is absolutely amazing and incredibly directed. I think it is a monumental film in this era of the industry. I also thought Into Darkness was a freaking blast! I remember getting chills in the first scene when the enterprise rose out of the water.
Not only was the storytelling genius, but the filmmaking was as well. The cinematography was vibrant and fresh; Abrams' use of the dolly in swift moves is riveting. There is such a fresh feeling to the films, especially with Abrams' obsessive use of 35mm film (and lens flares). The visual effects were also great. They blended gorgeously.
It's safe to say I love the universe Abrams built with these new films. So I had relatively high expectations for what seems to be the final film in the series. But was it good?
Fast, Furious, and... not my favorite.
So as you should know by now, Abrams did not, in fact, direct this film. He was off working on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was a masterpiece. So Fast & Furious Justin Lin was assigned the task of wrapping up with the trilogy.
To be honest, I genuinely thought that under the circumstances, Justin Lin did a fairly good job crafting the vision of this project. For those of you that disagree, let's go through the circumstances he was thrown into:
The wind that will take the breath out of you.
My dad rarely goes to the movies. Maybe he doesn't go to the movies because it's too expensive anymore. Or maybe it is done out of laziness. Let's be honest, it's both.
This was one of those rare occasions where my dad, of all people, actually want to take me to a movie in the theatre instead of waiting for it to come out on blu-ray. My dad was going to see this movie, and with me being a filmmaker, I wasn't going to stop him.
A good (not great) sequel in the masterful Craig films.
Daniel Craig has proven himself as one of the best Bonds ever put screen. With reports of Ian Fleming's disliking of the Sean Connery films, Casino Royale seemed to be a film that was constructed more in Fleming's vision for the character.
Craig's films spawn off of the idea that Bond isn't an Austin Powers. He isn't the type of spy that go around cracking jokes, having sex, and occasionally fighting ridiculous villains. No, Craig's films see a real man, with real issues, in a real world, one with grit, love, and heartbreak.
In 2006, Casino Royale was immediately a hit based straight out of Ian Fleming's original Bond book. It was a film that opened up a lot of doors to where Bond would go. It was followed by a very underwhelming Quantum of Solace, which was immediately rescued by the critically acclaimed Skyfall.
By just expressing Daniel Craig's Bond legacy so far, I have put an amazing amount of pressure on Spectre. But does it live up to the hype? I'm sorry to tell you that it does not.
But at the same time I'll tell you that this is one of the best Bond movies I've ever seen.
Spectre is gorgeous. Period.
My opinion on bond 25.
Sam Mendes, the Director of both Spectre and Skyfall has said he is done, and Daniel Craig is still unsure if he wants to reprise the role.
The return of Craig.
I feel the best way for Bond to continue is with Daniel Craig. Spectre may be a really nice film but I think Craig needs to end his Legacy on something a bit more complete.
Sam Mendes has done two really good Bond movies that are very well directed and are visually stunning. Both may not be on the same level with story, but Spectre does have it's moments of wonderful storytelling. But I do think some fresh skin would be nice in the director's role.
My suggestion would be one that has already been in talks of directing a Bond movie, Christopher Nolan. He is my favorite director of all time, and he hasn't made a bad film. In fact I think his greatest film to date was his last. But that is for another conversation... More importantly, why should Nolan do it?
Well, I think he already has done it. He has done an incredible heist film with big unique ideas (inception). He has worked with human characters and made them interesting (memento). He has managed to keep studio heads happy while being a creative genius and maintaining a huge franchise, (the dark knight trilogy). And he has shown that he can create a beautiful, emotional, and riveting experience while still maintaining enormous spectacle.
All he has to do now is add James Bond on top of that. He has also shown immense interest in doing it too. With Nolan's fresh vision and Craig's amazing portrayal of the character I think Daniel Craig can still leave with a bang. Also James Bond would be shot in IMAX! Who wouldn't see that!
No seriously, who wouldn't?
I've been thinking a lot lately about a director's role. Do I fit into the job description, am I the right person to be a leader? What is the biggest Mistake a director can make? After looking at the behind the scenes of the HORRIBLE film, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace's, I think I have an answer.
A Director's Biggest Mistake
Well what is it Gabe??? Let me share a quick video with you and see if you can catch it...
Well, did you catch it?
Let me share my observation with you anyways. The greatest mistake a director can make is lack of communication and most importantly, lack of confidence.
Lack of Communication
When watching the video I noticed how much the crew was just star struck at being on one of Lucas' projects to even question him. You can see from the very beginning how little they gave input. It was almost a if they knew how stupid the movie was but were too afraid to express their feeling before Lucas could utterly screw it up.
I cannot express how important it is to have a great stream of communication with your teammates. It fuels the collaboration which ultimately is what makes a project a masterpiece.
"I May have Gone too far on Somethings."
The other thing I noticed is George Lucas' complete lack of confidence. The video above reeks of anxiety and discomfort. Everyone looks on edge, especially the Director George Lucas.
The directors role is to keep everyone on target and pumped about what they're making. But Lucas did the complete opposite. He's constantly mentioning how easy it is to screw it up and mentioning that it's important to not go too far.
But in the end, he definitely went too far.
I have to admit that I have made the same mistakes. My first film was is a very touchy subject for me. I had a lot of pressure on me and was a little shy at the time. I didn't really know what made a director, and to be honest I was just totally uncomfortable. I didn't know if I should ask certain question, or if I was going too far... But there it is again!!!
A director is a man of confidence. He is the leader, the sight on a gun. What I have learned while reviewing myself as director is my sheer lack of confidence. I was uncomfortable calling action, and wasn't really good at using descriptive words to help my actors.
But that's all apart of the learning experience. My goal with this post is to help others not make the same mistakes as me, or you could have your own Jar Jar.
I am still proud of what I did with Writer's Block, but I still feel I could've done way better. Now that I've been on other sets and have learned more lingo, and set etiquette, I am definitely more confident and ready to communicate.
Every director has a chance of failing, but that's not why you make movies, you make movies to succeed. You have to make sure you hold the confidence to do that. It's a tricky industry, one that's hard to wrap your head around....
Unless of course, you are Christopher Nolan.
Reborn with slight defects.
After Jurassic World hit theaters, I started hearing good things about it and thought I should check it out. I mean, the cinematography looked good enough and it has Chris Pratt. Let's be honest, Chris Pratt is amazing and no matter what, he was going to be good in this movie.
So my plan was to grab a couple of friends, which turned out to be my DP friend Austin as well as my previous AD Stephen, and go see this thing. Here are my thoughts, enjoy!
Being 2nd AC
Working as a 2nd AC is very straightforward. It was especially simple on this shoot. You have three main jobs-
- Setting up the camera (batteries, ssd, tripods, ect.)
- Using the slate (writing slate info and marking the scene appropriately)
- Working close with the camera team (especially 1st AC)
I took some influence from a grip on my short film Writer's Block, Peter Saffa. He would always ask everybody if they needed any water or if he could help them. I always appreciated him doing this, so I decided to do this myself.
Thankfully this wasn't a SAG set, so I could talk to everyone around me (at the appropriate time), which I took time to go up to most of the actors and most of the crew that looked tired if they needed anything, mostly water. I think this is a huge part of being a 2nd AC.
Working with the 1st AC
Moon is his name. He was a rather quiet man in the beginning. But as we continued with the shoot we really got to know him. He is very funny and awesome. He was the 1st AC on this shoot, and I had the pleasure of working next to him.
Another part of your job as a 2nd AC is to make sure your partner (1st AC) is comfortable and ready to pull focus, move the camera, and hold the huge camera rigs for the DP. YOu need to be there to assist him, whether you get him water, help him with gear, or stand in so he can find focus.
You are his wing man and he's depending on you, so don't let him down. You and the 1st AC should end up having a good time. It's very funny to watch Moon.
Now, Moon as a 1st AC is very funny. Whether the director is yelling that "it looks soft" or the DP is asking for the 18-35mm last minute, it is awesome being able to see it all happen first hand.
Just because your a 2nd AC doesn't mean your job is not awesome....
To end PART I of this series I would like to talk briefly about Fire Watch.
Fire Watch is very important and a main part of being an AC. You must not let anybody (outside of the camera team) touch the camera. If someone accidentally messes with the color temp, or changes the format the camera is recording to, or FORMAT THE ENTIRE DAYS WORTH OF SHOOTING!!! The stress level would be at an alltime high and production would be set back. So watch the freaking camera!
It is your job to be helpful, not to distract. SO be as helpful as possible. Try to help bring the stress level down from 100%. Sadly, on this shoot, the stress level was always 100% so it was more of not letting it go over 100%
But more about that in the next part....
I've been away for quite some time but now I'm back and ready for some action!
For the last month I have been developing my plans for 2015. First, weekly content.
Weekly Blog Posts
Every week from now on I am doing weekly blog posts and videos and I'm starting it off with a new series called Filmmaking Sundays. I have some other ideas up my sleeve but patience is of the essence. Along with Filmmaking Sundays I will have separate blog posts pertaining to whatever I find necessary including: Adventures (like Journey to the Peak) and critiques.
Film Production Posts
Something else I have wanted to do from the beginning is an immersive behind the scenes experience. And it all STARTS with my step by step blog of how I make a movie. Now this isn't necessarily a digital film school (yet) because I'm just getting warmed up in my filmmaking career but I figured why not get a head start. I figured it would be fun and maybe someone will learn something. The idea is learn with me. I m not trying to teach, I'm the one trying to learn and I think if we could learn together that would be a unique experience. So be expecting writing blogs for my next short very Very SOON!
To up the ante I decided to prepare for some new behind the scenes content. Which is why I'm excited to announce that a "new release of the website" as I like to call it, will be hitting this March with a new behind the scenes section for immersive content...
Writer, Director, Editor