Cell Phone “Portrait” Aspect Video Production

I’ve been pondering the options for a vertical aspect ratio for narrative films if the intended delivery is primarily mobile devices.

I’m preparing to do some teaching in Eurasia this fall to train young filmmakers to work with mobile devices in places where they have phones, but other resources are extremely limited.

And this past week I spent at a debate tournament with my daughter and noticed lots of parents shooting videos of events with their smartphones, held vertically in portrait mode. It got me wondering about the options for a vertical aspect ratio for narrative films if the intended delivery is primarily mobile devices.

Here’s a link to an article that also asks that question, along with a link to a cool little film shot vertically.

The Way We Watch: Cell Phone “Portrait” Aspect Coming To A Video Near You.

This clip works very well embedded on this particular blog site because of the white background field. It’s a bit odd on Vimeo on a laptop or desktop. However, when I view it on my iPad, using the Vimeo app and holding in vertically, it looks great and I like the composition possibilities a lot. When I’m in the story I don’t really notice that it’s vertical. Of course, if the film is viewed everywhere else it will seem odd – talk about letterboxing!

101 Greatest Screenplays – WGA list

If you want to write well, read well.

If you want to write well, read well. Here are just the Top 10.

1. CASABLANCA Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play “Everybody Comes to Ricks” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

2. THE GODFATHER Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola. Based on the novel by Mario Puzo

3. CHINATOWN Written by Robert Towne

4. CITIZEN KANE Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles

5. ALL ABOUT EVE Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Based on “The Wisdom of Eve,” a short story and radio play by Mary Orr

6. ANNIE HALL Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

7. SUNSET BLVD. Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr.

8. NETWORK Written by Paddy ChayefskyFACTS

9. SOME LIKE IT HOT Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond. Based on “Fanfare of Love,” a German film written by Robert Thoeren and M. Logan

10. THE GODFATHER II Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. Based on Mario Puzos novel “The Godfather”

via 101 List.

Making Something is Easy, but it’s Not Enough | Echo Hub

“…it’s easier than ever to make something. But it’s as difficult as it ever was to make someone feel something.”

Scott McClellan writes a good article in EchoHub this week. If you are creative person, it’s easy to get caught up in the creative act or even the technology that makes it easier/cheaper to create (a real tendency in the filmmaking world) but forget about the long discipline of learning to tell good stories.

Scott writes:

So, it’s easier than ever to make something.

But it’s as difficult as it ever was to make someone feel something.

Our job as communicators is found in the difference between those two pursuits.

[And]

In other words, if I really want to be a filmmaker, I need to invest in more than just a camera. It’s easier than ever to make a video and publish it on the Internet, but it’s as difficult as ever to make a video that makes a difference.

Read the whole post here: Making Something is Easy, but it’s Not Enough | Echo Hub.

Paradigm shift for sharing knowledge: TED-Ed

Those TED people; I love when they mess with my mind. So now it’s education and extending video content in an open-source, sharing model.

Those TED people; I love when they mess with my mind. So now it’s education and extending video content in an open-source, sharing model.

If you are in any way involved in on-line media training, you should check this out.

TED-Ed | Lessons Worth Sharing.

In a nutshell, the new TED-Ed system lets any educator take existing content from their own YouTube videos and create lesson materials for their students in the form of addition text information, quizzes, etc. AND, other world-class educators (like many TED speakers) are making their own videos and lessons available. What’s more, you can edit their existing lessons to create your own custom lessons to meet your educational needs and goals. That’s pretty cool.

Of course, if your dream is to create a business from on-line education and to be able to monetize your content, this paradigm undermines that model. Depending on your content area, you could find yourself in competition with the free information folks. If you are in a niche where you are the world expert, you might still have a chance if you package it all in a way that adds great value versus the open source world. Same as always.

If you’re an educator or user, what are your thoughts?

Non-Filmmakers Learning From Woody Allen

What can entrepreneurs learn from Woody Allen? Apparently a lot!

What can entrepreneurs learn from Woody Allen? Apparently a lot! I was intrigued by this article on TechCrunch that lists 9 things non-filmmakers can learn from his career. Of course, as a filmmaker I have appreciated his films, both the hits and misses. He has remained independent and true to his own vision through 50 years and many earth-shaking culture shifts.

Woody AllenIt’s worth digging into the details, especially stories from different seasons of Mr. Allen’s career, his disdain of the Academy Awards hoopla, etc. But here’s an excerpt:

In today’s day and age, we want to transform decades of work into years or even months. Allen built up his career over five decades and kept at it persistently, even when scandal, or a bad movie, or a bad article, would cast gloom over his entire career. But he shrugged it off.

So what can we learn from Woody Allen?

  • Wake up early
  • Avoid distractions
  • Work three to five hours a day and then enjoy the rest of the day
  • Be as perfectionist as you can, knowing that imperfection will still rule
  • Have the confidence to be magical and stretch the boundaries of your medium.
  • Combine the tools of the medium itself with the message you want to convey
  • Don’t get stuck in the same rut – move forward, experiment, but with the confidence built up over experience.

The same can be said for successful entrepreneurs. Or for people who are successful in any aspect of life. Is Woody Allen a happy man? Who knows? But he’s done what he set out to do. He’s made movies. He’s told stories. He’s lived the dream, even when it bordered on nightmare.  I can only be so lucky.

Read the whole article, “9 Things Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Woody Allen”

The Tree of Life’s Invitation To Grace

Now out on DVD, Terrence Malick’s latest film, The Tree of Life, is an ambitious and evocative film that challenges viewers with a wide-ranging narrative that touches on deeply personal moments between family members and the biggest of all questions, the creation of the cosmos.

Now out on DVD, Terrence Malick’s latest film, The Tree of Life, is an ambitious and evocative film that challenges viewers with a wide-ranging narrative that touches on deeply personal moments between family members and the biggest of all questions, the creation of the cosmos. While some people find Malick’s work to be tedious, and inscrutable, I find The Tree of Life to be a compelling, if imperfect, examination of the deepest questions of life and relationships.

Malick introduces his thematic conflict of Grace vs. Nature in the persons of Mr. & Mrs. O’Brien, played by Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain. They are parents to three boys, growing up in the 1950s in small-town Texas. The film closely follows the life of the oldest, Jack, played beautifully by newcomer Hunter McCracken and, in middle age, by Sean Penn.

“There are two ways through life; the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.” With these words, Jack’s mother introduces her invitation to live in grace. She is a playful, warm, loving presence in the boys’ life. Contrasting this is Jack’s father’s point-of-view, that of Nature; “It takes fierce will to get ahead in this world.” He is a man consumed by frustration and disappointment. He is driven to fight for every scrap of ground, every rung on the ladder of success. And his mission is to instill his values in the lives of his boys, dismissing the way of grace espoused by their mother.

The unexpected death of R.L., the middle son, at age 19 sets the conflict in motion. This moment in time is explored briefly in the beginning of the film but the majority of the film is told in flashback to the sometimes idyllic, sometimes tempestuous childhood of Jack and his brothers. Older Jack (Sean Penn) is introduced as he attempts, now in middle age, to deal with the conflict and unresolved guilt from his childhood. Jack’s journey as a boy and as an adult is explained by Jack himself, “Father, Mother, always you wrestle inside me. Always you will.”

Malick’s brings this world to life in his typically lyric, evocative storytelling style. He makes liberal use of jump-cuts and repetition, and a floating, fluid camera. Long periods pass without dialogue, allowing the actors and their subtle expressions to convey what is happening. This style has its detractors and certainly demands more from an audience. However, I never found myself lost to the story, even when Malick inserts a lengthy montage, ambitiously taking us all the way back to the Big Bang (flashback-of-all-flashbacks!) Malick’s use of recurring images and sounds, the ocean, doorways, trees and light, contrasting modern steel architecture, create a beautiful visual and aural tapestry that invites multiple viewings.

Of course, a film that risks much and challenges its audience is bound to fall short at moments and have its detractors. The Creation Montage is one major aside that seems a bit long for its intended story purpose. I also questioned the passivity of the Protagonist, Jack. As a youth he is very active in boyish ways but seems compelled to act in ways that escalate into actual cruelty to his younger brother–the way of nature. Interestingly, he paraphrases St. Paul’s observation from the 7th chapter of Romans about doing the very thing he doesn’t want to do. As the adult Jack, Sean Penn spends most of the film looking tired and pensive. He never makes a decisive step to address the conflict.

On more reflection, I am oddly comforted that Jack is never forced to act, as an adult, in order to find forgiveness and grace. He is drawn to it by his mother and brother. They open a door and invite him to step through. Isn’t this really what grace is all about? Normally we say that a Protagonist must act, must choose, must risk. Malick seems to be saying, “No, grace can come to us in other ways.” This is truly Grace – unmerited favor rather than self-saving action. It’s not typical Hollywood, and it is a compelling message for us.

13 Rules For Realizing Your Creative Vision

I find myself needing to shift back and forth during the course of a film project – from being a pirate and letting the chips fall where they may (The ‘Done Manifesto’ stage) to the obsession stage where I am looking to polish and perfect.

If you have ever worked to launch a project or product, you know how different it feels than when you’re working on something that is well-established. I like this “Done Manifesto” as a way to capture the need to work and think differently in the wild days of beginning something new – like at the beginning (and at various stages) of a film project.

Click here to see the full graphic from FastCoDesign:

Infographic Of The Day: 13 Rules For Realizing Your Creative Vision | Co. Design.

But the funny thing about realizing a creative vision–whether it’s a startup or a personal project–is that it requires a set of working rules that is almost the opposite of the slow, careful deliberation that typically rules our working lives.

Examples of principles they suggest:

#1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion

#8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.

#10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

In a filmmaking process, I’m trying to think of the dividing point when a project moves from the startup phase, where rules like this apply, to the stage where something is established and you need to begin to shift your thinking. I know that brainstorming and the first stages of scripting benefit from these rules. Even the first stage of rehearsals with actors and the first assembly edit of the film.

I find myself needing to shift back and forth during the course of a film project – from being a pirate and letting the chips fall where they may (The Done Manifesto stage) to the obsession stage where I am looking to polish and perfect.

If you’re an indie filmmaker, you probably need to learn to function in both modes. Not always an easy thing to learn.