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199742.tif99% of everything ever written in the history of the world was written by hand, but today, almost every word starts its life on a screen. This is even truer in the case of screenplays, where programs like Final Draft make quick work of complex margins. And with penmanship becoming a dying art and decades of talk about “the paperless office,” there is no denying we are definitely heading towards a society where paper communication is a thing of the past, even if that day is decades away. Yet there are demonstrable benefits to writing longhand, and if you find yourself in a writing rut, or are just looking for a new way to look at things, then a pen (or maybe even a typewriter) might be just what you’re looking for. More »

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The Ludvico TechniqueStory is, at its core, a metaphor for how to live. We live vicariously through the characters we see on the page or the screen. So it follows that if you’re creating characters, they should be as real as possible. That is, of course, easier said than done, and a weak or unbelievable character can kill a screenplay or movie regardless of the plot (experimental film excepted). So what can be done? For writers, an understanding of psychology and human nature are vital in order to see people as they are, making it possible to make up people who are more like people than like characters. More »

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SuspectsAh, the 90s. Rollerblades. Bill Clinton. A time when moguls like Harvey Weinstein jetted out to Sundance and handed out fat distribution/production deals to filmmakers who were  barely able to legally buy beer. One of these lucky young tyros was Bryan Singer, whose 1988 short, Lion’s Den, led to a feature that went to Sundance, and that led to The Usual Suspects, which led to everyone losing their mind in 1995. Check out this behind the scenes documentary on that classic crime film, and see how story and filmmaking can trump budget. More »

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SOTLWhen it was released in 1991, director Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs, starring Jodie Foster and featuring an unforgettable performance by Anthony Hopkins, changed the rules of how horror could be presented in mainstream film; the Oscar-winning classic’s reverberations continue today, while the Hannibal Lecter money train keeps on rolling. This 90-minute documentary on the inside story of the Silence of the Lambs shows just how all the right elements came together to create a modern classic. More »

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Ingmar BergmanIngmar Bergman is one of the giants of cinema, to the point that some images from his films have become so iconic as to make up a visual shorthand, possessing an allusive quality (the Knight playing chess with Death comes to mind.) The Swedish filmmaker directed over 40 narrative features and documentaries, both for film and TV, in his 61-year career, and was also a prolific theater director. In 1975, he sat down with students from the American Film Institute, and now a 40-minute audio recording of their conversation is available online. It’s a remarkably open and candid talk from a master director, and required listening for any fan, student of cinema, or lover of movies. More »

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ScannersScanners, David Cronenberg’s 1981 film that defies explanation (you really have to see it, as any synopsis will sound kind of ridiculous; I’ll give a really half-baked one shortly, though) is justly famous for not only its mind-bending narrative, but its torrent of effects, including one scene where, well, a guy’s head explodes. Check out this video and see how they did it! More »

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unproduced-screenplaysIn the 80s, the joke was that everyone, no matter what they did during the day, had a screenplay to hawk. With Joe Eszterhas getting millions for scribbling the plot of One Night Stand on a cocktail napkin, and Shane Black writing Lethal Weapon at the age of 26, what didn’t look like hard work looked good to lots of people. Much of this can be laid at the feet of one Syd Field, whose Screenplay took thousands of years of dramaturgical what have you and condensed it into a friendly set of easy-to-follow rules that helped spark the screenplay goldrush of the 80s. Yet the number of working Hollywood screenwriters stays the same, roughly, from year to year. So what, then is the secret? Is there even a secret? You’ll have to read until the end to find out. (Suspense!) More »

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reservoirIt’s no secret that Quentin Tarantino is a fan of the violence, what with all the shooting and the stabbing and the cutting (I mean, his first claim to fame was an artfully choreographed sequence whose culmination was the severing of an ear, set to the mellow sounds of Steeler’s Wheel.) Now, Vanity Fair has prepared a helpful infographic, showing all of the deaths that have taken place in the master of mayhem’s films, from Reservoir Dogs to Django Unchained.  Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of them. But just how many?  More »

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historyShocking as it may seem, there was a time before movies (I know, crazy). But there was; though they dominate our lives today and shape all of the media we consume, narrative motion pictures (I’m talking about movies that, though they may be artful, see themselves as entertainment rather than art”) have only been around for a little more than a century, which, in time terms, is not that long. But now, because you are lucky enough to live in the future, you can watch this video from CineFix that tells the history of the movies (and Hollywood, where many movies live) in ten minutes. So, cool kids, put down your hoverboard, grab some Sunny D, and check it out! More »

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appointments-of-dennisBy 1988, Steven Wright, known for his deadpan delivery of non sequiturs, paraprosdokians, as well as all manner of logical and linguistic disjunctions, had established a unique brand of stand-up comedy. What many don’t know is that he is also an Academy Award winning filmmaker, honored for his 1988 short, The Appointments of Dennis JenningsA low-budget, half-hour, absurdist black comedy, it is must viewing for any fan of Wright, indie filmmaker, and this goes double for indie filmmakers looking to make their first shorts; it’s a clever object lesson in filmmaking economy. Dennis Jennings is a great window into filmmaking, storytelling, and an intelligent approach to both.  More »

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walterwhite_tonysopranoA few months ago, I wrote a post called The Story of Story, which attempted to explain, in as simple a way as the subject can bear, the roots of narrative structure, and specifically, how these roots were planted several thousand years ago, in ancient Greece, and have been passed down through the works of Aristotle. Today, I’ll begin with a sort of riddle: what do David Chase, creator of The Sopranos, and Vince Gilligan, the mad genius behind Breaking Bad, have in common? That’s easy enough, you say. Well, then, what if I asked how they differed? It’s not an impossible riddle, but its answer just might be the key to the next story hurdle you have to surmount. And it might be closer than you think. More »

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vimeo-logoEveryone and their mother is getting in on the VOD game, and for some time, Vimeo has been positioning itself as a way for indie filmmakers to get their content to viewers and see a profit; they’ve just introduced new bells and whistles for filmmakers and content creators, including several new features for their PRO users who distribute content using the service, including a revamped dashboard and more in-depth metrics to help creators see where their work is selling. Check it out and see what Vimeo’s VOD could do for you and your film. More »

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f100pickpocketIf there is a patron saint of French cinema, surely it must be Robert Bresson, considered, after Renoir, the greatest of 20th century Gallic filmmakers. Jean-Luc Godard, no slouch himself in the French director’s department, once observed that, “Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is the German music.” High praise indeed. A new video supercut from Kogonanda for the Criterion Collection focuses on the director’s inimitable use of gesture in his films. Plus, the director’s own notes on cinematography and cinema. More »

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high-and-lowWhile trying to think of something germane, pertinent and well, interesting, to say about the video essay which supplies the ostensible topic for this post, I happened upon a fact, which appears at the end of what I am about to start talking about,  but which I am going to lead with, and bear with me, okay? So this is a video documentary (essay, really) which teases out the connections between Alfred Hitchcock’s work and Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 crime flick, High and Low. The connection I chose to start from (in a roundabout way) is as good a point as any, I think, for a discussion of Hitchcock’s possible influence on Kurosawa (and everyone) without sounding too, too pretentious and/or lame. Hopefully. You’ll be the judge! More »

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noir1Genres come and go, but 70 years after its birth, the “rules” of film noir have become part and parcel of the conventions of modern cinema. Why do filmmakers come back again and again to this bleak landscape? And why are these films still popular (if they weren’t, well, there wouldn’t be nearly as many. QED.) And just what, precisely, are its rules — rules so skilfully subverted by modern directors? A documentary from the BBC, originally aired in 2009, seeks to answer just that, shining a light on the dark corners of film noir. Plus, check out tips that will help you achieve your own film-noir-style lighting effects. More »

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Roger EbertRoger Ebert, am I right? I am. Best guy. All day. Besides his heroic struggle with and total refusal to capitulate to cancer, the man was a working film critic for over forty years, and while, yes, that might sound like a dream job, it also means seeing every drecky rom-com that comes out each Friday and writing up 500 to 1000 vaguely thoughtful words about it. And his words were never vaguely thoughtful. They were always incisive, smart, and usually spot-on. Now there’s a new documentary about the man himself, directed by Hoop Dreams‘ Steve James along with Martin Scorsese as Executive Producer. Click through to watch the trailer and learn more! More »

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mixingboardThe art of manipulating sound is an occult practice, mysterious and daunting to outsiders, though in reality, like almost everything, a little education goes a long way and the information is out there if you look for it; since many filmmakers, though, are taught from the beginning (at least I was), to shoot MOS and concentrate solely on the visual, with sound a distant second, it can be a blind spot in their skill set, but a vital skill. And with the concomitant proliferation of audio technology (specifically DAWs, or Digital Audio Workstations), there’s no excuse for an indie filmmaker not to educate themselves in the art of noise. Click through for five tips on EQing sound, for filmmakers! More »

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bufferingStreaming video is a sort of bellwether for the health of your internet connection; after all, it uses arguably the most day-to-day horsepower of the information super parkway, and has become, in the past few years, ubiquitous. Streaming capabilities have become an accurate measure of the efficacy of any ISP, but finding out how each stacked up was a challenge. Last year, Google rolled out its inaugural Video Quality Report, which looked at streaming speeds in Canada. Now, as of today, it’s the U.S.’s turn, and the results are interesting, to say the least. After the jump, see where your ISP stacks up. More »

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Genius loserThere have never been more people who believe that they are not only talented, but destined for success, and early success, at that, to the point where they feel like an abject failure if they don’t have multiple Oscars by the age of 30. This is, of course, a load of hooey (that’s right, hooey), and the good people at Filmmaker IQ have posted an excellent two-part video essay on why failure is an integral part of success, and consequently no one (I mean no one) who does good work has an easy time of it. Click through to see just how much failure goes into overnight success, and not just in the creative field. More »

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Behind the Scenes from Some of Favourite Movies (1)It’s no secret that we at NFS (primarily me) have an affinity for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror/ chrisangelmindfreak/ familydrama/ paulruddromcom, The Shining, an adaptation of Stephen King’s classic novel and one of the strangest movies ever put out by a major studio in wide release. My second post for NFS was a survey of the exhaustive theories about this movie. Now, for the first time, the major players in the production of the film have come together for an oral history of this masterpiece of modern horror. More »