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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 »

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godfather-0903-06By the time he made The Godfather, at the age of 33, Francis Ford Coppola had already had a decade’s experience in the movie business, co-earning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for the biopic Patton. Even that, though, didn’t make getting the film greenlit an easy or sure proposition. With pressure coming from all sides (several of them armed), Coppola began the first of his epic, career-long battles against everyone and everything that would stand in the way of his vision. Time and again, the director has gambled. Sometimes, he’s won, and very big. Sometimes, not so much. But whatever it is, he gives his all (including property). Now learn some of his tricks of the trade as Coppola, (along with the recently late DP Gordon Willis, Brando, Pacino, Caan, et al.) outwits everyone to make an American classic, his way, in this 1990 doc, The Godfather Family: A Look Inside. More »

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Gordon WIllisGordon Willis, the cinematographer of the Godfather trilogy as well as several of Woody Allen’s most classic films, has died at the age of 82. Willis, who was born in Queens, directed eight of Allen’s films, as well as countless classics like All The President’s Men. In his 27-year career, he was one of the most influential cinematographers, responsible for many visual devices we today take for granted. Click through for interviews, clips, and a study of the techniques and a celebration of the life of the so-called “Prince of Darkness” (for his innovative use of pools of light and shadow in the Godfather films, though he was never shy to express sometimes controversial opinions). More »

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lynchcartoonDavid Lynch, despite the reputation he earned with films like Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, lush tone poems of the unconscious, and of course, Eraserhead, a sui generis piece of work that is, more than anything he has ever done, unlike anything else ever made by anyone, a direct line to the unconscious, has always stayed true to his vision. Then he’ll go make The Straight Story, a completely (ahem) straightforward tale, directed with the skill of a consummate Hollywood pro, not a self-conscious filmmaker unable to leave his comfort zone. And he has always dabbled in graphics, with short films, comic strips, and his 2002 web series, the short-lived Dumbland, which, if you continue on, you can check it out, along with some of the Eagle Scout’s other graphic work. More »

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thunderWith studios closing their independent film divisions over the last few years and Miramax no longer the cultural powerhouse it was in the 90s, new models are being tried in the indie film world: while some venture capitalists are promoting the idea of an accelerator model, borrowed from the tech-startup world, others, such as the program recently announced by Thunder Studios, which is offering $12 million to twelve indie features each year, are planning to do away with cash altogether, though not in the way you’d expect. Click through to learn about this new way to get your movie made, and how you can submit your film. More »