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Making Sense of CENTS Lessons Learned on Set of My First Feature Film 1
Here at No Film School, my posts focus on screenwriting. I can honestly say searching for lessons from professional screenwriters, sharing those lessons with NFS readers and adding my own take on those lessons has made me a better screenwriter since I started writing for this site back in May 2012. But, by far, my biggest learning experience as a screenwriter to date happened this summer when I had the privilege of shooting my first feature film, thanks in no small part to many NFS readers who supported our CENTS Kickstarter campaign. Now that principal photography is complete and we’re heading into post production, I’m excited to get back to NFS to share with you 5 lessons I learned on the set of my first feature film as writer, director and one of the producers. More »

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standard-gauge-still-2When I was nine or ten years old, and not busy seeing movies I was far too young to be seeing (thanks, indulgent parenting!), I haunted the film section at any available bookstore, buying scripts, biographies of my favorite directors, books on technique and craft — it didn’t really matter, so long as it was film related. Sometime in the mid-90s, this indiscriminate process resulted in my discovery of the classic, Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices. The author, Rick Schmidt, had written it several years before, and its premise was that for the average cost of a used car (around $6,000), it was eminently possible to make a feature film. Recently, I reread the book, and there’s no time like the present to catch up with the past, so put on your jodhpurs, grab a megaphone, and let’s make a movie, what say? More »

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Disney Automatic EditingWe all know that editing is an incredibly complex craft, one that requires not only an immaculate sense of timing, but also an in-depth knowledge of narrative structure. The edit is, after all, the final re-writing of the script. With that said, editing can also be, well, a pain in the ass, with hours on end spent making minuscule changes. But what if an edit, or at least a competent rough cut, could be done with an algorithm designed to choose the best shots and string them together with continuity? Well, a group of engineers with Disney Research have done just that, and they’ve put together a brief video explanation of how it all works. More »

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TruffautHitchcockIn 1962, French filmmaker, critic, and so-called “Father of the New Wave,” François Truffaut, carried out a series of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock at the latter’s Universal Studios’ office. At the time, The Birds was in post-production, and Truffaut, who had kick-started the French New Wave movement with his debut feature The 400 Blows, had just directed his third film, Jules et Jim. A key founder and proponent of the so-called auteur theory, which stated, very roughly, that the best films could be viewed as the work of one sensibility, Truffaut saw Hitchcock as a prime example of this theory in action. Their approximately 12 hours of discussions served as the basis of his influential study of the director, HitchcockNow you can listen to their conversations for free online, as well as peruse the book, with its hundreds of amazing stills and transcripts of their discussions.  More »

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House of Cards - Kevin Spacey - Text MessageFor the past 15 years, filmmakers have been attempting to tackle a serious problem: how to visually portray the screens that permeate every aspect of modern life. From computers to smart phones, screens — and more importantly, the information on those screens — have become instrumental components of the contemporary human experience. As such, filmmakers have an inherent need to find ways to incorporate this experience and information into their visual stories. The only problem? Pointing a camera at a cell phone or computer often doesn’t look great, and it can be difficult to absorb the required information. Some filmmakers, however, have found ways to make it interesting. More »

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ARRI AMIRANFL Films, the production company that has dazzled our eyes and ears with beautiful 16mm footage and slow motion aerials of the National Football League, will stop shooting its regular season and postseason games on film. For 2014, they are now moving to the ARRI AMIRA as their main production camera, with likely a number of other supporting cameras that have already been in use. While film got a shot in the arm thanks to the news that Hollywood will continue buying Kodak stock, this is certainly a setback. More »

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Hot Docs Documentary Impact Report TitleDo documentaries that focus on pressing issues of our time have any quantifiable impact on those issues? On one side of the debate, you have those who think the sole purpose of documentary should be to affect change. On the other, there are those who think advocacy docs are more propaganda than art. And then there’s everyone in between. Hot Docs, one of the largest documentary film festivals in the world, just released their 2014 Report on the issue titled Documentary Impact: Social Change Through Storytelling entailing their findings. What do you think? More »

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Paul Thomas Anderson on Why He Dropped Out of Film SchoolPaul Thomas Anderson is one of the more famous and successful film school dropouts, but the circumstances surrounding the way he left are pretty interesting. While he didn’t have much interest going to school in the first place, and didn’t have great grades in high school, he did eventually get into NYU, but with one foot already out the door by the time he got there, he came up with an interesting way to reassure himself that college was a complete waste of time. More »

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usb 3 3.0 3.1 10gbps interface bus protocol standard device connectivity digital computerGenerally speaking, it isn’t too difficult to plug something in correctly. That is to say, the relationship between a plug and its matching receptacle is often pretty self-explanatory. And yet, somehow, I still find myself trying to plug USB cables into USB ports the wrong way. USB is everywhere, and that’s not something that is likely to change anytime soon. What will change, however, is the ease of plugging things into it. That’s because USB specs have finalized the new Type-C reversible connector design announced earlier. The connector/cable type promises the 10Gb/s speeds and 100W power provided by USB 3.1, and yes, the physical incapability of being plugged in wrong. More »

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Robert RodriguezWe all know Robert Rodriguez. Not only did he make his first feature for less than $8,000 and share every step of that process in his book Rebel Without A Crew, but he’s gone on to shoot countless other features and even found his own television network. For anybody wanting to make their first film, but is not sure where to start and what steps to take, a video of one of Rodriguez’s famous 10-minute film schools has been making its way around the web, and it has the answers that you’re looking for in a way that only Rodriguez can provide. So if you’ve got a few minutes, here’s Robert Rodriguez, the man himself, to tell you exactly how to make your first film. More »

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EditReady

Earlier in the summer, Divergent Media, a software company whose tools need no introduction in the video production world, released EditReady, a Mac transcoding app with a tremendous claim, that it was supposedly the world’s fastest transcoder for Quicktime conversion. In a market that is fairly saturated with transcoding solutions for filmmakers, that is definitely a bold claim, to say the least. However, after reading about what sets EditReady apart from its competitors, then testing the app for myself, I’m ready to say that the claim is indeed a valid one. I also talked briefly with Mike Woodworth, the CEO of Divergent Media, who’s also the lead developer of EditReady, and learned more about how the software was designed, what it can and cannot do, and where it is headed in the future. More »

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Robin Williams - Multiple ExposuresIt’s hard to sum up the value of a single person who has contributed so much happiness to the collective consciousness that their own unhappiness is eclipsed by it. As you all probably know, the great actor, voice actor, comedian, and all-around-human-being Robin Williams died very recently. There isn’t much to say about it that others haven’t said already or won’t say in the days and weeks to come, for better or for worse — but in respect to the greatness all of us have just lost, we’ll let that greatness speak for itself. More »

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lightbulb_headThere is a common fallacy regarding creativity, mostly to be found among those who fancy themselves creative but never seem to complete any work. It goes back all the way to Plato, who said, and I’m really paraphrasing here, that unless you were a little touched in the head, you had no hope of real artistic genius. The idea that one must have a little madness in their soul to be truly creative is, in a sense, true, but if it’s not bulwarked and protected by an effective process, routine, and work ethic, your work is unlikely to live up to its potential. Check out this video, where filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain shares her 10 steps to creativity, and learn how routine can make you more creative. More »

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Dolly Zoom TimelapseThe internet is practically overflowing with timelapse videos. Some of them are good, some are not, and some of them are truly mind-blowing. As we know, modern motorized camera movement equipment has really paved the way for all sorts of inventive movement to be included in the timelapse format. In general, if a camera move has been done in a live-action environment, someone has probably done it in a timelapse. Although I could very well be wrong, until today I had never seen someone perform a dolly zoom during a timelapse. Eric Stemen recently put together a video not only showing how the technique looks (mind-blowing), but also how he pulled it off using traditional hyperlapse techniques and a little ingenuity. More »

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Dolly HacksCamera movement is one of those aspects of filmmaking that, if done well, can make your film look like a million bucks. If you’re on a tight budget, however, you’re probably not going to be able to drop the necessary cash on pricey sliders, dollies, jibs, etc., but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your footage to look like you did. In yet another excellent video from our buddies at Film Riot, we’re given a bunch of  ideas on how to pull off buttery smooth dolly, tracking, and crane shots using everyday household items. More »

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acrovid footagestudio 4k video assets media transcode conversion frame rate resolution effects slow motion file filmmaking app utility tool windows pc computerApple’s ProRes family of codecs is integral to the workflow of many a camera these days. Whether you’re offline editing RED RAW footage or working right off Alexa or Blackmagic camera negative, there’s a good chance you’re doing it in ProRes — which in turn means you’re probably doing it in Mac OSX. Enter FootageStudio 4K, a standalone video encoder recently released by Acrovid. Featuring powerful codec support and a variety of frame rate & resolution conversion capabilities, FootageStudio 4K is also one of the few ways you can encode to/from Apple ProRes on the Windows platform. More »

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CompressionAs filmmakers, most of us consider ourselves to be creative people. Having a creative intuition and knowing how to use it is incredibly important in this field, but many of us — especially folks like me who are scientifically and mathematically inept — tend to overlook many of the technical and scientific aspects of modern digital filmmaking. As boring and convoluted as some of it might seem, having a working knowledge of the various engineering concepts that are used in the digital image creation process can make us better filmmakers, because that knowledge can inform the creative decisions that we make. Luckily, there’s no need to go to engineering school for that knowledge, as most of it can be found on YouTube in some form or another. For instance, here’s most everything you need to know about video compression. More »

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andrei tarkovskyBack in 1972, world-renowned director Andrei Tarkovsky sat down with film critic Leonid Kozlov around the same time as the release of his 5th feature film Solaris and was asked to share his top ten favorite film. With great intention and thought, the legendary filmmaker jotted down on a piece of paper the films that, sure, he probably enjoyed and learned a lot from, but considering the artist and film philosopher Tarkovsky was, had done more to contribute to the art of cinema as a whole. More »

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The Jazz SingerNew technologies have been, and continue to be, developed for use in cinema since the dawn of the medium. From the invention of the projector to digital filmmaking, these additions have drastically changed the future of the art form, but perhaps none so much as the introduction of sound. In the first lesson of their 6-part course, Filmmaker IQ, in partnership with RØDE, presents the history of the development of sound in the moving pictures, including when, how, and by whom the technology was created, and how it affected the cinematic world. More »

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There are many ways for filmmakers to use their skills to generate income. You can move to a major filmmaking hub like New York, Los Angles, or Atlanta and cut your teeth in the world of features and television. You can shoot commercials and web videos for local businesses. You can shoot and edit weddings. You can even use your own short films and features and generate income through various online distribution outlets. And last but not least, you can sell stock footage. The only problem with the latter option is that most stock footage houses these days aren’t built with filmmakers in mind. Today marks the launch of Story & Heart, a new story-driven stock footage licensing hub and filmmaking community that tackles many of the issues with modern footage licensing head on. The result is a stock footage service that is unlike any other to come before it. More »