Film school is really expensive and doesn't really make sense for most people. If you want to learn how to make movies, you have to get out there and do it, and then take time listening to how the greats pull great things off. That's why I think it's so important to seek out the commentary tracks for your favorite movies.
It's the directors walking you through all their trials and tribulations that got you to the perfect ending. You can learn a ton from one.
One of the most generous directors in these sessions is Michael Mann. He has several masterpieces under his belt, but my favorite is Heat and its amazing heist scene that felt real, raw, and powerful. Check out Mann's commentary below, and let's talk after the break.
Learn from Michael Mann's Heat Heist Commentary
Mann lets the scene build before he speaks, and I can already feel the score making my heart pound in my chest. The scene is built on two ideas. The robbers are attacking a bank with a plan they know will work. And the cops are running out a tip they think will be this robbery.
The cops have no idea what they'll find when they show up. The robbers hope they can get away clean.
That's how the start of the scene unfolds. So how do you make this look real?
First, you have to train your team. Robert DeNiro and Val Kilmer spent weeks studying military tactics and shooting at a range. Apparently, DeNiro wound up being a pretty good shot. This training informed their movements in the bank because they look like professionals.
Consultants helped them learn where to point their rifles and how they should be armed. Mann put attention to detail first. They have long guns, sidearms, and body armor. They have the right amount of magazines as well.
This all helps build a version of reality for the audience.
When the shooting began, they used real-life robbery and shootout stories to help plot out their actions. Shooting through the windshield was something they heard happened in Northern Ireland, and they wanted to recreate that here.
When it came to special effects, they wanted those to be real too. So they brought all the cars up to the range and filled them with holes. Then, they used Bondo to paint them. In the scene, they fire off quids on the side of the cars that blow the Bondo away, revealing real gunshot holes.
Again, realism is key.
Finally, let's talk about character. The cop versus the robber. The way they act in these scenes really showcases that. We have one guy willing to kill anyone except his crew to get his money. The other, while having a ton of emotional problems, genuinely wants to keep people safe. So when it comes time to escape, we see the robber willing to do anything, and the cop being forced to save civilians rather than give real chase.
It's all exquisite and a masterclass on directing skills that come together.
Do you love Heat? Let us know what you think in the comments.