Monday, October 21, 2013

Working with Celebrities

From time to time we're called upon to work with celebrities - from Dr. Maya Angelou to singer/songwriter Demi Lovato and everyone in between.

Recently, our team came back from a shoot with the Robinson family, stars of the hit A&E show, Duck Dynasty.

This was particularly challenging in that we had them for a grand total of four hours. And we had four scripts to film.

Techniques such as shooting down the tunnel? Flew out the window!  We ended up relying on the power of their personalities - and their popularity.  The promos have done fairly well for us. Here are two of them. What do you think?

I particularly like this one, because it was later in the day, the guys were a bit punchy by then, and the giggles were authentic. In fact, the whole take was a riff done by them, unscripted. Sometimes you get your best material that way:

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The drama of back acting

No one does this better than Spielberg.  Take a look at this clip from Schindler's List.

Not a technique one immediately thinks of using as a director. But it's powerful.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The most powerful moves in cinema

What shots really evoke emotion in a film or video? Are there certain camera moves that are more effective than others? In a word, yes.

One of the best lessons I was taught by one of my mentors, JKH, was the power of depth.
Whenever possible, shoot down the tunnel.

This provides your viewer with context, to be sure, but also allows for the single most powerful move you can have your characters make: the move into the lens.

Take a look at these screen grabs from the movie Amistad and you'll see what I mean:

Friday, June 7, 2013

On Directing

I'm a director of everything from tiny little "how to" videos, to PR pieces and feel-good stories, all the way to the larger scale film productions like the series I'm involved in now. You'll be able to see what I'm working on in a few short months, but in the meantime, as a director, it's my job to ensure it all happens.

Directors have to answer a thousand questions a day: "do you like this vase in the shot?" (props) to "should she wear the purple or the green shirt?" (wardrobe) to "do you want him to sit or stand?" (director of photography) "I'd really like to rent this light for $200" (gaffer) "can we be out of this location by 5?" (location manager) all the way down to "when would you like to break for lunch?" (production assistant).

Even the placement of salt shakers is carefully considered!
And that's aside from my primary task, which is to work with the people in front of the lens, whether they're actors or "real" people, to get that shot that emotionally resonates with you, the viewer.

And if it's someone who's never been in front of the camera before, it's my job to engage them in such a way that they forget the big, scary lens they're standing in front of, and instead give me that part of themselves that makes them so uniquely them. That's not an easy thing for a person to do, when surrounded by a crew of strangers and a bunch of equipment and lights! And it's one of many reasons I'm behind the lens and not in front of it. ;-)

(this slideshow was from an earlier production for a holiday series featuring singer/songwriter Jewel.)

Everything we do is about communicating, about making sure that what we film is deserving of your attention.  We have to earn your interest, and so we strive to make our production as interesting, captivating, riveting as possible.

Most days on set are earlier than a normal day, and they last later for me than for the rest of the crew (mainly because of those thousand questions!). It's exhausting, mainly because you pour your heart and soul into what you're filming. But it's rewarding and creatively fulfilling.

I especially love those shows where I get to tell stories and give you a glimpse into another person's fascinating life -- and hope that I can make it as interesting for you as it is for me. We recently produced such a film, and I was thrilled beyond words to be able to tell the stories of three fellow bloggers -- friends that you know and love. Hopefully it'll be released soon and I can share it with you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What to Storyboard?

So you have a show you're working on and you want to get everything just right. Do you spend the time - and funds - to have it storyboarded out?

In the past, I have - especially in cases where I feel the client may not be grasping the vision of the piece.

But according to Hallmark Hall of Fame director John Kent Harrison, it's a waste of time.

His advice?

"Only storyboard the special effects and any scene that has multiple camera shots. Simply shot list the rest."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Director's Responsibilities

I recently attended a director's workshop led by Hallmark Hall of Fame director John Kent Harrison. He's known for sweeping period pieces, such as "Helen of Troy" and the critically acclaimed "The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler."

I really loved his punch list on what the first and main responsibilities of a director should be.

  • First, you must establish geography.
  • Then you need to establish the camera’s POV. Who is telling this story? Then that's where your POV must be.
  • Once you establish the geography and POV, you need to establish intention.
  • Finally, stay within story structure and don’t give it away until the end.  Suspense is important!
Here's an example of establishing POV. The use of the long lens isolates the boy in this scene and it's clearly told from his POV: