Or maybe you were bent over your edit bay, suffering over that last edit in time to get your film out to the festival circuit….
Our DIY FILM FESTIVAL deadline is fast approaching!!!!! We will be accepting films postmarked by Feb. 14th, Valentine’s Day, which is a Saturday this year. We will announce the finalists soon after, and the gala will be in early March to announce the winners. If you’re a FINALIST you will be NOTIFIED ASAP!
So hurry! Time to get your entry into withoutabox.com and into the mail!!!
|Filmmakers sad to have missed the deadline for the film fest….|
Was just reading about the journey of film director Jonathan Demme in the latest DGA magazine (written by Rob Feld) who began his career working for prolific move producer Roger Corman… and how he went from a DIY Film Director to a studio maven…. and back.
|BRAINWASHED: Demme directs a scene from The Manchurian Candidate. When you have someone like Denzel Washington, Demme says, you want to do close-ups. (Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures)|
Here are some excerpts from his interview in the DGA Magazine:
ROB FELD: Looking at how you first got started making movies, it’s nothing you could have planned.
JONATHAN DEMME: It’s true. My dream was to be a veterinarian, but I flunked out of chemistry. I was an obsessive film buff and completely broke. When I went home to Miami and resumed working in animal hospitals, I found a little paper needing a film critic. I couldn’t have been happier and I then had the opportunity to become a publicist. Now I was inside the movie industry, meeting amazing people, and I didn’t want to do anything else—until I got a call to be Roger Corman’s unit publicist.
On my first meeting with him, he said, ‘You write good production notes. You’re hired as the publicist, and listen, do you know how to write a script?’ I went, ‘Yeah, sure.’ It wasn’t like a dream come true. It was just an extraordinary thing. So Roger buys the script and says, ‘Jonathan, you would probably be a good producer. You can produce it.’ And, again, I never had any dreams of producing movies.
Q: And how did that lead you to directing?
A: Later on we made The Hot Box in the Philippines and encountered monsoons. We went way behind schedule and it became necessary to have a second unit, so I became the second unit director to shoot these battle scenes. What the hell? I went out to shoot and fell instantly in love with directing. And Roger gave me an opportunity to direct. He said, write a women’s prison movie, which was Caged Heat. I never had dreams of doing that sort of thing, either. To be a publicist in the movie business was as good as it gets.
Q: What were some of the things you picked up from the Corman playbook?
A: I’ll never forget having my directorial one-hour luncheon at a spaghetti joint on Sunset Boulevard, around the corner from New World Pictures, where Roger gave me all the rules. There were a number of things that struck me hard. He said you have to think in terms of the human eyeball at all times. It’s a visual medium and our eyes are what keep our brains engaged in the movie.
If you start boring the eye, then the brain will get bored. So try to get a variety of angles and not fall into the same kinds of angles and compositions scene after scene. Try to have different close-ups for every scene. Whenever you’ve got the motivation, move the camera, because the human eye loves that element of surprise. Where are we going? What are we going to see next? That’s before the brain even gets involved.
He also said you don’t have to do a lot of fancy moving, either. Roger felt that the best shot in cinema is dollying slowly down a hallway toward a closed door. You can’t beat that shot. I’ve done it a million times and it’s always great—the introduction of Dr. Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. It signals that something important is going to happen on the other side of that door. It may be a surprise party or it may be Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
Q: Can you remember the first film where you did a camera move and went, ‘Oh, that really works’?
A: Totally. Caged Heat, the first movie I directed. I had a 20-day schedule, not knowing what the hell I was doing, thinking, ‘Are we really going to take the time to set up a dolly shot?’ But [cinematographer] Tak [Fujimoto] and I set up this elaborate dolly shot to introduce all the women confined in the cellblock. We gave everyone a little business and, to me, it seemed as great as anything in Doctor Zhivago.
Q: Even from your earliest films you were getting strong performances. How has your method of working with actors evolved?
A: At a certain point a giant light bulb goes off in a new director’s head, if they weren’t smart enough to get it from the outside, which I wasn’t. The actors have been preparing for tomorrow’s scene, so not only should I not come tell them where to sit and when to stand up to go get the water, I should just shut up and trust that this wonderful actor I’ve cast is going to bring fabulous stuff. The beauty of shooting digital is that you can say, ‘On this next take, let’s just do four straight runs; we won’t come in and touch you up. I’m not going to say anything.’
I’ve seen it happen so many times; no one is going to have a better idea for Meryl Streep or Anne Hathaway on their next take than Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. They’ve just done it, now give them a chance to do it again. After three or four runs you just see what starts happening, and if I have any requests, then I can make them. That to me is the great breakthrough in technology, giving the actors an opportunity to do these repeated shots unencumbered by cut, makeup, little adjustments, all that stuff.
Q: But you are having discussions with the actors beforehand?
A: The part gets offered to them and we meet and talk about the script. The one thing I want to know for sure is, ‘Is there anything in here that you’re not comfortable with, that you don’t buy, or do you feel it’s missing something?’ Because that’s when we have to figure out if we’re on the same wavelength. I make a deal with actors: You will try anything I request, whether you think it’s good, bad, or ugly, and I will always make sure that you never leave a scene feeling you didn’t get a chance to have what you wanted to do captured on film.
I don’t think there’s any right or wrong, just what ultimately works best for the story scene by scene. Sometimes people will say, ‘Oh, I love the performance you got out of so and so.’ I didn’t get anything out of anybody. I encouraged, I protected, I helped create an open, positive atmosphere where the actors know that we are all there to support and capture the magic they create. I hopefully tossed in a couple of good ideas, but that’s their performance.
Q: How do you decide when to use more subjective POV shots instead of over-the-shoulder shots?
A: The most powerful shot of all is when you put the viewer right in the shoes of one of the characters so that they are seeing exactly what the character is seeing and, ideally, having the same response that the character is having because they’re so identified with them. How do you get into that POV shot? We’ve discovered you have to have tight over-the-shoulders in order to get there invisibly.
Of course, you don’t want your audience to realize your actors are staring into the camera. You want them to be so immersed in the moment that it’s their reality, so you need that tight, tight over the shoulder to get in and out of the subjective camera. We felt like that shot was made for The Silence of the Lambs because, in their confrontations with each other, Dr. Lecter [Anthony Hopkins] and Clarice [Jodie Foster] are going deep inside each other’s heads. The more you back off and loosen the over-the-shoulders, you’re just moving away from the goal of the intensity of the sequence, becoming more and more objective. I love pushing the subjective side of things whenever possible for the viewer.
Q: How does that apply to the shot where you introduce Hannibal Lecter?
A: Again, that’s from Corman’s dollying down a hallway. We dollied down a cellblock to reveal this guy standing there. We knew we were going to push the POV aspect of things in every scene that Jodie was in because she’s the one that we’re going to identify with. In our shot list, our close-ups were always super tight, over and into the lens.
And we knew that whatever she did, whatever walk she took, we’d have a moving POV there. We’d have a record of everything she saw throughout the course of the story. We could go to her point of view whenever we wanted, would have the matching shot to tie us in with it, and we would have the overs to get us into that delicious little duet of POVs.
Q: So, when do you shoot what we’re seeing and when do you shoot what we’re feeling?
A: The feeling part is super important, isn’t it? So it really becomes a question of how do we translate what we want the feeling to be through what we see? Very often that brings us back to the character’s face and what they’re presented with in the moment, their POV of things. I knew the end of The Silence of the Lambs would work great, when Buffalo Bill runs away from Clarice in the dark, because a lot of it was like the endless variations on dollying down the hallway to the closed door.
We’re dollying through this scary basement and there’s so many doors. If you’ve got Jodie Foster or Meryl Streep or Denzel Washington, you really love those close-ups of them. So what about a close-up where they’re looking at the audience and the audience now sees what they’re seeing? POV is just so vital. I’m surprised it isn’t used more often.
Q: How much of a practical business head do you need to have as a director?
A: Corman always says that a director has to be 40 percent artist and 60 percent businessman, and then he’ll quickly point out that 40 percent is a strong percentage. I really think that’s true. I’ve made documentaries that I shot myself, on my own little cameras. When I’m doing that, I can do anything I want because I’m paying for it.
But as soon as you take a job as a director and someone’s going to entrust you with a certain amount of money, your job is to give them their money’s worth and more. Whether it’s $171,000 for Caged Heat or huge amounts, it’s our job to justify that investment. That’s a profound responsibility. Now, you need to unleash your artistry inside of that, but part of the 60 percent means lining up a cast that’s going to be extraordinary, getting the best crew imaginable, making sure that the script is as strong as it possibly can be. These are all business decisions on a certain level.
And I think that’s fine. You may have to fire people sometimes, just to keep things going in the best possible way. Charlie Okun, when he was my AD, once encouraged me to kick a writer off set because he was complaining to the actors about how a scene was going. That put me in touch more than ever before with the tremendous responsibility I had as a director, and it made me realize a director might have to be ruthless sometimes for the sake of the picture…..