Thursday, October 31, 2013

All is Lost- A Cinematic Masterpiece

Whenever I am writing a script I always try and take advantage of film as a medium, and that is visuals. Writers too often try and come up with lengthy dialogue to tell the story, however when you do this you may find yourself being redundant and putting in unnecessary dialogue that has no real point to it . While dialogue is a very useful story telling technique, another way to tell the story is by letting the footage do the talking for you. As the saying goes "a picture is worth a thousand words" and this has never been more true in film. Typically we shoot at 24 frames a second, thats 24 individual pictures, I'll let you do the math. Using just the image and perhaps a soundtrack and natural sound allows the viewer to understand your story while at the same time have their own take to what is going on.

The trailer above is to the new movie "All is Lost"directed by J.C. Chandor and starring Robert Redford. Robert Redford is actually the only actor in the film. This film was covered in this month's edition of American Cinematographer and goes into the production process. There are only a few lines of dialogue and the screen play was only 31 pages long. In the article it talks about how that the camera man was never more then 10 feet away from the actor. This alone makes you feel like you are right there beside the character as well as makes the viewer feel like the character is trapped. The director said that if he were to get shots of the boat far away as establishing shots that it would give the feeling of hope for the character when in reality he is trapped and there really is no hope. Due to the lack of dialogue you don't really know who this character is, he could be murderer for all we know, but thats what is so great about the movie. You are able to almost become the character and shape him any way you want as a viewer.

Without even have seen this movie yet I am almost certain it is up for a lot of rewards for the sole reason of it going against the grain. This is so unusual for a feature film to have little to no dialogue and from the trailer it looks like it has been done well. This movie is on the top of my list to see and I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Camera-work in The Office

One of my favorite series to ever hit primetime television is NBC’s The Office. I enjoy it for many 

reasons, the humor, how relatable it is, and the way it is produced. I think the most unique part of the 

production of The Office is the camera work. Because The Office is made to seem like a camera crew is 

actually following the characters around, it has a much different feel than most television shows.

            Since it is made to appear as a documentary, all camera angles have to be believable. For 

instance, if it starts with a wide shot, then cuts to a close up, the shot they cut to cannot be from an 

angle within the original wide shot. It sounds confusing, but basically for the show to be believable as 

a  documentary, you have to imagine it being shot with multiple cameras at the same time, in such a 

way that no camera would appear in a different camera’s shot.

            Most television shows try to have the highest production value possible, The Office does the 

opposite, but in a unique way that works for them. Being that its shot in a documentary style, one 

would not expect The Office to have a high production value. When something supposedly is 

happening once and there is only one chance to capture it or it’s gone, you don’t expect beautiful long 

dolly shots or a steadicam follow shot. You expect shakey, handheld shots, with lots of quick camera 

movement to ensure that all the action happening is captured. In real life the camera-man would not be 

prepared for action happening across the room, so to get the shot he/she would have to use quick pans 

and zooms to ensure that he/she can get all the action in frame, while putting the actual framing quality 

on the backburner. The use of tripods is rare, and anything you would call “beautifully cinematic,” will 

not appear in The Office.

            If it were truly a documentary, the characters would be aware of the cameras that are constantly 

following them. Often characters will look at the camera or the crew in certain situations. For example, 

in the clip below, Michael is telling a joke he looks at the cameraman as if he is going to laugh at the 

joke too. At another point in the clip Michael talks directly to the camera about whether or not 

something is appropriate or not.

            One part of the show that makes the characters extremely relatable is the individual and small group confessionals that most of the actors partake in. These are very similar to an interview, which are often used in real documentaries, frequently with b-roll being placed over the audio from the interview. The Office does the same thing, with the confessionals, making the show appear even more similar to a documentary.

            I believe that the documentary style of shooting is a significant contributing factor to The 

Office’s success. Because it’s shot as a documentary the audience believes the characters are real 

people and that is the real way they act. Without this style the show would appear very scripted and 

precise. While the scripted and precise style works for some shows, The Office’s style of comedy 

revolves around the relationship the character builds with the audience, and without the documentary 

style, that relationship would be gone.

Below is another clip that I feel really displays what The Office is really about.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Devil: The movie that makes elevators even creepier


For all you horror film fanatics, this 2010 movie "Devil" is simply scary. It features five strangers get trapped in an elevator to face their ultimate death. The movie starts of with a low angle shot of a man committing suicide and a narration begins. The narrator begins to tell the audience about the stories his mother used to tell him regarding the pernicious ways of the Devil. As the movie progresses, we find each unique character has a horrible vice. One is a mattress salesman who cons people to buy his products, and another example of a woman who is waiting to inherit millions. 

The camera work is fluid and interesting in this film. It is odd that the majority of the film was filmed in an elevator, being such a small space and not having to work with much. Each time the lights go out, a death occurs and someone is dead when the lights come back on. I like that they chose to shoot it in this way because it makes the viewer have to imagine what is going on and that is even scarier. The lighting in the beginning of the movie is natural, but in the elevator it flickers on and off and their is a large use of shadows. It is almost a fun movie because the entire time you are trying to figure out who is killing everyone in the elevator; the black man, the grandmother, the young woman, the edgy man, or the middle eastern man? Watch the film to find out!

This is one of my favorite horror films because it is so simple, yet very well done. It was based on a story by M.Night Shyamalan and he is one of my favorite directors as well. Overall this movie is terrifying, especially to those who are religious. I am Catholic and the idea that the Devil walks among us is terrifying. In the end of the film, the narrator states "If the Devil is real, God must also be real" which is a great way to end the film in my opinion. 

Here is the trailer, check it out if you dare:

The Remake Of Carrie

I'm not a fan of scary movies nor was I a fan of the old Carrie but I absolutely hate remakes! First of all remakes of the originals never come out as well. It always seems like the director is trying to keep the important scenes and similar lines but it always looks cheesy like a really bad knock off. Carrie is a 2013 American supernatural horror film. It is the third film adaptation of Stephen King's 1974 novel of the same name, though MGM and Screen Gems, who are producing the film, employed a script that reportedly more faithful to King's original novel.

In the first movie the mother was creepy and terrifyingly religious! I was afraid to be Carrie but in the new version the mother from the beginning always seemed weaker then her. Carrie's powers were more evident in the remake from early on. In the original she doesn't realize her abilities until later on in the movie. They changed a lot of the scenes that made the original creepy movie creepy. Chloe Moretz did an excellent job trying to live up to Sissy Spacek's original performance in the 1976 version directed by Brian De Palma. I will say the new Carrie has great visual effects and explosions that make Carrie's powers seem more real and believable.

It's the same movie just not as good I think. Some people enjoyed it like modern scary movies they have a good finish a big bang and the audiences tolerate them. For me the entire story needs to be good from start to finish.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pacific Rim: A defense

Recently I was reading the other groups posts and stumbled upon someone who recently was watched Pacific Rim and disliked it. As a big fan of both the movie and Guillermo Del Toro, I am going to come to the films defense against the most common criticism the film gets. For those who have not seen or heard of Pacific Rim, it's about years in the future where monstrous beings known as Kaiju come out of a portal in the Pacific Ocean and wreak havoc on the coastlines. The humans respond to the attacks in the most logical manner, by building giant humanoid robots to punch the Kaiju. Many people criticized the film for not being as deep and intricate as Del Toro's earlier works like Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone. I dont think that these people fully understood the whole idea of Pacific Rim. This was Del Toro's chance to make a blockbuster big budget action film. It was a passion project for him to put everything he loved about classic monster movies (often called "kaiju films" as Kaiju is Japanese for strange beast) into a fun, dumb film. The film was also criticized for it's lack of character development of which I can partially agree with. While some of the secondary characters, mainly the other Jaeger (robot) pilots. However the two main characters Raleigh and Mako have some good character development. We see both characters struggle with and eventually overcome grief. Raleigh himself even says "All these years, I've been living in the past, never really thought about the future until now. I never did have good timing."   Pacific Rim is a big dumb and incredibly fun film, and that's all it was meant to be. Once people known that they can sit back and enjoy the ride.  

South African cinema - White Wedding (2010)

A few nights ago I had the opportunity to watch a South African romantic comedy, White Wedding, written and directed by Jann Turner. The film revolves around a South African man (Kenneth Nkosi) who has to travel from Johannesburg to Cape Town to meet his wife before they get married. Essentially, it's a variation of The Hangover, except the humor can sometimes be a little unrelatable.

This was the first South African film I had actually seen, so I wasn't sure what to expect cinematic-wise and dialogue-wise in relation to Hollywood. In my opinion, the cinematography was beautiful, but mainly because of the scenery of various fields, hills, roads, and the coast.

One thing I found interesting and unique to this film was the interwoven language used in the dialogue. It would literally jump from Zulu to Xhosa to English at various points, but it never took me out of the film itself.

But, what the film lacked in exposition, it made up in it's portrayal of a country still distraught with racial differences. The film isn't exactly meant to be eye-catchingly beautiful, although it isn't basic by any means. It was more focused on the racial struggles that black South Africans still face in a country once divided due to apartheid.

You Don't Need Money to Scare the S*** Out of People

As a college student looking pursue a career in the movie industry, I have heard the same advice on countless occasions: 

"Movies? Yikes...You should probably study something more stable; like psychology, or art history." 

However, upon realizing that I'm pretty set in my decision to make films, people in the industry give me another piece of advice: 

"Start by producing horror. They're relatively cheap to make, and they have a built in audience." 

I decided to do my own research on the topic. How small of a budget can horror films have and still make a profit? Does a bigger budget necessarily guarantee a better movie? I started by comparing two horror films with very different budgets.

This is the trailer for the 2010 thriller, The Wolfman directed by Joe Johnston. It cost $150,000,000 to produce.

This is the trailer for the 1978 horror film, Halloween, directed by John Carpenter. The independent film had the minuscule budget of $325,000.

When looking exclusively at box office sales, The Wolfman outperformed Halloween; grossing a whopping $139,789,765 as opposed to Halloween's $70,000,000. Despite this, in the end, The Wolfman lost $10,210,235 while Carpenter's Halloween made $69,675,000. This comparison isn't the only example of low budget horror films ultimately earning more money than bigger budget productions.

Director Tobe Hooper's 1974 film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is my all-time favorite example of the little budget guys coming out on top. The thriller cost under $140,000 to produce and ended up grossing $26,000,000. Not bad Tobe. Not bad. 

For those who haven't seen it:

Horror movies will *almost always sell tickets.

 ( *I use the word "almost" due to the failure of the horror film Playback which earned exactly $265 at the box office in 2012.)

Horror films will always sell tickets, but they'll never be blockbusters. Some people just don't like scary movies. They never will. Luckily, there will always be those high school couples and adrenaline junkies that will go out and see anything classified as a horror film. Keeping this in mind, it doesn't economically make sense to spend millions upon millions of dollars to produce a genre of movie that targets a relatively small (although stable) population.

So in the end, the second piece of advice is correct. Scary movies are a great place to start when you want to break into the industry but don't have any money. Still, if horror isn't your thing, there's always porn.

The Cabin in the Woods - Purposefully Cliche

I recently watched The Cabin in the Woods (2012), directed by Drew Goddard, to prepare myself for Halloween. (I normally don't like too many "horror" movies because of how cheesy they can be, but this one was slightly different.) A jock, a nerd, a stoner, a dumb blonde, and a virgin decide to get away for the weekend by going to a desolate cabin in the middle of nowhere. Before which, they were warned by a creepy old man not to go there. Sound familiar?

That's because you've seen it a thousand times in every other scary movie.

However, The Cabin in the Woods played off of these normal cliches in a clever way. I won't explain in detail as to not give it away, but this movie is about ritual sacrifice. It's sort of The Hunger Games with a ritual sacrifice twist combined with every scary movie... If that makes sense.

The plot and writing (Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, who worked together on Buffy the Vampire Slayer) are what really make this movie worth watching. They play upon the stereotypes of scary movies, referencing many things that have been done over and over again. For example, there are spirits, zombies, killer mermen, giant snakes, flying beasts, and many other horrible creatures. All these typical monsters come out all at once in an exciting, gruesome climax.

To be able to play off the irony of the stereotypical characters, they need to be very well cast. Chris Hemsworth plays the role of the alpha male, thick-headed jock well. Fran Kranz is superb as the "fool" pothead, who's theories turn out to be true this time. Jesse Williams, a bit boring as the nerdy nice guy, but it is always harder to play the straight character. Anna Hutchison has the easy character ("easy" in both senses), as all she really does is look good and scream. And Kristen Connolly - the "virgin" - also seems a bit boring at times, but has a little more intellect and character depth.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film. It's entertaining, as most horror movies are, but also has more substance.


Lately I have been trying to expand my DSLR accessories while trying to get the best deal because as many of you know video equipment is not cheap. Hell a replacement canon lens cover is 10 dollars. While we do have PPECS which is an awesome resource for now, we won't always have this access to equipment for free. I have been trying to decide what I should invest in next and I've come to the conclusion of some sort of stabilization system. While I could just buy a relatively nice video tripod for under a hundred dollars, a tripod really limits me to only be able to shoot so much, as well as not a lot of creative shots. What I believe the best investment is going to be is a steadicam, more specifically a glide cam.

A glide cam is a newer steadicam system which can allow you to get amazingly smooth shots, and the system, for what its worth, is relatively cheap to most other steadicams.

The picture above is of the Glidecam HD-2000. This is the medium priced model. There is a HD-1000, 2000, and 4000 and the difference between each of them is the amount of weight they can hold and the length of each unit. The 1000 can hold about 1-3 pounds which seems very impractical because while lenses and attachments most DSLRs will tip that scale. The 2000 holds about 2-6 pounds more weight and a little cheaper for those who are just beginning with steadicam use. Finally the 4000 can hold up to 10 pounds and extend to 28 inches. Now the HD models are the older brothers to the XR models. If you are looking to save a little bit more money the XR's may be right for you, however getting them to balance is a much more tedious process.

Glidecam Balance Tutorial

For a more in-depth look at the process visit the link above, it covers a lot of good information especially if you are looking to invest in one of these systems. This on Phillip Blooms website, an independent cinematographer, a lot of useful film tips can be found on this website, I suggest you take a look around.

The person to really get the name of this system out there is Devin Graham. Devin is a Youtube partner who creates some pretty insane videos using DSLRs combined with the glidecam. He films a lot of free running videos ,especially for the video game series Assassins Creed. Using the glidecam in this style of video is really cool because it makes it feel like you are running right with the character the whole time. The video is posted below.

Devin usually posts a Behind the Scenes video which really helps you see how they do all of the unique shots. The link is posted below.

This is another video by Devin which is shot on the Canon 5D Mark II and the Glidecam 4000. The whole video gives you the feeling that you are almost flying.

Now the most expensive model of Glidecam is about 600 dollars with a little bit of hunting around the internet and in reality for a steadicam this is an extremely good deal. Just typing in steadicam to a google search the results show models ranging from 1000 dollars to about 9000, and they can go even high then that. There are also cheaper models but typically in video equipment you get what you pay for and thats quality. Another thing besides price to take into consideration is that steadicams do make your shots look good but you can't just pick it up and expect a beautiful shot, these skills take practice just like anything else. But if you want to start getting some hands on experience with this equipment for a relatively cheap price the glidecam cam could be the piece of equipment for you.

Stop, go, stop, go..

Stop motion animation has been around for a very long time, and at its core it couldn't be simpler: move something a tiny bit, take a picture, then move it a tiny bit again, then take another picture and so on. While the beginning concept might be simple, in practice it is very time consuming meticulous work, especially when you consider how many things need to be moved every frame, and just how many frames create a second of animation.

A variation of stop motion animation is "claymation", in which all the characters and often worlds they inhabit are made of clay. Here's an example from 'The Neverhood' (Which is a video game!):

Another variant is "cutout animation" which is where the characters and backgrounds are made of paper. Popular examples of this are 'Blue's Clues' and 'South Park' (Though today they are both animated on computers, they still maintain the paper visual style) Below is an example of cutout animation by Trey Parker (the co-creator of 'South Park')

Stop motion animation is even used in feature films. Lately most examples of this have been from Laika, with recent productions being 'Paranorman' and 'Coraline'. They're next major feature is going to be 'The Box Trolls', which is animated mostly with stop motion.

Stop motion animation can also be created with everyday objects. One of my favorite stop motion animators is PES, who likes to use everyday objects in place of other objects, from mountains to animals. One of his animations was nominated for an Academy award:

What makes PES' animations especially great, is his use of sound. For stop motion especially, sound is incredibly important. It adds so much to the depth and weight of the objects and characters in the piece. The everyday objects in PES' animations take on new life by both their new uses as well as the sounds they create when interacted with. Most all of his animations do this extraordinarily well, including his latest piece, which captures the deep ocean.

Warp Stabilizer

     With many film makers consistently pushing the limit and trying to find a better shot, this weeks post can aid with faults along the way. Additionally as the world isn't a perfect place and there are usually multiple challenges when shooting (especially on extreme terrain) a powerful video filter such as warp stabilizer in Adobe After Effects may be the solution. This handy post-production effect can take shaky footage and transform it too a smooth shot. While warp stabilizer is a good tool in a crunch or for footage like the kayak video below, it will not save dreadful footage. Some challenges for the warp stabilizer consist of motion blur and rolling shutter speed (try to shoot at a higher shutter speed). Also the effect crops your footage so you might like to shoot at a wider angle to compensate for that. Lastly warp stabilizer can be used for other shots such as footage on a camera like a steadicam or jib.

Here is a how to video on the warp stabilizer...

A good example of the warp stabilizer with kayak footage...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"This too Shall Pass" Video By OK Go is Not Your Conventional Music Video

The "This Too Shall Pass" music video is not like anything I have ever seen. The amount of time and work that had gone into preparing such a perfectly smooth video must be astounding. The whole mechanical set up was named the Rube Goldberg machine. It was designed and built by a very creative and talented group of engineers. The builders were from a Los Angeles art and technical based collective, called Syyn Lab. They are known for creating intricate and mechanical moving set ups just as they did for this video. Between 55 and 60 people worked on building this incredible, moving set.

The video was directed by James Frost. The whole apparatus took a month and a half to build. They spent two days shooting and over 60 takes to get the perfect shot. The video was shot with one continuous shot of the entire video. Paula Salhany was the videographer and used a steady cam to shoot the whole thing. To follow everything that was happening at the exact time  it was supposed to happen while getting all musicians in the frame seems impossible, but she made it look like it was done with ease. This whole video is truly a piece of art.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blackfish: Underneath Sea World

Blackfish is a 2013 documentary film directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013, and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures for wider release. Blackfish focuses on the Orca Tilikum and dangers of keeping the species in captivity. The documentary focuses  on the captivity of the killer whale Tilikum, who was involved in the deaths of three individuals and the consequences of keeping such a large and intelligent animals in captivity. The coverage of Tilikum begins with his capture in 1983 off the coast of Iceland, showing how he was harrassed by fellow captive whales and left in the dark for hours - incidents which Cowperthwaite argues contributed to the whale's aggression. Cowperthwaite also focuses on SeaWorld's claims that whales in captivity live longer; a claim that the film argues is false.

This news story is opening the eyes to many Americans' about the tragic story of the Orca whales. This movie is sad and extremely biased against SeaWorld. They show SeaWorld in a negative light and basically negatively showing the world how SeaWorld captured and trained the animals for entertainment. This story was run on CNN last night and caused quite controversy. SeaWorld before the movie was aired on TV Thursday night made statements about how this movie didn't show the benefits of Sea World. 

"Blackfish is billed as a documentary, but instead of a fair and balanced treatment of a complex subject, the film is inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy that remains a source of deep pain for Dawn Brancheau's family, friends and colleagues. To promote its bias that killer whales should not be maintained in a zoological setting, the film paints a distorted picture that witholds from viewers key facts about SeaWorld -- among them, that SeaWorld is on of the world's most respected zoological institutions, that SeaWorld rescues, rehabilitates and returns to the wild hundreds of wild animals every year, and that SeaWorld commits millions of dollars annually to conservation and scientific research. Perhaps most important, the film fails to mention SeaWorld's commitment to the safety of its team members and guests and to the care and welfare of its animals, as demonstrated by the company;s continual refinement and improvement to its killer whale facilities, equipment and procedures both before and after the death of Dawn Brancheau."

The movie makes them seem like they don't care for the animals like they say they do. They show SeaWorld as a basically huge money making organization that doesn't take into consideration the affect they are having on the whales. Tilly is their distraught male whale that was torn away from his home and family, constantly beaten by other female whales as a child, and is extremely too large for his living quoters was part of the few reasons why he acted out in violent and vicious ways.

This is a story about pain and a struggle between money and what is moral. Morally they are committing serious felonies but because the conditions are with animals it's constantly being over looked. These creatures are smarter then what we give them credit for and parading them around like a circus act will only cause more human casualties. I would have agree that SeaWorld was educational but, the fact that facts they are teaching are incorrect and only there to serve the purpose of proving Sea World's actions valid make me not only skeptical but furious. I'm disgusted at how industries are more worried about losing money then actually what is safe for their employees and their animals.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Steadicam Work in Hugo

A few weeks ago I had my first experience with a steadicam. I was first AC for my friends ACP fiction shoot, and the DP happened to own and operate a steadicam. He let me try it on for a few minutes and it was awesome. The variety of shots that can be accomplished with a steadicam is unreal. After that weekend of working so closely with this rig really peaked my interest. I've been researching various set-ups and examples of shots used with a steadicam. One of my favorite examples i've found was from the final scenes of Hugo.

Here is a shot from the point of view of a go-pro mounted on top of the steadicam.

The way the operator moves around the set with flawless precision is un-real. He is able to achieve perfect shots and angles while the whole time avoiding actors and props.

Seeing the way that they move the set makes me wonder if that happens more often in movies and I just don't notice it. I think its amazing how they built the wall to be able to retract to make room for the steadicam, while still being impossible to tell that the wall can move.

Here is the actual clip from the movie:

Robert Richardson was the DP for Hugo, and if you have seen the movie you know that there are many shots as impressive as this one. Richardson has 3 oscars along with another 16 wins and 46 nominations. 

Above and Beyond

There are not many shows that are quite like the Showtime original series "Shameless." The show takes place in a shady neighborhood in Chicago and depicts the lives of the Gallagher family. This functionally dysfunctional family of 6 has to deal with getting the kids through school, paying their bills, and the focus of the video above, their alcoholic father Frank played by William H. Macy.

The clip I included above is not about the show exactly but the process that went into shooting this scene and how they wanted to portray it. The aspect of the scene they focus on is Frank's son Carl shaving his head while he is asleep in his hospital bed. Naturally, with any TV series, every scene has to have a multitude of takes to make sure everything was shot correctly. In an attempt to make the actions on screen during this scene extremely real, they actually shaved Macy's head which means they had to get exactly what they wanted the first time, no easy feat. I feel as though the little details put into series like these really takes them a step beyond your average everyday TV show.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Trick r Treat"


In light of the Halloween season, since I have been home for break I took the opportunity to choose from my wide selection of  horror films. My mom recently bought “Trick r Treat” a scary movie from 2007 that I had never heard of. So, we popped it in and began watching it.

This film features three to four different stories, all intertwined during on Halloween night in Ohio. There is this scary little “kid” with a cloth bag over his head that is always present in each individual story.  It is hard to follow the stories at first, as the viewer is constantly switched from on to another. The movie establishes them quickly, and soon it is easy to differentiate.

The composition of shots is average, nothing too special or intriguing. Lighting in the film is mostly dark, with shadows and “moon” light.  The character development was poor, since there were so many stories intertwined I never got a chance to really know them. The idea of this movie is interesting, but it could have been composed better.

One of the scenes I thought was well done is a scene of a group of girls in the woods. (this is not going where you think/hoping it was!) We find out the girls are all werewolves and the each brought a “date” to the “party”.  The metamorphosis of the girls is done well, as they each begin turning into their true and scary selves. The scene has awesome lighting and special effects that are very believable.

Overall I probably would not see this movie again. In the end the viewer is taken back in time to see the events again, but from different perspectives and that is pretty cool how they tied that in.  All the stories are meshed together, but it didn’t entice me to the point that I would want to watch it again.

Here’s the trailer, take a look 

Friday, October 18, 2013

It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. A great show about terrible people.

Since I'm in Philly over fall break I thought it would be perfect to write about It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. In the past month I watched all 9 seasons the show has put out this far. For those who don't watch the show, It's Always Sunny follows four friends who are the owners of a shady Irish pub called Paddy's. The show is well known for it's crass, offensive humor and the fact that every character is a terrible person. That's right, not a single character on the show could be considered a "good person". They are all shallow, narcissistic and will stoop to new lows to get what they want. For instance, one character Frank, the "father" of two other characters Dee and Dennis, makes them dig up their mother from her grave. In another episode the gang as they're called tries to "home improvement their neighbors house, but end up burning it to the ground and kidnapping the owners. The show is also quite meta, referencing characteristics of other shows and often mocking them. The entire show is a play on sitcom character flaws. One episode the gang visits another rival bar and it is very easy to see that the other bar is a homage to other sitcoms, complete with a will they/won't they couple and more. The show is great for those who love to watch terrible people not learn lessons and laugh the whole time.

Freaks and Geeks

Throughout the history of television, there have been many series that were cancelled before they could reach their full potential. Many of these shows, such as "Firefly" and "Arrested Development,"  fail to find a broad audience upon their initial broadcasting. However, through word of mouth and praise from critics, many of these series have developed cult followings long after they originally aired. As I recently discovered, one the greatest shows to see a premature cancelation is "Freaks and Geeks."

"Freaks and Geeks" follows the life of Lindsay Weir, played by Linda Cardellini, a straight A student from a fairly conservative family. Despite her background, Lindsay begins to hang out with the "freaks", the slacker students who care more about socializing than school. The entire series focuses on Lindsay's journey of self-discovery as she attempts to balance her new personality with her old reputation. "Freaks and Geeks" also follows the story of Lindsay's brother, Sam, played by John Francis Daley. Unlike his sister, Sam is considered and geeks and has to deal with being bullied and looked down upon by others. Similar to Lindsay, "Freaks and Geeks" shows Sam trying to fit in and ultimately becoming more comfortable with himself.

What separates "Freaks and Geeks" from other shows is its incredible character development. Much like in real life, the characters are vastly different with many facets to their personalities. Such differences allow for very compelling interactions without making the show too dramatic and unrealistic, something that many other high school dramas fall victim too. Although the show only lasted for 18 episodes, this series did an amazing job of providing a compelling backstory for its characters. By doing this, even the meanest of characters became somewhat relatable. For example, Kim, played by Busy Phillipps, is shown as rude, obnoxious, and generally unlikable in the first few episodes. However, as the season progresses, we see that these actions are the result of her acting out because of her poor family life. Although Kim is mean to everyone, she really just wants a friend whom she can confide in.

In my opinion, "Freaks and Geeks" is by far the most realistic high school show ever written. Although there have been a ton of shows centered around high school, none of them have been able to replicate the quality that "Freaks and Geeks" achieved in its lone season. Most of the time, it seems like high school shows are too dramatic and the characters and largely one dimensional. As a result, it becomes hard to relate to them and they end up lacking the human element that makes "Freaks and Geeks" so special. Ultimately, the impact of "Freaks and Geeks"can be seen in the eventual career path of many of its actors. This series was a springboard for the careers of James Franco, Seth Rogan, and  Jason Segel, who are now three of the most prominent actors in Hollywood. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, it is best to appreciate the one superb season of "Freaks and Geeks" that was produced.

Rush: It's Not All About the Cars

Rush, directed by Ron Howard, is every boy's dream. It's got action, it's got sex, and its got cars. It's got a LOT of cars. If you're anything like me, the concept of a "biographical sports drama film" based on race car drivers wouldn't exactly send you racing (hah) to the theaters. And yet, when I saw my friend down on his knees crying and begging me to see it with him, I obliged.

I wanted to hate it. I really did. And yet, although the main plot revolved around a race track, the characters, as well as the biographical aspect of the film, drew me in.

Here's the trailer:

Rush documents the racing rivalry between English playboy James Hunt, (played by Chris Hemsworth) and the cool, calculating German,  Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl.) I think the main reason I find the movie so interesting is that the two main characters are complete opposites.


This is Niki Lauda:                                    
                                                                                (Niki Lauda)                    (Daniel Bruhl)                                  

  • Precise
  • Technical
  • Level-headed
  • Recluse
  • Racing = A Science

                                            And this is James Hunt:

                                                                               (Chris Hemsworth)                 (James Hunt)

  • Charming
  • Daring
  • Womanizer
  • Hot-headed
  • Racing = A Sport

As one can imagine, the dynamic created between these two characters is fantastic. An intense rivalry sprinkled with hints of mutual respect, a little bit of fear, and even a shared eye twinkle here and there. The fact that the characters in Rush are based on real people only add to the of the magnificence whole thing.

Still, the character interaction in Rush wasn't the only reason my eyes stayed glued to the screen. Apparently, race car driving is really, really dangerous. Shot after shot of cars spinning out of control  had me biting my nails anxiously, praying that neither of the main characters would be hurt. I won't give anything anyway because I seriously recommend watching the movie for yourself. Or, if the movie isn't going to do it for you, you can read the real story about the rivalry here.

Part of me was really happy that I didn't know anything about the Lauda/Hunt rivalry before seeing Rush. It definitely kept me on my toes the whole time, because unlike most of the audience, I had no idea what was to come. The other thing I found interesting was that throughout the entire movie I wasn't quite sure who I was supposed to root for. Both Lauda and Hunt were covered so equally that although I stood behind Lauda most of the time, my friend turned out to be rooting for Hunt. In the end, the protagonists were each their own antagonists.

In conclusion I strongly recommend the film. I liked it, and I'm a girl.

American Horror Story: Behind the Scenes

One great thing about this multimedia era of television shows is that viewers are offered a glimpse into behind the scenes videos on a show's youtube channel. Some shows release a behind the scenes look at every episode throughout a season. This inside look at the making of the season premiere of American Horror Story tells us a bit about the storyboarding and research process that went into making the episode. Vigorous research goes into each season, since each season is a separate chapter and storyline. The creative team must research the time period, topic, and creative influences that they decide to pay homage to. American Horror Story is largely based off of paying homage to classic horror films and stories. Each sequence in a given episode takes extensive research before storyboarding begins. The director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, chose to open the Coven chapter with a shot of a black horse's eyes as a way to set the tone of the season. They use a separate iris that they place in front of the camera that they close up to focus on a specific character in a crowded scene. Many shots are characterized by crooked angles and wide lenses using a 6 mm lens, which began as a method to appropriately visualize a scene, but grew into a signature aesthetic style of the show. This behind the scenes video teaches about how everyone on the creative team must work together to make the visual elements compliment the elements of the story, and how closely the director and director of photography work together, as shown in the relationship between Alfonso and Michael Goi

Adobe Kuler & pCAM Film + Digital Calculator Cinematic Applications

       This week for my post I have found a neat free application called Adobe Kuler which allows the individual to use their iPhone to capture color combinations and ultimately allow you to create a color series from the data. As I am currently working as the art director for my small production team on our short student film this nifty application can make choosing locations and set design color palates more organized and precise.

Here is some screen shots of what the application looks like and some of it capabilities...

     The second application I'd like to mention in this post is an iTunes application called pCAM Film + Digital Calculator. This application is $29.99 and was developed by a Camera Assistant who understand the time sensitive calculations done on the set. This would be a great application during production to get the exact shots you have planned prior to the shoot, additionally the app has features such as gauging depth of field, relative size, field of view, focal length match and many more.

Here is some of the iPhone screen shots of this app...

The Fox News Deck

Shepard Smith of Fox News toured the fancy, new Fox News Deck. At first glance, I was waiting for someone to say, "Beam me up, Scotty!" But when you look further, there are some cool aspects and some ridiculous ones.

It is useful that at any time, they can put any of those screens on the air. They've changed the way they gather the news, by using new tools and software to quickly bring news stories to the public. It seems like a smart choice to try and fuse social media with television news, and we will see if it works. The hope is to connect with the social media world and gain the generations of viewers who use smartphones.

This all being said, I still think the whole room is ridiculous. The size of the monitors and computer screens is unnecessary. As Jon Stewart says on The Daily Show when he makes fun of this, "Our televisions are the same size because we still have the same TVs we had last week." I also enjoy when he says, "Hey Fox, I think you're fixing the non-broken part." So maybe they should be working on "fair and balanced" reporting instead of being "trained on this new software" for two weeks. Also, the way Shepard Smith reports this new, amazing room is a little insensitive. When he points out a picture of an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian woman, he says, "This happens to be a picture of a Palestinian woman having a beef with an Israeli soldier." Hmm... maybe not quite the right thing to say in that moment, Shep?

Watch the video of Jon Stewart tearing it apart: