Sunday, August 30, 2015

"Save the Cat" or your Cash?

Over the summer I read a book that has been remarked on by many as one of the most valuable tools in a up an coming filmmakers arsenal Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Now I bought this book seeking primarily because the idea of learning what you needed to know to write a screenplay confused me a little bit. I always thought that our ability to tell stories is ancient and innate in nature, and therefore to me a published guide, a well received one at that, really took me by surprise

The book is a quick and easy read written in a conversational and lighthearted tone, and each pointer Snyder provides he is easily able to link to multiple outside examples.

The book definitely gives away a few really helpful tips on story boarding and designing characters, but there was one part that I really took issue with.

A few chapters in Snyder lays out a "Beat Sheet" listing every critical event that has to happen in a film in order for it to sell. The list included almost every element in modern movies that I though was overly cliche. Shoe horned love stories, fun mid movie montages, one liner laced dialogue, it all seemed to be so very lazy.

While admit having strong characters and conflicts are essential to any film, I believe whole heatedly that the best scripts don't come from cookie cutter molds like the one found in don't save the cat, but rather are discovered organically by the writer of the film through there own creative process.

So overall I'd say that Save the Cat is a very useful and insightful book, that should definitely be read by anyone considering screenplay writing as a serious profession, but at the same time I'd add that the book is quick to offer ideas, especially when it comes to  story structure, that come across as fairly lazy.

Friday, August 28, 2015

It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.

For about seven years now, my all time favorite movie has been Fight Club by the amazing director, David Fincher. From the perfected cinematography to the phenomenal acting, there are too many good things to say about it. Here is a list of why Fight Club is one of the best movies of all time:

1.     Perfected cinematography
Fight Club is probably one of the cleanest films I know. Every shot and every cut is completely intentional and flawless. Shots are well composed following the rule of thirds with a variety of angles and perspectives.

2.     Phenomenal acting
We all know that Brad Pitt is one of the most well known actors out there but his relationship to Edward Norton in this film is one-of-a-kind. Seeing the narrator’s bland personality next to Tyler Durden’s rebellious charisma is a groundbreaking performance. Not to mention the animated presentation we get from Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer, the two main characters’ love interest.  

3.     Insightful and thought-provoking quotes
The quotes from this movie are ones that really tend to stick with you. Tyler Durden doesn’t want to waste a second of his life away, so the words that come from his mouth are quite powerful. Here is one of my favorite examples: “You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You're the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

4.      Subliminal messaging
There are a lot of interesting facts about this movie that many people are unaware of. For example, throughout the entire film, there is a flash frame of Tyler Durden on the screen four times before we actually meet his character.

5.     Ominous coloring and lighting
Last but not least, one of my favorite things about this film is the coloring and lighting. It is tinted blue throughout giving it an ominous effect and the lighting within every shot amplifies what’s happening.

Overall this is an amazing film. I highly recommend seeing it multiple times. Every time you watch, I guarantee you will notice something new that you never did before. It’s a movie full of surprises.

"Females are strong as hell."

You'll recognize the title if you're familiar with the netflix original, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Tina Fey has created a show with heart and quirk that echoes her past successes such as 30 Rock. For those who don't know, the show follows the story of a young woman named Kimmy Schmidt. She was rescued from a doomsday cult and had spent the last 15 years of her life trapped in an underground bunker. To regain control her life, she decides to head to New York City (where the magic happens.)

Even while studying in London, I needed my TV fix. On those oh so familiar cold, overcast days I buckled down and binge watched the first season. Even the opening sequence to the show is genius. In true autotuned "hide yo kids, hide yo wife" style, Unbreakable creates a tune that will stick in your head for days. If you want to watch it:

The writing is genius. Jokes about race, gender, class, age and sexuality are pushed to the edge of being "acceptable." But that is the entire point of the show. Fey wants people to be able to laugh at the big things and explore and make it more open for discussion.

Another reason I love the show is because of the all star cast. From past shows like The Office and 30 Rock, Fey brings in some old favorites. Returning stars like Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski join fresh faces like Tituss Burgess to mesh into this hilarious sort of outcast group.

If you love comedy that includes references, sight gags (like a negative $1 bill) and witty one liners you will love this show.

                                                                  (we can all relate)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

One of the best films that I saw this summer was a film called Aloha. This film, while it did not get great critical reviews, and had some very mixed reviews among my friends and other people I talked to that saw it, was still one of my favorites of the summer. The film is set in Hawaii and stars Bradley Cooper as an ex-army turned private contractor who goes back to his old army base to take care of some deals for his boss, Bill Murray. This film does a great job combining the mythology of Hawaiian culture and the current day issues revolving the military's occupation of Hawaii as well as the race to weaponize the sky.
This film also stars Rachel McAdams as Cooper's ex, and Emma Stone as a firecracker Air Force Pilot. 

The Future of Cinematography could be with Video Games

As a student working towards a life in cinema production, it can be considered an oddity that I only watch a handful of movies per year, and that I hardly watch television at all. When sharing my favorite television shows with my peers, it is not uncommon to find looks of confusion on the faces of those peers when they hear me say I don't really watch television.

I often get discredited as a cinematographer when people hear this, facing claims that I have no idea what looks good and what does not, and having to defend myself against team members who do not trust my shot lists, or those who are skeptical at the thought of me behind a camera on their project.

These are valid concerns. It really does not look good for one to say that they do not observe and/or take inspiration from established creators of the very media that they are attempting to create.

The truth is, however, that I am observing cinematography all of the time.

Video Games are an untapped source of inspiration and creativity that should be seriously looked at by anybody who is interested in a future of cinematic composition. In modern video games, the "camera" is unhindered by any physical limitations. This opens up so many opportunities to explore unique shot composition, object placement, character placement, shadow casting, etc., that could otherwise be overlooked due to various possible limitations, be them time, gravity, money, etc.

As an avid gamer for most of my life, this is what I have been doing with my spare time. I do not watch television, I see maybe three new movies per year, but mostly, I seek out the most cinematic video games that I can find. They have been a passion of mine over the years, sparking many of my drawings, music, and other creative endeavors.

I often wonder, could there be a future for me, or anyone, as a cinematographer in the video game industry? As it stands, a cinematographer would be the perfect candidate to craft a trailer for a big budget title, the cinematic of which rival those of some animated movies. Not only trailers, but in the individual cutscenes between gameplay, some of which are short films in their own right.

I have witnessed some spectacular cinematography in modern gaming, and I can only imagine what a professional cinematographer would be able to do with no physical limitations.

Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

So late summer nights are usually the time to catch up on the ever growing backlog of shows and movies to watch, and one night I decided to try out a movie that I kept hearing the name of. Wet Hot American Summer. I kept hearing the name because not only is the movie on Netflix, but so is the newly released mini series as well as a making of documentary for the movie, so between all three I was a little bit curious. I'd previously heard that the movie was pretty funny so I gave it a go.

And to be honest, I didn't think it was especially great. Don't get me wrong, I did like the movie, but at the same time it is really apparent that they didn't succeed with everything they wanted to do. Some of the jokes fell flat, the pacing was a little off and it lacked a suitable budget which left everything feeling a little cheap. BUT, with that said, if you can put aside all gripes with some of the humor and technical aspects, it is certainly possible to enjoy this movie, with all its lovably dumb characters and cheesy satire of teen comedies of the 80's.

When the movie came out in 2001, it absolutely bombed, both commercially and critically. The movie was torn apart by almost everyone. Though over time, some people found the remains and managed to enjoy what was there, a movie not meant to be taken seriously at all. It went on to achieve cult status along with movies like The Big Lebowski. When Netflix announced the mini series, I'm sure that most people had no idea what it even was, while people who liked the movie rejoiced. The mere fact that it could be created it honestly astounding, all things considered. The cast in the movie was absolutely stacked, as many of the stars hadn't hit it big yet. There's Bradley Cooper, Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, among others, and all of them were slated to return with new additions in tow. After finishing the movie I went on to start the mini series.

I can say whole heartedly that the mini series improved on the movie in every way, clearing up some backstory, expanding on some jokes and preserving the essence of the movie perfectly. The whole concept is silly, taking place on the first day of camp in 1981, while the movie took place on the last day of camp in 1981, so all the characters look much older while actually being younger. Every episode was packed with jokes that, unlike the movie, are mostly solid.

In a time when most shows or movies take themselves so seriously, it's refreshing to see something so delightfully uncaring about logic. There was one particular part where there was a trial and a verdict for something that all happened within the same day, because who has time for the legal system? At any rate, I highly recommend Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp as well as the movie, cause even though it might not be for everyone, knowing the jokes in the movie makes the series even better.

One Group to Rule them All

I recently returned to the U.S. after studying abroad at the Ithaca College London Center last spring. It was an amazing experience, but I'm glad to be back in Ithaca for an entire year. I'm especially excited to be taking production classes again.

It really has been a while. Usually I try to balance my schedule with half of my classes in Park, and half out of Park. However, there are no production classes offered in London so I can't help but feel a little behind. This summer I interned for the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show and it was awesome, but I wasn't doing video production there either.

Woah. What a crazy flashback.
Arturo said we could choose our own groups or work in one huge group and I immediately had a flash back to when I took Fiction Field I last fall.

~It was a dark and stormy night~

Kidding. It was probably 2:00 in the afternoon and there were no windows in the classroom so I have no idea what the weather was like. Anyway, for our final project (we only did two projects total) we divided ourselves into three groups. At first, each group was super motivated. But then came The Dark Days.

#tbt to when we pulled our hair out. <3

Okay. I know that I'm being dramatic, but the fact of the matter is, even a short film (one that is ten minutes or less) requires a ton of hard work. When people started feeling the pressure and stress that comes along with a huge project, they would argue, freak out, and soon we were all on the verge of pulling out our own hair as well as every other group member's hair.

It was extremely difficult and when we eventually screened our projects in class, I didn't feel like it was my best work. I had this feeling of "well this is the best we could do given the circumstances." I don't want to have that feeling. That feeling is the worst feeling.

Arturo said we could work in one huge group. I don't know if it's this one experience or just a feeling in my gut, but something is telling me that one group might be the best option for all of us.

Yes, actually.
Pre-production, production, and post-production groups could work together and independently, potentially eliminating the need for all of us to meet at the same time. There would also be no need to run around Park, trying to fill crew positions if everyone has a specific job. For those of you in my class, please just consider it for a day. You know, let it marinate in your brain.

Obviously, this will take one great idea that everyone can get behind and coming up with said idea might be the hardest part of all. Yet I have confidence that if we combine our skills, we can make something truly spectacular.

Perhaps, as Arturo said, something that can be submitted to festivals.

Representation on Television (Okay, well. Netflix.)

      Due to the fact that I am a lazy, god-forsaken college student, most of my classless hours are filled with staring at my laptop. Kinda like when I'm in class. I'll most likely lose my eyesight at 25, if we are going to be truthful with ourselves. Anyway, Netflix seems to be the national pastime these days and I am completely fine with that. This is because I'm a lazy, god-forsaken college student, as aforementioned.

      Because I consider myself someone in the forward-thinking and -moving 21st century, I have found myself enjoying more and more of the original shows that are offered. For example, Orange is the New Black is a pretty rad show. Most of the Netflix-trudging users have these shows to break through if they want to get through other lesser known shows. It's almost a rite of passage; much like the weather or the Mets of the days before Netflix, these shows are almost like stock conversation pieces.

"Oh? You got Netflix right? Anyway, remember this time on Breaking Bad.." 

"Ah yeah, Piper is literally the worst character ever written." (she actually is pretty terrible, let's be real)

"Sense8 actually makes no sense at all." 

      Before I get far into the highs and lows of representation of a handful of shows that I'm vaguely preoccupied with, I'd like to mention that there may be SPOILERS. These SPOILERS will have to do with the new Netflix original SENSE8 and the not so new Netflix original ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Don't shoot the messenger, rip yours eyes out before you read. Or just stop. I can't really control ya. 

      We can start with the good ol' classic Orange is the New Black first because it pretty much sits on the fence with me. While the show is completely notorious for being led by a group of women, featuring many women of color, gender, and sexuality (see: Laverne Cox and Ruby Rose), it falls completely flat when it comes to representation of men. Men of any color, of any gender, of any sexuality. OITNB pretty much features mostly white guys who are driven by sexist, homophobic, racist comments and are usually horribly dumb. While a lot of people (mostly men, see #notallmen) try to portray as this as a feminist show, it's really not. Feminism is the advocacy of equal rights for all genders, races, sexuality, ages, etc. which includes even these horrible officers in an all female prison. And the psychotic family members that seem to be reduced to punchlines or villains. We might as well have just made the women 2D much like Piper. Just make them a bunch of Pipers. Ha. She's a terrible character. Okay, next. 

      Sense8 is one of the most pretty shows I've seen in my life. Briefly forget the fact that in their 8 main characters, 4 of them are POCs, 3 of them are not heterosexual, 4 are women, and 1 is trans. Just forget it. It's such a gorgeous show. Filled with fantastic color, gorgeous cinematography, and wondrous acting, Sense8 is literally one of the best written shows I've ever watched in a 24 hour span. 10/10, would avoid sleep to watch. Ok, so. These characters, am I right? 

      These characters each showcase the difficulties of life but somehow remain around to show the fight for pure humanity. There's also a lot of really great reference cinematography and horribly long scenes are are almost ethereal. And I need that in my life when I'm trying to distract myself from actual work such as this very blog post. Sense8 is that good. It just made me confess to my own procrastination. 

TL;DR Watch Sense8 and worship it, honestly. 


This summer I was able to watch many films, some of which have been out for awhile and some that are fairly recent. One film that I had a particular interest in was Christopher Nolan's Memento. This is a very strange film that is filmed in a very unique style.

This film has been out since the year 2000 and I still think that it have more character and style than most recent films that I see. The plot is not told in a chronological order and the audience has to wait until the very end of the film in order to figure out what is actually going on.

The main character in the movie has short term memory loss and the way the plot is communicated in equally as hard to follow as the main character. He is always saying the same thing from scene to scene over and over and while this might sound redundant and boring it actually is quite entertaining and interesting to watch.

If you have not seen this film I would recommend you check it out. It is a bit of a chore, however if you can make it all the way to the end them it is worth it.

Tips for set PA's on professional shoots

During my summer in Ithaca I was given the chance to be a production assistant on a documentary in Watkins Glen. This was the first time I had ever been on a shoot with a professional/adult/small crew, and in the period I worked with them I learned a lot of valuable lessons. Since the other crew members were all adult, very experienced, and from NYC, there was a large amount of pressure for me to do well in my few days there. So here are my ten helpful tips to follow when you are a production assistant (some of these specific to documentary, but most are malleable to any set).

1. Bring a pocket-sized notebook and a pencil.

People on the crew will ask you to do tasks for them, so write the instruction down so they don't have to repeat themselves in 5 minutes. This was especially helpful when the sound recordist needed someone to log timecodes for really good sound bytes.

2. Acquire a fanny pack. Fill the fanny pack. Wear the fanny pack (with pride).

Even though it ~screams~ "the 90's are alive!!!!" I am a big fan of fanny packs. Pockets in shorts are too small, and purses are too clunky, especially when you're running around a church/huge farmer's market. I wore a smaller one under my tshirt and placed a notebook, pencil, and business cards inside just in case anyone was curious about our film.

3. Always have some sort of snack on hand.

We're only human. And when humans get hungry, they don't perform as well. Keep a small, quick snack in your bag (see previous tip for bag alternatives) in case you become so ravenous that you may pass out.

4. Set legs!!!!! 

Especially with documentaries, you can't re-do a take. Sometimes you only have one chance to get that perfect shot or get the good sound byte. So if the sound recordist's needs you to get another memory card, you run like the wind and hope nothing amazing happens in the time spent running back to the car.

5. Wear sunscreen. 

This is more of a summer shoot tip, but I know people that have gotten burnt on set in the middle of March. The sun is stronger than you think! The worst sunburn I got all summer was on set because I was a silly goon who didn't think to wear sunscreen. Lather it on before you leave in the morning because you never know where your doc subjects may take you.

6. If you're early you're on time, if you're on time, you're late.

I made sure to show up at least 20 minutes early each day just in case the crew needed anything extra before we started filming. It's just a good habit to get into--producers will see that you're responsible, and will want to hire you again. Even if the crew isn't ready it will give you time to wake up and/or get into the mind set of filming.

7. Don't trust the internet - print out directions as well!

There were points in my drive that my phone's signal came in and out, and if I had not printed the directions beforehand, I would have been quite screwed. Use google maps, mapquest, or even one of those maps you can get at AAA. Just have some sort of back up for your phone!

8. Keep a case of water in your vehicle. 

On a hot summer's day when you're running around like a chicken with their head cut off, it's easy to get dehydrated. Some may say, 'hey, it's all for the craft!' but who wants to spend the following days feeling ill? So I got one of those 24 water bottle packs from the store just in case any of the crew got thirsty. And, when the producer asked me to go fetch a large pack of water from the store she was thrilled to hear I already got one!

9. Go with the flow.

At around 9 PM on the night before I was needed on set I got an email from the producer asking if I knew where to purchase a free range chicken in the area. After a few minutes of confusion, followed by rushed internet searches and calls to the local organic market I went on my quest to find the free range chicken. I finally acquired one and then brought that tiny, organic chicken over to Watkins Glen and they were very happy to receive it. They hired me to work for them so of course I would go to the trouble of finding it. Basically, do what they tell you to do no matter how random and confusing it is.

10. Have fun!

Being the set PA can definitely be tough, but it is so worth it because you learn little tricks on how a professional production process works. Most crew members are also really interesting to talk to and can give helpful advice on where to take your career. Really take any opportunity that comes your way, because you never know where it might lead you!

These are just my tips from personal experience, but there's more great sites that give you additional advice!

Some of what I synthesized from David Mamet's book, "On Directing Film."

Some of what I synthesized from David Mamet's book, "On Directing Film" by Josh Tomany.

     When I took Fiction Field 1 at Ithaca College in the Spring of 2015 I was pleasantly surprised to receive a rather small book, 107 pages, in the form of "On Directing Film" by David Mamet. I was told before hand to keep in mind that perhaps his views were skewed or extreme, quoting "If he could I think he would only make silent films." The book itself was divided from his own narrative and ideas and lectures he gave at Colombia University in the fall of 1987. I was unsure of how such a man who if he could only make silent films could make a book on Directing Film in a little over 100 pages, but I was eager and curious to find out what I could. I read a couple chapters, thought it was good, and then...I put it down. The weight of short films and projects that do tend to happen at the end of the year arrived and reading wasn't a luxury I could afford. However just recently on a camping trip I brought it along to pass the time and I would like to share with you my surprises and insights that I gained on the concepts of Film and how to approach it.

     Not that our prelude together is over, and in the interest of time (your and mine),  I won't go into the minute details and relationship that Mamet has with his Students (however hilarious), and I won't go into anymore large paragraphs or write the next Great American Novel, and I certainly won't give you all the knowledge I gathered from this book (that is for you to discover on your own). Instead, for all you BuzzFeed listicle readers, bloggers, tweeters, and Facebook stalkers (all myself included) here's a list. Plain and simple, and the thing that you scrolled down to read first. Because that's really the most important part anyway, right?

     1) The best writers are the one's that know how to cut, to strip away everything that is fancy, moving, descriptive and that takes away only the story, "the essential progression of incidents."
     2) A film is not a record of what the protagonist does, a directors aim should not be to follow the actors around. A true film should be in some ways Einstein's own theory on film, "a succession of images juxtaposed so that the contrast between these images moves the story forward in the mind of the audience." This is absolutely essential to understand, take away this if nothing else. Don't tell the audience why something is important to the story, the only important thing is to tell the story, let the audience be surprised by it. "Let the cut tell the story. Because otherwise you have not got dramatic action, you have narration" (Mamet 2).

    3) "The purpose of technique is to free the unconscious" (Mamet 6). This goes into the very important concept that the dream and the film are the same thing. Refer to the very important quote I have highlighted above. What is a dream? What is a film? It was like a dream, it was like a film. Can they both be the same? Aren't they? Truly free your unconscious and and you will be free.

     4) Beats, Objectives, and Super-objectives. These are tools to keep you on the path, to make sure you tell the story, "Keep It Simple Stupid" (K.I.S.S). Refer to these concepts to make sure you aren't adding more than what needs to go into the scene. Keep It Simple Stupid.

     5) Back story is shit. Defining character's are horrible and nobody cares. "Hi let's sit down because I just came back from Vietnam." That's how movies in Hollywood now and in 1987 were and are made. "Character" and David Mamet puts it, is the what the person literally does in the pursuit of the super-objective (Mamet 13). So don't give me a load of crap on how a kid's first bicycle ride with his dad made him like baseball, SHOW ME.

     6) The only thing that matters in a scene, in a movie, is the want (the lack). That is the only thing you should be answering and showing through a juxtaposition of images because that's the only thing the audience actually cares about, what happens next. "You tax the audience every time you don't move on to the next essential step of the progressions quickly as possible. You're taxing their good nature" (Mamet 60).

     7) How do we direct our actors? For Mamet we Keep It Simple Stupid. "Just as the shot doesn't have to be inflected, the acting doesn't have to be inflected, nor should it be" (Mamet 68). If the actor is going to walk down the sidewalk and tie his shoes, tell him, "walk down the sidewalk and tie your shows." Literally tell him that? Yes. How else would you do it?

     8) "'Where do I put the camera?' That's a simple question, and the answer is, 'over there in that place in which it capture the uninflected shot necessary to move the story along'" (Mamet 73).

     9) "The shots are all you have. That's it. Your choice of shots is all you have. It's what the movies going to be made up of. You can't make it more interesting when you get to the editing room. And you also can't rely on the actors to 'pick up the slack.' You can't rely on them to make it more 'interesting,' That's not their job either. You want them to be as simple as you are in your choice of the shots" (Mamet 104)

     In conclusion (though I primarily just used quotes from Mamet's text) I would say this. Though Mamet may be rather extreme and passionate about his views, the essence of what he's saying and what he's saying should be able to influence and resonate through all of us. A film is a story, a dream, a myth. The film has a goal, the scene has a goal, the beat has a goal. Stick to the basic, keep it simple stupid, and you will be able to create something less could still be crap, but it would be less. And you audience will thank you for that. As Mamet says, "It's only up to you to do your job as well as you can, and when you're done, then you can go home." Go home.


     Josh Tomany

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Romantic Dramas: The Best Of Me

Recently I've been on a bit of a Netflix binge watching all the new recently added films. I'm not going to lie there are some pretty good films but my favorite so far is The Best Of Me starring Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden. My first impression of the film was that it was your classic romantic drama, boy likes girl, girl plays hard to get, they get together just to break up and then somewhere down the line the rekindle there love all before the ending of the film. However, this film surprised me it tells the story of two teenagers from different family backgrounds whom are not just interested in each other but whom are helping each other fight demons within themselves. James Marsden plays a teenage boy named Dawson raised by an unsupportive, abusive family while Michelle plays a young teenage girl named Amanda raised by an uptight conservative wealthy family. The two clearly are not meant to be but Amanda shows Dawson the love and compassion he needs and vice versa Dawson introduces Amanda to a less pressurized environment. The love the characters share is truly the real love that we all dream of but it's also those traits we look for in significant others- compassion, love, support, protection, and a bit of feistiness.

The plot takes a turn when Dawson goes to prison over the accidental murder of his best friend. The lovers are separated by Dawson choice to protect Amanda-- and secure her future via threats from her father. In the end the rekindle there love over a the death of a dear guardian, but old issues rise and trouble falls once again into the hands of Dawson.

The real reason I'm so into this film is because I can both sympathize and emphasize with the main characters and the adversity the face in the film. I recommend this film to anyone who watches Netflix in their spare time and enjoys the occasional romantic drama.

Summertime Sadness: You Don't Know What You got Till It's Gone

I learned something about myself this summer. I spent the past 3 months in Alaska working as a fly-fishing guide at a lodge accessible only via float plane, living off the grid with no real connection to the outside world. While I easily had the most spectacular summer of my life so far, there was one thing missing in my life: television. As a TVR student, it's obvious that I enjoy consuming and creating media in various forms. However, I didn't realize just how big a part media consumption was in my life until it was out of my reach entirely. 

I left for the summer with only two episodes left in the fifth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones. After spending a few days in Anchorage preparing for my journey into the bush, I was casually talking with another guide I would be working with about streaming the last two episodes so that I could see how the season ended. The guide shot me a confused look and told me that there would be no possible way for me to watch any shows, let alone the last two episodes of an HBO series. At first, I was dumbfounded. I spent my entire life with immediate access to television and other media; I had no reason to believe that Alaska would be any different. I began to reason that surely the lodge had a satellite internet service or something that could fulfill my TV needs. The other guide, who had spent previous summers in the bush, quickly shot down any hopes I had left. I had to accept that this would be my first summer without TV or movies EVER.

I'm not going to lie to you, it wasn't easy. 

I never realized how much I relied on television and movies to help get me through a day. I soon discovered that consuming media acted as a very important tool to help me decompress and unwind from my day; I will often come back from a long day of classes and meetings and sit in my recliner for an hour or so and simply do nothing but watch a show. No contact with the outside world, no activity, just me and my show. I love getting lost in the narrative of a program, wether it is a critically acclaimed film or just another Seinfeld rerun. The ability to get lost in the fictional world provides a respite from the stresses of the day and allows me to rest and recuperate my mind. 

All of that was absent this past summer. I was forced to find other methods of relaxation to wrap up my long days of work. It was difficult at first; I tried to scheme up ways to fulfill my need for media consumption, but by the end of the summer I had taken the old fashion route and settled with a good book. While not as visual as I was used to, it still permitted me access to another, less stressful world. 

 I am happy to say that upon my return to the lower 48 just last week I immediately attempted to make up for all of my lost time, catching up on all of my shows that I had so painfully been torn away from all summer. I went and saw Jurassic World (meh) and am currently taking full advantage of the cable in my room. Now that is all said and done, I am actually glad that I had this media-less experience this summer. While it was hard, it also reaffirmed my love for all things TV and film and made me realize what I like most about media and how it impacts my life specifically, which I believe will make me a better creator of media in the long run.  

One More Time with Feeling

Let me tell you all a little something about Sophie Muller

Good performances come from the heart, and while I was working out in LA no director could pull passion from a performer quite like Sophie Muller.

I was able to work with Sophie on the set of Selena Gomez music video "Good for You". She sat in a laid back green recliner watching a monitor while Selena performed, and after a couple takes they would sit together and talk about her performance. Now "Good for You", as you can tell just from one listen, is a fairly complex song. It's an attempt to put into the words the pride and passion we feel when we want to look good for a person precious to us. It's a song that applies equally to both men and women, and it's a song that is hard to put a visual to. But Sophie did it, and she did a fantastic job.

Sophie's music video's are unique in that they encapsulate the very feeling that the artist seeks to convey through the song.

There's no story to be told here, but rather we are presented with a wealth of sensory information. The way Selena is lit makes us feel like we've just woken up next to her. Her sleepy way of singing and soporific expression conveys to us that we are in an intimate place here. The way she dresses, revealing in a way that only comfy morning clothes are. All of this is done to bring us into Selena's headspace, this is what SHE feels when she sings this song.

Just to further help me illustrate my point, take a look at a music video that she directed early on in her career.

That soft light that so delicate fell upon Selena is no where to be found here, instead Annie Lennox is blasted with a spotlight so bright that on that day she was probably visible from space. Annie doesn't pay any attention to the viewer, instead she cocks her head triumphantly to an invisible audience and gives a performance that it is far more theatrical in nature. We get an uneasy feeling from watching this, it's a satire of course, but presented in a way that seems all to familiar.

Both songs are about feeling, or at least wanting to feel beautiful Yet we can tell from the visuals that there is a distinct contextual difference.

Selena want's to be beautiful in a way that feels comfortable. We see her at her most vulnerable, and in that way we feel as though we've entered an intimate space.

Annie, is presented in a way that makes her look unobtainable, the camera never wants to get in too close. Her body language is closed off and she moves in way that only a jewelry box ballerina can.

Sophie does so much to communicate the emotional weight behind the artist's work, and I cannot think of a single director that can bring out a performance in the way she can!