InFocus Film School Blog

 

Tricks & Tips for Setting Background

The Deer Hunter background performers

By Julia Courtenay

 

Part of the job of the Assistant Directors is setting Background (the non-speaking performers who create the atmosphere, a.k.a. “extras”). Background is as essential to the scene as any other element. A badly set background can be distracting and suck the life out of the scene. Done well, the Background enriches and creates a sense of authenticity.

 

Last week, we talked about how to start working as a Background Performer. This time, let’s look at what Background means for ADs!

 

Setting Background is as much an art form as lighting or dressing a set. But you often only have a few minutes to put the Background in place, so you need to be prepared.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Working as an Extra

By Julia Courtenay

 

It’s been a blockbuster year for film in Vancouver, providing a slew of opportunities for Background Performers (a.k.a Extras) to be anything from zombies, to German officers, FBI agents, bikers, baristas or nuns—and get paid!

 

Want to get in on the action? Read on to find out how to work as a Background Performer on set.

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Script Supervisors: The Eyes and Ears of Continuity

Introduction to Script Supvervising Script Supervisors

By Johnny Papan

 

 

Continuity is a vast valley that requires precise attention to detail and spawns through many departments. To save time and money, films are often shot out of sequence and it is up to the script supervisor to make sure props, costumes, makeup and things of the like are exactly how they should be in order to look continuous on screen, despite being filmed separately.

 

A key part of being a script supervisor (commonly referred to as “scripty”) is paying attention to actors and their performance on set. It’s not uncommon for actors to go off-script, forget their lines and change movements between takes. Without proper attention, this can prove to be disastrous in post-production, as the editor may not have the right footage to cut things together seamlessly or cinematically. In essence, the supervisor serves as both the eyes and ears for the director and editor.

 

Debra Margolis is a mentor, teacher, and retired professional script supervisor who began her career 1987. She garnered her years of professional experience in this role on shows such as: Masters of Horror, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Dark Angel, So Weird, Cold Squad, and The Collector, to name a few.

 

“I’m always running back and forth from the set to the monitor,” Margolis states. “Sometimes the director will wanna be close to the actors and they’ll tell me to go make sure everything looks good on the monitor. Sometimes I have to be close to the actors because they forget their lines. If there’s any deviation, I’ll mention that to the director and they’ll make changes.”

 

Script supervising is an ideal role for proficient multitaskers. While keeping an eye on performances, set decoration, costumes, and things of the like, the “scripty” must meticulously jot notes on everything as well, including the length of each take as well as how long it took overall to setup and achieve the shot. This plethora of paperwork is known as the Script Supervisor’s Bible and will assist the script supervisor in making sure that everything is how it’s meant to be.

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5 Lessons Film Students Can Learn from Paranormal Activity

paranormal activity low-budget film

By Christopher McKittrick

 

Budget is always an issue for film students, so finding ways to stretch your limited funds on your student films is just as important of a skill as basic camera techniques. It’s not just about finding money to spend—it’s also about spending the money you do have wisely.

 

One way to learn how to effectively manage a low-budget film project is to take a look at how an amateur-turned-professional filmmaker put those skills into practice. Filmmaker Oren Peli may be the only person in film history who can claim that he shot a blockbuster movie—2007’s Paranormal Activity—entirely in his own house for a fraction of what a Hollywood production spends on catering.

 

The resulting film was so effectively made that, although DreamWorks initially hired Peli to remake the film with a larger budget, a successful test screening of the original version proved that remaking the film wasn’t necessary. The final release is largely Peli’s original film with some re-edits and a reshot ending.

 

When released in theatres in 2009, Paranormal Activity grossed nearly $200 million worldwide against a production budget of just $15,000, making it one of the most profitable movies ever released.

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Why the Buzz Around Wonderstruck?


by Ryan Uytdewilligen

 

Even if you don’t see Wonderstruck, you have to admit the film’s trailer alone just might be the most jarring piece of cinema we’ve seen all year.

 

With a blend of colour and black and white, we are immediately introduced to a boy searching for his father, then ZAP! A shaky blur that can only be explained as an electric shock leaves the boy deaf. What follows is the most haunting cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity—a choir of kids lead the way until Bowie himself takes over to lift the hairs on the back of our necks.

 

A lot of the accompanying images in the trailer cannot be explained but they are beautiful and certainly watchable as the years 1927 and 1977 blur together into some wild fantasy world. This is the latest film from acclaimed auteur director Todd Haynes and this year’s closing film at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

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Totally Into Totally Indie Day at VIFF

VIFF Totally Indie Day indie film storyhive

by Ryan Uytdewilligen

 

Arguably the more subtle creative side of the film industry, indie films just aren’t often seen because of distribution problems or simply lack of funding. You beg and plead to raise money that many times just doesn’t follow through. You set out on arduous journeys to find crew members who are willing to work for credit and real functioning locations that are willing to give up their space. Production can be a nightmare and trying to get the film viewed is often worse

 

Luckily, the indie movement in the last few decades has showcased a large percentage of these works through festivals that realize the difficulties of the process and the changing methods of the industry. While you may be scratching your head and wondering how you’re going to bring your little indie opus to life, a good start is attending VIFF’s in depth session series Totally Indie Day.

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Thought & Action: How to Make a Book-to-Film Adaptation Not Suck

 katniss everdeen in the film adaptation of hunger games mockingjay

by Henry Kulick

 

Film adaptations aren’t easy, but they do accelerate a major step in the creative process—crafting a completely unique story.

 

With a written work to rely on, the outlines of the screenplay already exist, but only with some much-needed tweaking can it become ready for film. Sometimes this means something as simple as altering of the main character’s interaction with another, or it can mean the removal of entire portions of the narrative.

 

More than anything, when moving from page to screen, a screenwriter must be aware of thoughts and actions—specifically, how they impact the viewer. Because what a book can achieve by slipping into the mind of a character and allowing the reader to hear every thought, a movie can only do by showing what the character does and believing the viewer will understand why.

 

From young adult novels to detective noirs, understanding the mind of our character is absolutely necessary for empathizing and experiencing the story along with them. So how can that written understanding effectively translate to film?

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Action Now: The VIFF Sustainable Production Forum

VIFF Sustainable Production Forum

by Ryan Uytdewilligen

 

When you marvel at the scope of the latest popcorn movie, a few occasional questions such as “how did they ever do that?” might arise. That’s most likely what the filmmakers wanted you to think.

 

But few moviegoers actually consider or investigate the nitty-gritty reality of how much goes into creating a scene, whether it’s faking weather conditions or carving realistic worlds with the hands of cinema’s finest set builders.

 

The answer is a lot: a lot of money and a heck of a lot of material to make it so. If a scene requires rain, water is often pumped through rain towers to create that illusion. Structures large and small are often constructed for one day of shooting and then the materials tossed away like it was never so.

 

Then there’s the world you can’t see on screen: the endless parade of trailers and trucks filled with makeup and scripts to the pop up restaurants that feed the army of hungry crew. It takes a village and then some to make a movie.

 

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IT: A (RE)MASTER OF ADAPTATION

IT 2017 film adaptation scene original by stephen king

by Henry Kulick

 

After its over 30-year mark on the world of storytelling, IT is no stranger to most of us. Whether it was the original Stephen King novel, the 1990 miniseries, or the newest iteration, the 2017 film adaptation, IT is a pulse-pounding story about facing our greatest fears, no matter how terrifying that may be. And that we could always use a little help from our friends.

 

But for the first time, under the directorial eye of Andy Muschietti, IT breaks out of the horror genre to become something more—a dark fantasy that may be the best Stephen King adaptation to date.

 

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No Project Too Small: Making Your Break with Commercials

commercials by famous directors ridley scott michael bay david fincher

By Christopher McKittrick

 

Like nearly all film school students, you probably dream of helming a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster… except at the moment you’re finding it difficult to come up with those millions to spend on your vision.

 

In the film industry (as in any industry), working your way up to the top is a time-honoured tradition. One way you can build your career is by displaying your talent with some of the shortest narrative films there are: commercials.

 

Many successful filmmakers like David Fincher, Zack Snyder, Michael Bay, and Ridley Scott and entire animation studios like Pixar spent their earliest years making commercials, which soon led to more exposure and greater opportunities. In fact, two of the estimated 2000 commercials that Scott directed – his 1973 spot for Hovis bread and his 1984 Super Bowl spot for Apple – have been cited by many in the industry as two of the most influential television commercials in advertising history.

 

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