InFocus Film School Blog

 

Not since watching “Being John Malkovic,” have I been blown away by a film that combines comedy, satire and absurdism all in equal measure. Director and co-writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel,” “21 Grams”) works us over with his black comedy Birdman, a satire that details the high-wire act of living a fulfilling life after superstardom ends.

birdmanposterIt was reported that Michael Keaton turned down 15 million dollars to play the lead role in The Dark Night Rises, part 4 of the Batman series franchise. This endearing backstory shrouds this film and makes you want to pull for Keaton even more. After years of wallowing in relative obscurity, Keaton is back on top, playing an older washed-up version of himself in Birdman.

Birdman, a film about a crazy fucked up Broadway play is loads of fun and Keaton does the heavy lifting as he tries to revive his acting sagging career from obscurity. He is directing and starring in a profit losing theatrical adaptation of a little known Ray Carver novel. An aging bitter New York critic is dubious about Keaton’s motives as she vows to end this pretentious Hollywood intrusion on Broadway’s dignified acting roots.

Ed Norton, the capricious method actor who sprouts a hard-on during a love scene playsimgres-2 the charming asshole with ease and porcelain anime doll Emma Stone is superb as the recovering addict who plays Keaton’s underachieving insightful daughter.

Hardly a drop of blood spills in this film, which is a huge departure for this iconic Mexican director who killed off more than his share of people and dogs in past films. Iñárritu films the story in what seems to be one continuous take to give the real-time sensation of the tumultuous days leading up to opening night. Whatever his reason is, the long flowing takes are seamlessly choreographed. I felt myself floating through the rehearsals from a red velvet seat only twenty feet from centre stage. Ironically, the New Yorker is the only publication to give it an annoying art-fraud review, citing overt thefts from Jean Luc Godard’s earlier works.

Artistic theft is the birthright of every artist since the dawn of entertainment. Birdman is a highly imaginative film that should be embraced for all of it’s not-so-well disguised thefts and it’s inherent contemporary truths.

Art is communication, art is connection, art is even war. In the case of Grey City, a documentary about São Paulo and the city’s street artists, the terrain for this art is the street, more precisely the walls in the street.

In the 1980s, São Paulo took the world stage as the epicenter for urban visual street art known as pixo — graffiti and tagging. Its antecedents, Pixação, “wall writings”, originated in São Paulo in the 1940s and 50s when citizens painted political statements in tar on walls in response to political slogans painted by political parties. Pixo’s evolution through to today has maintained that spirit of dialogue and defiance—a kind of urban calligraphy where some of São Paulo’s most marginalized endeavour to tag as high as they can, in as many public places as possible, incontrovertibly asserting their existence as a form of challenge to the city’s privileged who consider pixo ugly, ignorant, and illegal, much in the way they view the pichadores (the pixo makers) themselves.

The 80s re-emergence of pixo was an organic extension of other street art forms like hip hop and break-dancing. Such was the route for Os Gêmeos, the twin brother graffiti team featured in Grey City. With the same nimbleness of their breakdancing, identical brothers Otavio and Gustavo moved toward paint, starting first with pixo and then expanding their work into more pictoral murals. Today, their early pixo style can still be found within their murals, and the impetus to connect and converse with their city is at its heart.

Os Gemêos is out to communicate, to engage, and to contribute something positive for_ 2014-08-22 15.30.47 the public good—these are their guides. Producing their work during the day is critical to the process and to their pieces: how else will they know what’s going on, what they need to say, and to whom? How else will they connect directly with people and engage in real time? That’s how they see it. And what they encounter speaks back to them through the smiles and joy returned by passersby—this enthusiastic feedback loop affirming for them that they’ve honoured their vocation and their destiny.

Graffiti, however, also operates within the framework of the city’s regulatory, mercantile and political interests. So the war this artform engages in is often with the clean up crews contracted by City Hall to paint over the murals not deemed to be “artistic”—so, armed with grey paint, a subjective and anonymous army disappears the art, randomly and arbitrarily. However, in a metropolis of almost 20M people that sprawls across almost 8,000 square kilometres (the largest city of the Americas), the effectiveness of the clean up efforts doesn’t really keep pace with the artists, and so a kind of dialogue reverberates between leagues of creative resistance and the amorphous apparatus mobilized to squelch it.

This is where the graffiti movement truly embodies its role as a public art. No one possesses it, directly challenging the fundamentals of capitalism, and no one really controls it either, though many try and wish they could. In the case of Os Gemêos, their rigorous code of conduct keeps their work “clean”, in the sense that their concern with public good means shunning any form of negative messaging, and their tireless commitment to producing such work, in proliferation, eventually attracted international attention, rendering their colourful contribution to the city’s walls more and more challenging to object to.

Os Gemêos’ progressive rise to worldwide acclaim has ironically jettisoned their work to the reaches of national sanction too: they were commissioned to tag the plane of Brazil’s national football team competing in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Perhaps, though, this is a most apt illustration of remaining true to the artists’ animating values—speaking truth to power—in this case attaining lift off with jet engines; though, told not to paint the jet’s engines covers, they did it anyway, ever true to another animating force of the grafiteiro, tagging where authorities don’t want you to. Perhaps not quite biting the hand that feeds them, we could fairly say that Os Gemêos is willing to paint it.

Here in our own grey city, Vancouver is now home to the latest Os Gemêos piece, Giants, thanks to Vancouver Biennale and their partnership with Ocean Cement on Granville Island. Giants is an ongoing Os Gemêos project, adding Canada to the Giants growing international family of Greece, USA, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Brazil and England.

As Os Gemêos believes, “Every city needs art and art has to be in the middle of the people”, so Vancouver now has art, in the middle of the city, and this art happens to be a kind of people in its own right—Giants—an excellent symbol of art’s enduring heart, which is 3 dimensional, multiple, central, colourful, and gigantic.

Grey City is directed by Marcelo Mesquita and Guilherme Valiengo.

It’s no secret that the digital age has radically transformed the film and television industry. With box office sales declining, and people cutting their cable in favour of online streaming, producers are scrambling for ways to monetize their content.

Pull Focus recently had the pleasure of hosting Matt Toner, a digital media producer, entrepreneur and president of social media company Zeroes to Heroes. Matt gave key insights about the new direction of multi-platform content, and the changing landscape of film and television distribution.

Here are a few of his key points for filmmakers and content producers.

1. Your digital strategy may be engaging and interactive. But it still needs to increase your bottom line.

A few years back, the idea of using multiple platforms to tell a story or promote content seemed like a marketer’s dream. Digital media strategists came up with elaborate tie-ins to films and tv shows that included video games, apps, and fan fiction contests. The problem was, these add-ons did nothing to increase the production’s revenue.

Online platforms that help you reach and engage with your audience, and build buzz around your project are still great tools to use. But don’t blow your budget on an elaborate digital strategy that won’t boost your ROI.

2. Our viewing habits are changing. Seize the opportunity.

Yes, we’re accessing content online and through VOD more than ever before and traditional models of distribution are, as a result, effectively breaking down. While it’s easy to merely bemoan this change, the smarter move is to seize the opportunity. As a filmmaker or content producer, you have far more distribution options than ever before.

imgres-2Matt’s own company Zeroes to Heroes is about to release Wannawatch.It, a web app that aggregates consumer demand to see movies. Filmmakers can directly upload their content to the site, effectively eliminating the middleman. Once there is enough demand to see a particular film, it will be screened in a theatre.

3. Welcome to the Information Age.

Digital, New Media or Information Age – whatever you want to call it, one thing is certain: we have more access to data about people’s viewing habits and interests than we’ve ever had before.

How can this benefit filmmakers and content producers? It can help you find out who your audience is, and where they are. Google Analytics provides a wealth of information about users that visit your website. This info can be used to target specific demographics on social media sites and around the net.

Build your audience and ultimately, a community of supporters for your film, and you’ll be one step ahead of the game. You’ll also have the numbers to back you up when it comes to funding, or distributing your content.

For more exciting speakers, and cutting edge views on the future of filmmaking, stay tuned to this space.

 

Boyhood is a film like no other in the history of cinema. Filmed over
a twelve year period, director Richard Linklater has created one of
the finest family dramas in recent memory. Although it is called
Boyhood, it’s actually a lengthy divorce story that engulfs four
marriages, while two siblings manage to stay normal during ongoing
family upheaval.Film Review Boyhood

Ethan Hawke shines as the loveable not-so-deadbeat-dad as does Patricia Arquette, as the imperfect family matriarch who has a penchant for alcoholic husbands. Bad parental choices often destroy kids, but not in this thought provoking film.

The dialogue is clever, devoid of melodrama, yet the message is profound
in it’s simplicity. “Sometimes we don’t seize the moment, the moment
seizes us.” The line arrives at the end of a film stated by a secondary
character and the film concludes without the obligatory climax.
Linklater is good at breaking conventional narrative structural
format. And yet, it is a perfect movie from the opening frame until
the credits roll.

Since introducing the GH4, Panasonic has become the newest competitor in the Ultra HD scene. With AV enthusiasts increasingly turning towards 4K, we’re taking a look at some of the current players in 4K recording.

Red Epic Dragon

RED-Dragon-with-New-Top-PlateRED is one of the best known brands in the Ultra HD world, and has a reputation as a leading innovator in cinema technology. The newest member of their line up is Red Epic Dragon. Their latest sensor boasts 16.5 stops of dynamic range in addition to its size and resolution. The amount of noise, which has been the chief complaint about the RED line of cameras by cinematographers in the past, has been vastly improved even at 6K RAW. Epic Dragon, of course, comes with all the advantages of other RED cameras such as RED workflow, RED codec, and compatibility with both EF and PL mount lenses, which gives you maximum lens choices.

Quick Spec Overview:

  • Sensor/Effective Resolution: 19 Megapixel DragonTM(35mm)/6144 x 3160
  • Dynamic Rage: 16.5+
  • Recording Modes: 6K RAW (2:1, 2.4:1) 5K RAW (Full Frame, 2:1, 2.4:1 and Anamorphic 2:1) 4.5K RAW (2.4:1) 4K RAW (16:9, HD, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1) 3K RAW (16:9, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1) 2K RAW (16:9, 2:1 and Anamorphic 2:1) 1080p RGB (16:9) 720p RGB (16:9)
  • Lens Mount: PL and EF

Delivery Formats:

  • 4K : DPX, TIFF, OpenEXR (RED RAY via optional encoder)
  • 2K : DPX, TIFF, OpenEXR (RED RAY via optional encoder)
  • 1080p RGB or 4:2:2, 720p 4:2:2 : Quicktime, JPEG Avid AAF, MXF.
  • 1080p 4.2.0, 720p 4:2:0 : H.264, .MP4

Frame Rates: 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 47.96, 48, 50, 59.94 fps, all resolutions

Dimensions/Weight: 5lb

Sony CineAlta F65

Ever since its entrance into the Ultra HD world with PMW­F55, Sony has quickly become RED’s major competitor in the field. The latest in their CineAlta line up is F65 which offers recording up to 8K resolution. Like the RED camera, Sony users can take advantage of Sony’s own 4K workflow. It uses CMOS sensor and has a rotary shutter option to overcome the defects of rolling shutter. The sensor also employs an S­Gamut system which provides wider colour space than a print film to achieve the most natural colour.

Quick Spec Overview:

  • Sensor: Total 20 Megapixels, 28mm (d)/ 8192 x 2160
  • Dynamic Rage: 14 Stops
  • Recording Modes: F65 RAW­SQ 16 bit Linear 2.0 Gbps, F65 RAW­HFR 16 bit Linear 2.0 Gbps, F65 RAW­Lite 16 bit Linear 1.20 Gbps, SR­HQ HD 12 bit­10 bit 4:4:4 880 Mbps, SR­SQ HD 10 bit 4:2:2 440 Mbps, SR­Lite 10 bit 4:2:2 220Mbps
  • Lens Mount: PL Mount

Delivery Formats:

  • MPEG­2 Long GOP
  • HD 422 mode: CBR
  • 50 Mbps max
  • MPEG­2 422P@HL

Frame Rates: 23.98p/24p, 25p, 29.97p, 59.94p/60p in most recording mode, 119p/120p in HFR

Dimensions/Weight:12 x 9­1/8 x 7­3/4 inches (305 x 227 x 195 mm)/11lb (5Kg)

GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition

GoPro has also dipped into the UltraHD pool with their latest camera Hero3+ Black Edition. Like the rest of GoPro’s products, Hero3+ is more suited to specialized purposes than straight up filmmaking. Hero3+ Black retains all the advantages of GoPro in addition to 4K resolution. It is incredibly light at 74g (20% lighter than its predecessor), comes with waterproof housing, time lapse and burst photo mode, WiFi remote and adhesive mounts to capture your next adventure in Ultra HD.

Quick Spec Overview:

  • Sensor: 12 Megapixel/4000×3000
  • Recording Modes: 4K, 4K 17:9, 2.7K, 2.7K 17:9, 1440P, 1080P, 1080P Superview, 960P, 720P, 720P Superview, WVGA
  • Lens Mount: N/A
  • Delivery Formats: H.264, mp4

Dynamic Range: Couldn’t find exact number of stops. But Hero3+ series is said to have a vast improvement in dynamic range compared to the previous series, allowing much more information to be retrieved from the highlight or black area.

Frame Rates: Ranging from 12FPS to 240FPS, availability depends on the resolution. (Only 12FPS available at 4K)

Dimensions/Weight: 74g

Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

Blackmagic is another new force in camera technology innovation. It has produced a line of high end, cinema quality pocket cameras that have revolutionized the filmmaking process. Blackmagic cameras are extremely versatile; the global shutter eliminates the challenges of rolling shutter, and touchscreen allows for fast metadata inputting. You can also choose between CinemaDNGR RAW and Apple ProRes for delivery to suit the needs of your post-­production. The fact that it has a very compact body, yet large high resolution sensor means it can be used for everything including feature film, documentary, indie film and live events.

Quick Spec Overview:

  • Sensor/Effective Resolution: 21.12mm x 11.88mm (Super 35)/3840 x 2160
  • Dynamic Range: 12 Stops
  • Recording Modes: 3840 x 2160 or 1920×1080
  • Lens Mount: EF or ZE

Delivery Formats: CinemaDNG RAW and Apple ProRes 422 (HQ)TM

Frame Rates: 3840 x 2160p23.98, 3840 x 2160p24, 3840 x 2160p25, 3840 x 2160p29.97, 3840 x 2160p30, 1920 x 1080p23.98, 1920 x 1080p24, 1920 x 1080p25, 1920 x 1080p29.97, 1920 x 1080p30, 1920 x 1080i50, 1920 x 1080i59.94

Dimensions/Weight: 6.54×5.24×4.96 (Inch)/3.75lb

Panasonic Lumix GH4

Mirrorless camera has been gaining more and more attention as the (often times better) alternative to the DSLR amongst digital photography enthusiasts in the recent years. Panasonic is still holding out on the exact release information, but it is expected to come out this winter. It would be interesting to see if DSLR filmmakers are making the switch to mirrorless with the introduction of 4K video recording which can be a real game changer. Mirrorless cameras are very similar to DSLR in terms of their operation, but without the annoyance of a mirror mechanism. It also may attract a lot of young filmmakers who are less bound by the lens choice and looking to purchase their first professional camera.

Quick Spec Overview:

  • Sensor/Effective Resolution: 17.3 x 13.0 mm(17.20 megapixels)/16.05 megapixels
  • Dynamic Range: 1⁄3 stop at ISO 200, no number of stops given
  • Recording Modes: 4K at 100Mbps, 1080P at 200Mbps
  • Lens Mount: Micro four third

Delivery Formats: MOV (Audio format LPCM), MP4 (Audio format LPCM /AAC 2ch), AVCHD (Audio format: Dolby Digital 2ch)

Frame Rates: 30/25/24 FPS at 4K, 60/50/30/25/24fps at 1080P Dimensions/Weight: 132.9 x 93.4 x 83.9mm / 5.23 x 3.68 x 3.30 in (excluding protrusions)/Approx. 480g / 16.93 oz (Body only)

Written by Freddie Kim

Imagine you are out for dinner with two of your close friends. The conversation is candid, and flows from one topic to the next. One of your friends pulls out their phone, and begins recording the conversation.

Does the dynamic change?

Do you speak as freely as you did prior to being recorded?

Documentary film aims to capture a subject or topic with some measure of objectivity. But the simple act of turning a camera on a person can change their behaviour. The premise of Cinema Verité is to film a scene in as natural a state as possible – as though the camera and director were merely flies on a wall.

The following video was made by documentary student Stan Huang. Below the video, read about his experience filming the exercise.

Can you explain the exercise that you were given? Rafi Spivak,our editing instructor, was teaching us about cinema verité and he wanted us to go out and film someone doing something. I thought it was interesting because you don’t usually just go to a shop or restaurant and shoot what people are doing.

Why did you decide to shoot at this particular restaurant? For their kitchen, they have an open window for people to watch. Every I time go have noodles there, there are kids just hopping up in the window watching them making noodles, so I thought that would be a cool action to shoot.

What was it like to shoot the exercise? We only had one day to shoot this project. So my project partner Adam and I decided to go there, and I went in and said we’re making a documentary about local food scenes.

Luckily the owner was there and he was cooking. I asked if I could interview him but he was a bit shy so he said you can just interview the waiters. So Adam did that and we got footage of that. Then I went into the kitchen with a slider and just shot whatever I could.

Did you run into any challenges or anything unexpected while you were filming? Yes actually, that was the first time I used a slider with a DSLR and I learned a lot in terms of how to set it up. And space was very limited in the kitchen so we had to deal with that.

 

Each term our documentary students are given a unique assignment: to create a 3 to 4 minute biographical film. As instructor Steve Rosenberg puts it, if they are to spend their lives pointing a camera at others, it is essential to understand what that feels like. We spoke with current student Amanda Lo about the process for her student film Not/Enough.

Where did the idea come from for your student film?

Amanda: Over the past year or so I’d been talking to friends of mine and just getting some inspiration from them in terms of being in different places in our lives….and how we can get really discouraged, and how in these times we can get caught up in these negative thoughts and words.

We’re the first people who hear the words coming out of our mouths when we talk. And that struck a chord with me. I’m telling myself these things and they’re becoming ingrained in me and I’ve got to start replacing what I’m saying about myself with something better so that I’m not carrying these things around. As I was writing everything for the bio, I remembered that and thought maybe I could do something around it for the bio.

Did you feel any hesitation in revealing your personal insecurities?

Amanda: Yeah definitely. In the beginning I was thinking that I just wanted to make something light, and maybe funny and entertaining. And then we were doing a couple of exercises and I realized that other people in the class were opening up and being vulnerable in front of the camera. And actually I think that’s what inspired me, or gave me the extra courage to make my bio about me, and be more open in it.

Also, I have a background in theatre. So when I realized that I couldn’t make this into a big production, I chose to do something simpler and more theatrical, but with a big impact.

I am obsessed with the eccentric director Ulrich Seidl. He is Austria’s equivalent to the blatantly creepy American filmmaker Todd Solondz. The Paradise Trilogy, a portrait of three women related by blood, is deliberately slow and includes ten-minute static scenes with mundane dialogue. But every moment feels honest, absorbing and occasionally funny. Paradise Hope, set in a militant Austrian diet camp is anything but hopeful, as a chubby adolescent girl falls for a middle aged doctor. Paradise Love features an overweight sexually ravenous Austrian cougar on vacation in Kenya. Paradise Faith, the most riveting of the three, tells the story of a dowdy middle-aged female evangelist who has romantic sexual feelings for Christ.

The exquisite cinematography is minimalist and the masterful art direction, especially in the diet camp, has a cold war East European sensibility. These critically acclaimed films are polarizing, as Seidl
is an acquired taste, so if you are expecting an uplifting experience, with a moralistic tale, look elsewhere. Seidl’s bleak and intimate portrait of three women is not searching for solutions to misplaced morals. However, it delivers unvarnished honesty and therein lies it’s beauty. 

The Paradise Trilogy is available on Netflix US.

201306_paradise3_love_object_590

still taken from Paradise: Love

There is a lot to consider when deciding to go to film school. Because it is a creative art, some may even argue that filmmaking can’t be taught in a classroom, and is better learned on your own. As an independent film school we’re all for indie productions and a DIY ethos. But, we also believe film school is the best way to sharpen your skills and produce portfolio quality work.

Why? First and foremost: creativity breeds creativity. We’re familiar with the lone mad genius trope. But the reality is, we can all benefit from receiving creative feedback – particularly when it comes from experienced industry professionals. Filmmaking is an ever­ evolving art, and the industry thrives on innovative and unique ideas. Working in a creative environment with practicing and emerging filmmakers is the best way to explore and push the boundaries of your filmmaking vision.

IMG_5433Which brings us to the next point. We know you’re passionate about filmmaking and determined to pursue your dream project. Yet setting aside time to do so can often be a challenge. Attending film school gives you an opportunity to explore your ideas, learn new techniques, and hone your craft.­Although it might seem counterintuitive, deadlines are useful because they increase productivity and time management. Instead of being relegated to the “when I have time,” pile attending film school allows you to focus on just one thing: your personal development as a filmmaker.

It also allows you to explore the different technical aspects of filmmaking. From pre­production through to post­production, there are countless processes involved in making a film. While many film industry professionals specialize in one area such as directing or cinematography, understanding the basic processes behind each facet is essential to your development as a filmmaker.

And of course, collaborating with fellow students on a variety of film projects gives you on set experience, and can lead to lasting creative partnerships.

Perhaps most importantly, attending film school gives you the opportunity to build a strong and diverse portfolio of work. Your show reel is your calling card – from entry­level positions to funding an independent project, it’s your key to the industry.

As user­friendly cameras, accessible editing software and online tutorials become increasingly popular, learning about filmmaking on your own is much easier than it used to be. And like any field, much of the learning process is trial and error. Delving into film school expedites the learning curve so that you can realize your potential, and your filmmaking vision, that much sooner.

Downtown Vancouver

You’ve probably heard Vancouver referred to as Hollywood North. In 2012 alone, the film industry contributed close to a billion dollars to the economy – with a good balance of international and domestic productions. Every year, hundreds of films, TV shows, and documentaries are shot here.

Today, the city is ranked as the third largest production center for film and TV in North America. So yes, Vancouver’s earned its reputation, but why exactly is the film scene so happening here?

Facilities

Vancouver is home to most of B.C.’s production and post-production activities, and has the capacity to support the biggest Hollywood movies in casting, set-building, location filming, and audio and special effects. It also has some of North America’s most expansive and sophisticated studio spaces and facilities, and numerous FX and sound stages.

Major studios include:

  • Lions Gate Studios
  • Vancouver Film Studios
  • The Bridge Studios

 Location, location, location!

A mere two hour flight from LA, both Vancouver and LA share a time zone eliminating issues like operating hours, accessibility, and travel time for actors and key crew. Vancouver’s mild climate allows for year round shooting. Consistent cloud cover naturally diffuses sunlight making it easier for technicians to add additional light. And of course, with so many productions shot here, there is a strong community of skilled crews, technicians and creative experts to draw on.

 Vancouverites Just Love Film

The film festival scene in Vancouver is alive with local and international fare. Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is one of the largest film festivals in North America, with over 500 screenings held over a three week period.

It also features a forum with high profile speakers – 2013 featured Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, and Walter Murch, Oscar nominated master editor of Apocalypse Now and The Godfather.

Other major film festivals include:

  • DOXA – Documentary Film Festival
  • VLAFF – Vancouver Latin American Film Festival
  • VQFF – Vancouver Queer Film Festival
  • EUFF – European Union Film Festival

With a dynamic film scene, Hollywood and indie productions, and everything in between, Vancouver is a great place to be for emerging and professional filmmakers.