InFocus Film School Blog

 

Film Review: Trainwreck Almost Hits Its Mark

Amy Schumer mined her stand up routine to write Trainwreck. Directed by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Forty-Year-Old Virgin), the film also stars Schumer as her namesake, Amy, a trainwreck-postersexually ravenous pot-head who writes for a breezy magazine geared to the sports addicted, adult male. Her story assignment is a sports doctor (Bill Hader) who has gained fame by surgically repairing famous athletes’ joints, limbs and tendons. For unknown reasons he hasn’t had sex in five years. The film is a spoof on the uncommitted reckless bachelor meets good girl story but this time around the genders are switched: it is Amy who fears intimacy.

Can she commit? This is the central dilemma. From the outset you can see where the film is going. There are a few memorable chuckles especially relating to Amy’s fear of intimacy. She never sleeps overnight and hates spooning. “I am exiting this hug,” she says when a group hug feels creepy.

The film should be lauded for inverting male-female relationship stereotypes but the broad sketch comedy style relies on finding gags rather letting Amy find poignant moments naturally. Perhaps Lena Dunham (Girls), Apatow’s other lustrous protégé, would have fared better with this material. The movie is consumed in the way that one devours a bucket of fried chicken—a guilty pleasure, enjoyable for the moment, but difficult to embrace as the full meal. At times it feels more like Saturday Night Live schtick than a subversive rom-com with memorable anti-heroine who almost commits.

 

 

DIY Filmmaking: Building Your Film Kit

Let’s say you’ve just graduated film school. You’ve managed to convince investors (AKA your parents) to give you $5000 to start your career. What equipment should you buy for your film kit?

Camera

There is really no right answer in this category, it all depends on what you’ll be shooting and your personal preference. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on a camera unless you’re sure it will pay for itself. While REDs and other high-end cameras may be alluring, going the DSLR route is definitely a much better choice for beginners.

Good Choices:
  • Panasonic AF100A: $2000
  • Panasonic GH4: $1700
  • Canon 7Dii: $1500
  • Canon 70D: $1000
  • Olympus E-M5 II: $1000

Lenses

If you know what to look for and are comfortable going second hand, this is the area to do it, but don’t cheap out! Your glass is honestly more important than the camera behind it. The focal lengths you choose will depend on the sensor size of your camera, but I would recommend getting a couple good zooms and 24mm and 50mm equivalent primes.

Tripod

A good set of sticks with a fluid head is another essential for any filmmaker. Manfrotto is the standard but can get quite pricey so shop around. Pay attention to the load capacity and make sure you’re not going to exceed it. The Manfrotto 190X3 is great if you have a DSLR, but put a video camera on it and you’ll quickly pass the 8 lb. limit. Expect to pay $300-$500 for a decent set of legs. I also keep a cheap photo tripod for use in sand, mud and other environments that might be damaging.

Audio Equipment

You’ll need at least a shotgun mic for shooting with a DSLR, but a couple of lavalieres are a good investment as well. If you’ll be doing dramatic shooting you’ll probably need wireless lavs, but for interviews I love my Sony ECM-77s. The good thing with mics is that if you treat them right, they’ll last forever, so don’t be afraid to spend a little bit of money here. Don’t forget to budget for a recorder and some cables as well.

Accessories

Lighting, shoulder rigs, extra batteries, data storage… you could easily spend your entire budget again on accessories and specialized equipment. Ask yourself what you’ll be shooting the most and prioritizemy_collections-0012-WEB your shopping list based on that. Will you be doing a lot of corporate work? Then you’ll probably want a good lighting kit. Dramatic projects? Maybe you can get away with homemade lighting and some C-stands and a field monitor are a better choice. Get what you need before getting what you want.

Dylan’s Kit:

Here’s what I would buy. As most of my experience is with Canon, that’s what I’m sticking with. I do more doc projects than drama, so I kept that in mind, and built a kit that works for corporate jobs as well.

Keep in mind there are always rebates and other deals that you can find. With those I might be able to knock another couple hundred off my final price.

Camera and Lenses
  • Canon 7Dii w/ kit lens: $1800
  • Canon 18-135 3.5-5.6: Included
  • Canon 24-70 2.8 (Used): $1000
  • Canon 50 1.8 (Used): $80
  • Canon 28 1.8 (Used): $350
Tripod
  • Manfrotto 190X3: $300
Audio
  • Røde NTG2 Shotgun Kit: $250
  •  Shock Mount: Included
  •  1.5’ XLR: Included
  • Sony ECM-77 Lav: $280
  • Zoom H4N: $200
  • 20’ XLR: $15
Extras
  • Lowel Pro-Visions Light Kit: $450
  • Extra LP-E6 Battery: $35
  • 32GB SD Card (x2): $60
  • Pelican 1510 Hard Case: $165

Total cost: $4985

Go shoot some films and make your parents investors proud!

Film Review: Does ‘Amy’ Live Up To Its Namesake?

AmyFilmPoster

Amy, the documentary about the tortured British singer Amy Winehouse is an unimaginative power-point not worthy of a theatrical release.

Acclaimed director Asif Kapadiea’s modern day tragedy features old grainy photos of the young impulsive Amy Winehouse and her family villains, especially her dad, who fail to notice the severity of her pain.

Winehouse with her unruly beehive hairdo, Egyptian eyeliner and tiny frame is a brilliant subject who doesn’t want to sound or look anything like her music contemporaries. She weathers mental illness, romantic break-ups, bulimia, drunken performances and the onslaught of flashbulbs from the ravenous paparazzi.

As fucked up as Amy is, she can actually write and the music continues to pour freely leading to Grammys and world acclaim. After her break-through single Rehab, she tours packed stadiums, parties with her boyfriend and ultimately does a stint in rehab, something her father Mitch advises against until she is too far gone.

Although blessed with a unique sound, the trappings of world wide celebrity, the tabloids and her descent into addiction feel all too familiar. Even her soulful live performances are squandered and truncated in favour of dullard talking-head observations by musical collaborators. There is not much new here that has been that has been also already been documented on E-talk!

Savemgid-uma-image-mtv your money and buy her music so you can to listen to her haunting lyrics and savour her bluesy emotional inflections in songs like “Back to Black”, that are deliberately a semi-tone or two off key. Her music, unlike this biopic, leaves more to the imagination.

4 Cheap Rigs for the DIY Filmmaker

Filmmaking can be expensive. So how does a filmmaker straight out of school afford all the fancy gear that they’ve been taught to use? One option for handy filmmakers is to make it themselves. There are plenty of DIY projects out there on the web, here are a few that we’ve highlighted, either because they’re super easy, ridiculously cheap, or amazingly handy.

The Itsy Bitsy Slider

A few tools, a camera plate, and a free sample kit from Igus are all you need to make this mini slider. Great for small, subtle movements, it proves size isn’t always everything. Plus, if you have a spare camera plate it’s completely free! Get the Igus “Mini Sample Kit” here.

The RotoRig

Not the easiest build, but at under $50 this jib/shoulder rig is definitely worth the effort. Be sure to check out the description in the Youtube video to get the full list of supplies.

The KrotoCrane

$50 too much for you? How about $20? This Jib made by Chad Bredahl of Krotoflik, the same mind behind the RotoRig, is a stupid cheap, super effective crane.

The Dual Shoulder Mount

If you’re like me, you’ll find most shoulder rigs to be ridiculously overpriced. Clocking in at only $25, that can’t be said for this handy tool from Film Riot.

6 Tips For Succeeding as an Assistant Director

While the director may be the big fish on set, to be an assistant director you need to be a shark.

Assistant-Director2A film set models its hierarchy after the military, and as the highest “below the line” role, the 1st AD is like the commander. Starting in pre-production they break down the script and plan and schedule the shoot.

Once the film goes to picture, the AD runs the set. Acting as a communications hub they ensure the shoot remains organised, safe, and on time. Responsible for the smooth execution of the production, being an AD is easily one of the most stressful jobs on set, but if you can handle it, it can be extremely rewarding.

Interested in the role? Here are six tips for succeeding as an AD:

  1. Don’t slack off in pre-production. Prep is the most vital aspect of having your shoot run smoothly. Did you plan enough time for lunch? If you have a company move, did you account for traffic? Be prepared to spend as much time planning the schedule as you will spend on set.
  2. Communicate. Speak loudly and clearly and listen closely to what others are telling you. Be sure everyone knows what is happening, ask questions if there is uncertainty, and don’t be scared to be the bad guy if someone isn’t doing their job.
  3. Be organized and well prepared. Always think several steps ahead. Have extra copies of the script, call sheets, and any other important documents available.
  4. Be confident but not cocky. Be firm with your orders and confident in your decisions, but always listen to advice and criticism. Arrogance is the fastest way to get your crew to lose respect for you.
  5. Respect your crew. Don’t talk down to anyone, put a stop to any gossip, and most important, don’t micro-manage. Your crew members are (hopefully) professionals hired to do a job. Let them do it.
  6. Have a sense of humour. Film sets are stressful environments and it’s your job to keep the crew from getting overwhelmed. Humour is a great tool to lift spirits and keep the set productive.

Thanks to InFocus’ assistant directing instructor Rosalee Yagihara for her help with this article. 

Ten Tips for Green Screen

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Compositing techniques have been around since the beginning of the film era. Starting in 1898 with Georges Méliès’ matte photography, image compositing processes were a technically challenging aspect of filmmaking for nearly a century. Thanks to the rise of digital post production however, today blue or green screen compositing is a very easy and effective way to put actors in situations that would be too difficult, expensive or dangerous to do otherwise. Nearly every Hollywood feature now uses the technique, and whether you love or hate the rise of digital special effects, it is here to stay.

Even beginning filmmakers can take advantage of green screens with almost any mid-range editing software. Check out the video below for 10 tips on how to improve your green screen shoot.

 

Vancouver A Hotspot For Fantasy and Sci-Fi Film

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was partly filmed in Vancouver

 

Super, Natural British Columbia. As a filming destination, we could easily lose the comma in our provincial slogan. As the unofficial ‘Hollywood North’, Vancouver draws in a huge number of sci-fi and fantasy productions, and has hosted everything from major blockbusters and prolific television series, to cult classics with rabid fanbases.

There are several major productions slated to shoot here in the upcoming year, including Star Trek 3, Tron 3 and the newest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Deadpool.

Here are five reasons why Vancouver is the absolute perfect location to shoot sci-fi and fantasy:

 

 

1. ONE STOP VFX SHOPPING 

 

An increasing number of productions that shoot here are opting to work with local VFX production houses to fulfill all their lens-flared-space-battle needs. Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic even opened up a permanent 30,000-square foot studio downtown last spring.

 

Here are some of the notable studios, and the locally shot productions they worked on. Keep in mind some of their credits overlap as production companies spread bigger design jobs to multiple companies.

 

Artifex Studios has provided visual effects for several series that were shot here, including Continuum (Showcase), Almost Human (Fox) and Red Riding Hood (Warner Bros).

 

Zoic Studios is the production house responsible for developing the special effects for Battlestar Galactica (Syfy) as well as Arrow (The CW) and Once Upon A Time (ABC).

 

The Embassy Visual Effects received an Academy Award nomination on their work on District 9 (Tristar Pictures) and have continued to work with director Neill Blomkamp as he moved his productions to Vancouver, and developed the visual effects of the weapons in Elysium (TriStar Pictures).

 

Image Engine has an incredible reel of past feature work, including acting as the main VFX team behind Elysium (TriStar Pictures), Watchmen (Warner Bros) and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (20th Century Fox).

 

 

2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION 

 

Vancouver is widely known for its rain soaked old-growth forests, but it’s just as easy to find rocky beaches, snowy mountains and, if you drive out a little further to the east, sandy deserts. The incredible visual diversity of our city is one reason that crews have been flocking here to film projects, ever since The X-Files proved that it could double for pretty much any location in the United States.

 

The range of climate zones in British Columbia is so extensive that it has been an indispensable resource to television shows that need to cheat locations from around the world, or for any production company that doesn’t have the budget to shoot in several different countries.

 

 

3. CITY OF GLASS 

 

Vancouver is one of the youngest cities in North America, and the futuristic architecture rising out of our downtown core is positively built for a sci-fi setting. It isn’t difficult to imagine a prospective director standing on a corner in Coal Harbour and feverishly quoting JJ Abram’s Super 8: “Production value!”

 

It doesn’t hurt that only a few blocks away the cobblestoned streets of Gastown can easily be transformed into a charming heritage scene, or the deserted remnants of a post-apocalyptic future (and it has!).

 

 

4. MILD CLIMATE 

 

For year round shooting, Vancouver can’t be beat. Warm summers, mild winters – and if you’re shooting a sci-fi or fantasy project the constant rain will just add to the mood of your production.

 

 

5. TRIED AND TRUE

 

Vancouver has been home to dozens of fantastic projects, and continues to be the ideal shooting location for creative and ambitious production teams.

 

Here are just a few of the television series and films that have used Vancouver as a location:

 

FILMS:

Tron: Legacy, The Cabin in the Woods, I, Robot, Fantastic Four, Watchmen, The NeverEnding Story, The Twilight Saga, Rise of Planet of the Apes, X Men: The Last Stand, Elysium, Man of Steel, Godzilla

 

TV SERIES:

Supernatural, The X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Fringe, Once Upon A Time, Arrow, Eureka, Smallville, The Vampire Diaries, Continuum, The Stargate Series, Dark Angel, Caprica, Taken, Dead Like Me, Highlander, The Flash, The Outer Limits, The 100.

Shooting in Vancouver: A Cinematographer’s Guide

Vancouver is a premier location for shooting film and TV. But what artistic edge does it have over other major cities? Here are 5 factors that differentiate shooting in Vancouver.

1. Vancouver’s higher latitude means extended daytime shooting hours during summer–­ a huge boon for productions shooting on a tight timeline. During peak filming season, Vancouver gets up to 16 hours of daylight, two hours more than Los Angeles, yet avoids the southern California heat during summer.

2. With softer light, ideal lighting ratios and a warmer colour, the “golden” or “magic” hour after sunrise and before sunset is often the best time to shoot. In any given season, the sun in Vancouver remains lower on the horizon than in most US cities, giving Vancouver a magic hour that is actually way longer than one hour, and often spectacular for more than two.

3. Vancouver often has a thick cloud cover that diffuses light. Harsh sunlight pouring above your subjects is complicated to control and a sky sprinkled with clouds is a nightmare due to constantly changing light. Cloudy grey skies make for constant lighting conditions and a much easier shoot.

4. Although Vancouverites love to complain about it, rain isn’t always a bad thing. Our mild winters and lack of snow allow for a nearly year-round shooting window. Although uncomfortable to hold a shoot in the rain, it often doesn’t read on camera and can easily look moody, arty, and unlike anything that LA can offer.

5. Compared to popular American film locations, Vancouver’s air pollution is low. Cleaner air means a larger spectrum of unfiltered sunlight. In places with heavy pollution, sunlight may come pre­filtered and muted, negating much of its artistic usefulness. The lack of pollution during sunrise or sunset provides a gorgeous broad spectrum in Vancouver­ and exquisite backdrops.

Written by Freddie Kim

Akira Kurosawa and the Power of Movement

As Alfred Hitchcock once famously said, “A lot of films one sees today…they are what I call ‘photographs of people talking’.  It bears no relation to the art of the cinema.”  Despite movement being the key aspect that separates film from photography, most directors simply don’t seem to use it in an effective manner.

Akira Kurosawa was not most directors.  The legendary Japanese filmmaker was a master of composition and movement.  In this video essay, Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting explains how Kurosawa expertly crafted the motion in his scenes and what filmmakers today have to learn from him.

Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement from Tony Zhou on Vimeo.

In Focus Alumni Win Storyhive

A huge thanks to everyone who supported Pull Focus Alumni on Storyhive!

We’re excited to announce that TWO projects by our alumni have won $10,000 grants .

1507757_919687078044060_8804219680558517433_nQuite a feat, considering there were over 100 projects in the running.

The teams are now hard at work in the pre-production stage of their Web Series’ pilots, which are set to be complete by March 2015.

In Focus Alumni Holly Hofmann won a Storyhive grant this past spring as well. Check out the film she made here.