I’m Writing A New Blog — Too

4 07 2008

Film Industry BloggersA few weeks ago, I started posting a weekly column on Richard Janes’ new blog, Film Industry Bloogers. It’s a pretty cool concept, just in its germinating stages, where filmmaking professionals from across a wide spectrum publish their thoughts, on a more or less weekly schedule. Each Friday, my musings go up — along with those of the following:

The Animation Prod. Coordinator – Christine Deitner
The Documentary Producer – Amy Janes
The Editor – Norman Hollyn
The Reality TV Producer – Top Secret
The Web Producer –Chad Williams

Each day, Monday through Saturday, a different assortment of writers takes their crack at explaining just what their lives are like including people like Noah Kadner (the “Digital Expert”), Jen McGowan, an independent filmmaker, Brian Trenchard Smith (a genre director), and many many more.

Surf on over there and check it out. And give us feedback. We can use it.





Self-Serving Announcement

18 05 2008

Digital Production BuzzYou’ve heard me talk about Larry Jordan and Mike Horton’s Digital Production Buzz radio show/podcast (actually, I’ve never heard it on the radio in real time; I listen to it every week in my car driving to or from work — thanks to the podcast version of the show).

Well, this week Larry and Mike are interviewing me on the show. I’m not quite sure just what they’ll find so interesting, but I know I can trust them to do it. For those of you who are interested in what I sound like with a cold, tune in on Thursday from 6-7 Pacific time (you can hear it live on their site right here). And just to make it even more interesting for you, they also promise to interview Patrick Nugent from Roxio about the new Toast, and editor Michael Jones. That interview is described thusly on their web site:

Michael Jones was the editor for the revival of “Banana Splits” for Warner Brothers. Shot in Australia, Michael developed an intriguing on-set editing workflow using Final Cut Pro and it’s multicam feature to show the director what they shot almost as soon as the scene was over. Listen as he describes his new workflow.

Listen early and listen often.


UPDATE.

To listen to the finished show, go to this archive page for the Buzz May 22nd show.





On the Power Of Stopping

20 01 2008

frog thinkingArt Durkee, who is (according to his blog) a “wandering musician, artist, and writer, traveling across the face of the earth,” talks today in his blog Dragoncave, about watching the 1980 TV mini-series Shogun with friends and observing that there are many parts of the series that move very slowly compared to how they would have been edited today (go look at The French Connection today — a film which was known for its heart-beat raising editing when it came out in 1971). He remarks, favorably, that there were moments where the camera lingered on faces or cultural details that would have been long excised in today’s Bourne Identity world.

It’s rare to find film editing this careful or slow-paced these days; only one or two recent films come to mind. Everything has to be edited faster, choppier, more frenetically; it keeps us moving briskly along.

Then, because he is the itinerant traveller type he brings the point into modern life which, he says, “seems to continually accelerate without ever taking time out.” [For those of us with A-type personalities, we’d call that the “continually ON world”]. Then he says:

Anything that slows you down is a good thing.That may seem impossible to believe, or to achieve, but consider this: Life is as much about how you get where you’re going as it is about adding to the list of things you’ve achieved and places you’ve gone. Life is not a tally sheet of projects to be checked off, unless it is also a narrative of how you got them done. When and how much don’t matter as much as how, itself.

I’m reminded of something that Anne Coates once told me. Anne, who is an absolutely extraordinary editor (having cut LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and OUT OF SIGHT, among many others) said that when she first started on digital editing systems — the Lightworks in her case — on OUT OF SIGHT she had to consciously edit slower than she was technically able to cut.  She did this in order to preserve some thinking time. In the old days, I had trained myself to think as I was pulling a trim from a bin, dragging it over to the synchronizer, splicing it, matching the mag track, and splicing that, et al. It took several minutes to make a single cut, as opposed to the several seconds today. But I used that extra time to think about the next several cuts, shaping character and story, and thinking.

We need to figure out how to get back this thinking time. Durkee’s suggestion that we simply stop every now and is a pretty good one.

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I’ll Be At Sundance — Call Me, Write Me

11 01 2008

As I may have said before (well, actually, I know that I’ve mentioned it, but we’re trying to set up a smooth introductory sentence here) (and now I’ve screwed it all up).

Oh, hell, let me start again.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ll be at the Sundance Film Festival this year, doing a Friday afternoon (4:30pm) workshop on Storytelling and Low Budget Filmmaking With High-Budget Values. I’ll be at the festival from Thursday night, January 17th through Sunday afternoon, January 20th.

One of the things that I love about the festival is the possibility of meeting lots of new people. Another things that I like is beer. Combine the two of them, and you get a great film festival (there have actually been some Sundances where I didn’t see a single film and still had a great time).

If you are going to be there and want to try and get together, send me an email. I’d love to see you.

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Making A Life Out of This Crazy Artform

5 01 2008

The actor Tom Wilkinson was interviewed in The Hollywood Reporter the other day as part of their Awards coverage and spoke about how he has learned that he is well-suited to his job. He goes on to explain:

“…to withstand all of the setbacks you have when you’re an actor. Going up for jobs, then being one of the last two and not getting it. I could deal with that; I didn’t have any sense of regret or bitterness about it. I just thought, ‘I am going to keep knocking on this door, and sooner or later, someone is going to open it.’ That feeling I had, increasingly as I gained confidence as a young actor, was that I was absolutely in the right job and wasn’t wasting my time.”

This is not a business that is very people-friendly. It can eat you up inside if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, shutting down and building up defenses around you is not a productive way of succeeding either, because it cuts off the very humanity and emotional core that we need in order to edit with the ability to effect an audience (or shoot or act or direct or write or whatever). We have to learn to access humanity, without making ourselves personally responsible when we don’t get the job we wanted, or don’t get the reviews we wanted.

It’s a very tricky emotional slope to be on, and i don’t know that everyone is emotionally equipped to do that. It’s one reason why successful people sometimes crack up. But when we do achieve that great balance, this is probably the best business in the world to work in.

This actually, in a funny way, reminds me of a recent posting from Mark Cuban’s blog about the beginnings of his career as an entrepeneur. At one point he had no money, had just broken up with his fiancee, and had very few easy prospects.

(Mark Cuban, for those of you who don’t know, is a legitimate dot com billionaire, having started Broadcast.com and sold it to Yahoo for nearly six billion dollars. He has since bought the Dallas Mavericks and, importantly for those of us in the entertainment business, has started 2929 Entertainment, which has an amazing business model for the creation and distribution of filmed entertainment).

In sports, the only thing a player or coach can truly control is effort. The same applies to business. The only thing any entrepreneur, salesperson or anyone in any position can control is their effort.

I had to kick myself in the ass and recommit to getting up early, staying up late and consuming everything I possibly could to get an edge. I had to commit to making the effort to be as productive as I possibly could. It meant making sure that every hour of the day that I could contact a customer was selling time and when customers were sleeping, I was doing things that prepared me to make more sales and to make my company better.

And finally, I had to make sure I wasn’t lying to myself about how hard I was working. It would have been easy to judge effort by how many hours a day passed by while I was at work. That’s the worst way to measure effort. Effort is measured by setting goals and getting results. What did i need to do to close this account. What did I need to do to win this segment of business. What did I need to do to understand this technology or that business better than anyone. What did I need to do to find an edge. Where does that edge come from and how was I going to get there.

The one thing in our business lives is effort. Either you make the commitment to get results or your don’t.

Working hard and being honest with yourself are two great qualities to success in this business. Knowing what part of the business is suited for you is a third.

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Nouns and Verbs

5 05 2005

According to an email I got today from a friend who lives back in Jersey (Joisey??) you can now add Swiffer, to the list of Products that can be used as verbs. LIke Google and Tivo before it, Swiffer (which, for those of you who don’t know, is basically a dust mop made up of completely synthetic products) can now be used in sentences about things That People Do.

As in “My husband swiffers the floors every night before leaving work” or “She told them that she wasn’t going to take the job if it consisted of too much Swiffering.”