Thursday, December 22, 2011

Observations on Spielberg

I am from the Spielberg generation, if you want to call it that. I graduated from high school the year Spielberg's career skyrocketed to fame and fortune with Jaws and his popularity hasn't let up one iota. (I love that word!)

As a fan and movie buff, I've noticed a few things about Mr. Spielberg over the years.

1) Likes kids as the main character -- E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985), A. I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), Super 8 (2011).

2) War is a Big Deal -- 1941 (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Empire of the Sun (1987), Schindler's List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Eyes of the Holocaust (2000), Band of Brothers (2001), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), War Horse (2011).

3) He's a big Sci-Fi Guy -- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Poltergeist (1982), Back to the Future (1985), *batteries not included (1987), Men in Black (1997), War of the Worlds (2005), Cowboys and Aliens (2011).

4) Monster movies Spielberg style -- Duel (1971) Jaws (1975), Jurassic Park (1993), Twister (1996).

This is list is just a partial sampling of his prolific filmmography. What Spielberg flicks are your favorites?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Movie Music Monday: Psycho

Bernard Herrmann's amazing score for Psycho is brilliant. In my book, it ranks as the best film music of all time. Like Jaws, it is clearly identified with this movie alone. I'm also impressed that the entire score features only strings!

Friday, December 16, 2011

"Coming Attractions"

Here's my contest entry for the Database Security Video Smackdown. It's called "Coming Attractions" and is a movie trailer parody. Although we didn't win the contest, we had a blast making the commercial. Click here to see winner.
We were inspired by Hitchcock. North by Northwest is apparent in the theme of mistaken identity and we shot our version of the crop duster scene and the climbing Mt. Rushmore scene. We also included the names of Hitchcock characters: Rupert - from Rope, Thorwald - from Rear Window, Bruno - from Strangers on a Train, and Crane - from Psycho.

I couldn't help adding lines from Hitch's movies as well:

"A murderer would never parade his crime in front of an open window" (Rear Window)

"I admire people who do things. (Strangers on a Train)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Trouble with Small Town Theatres

So the nominations for the Golden Globes have been announced (The Artist, The Help, The Descendants, Moneyball and Midnight in Paris) and only one of the films ever made it to our theatre here in Cheyenne, Wyoming -- The Help.

That means I have to keep my fingers crossed that they might show up later. Or else I'm stuck watching them on DVD. As an avid movie-goer, I much prefer watching movies at the cinema. It's my thing.

Other films that I'm very interested in seeing but have not come to our theatres is 50/50 (a comedy about cancer diagnosis - not sure how that plays as a comedy) and My Week with Marilyn (gotta check out Michelle Williams "Marilyn" impersonation).

Nevertheless, small theatres have a lot going for them. Here in Cheyenne we have a 9-plex, a 12-plex and an historic downtown cinema with only one screen that plays current releases at later dates and offers a discount. The 12-plex is my favorite. It's a newer building with comfortable seating and fairly large theatres. Hubby and I always sit in the back row on the right hand side.

It's interesting to see the audience demographic for some of the movies. At "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" the place was packed, but "The Ides of March" was sparsely populated with older couples. Hubby and I fit right in. 

As for the concessions, I always get a small unbuttered popcorn and small Pepsi. DELICIOUS!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Movie Music Monday: Jaws

As fabulous as this movie is on every level, it would not be the same without John Williams' compelling score. Bravo! Dedicated to beginning cello students everywhere.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Movie Music Monday: Eye of the Tiger

I couldn't resist. I just had to create a special day of the week to pay tribute to the great movie music of all time. My first choice for Movie Music Mondays is "Eye of the Tiger" by the band Survivor. The song was written at the request of Sylvester Stallone to be the theme for Rocky III (1982).

This video introduces the movie in a dramatic montage that takes up where Rocky II left off. Without one word of dialog, we see Rocky defending his title, his leap from a poor, Philadelphia contender to fame and fortune as the Heavy Weight Champion of the World. We see his love for his wife and son. All his dreams have come true. Meanwhile, Clubber Lang is training hard, demanding to fight Rocky and gain the title. We also see a nervous Mickey who knows how tough Clubber is. This is how you use visuals alone to tell a story. And the music carries the punch. No pun intended.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Inspires You?

As a creative person, I get inspiration from everywhere. Books, movies, TV shows, food, clothes, magazines, children, nature, art, music, dance, theatre.

More specifically: ballet slippers, Frankstein's monster, Labrador puppies, lemons, note cards, graduation caps, tea kettles, witches, polar bears, wedding cakes, wild horses, Bach, lipstick, the Empire State Building, light houses, guitars, baseball bats, wine bottles, chili dogs, ice cubes, Rene Magritte, okay that's all for now but you get the idea.

Just keep your eyes open and you will see amazing things that will ignite a spark and turn into a sizzling fireball of brilliance. No, I am not over-reacting.

Which reminds me. The key is PASSION! If you don't feel passionate about your creation, you may as well give up. Passion will keep you going when your body and mind say "NO! I can't do this anymore!"

Definition of Passion: a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm or desire for something.

The opposite of passion is indifference and apathy.

Something to think about.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Back to the 1960s!

Next project: Our drama troupe, the Sunnyside Players, is planning our annual Valentine's Day Dessert Theatre. The theme is the 1960s. This year, along with live comedy sketches, jokes, one-liners and songs, we are going to create a video parody of TV shows of the 1960s: Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, etc. Our drama team will play the various characters in short funny scenes.

We also want to show video of 1960s TV commercials and an audience-participation performance of The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game.

I'll be writing the scripts (the theme is "Love" of course, for Valentine's Day) for the TV shows and we will be shooting the video over the next few weeks. That means I'll be writing, acting and shooting/editing video with a deadline of early February.

I wonder if I've bitten off more than I can chew?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Aliens in Wyoming

Our annual staff meeting is November 30 and my supervisor asked me to help with the staff video. She knows I'm a "filmmaker" and since I won the Shootout  Cheyenne 24 Hour Filmmaking Festival this year, she thought I wouldn't mind working on the project.

The video is about an Alien who wants to start a business in Wyoming. He goes through all the divisions of our agency for assistance. I call it "Close Encounters at the Wyoming Business Council." There are references to Star Wars, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Toy Story (Buzz Lightyear). The video will be shown at the staff meeting next week. I'm looking forward to seeing the audience reaction. We've never done a staff video like this before.

We will be serving Alien cookies as a movie treat during the premiere.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Late to the Twilight Party

So what's been going on this week? Catching up with the Twilight movies. I'd never read the books or seen the films, but Twilight was on TV this week and I just happened to watch it. HOLY COW! This film is amazing. The beautiful cinematography knocked my socks off!

The camera angles, the art direction...stunning! The mysterious images of the vampire family with their pale skin and red lips was captivating. And of course, it's all about the story which is creative and imaginative. I had no idea this lovely work of art had been hovering around the universe and I didn't even notice.

Needless to say, I immediately watched the other two films in the series: New Moon and Eclipse. And yes, they were as spectacular as the first. Now I'm reading the books.

And this weekend you'll find me in the theatre watching the latest in the Twilight series: Breaking Dawn Part 1.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Doritos Commercial

My first ever commercial contest entry is finally finished! Check it out at Crash the Superbowl and click on the Gallery. Mine is called White Rabbit.

The hardest part was editing to make it fit in a 30-second time frame.

The little girl was played by my friend's daughter Cheyenne. The White Rabbit was played by my hubby Lewie.

The creepy building is an old historic building here in town. It's a filmmaker's dream.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ides of March

Best movie I've seen in a long time. Beyond superb. Excellent on every level: Story, acting, cinematography...and a terrific screenplay by George Clooney, Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon (who wrote the play the film was based on "Farragut North").

I didn't think Hollywood could come up with a movie about politics that didn't have a hidden agenda, but somehow they pulled it off.

The theme of "Integrity in Politics" is not new, but The Ides of March (2011) tackles this subject beautifully. Director George Clooney capitalized on the amazing talents of his cast: Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti. I could see why these actors would jump at the chance to play these well-drawn characters.

This flick is jostling it's way to the top of my Favorite Movies of All Time list.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween the Movie

Okay, so I'm probably the only person in the Universe who hasn't seen the Halloween movies. But it just so happened that AMC featured a Halloween marathon on TV last week and I finally found out what all the fuss was about. I saw Halloween (1978), Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982), Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988), Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989), and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998). For some reason AMC didn't air Halloween II (1981).

This is what I've learned about Michael Myers:

He is indestructible. He is "Superman." He's been shot, stabbed, burned and run over by trucks. He's been in car crashes, fallen off buildings and electrocuted. He will not die! 

I was relieved when Jamie Lee Curtis finally put an end to his rampage of terror by lopping off his head with an axe in Halloween H20. Unless you count Halloween: Resurrection (2002).  See? Indestructible.

Not sure what Halloween III: Season of the Witch had to do with Michael Myers. Didn't seem to fit the continuing saga at all.

On another note: In the movie So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), Charlie (Mike Myers -- strange coincidence) is on the roof of a hotel being pursued by an axe murderer (Amanda Plummer). It's obviously a comic parody of the scene in Halloween 4 where Rachel and Jamie are being pursued by Michael Myers, including the part where Rachel is hanging onto the roof and Michael is standing over her with the knife. The tribute was lost on me before I had seen Halloween 4. Nice surprise discovery.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Learning Curve

What I've learned about making movies since my journey began this summer:

1) Plan everything before the shoot so that there are as few surprises as possible.

2) Scout locations so you can plan your shots and angles. A real time saver!

3) Create a story board. Drawing each scene and creating the sequence of events helps to see how the movie will flow.

4) Make a shot list.

5) Be flexible. Go with the flow and be open to new ideas that might jump out at you during the shoot.

6) Be creative. Look for interesting ways to present visual motifs and create artistic compositions in the shots.

7) Be thoughtful of everyone involved with the project. Their time is important. Especially if they're doing it for free.

8) Be easy to work with, calm and peaceful. It's just a movie. Get over it. Make the project enjoyable for everyone

9) Keep a folder for everything related to the project (shot lists, releases, scripts, notes, budget, etc.)

10) Think visually. As a writer, I have to purposely edit myself on dialog. Tell the story with as few words as possible. Make every word count.

11) Listen to the actors and others on set and consider their ideas for character, scenes, etc. Don't shut them out of the process. Making movies is a collaborative endeavor. Work together to create a masterpiece.

12) Look for inspiration all around you. Be observant. Notice details. People. Places.

13) Take time to learn everything about your editing suite.

14) Tell a great story.

15) Give "Thank You" cards when it's over.

I've also learned that for some reason, all my movies feature some kind of weird, supernatural theme. I haven't figured out why. The jury's still out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Catching Up with Woody Allen

I've been a Woody Allen fan since I read "Getting Even" in high school.

QUOTE: I was unable to get a date on only six weeks' notice.

I eventually read everything he ever wrote and saw almost every movie he's ever made. I love his style of humor and comedy.

The first Woody Allen movie I ever saw was Play It Again, Sam, which was the subject of a paper I wrote for a film class in college. I analyzed this movie inside and out and got an "A." Yay, me!

Then Annie Hall showed up and I was hooked for life.

My favorites:
Play It Again, Sam
Annie Hall
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Hannah and Her Sisters
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Husbands and Wives
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Bullets Over Broadway
Match Point

Anyhow, my goal is to watch all of Woody Allen's films. I've only missed two, which I plan on watching this week:
1) You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

2) Whatever Works

And I can't wait to see his latest Midnight in Paris which received rave reviews. Sadly, it never played at our local theatres.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fun with Dick and Jane

One of my favorite Jim Carrey flicks, Fun with Dick and Jane (2005) is hilarious. For a comedy, the cinematography is pretty spectacular. Note the scene in the office building with the men in suits stumbling over the empty water cooler bottles. I never saw the original 1977 version with George Segal and Jane Fonda, but it's on my must-watch list.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Doritos Crash the Super Bowl

Susan talked me into entering the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest. Create a 30-second commercial, win a million bucks and have your commercial aired during the Super Bowl.

Sounds easy enough.

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Susan's Zombie Movie

Susan V. was in downtown Cheyenne celebrating the annual Zombie Fest.

Zombiefest from Susan Vincenzes on Vimeo.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Christi's Video

Here's the video I made to promote Christi's workshop.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Creating One-Person Shows

Yesterday I shot a promotional video for my friend Christi Mitchell, professional actor and friend who will be teaching a workshop about creating a one-person show.

She is amazing!

She will be performing her one-woman show October 13 in Cheyenne, WY at Lights On! (the Hynds Building) 1602 Capitol Ave. 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Her workshop will be held on Saturdays, January 28 through March 10, 2012.

Go to her website for more information:
Christi Mitchell

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

It's taken me several days to come down from the Shoot Out Festival high. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but I'm so glad it's over.

Susan and I have started working on a new project -- the Database Security Smackdown contest. We will create a two-minute commercial for a database security company. Deadline is December 6. We are brainstorming ideas and hope to have a script in a couple of weeks.

Other Projects: My friend Christi Mitchell has asked me to create a video promoting her One-Woman Show workshop. We shoot tomorrow.

Also working on a Thanksgiving video for church, interviewing people and asking them what they're thankful for, from the very young to the very old. Pastor wants to show it the Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Film: The Bear Switch Project

The winner of Best Film was disqualified and so The Bear Switch Project is Best Film for the Shoot Out 24 Hour Filmmaking Festival.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Our Movie won Best Comedy

The Shoot Out Cheyenne Fillmmaking Festival was amazing. Our movie The Bear Switch Project, won Best Comedy and also Best Actor! All our hard work paid off. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

The rules: make a seven minute movie in 24 hours with only in-camera editing. We had to include five items from a Brief which we were given just before the Shootout. We also had to include the line "This means something -- this is important." This is a line from Close Encounters of the Third Kind when Richard Dreyfuss makes Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes. Here is a director's cut of my movie. I added a few more seconds to the credits section and tweaked some of the weak shots.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Location, Location, Location!

Thanks to Ron we now have a lovely office space to shoot the office scene. Oregon Trail Bank has generously agreed to let us use a vacant office with a lovely desk, credenza, high back executive chair, etc. And the lighting is amazing...two huge windows. It is PERFECT!

We decided to shoot the park scene in an actual park and not worry about the sounds of people, kids, dogs, etc. that typically inhabit a city park on a Saturday morning. I had originally thought it would be best to shoot in Ron's backyard since it was in a quiet neighborhood and it's fenced in. He has lovely trees and flowers that would make it look park-like. Time will tell if we made the right decision.

I'm discovering that I am becoming more and more like Hitchcock. Fearful of locations and wanting to use a studio set where there is more control. Am I a control freak? I don't think so. It's just that the Wyoming wind is a powerful foe. Sound is my enemy on the technical front...I don't have an external mic system so whatever the camera hears is what we get.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Making of...

We have decided to make a "Making of The Bear Switch Project" movie which we will shoot along with the actual movie. Susan will be shooting the "making of" movie which will include interviews with the cast and crew, out takes, and all the crazy unexpected stuff that happens behind the scenes.

We are shooting the actual movie on my new Sony camera and I'm still trying to learn the ins and outs. I am able to trim shots in-camera which is very cool. I can also protect shots....I can't image how awful it would be to get to the end and accidentally delete everything. My worst nightmare.

Our next production meeting is tomorrow at Ron's house where we will be shooting some practice scenes. Countdown: 6 more days til the Shoot Out!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I was watching M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable (2000) again the other day so I could observe his brilliant movie making techniques. The first thing I noticed were the long takes and "reveals" in scenes. For example, Bruce Willis is standing at his locker with the locker door open, talking to someone out of frame. When he closes the locker, we see the man he was talking to standing in the doorway. The actors do not move in this scene...the only thing that moves is the locker door. This lack of movement gives emphasis to the dialog and the emotion of the characters talking because we are not distracted by movement.

This happens all through the movie beginning in the train with the shots of Willis behind the seats.

I also noticed that the long takes really slowed the pace of the movie which was what Shyamalan wanted...Willis slowly beginning to understand who he is really is.

The amazing landscape mural in the restaurant scene was surreal, making it appear like the couple was in another world. Stunning!

The idea of "framing" was captured with scenes in doorways and pages of a comic book.

Shyamalan's comments about the movie were very interesting. He had originally planned the typical Superhero movie. Act one - hero discovers he has powers. Act two - hero showcases his powers by battling the villain. Act three - hero confronts villain and is victorious. But Shyamalan said that he wasn't inspired by the predictability of Acts two and three. He decided to make the whole movie about Act one where the hero discovers that he his a superhero. The audience discovers this at the same time and we are led along on the journey.

This is a movie you can watch again and again because of the beauty of the cinematography and the inclusion of symbolic visual motifs that enhance the story and characters.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bear Switch Cast/Crew Meeting

Tomorrow is our first cast/crew meeting for The Bear Switch Project. I'm very excited to hear the actors read their lines and for all of us to discuss the logistics of putting this show together. Susan has created amazing props and I've been working on getting the shot list and story board together.

We need to get the participation and location releases signed, work out the details of the locations and sets and most importantly, time the script so we don't run over seven minutes (including titles and credits).

Go "Bear Switch" Team!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Inspired by Christopher Walken

I really like the Christopher Walken music video that made the rounds on Youtube a while back. It's inspired me to create a video featuring a dancing man. For the song I'm thinking "A Fifth of Beethoven."

Check out the Walken Video 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Script Ideas for Video Smackdown

1. Movie trailer

2. Internet dating

3. Farmer vs. Stock Broker

4. Pirates of the Caribbean parody

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Story Board

I've made four revisions to the story board already and I'll probably make a few more before we start shooting. But that's okay. It keeps everyone on the same page so the day of the shoot should run pretty smoothly.

Susan and I had our second production meeting yesterday and she showed me the Evil Bear masks she was working on. They are amazing! She is so creative and I'm  happy to be working with her on this project.

I got my new camera yesterday as well. It's a Sony HG camera and it's pretty cool. It has an internal hard drive AND uses SD cards! I need break it in and shoot some video. Tomorrow will be a good day -- a cookout at my brother's house. They have three kids that love to ham it up.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Bear Switch Project

I'm in the process of creating my next movie, The Bear Switch Project, for the Shootout Filmmaking Festival. I'm working with my friend and colleague Susan V. and we are having a great time planning the movie and getting things organized for the shoot.

The Bear Switch Project is a Twilight Zone-type suspense/comedy about a man who's down on his luck and encounters a magic bear that changes his life.

My script is finished and we have the actors we need. We are currently scouting locations and doing as much planning ahead of time as possible. It's our first Shootout and we are ready for "bear."