Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Sound of Gravity

Skip Lievsay on the Sound of Gravity

The sound of Gravity is a crucial element of the film and in this Soundworks video director Alfonso Cuaron and Re-recording Mixer Skip Lievsay discuss how they (and the sound teams) created the dramatic soundscape of outer space.

SoundWorks Collection: The Sound of Gravity from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

Gravity opens in the UK on November 8th

> Official site
> LFF 2013 review

Behind The Scenes

Paddy Chayefsky on Network

Paddy Chayefsky on Network

The late screenwriter describes the culture that led him to write one of the classic films of the 1970s.

When Paddy Chayevsky wrote Network (1976) even the poster said it was “outrageous”, perhaps anticipating the critics who felt it went too far in its depiction of the TV industry and the wider culture.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, it was to become an astonishingly prescient satire, anticipating the descent of network TV into a ratings obsessed monster.

Here on Dinah Shore‘s daytime show he discusses the film:

> Network at the IMDb
> Interactive NYT feature on Chayefsky’s script

Behind The Scenes Interesting

Writing With Light

Writing With Light

A 1992 documentary about cinematographer Vittorio Storaro provides a fascinating insight into his working life.

Best known for his work with Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Ford Coppola and Warren Beatty, he is one of the greatest of his era.

This 55 minute programme features interviews with the man himself and his collaborators, interspersed with footage of him working on several films.

Amongst other things it features him talking about:

  • The qualities of magic hour
  • His Oscar wins
  • The Conformist (1970)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • His theory of colour
  • One from the Heart (1982)
  • Dick Tracy (1990)
  • The Sheltering Sky (1990)
  • His use of hi-def video in 1983
  • Imago Urbis (1992)

> Official website
> Vittorio Storaro at the IMDb
> More posts on cinematography

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The (Extended) Making of The Shining

Extended Staircases to Nowhere

The full version of The Elstree Project‘s documentary about The Shining is now available online.

Stanley Kubrick’s famous horror was originally documented in a 17 minute short film, as part of the project designed to document the famous studios of Elstree and Borehamwood.

But now they have released a much longer version lasting 55 minutes with contributions from:

  • Brian Cook – 1st AD
  • Jan Harlan – Producer
  • Christiane Kubrick – Wife of Stanley Kubrick
  • Mick Mason – Camera Technician
  • Ray Merrin – Post-Production Sound
  • Doug Milsome – 1st AC and Second Unit Camera
  • Kelvin Pike – Camera Operator
  • Ron Punter – Scenic Artist
  • June Randall – Continuity
  • Julian Senior – Warner Bros. Publicity

They discuss many aspects of the film including the 2nd Unit footage shot in America, the different stages at Elstree, the use of Steadicam, the fire on set, and what Kubrick was like to work with.

> The Elstree Project
> Buy The Stanley Kubrick Boxset from Amazon UK
> Previous Stanley Kubrick Posts

Behind The Scenes Interesting

Operation Dirty Dozen

Operation Dirty Dozen

An old behind-the-scenes featurette for The Dirty Dozen offers a glimpse in how movies were marketed in a bygone era.

Long before DVDs, the internet and viral marketing, there were making of featurettes which were used to plug forthcoming films.

In a sense they were like short films, using B-roll footage and scripted voice-overs to describe the stars and production.

They seem like a long way from how movies are pushed to audiences now, with fans at Comic-Con lapping up news of projects yet to be made.

The Dirty Dozen remains one of the ultimate ‘guys on a mission’ film, a huge hit in 1967 that spawned numerous imitators such as Kelly’s Heroes (1970) and was a big influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Below you can see Lee Marvin filming the opening sequence and also grooving in 1960s London, along with Donald Sutherland, John Cassavetes and Jim Brown.

N.B. Aldbury was the location of the first school I ever went to.

> The Dirty Dozen at Wikipedia
> The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Making of Husbands

An old BBC documentary shows how John Cassavetes made his low budget film Husbands (1970).

Although slightly more expensive than his first four films – Shadows (1959), Too Late Blues (1961), A Child is Waiting (1963) and Faces (1968) – it is a fascinating insight into how independent films were made before the Sundance revolution.

During this period of directing he was better known as an actor in films such as Don Siegel’s The Killers (1964), Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen (1967) and Roman Polanski‘s Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

But he was using this acting money to self-finance his films as a director – often shooting scenes in his own home – and even forming as a company to handle foreign distribution.

Husbands saw him star alongside Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara as a trio of married men who go on a spree around New York and London, after the funeral of one of their close friends.

This BBC documentary probably aired on BBC1 around the UK release.

Note the following:

  • The incredibly posh BBC presenter
  • The light handheld cameras
  • Use of real locations
  • The improvised dolly on the back of a car
  • How Cassevetes works his actors
  • Use of long lenses
  • The ‘problem’ of a professional crew
  • Working with ‘no story’
  • The hose down at (what is presumably) Heathrow airport
  • Cassevetes getting frustrated with his crew
  • The sheer amount of smoking that goes on
  • Filming at Bank Station on the London Underground
  • Cassavetes saying: “Actors will put their money where their mouth is. Directors won’t”

> Husbands at the IMDb and Wikipedia
> Ray Carney’s links on Cassevetes
> Article on the making of Husbands
> Ben Gazzara (1930-2012) – including video of a memorable chat show appearance
> More on Independent film at Wikipedia


Behind The Scenes Visual Effects

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy VFX

A video showing how visual effects were used to create the period world of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy begs the question as to why wasn’t nominated for a BAFTA or Oscar.

Mention the phrase ‘visual effects’ and I suspect images of science fiction or fantasy movies leap to mind.

After all, films like Star Wars (1977) and Avatar (2009) are most associated with the field.

Tomas Alfredson’s masterful John Le Carre adaptation is not the kind of film you would associate with modern visual effects, as it is a realistic tale of corruption and intrigue in MI6 during the 1970s.

But this video shows how modern technology was used to skilfully augment Maria Djurkovic‘s amazing production design:

They were done by Swedish company The Chimney Pot they highlight just how sophisticated the digital augmentation of photographic reality has become.

So sophisticated in fact that it may have worked against them in the awards season as the film has missed out on both BAFTA and Academy nominations.

It isn’t easy to blend old school techniques with cutting edge digital tools, but when they are combined successfully the results can be magical.

There is the (possibly apocryphal) story that 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) lost the Best Makeup Academy Award to John Chambers for Planet of the Apes (1968) because the judges didn’t realize Kubrick’s apes were really people (perhaps that was actually a greater compliment than the Oscar).

It was a strong field this year but it begs the question, did The Chimney Pot lose out on visual effects recognition because they were too good?

> The Chimney Pot
> More on the history of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Cost of Star Wars

How much did Star Wars (1977) cost to make?

A quick Wikipedia search tells us that the budget was $11m.

But what if we wanted to dig a little deeper?

Browsing an old bookstore, I came across Joel Finler’s The Hollywood Story which reprinted a breakdown of the Star Wars budget.

This in itself was reprinted from David Pirie’s Anatomy of the Movies, which in turn was presuambly sourced from a 20th Century Fox or Lucasfilm financial statement.

It is worth noting that these figures would have been from 1980 – before the dollars from home video and merchandising really began to flow.

[Click here for a larger version]

There are a few things that stand out:

  1. The Cost of the Visual Effects: Star Wars was effectively the birth of the modern visual effects industry and this can be seen by the unusually high budget for the ‘special effects and models of spaceships and robots’.
  2. The Transport and Tunisia Location Costs: The $700,000 it took to take the film to the North African desert paid off as early on in the film it gave it a sense of real world scope.
  3. World Wide Box Office Receipts: When this statement was published the figure of $510m was pretty spectacular, overtaking Jaws (1975) which ushered in the blockbuster era with $470m. Spielberg would regain the all-time box office crown with E.T. (1982) record-breaking $792m.
  4. The Negative Cost: When budgets are often quoted in the mainstream press, the figure usually being discussed its what’s called a ‘negative cost’ – the price it took to produce the finished negative of the movie. Here it was $11m, which actually tallies with the Wikipedia figure.
  5. Prints and Advertsing: This is the combined cost of producing the film prints, shipping them to cinemas around the world and then marketing the fact that the film is showing (outdoor posters, television spots etc). Traditionally the global profits are split 50/50 between studio and exhibitor, although it can vary. The typical exhibitor’s share in the US is split 45 to 55% and in the Rest of the World 55 to 65%. UK exhibitors often keep an unusually high amount, averaging around 65 to 70%. In the case of Star Wars the $510m was carved up between exhibitors ($260m) and the studio ($250m).
  6. Percentage Points: Fox, Lucasfilm and various actors accepted percentage points of the final profits. Fox took %60 ($88.5m) and the producers took %40 ($59m). Of that producer share several actors got unexpected bonuses. Chief among them was Alec Guinness (%2.75 or $3.3m), Mark Hamill (%0.25 or $368,750), Carrie Fisher (%0.25 or $368,750) and Harrison Ford (%0.33 or $1m), set workers (%0.5 or $73,750) and office workers (%0.02 or $$7,375)

As of 2008, the overall box office revenue generated by the six Star Wars films is around $4.41 billion.

Only the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises have grossed more.

Aside from making George Lucas a lot of money, their other creative legacy is the creation of ILM, the company founded to create the visual effects for the movies.

For example, the opening shot of Star Wars took eight months and Lucas wanted people who could use the power of computers to help make the process easier.

Lucas hired Ed Catmull, who was in charge of the computer division at Lucasfilm and Alvy Ray Smith, who became head of the graphics project there.

When Lucas sold this computer graphics division to Steve Jobs in 1986, the former Apple boss (who would eventually return in 1997) renamed the company Pixar.

It would eventually go on to make animation history with a series of pioneering short films, Toy Story (1995) and a series of Oscar-winning and box office triumphs.

But for more on that, story check out the history of Pixar.

> Star Wars at Wikipedia
> Skillset breakdown of film finances

Behind The Scenes Interesting

In Praise of Widescreen

Almost every film we see now is in widescreen, but how did this look come about?

With the proliferation of widescreen television over the last decade, it is sometimes easy to forget that until relatively recently films were cropped for home viewing.

This meant that for a lot of movies, a large percentage of the rectangular image (in the aspect ratios of 2:35 and 1:85) was removed so it could fit the squarer aspect of television (the 1:33 or 4:3 ratio).

The roots of this are historical, as the advent of television in the 1950s forced Hollywood to come up with newer ways of enticing audiences back to cinemas.

Thus modern widescreen processes were invented to put an image on screen that couldn’t be replicated in the homes of the time.

This shifted the fundamental look of films from the traditional academy ratio of 1:33 to the more rectangular widescreen look we now take for granted.

But when it came to screening those movies on television (ironically the very medium that triggered widescreen developments) there was the obvious problem of converting that wide image on to a square TV screen.

Here Sydney Pollack and Martin Scorsese (and others) explain for TCM the whole business of ‘pan and scanning’ and why it was bad for certain movies (by the way, Curtis Hanson’s example of The Last Supper painting is pure genius):

Back in 1992, there was a TV programme where several directors discussed why they shot certain films in widescreen, including Michael Mann (Manhunter, The Last of the Mohicans), Phillip Noyce (Dead Calm), John Boorman (Point Blank) and John Carpenter (Halloween).

They discuss how the advent of a wider screen affected their visual approach to making films, but also how it influenced such things as editing, dialogue and even running time.

What’s interesting is that Mann’s comment about widescreen televisions in Japan is now the reality.

Certain films such as Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003) and Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank (2009) and The Artist (2011) actually used the squarer visual format (a.k.a. 1:33 or academy ratio) for effect.

Going back to the 1970s and 80s, directors like Stanley Kubrick (e.g. The Shining and Barry Lyndon) and William Friedkin (e.g. Sorcerer) were careful to frame some of their films so they couldn’t be awkwardly pan and scanned, although this created subsequent problems for DVD and Blu-ray releases.

Having grown up in the era of VHS and ‘squarer films’ on television, I instinctively prefer the look of widescreen, possibly because it reminds me of the cinema experience, where you could see the full image and got much better sound.

There’s also the crucial matter of actually seeing the film the way the director intended it to look.

It still often depends on the individual film, with Citizen Kane (1941) perhaps being the most ingenious use of the camera in the 1:33 ratio (as mentioned in the above clips both Welles, Howard Hawks and Fritz Lang were sceptical of Cinemascope).

But with widescreen now ubiquitous in our homes and cinemas is there going to be another shift in the frame through which we see movies?

> Find out more about widescreen formats at the Widescreen museum
> More on cinema of the 1950s at Wikipedia
> Review of Ben Hur on Blu-ray

Behind The Scenes Interesting

Film London Seminars

Film London recently held some interesting seminars on the sales side of the movie business.

For all that is written about the artistic merits of a particular film, sometimes the process of how a film reaches cinemas getsless attention.

Film London is the capital’s film and media agency, a not-for-profit organisation supported by the BFIMayor of LondonThe Arts Council and Skillset.

They have put seminars online with some key people from the industry, which cover: audience research, marketing (business-to-business, traditional, viral) and public relations.

In an era where the digital revolution is affecting both the production and distribution of films, these videos contain some incredibly useful information and advice.

They have disabled embedding, but you can click through the following links to view them.

> Film London
> How Stuff Works on Movie Distribution


Behind The Scenes Interesting

20 Things about Terminator 2

It is 20 years since Terminator 2: Judgment Day opened in US cinemas, so to celebrate here are 20 facts about the film you may not know.

1. It is technically an independent film
The first Terminator was made outside the studio system, as it was funded by Hemdale Pictures and distributed by Orion. Although the original film was a box office hit in 1984, the sequel was held up by various legal issues which were only resolved when Carolco stepped in to purchase the rights. Run by Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, the company had become very successful in the 1980s on the back of the Rambo franchise – First Blood (1982) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1984) – the latter of which Cameron co-wrote. So, although a big budget spectacular, it was independently financed outside the studio system.

2. James Cameron had previously sold his rights to the franchise for $1
Although he created the iconic character and story, Cameron sold his stake in any future sequels for the nominal sum of $1 before the first film was even made. His reasoning was that this was the only way he would be allowed to direct his first feature film. As it established his career, he later said that was the price of a ‘Hollywood education’. In 2009 he told the Toronto Sun :

“I wish I hadn’t sold the rights for one dollar. If I had a little time machine and I could only send back something the length of a tweet, it’d be – ‘Don’t sell.’

Although he was paid a reported $6m to write and direct T2, he has never seen any money from any of the subsequent films, TV shows or merchandising.

3. The film has a strange connection with the Rodney King incident
The biker bar scene where the T800 arrives was filmed just across the road from where LAPD officers assaulted Rodney King in March 1991. The famous amateur video, shot by George Holliday, is reputed to have two bits of footage on it. One is the T2 crew filming shots of Schwarzenegger and Furlong on a motorbike in the San Fernando Valley and the other – shot later – is of several police officers beating the crap out of King.

The resulting trial of the officers and their controversial acquittal triggered the LA riots of April 1992.

The irony is that the villain of T2 is a cop. When writing the script several months before filming, Cameron wrestled with what form the T-1000 would settle on and in Rebecca Keegan’s biography ‘The Futurist’ explained why he chose a police officer:

“The Terminator films are not really about the human race getting killed off by future machines. They’re about us losing touch with our own humanity and becoming machines, which allows us to kill and brutalise each other. Cops think of all non-cops as less than they are, stupid, weak and evil. They dehumanise the people they are sworn to protect and desensitise themselves in order to do that job.”

4. The groundbreaking visuals involved the first version of Photoshop
Dennis Muren of ILM was in charge of the 35 CGI artists who achieved the ground breaking visual effects of T2. Using techniques that had been pioneered in The Abyss (1987) and Willow (1988), the breakthrough came with a new piece of software that was the first version of Photoshop.

John Knoll of ILM and his brother Thomas Knoll (a PhD student at the University of Michigan) had developed the program, and like the chip in the movie which takes Cyberdyne in new directions, it allowed them to create the remarkable liquid effects in the pseudopod sequence in The Abyss (the first film ever to use Photoshop) and the morphing transitions in Ron Howard’s Willow (where humans turn in to animals).

For Terminator 2 Cameron decided to go much further and have a major character which was heavily reliant on the emerging digital tools. ILM created a version of what would become the scene where a silvery T-1000 walks out of the fiery wreckage of a burning truck.

Cameron was impressed and the visual effects budget ended up being $6m (a huge sum at the time), but it raised the bar for the entire industry. Muren and ILM would build on their work by creating the dinosaurs for Jurassic Park (1993) – if you look closely at the scene where Cyberdyne Systems is introduced you can spot an inflatable dinosaur hanging from the ceiling.

5. Billy Idol was the original choice for the T-1000
Hemdale had wanted O.J. Simpson to play the Terminator in the original film and T2 had its own strange moment of casting when Billy Idol was considered for the role of the T-1000. Cameron even featured the rocker in early concept drawings for the character but after he got injured in a motorcycle accident Idol was replaced by Robert Patrick.

6. English censors had major problems with two scenes
The BBFC objected to the scene in the psychiatric hospital where Sarah Connor picks a lock with a paper-clip, as they felt it was too realistic and might encourage people to copy it. They also had issues with the shoot out at Cyberdyne Systems where the T-800 shoots several SWAT team members in the leg as it resembled the old IRA practice where paramilitaries shot victims through their kneecaps.

7. Two sets of twins were used in the film
Two scenes utilised a pair of identical twins to create the illusion of the T-1000 in disguise as another character. Don and Dan Stanton (who had previously been in Good Morning Vietnam) played the hospital security guard who gets caught out at the coffee machine. Linda Hamilton’s twin sister was used as a double in the climactic fight and another (deleted) scene involving a mirror.

8. It was the most expensive film ever made
At a budget of $102m it was, at the time, the most expensive film ever made. But, like the Rambo movies, it was funded by pre-sales to foreign distributors. With Schwarzenegger and Cameron now much more bankable figures at the box office, Carolco not only raised the budget easily but had even made a profit before the film was released. Cameron’s future films Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) would also become the most expensive made up to that point, as well as the most successful.

9. Cameron also produced Point Break whilst preparing T2
During the preparation for T2, Cameron also served as producer on Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break. Cameron had married Bigelow in 1989 and had also directed her in a music video (‘Reach’ by Martini Ranch), where she played the leader of a cowgirl gang.

Point Break was originally known as Johnny Utah and Bigelow was determined to cast Keanu Reeves in the lead role, which puzzled Cameron as the actor was best known for the Bill and Ted movies. The film would open the week after T2 in July 1991 and was a box office success which established Reeves as an action star.

10. Arnold Schwarzenegger was initially disappointed with his ‘good’ character
Cameron completed the script in a marathon 36 hour writing session in May 1990, just before flying to the Cannes film festival where Carolco officially announced it. When Cameron first told him of the idea that the T-800 would kill anyone, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a little concerned that the Terminator would not actually terminate anyone.

11. Part of Robert Patrick’s anatomy had to be digitally removed from one scene
For the scene where the naked T-1000 arrives and steals the cops clothes, the effects team had to digitally remove a sensitive part of Robert Patrick’s anatomy. But on video versions of the film it partially showed up, prompting Cameron to later joke that he wanted his money back for the “digital willy removal”.

12. Linda Hamilton became deaf in one ear during filming
In the elevator sequence where Sarah Connor escapes from the hospital with John and the T-800, Hamilton went for a bathroom break and forgot to put her ear plugs back in. When Schwarzenegger fired his shotgun at the T-1000 above right by her, it resulted in serious hearing loss in one ear.

13. Practical make-up was blended with the CGI
The visual effects by ILM were skilfully blended with practical special effects and make-up from Stan Winston’s studio which involved the deteriorating face and body of the T-800 and the changes in the T-1000 as it got shot and physically distorted.

14. The sounds of the film were a lot cheaper than the visuals
The sound of the T1000 morphing was achieved in a number of cost-effective ways. When it moves through the bars at the psychiatric hospital, we are hearing the sound of a can of dog food being emptied. Another foley effect was achieved by dipping a condom-covered microphone into a mixture of flour and water and then shooting compressed air into it.

15. The freeway chase involved some highly dangerous stunt work
Cameron shot the helicopter chase on the freeway himself as his Steadicam operator felt it was too risky. If you look closely you’ll see an actual chopper fly under the freeway overpass and in a later shot just clear a bridge. Cameron implicitly trusted his helicopter pilot, but also admitted that a stunt involving the T800 jumping on to a moving truck was “really dangerous” and that he wouldn’t have done it in later films.

16. The ending was changed late on
The original ending saw an older Sarah Connor look at her son John playing with his daughter in a peaceful future scenario but was cut after a test screening at Skywalker Ranch. Carolco felt it would ruin any future sequels and Cameron relented with a rewrite just one month before the film’s release, using road footage from the scene just before the attack on Cyberdyne Systems. The first ending can be seen in later special editions of the film.

17. It was the highest grossing film of 1991 and won 4 Oscars
When it eventually did open on July 4th weekend in 1991, it opened in 2,274 cinemas and half of all tickets sold in America were for T2. It earned $54 million during that weekend and would eventually gross $204 million in the United States and $519 million worldwide. 

At the 64th Academy Awards it won Oscars for Best Sound, Best Make Up, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing. It was nominated for Best Cinematography and Film Editing.

18. Despite the huge success of T2 Carolco later went bankrupt
Although Carolco made had major hits such as T2 and Basic Instinct (1992), the company played a risky game in the early 1990s. As their budgets grew, they needed to have hit after hit to sustain their growing costs. Whilst major studios had the protection of a larger corporate owner, Carolco eventually came to grief with the disastrous releases of Cutthroat Island and Showgirls in 1995. Both were costly flops and the company filed for bankruptcy, with most of their assets being purchased for $50 million. Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna later created C2 Pictures which produced Terminator 3 in 2003.

19. It got a timely DVD release in August 1997
T2 has been released by several different companies on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray. In 1993, the Special Edition cut of the film was released to Laserdisc and VHS, containing 17 minutes of never-before-seen footage including a dream sequence featuring Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn, a scene where John Connor prevents Sarah from destroying the Terminator and the original epilogue of an elderly Sarah in the future.

The subsequent “Ultimate Edition” and “Extreme Edition” releases also contain this version of the film. When it was first released on DVD as a single disc in August 1997 – the same month as the original ‘judgement day’ in the film.

20. Skynet went live around the same time as Google
In the film we learn that Skynet goes live on August 29th 1997, whilst in real life the domain name for Google was registered on September 15th 1997. Coincidence? 😉

> Buy Rebecca Keegan’s biography of James Cameron The Futurist at Amazon UK
> Find out more about T2 at Wikipedia and IMDb

Behind The Scenes Images Interesting

The Dark Knight Rises in London

Various photos of the upcoming Batman film The Dark Knight Rises shooting in London have recently surfaced online.

Chris Nolan has a history of directing films in the capital city.

Not only was his micro-budget debut Following (1998) shot all over London (with key locations in Southwark, Covent Garden and Highgate) but Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) utilised London locations for various scenes.

A wonderfully prescient shot in Following even features a Batman logo – who could have predicted that Nolan would asked to reboot the franchise a few years later?

Earlier this month the third film in the Batman series The Dark Knight Rises (2012) began filming at the Farmiloe building in Clerkenwell.

The location was used as the Gotham City Police Station in the last two films and for sequences in Inception.

The building is adjacent to a public street, so some people were able to take photos and videos of cars, trucks, cranes and lights, although it seemed the filming took place behind closed doors.

But Craig Grobler of The Establishing Shot took an interesting set of photos at the location (no real spoilers) and caught glimpses of Nolan, Wally Pfister and a bunch of extras dressed as the Gotham SWAT team.

Check out the full gallery here:

There is also some video here:

In addition, filming has also taken place in Croydon and other locations around the UK before heading to the United States.

The Dark Knight Rises is scheduled to open in July 2012

> The Dark Knight Rises at the IMDb
> Batman on Film
> The Establishing Shot

Behind The Scenes In Production Interesting

I Am I and Kickstarter

I Am I is one of many independent film projects that have used the website Kickstarter to raise funds.

Launched in April 2009, the New York based site allows people to fund creative projects from a wide range of areas, including independent films, music and technology.

Bypassing traditional models of investment (like movie studios or super-rich uncles looking for a tax write off) it allows a people to announce projects and then set a funding target by a certain deadline.

Amongst the movie-related projects that have successfully raised funds using Kickstarter include:

I Am I had a funding goal of $100,000 and managed to meet it on January 8th, raising $111,965.

But how do film projects like this stick out on a site like Kickstarter?

The filmmakers came up with quite an inventive video to pitch their film:

You can keep tabs on the production at their official site and via Jocelyn Towne on Twitter.

Other film projects currently raising funds via Kickstarter are:

> I Am I
> Kickstarter

Behind The Scenes Interesting music

Zack Hemsey Profile

The Soundworks Collection have done a profile of composer Zack Hemsey.

Most people will have heard his track Mind Heist, which was used in the third and final trailer for Inception (2010).

You might also recognise his music from the trailers for Robin Hood (2010) and The Town (2010).

A New Jersey native, he currently resides in Lake Carmel where he has a home studio.

He describes how he got into music; his influences; and composing, recording and mixing on Logic Pro.

An independent artist, his discography and credits include the following:

Studio albums


Studio albums (under Nine Leaves)

  • Nine Leaves (2006)
  • Peace In Death (2008)

Film trailers

  • “Redemption” from The Town (2010)
  • “Mind Heist”, “Simple Idea” and “True Potential” from Inception (2010)
  • “Character” from Robin Hood (2010)
  • “Changeling” from Trust (2011)


  • “Sanguine Love” and “Second Chances” from CSI: NY (2009-2010)
  • “Cinderella” from The Cleaner (2009)
  • “Cougar Island” from Hunter Hunted (2007)


  • “Moonlight” Chrysler 300
  • “Time Lapse” Taylormade
  • “Count The Ways” Firestone
  • “Sword” Smirnoff
  • “Sweater” Eucerin
  • “Queen Latifah” Jenny Craig
  • “Dizzy” US Cellular
  • “Touche” / “Blink” Kit Kat
  • “Inspired Design” Callaway
  • “Water Balloon” / “Vacation” Enablex
  • “Last Cigarette” Quitters
  • “Resolution” Special K
  • “Train” iShares
  • “Fire Nation Unleashed” Avatar
  • “Parking” GM

> Zack Hemsey’s official site (the album section is here)
> Hemsey’s offficial YouTube channel & Blog
> Soundworks Collection

Animation Behind The Scenes

How Walt Disney Cartoons Were Made

This short promotional film shows how Walt Disney cartoons were made back in the late 1930s.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was a big deal at the time, as it was not only Disney’s first animated feature film but also the cel-animated feature ever.

It is fascinating to see the painstaking production and release of the film condensed to just 8 minutes.

The film broke ground with its use of Technicolor and won an Academy Honorary Award “as a significant screen innovation which has charmed millions and pioneered a great new entertainment field”.

Directors such as Sergei Eisenstein and Charlie Chaplin were quick to praise it and the financial success allowed Disney to finance a studio in Burbank, which is the still the home of Disney today.

[Via Open Culture]

> Official site for the film
> Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Wikipedia

Behind The Scenes music Trailers

Frequently Used Trailer Cues

Various pieces of film music often end up in trailers for other movies but some appear more frequently than others.

When you watch a trailer for an upcoming film, the music featured is not necessarily what you hear in the final cut.

Often this is because the film and score haven’t been finished, but there are some musical cues that keep re-appearing.

The movie music website have compiled a long list of frequently used cues from trailers and here are the top five:

1. Redrum from Immediate Music (Used 28 times): Immediate Music are a LA-based music company that specialise in music for trailers and for some reason their track ‘Redrum’ has really caught on. The pounding rhythm conveys a sense of emergency, the dynamic pause at 0.22 is useful for cutting to a dramatic shot and the choral singing creates an atmosphere of heightened tension.

It has been used 28 times in trailers for Dante’s Peak (1997), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), The Last Castle (2001), The Mummy Returns (2001) and The Ring (2002).

2. Fire in a Brooklyn Theatre from Come See The Paradise (1990) by Randy Edelman (Used 27 times): Not many people remember Alan Parker’s drama about the treatment of Japanese people in America following the attack on Pearl Harbor, but one track from Randy Edelman’s score has been used in plenty of trailers as an action cue.

Again, urgency is the key here with the insistent rhythm and pounding keyboards creating the impression that what you are watching is dramatic and important. Ironically, this is musically out of step with the rest of film but studio marketing departments seem to love it, especially for weighty dramas with high stakes, which means it has appeared in trailers for The Chamber (1996), Clear and Present Danger (1994), A Few Good Men (1992), Rob Roy (1995) and Thirteen Days (2000).

3. Tightwire from Immediate Music (Used 26 times): The trailer music specialists are at it again with this fast, orchestral cue which screams urgency and a sense that something big is about to happen (i.e. a bomb about to go off), creating the illusion that you’re seeing something important and dramatic.

This is probably the reason why it has been used in trailers for The Avengers (1998), Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995), Leprechaun 2 (1994), The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and What Lies Beneath (2000).

4. Naked Prey by Immediate Music (Used 25 times): Another track from Immediate Music, this cue automatically signifies urgent action with its quick beats and pounding rhythm.

Film trailers it has been used in include: Along Came a Spider (2001), The Beach (2000), The Constant Gardener (2005), The Mummy (1999) and Waterworld (1995).

5. Bishop’s Countdown from Aliens (1986) by James Horner (Used 24 times): James Horner’s score to James Cameron’s sequel to Alien (1979) was composed under extreme time constraints and pressure. But it features perhaps the most memorable trailer cue ever, taken from the climax to the film as Ripley fights the Alien queen.

The sounds of pounding metal, interweaving strings and perfectly judged brass all build to a monumental crescendo. It works so brilliantly that it appears in plenty of trailers including Alien 3 (1992), Broken Arrow (1996), Dante’s Peak (1997), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) and Minority Report (2002).

UPDATE 07/04/2011: After Roger Ebert tweeted about this post (thanks Roger!) there was a lot of traffic and some excellent suggestions in the comments below.

Some are more modern examples of music that has been re-purposed for use in trailers.

Michael Williams suggests Steve Jablonsky‘s theme My Name is Lincoln from Michael Bay’s The Island (2005), which most people probably remember for its use in the trailer for Avatar (2009):

What’s interesting about this one is that it is used for the first minute of the trailer and was probably chosen for the spacey, sci-fi vibe.

Another suggestion from Fax Paladin was the track “St Crispin’s Day” from Patrick Doyle’s score to Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V (1989). Click forward to 2.37 to hear the specific cue, which is used when Henry give the Band of Brothers speech.

I’m not exactly sure what it has been used for, but it sounds familiar and the rousing strings around 4.22 certainly have that uplifting quality you often see in a good trailer.

Rug Daniels suggested Carter Burwell‘s theme to Miller’s Crossing (1990), which not only appeared in the trailer for that film but also cropped up in the trailer for The Shawshank Redemption (1994).

Although the film wasn’t a box office hit for The Coen Brothers, the moving strings and charming melodies make it perfect for creating a mood in a trailer.

Cat Vincent suggests Lux Aterna from Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For A Dream (2000), which was famously remixed for the trailer to The Two Towers (2002).

Aronofsky told me in 2008 that Mansell was initially unhappy about this use of his music, but it caught on and quickly became a staple of various trailers and ads including The Da Vinci Code (2006), Sunshine (2007), and even Sky Sports News (it was also the theme for Soccer Saturday from 2007-2009)

Kevin Bingham suggests a track from John Murphy’s score to Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007), which combines an absolutely epic mix of strings, electronic beats and piano.

For some reason this was re-used (or slightly remixed) by Murphy himself in Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass (2010) – in a fairly tense sequence – and also cropped up in the trailer for The Adjustment Bureau (2011). It also seems to appear regularly in various TV shows. By the way, click here for a monster remix of this track.

Chris Knight suggests the track “Archer Solomon Hike” from James Newton Howard’s score to Blood Diamond (2006):

I can’t quite put my finger on what trailers have used it but the moody strings certainly fit that quiet/reflective moments in a trailer.

Dave suggests Basil Pouledoris’ main theme for Conan the Barbarian (1982). Listen to the opening part:

The rhythm and melody sound very familiar and create a vibe of impending doom in a foreign land. It also sounds like Jerry Goldsmith’s main theme for Total Recall (1990), another film which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Be sure to check out the full list of the most used trailer cues at if they aren’t included above.

> Trailer Music
> More on trailers at Wikipedia

Behind The Scenes Interesting

Joe Alves on Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Production designer Joe Alves describes how he found the iconic locations for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978).

He had already worked with director Steven Spielberg on films such as The Sugarland Express (1974) and Jaws (1975), but Close Encounters involved more elaborate sets and visual effects.

In this interview with Herve Attia he discusses:

  • Finding the houses for the Neary and Guiler families
  • The enormous set built for various sequences including the climax
  • How his musical background influenced the famous colour scoreboard
  • His thoughts on the different versions
  • How the light of the spaceship was created

> More on Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Wikipedia
> Herve Attia’s channel on YouTube

Behind The Scenes Interesting Technology

A Brief History of the Steadicam

When Garrett Brown invented the Steadicam in the 1970s it had an immediate impact on how films were shot.

Before his invention if filmmakers wanted tracking shots (i.e. ones where the camera moves), they were limited to using a dolly track or hand-held work.

After shooting a demo reel with a prototype rig, he caught the attention of Hollywood and it led to work on such films as Bound for Glory (1976), Rocky (1976) and The Shining (1980) as well as an Academy Award of Merit.

Last year at the EG conference Brown gave a talk where he described how he came up with the idea for his revolutionary camera rig and its subsequent application in movies, sports broadcasting and industry.

Among the things worth noting are:

  • His father Rodney G Brown invented the ‘hot melt’ glue used in paperback books
  • He was once a folk singer
  • Kubrick’s desire for multiple takes on The Shining helped him become a better operator
  • He teaches Steadicam operators to have a calm demeanor
  • Working on Return of the Jedi (1983) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) helped inspire the SkyCam
  • His work on beer commercials helped fund the SkyCam
  • The original demo for the Steadicam prototype was filmed on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which directly inspired the famous scene in Rocky

> Garrett Brown
> How Steadicams Work at HowStuffWorks
> Steadicam Forum
> Garrett Brown interview with ICG Magazine

Behind The Scenes Interesting

David Lean on Editing

Director David Lean began as a film editor and throughout his career stressed the importance of how things cut together.

When he broke into the industry at Gaumont Studios in the late 1920s doing odd jobs, he worked his way up to editing newsreels and feature films such as Pygmalion (1938) and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942).

This laid a solid technical foundation for his illustrious career as director which included Great Expectations (1946), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965).

For his last film A Passage to India (1984) he combined his directing and editing roles, as this clip from an episode of The Southbank Show in 1985 demonstrates:

His colleague and fellow director Ronald Neame once said:

David Lean was a great director, but he was an even better editor. He was one of the greatest editors of all time.

> David Lean at Wikipedia
> Editor Walter Murch on Editing

Awards Season Behind The Scenes

The Sound of The King’s Speech

Soundworks have posted a lengthy interview with John Midgley on the sound of The King’s Speech.

Sound is obviously crucial to the story of the film and in this 30 minute interview the production sound mixer explains how the soundscape of the film was achieved.

Midgley worked on the first three Harry Potter films, Children of Men (2006) and Hotel Rwanda (2004) and was

The King’s Speech marks his second Oscar nomination and he was previously recognised for his work on Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999).

> My LFF review of The King’s Speech
> John Midgely at the IMDb

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

This 42-minute documentary explores the making of the famous 1969 western and is narrated by director George Roy Hill.

Although it is a lot rougher than the slick promotional EPKs used today, it features a lot of fascinating behind-the-scenes footage.

George Roy Hill is wonderfully open and frank about various aspects of the production, including:

  • Newman’s acting process
  • Casting Katherine Ross
  • Problems with a bull
  • Conrad Hall’s cinematography
  • The multi-camera setup for the train explosion
  • Old-school visual effects used in the river jump sequence
  • How they shot the final sequence

His final line of commentary is priceless:

“I have now spent exactly a year and three months on this film and at this point I don’t know how it is going to be received. I think it’s a good film, I think the guys are great in it, and I think the relationships work. It was a helluva lot of hard work doing it …and if the audiences don’t dig it I think I’ll go out of my fu*king mind”

The documentary is interesting as it was made before the film became a huge box-office success and the highest grossing film of 1969.

It was also important for a young David Fincher, who explained why in a 2009 Guardian interview:

“The eureka moment was when I saw a behind-the-scenes making-of about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was kind of a shabby EPK that had been cobbled together, but it was narrated by the director, George Roy Hill. And it was the first time I’d ever conceived that films didn’t happen in real time. I was about seven years old, and I thought, “What a cool job.” You get to go on location, have trained horses and blow up trains and hang out with Katharine Ross. That seemed like a pretty good gig”

> Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid at Wikipedia
> George Roy Hill at the IMDb
> William Goldman on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Awards Season Behind The Scenes

The Sound of Unstoppable

Soundworks have a new video showing how the Oscar nominated sound design of Unstoppable was done.

The action thriller, directed by Tony Scott, has been nominated for Best Sound Editing and here Mark P. Stoeckinger and his team describe how they achieved the soundscape of the film.

> Soundworks
> Unstoppable review

Behind The Scenes

The 180 Degree Rule

One of the basic rules in filmmaking is the 180 degree rule, which prevents audience confusion.

The rule is a basic guideline which states that two characters (or other elements) in the same scene should always have the same left/right relationship to each other.

This video explains it using a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) as an example:

> Other rules in Editing
> Vertigo at Wikipedia

Behind The Scenes Interesting

Creating the Winklevoss Twins in The Social Network

One of the most impressive elements of The Social Network was the visual effects that allowed one actor to play twins.

Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss were the twin brothers who claimed that Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) stole their idea for Facebook.

However, director David Fincher had a problem when he couldn’t find a pair of twins that matched the real world Harvard rowers.

So, a solution was hatched where a combination of visual effects and another fill-in actor (Josh Pence) was used to create the illusion.

A visual effects team from Lola (a company that specialises in human face and body manipulation) essentially painted a digital version of Hammer’s face on to Pence’s.

This video shows how they did it:

> Detailed explanation of the process at FX Guide
> Buy The Social Network on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK

Behind The Scenes

The Making of Deliverance

This making of film about Deliverance (1972) is an interesting snapshot of how films used to be promoted.

Lasting ten minutes, it blends a voiceover, B-roll footage and audio interviews with director John Boorman and author James Dickey, who has a cameo in the film as the sheriff.

One startling nugget of information revealed is that the film wasn’t insured.

> Buy Deliverance on DVD from Amazon UK
> More on Deliverance, John Boorman and James Dickey at Wikipedia

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Cinematography of True Grit

Paramount have released this video detailing the cinematography of Roger Deakins in True Grit.

A longtime collaborator of The Coen Brothers, Deakins has shot films including Barton Fink (1991), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Fargo (1996), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) and No Country for Old Men (2007).

He also acted as a visual consultant for WALL-E (2008) and How to Train Your Dragon (2010).

UPDATE: David Poland has posted this lengthy interview with Deakins over at MCN

> Official site for Roger Deakins (includes an active forum where Roger frequently posts)
> IMDb entry

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Visual Effects of Black Swan

Fox Searchlight have released a video showing how many of the visual effects in Black Swan were achieved.

Darren Aronofsky’s dark ballerina drama might not seem like a conventional visual effects movie, but when you see this video you’ll realise why they were central to the film.

* WARNING: There are major spoilers in this video, so don’t watch if you haven’t seen the film *

> Our Black Swan review
> The Sound of Black Swan
> Official website

Behind The Scenes Interesting News

Park Chan-wook’s iPhone Film

Footage has emerged of the new film Night Fishing, which was made on an iPhone by Park Chan-wook.

When the director of Old Boy (2004) and Thirst (2009) announced the project last week, it sounded like some kind of gimmick, but a new trailer and behind the scenes featurette seem to suggest something more substantial.

The Korean title is ‘Paranmanjang’ and it is a 30-minute fantasy with the following synopsis:

“A fantastical tale that begins with a middle-aged man fishing one afternoon and then, hours later at night, catches the body of a woman.The panicked man tries to undo the intertwined fishing line, but he gets more and more entangled.

He faints, then wakes up to find himself in the white clothes that the woman was wearing. The movie’s point of view then shifts to the woman and it becomes a tale of life and death from a traditional Korean point of view.”

This is the trailer:

Funded by the South Korean mobile carrier KT, it cost $130,000, features mostly black-and-white video and was shot on up to eight iPhone 4 devices.

This behind the scenes film shows the full range of filmmaking equipment that was used to augment the cameras on each phone.

Despite the cost of the project, Park is a champion of smartphones as a relatively inexpensive tool to make films, telling the LA Times:

“Find a location. You don’t even need sophisticated lighting. Just go out and make movies. These days, if you can afford to feed yourself, you can afford to make a film.”

Quentin Tarantino is an admirer of Park and as well as chairing the Cannes jury which awarded Old Boy the Grand Jury Prize in 2004, he also regards Joint Security Area (2000) to be one of best films made since 1992.

> Park-Chan Wook at Wikipedia
> Other films made on an iPhone 4 at Vimeo

Awards Season Behind The Scenes Interesting

How the King Got His Speech Back

After rave reactions on the festival circuit The King’s Speech finally opens in the UK today and the story of how it came to the screen is a fascinating one.

The film traces the relationship between Prince Albert (Colin Firth) and an unconventional speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush), who helped him overcome a crippling stammer as he eventually assumed the throne – as George VI –  and helped rally his people during World War II.

Directed by Tom Hooper, it is a superbly crafted period piece but also a genuine crowd pleaser with surprising levels of humour and emotion.

Already a frontrunner for the Oscars, Colin Firth follows up his performance in A Single Man with another reminder of how good he can be in the right role, whilst Rush is equally good as the man who helps him.

This is the kind of film that might appear on the surface to be another British costume drama beloved of middle class, Telegraph reading audiences but it is actually much more than that.

By exploring the pain and anguish behind the King’s stutter, it is not only a surprisingly emotional film but also a sneakily subversive one.

Not only does it allows us to see how Logue’s irreverent treatment stripped the ultimate aristocrat of his social hang ups, but how two people from different backgrounds eventually became friends.

But the story behind the film is equally fascinating, involving a veteran screenwriter with a stutter and the late Queen Mother.

At 73 David Seidler is considerably older than many of his screenwriting peers, with previous films including Tucker: The Man and his Dream (1988), directed by his high school classmate Francis Ford Coppola, and The King and I (1999).

What makes the film uniquely personal for the writer is the fact that as a child he grew up with a stutter and found inspiration in how King George VI overcame similar difficulties.

Although born in England, Seidler was raised in America in Long Island and underwent speech therapy over a number of years before managing to cope with the condition at the age of 16.

But the experience left its mark, and speaking to Newsweek recently he said:

“You carry it within you for a long time. I’m still a stutterer, but I’ve learned all the tricks so that you don’t hear it”

It was over thirty years ago that he first started work on a script for what would eventually become The King’s Speech and in his research the enigmatic figure of Lionel Logue kept cropping up.

Even years after the King had died, Logue was still a figure of whom little was known as the issue was still a painful one for the royal family and, in particular, the Queen Mother.

After some detective work Seidler eventually tracked down Dr Valentine Logue, a son of Lionel who was now a retired Harley Street brain surgeon.

In 1981 they met in London and Logue Jnr showed the screenwriter the notebooks his father had kept while treating the monarch.

However, Logue wouldn’t do the film unless the writer secured written permission from the Queen Mother. After writing to Clarence House, he received the following request:

‘Please, Mr Seidler, not during my lifetime, the memory of those events is still too painful.’

It wasn’t until 2002 that the Queen Mother passed away at the age of 101 and in 2005 Seidler struggled with a bout of throat cancer.

As part of his recovery he resumed work on his script for The King’s Speech and after an early draft decided to turn it into a stage play in order to focus on the characters.

It was eventually picked up by Bedlam Productions, who optioned it and then joined forces with See-Saw Films who felt that a film project could work.

Geoffrey Rush became attached early on and a staged reading of the play in Islington, North London was seen by the parents of a British director named Tom Hooper, who was then filming the HBO mini-series John Adams.

After being sent the script, and persuaded by his Australian mother that it was really good, he eventually got around to reading it and was keen to direct it as a film, which like John Adams, explores them interior lives of famous historical figures.

When Colin Firth came on board, the production – after nearly 30 years – was finally going to happen.

Weeks before filming began, Hooper and the production team got their hands on Logue’s original diaries which informed the sequences between Rush and Firth.

After filming in the UK last year it got its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in early September where it got a rave reaction from the audience and was immediately talked of as an Oscar contender.

A week later at the Toronto Film Festival it got similar reactions, winning the Audience Award, and for Seidler it was an emotional moment:

“I was overwhelmed because for the first time ever, the penny dropped and I felt I had a voice and had been heard. For a stutterer, it’s a profound moment”.

The King’s Speech opens in the UK today and is currently out in the US

> My LFF review of The King’s Speech
> Find out more about Lionel Logue at Wikipedia
> Early reactions to The King’s Speech at Telluride and Toronto
> InContention interview with Tom Hooper, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush at Telluride
> An interview with writer David Seidler at Stutter Talk

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Sound of Black Swan

Soundworks have released a video detailing how the sounds of Black Swan were achieved.

Craig Henighan has worked with director Darren Aronofsky since Requiem For A Dream (2000) and his work on this film (as sound designer, supervising sound editor and sound re-recording mixer) is a key element of why it works so well.

SoundWorks Collection – The Sound of “Black Swan” from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

> Black Swan at the IMDb
> My LFF review of Black Swan

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Sounds of Tron Legacy

Soundworks have released a video showing how the sounds of Tron: Legacy were created.

Whilst I have mixed feelings about the film, the technical elements are state-of-the-art and are likely to be Oscar nominated.

> Official site
> Review of Tron: Legacy
> Details on the Daft Punk soundtrack

Behind The Scenes Interesting music

Tron Legacy Soundtrack Preview on KCRW

KCRW recently presented a preview of the Tron: Legacy soundtrack which included a lengthy chat between director Joseph Kosinski and Jason Bentley.

Daft Punk’s score for the upcoming film is one of the most anticpated of the year and Bentley was instrumental in getting the French duo on board.

A lot of secrecy has surrounded the project but Bentley and Kosinski discuss various elements of the soundtrack in this 55-minute program.

Hollywood Records have also streamed 20 minutes of the soundtrack on MySpace:

Tron: Legacy is out at cinemas on December 17th

> Transcript of the show at KCRW
> Buy the Tron Legacy soundtrack or download the MP3 version from Amazon UK
> More details on the soundtrack
> This is the studio in London where Daft Punk recorded the soundtrack

Awards Season Behind The Scenes

The Production Design of Black Swan

Fox Searchlight have released a new video for Black Swan detailing the production design by Thérèse DePrez.

She and director Darren Aronofsky discuss their ideas behind the look of the Swan Lake set, the colour palette and the extensive use of mirrors in the film.

Some Oscar pundits have felt that Black Swan is too dark a film to get widespread Oscar recognition, but although more conservative viewers may be put off by the wilder aspects, it deserves to be a strong contender across multiple categories.

Not only is Natalie Portman now gaining serious traction for Best Actress, but the sheer quality of the technical aspects (cinematography, costume and production design) may well give it a boost as audiences in the US finally get to see it.

Plus, in recent years haven’t Academy voters increasingly gone for darker and more contemporary films such as The Hurt Locker, No Country for Old Men and The Departed?

[Video via InContention]

> Official site for Black Swan and the other one
> More Awards season discussion of Black Swan at In Contention
> My LFF review of Black Swan

Behind The Scenes

The Art of Foley

Soundworks have released a video showing the importance of Foley in recreating sounds for a film.

Veteran Foley artist Gary Hecker has worked on over 200 films in a 30-year career.

The video demonstrates how created sounds for Robin Hood and 2012 from within his studio:

Among Hecker’s recent credits are The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Angels & Demons, Watchmen and the Spiderman trilogy.

Foley art gets its name from Jack Foley who helped pioneer the art of creating additional sound to motion pictures with the advent of talkies in the late 1920s.

> Soundworks
> Gary Hecker at the IMDb
> More on Jack Foley at Wikipedia

Behind The Scenes Images Interesting

Dr Strangelove Set Photos

Stanley Kubrick’s classic Cold War satire Dr Strangelove was shot at Shepperton Studios, just outside of London, during 1963.

This is a collection of photos from the set, some of which are in colour.

[Source: Flickr user Pineapples101]

> Dr Strangelove at the IMDb
> Details on the Dr. Strangelove Blu-ray
> Find out more about Stanley Kubrick at Wikipedia
> Peter Sellers demonstrating his mastery of accents on the set of Dr Strangelove
> Essay on the ‘last secrets’ of Dr Strangelove

Behind The Scenes

The Making of The Thing

With a prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing in the works, a 1982 making-of documentary is a reminder of the raw terror of the original.

Although critically reviled and a box office flop when it first came out, the film still endures as one of the best sci-fi horrorsof the 1980s.

Carpenter’s direction, Rob Bottin‘s special effects make up, the ensemble performances, Dean Cundey‘s visuals and Ennio Morricone‘s chilling score are just some of the elements that combine brilliantly.

This making of video from the time depicts the gruelling shoot in British Columbia:

The negative reactions when it first opened were unfortunate, but also part of the reason why the film has endured over the years: unlike a lot of horror films, it is genuinely horrifying.

The central premise of scientists coming across an alien in the Artic was adapted from both the 1951 film The Thing from Another World, and the novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. which inspired it.

But Carpenter goes much further, turning the Cold War fears of the original into something darker and more primal.

Not only is the Arctic setting claustrophobic and lonely, it plays on the paranoia of a group confronted by something they cannot comprehend.

This is also true of the audience as try to get a grip on what the Thing actually is.

Most aliens and monsters are vaguely humanoid but the Thing is such an uniquely revolting villain precisely because it is genuinely ‘other’.

As a shape-shifting parasite it is also doubly unnerving as it can be anyone at any time.

After watching it – yes, this is a spoiler warning – check out this IMDb FAQ and you will see some tantalising ambiguities in the story (my favourite being ‘Was Blair assimilated?’) which add to the mysteries on screen.

Back in 2008 Carpenter did a video introduction before a 70mm screening of the film in Bradford and described his approach to the film and why it upset people at the time.

It is rare that films flop because they are too successful at what they do, but The Thing is one of them.

> The Thing at the IMDb
> Outpost 31 – A fan site for The Thing
> Buy The Thing on Blu-ray or DVD at Amazon UK

Behind The Scenes music

The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town

Last week Bruce Springsteen was in London to introduce a new documentary about the making of his 1978 album Darkness on the Edge of Town.

As he took the stage at the NFT many fans had their cameras out to capture the moment:

The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ is a 90-minute film directed by Thom Zimny, and features never before seen footage shot between 1976-1978, capturing rehearsals and recording sessions.

Bruce Springsteen – “The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town'” Sneak Peek from Columbia Records on Vimeo.

This is footage from the film of Springsteen and his band recording the track The Promise:

It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September and is part of the upcoming box set, ‘The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story’, which features 21 previously unreleased songs from the ‘Darkness’ recording sessions.

> Buy The Promise box set on DVD or Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Official site
> Find out more about Darkness on the Edge of Town at Wikipedia

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Sounds of The Social Network

Soundworks have released a video showing how the sounds for The Social Network were created.

Ren Kylce (Sound Re-recording Mixer and Supervisor Sound Editor) along with Michael Semanick (Sound Re-Recording Mixer) discuss various aspects of the audio soundscape they created for David Fincher’s film, including:

  • The importance of dialogue
  • How they captured ambient sounds from Harvard and Silicon Valley
  • The volume of Ruby Skye club sequence
  • How sound helps signify shifts in time
  • Working with Trent Reznor an Atticus Ross to incorporate the electronic score into the film.

“The Social Network” Sound for Film Profile from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

> Read our review of The Social Network
> How the Henley Regatta sequence was filmed

Behind The Scenes Interesting

31 Facts About Halloween

Today is Halloween, which means you can expect trick-or-treaters knocking at your door but also the obligatory screening of John Carpenter’s Halloween.

The 1978 horror classic set the template for modern horror and also became one of the most profitable films of all time.

In honour of its enduring legacy, here are 31 facts about the film:

  1. The film had its origins at the screening of Assault on Precinct 13 at the 1977 London Film Festival, where John Carpenter met financier Moustapha Akkad, who eventually funded the film with his partner, Irwin Yablans.
  2. Assault on Precinct 13 was acquired for distribution in the UK by a man named Michael Myers, the same name of the villain in Halloween.
  3. Originally titled ‘The Babysitter Murders’, it was Yablans who suggested the title and setting of Halloween night.
  4. Akkad was initially concerned about the relative inexperience of Carpenter but he was convinced after the director told him the story verbally (‘almost frame for frame’) and his refusal to take a large fee upfront which showed his confidence in the project.
  5. Carpenter received $10,000 for directing, writing and composing the music and retained rights to 10 percent of the film’s profits.
  6. The film was shot over 21 days in 1978 on a budget of $320,000.
  7. Ironically, it was filmed in April which meant that one of the most famous films set in Autumn was actually shot in Spring.
  8. The out of season weather meant the crew had difficulty finding pumpkins and artificial autumn leaves had to be used for certain scenes.
  9. Although set in Illinois, it was actually shot in Pasadena, California.
  10. The town of Haddonfield, Illinois is fictional but Haddonfield, New Jersey is the home town of co-screenwriter Debra Hill.
  11. Many of the the street names in the film were taken from Carpenter’s hometown of Bowling Green, Kentucky.
  12. Donald Pleasance agreed to play Dr. Loomis after Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing turned it down (he met with John Carpenter because his daughter was a fan of Assault on Precinct 13).
  13. It was Jamie Lee Curtis debut feature film and she was paid $8,000 for her role.
  14. Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho was an inspiration: Dr. Loomis’ name was a reference to Sam Loomis (John Gavin), the boyfriend of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), who in turn is the real-life mother of Jamie Lee Curtis.
  15. The extended P.O.V. shot in the opening scene of the film is heavily influenced by the famous opening of Touch of Evil (1958).
  16. The hands of the young Michael Myers in the opening scene are those of co-writer and producer Debra Hill.
  17. The older version of Michael Myers is actually called ‘The Shape’ in the credits and was played by Nick Castle, an old college friend of Carpenter’s from the University of Southern California. (Actor Tony Moran stood in for Castle in selected scenes).
  18. Nick Castle would go on to direct films himself, including The Last Starfighter (1984) and The Boy Who Could Fly (1986).
  19. The name Michael Myers is never actually mentioned in the film and the only time anyone refers to him is the opening sequence (“Michael!”).
  20. The mask for Michael Myers was actually a Captain Kirk mask bought for just $1.98.
  21. Because the film was shot out-of-sequence Carpenter would explain to Jamie Lee Curtis what her character’s level of fear should be in certain scenes.
  22. John Carpenter composed the film’s distinctive score himself in just 3 days.
  23. For a slasher film, there is an unusual lack of blood in the film. The only time we see any is when Judith Myers is killed at the beginning and Laurie’s arm is cut near the end.
  24. Dean Cundey’s use of blue back light in the climactic scenes was inspired by watching Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974).
  25. The film premièred on October 25th, 1978 in Kansas City, then a platform release in Chicago and New York before word of mouth meant a gradual release around the States.
  26. The film initially grossed $47 million at the US box office and $8 million internationally, which is the equivalent to around $176 million today.
  27. Americans couldn’t actually buy the chilling score when the film came out and it was originally only released in Japan.
  28. When the film made its television debut on NBC in the early 1980s, the network wanted some extra scenes to fill the allotted time slot and Carpenter went back and shot additional sequences during the production of Halloween II (they can be seen on some DVD versions of the film).
  29. In 2006, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” .
  30. Financier Moustapha Akkad continued to work act as executive producer on the Halloween franchise, until his death in the 2005 Amman bombings.
  31. The film was followed by seven sequels and a 2007 remake of the same name.

Halloween screens tonight on BBC Four at 11.35pm

> Buy the original film on Blu-ray or get the DVD box set
> Official site of the Halloween franchise
> IMDb entry
> Watch Halloween on BBC iPlayer (UK viewers only)

Behind The Scenes Interesting

The Opening Titles of Seven

The opening titles of Se7en (1995) are amongst the most striking and influential in modern cinema.

As part of their video series on David Fincher for the Museum of the Moving Image, Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas have taken an in-depth look at the opening credits of his second film.

According to Art of the Title, the sequence was done by Kyle Cooper in 1995 whilst he was creative director at R/Greenberg Associates in LA.

Note that the music which accompanies the credits is ‘Closer (Precursor)‘, a NIN remix by Coil and Danny Hyde from the ‘Closer to God’ EP.

Trent Reznor (of NIN fame) has scored Fincher’s latest film The Social Network.

> David Fincher at Wikipedia
> Watch the Seven title sequence in HD at Art of the Title