The greatest strength of A Prayer Before Dawn is its immediacy. The film is less like a narrative than a VR experience, following a young raffish boxer named Billy Moore (played with restrained seething energy by Joe Malone) as he is arrested for drug possession in Bangkok, thrown in prison, and forced to find his way out through Muay Thai boxing competitions. To say the camera hugs the characters would be an understatement.
We follow their largest and smallest movements through jail cells, boxing rings, bathrooms, bars, and on the street. Director Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire based the film on a true story and, for added authenticity, filmed the movie in a previously abandoned Thai prison. Many of the extras in the film are actual ex-convicts; the sense that Billy Moore is fighting not just against his opponents but against his very surroundings is rendered extremely viscerally.
The fall movie season is inarguably in full swing, at least as much as movie trailers are concerned. This week, we're highlighting a few features that we'd hedge our bets on as being awards contenders by year's end, although if they're not, don't let that dissuade you of their worth and quality.
Heavy-hitters such as Alfonso Cuarón, Gaspar Noé, and Michael Moore headline this week's slate along with a new feature starring recent Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali and a sequel/remake to a popular Mel Gibson film.Fahrenheit 11/9 (dir. Michael Moore)
Teenage Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is nonchalant about her sexuality. Were it not for her family's deeply religious and conservative worldview, Cameron probably wouldn't hide the fact that she's attracted to women. And to her, that's just what her sexuality is—a fact, like so many other inconsequential parts of her identity.
Inconsequential, that is, until she is caught hooking up with her female classmate and outed to her parents. Almost without deliberation, Cameron is sent off to God's Promise, a gay conversion therapy camp where she will be "cured" of her same-sex attraction. Desiree Akhavan’s film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which won this year’s Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, follows Cameron as she experiences this attempted exorcism with genuine curiosity, and ultimately rejects it in a laid-back, self-assured way.
With Liz Nord absent and on the hunt for Alfonso Cuaron's famed VR piece in Mexico City, Jon Fusco and Erik Luers fill in to tell you about the scariest movie trailer ever made, Hulu's imminent disaster, and Disney's double standards. In gear news, Charles Haine is back to break down the brand spanking new, all in one suite that is Da Vinci Resolve and reveal a cool new lens. This week on Ask No Film School we give some tips on how to stay on track and motivated while working on a feature screenplay or a master's thesis.
As always, the show also brings news you can use about gear, upcoming grant and festival deadlines, this week’s indie film releases, industry wisdom, and other notable things you might have missed while you were busy making films.
Lighting is a true workhorse of cinema. It not only illuminates spaces so, you know, they can be seen, but it also add loads of atmosphere, mood, and subtext to film projects, especially when paired with vibrant colors. If you want to learn just how many different kinds of looks you can create with some lights and some color gels (or a very expensive RGBAW LED), take a look at this video. Jake Estes of B&H goes over a handful of ways you can utilize light and color to create interesting effects and moods your film projects. Check it out below:
In reality, the video is meant to showcase the capabilities of Luxli's Timpani LED, an RGBAW LED that offers full gamut color mixing. However, if you're on a budget and can't afford to spend a grand on a single light, then you might want to consider investing in some useful and far less expensive gear, like a few powerful and affordable LEDs and a set of color gels. (To find some budget-friendly LED options, check these out.)
When my creative partner and I brewed a comedic short that involved cloning our lead character more than 18 times, my initial thought was, “This sounds crazy. Let's do it!” The short, titled “Status Driven,” is a surreal take on stalking your ex online and subsequently fronting on social media as a result of it.
We were a bit primed in VFX-driven comedy from our last short, and so we felt up for the challenge, that is, being the naive eager chaps we were. Boy, were we in for a challenge.
We’re here to explain what to do and more importantly: what NOT to do.
Michael Ballhaus, the highly respected German cinematographer known for his frequent collaborations with directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Martin Scorsese, passed away last year at the age of 81 in his native Berlin. A veteran of the industry, Ballhaus' prosperous career spanned seven decades and three Academy Award nominations (for Broadcast News, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and Gangs of New York, respectively).
Revisiting Ballhaus' lengthy IMDB page provides a slew of memorable titles that heavily influenced the styles of both European and American cinema, and in the video produced by Fandor below, some of the cinematographer's most noticeable traits (and skilled versatility) are given their deserved due.
Known for his adoration of camera movement, Ballhaus' style was infused with an energetic pull that provided momentum to any narrative that might require it.
As a kid, I wanted to become a pilot. Although that never panned out, I found some similarities shared between being a pilot and being a film editor. Mainly, we both need a quick access to some assets when the situation requires. As an editor, I have found that Pancake Timelines meet the requirements.
In the video below, I'll walk you through the three stages of working with the Pancake Timeline. We'll cover what the term stands for, what are its possibilities, and what are rather unknown features on Premiere Pro that may be useful in this exceptional and effective editing workflow.
1. Stacking the timelines
To use this workflow, you need to have at least two timelines (and a reason to use them together). For example, you can have an A-roll cut and a B-roll selects sequences. Another idea is to work with Selects and Rough Cut sequences. It obviously depends on your preferences and the type of the cut you're working on.
Have you ever watched the music video to Coldplay's "The Scientist" and wondered how Chris Martin managed to sing it correctly while moving in reverse? Or how the Backstreet Boys sang their upbeat song "Quit Playing Games with My Heart" at the right tempo while the rain fell in slow motion, so sensually, behind them? In this tutorial, Robbie Janney of Shutterstock shows you how to create four iconic music video effects, from the sweet Slow Jamz slow down to the super emo "I wish I could reverse time so I could un-shatter my heart" effect. Check it out below:
This tutorial is one of those that are absolutely worthy of a bookmark even if you're not interested in actually using them in your own work. Why? Because so many people want to know how they're done. Any time someone sees a music video where time is going in reverse while the artist is singing the song normally, they wonder how in the hell it works. The techniques for these effects are actually surprisingly straightforward.
Every story needs a starting point, a thing for our characters to want, a goal to pursue. These wants can be as varied as true love, fame and fortune, the identity of the myysterious killer, and on and on. In some stories, however, the thing the characters seek, is well...nothing at all.
Well, it exists, but its existence is, in the words of Alfred Hitchcock, "nonexistent." If this sounds confusing, it's because the thing we are seeking is the elusive MacGuffin, a term coined by the master of suspense and explained in the below video from Fandor. Check it out, and read more about the MacGuffin below.
Few artists have the kind of creative burst that Jean-Luc Godard had back in the 1960s. Not only did he create 15 films in a span of seven years, but the celebrated filmmaker also changed audience expectations of what a film could be. For Godard, this meant a full-on assault of the senses.
Up until Breathless, mainstream cinema had a pretty regular formula. Godard seemingly went out of his way to deconstruct every piece of it. He wanted to keep the audience on their toes, throwing different genres at them from scene to scene with relentless energy and frenetic pacing. He would mismatch styles, flip from black and white to color, and toy with the contrast of naturality and extreme theatricalities.
No matter how often they get resoaked, the blood on America's hands have never fully been washed clean, and Spike Lee's BLACKKkLANSMAN, a meta-period piece that proves the horrors of the past indiscreetly seep their way into the national horrors of the present, accentuates this to frighteningly startling effect.
Retelling the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective of Colorado Springs who, along with his Jewish partner Flip Zimmerman, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in an attempt to squander the plans of the infamous pro-white, pro-Christian hate group, BLACKkKLANSMAN may not be classified outright as a comedy—much of the dialogue is stomach-churning—but there's a breeziness to the way the film moves that provides the viewer with a high that's equally appealing and appalling.
Our identity-conflicted leads (who internally struggle with the concept of "passing" for someone they're not) retain the noble heartbeat of an America that may or may not exist.
[Editor's Note: This video essay is part of our "Everything You Need to Know" series created exclusively for No Film School by Senior Post. To revisit the first four entries in the series, click here, here, here. and here.]
While not all films are created equal, who's to say they can't all strive for equality? At the very least, a film attempting to capture both the simplicity and intricacies of life would do best to display them accurately.
One simple way to do carry that out would be via The Bechdel Test, a cinema-focused examination first introduced by cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her 1985 comic strip, The Rule. In the story, one of Bechdel's characters states that she refuses to attend a movie that doesn't meet the following three requirements:
Announced at NAB 2018, DaVinci Resolve 15 took a big step forward adding visual effects and motion graphics tools inside an already powerful NLE. Since that time, Blackmagic has been releasing beta updates with the latest one dropping just last Monday, August 6.
Today, the company has announced the full shipping version is now available.
If you were already using public beta 8, you won't notice much of a difference between it and the shipping version, but if you're working in version 14 or earlier, there will be a lot to experience. Before upgrading, it's always good practice to look at the minimum system requirement to run the software. It's compatible with macOS, Windows, and Linux operating systems and Blackmagic suggest 16GB of system memory (32GB if you want to run Fusion) along with a NVIDIA/AMD graphics card to get you going.
Along with Panasonic's GH series, Sony's alpha line of mirrorless cameras has been truly revolutionary for low budget filmmakers around the world. Its compact body, stunning video images, and reasonable price point have allowed many creators to up their projects to a whole new level. But the a7's most intriguing feature has always been its adaptive autofocus, with face detection being its key tool.
It hasn't always been great. Many users complained that the much-hyped ability was often too slow to recognize when their subjects would start in motion. The new a7R III, however, is noticeably on point when it comes to these matters. To illustrate the difference, photographer Dave Dugdale made a short video comparing the autofocus of each which you can watch below.
Sandi Tan and Tim Wardle know a thing or two about choosing compelling subjects for their documentaries. While every director-subject relationship is unique, at Sheffield Doc/Fest's Craft Summit 2018: Why We Film—Directors and Their Story Choices, we found out about the process both directors underwent to come up with their own story idea, how they crafted their subject matter and characters, built relationships (or in Tan’s case, reconcile her relationship to herself as a character), and the hurdles overcome to push forward and complete their projects.
The panel was moderated by critic and journalist Simran Hans. Read on to learn more from the discussion.
What is the least amount of money you think you could spend on the production of a short film (from pre-to-post-production) and still get into a major festival? If you guessed $4.50, then you probably read the title of this podcast, because it's a figure that’s almost unimaginable in today's crowded short film landscape.
Nevertheless, performance artist/writer/actor Tony Grayson did just that back in 2017. Fresh off a disappointing stint trying to “make it” in New York City—and armed simply with a friend's old digital camcorder—Grayson set off for his dad’s research lab in Chicago to try and shoot something, anything. What he ended up with was foundfootagexx100n.s.1 and its ensuing acceptance to the SXSW Film Festival was anything but disappointing.
I sat down with Grayson and talked about how he pulled off the shoot for such a minuscule budget, the value of casting aside preciousness in your work, and how a SXSW premiere led him to his next project, Allen Anders Live at the Comedy Castle (Circa 1987).
Every now and again it's fun to have fun? Right? Fun is fun! And what's more fun to a filmmaker than putting your camera to the test to see if it can capture some strange footage? Luckily, the Corridor Crew, who are basically professionals at strapping cameras onto things just to see what the world looks like from weird vantage points, have done just that in their latest video. They've taken an Insta 360 One Action Cam, rigged it up to an arrow, and shot that thing into the sky to see if they could capture some cool looking tiny planet shots. Check it out below:
For some filmmakers, shooting outdoors can be a real challenge. That's mostly due to the fact that the sun, even though it's providing plenty of free, constant light, can be incredibly difficult to control. But instead of going outside like some pseudo-gothy socially awkward weirdo named V when she was 16 years old, you can learn a few easy and cheap techniques that allow you to use the sun to light better external scenes. In this video, Aidin Robbins offers up a few tips that require only a few very inexpensive modifiers, no additional lighting needed.
Light modifiers are an essential piece of gear when lighting a scene. Reflectors, bounce boards, silks, flags, you name it, they can all help you shape and control light on the cheap. You can get yourself a 5-in-1 reflector, which is somewhere in the ballpark of $20 to $50 depending on the size, and that'll give you, you guessed it, 5 different kinds of modifiers in one:
“The colorist is the person who makes your rubbish film turn into something watchable,” moderator Krishan Arora began on a panel on color at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2018.
Alongside him were Katherine Jamieson, a colorist at the London-based Halo Post (with her recent work including The Real T-Rex with Chris Packham and Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago), Samuel Francois-Steininger of Paris-based Composite Films (a trans-media studio specializing in color, animation, and short films), and Ruhi Hamid (Africa: A Journey into Music), a director across broadcast television, with recent work for BBC, Channel 4,and Al Jazeera.
Hamid reflected on doing her own camerawork on her recent piece in South Africa: “It’s a visual medium we’re working with, so you have to make a feast for the eyes… Even though I’m doing all the filming myself, the production values have gone up so much, the demands are so high for broadcast television.” Hamid filmed on a C300 as well as on Go Pros, an Osmo, and drones.