Spielberg’s Duel: First time filmmaking gold

I am not embarassed in the slgihtest to raise my hand – both hands – as a lover of the work of Steven Spielberg’s work.

His first film was Dual, back in 1971, and he struggled with what all first time filmmakers struggle with: limited resources.

Over at (the most excellent, often quoted) Cinephilia and Beyond website is a very comprehensive article covering all the aspects of this film. They even include a PDF copy of the script!

The post mines heavily from the inciteful book about the subject (creating Spielberg’s career) and the film

If you like the article then definitely get the book. It is a film education in and of itself.

Make it Count: Visualizing Your Story

Stumbled across the very exciting blog ‘The Client Blog’ and their ‘The Art of Thirty Second Storytelling’. Principally focused on the art of the commercial every last word of this blog post can be applied to short films (and longer works) of any ilk.

It exciting, compelling reading well put together with loads of examples.

It’s all about thinking about WHY you are choosing the shot you are using (and from there, why are you combining these shots into this particular sequence). It should always serve your story.


Roll Titles: The Legacy of Saul Bass

Sometimes (perhaps more often than we care to admit) the titles are the best thing about a movie.

Such could have been the case with many films with title sequences by Saul Bass.

Over at OpenCulture.com they’ve got a short piece about the influential title-meister and include the link to the amazing hour long compilation of this astounding works of visual art.

If you love design, or classic movies, or want to infuse either element into YOUR films you owe it to yourself to give this a read and a watch.

Avoid the obvious: An Italian-Cambodian Gangster film

I’m very curious about the film “Hanuman: Year of the Monkey” that was released in Cambodia on Friday the 13th (of February, 2015).

Over at the Phnom Penh Post (great name or what!?) they’ve got a good write up on the film that definitely leaves me wanting more. Who would not be swayed by this quote:

It’s all unabashedly free of pretention, featuring as much sex and violence as the Ministry of Culture would allow, which means not much sex but quite a lot of violence.

Its a gangster film, which can be fun if they don’t just degrade into mindless torture.

I know nothing about the director – Italian filmmaker Jimmy Henderson, who lives in Cambodia. But, because his circumstances (a foreigner in a foreign land trying to make movies) might be similar to mine, I’m keen to track him down!

In the meantime, enjoy the article and the accompanying photo

Production Surges in the UK

I constantly read ‘the sky is falling’ type articles about film. So this one from Televisual makes a nice change.

It seems that production in the UK is up. And not just a smidge. The spend in 2014 was up 35% over 2013. Drawn in by the allure of the UK’s tax credit scheme, investors and production companies alike seem to be reaping the benefits. Of course, it’s not all rosy for independents: 85% of that many was spent across only 36 big international co-productions.

If you’re into the numbers, and want a further breakdown on who spent what and where then I recommend the article below.


Ancient Vulcan Proverb: Only Netflix could go to China

[Letting my Trekkie colours fly]

Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings has said that ‘Netflix wants to reach 200 countries in the next 2 years’. Considering it is at 50 now that is going to be no mean feat!

Over at Reuters they have an article that delves deeper into the attempt to get into China. China is a huge market (double the number of internet users as America, and the spread is growing), and already watches legitimate online content (29 million views per episode for ‘Sherlock’). But can Netflix overcome the home grown company advantage?

It’s an interesting read. And you should start subtitling your films now.

50 Shades of Blob



When I was growing up in Ontario in the 1970s we had a pretty restrictive film board that censored adult films. They cut any scenes of erection or penetration. Luckily, back in those days, most porn films had some story line. If such censorship were in place today porn films would be about 10 minutes long. I’ve often been curious as to WHO was doing the censoring. Were there edit suites somewhere in a basement in Ottawa or Toronto that spent day and night cutting scenes from videos?

This heavily censorship only served to increase the curiosity about sex. Mystique is enticing and exciting.

So, last night we went to see ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ here in Japan. The book has received so much negative chatter about it’s horrible writing that I was expecting a disaster. Yes, I knew all about it’s Twilight background (for the record: I loved the Twilight books. Go sue me.)

But I did not see the same film as many of you would see. Here in Japan the film is censored.

In Japan, you can go to a movie about sex, and hear people talk about anal fisting (!) but you cannot see pubic hair.

During the sex scenes a large black (grey, ha ha!) dot appears on screen. I do not know what it was obscuring. In some cases public hair, though on occasion we saw some (ooooo!) so I am mystified.

Something like this


Though my favourite one was the one where, because of the angle, it also blocked out Christian’s head. Something like this.


Luckily, the risk to society was minimal because there were 10 people in the screening. This was 2 days after the film opened, at an evening showing on a Sunday night. 10 people. (1 walked out by the way). Now, I am used to going to daytime screenings here in Japan where there are maybe 5 of us (for Gone Girl there were 3 of us in the audience). But at night? 2 days after opening? Oh dear.

This points to a problem with the film – people here in Japan are very interested in it, but too embarrassed to go out and see it. So maybe it will be a hit on video?

But back to the writing. What these columns that eschew the writing style perhaps ignore is that the STORY is captivating people despite the atrocious gutting of the English language.

The film itself was not bad. Of course there are blatantly stupid things about it.

A) The names. Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. Seriously?

B) Exactly how does one amass billions by 27? It doesn’t seem to come from the family. I haven’t read the book, so I have absolutely no idea what his company does (apart from keeping supermodels employed as secretaries). If he didn’t have billions I don’t think Anastasia would have entertained the thought of being strung up and whipped by him for a second, though I’d be very curious to see someone do a version of this that explored a poor Christian! But by having billions it removes a lot of conflict – let’s face it, with lots of money almost all obstacles are overcome.

C) Timeline. Ok, so he was a submissive until 21. He’s 27 now. He has had 15 sub women. And he went to university. How did he do all that? I mean, logistically it sounds impossible!

D) He sucks at negotiating contracts, putting point B into further doubt!

E) His apartment is surrounded by other apartments and is completely windows. How are there not pictures of this guy and his women all over the internet?

There were some good things about the film and in general I recommend it. But, I’d rather watch Grand Budapest Hotel again.


Mind your fingers. Ed Burns on the Meat Grinder that is indie filmmaking

Back in the 90s Ed Burns put together the eminently watchable $25k feature ‘The Brothers McMullen’. Since then he’s directed another 10 films and acted in a dozen more. Now he has an autobiography out, where he talks about his start.

Over at ‘The Week’ they expand on Burns’ career and book. It’s a good read, but, to really learn from the man himself I suggest picking up the book.

50 Shades of Orange and Blue

Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed it.

Everything has come up all orange and blue recently. Especially movie posters, but also the movies behind them.

Over at ‘priceonomics.com’ Rosie Cima examines the trend and quotes some interesting studies into the phenomenon. It’s a great article that has advice to us as filmmakers (and especially those of us working in post-production like colour grading): there’s a whole spectrum of colours out there. Use them.

Good read. And don’t forget to click through to the other articles she sources.

Interview with the man behind controversial doc ‘Bitter Lake’

Recently I watched the outstanding documentary ‘Bitter Lake‘. Bless the BBC for broadcasting (even if only online) this important film. The film, it has to be said, is not perfect (the first 20 minutes are a bit baffling in composition!) but the content – America’s troubling relationship with Saudi Arabia and how the whole schlmozzle buggered up Afghanistan and other places – can’t help but leave you informed (and angry).

Now VICE has a great interview with the man behind the doc – Adam Curtiss – done by a favourite author of mine, Jon Ronson.