Filmmaking Blog

Filmmakers Interview: Sam Hopkins – Editor

Name: Sam Hopkins

Location: London

Social media outlets: Facebook – Sam Hopkins
Instagram – @samhopkins_ultra
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/sam-hopkins-92049884/
Vimeo – https://vimeo.com/samhopkins

Website: vimeo.com/samhopkins

Get in Touch: samhopkinseditor@gmail.com

Where do you work? Trailer Park London

Current Job Description: Senior Editor

Previous Experiences: Senior Editor at Hogarth Worldwide, Media Transfer Supervisor at The Mill & Technical Operator at The Associated Press

How did you get your first job?

I started work in the industry when I was 18 at a video duplication company called Dubbs where I spent a year developing my skills as a VT Operator before heading of to University.

What do you do as a trailer editor?

So Trailer Park is traditionally known as a trailer and entertainment agency in the US. However in the UK the company are still building up their name so the kind of work we do varies between Broadcast Commercials, Branded / Online Content as well as Trailers.
As an Senior Editor in general, my role in the company is to essentially cut together material provided to me, using a creative treatment/ storyboard/script. Its my role as an editor to advise with the telling of that story and what kind of styles/elements should be used in order to convey it; editing styles, use of sound effects/animation/colour grading.
The Senior part comes through having a good working knowledge of multiple pieces of software, strong broadcast and technical knowledge, as well as training other members in the team.

What tips do you have for filmmakers cutting their own trailers?

I would usually build a Trailer in stages, so; story first, audio bed second, thirdly lay up cutaways and then finally think about any visual effects to go with the piece.
Breaking it down, Its important to build your synopsis and ensure your story across the trailer is strong, your selling your film so you want to ensure your audience understand what kind of story your selling. Its also important to think about your target audience because that will also effect how you cut it.
Never underestimate the importance of sound, having audio audio and sound effects is key to giving your trailer a big impact. I would also say that its also good to get a number of different people to watch your trailer as your working on it to gauge response and provide any feedback necessary.

What is your top 5 tips while editing?

Strong Communication skills & the ability to work well with others
Being Versatile; there’s an importance for editors in the industry to now be able to work across a number of different platforms; After Effects for Visual Effects, Davinci Resolve for Colour Grading, Audition/Pro Tools for sound mixing etc. While its most important to be a good editor, its always helpful to have a few extra skills at your disposal.
Good use of audio & sound effects is key – I pride myself on creating good sound mixes and providing good music choices – it adds so much to your piece.
The importance of logging and prepping footage is paramount and can save you hours in the edit, take your time to log footage well and think about how your footage will be used and where it will go to.

Your role models are:

My role models are people who have shown perseverance and a determination to succeed in life. I’m also a big sports fan so People like: Muhammad Ali, Haile gabreselaisee and Steve prefontaine.
In a filmmaking sense I love David Fincher as a director and Thelma schoonmaker as an editor – Raging Bull is my favourite film.

What films (titles or kinds) do you like?

I’m a big fan of dramas and thrillers. I also enjoy films based on true stories. I also enjoy watching documentaries and any content based around music

Do you have any tips for people trying to break into the media industry?

Be resourceful in finding out what area you want to work in, be prepared to work some long hours but most of all, be determined, don’t take no for an answer and never give up.

What are your hobbies/what do you do outside of work that you would like to share with us?

Outside of work I’m a pretty serious Ultra Marathon Runner. This year i’ll be running 7 races across Europe to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Please take a look at my story at the following pages and, if you feel compelled to sponsor, that would be fantastic:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sam-hopkins-ultra
https://www.facebook.com/Sam-Hopkins-Running-for-The-Alzheimers-Society-1375125349204796/


How to get money to make a film?

 

This is a difficult question and I get asked it over and over again. Many countries have organizations that deal with film funding and not only national organizations, but also local organizations.

The EU also deals with film funding, in each member country there is a media desk that should be able to answer your questions regarding getting money for your next project. In some countries the media desk can be very unhelpful but keep asking, their job is to help you.

There is also the option of commercial or governmental TV funding, however this is a very long and often complicated process. If you were anything like me, you would be too impatient to deal with all the processing and decision-making.

A good way to get money for your feature film is to get someone well known to star in your film. This way whoever is investing in your film might feel much more comfortable that the money will be returned to the investor. Besides the investor always looks for well-known faces.

Don’t forget that the script is also very important when it comes to investors lining up. It has to be well written, even though so many scripts aren’t and films are still made. If the script is strong, the film has a bigger chance of becoming commercially successful and this will definitely get you the investors.

However, it can be harder to raise money for a short film than for feature and it’s always much harder to raise smaller amounts of money than larger. The problem is that short films almost never make any money (you might win a Film Festival but you probably invested much more that you got back). To make shorts many filmmakers don’t even bother going to institutions and just invest their private money, which in my opinion is always a good investment. When it comes to financing short films I would recommend you do it yourself. You really don’t need a huge budget to make a short and you can get many things free of charge as long as you are not afraid to ask. Look at shorts as your business card; investment in your future and it will pay off. It also makes very good practice before you make your great feature film.

When it comes to either feature films or shorts I would definitely look for money in a private sector. There are always a lot of people willing to invest some money in films for many reasons: tax break, glamour or looking for a good investment. Start asking people around you and I am sure that sooner or later you will get to a person who has some cash wanting to invest. From my personal experience I can tell you that it’s easier to get money from private people than institutions. Private investors might be hard to find but are much easier to deal with. I have even heard (and this is not my experience) that some people are willing to pay just to have credits in a movie but I don’t know how much of this is true. However, what is true is that many people are willing to pay to appear in a film. Some of those people are upcoming musicians and some people have loads of money and like the idea of being in a film.

Another good way to get money for a film, either short or feature is to organize fundraising parties (you can use your imagination here) invite friends and family. Basically invite as many people as you and your partner know. Anyone can donate anything they want, money, time or equipment. But remember, always give credits in a film to anyone who is going to give you money or free goods and always say thank you.

I know that money is always a problem for independent filmmakers but don’t let it stop you. With digital technology developments making it cheaper and easier to make films you have no excuse to not make it happen.

 

How to finance independent films?

As in any businesses, there is always a few different ways of financing film production.
I have already written about funds, grants and fiscal sponsorship and posted a pretty long list of funding organizations from around the world.
In this article I would like to present to you a few more ways to finance your film.
1. A lot of documentaries are financed with grants and donations.
2. Feature films (since the features are much more expensive) need more money and more investments so you can try: territory pre-sales, investors, studio funds or/and combination of two or more.

3. Tax breaks/production incentives across many states in USA and countries around the world help finance filmmaking.
4. Gifts from family and friends or charitable contributions can be tax deductible. (Check in your own country what kind of acts form non-profit/charitable organization. In USA it is under 501(c) 3 organization/non-profit enteritis. You don’t have to have your own charitable organization, you can find many charities to act as an umbrella for your project, of course for a fee).
5. Gap financing is based on financing your film through the pre-sale to one or more countries/territories. It may sound unclear so I’ll explain it for you. Once you have the pre-sale contract/s, you go to the bank and show them your contract/s. The bank should and hopefully will lend you the money which you are still short of after signing the pre-sale contract/s. The bank is covering the gap between your contracts and your budget. Of course banks will charge you an additional interest on that.
6. Loans work like any other loan needing/taking projects. You can either have a secure loan (more likely to receive repayments and if you don’t pay whatever secured, your loan will be taken away form you) and unsecured loan (no backing, money on your credit card or money from family and friends). Loans can be obtained from banks or private investors, (very likely these loans will have to be secured).
7. Distributors finance the film/project. The Distributor obtains the rights to distribute the film and in exchange he provides the money for the project to be completed.
8. Borrowing money against the pre-sale contracts. It’s a similar way to the gap financing but this time you make a deal with one or more distributors in various countries and holding the contracts you go to the bank and ask them to lend you the money against the contracts.
9. Investor financing. Finding private investors or corporations to invest money in your project. Often you will have to form a new production company that would include your investors who would want to become shareholders in your future revenue.
10. Equity Investments. A joint venture by individuals, corporations, limited companies. (Contact your lawyer if you decide to finance your film by using equity investments).
TIP
In many countries you will be able to find offers, exemptions for investors, tax returns, write offs, gift tax etc. that are successfully used for financing films.
To find out more about financing independent films go tohttp://www.marklitwak.com

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How to distribute a film?

This is always the hardest part of filmmaking because once you have your beloved film finished what do you do with it. Many books have been written on the subject, so I would definitely recommend going to the bookshop and checking some out. The titles and publications keep changing quite often, just like the ways of distribution, so the best way would be to go online or bookshop and choose one that you think would be helpful.

Below is a list of ideas regarding self-distribution if you can’t get a distributor or a buyer interested in your work.

Film festivals

To find great selection of film festivals go to www.bulletfilm.com/festivals (amongst other websites).

Festivals are always a great way to network and meet people however; it can be pretty difficult to get to a festival. This doesn’t mean that your film is not good enough I found out that festivals are very personal for each person judging. So it might just be that your film is not what they are really looking for.

Agencies

These are organizations, which are in charge of organizing exhibition and promotion of artists, film and video work.

These are only UK based organizations but it will give you an idea what I am talking about and what to look for in your own country.

www.artsadmin.co.uk

www.artangel.org.uk

www.artscatalyst.org

www.fvumbrella.com

www.fact.co.uk

www.timebase.org

www.iniva.org

www.locusplus.org.uk

www.lovebytes.org.uk

www.lumen.net

www.picture-this.org.uk

Internet

Look for the websites that specialize in promoting filmmakers and video artists. There’s a load of websites , find one that suits your needs the most. Bulletfilm.com  was created especially for distribution and promotion purposes for independent filmmakers. We not only offer the possibility for networking and exhibiting shorts but also everyone can create his or her profile and you don’t even have to upload your films to have a profile.

Personally I think that the Internet is the best tool for independent filmmakers who want to exhibit their shorts and get their name around.

TV

The television industry doesn’t buy shorts that often and if it does, the big guys don’t pay much. It is usually a very long and difficult process before your short is aired on TV.

However, at the same time that kind of exposure is good for your CV. If you decide to go for TV distribution, watch out for the contracts because sometimes TV channel want exclusive rights for your short that is never good because you won’t be able to do anything else with it.

A good thing to remember is that TV hardly ever takes a risk and most TV channels look for exactly the same thing.  If your short is more experimental don’t expect them to buy it.

Some of the television stations that show or have shown short and experimental work include:

  • Arte, France (Court-Circuit)
  • Channel Four, UK (The Shooting Gallery)
  • Canal Plus, France
  • Canal Plus, Spain (La Noche+Corta)
  • ORF, Austria
  • Rai Sat, Italy
  • SBS, Australia
  • Sundance Channel, USA
  • TVE, Spain
  • YLE, Finland

Useful websites

www.theredproject.com

www.shortfilm.de/ikf/pages/magazin/

www.artsadmin.co.uk

www.london-cinephiles.org.uk

bbs.thing.net

www.artquest.org.uk

www.britfilms.com

www.newexhibitions.com

www.liveartmagazine.com

www.artupdate.com

www.a-n.co.uk

www.videoart.suite.dk/videofestivals/

www.hi-beam.net

www.eurofilmfest.org

www.unxposed.com

www.bfi.org.uk

www.webmonkey.com

www.filmwaves.co.uk

www.vertigomagazine.co.uk

www.agencecm.com

Distribution tips

  1. Set up a preview screening and invite all the programmers, curators and distributors.
  2. Try to avoid using miniDV as an exhibition format, it doesn’t guarantee the best exhibition quality.
  3. Make more than one copy of your exhibition work, it’s cheaper this way.
  4. Make sure that preview tapes/DVD’s always work properly.
  5. Work on your promotional material. Make sure it’s clear and represents your work in the best light.
  6. Set up a website to promote your work or use bulletfilm.com for that matter.
  7. Describe your work in a simple manner; be clear and concise, try not to confuse anyone with your description.
  8. Keep your promotional materials brief and label everything you send.
  9. Once you get a distributor, be clear with one another about what you want and expect from each other.
  • Research whom you are sending your work to; it might save you a lot of time and money.

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How to create press kit for film festivals or media?

PRESS KIT – is needed for film festivals, film markets and also when you send the film to a potential sales agent or distribution company. You must ensure that your press kit looks as professional as possible.

I usually send my press kit on a CD (always make sure that the CD is compatible for both Mac & PC) since the hard copy would be too expensive to produce (all the photocopying) and send off.

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A PRESS KIT?

Film information package

  1. Film synopsis:
    short,
    medium,
    long
    Sometimes the festival (or any other organization) requires a specific number of words for the synopsis so check the terms & conditions carefully or ask if you are not sure.
  2. Director’s statement – this is usually constructed from the director’s thoughts on the project. I usually write about thescript, work on a set, cast and crew as well as what I would have done differently if I were to do this movie again. But remember, you have to keep it short. Include thewebsite of the film if there is one.
  3. Production notes – again small amount of information regarding the production process (I usually include funny stories that happened during the production stage and how the production went and how much of the initial script/idea ended up in the final film) as well as who supported the production and, often importantly, actually why the film was made (sometimes interesting stories are behind a film, which can be useful for promotion). Remember to include the website of the film.
  4. Completed film credits list (The easiest way to do it is to copy the end credits)
  5. Technical information (you can also include the information on the actual copy of the film, which is a requirement from most of the festivals or other organizations).
    This includes:
    running time,
    colour or B/W,
    screening format ,
    original format,
    screening aspect ratio,
    sound,
    original language and the language of subtitles.
  6. English dialogue list.
    Remember this is not the list of the whole dialogue that was in a script but only the one that was used in the film.
  7. Film awards and appearances:
    –     Awards that have been won
    –     Festival appearances (name and place of the festival, date of the festival)
    –     Festivals the film is going to be screened at
    –     Other appearances, at: events, cinemas, etc.
    –    Awards that have been nominated for.
  8. Actor’s statement – it’s not essential but it’s good to have the actors statement on the film and on the work the actor did on the film. Remember to include the website of the film.

 

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How to create One Page Sheet for your film?

ONE PAGE SHEET is a single document that informs and advertises that the film is ready for sale and/or publicity.

It consists of:

Title

Production Company: (Name of the production company/-ies in charge of bringing your film to screen)

Film website

Contact: (Email addresses and phone numbers to let people know how to get in touch with you/production team)

Logline: (Your film’s plot in as few words as possible (25-35 words is fine))

Story: (What story you are trying to tell in your film)

Buzz: (How you are planning and proposing to create a buzz for your film)

Crew: (What crew you have behind this project. Who has worked on this film)

Talent: (Let people know who is appearing in your film)

Location: (Where your film is going to be shot)

Budget & Financing: (What your budget is and how you have financed your film, how you are going to collect money for your film)

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Film Festivals – Tips – part 2

If you are short of money you need to find as many free of charge festivals as possible and keep a detailed budget of all your pre-festival expenses such as:
–    Postage.
–    Promotional materials.
–    Submission copies.
–    Screening copies.
–    Festival fees.

When it comes to submission fees you, as a filmmaker, have to decide whether this specific festival is worth paying the fee or not. Most European festivals are free of charge. Most North American festivals need to be paid for, and some of them are pretty expensive. I usually pay for the most prestigious festivals for shorts and I usually advise my colleagues to set a fee limit and stick to it such as £50 or so. Obviously it depends on how high you value your movie and what chances you see for it being accepted. Otherwise you might spend more money on the submission fees than you spend on making the movie☺.

Once the festival gets your submission form and your film, they usually get in touch just to let you know that they have got it. But it happens, and not that seldom, that the festival doesn’t get in touch and then you are left wondering. In that case you have got two options choices. You can either e-mail them, asking politely if they have got your film or you just wait until the call for submission ends and you will be able to check the website to see if your film was accepted

Some festivals don’t inform you that your film was received but put that information on their website. That is when you need your record book of the festivals you submitted your film to. It might be time consuming but making a film is time consuming and promoting it shouldn’t be any different.

If you want to write to the festival organisers regarding your submission, I would first advise you to check the festival website and see when the call for submissions ends. You will see if any information regarding films accepted has been posted on it. If nothing is given you can write a nice e-mail asking when the decision, about submissions, is going to be made. You probably won’t have time for it but still, don’t be a nuisance and, don’t write to each festival a million times each day.

Once you have been accepted to the festival, send the festival programmer/director a thank you e-mail or card and start thinking about whether you are going to make it to the festival or not.

Of course part of any competition is a rejection. Unfortunately you will most probably get loads of rejection emails from festivals before you get accepted to any of them but it doesn’t mean that your film is bad. You have to remember that each programmer has a different taste in movies and that it may be a different taste to yours. I know that often it’s hard to handle the rejection, especially when it seems like everything that bounces back is a rejection. That is why it’s always good to have your support team next to you, to comfort you.

If you are accepted to the festival and decide to attend it (remember only go if you can really afford it, your next film may need the budget more), you need to research it and organize the logistics for your travel and stay (ask the festival organisers if they will cover the travel and/or hotel expenses, some festivals participate in the costs). You will have to, or you should at least, research the local media and focus groups that might be interested in your film and be prepared marketing wise.

If you have not thought about your film’s visual identity before, this is the time to do it. Contact a good graphic designer who can help you create a poster, postcards, stickers and of course your business cards, without which you don’t attend any festival!!! If you have some extra money, you can also create some other promotional materials such as pendants, badges, t-shirts or something similar that could help you to create goodie bags.

Of course, we live in the era of the internet so don’t forget about the website for your film where all the marketing and press information are included such as:
–    Stills.
–    Synopsis (various lengths).
–    Cast and crew list.
–    Trailer & clip reel.
–    Bio/filmography for the major cast and crew.
–    Posters (if you have any).
–    Contact information.
–    Screening times and places.
–    Awards.

All the information ought to be easily downloadable for the media, bloggers, etc.
If you don’t have the resources to build the website for your film or if you have a short film and don’t want to spend any extra money on the website, you can try our own film summaries page that will help you build the website.

It is also handy to have someone to help you put posters and fliers around the town once you get to the festival. You can either use your crew members who are travelling with you or use your family if they are coming.

It is vital to know who you are going to take with you to the festival. If it’s only going to be cast and crew or if it’s going to be the professional help as well (such as a publicist, a PR representative, a sales agent, lawyers etc). Of course it all depends on your budget and what you are planning to achieve at the festival. Most feature films want to be sold to distributors and most short films want to either get a sales agent or try to find someone interested in their next project. A short film is still your calling card and it’s very unlikely that it’s going to make you filthy rich.

Before you arrive at the festival try to get hold of a delegate book/list and arrange meetings with people you would like to talk to. Don’t forget to let the media know that you are willing and available for interviews.
Whilst at the festival do not forget to attend as many panels, screenings, discussions, Q&A’s as you can. Prepare yourself for introducing your film and for the Q&A sessions.

If you still have some time, check the venue where your film is going to be screened as well as talk to the operator about the screening ration, sound etc.

When the festival is over you have to go back home (sooner or later). Once you’re home, check your list of the goals that you set yourself for the festival and cross off what you managed to achieve. Fulfil all the promises you made regarding screeners or future projects. Follow up with the press letting them know that you can provide any information they need. Also get in touch with other filmmakers who you met at the festival and start getting ready for the next festival or the next film.

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Film Festivals- Tips – part 1

Film Festivals are great places to meet people, to network, to watch the films that you would never normally see otherwise and of course, and most importantly, to get your films watched by the audience.

The film festival will give you exposure to industry delegates, film lovers and the media. Film Festivals, and even more festival awards, are a great way to get noticed by “head hunters” looking for the next Scorsese or Tarantino.

However if you want to take full advantage of the festival circuit it’s necessary, or at least advisable, to set your goals clearly. You have to ask yourself a very important question which is: what do I want to get from submitting my film to this specific film festival or to any film festival in general?

Is it:
–   Distribution deal. (distributor, sale agent)
–    Exhibition and exposure.
–    Awards.
–    Networking.
–    Media coverage.
–    Deal for the next movie (it does happen)
–    Learning.
–    Watching movies.
–    Attending parties.

Once you have your goals set clearly it will be much easier to choose festivals which http://www.magdaolchawska.com/film-festivals-tips-part-1/dsc01928/are the best for your film. Identifying the right festivals for your film is hard work. There are a few really prestigious festivals that everyone wants to get into such as: Berlin, Toronto, Sundance, Cannes but of course very few do and sometimes it is better to submit your film to specific festivals such as: documentary, shorts, horror etc. This way your film can get the right exposure and be seen by the right audience and it might be easier to find a distributor or a sales agent.

You can start with dividing your list of festivals into 4 categories (of course it is very personal and it depends on the films genre and your objectives for the festival circuit):
–    Top Film Festivals – internationally recognized festivals (Cannes, Sundance, Berlin, Venice, etc.).
–    Major Regional Film Festivals.
–    Regional Film Festivals.
–    Young/new Film Festivals that have not been around for to long

When it comes to following deadlines, filling in application forms and just keeping track of all the festivals you have submitted film to, you need to be very well organized. The best is to keep a folder or a notebook where you can keep all the relevant information.

At bulletfilm com – film festivals section we have a great list of over 2500 film festivals from around the world so start digging. The festivals are updated daily so all the information you find are new.

The premiere status of your film (we’re not only talking about the world premiere but also continent, country, region, city etc.) is very important, especially for feature films (shorts not so much. I usually send my shorts to as many festivals as possible). Of course you won’t be able to premiere your film at every major film festival so you need to carefully select the festivals that you would love your film to be premiered at. And remember, you probably won’t be able to send your feature film to more than one festival within one geographical area so choose carefully which one it is to be.

Before you send your film to the festival read carefully the RULES & REGULATIONS and make sure that you are sending the right DVD (PAL or NTSC, Region 0, 1, 2) in the right number of copies and that the DVD works. Include all the information required by the festival on your DVD’s cover (I usually include short synopsis with a still from the film) such as:

  1. Format (DVD PAL or DVD NTSC).
  2. Title of the film and the director’s name.
  3. Festival’s the film participated in (If many choose the most important ones) or awards if your film has won any. This may be unpopular but sometimes it is easier to get to the festival if you’ve previously been accepted somewhere else..
  4. Category of submission (check with the festival’s rule-s and regulations).
  5. Running time/duration.
  6. What the film is shot on.
  7. Narration/dialogue.
  8. Contact email/Phone number.
  • Film’s website (if it has one, always recommended).

With each copy of the film you will have to send the application/submission form (sometimes you fill it in online and you just need to attach your registration number). I also always send a submission letter together with the press kit.

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Film Distribution – which way to go part 2

…NEW WAY OF DISTRIBUTION

Before you decide or start working on self-distribution with your production team try to answer at least the following questions.

  1. What is the type of your audience?
  2. What is the niche for your film?
  3. Film marketing services (internet marketing, social networking, keywords, Search Engine Optimization)

If you still are in a pre-production, it would be good if you could answer all those questions and start working on your marketing campaign right away. All this efforts will pay off once the film is made and you start distributing.

If you decide to do the distribution yourself it will obviously take longer to distribute your film across various channels. However you will retain full control over your film. It may sound tricky but you have to remember that distributor buying your film doesn’t mean your film being distributed. It might as well stay on a shelf for another 20 years. Of course you can sign a contract with a distributor to distribute your film in only one outlet and carry on distribution by yourself in other outlets. You may end up having different theatrical distributor, different DVD distributor and the one doing it on the Internet. Or you may end up distributing by yourself through all the channels. But in that case you will need loads of help form the people working with you.

It would be good to have someone in charge of promotion and marketing and distribution. Like PMD, for instance.

DIY distribution needs to be planned carefully during the pre-production stage so you will be able to obtain all the necessary promotional and marketing material during the production. DIY distribution is tightly connected to careful planned marketing strategy.

That is why starting building the audience at the very early stage of your production is vital. However building audience that is going to be interested in your movie means that you need to identify it.

DISTRIBUTION/PROMOTIONAL SITES

  1. NETFLIX
  2. BLOCKBUSTER
  3. REDBOX
  4. iTUNES
  5. VEOH
  6. JOOST
  7. HULU

I would advise every filmmaker to have a DIY distribution as a backup plan if what they want is to sell their film to the distributor and hope they can do it at film festivals. Don’t forget that getting into A-list film festival is incredibly hard if you already don’t have a track record with this festival or your film doesn’t have a good track record with some other festivals.

I would say, plan for the festivals but keep in mind that most indie films end up with DIY distribution. For which you need to be prepared way ahead of the film being released.

Outlets for self-distribution are basically as same as for the traditional distribution:

–   Theatrical release

–   DVD

–   Internet

–   Foreign rights

Your theatrical distribution will be strongly connected to DVD release and distribution. Now it’s a bummer. Don’t expect to make money on the theatrical release!!! Theatrical release is mostly to give you access to some good paper reviews and make the general publics aware of your movie.

With independent films it is always good to start the distribution just right after a festival screening ‘cos your distribution will be strongly connected to the buzz your film recieve at the festival. If you wait for too long you will have to build the buzz for your theatrical distribution once again. And this can be really hard to do.

In fact, DVD and Internet is where you make the most money and don’t forget foreign rights (on that you can make a deal with a distributor who deals with foreign rights).

Work out the best strategy for your film and remember that it can change along the way. It’s not necessarily permanently. If something’s not right, you can always alter the whole strategy. So good luck.

 

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Film Distribution – which way to go – part 1

 

Most of the filmmakers know nowadays that to make a film is just half of the process. With so many films being made each year the market is really crowded and even exceptionally good film can fail to attract audience or media. And sadly they very often do.

For the distribution to be successful it needs to be taken into consideration already during the pre-production phase. So the filmmakers will know what kind of steps they need to take for the distribution to be successful for their project. It also needs to be incorporated into the promotion and marketing.

First of all the production team needs to decide whether they are going to choose the traditional way of distribution or the new way that only emerged few years ago. Of course you can always aim for the traditional way of distribution but have in mind and be prepared that a traditional distributor may not pick up your film having such a rich choice.

In this article you will be able to find information about both ways. We hope you will find it useful.

TRADITIONAL WAY OF DISTRIBUTING A FILM.

Traditional streams of distribution for your film mean basically any kind of public viewing of your film handled by someone else:

1.Theatrical

2.DVD

3.VOD

4.Broadcast

Often distributors become interested in a film after seeing it at a film festival and observing audience reaction. However acquisition agreements can be negotiated before, during or after production.

To get better possible distribution deal you are going to need to have more than one distributor interested in your movie.

While screening your film for the acquisition executives make sure you do it in a movie theatre, don’t just send them a DVD. First experience lasts and usually is the most important.

The best and the most traditional way to screen your movie to a theatre full of potential acquisition executives is at the film festival. Of course not every festival offers the possibility of screening films to the industry insiders, that is why you need to do your homework and decide which festivals you want to submit your film to. Please remember that when it comes to feature films many festivals look for premieres. With short films the festivals are much more laid back and the premiere status isn’t required in many cases unless you are submitting to the A-listers like Berlin Film festival or Cannes Film Festival.

Film festivals also offer possibility of gathering press and media interest which could be nicely used with both, traditional way of distribution and a new way of distribution.

However if you aren’t screening at the festival choose a good and convenient location for the acquisition executives to attend. Again, do your research and invite distributors who are appropriate for the kind of film you offer. Send invitation to the acquisition executives with a professionally made one-sheet. Don’t forget to collect the business cards and provide everyone with the one sheet once again.

If you are screening at the festival make sure you prepared either an electronic press kit or a paper press kit for the press. If you are screening for acquisition executives don’t be tempted to screen your unfinished copy for just few of them. It’s better to gather everyone at the same time in the same place. Probably some distributors will try to pressurize you to have the first glimpse but stay strong. You want to sell your film and that’s why you have to give it the best opportunity you can. You should only screen your movie to acquisition executives once it’s ready. Don’t bother anyone with a rough cut. That is unless you are looking for completion funds and have no other choice.

If you are going for film festivals, remember to plan your festival strategy well and if you can, don’t give your premiere status away to smaller festival. You will never get it back. Keep in mind that acquisition executives usually attend the most prestigious and prominent festivals.

If you sell your foreign distribution rights your distributor will work around a market calendar (this are the places where deals are made):

  • American Film Market (AFM)in February,
  • Cannesin May
  • Some distributors sell at the Berlin market.
  • Television markets: The National Association of Television Program Executives, MIP (Marche International des Programmes de Television)and MIP-COM (the Marche International des Films et des Programmes pour la TV, la Video, le Cable et les Satellite).

A good moment to approach a distributor is before any of the markets (distributors want to have new films to show). However you still need to give the distributor enough time to make your film ready for the market if they decide to take you on. Make sure your movie isn’t acquired at the last minute ‘cos if it is, it probably will receive a rushed and often second-class treatment.

The first market your distributor is going to take your film to is extremely important because in most cases this will be the place where the most sales are going to be made.

You should avoid approaching distributors about acquiring your film at the market. The distributor is there to sell the films they already have in the bookm not to buy new ones. You have to realize that attending a market is extremely expensive. Don’t also approach distributors just right after they have returned from the market. Give them at least 2-3 weeks to catch some fresh breath and catch up with all the piled up work.

Some industry insiders say that the best time to approach distributors is around 60-90 days before a major market. If the distributor likes to buy your film it can take even up to 30 days to negotiate the deal. And they also need some time to prepare your movie to be displayed.

While negotiating a deal either at the film festival or outside, retain an entertainment attorney or experienced producer’s rep. Don’t do it yourself unless you are an attorney. Those people know what to negotiate and how to do it and will do the best they can for you and your film. At the end of the day they work on commission and it is money for them too. An attorney or rep can help filmmaker with making festivals and acquisition executives aware of the film, which could have otherwise been unnoticed. We all know how crowded festivals are today and how hard it is to be accepted to any of the A list film festivals or one that is worth its submission fee. So any help you can give your film and push to your career, use it.

One very important thing you need not to forget to check on is the distributor’s track record. You want to be involved with people who can do the best possible for your film, not just have you it shelved for the duration of your contract. Don’t be afraid of contacting filmmakers who had previously worked with the distributor. Those people are going to be good sources for information (Ask them specific questions: Did they receive producer reports on time? Have they been paid on time? Did the distributor spend the amount promised on promotion?) Don’t be naive. If something sounds too good it probably is.  Be also aware of predators, if the distributor screwed one or two filmmakers before he may do the same to you.

If your film has already had one distributor, getting another one can be a real challenge. Nobody wants to distribute second-hand films.

The term Deliverables will come up when it is time to sign a contract with your sales agent or distributor. It refers to print materials, publicity materials and legal documentation needed to release a film. Deliverables are the last things created by the production team and delivered to the film’s distributor, so make sure you don’t overlook that.

When the distributor is interested in you film the distribution agreement will be signed based on one of two financial models:

  • Leasing (in this model a distributor agrees to pay a fixed amount of money for the rights to distribute the film.)
  • Profit sharing (The studio/producer and distributor have a profit-sharing agreement.)

Most distributors obtain rights to distribute a film at various distribution outlets, not only theatrically (DVD, cable, TV, Internet, VOD etc.)

Once the distributor has signed your film on they will try to determine what is the best possible opening strategy for it. The distribution team will take into consideration following factors coming up with the strategy (often all of this work is done before the production of the film begins, especially on a big studio pictures.): target audience, star power, buzz, media, festivals, season.

However, as I said at the beginning of the article, it is incredibly hard to get a distributor interested in an independent movie unless it is screened at one of the major film festivals. So what else it left out there for an independent filmmaker who doesn’t have a big studio backing. There is…

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Festival Circuit For Short Films – part 2

Once in a while, simply google your name and your film’s title. Surprisingly, you may find reviews of your short or even festival appearance you didn’t know about.

Once I did that (all I wanted was to check my facebook page) and I found out that my film was screened at a festival in Ireland and I didn’t even know in the first place that it had been accepted. It turned out that the festival tried to get in touch with me but for some reason I didn’t get any emails from them.

If you can, try to attend the festival. It’s a great way to meet other filmmakers, to network and maybe even to meet sales agents and distributors. And if your film is great beyond imagination, you may even meet someone who could help you with your next project.

Before you attend the festival, make sure that all your promotional materials are in place (such as business cards, post cards, stickers, posters or something more imaginative).
If you can, get a copy of the Delegate Guide and get in touch with the people you would like to talk to before the festival, it may be really helpful. Be well prepared for those meetings and be aware of what you want to talk about, otherwise you will waste your time and this person’s and look very unprofessional.

When you are at the festival, try to get as much exposure  as possible. You have to be an extravert. Don’t refuse interviews with the local media, panel discussions or Q&A’s. Attend as many parties, workshops, panel discussions as you can. You never know who you are going to meet there.

If you have the time (I know how stretched for time we all are), get in touch with the local media before the festival to let them know about your film and your willingness to provide them with a press kit, trailer and time for interviewing you.

Of course there are many ways you can promote your film. The list of books and articles covering this subject is endless. My advice to you is: do what feels right and always try your best but don’t drive yourself crazy with the promotional efforts. Try to reach as many people and as many special interest groups as you can.

Any film festival or screening of your film is a great way of reaching your audience, meeting people, networking and presenting your work to the industry professionals who could help you with your next short or feature. It’s trivial possibly but you never know who is going to watch it.

So to sum it up, don’t miss the festival circuit and good luck to all of you with your submissions.

References:

“You’ve got it made” by Nigel R. Smith

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Festival Circuit For Short Films – part 1

Before you set off to promote your short film, at film festivals, you have to clearly identify the goals for your film. Is it just to show it to the world at the festival, perhaps to find a sales agent? Or could it be to find an investor for it or maybe for your next film?

Once you have set your goals, you will be able to choose the right festival for your film. It seems obvious but you have to remember that each festival is different and not every festival is attended by the industry delegates (if this is what you looking for, for instance).

Festivals are also divided into ones that are only for short films and documentaries, for example, and ones where major players are feature films and shorts are only screened as sideshows or out of competition.

What I usually do (since my aim is always to get screened at as many festivals as I can, to get the biggest possible exposure) is to make a list of all the festivals for shorts, that my film qualifies for. Every month I check all the festivals that are marked for deadlines which are due within the next month or two. I repeat this process for about a year.

Many other filmmakers’ methods are to divide festivals into categories starting with the most prestigious ones and making their way down this list.

HIGH PROFILE SHORT FILM FESTIVALS IN EUROPE:
Clermont Ferrand (France)
Oberhausen(Germany)
Hamburg (Germany)
Milano (Italy)
Encounters (UK)

NORTH AMERICA
Palm Springs(USA)
Aspen Shortsfest(USA)
CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (Canada)
OTHER
Message to Man (Russia)
Sao Paolo International Short Film Festival (Brazil)

If you want to go this way, make a list of the most important festivals (check our comprehensive database) and first submit your short to these ones. If you aren’t going to be accepted to any of them, start sending your film to the festivals from your 2nd list, etc.

Most festivals usually don’t want to accept films that are older than two years. So even if you are lucky, you only have two years of festival circuit with your short.

Some festivals (mainly the American ones) have submission fees and you have to decide how much money you are willing to put aside for the submission fees. My rule is to only pay for the most prestigious ones and hope for the best. There are loads of festivals around the world which screen shorts so if you have no money, you still have a good chance that your film will be screened somewhere around the globe.

Talking about money. Film festivals are expensive (regardless of whether you have to pay submission fees or not) so keep a close eye on your budget:   the money spent on postage, promotional materials, submission copies and screening copies, etc.
And this is even before you get accepted to any of them and you decide to go. Of course, sometimes the festival organizers are willing to pay for the participants’ accommodation and stuff but it’s not always this way. And even if they do, it’s useful to have some pocket money.

Over the past few years online submission services have become quite popular, especially for the paid festivals. The most well known websites in this field are:
www.withoutabox.com
www.shortfilmdepot.com
www.kurzfilmtage.de

Before you submit your film to any festival make sure that you have all the contracts signed and all the clearances for the music or images have been sorted out. If you don’t have the legalities under your belt, it might be difficult for the festival to accept your film, not to mention trying to sell it to a distributor or gaining a sales agent.

Of course, don’t forget to read the rules and regulations thoroughly before you send your film. It might turn out that there is something you don’t like about the festival (the other day I was just about to send my film to a festival in Italy but I decided to go through the regulations once more and it turned out that the festival wanted me to give them the full rights to screen my film on TV and Internet anytime and anywhere free of charge. That kind of deal could exclude me from selling the film to TV myself or finding an agent who would be willing to represent the film.)

Usually I send a submission letter to each festival  together with a CD with all the press materials on it. I know that some festivals say that press kits end up in the bin but then, once you get accepted to the festival, its staff will ask for all the materials you could include in the press kit. That is why I usually put everything in one envelope. (it saves both, money and time)

Don’t forget to keep a record of all your:
–    Awards.
–    Festival appearances.
–    Upcoming festivals.
–    Screenings.
–    Other events.

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Fernando Meirelles – concerned moralist from Sao Paulo

Since the mid 1990’s the Brazilian cinema has been considered as one of the most interesting cinematographies in the world. Retomada, the revival of the Brazilian cinema was possible thanks to Jose Carlos Avellar, who in 1992, founded RioFilme, a company that financed and distributed new films.

Since the mid 1990’s the Brazilian cinema has been considered as one of the most interesting cinematographies in the world. Retomada, the revival of the Brazilian cinema was possible thanks to Jose Carlos Avellar, who in 1992, founded RioFilme, a company that financed and distributed new films. Two names are symbols of the revival: Walter Salles and Fernando Meirelles, the best known Brazilian filmmakers at the moment. Meirelles actually has a debt of gratitude to pay to Salles who produced Cidade de Deus – a film that made Meirelles famous worldwide.

However before he became famous Meirelles had to go through a lot. Born on November 9, 1955 in Sao Paulo, he got a university degree in architecture. Although film was always one of his passions and during his studies he started a production company called Olhar Eletronico (eO), which enabled him and his friends to make videos, TV commercials and TV shows for children. In 1986 they made a documentary film Olhar Eletronico. Two years later in 1988, Meirelles, together with Fabrizia Pinto, directed his first, religious coverage, fiction film Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura, awarded with an Honorable Mention at the Children’s Cinema Competition Jury at 2000 Cartagena Film Festival. The year 2001 brought another of his directing coproductions Domesticas awarded i.e. with the Grand Prix at 2002 Toulouse Latin America Film Festival. This time he shared his director’s chair with Nando Olival.
After his first successes Meirelles decided to work on the subject he had been thinking about for years. The new project was meant to be based on the novel by Paulo LinsCidade de Deus, on which Meirelles worked together with Katia Lund. And so in 2002 his first feature-film and also Meirelles’ best known film was made, titled as same as a book it was based on – Cidade de Deus.

Paulo Lins described on 700 pages a young boy’s childhood and growing up in one of the biggest Brazilian favelas called Cidade de Deus in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a fickle name considering the fact that Brazilian favelas rather look like places God forgot a long time ago.  People, abandoned by the state and jammed in a small space (as for the size of population living there), live day-to-day on the brink of poverty with no chance and no hopes to get out of that hell. Indeed, it’s an infernal reality that is ruled by crime and brutality. For the favela rules are the rules of those who hold power, the drug mobs always fighting to widen their influence zones. It’s the world in which one has to grow up fast because every „self-respecting” inhabitant of that human trash becomes a gangster as a young boy. The main protagonists of Meirelles’ film are just those boy-gangsters, whose lives he talks about and whose perspectives we watch their surrounding world from. The Meirelles film tells a story of the Brazilian slums, it tells something significant about our reality, in which poor districts and a percentage of people living outside the so called ‘brackets of society’ begin to dangerously outnumber the percentage of people living in civilized conditions. Thus Fernando Meirelles provoked the inconvenient question, especially for decision makers. What really constitutes social standards nowadays and if eurocentric self-satisfaction of some achievements in our civilization is a bit over the top?

The socially active cinema became, only because of this film, his visiting card. In a similar tone he made his next film The Constant Gardener (2005), a movie adaptation of spy novel by John Le Carre. This time Meirelles filmed a thriller which takes place in Kenya. A starting point for diagnosis of activities of pharmaceutical consortiums active in the Black Continent is a story of a difficult marriage between a British diplomat Justin Quale and an activist from a humanitarian organization, Tess. Following Justin, who first suspects his wife of cheating on him and then on his own attempts to unravel her mysterious death which happened in rather vague circumstances, the audience sets out for a journey inside Africa. However it is not a land known from postcards or an image Karen Blixen drew in the beginning of the last century. Everyone setting out for this journey must be prepared for a land stricken with disaster, poverty and death. The story of Justin and Tess and their struggle is a pretext for showing unpardonable practices of global pharmaceutical companies testing their new medicines on ill Africans. Under the guise of carrying  out humanitarian aid they treat masses of terminally ill people as an experiment. For the pharmaceuticals companies this means heaps of profits by shortening the testing stage before new medicines are launched on the market, the western market, of course. Once again Meirelles – a moralist gave us a pretty pessimistic view of our modern world.

Cidade de Deus and The Constant Gardener aim the sting of criticism at very real happenings present in our world. They show people set in a carefully recreated scene, very real indeed (films were shot, with mafia bosses consent, in the real Cidade de Deus and African slums). In his next and latest production, Blindness (2008), Meirelles changed this point of view. He focuses on a fragment extracted from reality, that poses  a symbol of the world, the story widens into an allegorical, suspended in time and space parable – diagnosis of a disease that mankind suffers from. This disease is analgesia and people who suffer from it are dehumanized, degenerated creatures, slowly becoming beasts. Mankind consumed with a blindness epidemic gets a chance. Paradoxically this chance is the blindness – the last hope for opening of human minds and hearts and for return, by Freud, from the world of instincts and nature to the world of culture and its humanistic values.

Blindness opened 2008 at the Cannes International Film Festival. It is a film version of the same title novel by Portuguese Nobel prize winner Jose Saramago. His works are foremost allegoric parables in which he includes his deep anxieties about the modern world and modern people. Similar anxieties Meirelles articulates in his films. It is not surprising then how persistently he tried to screen the novel of one of the greatest modern visionaries. The vision is dreary? Well, perhaps it’s a chance we will see daylight faster.

Chosen filmography

2008 Blindness
2005 The Constant Gardener
2002 Cidade de Deus
2001 Domesticas
2000 Palace II
1998 Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura

Chosen Awards

2000 Honorable Mention of the Children’s Cinema Competition Jury at 2000 Cartagena Film Festival for Menino Maluquinho 2: A Aventura
2001  Jury Award at Ajijic International Film Festival for Domesticas
2002  Visions Award – Special Citation at Toronto International Film Festival for Cidade de Deus
2004  Nominee for Best Director at Academy Awards for Cidade de Deus
2006  Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Film for The Constant Gardener
2008  Audience Award at Sitges – Catalonian International Film Festival for Blindness

 

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European Cinema (1945-2000)

 

In the post-war history of European cinema one might have observed two tendencies that have defined the cinema until today. On the one hand there are filmmakers, concentrated around specific schools or trends, and on the other there are outstanding directors, however derived from one of those schools or trends. The main characteristic of the European cinema has been a tendency to make the author’s movies and those outstanding directors have been creating the very core of such cinema.

In the post-war history of European cinema one might have observed two tendencies that have defined the cinema until today. On the one hand there are filmmakers, concentrated around specific schools or trends, and on the other there are outstanding directors, however derived from one of those schools or trends. The main characteristic of the European cinema has been a tendency to make the author’s movies and those outstanding directors have been creating the very core of such cinema. Besides, it wasn’t a coincidence that American cinema’s mavericks (like Woody Allen, Robert Altman, or James Ivory, who is called more British than Britons themselves) gained much greater fame in Europe than in the USA.

The cinematic history of post-war Europe was started by Italian neo-realism. The most significant of its representatives were Roberto Rossellini (Roma, citta aperta 1945, Paisa 1946) and Vittorio De Sica (Ladri di Biciclette 1948 and Umberto D 1952). Neo-realism introduced new aesthetic solutions (true outdoor-sceneries, amateur actors) and took up the those days social subjects. Until 1970’s and the New Wave’s triumph there was no other cinema trend that was to be of such importance as the Italian neo-realism.

In the fifties the other masters of the European cinema, making their first masterpieces, were Luis Bunuel (Spain), Ingmar Bergman (Sweden) and Robert Bresson (France).

Bunuel, a provocateur and a moralist, creating in France, Spain and Mexico, was an author of such movies as: Nazarin (1958), Viridiana (1961) and La belle de jour (1967), in which dominating aesthetics is a tendency toward perversion, violence and naturalism. Years after he was back to the aesthetics of surrealism in movies like Les charme discret de la burgeoisie (1972) and Cet obscur objet du desir (1974).

At the other end of the scale were the works of Robert Bresson, who in his extremely ascetic movies enclosed deliberations taking the form of religious morality (Le journal d’un cure campagne 1951 and Un condamne a mort s’est chappe 1956).

At the same time Ingmar Bergman augmented existential questions about human nature. He started asking them in the trilogy made in years 1953-1957, consisting of Gycklarnas aftan,  Det sjude inseglet, Smultronstallet.

In the 1960’s the circle of cinema masters increased. The noble group was joined by Italians: Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Bernardo Bertolucci, Luchino Visconti, the iconoclastic Pier Paolo Pasolini and the Russian excommunicated artist Andrei Tarkovski.

The seventies belonged to the filmmakers of New Wave which covered France, England and Czechoslovakia.

In France young filmmakers connected with Cahiers du Cinema magazine proclaimed the revival of the cinema in the spirit of unfettered creative freedom. Francois Truffaut, Jean Luc Godard, Alain Reisnais are but a few of the main New Wave names.

In Great Britain the revival of cinema should be connected with Angry Young Man, group of artists grew out of Free Cinema movement originated in the 1950’s. Its members where Lindsay Anderson, Tony Richardson, John Schlesinger, and Karel Reisz.

The term “Czechoslovak New Wave” is associated with the works of young directors, graduates of the FAMU film school. Its main representatives were Milos Forman, Jiri Menzel and Vera Chytilowa.

In the 1970’s and the 1980’s the main driving force amongst European filmmakers was to be the Germans: Werner Herzog, Volker Schlondorff, Rainer W.Fassbinder and Wim Wenders and Spaniards, a veteran Carlos Saura and a rising star Pedro Almodovar, who has been on the top until now.

The 1980’s in Great Britain was a successful time for Sally Potter and her avant-garde cinema as well as a visionary director Peter Greeneway. The extremely prolific duo Merchant-Ivory made successful adaptations of classic novels. Whilst at the other end Mike Leigh and Ken Loach became specialized in social dramas. A successor to the great Laurence Olivier appeared to be Kenneth Branagh, realizing his own adaptations of Shakespeare works.

Over the last couple decades British cinematography seems to have taken a special position amongst the other European cinematographies. In 1996, Anthony Minghella won an Oscar for The English Patient. Big popularity from the world over sought out directors of the youngest generation: Danny Boyle, and his brilliant Trainspotting (1996) and Guy Ritchie with his gangster movies (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels 1998 and Snatch 2000).

Amongst the Italian directors deserving of special notice one should distinguish the Taviani brothers and Nanni Moretti.

A unique phenomenon of European cinema has lately been Scandinavian cinema, which because of Lars von Trier has been reviving since the 1990’s. A director who received many awards for Breaking the Waves 1996 and the winner at the 2000 International Cannes Film Festival with Dancer in the Dark, is also a co-author of the manifesto known as Dogma 95’. Dogma imposed signatories with maximum asceticism during the whole process of film production. The most radical von Trier applied Dogma rules in the movie shot in 1998 Idioterne.

This is possibly the shortest journey through the history of European cinematography. More complex stories you’ll find in the articles when we focus on the specific countries.

 

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European Cinema (1895 – 1945)

Europe is regarded as the birthplace of the modern cinema. It was in Paris where the first public cinematographic projection ever took place and from there it spread all over the world. The first filmmakers were the Lumiere brothers, August and Luis, and amongst their first movies, made in 1895, that were ever shown in public were – Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory) and L’Arrive d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (literally the arrival of a train at La Ciotat Station).

Europe is regarded as the birthplace of the modern cinema. It was in Paris where the first public cinematographic projection ever took place and from there it spread all over the world. The first filmmakers were the Lumiere brothers, August and Luis, and amongst their first movies, made in 1895, that were ever shown in public were – Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory) and L’Arrive d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (literally the arrival of a train at La Ciotat Station). These movies were simply the documentary recordings of everyday common life. The first person who saw that the cinematograph provided the possibility to make art-like pictures, and therefore deserves to be called visionary, was Georges Melies (Le voyage dans la lune 1902). Thanks to the cinema he was able to record and to perfect the tricks he had specialized in during his time on the theatre stage.

The first period of the silent cinema was the time of the burlesque shows. In cinemas short comedy movies based on a series of gags achieved their triumphs. The European master of that genre was Max Linder.

The 1920s brought the liveliness of the cinema as well as a variety of styles and forms as in terms of the themes taken. The most interesting and important trends and schools were the German movements – Expressionism and Kammerspiel, Scandinavian Cinema, Soviet Cinema and the French Avant-garde.

The German expressionism was an artistic (not only in cinema) trend based on demonic, Faustic literary myth. Expressionist movies overwhelmed the viewer with claustrophobic, oneiric scenery and dark, imposing moods. The world in the movies was filled with vampires, demonic scientists – charlatans and golems. The most significant movies of the trend were: Der Student von Prag by Stellan Rye (1913), Das Cabinet des dr. Caligari by Robert Wiene (1920), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Graunes by Friedrich W. Murnau (1922) and the most famous of all – Fritz Lang’s Der mude Tod (1921) and Metropolis (1927).
The other current theme born in Germany was Kammerspiel, in which the most important thing was to show the psychological profile and relationships between the characters, often windswept by violent emotions. In these movies the mood of fatalism prevailed, built up by the formal asceticism. The precursor of the current theme was Lupu Pick and his Der Scherben, 1921. One should also mention here Der letze Mann by F.W.Murnau, 1924 and Tagebuch einer Verlorener  by George W.Pabst, 1929.
In the years 1916-1924 in Scandinavia a separate film school on the borderland of mysticism and neo-romanticism evolved. Its internally complicated characters were shown with their dilemmas back dropped by the well-matched scenery. The prominent representatives of that school were Mauritz Stiller, Victor Sjostrom and Julius Jaenzon.
At the same time France was a hatchery to all kinds of cinematic avant-garde, drawing inspiration from paintings and literature. Impressionism was represented by Jean Epstain and Germanie Dulac, dadaism by Rene Clair’s Entr’acte (1924) and surrealism by Luis Bunuel and his Un chien andalou (1928).

During the Soviet cinema of the silent era one should first of all mention Sergei Eisenstein, one of the biggest theorist and directors in cinema history. His propaganda movies of the 1920’s got to be called masterpieces because of his innovative approach to the cinema. Eisenstein specialised in a dynamic editing, for which he contributed the use of counterpoint and analogy. His most important movies were the trilogy:  Staczka (Strike) (1924), Bronienosiec Potiomkin (Battleship Potiomkin) (1925) and (OktiabrOctober) (1928). Besides Eisenstein, another co-creator of  the Soviet editing school is considered to be Wsiewolod Pudowkin. Representating the documentary avant-garde school of that period was Dżiga Wiertow and his leading work Czełowiek s kinoaopparatom (1929).
The 1930’s introduction of sound caused the appearance of new trends and individualities in the art of cinema.
The development of the author’s cinema in France was marked by Jean Vigo, an artist and a rebel, creator of the legendary Zero de conduite (1933). In 1937 Julien Duvivier created Un carnet de bal, a movie of the trend called poetic realism or “black realism”, of which the most prominent representative was Marcel Carne. In the thirties and the forties Carne produced his biggest works (cooperating with his inseparable writer Jacques Prevert) Quasi des Brumes 1938 and Le jour se leve 1939, both of them consequently made in the poetics of “black realism”.
The great individuality in French cinema at that time was Jean Renoir, who was the main character of the realistic school. His most important movies were Le grande illusion (1937) and La regle du jeu (1939).
In Germany under Hitler, the primary output was mostly centered on the production of propaganda type movies which were often produced and directed by the regime’s favourite Leni Riefenstahl. She was shooting her movies on the party’s orders, though pretty interesting stylistically. Two examples were Triumph des Willens (1935), a documentary about NSDAP convention held in Nuremberg and diptych Olympia (1938) about the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936.
During that same time, in England, there worked three outstanding directors: Anthony Asquith (The Browning Version 1951), Carol Reed (The Third Man 1949) and David Lean (Brief Encounter 1945). It was also at the time, in England, that the Hungarian director Alexander Korda made his movies. His best known picture was The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). This was also the time that the documentary school of social subject blossomed. Its most prominent followers were, considered as the father of British documentary, John Grierson as well as Basil Wright, Paul Rotha and Alberto Cavalcanti.

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Czech Cinematography – FAMoUs children of Czech(oslovakia)

The heyday of the Czech (or these days Czechoslovakian) cinematography came exceptionally late compared with other European cinematographies. It only began at the beginning of the 1960’s when filmmakers from the Czech film school, also called the Czech New Wave, started creating their works. Only the graduates of the worldwide famous FAMU (FILM AND TV ACADEMY OF PERFORMING ARTS IN PRAGUE), in which i.e. Agnieszka Holland and Emir Kusturica studied, initiated the revival of the Czech cinema.

The very core of “newwavers” was composed of Milos Forman (pictured), Jiri Menzel and Vera Chytilova. Their films have substantial literary foundation in the works of Bohumil Hrabal and Milan Kundera, the most important Czech writers of that time. One of Hrabal’s novels Perlicky na dne (Pearls of the Deep) was screened as five shorts made by debutants: Vera Chytilova, Jan Nemec, Jiri Menzel, Evald Schorm and Jaromir Jires. Perlicky na dne (1963) became the New Wave’s manifesto. Observation of everyday life, often assuming the form of documentary recordings became the most important theme. The directors focused on introspection and psychological truth. Their films mixed a dramatic tone with a warm and friendly approach to a character, all seasoned with a dose of the specific Czech sense of humour and distance to each other. They often casted amateurs too. In the years 1963-68 a few of the all time finest pieces of Czech cinema were made. Jiri Menzel and Milos Forman’s Ostre sledované vlaky (Closely Watched Traines) 1966, which was awarded with an Oscar for the best foreign language film), Cerny Petr (1964), Lasky jedne plavovlasky (The Loves of a Blonde) (1965) and Hori ma panenko (The Firemen’s Ball) (1967), for which Forman was awarded with the Golden Lions at the Venice Film Festival which opened the gate for his international career.

Jiri Menzel and Miloś Forman are two of the most respected Czech directors that constitute the New Wave’s core. After the success of his Ostre sledované vlaky in 1969 Menzel adapted another novel by Bohumil Hrabal, Skrivánci na niti  (1969). But the film was only premiered in the year 1990. In the meantime, in 1980 he brought Hrabal’s Postriziny (Cutting It Short) to screen, for which he was awarded with the Special Mention at Venice Film Festival. After the Prague Spring broke out, Forman emmigrated to the United States where he directed many world class masterpieces such as: Hair (1979), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984), just to mention few.

Back in Czechoslovakia Ivan Passer shot Intimni osvetleni (1965), while Vera Chytilova was realizing her philosophical and experimental films tinged with a feminist trait (O necem jinem (SOmething Different), 1963 and Sedmikrasky (Daisies), 1966). In 1969 Jaromir Jireś screened Milan Kundera’s Zart (1969), under its original title.

In 1968, after the Warsaw Pact’s armies invaded Czechoslovakia and pacified the Prague Spring, the authorities prohibited the newwavers creating which resulted in a big wave of emigration and general inertia of the creative milieu. Some, like Jiri Menzel stayed in the country, though had to reach a compromise with socialist authorities. For a long time the Czech cinema meant trivial, commercial comedy productions and TV series (Nemocnice na kraji mesta, Arabella).

Not until the 1990’s and the liberation of The Czech Republic from the socialist yoke did the new generation of filmmakers emerge who refreshed the stiff Czech cinema. Firstly, in 1996, Jan Sverak, with his father Zdenek, produced the Oscar-winning film Kolja. Other Sverak’s films are: Obecna skola (The Elementary School) (1991), Jizda (Drive) (1994), Tmavomodry swet (Dark Blue World) (2001). However, the manifesto of this generation, giving one of its best psychological and moral analysis appeared to become Samotari (Loners) (2000) directed by David Ondricek and written by Jan Sverak.

Amogst the youngest generation’s artists, Petr Zelenka gained the biggest recognition with Knoflikari (Buttoners) (1997), Rok dabla (Year of the Devil) (2002) and Pribehy obyczejneho silenstvi  (Wrong Side Up) (2005), all of which mixed bitter satire with warm reflection over the human lot. He is also one of the authors of the script for Samotari. Petr Zelenka is a master of telling about the reality and ordinary problems with a pinch of salt. What could seem as a serious drama, strikes often as tragicomedy in his films.

To the new generation also belongs an inseparable trio: Jan Hrebejk, Petr Jarchovsky and Ondrej Trojan. They made various films together, for example: Pejme pisen dohola (Let’s All Sing Around) (1991) and Musime se pomahac (Divide We Fall) (1999). Saśa Gedeon with his Indianske leto (Indian Summer) (1995) and Nawrat idiota (The Idiot Returns) (1999) should be mentioned too.

A totally separate chapter of Czech cinema is written by Jan Śvankmajer, who creates a kind of author animation. His surreal and fantastic visions stroke as a puppet film Faust (1994), Spiklenci slasti  (Conspirators of Pleasure) (1996), or half-dramatic, half-animated film Otesanek made in the year 2000.

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Cinematography of Mexico – the Latin Hollywood

Mexican cinematography began its development in the 1920’s. The first films were mainly documentary newsreels called noticiarios (notices), which showed everyday life in Mexico. Unfortunately many of these films have been lost or destroyed.

It was not long before the production of feature films was to commence. Most of them were melodramas, comedies and adventure films produced by Salvador Toscano Barragan, the Alva brothers and Ezequiel Carrasco following in the fashion of Hollywood and Italian productions. It was at this time when the first Mexican film stars appeared: Dolores del Rio, Lupe Velez and Mimi Derba. After getting their careers started in Mexico they all, eventually, emigrated to the United States to continue their careers. The most important film studio of that time was Azteca Studios which was founded by Mimi Derba.

The 1930’s saw a change in the cinematic landscape of Mexico. The most spectacular herald of these changes appeared to be the visit of the leading Soviet film director, Sergei Eisenstein, who was in Mexico to shoot his film Que Viva Mexico! (1930). Eisenstein’s visit had a great effect on the Mexican filmmakers employed to work in this production. Inspired by their co-operation with one of the greatest directors of the time they were able to transfer the experiences they had learned and utilize them in their native ground.

At the same time the relationship between Latin America and Hollywood grew stronger which resulted in an increasing number of the Spanish-language productions with Latin film cast, which also included Mexican stars. These films were clearly orientated toward the Latin audience. In 1931 first Mexican sound film, Santa, was produced. It was shot by Antonio Moreno and the story was based on the novel of Federico Gamboa. At this point of time in Mexico, as in many other countries, together with sound many new film companies were founded i.e. Produciones Artisticas de Peliculas or Hispano Continental Films.

The 1940’s are called “the golden era” of Mexican cinematography. Mexico went on to become the biggest film producer amongst the Latin American countries, ousting even the Hollywood productions of the home market. The directors of this new generation started to take over and their films were breaking popularity records across the country. At the time there were two currents which were prevalent over others: on the one side there was the cinema which was socially engaged and looking at  the problems of modern Mexico and the other there was the commercial productions. The most famous films of that period were: Flor Silvestre (1942) and Maria Candelaria (1943) directed by Emilio Fernandez and the Ismael Rodriguez trilogy, Nosotros los pobres, Ustedes, los Ricos and Pepe El Toro made in 1953 . Among the biggest Mexican stars of the day one should mention in the first place the comedian Mario Moreno, known as Cantiflas,  also referred to as the “Mexican Charlie Chaplin”, Maria Felix (“La Dona”) and the German Valdes, the legendary “Tin-Tan”, who made the „spanglish” dialect famous. Great popularity was also achieved by the musical films, called Rumberas films, in which both Mexican and Cuban dancers were cast. The leading producer of such movies was Juan Orol, who was also famous for producing the crime stories patterned upon the American film noir (e.g. Gangsters contra charros 1948).

The 1940’s and 50’s was highlighted by the career of  Luis Bunuel’s, who had immigrated to Mexico from Spain. During this time he produced the most important of his films: Los Olvidados (1950), Ensayo de un crimen (1955), Nazarin (1958), Viridiana (1961).

By the 1960’s new currents in the Mexican cinematography had emerged. A whole new generation of the directors such as Arturo Ripstein (El castillo de la pureza 1973), Luis Alcoriza (Fe, esperanza y Caridad 1974), Felipe Cazals (Las poquianchis and El Apando both from 1976) and Jorge Fons (Los cachorros 1973) were creating the New Wave („de la nueva ola”). The majority of these filmmakers were fashioned by working alongside Bunuel, who had a great impact on them. The formation of the  Film Centre under, the auspices of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in 1963, is regarded as having no less an impact on the change in the Mexican cinema. Along with the Third Cinema appeared the tendency to draw from the traditions of the magic realism in order to get to the roots of Latin civilization and culture. Experimental films on the borderland of many arts were created during this time, with the most famous of Mexican experimentalists being Alejandro Jodorowsky. This artist, born in Chile in the 1960’s, settled in Mexico where the most important of his films were created. His avant-garde works combining experiments taken from many different arts such as: the theatre, mime shows and film resulted in the surreal productions Fando y Lis (1968), El Topo (1970) and Santa Sangre (1989).

The 1990’s finally saw Mexican cinematography gain international acclaim. Nuevo Cine Mexicano is the generation of filmmakers that has been awarded in many film festivals across the globe and has created a wealth of film talent. This new breed of filmmakers have gained the recognition of the mass audience and have been successfully making films around the world. Amongst the most famous ones are two Alfonsos’: Arau and his Como agua para chocolate 1992, A Walk In The Clouds 1995 and Zapata – El Sueno del Heroe 2004 and Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Solo con tu pareja 1991, Cronos 1993, Great Expectations 1998, Y tu mama tambien (2001) and the third installment of the Harry Potter series – Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban in 2004. Other great filmmakers within the modern Mexican cinema are: Luis Mandoki’s Gaby: A True Story 1987, White Palace 1990 and Trapped 2002 along with Arturo Ripstein, a student of Bunuel and the author of the masterful screen adaptations of Latin prose such as: Principio y Fin, 1993 or El coronel no tiene quien le escriba, 1999 and Jorge Fons, whose film El Callejon de los Milagros, 1995 is doubtlessly one of the most important films in the whole history of Mexican cinematography.

The first decade of the 21st century has belonged, so to speak, to two names: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Guillermo del Toro.

Inarritu, together with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, have created three films, all very highly rated and frequently awarded at the different festivals all over the world: Amores Perros, 2000, 21 Grams, 2003 and Babel, 2006.

Del Toro, a specialist in horror and fantasy films, is well known for creating very vivid and visually dazzling imaginary worlds. His adaptation of the comic book series Hellboy, 2004 was only an prelude to his best picture so far El Laberinto del Fauno, 2006. This story set during the time of General Franco’s dictatorship, interwoven with fantastical threads, it was nominated to the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film. The second Hellboy film: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, 2008 and the horror film El Orfanato, 2007, produced by del Toro and directed by the Spaniard Juan Antonio Bayona established del Toro is a true visionary. It was perhaps the main reason that he was chosen to direct. probably the most anticipated film of the near future: The Hobbit.

Apart from the above  without a doubt  worthy of mention are also the black humor comedy Nicotina, 2002 by Hugo Rodriguez; the historical drama set in the times of Indian rebellions El Violin, 2005 by Francisco Vargas and Fernando Eimbcke’s Lake Tahoe, 2008, the metaphorical story of a young Mexican boy’s ordinary day.

The biggest stars, of the modern era, to have hailed from Mexico are: Salma Hayek, Gael Garcia Bernal and Benicio del Toro. Hayek, a star of Robert Rodriguez’ films Desperado, 1995 and From Dusk Till Dawn, 1996 starred in Julie Taymor’s Frida in 2002. The title role of Frida Kahlo in the movie produced by herself brought her many awards and her only nomination so far for the Oscar. Gael Garcia Bernal started as a favourite actor of A.G. Inarritu who cast him in Amores Perros, which started Bernal’s international career and in Babel. In the meantime he was cast by the biggest directors of our time such as: Pedro Almodovar (La mala educacion, 2004), Walter Salles (Diarios de motocicleta, 2004) or Fernando Meirelles (Blindness, 2008). Benicio del Toro, born in Puerto Rico is frequently associated with the Mexican cinematography and the parts of charismatic Latin Americans. He established this status by starring in: Traffic, 2000 and Che-El argentino, 2008 both by Steven Soderbergh, Snatch, 2000, by Guy Ritchie, and Inarritu’s 21 Grams, 2003.

 

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Cinematography of Ireland – difficult history, important movies

 

The history of Irish cinematography is closely connected with the history of the country which, above all else, is the history of the constant battle for independence and national, political and cultural identity.

The history of Irish cinematography is closely connected with the history of the country which, above all else, is the history of the constant battle for independence and national, political and cultural identity. Ireland, pushed aside for a long time as Europe’s backwater and remaining in the shade of the British Empire, could only begin to raise itself once it had achieved its independence. The cinematography of Ireland is a reflection of these changes.

The first feature film, which was silent, The Lad of Old Ireland, was produced in 1910 by the American Sidney Olcott and was the typical emigrant story about a young man forced by economical conditions to search for his fortune overseas. It was pretty successful in the USA because of very popular theme of the day regarding emigration to United States – the Promised Land for newcomers from the Old Continent. Kalem, the company created in Killarney, specialized in such productions and by the 1920’s had almost serialized emigrant sagas. In 1916 James Mark Sullivan founded The Film Company of Ireland in Dublin. The company produced mainly melodramas, comedies and history movies telling about the Irish battle for independence. In 1918, Sullivan directed Knocknagow, which received acclaim from abroad as being the Irish reply to The Birth of Nation by D.W.Griffith.

Soon after Ireland gained independence and the Irish Free State was proclaimed, the Censorship of Films Act was resolved (1923) in order to control the content in both national and foreign movies, particularly from the catholic and republican point of view. The most important movies of that time looked at the subject of the battle for independence. Amongst these belong Guests of the Nation (1935) by Denis Johnson, The Dawn (1936) by Thomas Cooper and international productions from the American John Ford The Informer (1935) and the Briton Robert Flaherty Man of Aran (1935).

During the Second World War Ireland remained neutral. Its main concern was to rebuild its own national identity and to develop its historical and cultural continuity. In 1943 a National Film Institute was founded, a government body working under the auspices of the Pope, financing mainly documentaries designed for distribution abroad. The purpose of these movies’ was to show an Independent Ireland as a country in which battle for independence closely interlocks with battle to defend Catholic Church laws. In 1945, on government order, the propaganda documentary A Nation Once Again was produced, showing the relationship between Catholicism and the policies of Ireland.

The revival of Irish cinema came in the late 1950’s. In 1958, the production company Ardmore Studios was created, which coincided with a change of political course and progressive movements in Ireland. It was all in an effort to move away from the republican-catholic tradition. One of the signs of this new tendency was a documentary, made by the Irish journalist Peter Lennon, Rocky Road to Dublin (1960) in which he radically attacked the previous policies of the Irish government and church institutions holding them responsible for the stagnation and underdevelopment of the country. The movie was even shown at the Cannes International Film Festival. Another important documentary, Flea, equally accusatory, was shot by Luis Marcus in 1967. The movie won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.

In 1975 the first picture of the Irish New Wave was made, directed by Bob Quinn, titled Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoire, and based on a traditional Irish poem, took up the subject of national identity. This movie propelled Bob Quinn to became one of the most prominent Irish indie directors. Another movie made by Quinn at that time was Poitin (1978), where he looked at the violence within a family. A characteristic of Irish movies of the New Wave was that they were taken from often difficult and current subjects, particularly for the mainly catholic Ireland, such as: homosexuality, sexual abuse, violence. Besides Quinn, the New Wave was co-created by Thaddeus O’Sullivan, Pat Murphy, Kieron Hickey and Joe Comerford, who were the leading Irish directors of 70’s and 80’s. Thaddeus O’Sullivan shot the experimental movies A Pint of Plan (1977), On a Paving Stone Mounted (1977) and The Woman Who Married Clark Gable (1980) and Joe Comerford created Down the Corner (1977) and Withdrawal (1979) both about taking real social problems in modern times, leading him to make deeply reflexive movies such as Reefer and the Model (1985).

In 1981 Comerford shot Traveler, a movie to the script written by Neil Jordan, who then just started on the road to his big career. Neil Jordan together with Jim Sheridan and Pat O’Connor constituted a group of filmmakers which made Irish cinematography famous in the 1980’s and the 1990’s. Cal, the movie made by O’Connor in 1984 about love flourishing between the british-irish barricades, was a big success all over the world and got a nomination for the Golden d’Or in Cannes. For his next movie A Month In the Country (1987) O’Connor hired Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh.

In the 1980’s Neil Jordan, probably the best known Irish director, produced the adult fantasy Company of Wolves (1984), the psychological drama Mona Lisa (1986) and the comedy High spiritus (1988), all produced in Ireland. After that, like many other Irishmen, not only filmmakers, he started working abroad.

The year 1989 Jim Sheridan produced My Left Foot, the movie that began boom for Irish cinema. The biographic story about a physically challenged artist gave Oscars to both protagonists Daniel Day-Lewis and Brenda Fricker. Daniel Day-Lewis quickly became Sheridan’s favourite actor and was cast in his other famous movies: In the Name of the Father (1993), the story of Gerry Conlon, imprisoned for terrorist acts he didn’t commit and Boxer (1997), a movie about Danny Flynn, ex-IRA soldier, trying to put his life together after he’s released from prison.

The 1990’s saw Ireland produce films that were to become instant cult movies, and as such watched by millions. To these belong: The Commitments (1991) by Briton Alan Parker, the story of a rock band from the Dublin suburbs; The Crying Game (1992), Michael Collins (1996) and The Butcher Boy (1997) by Neil Jordan, considered to be the most important Irish movies of the end of the twentieth century. At the same time in Ireland two huge international productions were shot: Braveheart (1995) directed by Mel Gibson and Saving Private Ryan (1998) by Steven Spielberg.

Over the last couple years one can identify a greater interest in Ireland’s history. The attempt of a new look at the Ireland’s past was a para-documentary drama by the British director Paul Greengrass Bloody Sunday (2002), about the massacre during the riots in Northern Ireland in 1972. Another revisionist movie, awarded with the Golden d’Or in Cannes, was Wind That Shakes the Barley by Ken Loach, in which he showed the dramatic choices that IRA combatants faced because of the division of the country. Interesting thing is that the most insightful movies about Ireland history are shot by the Britons who were considered to be the biggest Irish concern over the years and caused most of the problems to the Irishmen. It’s like the Britons feel obliged to count up their common historical affairs to be able to come to terms with it.

Special notice should be also paid to Once, a small production made by Irishman John Carney in 2006. This classic love story set in Dublin gained great sympathy amongst the audience worldwide and the music from the movie was awarded with the Oscar.

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Cinematography of China – the cultural (r)evolution

The history of Chinese cinematography first started in 1905. It was the year when the opera The Battle of Dingjunshan, staged successfully at the Beijing Opera, was recorded for the very first time.

The centre of Chinese film, at the time, was Shanghai, where the first movie theatre was built in 1908. During the 1920s the first movie production companies, based exclusively on the native capital, were founded in Shanghai. One of them was Mingxing Film Company founded by Zheng Zhengqiu and Zhang Shichuan. Its biggest hits were Zhang Xinsheng (1922) and Orphan Rescues Grandfather (1923), both made by Zhang Shichuan. The films produced at that time were mostly melodramas, family dramas and screen versions of Chinese legends.

The situation in the whole country and, therefore, also in the Chinese cinematography changed in 1927 when Kuomintang came to power in the country. The main subject, of the films, became the class warfare and the awakening of the Chinese national spirit against the foreign menace. Moreover it was also the time when sound first appeared in the cinema, which complicated film production and decentralized the film business. The Cantonese speaking directors moved to Hong Kong which has been a mainstay for the commercial cinema, independent from the government’s dictate ever since.  The directors creating in Mandarin, the official language stayed within the circle of the official authorities and their directives. The national socialistic movement brought such movies as: Spring Silkworms/Chun can (1933) and To the Northwest/Dao xi bei qu (1934) by Bugao Cheng or Goddess/Shen nu (1934) by Wu Yonggang.

The years 1933-1937 are called the first „golden era” of Chinese cinema. Shanghai, the capital city of the Chinese film industry was also the leader of its film production. Many actors gained the status of a film star (Ruan LingyuHu DieJin Yan). The greatest Chinese directors of that time were Mu-jih Yuan (Street Girl/Malu tianshi 1934) and Wancang Bu (A Spray of Plum Blossoms/ Yi jian mei 1931).
One of the main factors at that time (1931 – 1945) was the Japanese occupation of China. However it didn’t prevent Chinese filmmakers from making films, though many of them escaped to Hong Kong. Amongst those who stayed on the Solitary Island, as Shanghai was called in the late 1930’s, the nationalistic mood intensified and the works of filmmakers were a response to the Japanese dictatorship. It was then when the Lianhua Film Company was founded, one of the most import ant film companies of the 1940’s. Classics such as: Spring and Sparrows/Wuya yu maque (1949) by Junli Zheng and The Spring River Flows East/Yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu (1947) by Chusheng Cai and Junli Zheng were produced there. Considered as one of the most important Chinese films ever made Spring in a Small Town/Xiao cheng zhi chun (1948), directed by Fei Mu, was the last „apolitical” film before the communists took over.

In 1949 the People’s Republic of China was proclaimed under the leadership of Mao Zedong. The country split into three separate states: the PRC, Taipei and Hong Kong. The cinema in the PRC became one of the propaganda tools. Independent production was eliminated and influx of foreign films was severely restricted. Once the communist party took control of both the mass media and the cinematography they started to speak only the language of the legal authorities. War films and adaptations of classic Chinese operas and novels became the dominate genres. One of them was The Tragic Story of Shanbo Liang and Yingtai Zhu/Liang Zhu hen shi ( (1958) directed by Tie Li, a film, which got to the canon of Chinese cinematography.

In 1956 the Bejing Film Academy was founded. Many excellent filmmakers graduated from it and gained worldwide recognition and regard. Before it happened though, China experienced the biggest cultural collapse in its history. The Cultural Revolution swept across the country and ruined both the economy and the culture. Many people of science and culture were imprisoned in the labour camps and many works of art were destroyed en mass. During this period the cinematography came to a standstill for many years, and watching films was strictly forbidden.

The early part of the 1980’s brought a change. The artists, the ones who had survived, were freed and the Bejing Film Academy, closed during the Cultural Revolution, was opened again. The post-revolutionary film landscape was co-created by two generations of filmmakers. The older ones who had started before the Revolution and were forced to fall silent for several years, such as: Wu Yonggang and Wu Yigong, directors of Evening Rain/Ba Shan Ye Yu 1980 as well as Xie Jin, the director of Legend of Tianyun Mountain/Tian yun shan chuan qi 1980 and Hibiscus Town/Fu rong zhen 1986 and the young generation who had graduated from the Bejing Film Academy in 1982 and is called the Fifth Generation of Chinese directors. Thanks to them Chinese cinema crossed the borders and gained worldwide fame and renown. The most prominent of them are certainly Zhang YimouChen KaigeZhuangzhuang Tian and Zhang Junzhao.

The Fifth Generation filmmakers contributed to creating a new quality within the Chinese cinema. Their artistically sophisticated films rejected standing conventions and were the attempts of settling accounts with the past. Perhaps because of this many of these films were not permitted to be distibuted. However they were highly regarded at the international film festivals. Chen Kaige made Yellow Earth/Huang tu di (1984), for which he was awarded with the Silver Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival. This incident began the triumphant procession of Chinese cinema abroad. Kaige created the masterpieces of  Ba wang bie ji/Farewell My Concubine (1993) and Jing Ke ci Qin Wang/The Emperor and the Assassin (1998). The dramatic fresco Farewell My Concubine tells the story of the emotional relationship between two actors of the Chinese opera, linked with the stage parts of a king and his concubine. The story is said against a background of the 50 years of Chinese history. In 1993 the film was awarded with the Golden d’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival ex aequo with The Piano by Jane Campion.

Zhang Yimou grew into the mega star of Chinese cinematography. His film output consists of Hong gao liang/Red Sorghum (1987), Da hong deng long gao gao gua/Raise the Red Lantern (1991), Yao a yao yao dao waipo qiao/Shanghai Triad (1995), Ying xiong/Hero (2002), Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia Curse of the Golden Flower (2006). Thanks to a long-term collaboration with him Gong Li became the biggest acting star of modern Chinese cinema, whilst others Jet LiMaggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi became immensely popular, both in China and abroad.

Over the last years the audience has taken a particular liking to wuxia pian films referring to the very popular, in China, kung-fu mythology. The stories tell of fearless and perfect sword masters and their adventures. Sword fighting is viewed as a carrier of a philosophy and a way of living. The most well known Chinese wuxia films are Ying xiong/Hero (2002) and Shi mian mai fu/House of Flying Daggers (2004) by Zhang Yimou as well as Wu ji/The Promise (2005) by Chen Kaige.

The youngest generation of the Chinese filmmakers grew up in the new reality, both politically and economically. As capitalism reached China with all its worries and problems and the people began to slowly forget about the time of ruthless communist dictatorship. New independent film companies were founded, in which young filmmakers started making films criticizing the new social relations and showing the Chinese reality, behind the back of censorship.

One of these filmmakers is Zhang Ke Jia, a director of moving social dramas like: Xiao Wu/Pickpocket (1997) showing the Chinese country from the point of view of a petty thief; Sanxia haoren/Still Life (2006) about the erection of the Three Gorges Dam; or Shijie/The World (2004) about the provincial workers thrown into the metropolitan crucible. Zhang Ke Jia’s contemporary is Quanan Wang, a director of the loud film Tuya de hun shi/Tuya’s Marriage (2006), for which he was awarded with the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and of Fang zhi gu niang/Weaving Girl (2009) a moving drama of a woman dying of cancer. The other directors of this generation called the Sixth (or even the Seventh) are Guo XiaoluAnn Hui and Chuan Lu. Lu directed i.a. the loud war drama Nanjing!Nanjing!/City of Life and Death (2009).

 

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Case study – “The Man with the Spying Glass” – part 2

The Man With The Spying Glass – short film

Production

  1. Finally, after all this pre-production work it is time for the production.
  2. The first big problem for us occurred a week before the production. The camera operator got another job and we had to start shooting a day before we had scheduled to do it. Luckily everyone was available.
  3. The call time for the first shooting day was 7 am. We scheduled to start shooting at 10 am. Of course we didn’t. We started shooting at midday.
  4. Try to stick with the shooting schedule even if it’s close to impossible. Otherwise it creates problems for the whole crew and cast. If you start shooting late, you will finish late, keep that in mind. On the first day we finished shooting at 10.pm so not that bad but… on the second day we ended at 2.00 am.
  5. We only had the studio booked for shooting for two days so we had to finish all the interior scenes within those two days. Unfortunately we made a mistake of dropping half of a scene from the first day to the second day. Try not to do it for it does cause problems.
  6. During the pre-production stage we somehow planned to have only 3 scenes to shoot daily. But in fact we had 6 scenes to shoot daily. For some cosmic reason we all forgot that we had to shoot each scene twice, for both, Placit and his cynical self.
  7. While hiring the studio (because it was very difficult to find one available and acceptable (also financially) for us) I didn’t recognize that the sound coming from the outside was so loud. And it appeared to be, believe me. When planning your shooting, always make sure that a studio is soundproof. Otherwise it causes major problems for the sound editor in post-production.
  8. Another mistake was not recording the whole dialogue once again. Just the sound. It’s easier when you have additional material for post-production.
  9. Make sure that actor/s keeps everything simple and don’t overdo the scene. Once you go into post-production you may realize that this is not what you had in mind. Remember, in most cases the simple the better.
  10. DOP was complaining a lot (luckily mostly after the production) that there weren’t enough runners who knew what they were suppose to be doing so the whole thing wasn’t going as smoothly as it could.
  11. I didn’t have 1st assistant so that might be one of the reasons we constantly went over time. It’s important to have one so they can keep track of time and crew.
  12. My DOP is a very talented man. However, he is often terribly hectic. That is why it’s good to have a storyboard and stick to it. This way you will definitely cover all the most important shots which will basically make your life much easier in post-production.
  13. Don’t forget to feed your crew well. A well fed cast & crew is more creative and willing to work. Remember though not to feed them with something terribly heavy like pizza for they may be sleepy afterwards.
  14. Try not to work for too long. It often creates problems between crewmembers if you spend more than 12 hours on the set.
  15. At the end of the production we threw a little party for the cast and crew. It’s always good to appreciate people and tighten the bonds. Especially when your cooperation was good, throwing a little party may bear fruits in the future.

Post-production

  1. Because I was on the clock with all important festival’s deadlines I needed to haveThe Man with the Spying Glasscompleted by the end of August 2010. (We shot the film at the beginning of July 2010). So having not much time we went straight to editing.
  2. My editor who was also my DOP forThe Man with the Spying Glasslogged in the whole footage.
  3. One of the problems the editor encountered was to connect the right video tracks with the right sound tracks. For the first time in my life and also the last one I didn’t use a clapboard, which was a vast mistake because it made our job twice as long and completely unnecessary.
  4. While editing, we discovered that the sound was even worse than we had expected. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, we didn’t record the whole dialogue. I wanted to do it later on but the actor who played Placit was ill and his face paralyzed. Conclusion: whatever you can do during the production, do it. Don’t save it for post-production.
  5. Since we couldn’t find anyone reasonable to do sound post-production in Poland, Jan Broberg Carter, the music composer, suggested that we should have tried to do the post-production in the USA in The Studio Portland, Maine.
  6. Because I couldn’t go to the USA (visa thing), Jan and Steve Drown, the sound engineer, did a fantastic job together working only from my notes. It was a good decision ‘cos Jan was able to participate with the final mix and could adjust all the music levels just the way she felt was appropriate.
  7. The editor lives in different city to me, so about a week after the production ended I arrived at his studio ready for another intensive week of work.
  8. During the editing it turned out that there were many shots we didn’t have and we should have had. It also turned out that because we didn’t care for the continuity enough the actor hardly ever repeated the same moves. Make sure that someone looks after this for you. Otherwise it creates loads of problems in editing
  9. When we had the rough cut ready, we decided to part with the film for few days.
  10. For next few weeks we worked online. I just gave my notes to the editor and he worked from them.
  11. Once we had final cut, we sent the film together with my notes and the time code to The Studio in Portland, Maine where Jan and Steve worked on both, editing the sound and music.
  12. While Jan and Steve were working on the sound mix, a colour grading specialist started doing colour correction as well as opening and end credits.
  13. When all of the pieces were finished my editor put it all together to make for us a nice DVD.

Money issues (don’t know if we are going to do this)

  1. 1. It’s harder to find money for short films than it is for feature films for there is hardly any chance to get that money back. That is why we always invest our own money. To find out more aboutfinancing filmscheck out our section.
  2. Unlike some filmmakers, my producer and I pay people for their work. It creates completely different dynamic on the set if everyone is paid for what they do.
  3. If your budget is very stretched (and it almost always is), negotiate with your cast and crew to give you the best deal possible. Tell people the truth, that this is an independent self-financed production. It does work, more than you can imagine. Most of these people really love making films so they often agree.
  4. People on the crew kept telling me that the script was really good and that it was my best script ever.  A lot of people helped out either adding money to the production or working for free or giving us a fantastic price because they liked the script.
  5. I made a deal with my DOP/editor and we got ourselves a barter deal. I did some work for him for which I didn’t charge him and in exchange he worked on “The Man with the Spying Glass” free of charge as well.
  6. Oh, and last but definitely not least. You don’t make a film just to have it in your drawer. Put some money aside for promotional materials and film festival submission fees.

Promotion & marketing

 

  1. I started writing aboutThe Man with the Spying Glasson my websites and on my FB profile and on my bulletfilm.com profile way before the production began. I kept my friends and viewers updated on the progress of the pre-production. This way I created knowledge both online and amongst my friends and viewers about the film.
  2. Don’t forget to have loads of stills taken during the production. Later on you can use them as promotional stills. I was lucky enough to have a professional photographer on the set throughout the whole shooting.
  3. It’s nice to have “ the making of…” done as well, especially with feature films.
  4. After the production was completed I kept putting information on my websites as well as my bulletfilm.com profile and FB about the production and stages of post-production. With each post I added a different production still.
  5. A friend of mine did all the art work for the short such as: posters of various sizes, CD/DVD cover page, CD/DVD cover print. This is important for the visual aspects of your work.
  6. This whole art work comes in handy when you submit your film to various film festivals. This is the time to think about promotional materials. Try to have the promotional materials connected with your film somehow. Give yourself enough time to come up with great ideas and to find good deals money wise.
  7. Don’t forget to cut a trailer for your film which you have to upload to your website and other networking sites. At the end of the trailer put the film site or your website so whoever encounters your trailer online,  will know where to find more information about you and your films.
  8. If your film gets accepted to a film festival, don’t forget to write about this fantastic news on every site you can. You should also include this information in your submission letter, press kit, in your film before the opening credits begins, on your posters etc. Of course do the same when you and your film win something.

 Film Festivals

  1. I created film festival submission kit before we even started shooting and I worked on it throughout the post-production.Click hereto find out more.
  2. I wrote a submission letter which is required by most festivals.
  3. Don’t go randomly looking for festivals. Check out ourfestival databaseand search for the best film festival for you. I did the festivals list before we even started shooting.
  4. Before “The Man with the Spying Glass” was finished I also added the short to withoutabox.com, just in case I was going to submit my film via withoutabox.
  5. Keep track of your submission. Make a list of festivals you’ve submitted to and ones your film was accepted to.
  6. Submit your film to as many festivals as possible so you will have more chances of being accepted.
  7. If your film is accepted to a film festival, don’t forget to say THANK YOU to the programmer.
  8. If you get a chance, go to the festival and do some networking for yourself and your film. It always helps.
  9. Film festivals for “The Man with the Spying Glass” are still in progress.
  10. To find out more about festival circusread our short guidecovering this suject.

I guess, these are the most important and vital issues. For me at least but then again this is my list of what is the best possible way to make and promote and independent film.

 

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Case study – “The Man with the Spying Glass” – part 1

 

Below is the case study I created on the basis of my last short film as well as my general experience as a filmmaker on this production.

“The Man With The Spying Glass” is a self-financed short film.

Production: 3 days

Post-production: 7 weeks
Length: 13’51 min
Placit lives in a dreamless society where people have to take pills to stop dreaming and thinking. Almost everyone wears helmets, which gives global government access to human thoughts.

 

Placit’s deepest dream is to be a puppeteer, an artist, someone that the official government disapproves. However, he is afraid to go against the system which was created by his father and strongly guarded by Placit’s cynical self.

Concept

  1. First I had an idea about a man living in an hotel room and spying on people using a spying glass.
  2. I started playing with the spying glass idea.
  3. Then I started asking myself questions… what if my character would do this or that? What if? Why do I make the film is the most important question one can ask while making one.
  4. I started wondering what do I really want my film to be about.
  5. Inspired by one film I gave my character a name, which was Placit.
  6. I decided that Placit was going to live in an oppressive society.
  7. I decided also that it was going to be a one man film.
  8. To create some kind of conflict in the story I decided that Placit was going to try to go against the system.
  9. I didn’t know that Placit was going to live in a dreamless society until I started writing the script.
  10. Remarks, notes.
  11. Anything can trigger the initial idea for the script.
  12. Don’t be afraid to play with ideas in your mind.
  13. Give yourself time to get acquainted with the concepts & ideas you have, let them grow inside you.
  14. You don’t have to know all the details right away and how the story is going to evolve before you write a script. Many issues get resolved during the writing process.

 Scriptwriting.

  1. When all ideas and concepts have rested and grown (just like dough) for a while in my head I sit down and start writing.
  2. I basically write anything that comes to my mind. It doesn’t have to be perfect, not from scratch at least. Anyway often the concept changes and evolves whilst writing.
  3. Writing is nothing more than rewriting. So I rewrite whatever I wrote and then rewrite whatever I rewrote before.
  4. I don’t think about structure. I just let the creative part flow.
  5. When I have each scene roughly described I start rewriting.
  6. If any new ideas or concepts come up I decide to follow this lead, sometimes it’s a cul de sac but mostly it is worthwhile.
  7. At some point after working on“The Man…”for a very long time I discovered that I hated everything I wrote apart from the character’s name.
  8. After my meltdown I got stuck and didn’t know which way to go. I decided to move to another project and give“The Man with the Spying Glass”a rest and let it grow again.
  9. I went looking for some inspiration in books, films and everyday situations.
  10. After I cooled down I went back to the first step, which is the basic concept. I started wondering what are the things that I care for the most and I’m afraid of the most.
  11. I started writing the script once again and I found the new focus for the story.
  12. And rewriting again…
  13. … until I was happy enough to make a film out of it.
  14. During production we added one sequence in relation to the script.
  15. During post-production the order of two scenes was changed and some of the dialogue cut out in relation to the script.
  16. Don’t be afraid to still work on the script and add or delete scenes etc. during the production and the post-production.

 

Pre-production.

  1. I knew the actor I was going to workwith so I didn’t need to hold a casting. If I hadn’t had an actor I would have organized casting then. And probably I’d have gone to see a few theatre plays.
  2. Since I had an actor, I started looking for the crew when we were pretty early in the pre-production process. I knew the DOP I was going to work with since we had worked together before and he had brought a lot of his crew with him.

Production.

 

  1. My producer started negotiating dates and money with the crewmembers (make-up, camera operator, lights, sound, etc.)
  2. We (me and my producer) started looking for a studio where we could build our set.
  3. The most problems we had were finding the right sound recording team.
  4. We also had a very long search for the right production designer. But it was worthwhile since he turned out to be a really professional, inventive and dependable guy & managed to build the whole city in 2 days.
  5. I got all the contracts ready for the key crew members. You have to sign contracts regardless whether you work with friends or not, just in case. You may stop being friends one day.
  6. I prepared all the production documentsI thought I might have needed during the production.
  7. I started working on the script analysis.
  8. I started visualising the shots I would like to have in the film and I made a shoot list.
  9. I started thinking about the set design and which way I would like to go.
  10. I watched a lot of movies for inspiration.
  11. I had meetings with each crew member. So once on the set we all knew which way we were going to go.

Post-Production

  1. Once again I thought that I wasn’t going to have any music in my film. But I was lucky enough to meet an amazingly talented and incredibly openhearted composer Jan Broberg Carter. Jan agreed to write the music for “The Man with the Spying Glass” free of charge and even paid her travel expenses to be on the set with us.
  2. Design a proper story board together with your DOP and production designer. Don’t just work from your notes and from your shoot list. It’s not reliable material to work from.
  3. Remember that the better you are prepared during the pre-production, the easier production will go and the more time (and money) you save.

Working with the actor.

  1. Generally speaking I like to be prepared (and I mean PREPARED) so I start rehearsing with the actor/actors as soon as I can.
  2. Preparing for“The Man…”at the first meeting we talked about the script and what it meant to us. [If we can (me and the actor/s), we try to find in the script references to real life. I usually ask a lot of questions so the actor/s can start thinking about the answers in their “free” time, when we don’t see each other]
  3. Next meeting we had was all about answering the questions we spoke about previously as well as analyzing each scene.
  4. The third meeting was all about reading through the script. We often stopped and talked about the meaning behind each scene. We tried to do a few physical actions at the end of the meeting.
  5. Our next rehearsal was all about physical action. We  weren’t able to work on the set unfortunately which makes working out the physical action so much more difficult. But it’s still worth trying out a few things.
  6. Since Pawel isn’t a native English speaker and the script was in English, I arranged a meeting with a native speaker who helped Pawel with pronunciation.
  7. We had our last rehearsal the day before shooting and this time it was on the set. Working on the set is extremely vital for the character development and the actors’ security. That was the time to work out the physical action and make Pawel acquainted with his character’s natural environment.
  8. Remember that even if you don’t have the time or money to rehearse with your actors, still try to find at least some time to have a cup of coffee with your actor/s. At the end of the day these people are going to represent your film on screen.

 

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Asian Cinematography

 

Asian cinema as a definition refers to the cinematography of eastern, south-eastern and southern Asia (Far East cinema) and also western Asia (Near East cinema).

The Far East cinema includes, to name only the most important ones, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea (North Korea, ridiculous as it sounds, is classified as one of the European cinematographies), Cambodia, Thailand, Iran, Tadjikistan and India. The Near East, cinema wise, includes first and foremost the cinematographies of Turkey and Israel.

The history of Asian movie art is very long. Its beginnings go back to the optical experiments in the 10th century, when the first successful projections with camera obscura were conducted.
The evolution of Asian cinema has run parallel to the evolution of her European sister. Nevertheless this cinematography was then, and is up to this day, independent from both Europe and Hollywood, constantly evolving and keeping its own, specific cinema style and language.
Until the 1950’s Asian cinema had been so hermetic that it had hardly existed for audiences from the European cultural circle. This is particularly striking when the forties and the fifties were regarded as the “golden age” of the Far East cinema. At the time Japanese cinema was flourishing, giving to the world such filmmakers as: Akira Kurosawa, Kenji Mizoguchi, Nagisa Oshima and Japanese movies of the New Wave became the inspiration for western filmmakers. In India Satyajit Ray made the famous Apu Trilogy (1955-1959), upon which Martin Scorsese, James Ivory, Francis Truffaut and Steven Spielberg patterned their movies. 1946, in China the Kunlun Studio was founded, one of the biggest film companies in the country, in which Spring In a Small Town (1948) was produced, the movie directed by Fei Mu. It is still regarded as one of the most important movies in the history of Chinese cinematography. Similarly in South Korea, where there were about 100 movies produced annually during the “golden age”. In 1960, two works: The Housemaid by Kim Ki Young and Aimless Bullet by Yu Hyun Mok are recognized by the critics as the most remarkable Korean movies of all time.
The most outstanding works of that time, classics of the world cinema are: Rashomon (1950), Seven Samurai (1954) and Throne of Blood (1957), all by Akira Kurosawa (because of Kurosawa Japanese cinema became famous the world over, when Rashomon won the Golden Lion (1951) at the Venice Film Festival); Ugetsu (1952) and The Life of Oharu (1952) by Kenji Mizoguchi; Late Spring (1949) and Tokio Story (1953) by Yasuijro Ozu; Awaara (1951) by Raj Kapoor, the above mentioned Spring In a Small Town (1948) by Fei Mu and Pyaasa (1957) by Guru Dutt.
The nineties witnessed yet another revival of the Asian cinema scene. The movies from the Far East began their triumphant march through the biggest film festivals and won audience recognition worldwide. 1988, Red Sorghum  by Chinese director Zhang Yimou won the Berlin International Film Festival and in 1989, A City of Sadness by Hou Hsiao-Hsien from Taiwan won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. In 1997 the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami got the Golden Palm Award at the Cannes International Film Festival for A Taste of Cherry. Besides them, and in the same breath, one can mention the movies of: Chinese Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine, 1993) and Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, 1991 and House of Flying Daggers, 2004); Hong Kong born director Wong Kar-Wai (Chunking Express, 1994 and Happy Together, 1997); Vietnamese Tran Anh Hung (i.e. Cyclist, 1995); Taiwanese Hou Hsiao-Sien (Flight of the Red Balloon, 2008) and Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000); Iranians Jafar Panahi (The Circle, 2000) and Abbas Kiarostami (The Wind Will Carry Us, 1999).
Asian cinema is best described by its specific movie genres. Their exoticism finds many believers outside the continent. The most popular are wuxia movies and J-horrors.
Wuxia is an adventurous genre deriving from ancient Chinese literature, in which heroes were flying masters of the sword. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers are two of the best known wuxia movies.
Japanese Horror on the other hand is a completely modern genre, though equally popular, its plots are set amongst the crowded Asian metropolis where the menace comes from the haunted apartments and houses (Dark Water by Hideo Nakata and The Grudge by Takashi Shimizu), or casual objects with supernatural features. (The Ring by Nakata) .
Also specific Indian cinema from Bollywood turned out to the world and became famous, flooding the world with the light-hearted and melodious love stories.
As popular genre as Bollywood or wuxia is Japanese anime, which are animated stories translating the more noble and classic movie genres. As the result we get anime-dramas, anime-comedies, anime-horrors and all other kinds of anime movies.
Worthy of mention are also the Hong Kong “blood operas”, in which bloody slaughters are presented in an esthetically sophisticated way. Master of this genre is John Woo, who excelled in his gun fu productions before being sucked into the Hollywood vacuum to create, amongst others; “Face Off” and “Mission Impossible 2”.
The separate phenomenon is Japanese Takeshi „Beat” Kitano, who successfully makes his Own cinema (i.e. Hana Bi, Brother).
This is only the shortest possible review but more you get in the separate articles on the cinematographies of different Asian countries.

 

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Abbas Kiarostami – a versatile artist

Abbas Kiarostami is one of the leaders amongst the Iranian directors. He is widely considered as the most prominent representative of this exotic cinematography which has celebrated a lot of successes at different film festivals over the last few years. This is due to the Iranian New Wave, who brought to the world many outstanding filmmakers and made Iran a significant force in cinema world.

Kiarostami, is one of a few who didn’t emigrate from the Muslim fundamentalist dominated Iran. Until now he lives in his home city of Teheran where he was born on June, 22nd, 1940. His interest in art was cultivated at home. His father was a painter and a decorator and young Abbas studied painting at Teheran University where he could realize his passion for the fine arts and developing his painting skills. Even now, though he is known mainly for his film works, he still takes photographs and paints. He also writes poetry, mainly haiku, what reflects his interest in Zen Buddhism. This fascination is also reflected in his films.

His way to filmmaking began in the year 1969 when together with friends he founded the Centre for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (KANOON),  where he was in charge of the film department. It was also the time when he made his first film Nan va Koutcheh/Bread and Alley (1970), in which he focused on the everyday problems of Iranian children and criticized the Islamic education system based on violence, control and indoctrination. Working for KANOON he also shot such films as Mossafer/The Traveller (1974), Rang-ha/The Colours (1976) and Gozaresh/The Report (1977), all of which were the forerunners for the plots and the styles of his future pictures.

Good intuition for children and their psyche returned in 1987 when Kiarostami made Khane-ye doost kojas?/Where is the Friend’s Home?. In the film he tells the story of two juvenile protagonists living in the region of Koker whose story was the starting point for another film Zendegi edameh darad/And Life Goes On (1991). This time Kiarostami took the audience to the province of Koker just after the tragic earthquake struck the province. The director wandered with his camera over the destroyed area in order to find the two boys he cast four years earlier. However the searching itself is not the essence of the film. And Life Goes On is a paradocumentary, a metaphorical story about the human attitude towards the unpredictability of fate. He showed people who don’t capitulate in the face of tragedy and are able to start their lives all over.

For instance a couple of young lovers, married just after the earthquake who are not afraid to start their lives over. This is one of the episodes from And Life Goes On. Kiarostami used their story and made it a subject of the third installment of that trilogy titled Zire darakhatan zeyton/Through the Olive Trees (1994). The film explored metafiction, the trend characteristic for the French New Wave authors. It’s a film about a film, about the process of filmmaking. Once again Kiarostami went to Koker in order to reconstruct the set of And Life Goes On with non-professional actors just after the disaster. By chance (was it really chance?), for the parts of the young lovers, he chose a genuine couple. The film starts to be a kind of game between him and the audience, where the reality and the fiction begins to blur. Abbas draws the audience into the post-modern jigsaw puzzle where it is pretty hard to tell where the fiction ends and the reality starts. He takes the audience behind the scenes and shows them the practical side of the filmmaking process. The audience also sees the events happening outside the set which are at the same time parts of the plot. A similar method was used by Francois Truffaut in The American Night. Abbas Kiarostami was awarded the Critics Award at the Sao Paulo International Film Festival for the film Through the Olive Trees.

But the real madness about Kiarostami began when his next feature film Ta’m e guilass/Taste of Cherry (1996) which won the Golden D’Or at the Cannes International Film Festival.

Taste of Cherry focuses on the eternal deliberation of the sense of being. It looks into the existential rhetoric about the opposition of life and death. The main character Ba’di decides to commit suicide. Literally, the film is an intimate story about the searching for an accomplice to Ba’di’s own death. It appears that the searching is futile and on a metaphorical level it shows how lonely Ba’di is. He wants to kill himself but it is not his primary intention at all. In fact he searches for a soul mate who could dissuade him from doing it and could show him the bright side of life and why it is worth living. The audience doesn’t know the character’s motives and the author doesn’t reveal them. Kiarostami’s film leaves everything for the spectator to interpret. The only thing he does do is to show the clues which may be followed by the doubters. One of those clues is the title ‘taste of cherry’, a simple, sensual feeling in which the joy of being can be caught, even for a split second.

The slow rhythm of the film, the long sequences of events, in which the protagonists mostly talk, the omnidominant excitement over landscapes and the action laconism comprise his style which Kiarostami developed later in his films.

An idea behind his successive projects border on a film experiment was a maximum laconism in using cinematic means in order to accentuate an emotional and intuitive side of his works. He meant to augment the participation of the spectator in the process of film making and to make the spectator some kind of partner for the director and even co-creator of the film. Kiarostami consistently uses indications of the cognitive theory of film. According to the cognitivism the spectator “produces” meanings that are open for interpretation. The view of the audience, the process of projection – identification creates a new quality and enriches an intention of the director inscribed in the work. Kiarostami meets the audience half way. He gives them the purest pictures without that creative invention. The audience may read it freely, according to their knowledge and needs. This method as well as the subject of reflection over the human condition Kiarostami consistently developed in his next films Bad ma ra khahad bord/The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), Ten (2002), Five (2003), Shirin (2008).

The Wind Will Carry Us is based on the very same idea as And Life Goes On. The film crew goes to Kurdistan to record the local funeral habits. The story covers the period of waiting for the old lady to die. It takes weeks and makes the crew more and more impatient. It’s not easy to overcome the natural life circle though. „Civilized” filmmakers get confronted with society which lives its rhythm set by nature. Kiarostami built up the deliberate treatise about the human nature set in the beautiful and rough landscapes of Iranian Kurdistan which silently accompanies the characters.

Ten is a development of the construction used in Taste of Cherry. The film plot is set in the confined space of a car where the protagonists debate about painful subjects. The only changes of the action are when a new person gets into the car. The limited space, which we don’t leave even for a moment, cuts down needless, according to the director, elements and reduces the essence of the plot to dilemmas of the main heroin. The film is a critique of the Islamic rhetoric in which women’s freedom is limited and the omnipresent patriarchy imposed on women is part of an objective.

Five and Shirin are considered to be brave formal experiments in which final limits of the reduction of cinematic means are to be found. The camera sitting motionless is pure and devoid of any author’s interference record of five landscapes (Five) and 114 female faces watching in the cinema a screen version of melodramatic Iranian poem (Shirin). The bewildered critics coined the name „anti-cinema”, for those, very difficult to interpret, films.

Abbas Kiarostami shoots also documentaries. Worth to mention here is a digital recorded ABC Africa (2001). In it Kiarostami told about the toils and the beauty of Uganda, which he showed from the children’s point of view, just as he used to do in his early films shot for the KANOON institute.

Kiarostami took also part in the short stories projects, realized by the masters of the world cinema. In 1995 he directed one of the shorts in memory of the hundredth anniversary of cinema Lumiere et Compagnie. In 2005, together with the Italian Ermanno Olmi and the British director Ken Loach, he created the film Tickets. Each of the three short stories is an individual, self-contained story set in the train coming from Germany to Rome. The three-minute Where is my Romeo? was a part of Chacun son cinema (2007), the project was created for the 60th anniversary of the Cannes International Film Festival.

Abbas Kiarostami has been the chairman of different film festivals all over the world many times, i.e. in Cannes (1993) and in Venice (1995).

In the year 1997 he was awarded with the UNESCO Fellini Medal for his contribution to filmmaking and popularization of liberty, peace and tolerance.

Chosen filmography:

1970 Nan va koutcheh/Bread and Alley

1973 Tadjrobeh/The Experience

1974 Mosafer/The Traveller

1976 Rang-ha/The Colours

1977 Gozaresh/The Report

1982 Hamsorayan/The Chorus

1987 Khane-ye doost kojas?/Where is the Friends Home?

1990 Nema-ye nazdik/Close-up

1991 Zendegi edameh darad/And Life Goes On

1994 Zire darakhatan zeyton/Through the Olive Trees

1995 Lumiere et compagne (episoded)

1997 Ta’m e guilass/Taste of Cherry

1999 Bad ma ra khahad bord/The Wind Will Carry Us

2001 ABC Africa

2002 Ten

2003 Five. Dedicated to Yasujiro Ozu

2005 Tickets (short story)

2007 Chacun son Cinema (episode Where Is My Romeo?)

2008 Shirin

Chosen awards:

1989 FIPRESCI Prize at the Istanbul International Film Festival for Nema-ye nazdik/Close-up

1994 Golden Spike at the Valladolid International Film Festival for Zire darakhatan zeyton/Through the Olive Trees

1997 Golden Palm at the Cannes international Film Festival for Ta’m e guilass/Taste of Cherry

1999 Grand Special Jury Prize and FIPRESCI Prize at the Venice Film Festival for Bad ma ra khahad bord/The Wind Will Carry Us