The Pixar Story is a documentary film describing the creation of Pixar and its subsequent success as a film studio in recent years. Being a fan of their films and animation films in general, I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about a subject I knew little information about beforehand. This film is engaging, as it touches on the origin and creation of the films we’ve come to know and love. It was extremely interesting to get an in depth look at the technical side of the animation industry and how big an influence certain modern technological innovators have had on the industry. Being a fan of Steve Jobs, I thoroughly enjoyed how the film tied in his influence on the films Pixar has produced. As I look back at their films now I can appreciate the time and effort it takes to create quality animation projects and I now hold them in higher regard. I would suggest this documentary to anyone who enjoys animation films or films in general, as it is a great way to compare and contrast the types of preproduction activities involved in creating specific types of films. I found watching a documentary about film making incredibly interesting and anyone in the entertainment industry would find this film entertaining. The Pixar Story is my favorite documentary film and I continue to go back and watch it before I view any Pixar film, because it gives the films more depth. Behind the scenes documentaries are my favorite genre of documentary filmmaking and seeing the ins and outs of the entertainment industry is endlessly engaging. I would watch any documentary about the entertainment industry and if you find any Pixar films entertaining you will find this film thoroughly entertaining.
This past week I made and watched the short film Letters to Harper. This film is about woman who is in her mid twenties. The film open with her by a campfire at night where she opens a wooden box and pulls out a letter. The next few shots show her reading the letter and then eventually putting it into the box and under her backpack which she uses as a pillow. This opening montage of scenes shows the audience that this box with the letter(s) in it is very important to Harper, the main character. The following shots show Harper walking in various places. In the first few shots she is walking in more of a rural area, along side railroad tracks and next to farms. In these scenes there are several cars in which all of them are driving away from or in the opposite direction of Harper. This theme of cars driving away from Harper continues into the city where we find Harper walking under bridges and waiting at cross walks. In these shots Harper is shown as being sad, tired and alone. After a few scenes in the city, Harper then moves to a neighborhood setting. There are a few more scenes in the residential area where cars are driving away from Harper. The purpose of the cars driving away from Harper gives a sense that she is alone. That she is moving against what is normal. I think this really creates a subtle underlying tone for the character of Harper. I think it makes you question what Harper is doing and makes you feel for her. When I watch this film I feel sad for Harper and wish I could help her. This sense of help I wish to give her is also helped out with the visual of the cars driving away from her. As the audience I see that she is being passed but without receiving any help or concern. After the bulk of the film which shows Harper’s journey the film concludes with a single scene that leaves the audience with questions, concern and closure. The scene opens with Harper pulling the letter out of the box and looking at the address on it. The camera then follows her as she walks up to the door and rings the bell. Harper then steps back waiting an answer as the shot cuts to black. I like this ending because it creates several emotions. First it makes the audience question what is going to happen next. Then there is concern for Harper on whether she found what she was looking for and if it will make her happy. This film shows a journey of struggle and endurance for a woman we barely know. As the director I really wanted to create an emotional short film where you really care for someone and I think the decisions we made with this film put the audience in a place where they care for Harper and hopes she succeeds. I also really like the music to this film because I think it adds suspense and makes you feel what Harper is feeling. During editing we focused a lot on editing to the music so that the visuals were driving by the music.
This semester has taught me numerous things about film making. On the technical side I have improved in lighting, editing, camera operations, sound design, and pre-production (storyboarding and script). I can confidently say I have improved and am proud of the work I have done with these newly refined skills. My camera work is more intentional in the feel and look rather than what it used to be of just getting lucky in my shots. The skills I have learned in editing and sound mixing have improved, but the biggest difference for me is time it takes to do these crafts. I have become more confident and comfortable and can spend more time tweaking smaller details of my films that make them polished rather than working trying to figure out how to make a cut, how color correction works, or how to edit a soundtrack. I have also learned a lot with pre-production. The time it takes me to shoot a project has decreased exponentially thanks to storyboarding and scripting. However besides from all of the skills I have learned this semester on the technical aspects of film making I have learned so much more on the social side of making films. I never knew how much time you spend working with so many different types of people. You have to work with editors, lighting, sound, actors, producers and many more. Making films takes as much film skills as people skills. This is where I have learned the most this semester. With many of my past projects I would work alone because I like having total control over a project and I can honestly say I still do. But You get a different experience and finished product when multiple people have input. This is great because when working alone there is only one avenue a film can take, but in groups you have an entire city with avenues, back streets and alleyways your film can take. I will always love making films alone but I am excited to further my experiences of making films with other and exploring the benefits it has.
This past week I saw several films but I decided to write a review on the film Unstoppable. I decided on this film because we were asked to focus on editing and I think editing played the most important role in this film than any other I saw. Unstoppable is about two men who work for a railroad company in Pennsylvania. The two men risk their lives to stop a runaway train that has explosive contents and it is going to crash in a large city if it cannot be stopped. The story is not that complex and the story is really driven on the characters and getting to know them. The characters and their development in this film is really what makes it an enjoyable experience. You leave the theater really liking several of the characters. Besides the characters the action and suspense is what really makes this movie. Therefore the editing has to be spot on to give you that sense of urgency and anticipation on whether or not the train will crash. I think the production team did a successful job with the editing. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time with my heart racing. I really found myself caring for the characters and wanting them to succeed. The editing had quick cuts and they were placed in a way to tell the story and keep the audience from getting confused. This was done very well because the events were quite confusing, especially to those who are not quite as familiar with trains. In all this is a fantastic movie that really draws you in and helps you to create relationships and allows you to care for the characters. Apart from the characters this film really brings you into the action and creates an atmosphere of urgency and suspense that will have you on the edge of your seat for the entire film.
I was quite excited this past weekend to go and see Due Date with Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. I loved The Hangover and was eager to have a similar experience of rolling on the floor laughing. However I wouldn’t say I got received what I had anticipated. Due date is about a successful business man Peter Highman, played by Robert Downey, who is waiting the arrival of his child. Living in New York the times comes for him to travel to Los Angeles to be with his wife for the delivery. At the Airport Downeys character bumps into a walking train wreck Ethan Tremblay, played by Galifianakis. Since Downeys character meets Galifianakis’ character it seems as if the bad luck rubs off on Downey. To make a long story short the two are put on a no fly list and must drive cross county. Galifianakis is headed to Los Angeles to find a career in acting. His decision to follow his dream was due to the recent death of his father. The two find themselves in ridiculous situations that will give you some good laughs. After a long journey the two make it to LA just in time for the birth. The film ends with Galifianakis getting a part on Two and a Half Men. I enjoyed this movie it just wasnt what I expected. There were definitely some great scenes that had you laughing till it hurt. There were a couple of things though that I thought took away from this film. I thought Zack Galifianakis was great, he just has that presence that works so well for this type of film. However I would have to disagree with Robert Downey’s character. I felt as if he was the wrong match to play across from Galifianakis. His character was a bit too sarcastic to be pared with Galifianakis.One other issue I had with this film was the guilt you feel for laughing at Galifianakis’ character. I think it was a little over done how pathetic and sad his character was. Maybe a little less would make it easier to get more out of the jokes.Besides these few issues I would say this is a fantastic movie for a few hours of good laughs. There are definitely some scenes that are priceless. For example when one of Roberts friends in the film makes coffee out of Galifianakis fathers ashes that Galifianakis was carrying with him. The tree men are all enjoying their coffee when it comes up that their drinking the fathers remains. This is hysterical because Galifianakis keeps drinking the coffee thinking it’s what he has to do to honor his dad.I would definitely recommend this film to anyone who’s looking for a good laugh and a decent story.
Doing a narrative is a lot different from any other project in the amount of detail it takes to make a scene convincible. Working with actors is especially difficult. One of the biggest things to look at before shooting is the way your actors fit into your film and how they can deliver lines. When we began preparing for this film we thought about the type of actor we would want to play our characters. We thought that having a girl in her late teens or early twenties would be best because that is the basic stereotype of babysitters. We only decided to have the babysitter as the main actors because we felt it added to her being alone in the house and that the audience could focus on her rather than the parents. This is the reason we only had the parents dialogue in the film.
When we were working with our actor we had to pay a lot of attention to her body language, facial expressions and the way she delivered her lines so that it would seem convincing to the audience. I think that body language and facial expressions are some of the most important things to watch when filming because the audience picks up on the smallest details and it could potentially ruin a scene if body language and facial expressions do not match the action.
The next thing I leaned a lot about is scene rehearsal. There is a lot that goes into preparing for and then eventually shooting a scene. The most important part is getting the actor to deliver lines on cue and making sure they hit all their marks. During several of our takes we had to put tape on the ground so that our actor would step right where we wanted. Then you have to rehearse the camera and boom movement. I definitely learned a lot about what it takes to work with actors.
Ip Man is by far one of the best action movies I have seen in a very long time. The fighting scenes are by far the best in any film I have ever seen. Ip Man was originally filmed in China in the chinese language. For the english version there was audio overlay over the characters chinese. This was the only distraction from the film was, however it is understandable that the film was not intended to be in english. The dialogue seemed a little distracting as well perhaps due to translations. However the story well enough made up for this. The film is set in a small village in China which is well-known for its martial arts. In this village there is a kung fu master by the name of Ip Man. He is incredibly humble and is the most respected man in the village. The story follows Ip Man and his peaceful village as they are overthrown by the Japanese. The story follows the everyday struggles of the people of the village and it is slowly uncovered that the japanese general is looking for a kung fu master to teach his army. He slowly finds out that Ip Man is the best kung fu artist he has ever seen. When asked to train the japanese army Ip Man declines saying he would never help the enemy. Ip Man is then forced to fight the general. During a long intense battle between the two Ip Man wins in his hardest fight. After his victory the generals second-hand man shoots Ip man. This is where the film ends with Ip Man fleeing the village with his wife and son. Although I was a little distracted with the dialogue and audio overlay I was more than satisfied with this film for the story and action sequences. It is the typical story of good guy prevailing and inspiring others. For the fight scenes all I could do was watch in amazement. I know that almost anything is possible in films today with our technology but for this film it took my breath away. One for the genius choreograph that was involved in each fight scene. The athleticism of the actors was outstanding. Ip Man’s character was excellent for the part. He had the humbleness down to the smallest details and when he fought he still seemed like a nice guy. I would highly reccomend this film, it is inspiring and leaves you speechless with amazement.