Jaron Watts is an apprenticing writer and has written several great articles detailing the workshops and guest speakers we’ve had in the class. Here are some of his articles!
Richard Jennings Acting Workshop
Hey guys just finished up a workshop with Richard Jennings, professor of acting and directing at USC. Jennings stopped by and spoke with the class about acting for the camera. I was excited to receive tips on how to portray a character for film, because it is something I have been interested in for a while. One thing that he stresses is too speak quieter, which is the antithesis to acting on stage. When actors are performing on stage it is important to be loud, so that their voice can reach the person sitting in the very back of the theatre, which is a challenge for me because I naturally speak softer. While on the subject, he mentions that it is important for directors to get a natural performance out of their actors. The performance should not be over the top, so less Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest and more realism. Next he explained that the actor should take time to arrive at the “moment” to create intimacy. He used one of his pupils to illustrate his point, who improvised as a stern nun. Jennings continued with saying that the director should not intimidate the actor, because it can hinder what the actor is trying to translate to the camera. If it helps use the underwear method to block out a brass director. I received some neat information, and left the workshop eager to put the tools he gave us in to use.
Victor Holtcamp stopped by the class on Friday October 1. Holtcamp came to consult the class on tips for writing a proper screenplay and to discuss structure. I thought his visit was perfect timing, because I’m currently working on a screenplay for a screenwriting class. He explained that structure means exactly what it says; it’s the blueprint to how screenplays are written. There are particular elements used in the structure such as the story or characters being set up, themes that are stated, subplots or the B story being incepted, and the conclusion. It’s important to include all the before mentioned elements, without them the story will crash, I know personally. He stated that the thesis, anti thesis, and synthesis of the film is established in the third act. Funny, because that is the reason that all the loose ends are tied up in the final part of the film. It is essential for that to happen, because it is included in how the structure of the story is set up. For example, Kill Bill would not be as effective if the Bride killed Bill in the first 30 minutes of the film, or if Dorothy found her way back to Kansas 10 minutes into the film. Holtcamp revealed to the class that if one studies the structure, they will see how much their favorite movies or television shows follows it. Holtcamp used television shows such as Law and Order as an example to how shows follow this particular structure. Law and Order has the same setup every week; the crime is identified, the culprit is caught, there is a twist, the trial takes place, and finally there is a resolution. I believe our story adept to the structure, which is why the story works so well and we have a successful story. The structure can be found at Blake Snyder.com, enlisted under The Blake Snyder Beat Sheet.
Yesterday I had an opportunity to attend a workshop conducted by Brian Gunter, who has worked as a gaffer on such films as The Blind Side, Remember the Titans, and Sweet Home Alabama. Gunter was at the ETV studios to talk to a group about lighting for film. The workshop was significant to me and others working on Dreadful Sorry, because the lighting is a crucial part in giving the film its dark, horrifying mood. It was important for us to hear how lighting is achieved to create that mood. He started out the workshop by showing us clips of films that he has worked on such as Last Holiday and Pink Panther 2. While showing the clips he provided commentary on his experiences of lighting the different films. The commentary was very funny; especially his little dig at Liv Tyler, but lets digress. It was at that moment that I had an epiphany, I really like this guy’s sense of humor. He went on to give some information about light. He mentioned that lighting is used to support the script and that it is also used to set the mood of the film, i.e. happy, sad, mournful, and sexy. One thing that stuck with me is that he believes that lighting is a subjective form. He stated that a lighting technician can be lighting a set, and that the person to his right could rave about how great it looks, while the person to the left can criticize it for being awful. He simply states that it’s art, and there is no wrong or right way in creating it. One trick that I learned yesterday is that in order to create a day exterior from inside, ambient soft light has to come through the window. I assumed that the shot has to be done during the day with the sun. Actually, due to the lack of control of the sun it is harder to shoot using the sun as a light source. I came out of the workshop with new knowledge of how lighting works, and look forward to putting the knowledge to use in the future.
Brian and Jocelyn Rish
On Friday October 8, siblings Jocelyn and Brian Rish spoke with the class about their film, Saying Goodbye, directed by Cliff Springs. The film revolves around an elderly woman, Alma, who checks into a nursing home. While there she meets a new friend, who succumbs to Alzheimer in the film. Alma lives a few remaining years at the nursing home, but eventually dies. Jocelyn and Brian shared their experiences of pre production with the class. They explained some issues they dealt with, such as the diva like behavior of the cat, Marmalade, who would sometimes not perform to task. The siblings also spoke about how they had issues finding a director of photography. Dave Insley eventually came on board to complete the job. Insley’s credits include the television series The Wire and The X-Files, and the film Body of Lies. They shot the film in Columbia at Agape nursing home. They mentioned how they wanted the nursing home to look like a nursing home, but at the same time to not look like one. The film is currently being shopped around to various film festivals. Saying Goodbye was made in conjunction with the SC Film Commission, and is set for release in 2010. To learn more about the film and Jocelyn and Brian visit the website sayinggoodbye.com
Hey guys just want to update you on what happened in class. Today we touched on lighting in conjunction for Brian Gunter’s visit on Saturday Oct 31. We watched a video on YouTube that dealt with lighting. We also watched a video from the NY Times that discussed the lighting behind the animated film, How To Train Your Dragon. Roger Deakins, the man behind the lighting of the film, discussed how even though it is an animated film, he wanted the lighting to seem realistic and not like any other animated film. The creators of the film wanted the lighting to be reminiscent of Deakins past work, such as The Village and The Assassination of Jesse James, two films that are in my opinion supremely shot. We went on to watch a montage of films that Mr. Gunter has worked on. The class seemed eager and anxious to meet the man behind the lights of the films. Before the end of class, we discussed where exactly we are in terms of pre production. Everything seems to be moving along great. The images for the posters look eerie, which they should. The documentary is also moving forward. I got an opportunity to interview with Josh Rose, who is in charge of the documenting the film’s process, so be on the lookout for some of my “enlightened” quotes. It is truly exciting to see the pre production phase of the film moving along. As cliché as it sounds, it’s almost like watching a child develop. In short, everything is starting to come together and we are anxiously waiting for everyone to see the final product soon.