Monday, April 23, 2007

Books and movies

I'm often asked what movies or books I would recommend for people who are interested in the movie business in any way. I'll get straight to the point:

Movies that inspired my style or my desire to make certain kinds of films, in no particular order:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (the movie that made me want to make movies)
Pulp Fiction (the film that changed all the rules about storytelling and content--controversial, but a masterpiece)
Jerry Maguire (if I had a chance to make a bigger budgeted film, this is the kind of film I'd want to make--incredible structure, and a fanastic mix of humor and drama)
It's a Wonderful Life (in my opinion, a perfect film. Incredible structure, fantastic message, and I love how dark it gets before the redemption)
Erin Brockovich/Traffic (Soderbergh's storytelling and editing style have inspired me more than any other--he doesn't follow standard rules, he just shows you what he wants you to see)
Magnolia (Dramatic without being cheesy--so many incredible moments.)

American films every aspiring filmmaker needs to see:

The Godfather, Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction, Casablanca--For various reasons. Citizen Kane is the film every film textbook looks at, because it set the standard for last century's films, and it literally invented certain camera and lighting techniques. The Godfather introduced a new kind of film and hero; Pulp Fiction changed the film world and brought indie films mainstream; Casablanca is film school for its dialogue and pacing.

Books that can help those aspiring to be in the film industry:

"Behind the scenes" books on the industry (if you want to understand the culture of Hollywood and how its top people think): You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again, High Concept, Down and Dirty Pictures, Keys to the Kingdom, Hollywood Animal

"Educational" books, if you simply want tips on navigating through the industry or making a film: Adventures in the Screen Trade and Whose Lie Did I Tell?, Directors Close Up, Making Movies, Wannabe, Hello He Lied. The books by K Callan are great for people getting started.

Hope that helps answer a few common questions!


Published: April 6, 2007
Just got back from the Sedona Film Festival, which was nice. Festivals are a strange beast--at a place like Sundance, you're trying to sell your film and give yourself a chance to get an agent, a deal, or another opportunity. At a place like Sedona, it's solely about showing your film to a receptive audience. You're not going to make money from it, you're likely not going to get a deal from it, and there aren't really any "important" people there who are going to make or break your career. It's really the most art-driven aspect of the film business--your art being shown to an audience with nothing exchanged other than appreciation or dislike.

Ultimately, I need my film to be financially successful, or I can't make films again. But in the meantime, festivals like Sedona are a wonderful experience. The audiences seemed to respond well to the film, and when someone comes up to you after the film and tells you how much it meant to them, there's really no better feeling.

For any of you who are film students or just getting into filmmaking, I hope you get a chance to submit any films you make to a festival. Even if it's a 10 minute video, try to get it out there. It will not only be a valuable learning experience, it'll be one of the few times in your hopefully long career where money and commerce have nothing to do with the viewing experience.