Film review: The Dark Knight (2008)

•August 21, 2008 • 1 Comment

First my apologies for saying today’s film review would be the Pixar animation film Wall-E, but a slight change in plans..I went to see The Dark Knight…and I can say I’m not disappointed.

As always with my reviews I give my opinion about the film, but not an analysis. I try to avoid spoilers but just let people know if the film’s worth seeing. No doubt about it. Batman Begins was already teriffic but they’ proved they can do even better by making the sequel, The Dark Knight. The film is awe-inspiring and the cinematography is really superb. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart and the wonderful Maggie Gyllenhaal (that blows Katie Holmes’ performance of the character to hell) are sublime actors.

If this film doesn’t get the late Heath Ledger an Academy Award nomination for his performance as The Joker, then Speed 2 is the best sequel ever made. His performance is truly amazing and psychopathic. He’s just simply amazing. The action sequences are the best I’ve ever seen and the story is solid. But however there are some bad things about it, but nothing to worry about. I felt like Bruce Wayne didn’t have much to do in this film, though it was in the center of Batman Begins. Ok it may not have been necessary, but I would like to have had a bit more Wayne. Apart from that some minor storylines were not really necessary the script was fantastic and very believable.

This is without a doubt the best film of 2008 with terrific music, good story and a superb cast. But does this film earn the number three spot in the IMDb Top 250? I think not. The film should be in the top 250 for sure, but third is overrated. This film is a must see so what are you waiting for? Go see it now!

Greetings,

Michiel

Auditioning actors

•August 20, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hi and good to have you reading my blogpost. It’s been a few days, but we worked really hard on the website and the blog. Apart from that, we have a some new filmmaking advice for you!

Now that you’ve got your script it’s time to find out more about your characters. Try to sketch them out, draw them, write down details and characterisations to make them more believable, and you should incorporate that in your story and scenes. Then, after shaping your characters, the time has come to find actors to play them out.

Most people, so do we sometimes, prefer to cast friends in your $10 masterpiece to make it ‘easier’ to find actors. This, however, is WRONG!

  • We had the experience many times. Try not to work with friends or people you know, because working under supervision by the director, your friends can get upset and lose interest and respect. All in all it’s not a very good idea to cast your girlfriend for a love scene, and even when you work with people you know, this can be dangerous. MOVIES CAN DESTROY RELATIONSHIPS! For example, making your girlfriend kiss a complete stranger, or even well-known friend(!), can really create a foul mood, jealousy and trouble on set, leaving problems in the relationship, even between friends.
  • And please, do remember that you do not work with professional actors. They are your friends and want to help you out, but with limits. Forcing them to do things only professionals would can make them lose interest which will result in a failure of your film.

But how do you find a good actor for no budget? The answer is: Auditioning! When you want the right girl for your Coyote Ugly-remake or the right guy to play a wealthy businessman longing for money and a woman he can’t get, you have to organize auditions.

But how?
Use a room in your house if necessary, but it would be wonderful to have a place with more space and effectiveness. Inviting people to your house may scare them off (certainly the female ones) and just looks inprofessional. Try to rent a place or, well, borrow it. It might not be easy to find a place for auditioning, but with some creativity, you’ll certainly find one. For example, think about local schools. Schools are the perfect places for auditioning: they mostly have at least one big room, which they don’t use on times people are not at work or at school.

Things I should think about
In just three words, I can describe what you should look out for: Pre-production, pre-production, pre-production! If you don’t plan everything out, like what scenes to do and who’s going to come on stage when, you’ll find yourself drowned in problems (try to maintain a tight schedule, keep attention to even minutes of elapsed time!). All problems start with a lack of pre-production. Make your actor comfortable by offering them something to drink (this doesn’t have to be more than coffee, water or maybe tea). Try to comfort them and let them do the scene. Be very professional. When people have to wait their turn outside, try to install some small facilities to look a little more professional (you’re serious about project, and you want your actor to be so too!)

Tips:

  • It’s a very good idea to actually capture each actor’s performance on tape. Also take notes! Don’t think you’ll remember when you start filming, thoughts struck at the first moment so they have to be written down immediately!
  • Always bring a copy from the script. It’s amazing how quickly actors can forget their lines and even their script itself.
  • Be kind, make him or her comfortable! This is not only to comfort the actor so their performances might be better, but they’re probably people you will have to work with for months!

So that’s it for today. An extra long post for all the previous days, sorry about that!
Don’t forget you can get updates by submitting to our RSS Feed on the right.

Please also find some time to view our projects on the project page, we would appreciate it!
http://www.easternlights.be is our official (Dutch) website, views are appreciated, you’ll be glad you looked.

Well, see you tomorrow and also don’t forget that every Friday there is a brand new filmreview…this time, te review will be about…Wall-E. See you tomorrow, for total awesomeness

Michiel

Film review: The Godfather (1972)

•August 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The Godfather (1972)

Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Writers: Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola
With: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, James Caan…

The Godfather is without a doubt the best gangster movie ever made. It starts with the aging Don, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) on the day of his daughters wedding, Connie Corleone (Talia Shire). Her brother, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), has just come back from World War II to come to the wedding. The Corleone family is in the Mafia business, but Michael just wants to lead a normal life. Sollozo is a drugs dealer who tries to get protection from the Corleone family in exchange for money, but Don Corleone turns the offer down, not wanting to have any business with narcotics and drugs. After the denial of this offer the not so pleased Solozzo guns Don Corleone down, nearly killing him, and son Michael has to take over and fight against Solozzo.

This film has an uniqueness to it, and so does the Corleone family. When all Mafia families are all plotting against each other in their own families, the Corleone family has an important difference: loyalty. That’s why we love these characters so much and ultimately care about them. This film is a must see. For long it has been on IMDb’s number one in the top 250, but has now been surpassed by The Shawshank Redemption. Marlon Brando, who received an Oscar for his role, is terrific and brings a wonderful performance. Along with the films great cinematography, cast, editing and fantastic music by Nino Rota this is a classic.

Along with the recognizable image (and voice!) of Marlon Brando and some very memorable lines (I’ll make him an offer he cannot refuse) this Best Picture Oscar winner is worth it.

    9/10

Want to decide for yourself whether this film is good or not?
After a bit of searching we came across this film on dvd for just $9.99 at amazon:

We also found the blu-ray version, which was cheapest on amazon too:

This version isn’t cheap, at 79.99 $ , but you get 4 discs for that price ( 2 sequels and 1 bonus disc). It’s been completely restorated, and is definitely of better quality than the DVD version.

(More in-depth reviews coming later!)

Michiel

How to format a screenplay

•August 13, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hi everyone. In the previous posts we learned you how to come up with a story and how to create effective scenes. Now you got your story and all your scenes it’s time to make the blueprint of your movie: a script.

Screenplays aren’t easy to be read and aren’t easy to be written. They have a special screenplay format to bring structure to your scenes, which we will learn today.

First you have an action. Actions are things your characters do and they are, naturally written in the script.
E.g. Jack walks down the street. He looks to a child that’s running past him. He enters the shop on his right.
Remember, screenplays are visual!

When your character moves from a certain space to another, Scene Headings must be written.
E.g.

INT. PET SHOP – DAY
Jack looks at puppies in the shop.

The INT. naturally means INTERIOR, meaning your inside a room or building. EXT. therefore means EXTERIOR, when your shots are outside. DAY of course resembles daytime and NIGHT… well night-time.
Remember, Scene Headings are always capitalized!

Characters who have dialogue in a script are always capitalized. Characters or persona’s that do not have any lines of dialogue, are just left uncapitalised.

SANDER sits down and eats a banana. Suddenly he sees MICHIEL.

MICHIEL
Hi! How are you doing?

SANDER
Just eating a banana.

Sometimes dialogues are also described under the name of the character, on how the line of dialogue should be said (emotions).

SANDER
(sad)
My banana is finished…

Here’s an example of a short scene in the screenplay format.

An example of a scene from a formatted screenplay

An example of a scene from a formatted screenplay

There are many great scriptwriting programs out there, but they come for mostly $200 dollars each!
We found the cheap solution: the awesome scriptwriting program CeltX with screenplay, project breakdown, schedules, catalogs and much much more is available for FREE at www.celtx.com

See you tomorrow for more filmmaking tips and tricks!

Michiel

Avoiding clichés

•August 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Hi and welcome to our new filmmaking posts with tips and tricks to make your new masterpiece.

Do you want your audience to jump up when something unexpected occurs? Do you want to keep them intrigued until the end and then send them home completely satisfied? Well, then first remove ALL clichés from your script.

A cliché is an overused action made by one of the characters, idea or shot that has lost all novelty and force. These can be very predictable and can really bring the mood of your audience down. A few examples of terrible movie clichés are action or horror movies where a damsel in distress runs up to the seventh floor of a building to get trapped instead of running out of the front door, two people meeting in a single’s bar or the cliché romantic kiss in most Hollywood films.

Here are some tips to avoid these hells:

  • When writing your script, always think, “how can I introduce this character/make this happen in a way never before done on film”
  • For example, you try to introduce your boy and girl in a love story, and you have them meet. Lots of clichés hidden here. Write numerous scenes down, that make you laugh or even cry. Then select one of those meetings, obviously the best.
  • And my ultimate tip: watch films and find out how they are structured. This does NOT mean you copy scenes, but learn how annoying those clichés (that you had in mind!) actually are when watching a film.

That’s it for today and join us tomorrow when I’ll tell you how to format a screenplay, one of the most important tips for your $10 masterpiece.

Michiel

Finding a topic

•August 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

There are millions of screenplays out there, waiting to be read and discovered. In those millions of intensive works 95% is junk. Only 5% can make a difference and can actually be a good script. However, don’t rely on this when writing your first or one of your first screenplays. To write a screenplay and make a good film you’ve got to have a damn good story.

Finding a story isn’t always easy. I should say it’s the hardest part of filmmaking, along with finding a title for your film. There are stories all around us. When you watch the news, several stories are told. When your girlfriend tells you about her incredible headaches (don’t ask) and says she suffers badly from it and nearly collapses on the floor, that’s also a story. These stories, however, suck. As a filmmaker it’s your job, duty I may call it, to deliver something new, fresh, creative and original content to your audience.
But how to find inspiration?

For my films I usually brainstorm, selfish as I am, asking myself what I would like to see in a film. In that way I’m not really making films for an audience, but for the teenager Michiel. Watching films can be a good idea to get some inspiration, but do not make exact replicas of scenes and storylines. They lack originality and are easily recognizable when you take over the story of a golden compass or a dead man’s chest. Finding inspiration can be a tricky task, but I manage to find a good topic going through this list:

  • Think about what you want to do. What is it that you want to do? An action film? A drama? A romantic comedy? Or even a western? First decide what genre your film is going to be, because you need it for the following steps.
  • Let’s say, for example, you want to make an action film. Great. But what do you want in that action film? What makes your body tingle and sends shivers down your spine? Write it all down on a piece of paper. When you’ve got some examples of what you want to bring to the screen, you can build quite an original story around it, but avoid clichés. (More about that soon)
  • Now you’ve got your action scenes it’s time to put a story around it and design your characters. There’s no trick. Just think about your scenes and put characters in those settings.
  • Finally, to create an atmosphere and develop scenes, you take the best thing the world has offered since the creation of the woman…music. Making a drama or a romantic comedy? Try listening to Mozart to find inspiration for scenes of pure drama and romanticism. Action geek? Listen to film soundtracks like The Dark Knight, Casino Royale, Gladiator… Western? Listen to some old western soundtracks or even some old pop songs to create mood and style.

Music is the best way to get inspiration, for me that is.
Now your basic story is complete, it’s time to write it out and later make a screenplay out of it.

Next post is on how to write a screenplay in the right format and the right way.

See you,

Michiel

The Three Stages of Filmmaking

•August 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In this post, I’ll talk about the three stages of filmmaking: Pre-production, Production and Post-Production. These 3 stages will give you the steps to make a film.

  • Pre-production, as the name suggests, is the period in which you prepare the shoot. You search for actors, crew members, you outline the script, you schedule your scenes, make storyboards, find locations and so on. Pre-production is EVERYTHING. A good planning makes a good shoot.
  1. Always, under any circumstances, write and bring a script to your shoots. A script or screenplay is a written plan of the film in your imagination. It includes dialogues as well as the scenes, what the actors do, the special effects, the music and so on.
  2. Storyboards are a great way to visualize your shots and put some structure in your film. A storyboard is a series of illustrations or images displayed in sequence to give others an idea of how the scenes will look.
  3. A shot list is very handy to keep track of shots so that you don’t forget any. When I just started out, I didn’t make shot lists. Because of that, I had to return to a certain location several times, because I forgot shots, and lost a lot of time.
  • Production just means that you shoot your film along with the cast and crew.
  • Post-production to me is the most fun part. To others it can be rather difficult and not exciting at all. It basically consists of editing your film, composing music, adding visual effects and then release and promote your masterpiece.

Keep following this blog, and enter the magical world of filmmaking, with stories about my own experiences and some great tutorials and tips.

Subscribe to our RSS-feed to easily access our newest posts every day.

See you soon,

Michiel

Next blog: writing a script