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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Per Holmes Hollywood Camerawork Seminars

Shortly before Christmas, we reviewed Hot Moves,  the latest DVD training course from camera expert Per Holmes. He’s finally bowed to pressure and agreed to do some seminars in Europe and America.

The seminar centers around blocking scenes from scratch with only a script and a location, which is daunting for almost anyone. So, in the seminar, we’ll block a bunch of scenes from scratch, and we’ll shoot them and edit them. We’re trying to do a week’s seminar in 2 ½ days, so this is an intense course.

This is what you will learn:
• How to quickly block any scene from scratch with only a script and a location
• Become crystal clear on how to attack any scene, so you can do it well under pressure.
• How to convert your intuitive shot ideas into a rock-solid blocking plan.
• How to quickly adapt your blocking to a new location or actors’ input.
• How to get better coverage using half the camera setups you’re used to.
• How to block fast so you can spend more time with the actors.
• How to eliminate continuity problems.
• How to shoot for total editing freedom, so better emotional timing can be created in editing.
• Anchor a TON of Hollywood Camera Work technique, such as Compression Of Space, Open vs. Closed Framing, Keyframe-Based / Parallel Blocking, Managing The Line, Hand-Offs, Parallax / Back Parallax, Lead-Ins and Extensions and much more.
• Make blocking and staging stick.

This is not just the DVDs in a classroom, this is a hands-on course that does what the DVDs can’t do, which is to put everything together in a real setting.

Class-size is limited to 25 so that everyone can be fully involved in the process.

We’re planning on having the first seminar in London in March, and the other sure cities are Copenhagen and Florence. The price for the seminar is £250 / $385 / €295 for 2 ½ days of real training.

US seminars will follow. Los Angeles is certain, and there will probably also be an East Coast seminar in New York. If you have strong preferences for other cities, please let me know.

I’ve also added more European and International options to the list, such as Hamburg, Munich, Amsterdam, Moscow, Sydney and Tokyo. This is perfect-world scenario – there’s no guarantee it’s possible to do that many seminars.

Importantly, I need local organizers, including for the US. If you’re interested in helping set up HCW seminars, please email (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). There are specific needs. You may need to be a company that qualifies to sponsor visas etc., and experience with organizing events is key. I already have an organizer in London, Copenhagen and Florence.

If you’re associated with a studio or a film school that wants a dedicated seminar, that’s a possibility too.

It’s obviously more aimed towards live action film-makers than animators, but most of the principles will be relevant and useful, regardless of your preferred medium. It may seem quite pricey, particularly for hobbyists, but it’s good value compared to the cost of many other filmmaking courses, and it may well change your entire approach to how you shoot movies.

To find out more, and register your interest, please email (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) - and tell them we sent you!

(2) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Creative Genius Deck

We’ve written a lot recently about how to get inspiration when you’re making movies. After all, it’s New Year, you’ve decided you’re going to make something this year, and you’re wondering where to start. We’ve suggested characters and stories you can freely plagiarise, we’ve pointed you at some screenplays you can read, we’ve given you advice from John Cleese on being creative, and meanwhile, we’re going to try the FML film club.  But still, you’ll inevitably end up sitting at your computer, wondering what the hell to do next. Your mind goes blank, and everything you come up with seems dull, unoriginal, predictable, or just plain banal.

Here’s where the Creative Genius Deck comes in. It’s a deck of cards with simple ideas on, much the sort of thing a teacher, script consultant, or writing partner might say to you. When you’re stuck, just flip a few cards, and ponder them for a few moments. You’ll be surprised how easily you’ll find yourself thinking creatively again. Paradoxically, they often work best when what’s on the card seems to bear no relation to what you’re working on. As you try to make sense of it, you start developing new approaches to your story. For example, say you get “Why would you lie?” You start thinking through all your characters, re-evaluating them and asking yourself if they’d really act the way you’ve written them so far.  Have you made them too honest? Or if they’re lying, what are they hoping to achieve that way? Suddenly, you see a whole new way to view someone, the story takes a new turn, and you’re off again. Or you realise you need to rewrite an earlier scene, and again, the words are flowing.

Creator Phil South, from Somerset, England, is also a film-maker, writer and writing coach, freelance filmmaker, artist, and member of the band The Sinatra Test. He explains the influences that went into making the deck:

I’ve had a lifelong love affair with playing cards of all sorts, tarot cards, poker cards, Happy Families, and other card games. I was not part of the Top Trumps generation, that passed me by, but everything to do with cards has always fascinated me. My primary inspiration for the deck came from three main sources which I freely acknowledge here. I conceived these cards initially from my work with creative writers on my blog but I realised afterwards that the inspiration came from these and other sources.

The first and most obvious debt of thanks is of course to Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s wonderful Oblique Strategies, deck, a deck of “Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas” made originally in 1975 and republished I think another four times since then.

A less obvious influence was the Zebu deck by Robert Anue, a set of language pattern cards based on the hypnosis techniques of Milton H Erickson, and published in 1992. This is long out of print, but something similar has recently been published by Ericksonian hypnotist Igor Ledochowski in his Conversational Hypnosis Card Deck. (A similar deck was recently devised and produced by Jamie Smart of Salad Consulting)

Obviously I’m also influenced by the fortune telling machines at old time circuses and fairgrounds, boxes containing the top half of a mysterious swami who for a coin will dispense your future on a card from a conveniently located slot at the front of the case… Scary circus moods are a running theme in my work, both musically and artistically.

The Creative Genius Deck was originally conceived and designed as an iPhone and iPad app (currently being built by Damon Jones and John Molloy of inSignificant Productions in Florida and coming soon to the iTunes store). They’re also available as a physical deck, priced at £16.95. They’re a nice thing to have by your side as you write. There’s a certain tactile pleasure in just riffling idly through them, and at any time, you can just flip a card, spark some random thoughts, and carry on being creative.

Read more
Creative Genius (you can purchase the deck from here)
Going Down Writing (Phil’s blog)
Phil South: Facebook | Twitter


(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Public domain characters

What do Robin Hood, Santa Claus, Dracula, Captain Nemo, Sherlock Holmes, Doc Strange, King Arthur, and John Carter of Mars have in common? They’re all popular characters who are in the public domain, which means you can legally make movies about them without any copyright issues.

If you’re just starting out, using recognisable characters has a lot of advantages. People who don’t know you or your work will be more inclined to check out what you’re doing if they feel like they know something about the film to start. It also gives you an immediate head start when it comes to telling your story; you don’t need to fill in the back story, but you can just get straight to something new and individual. When we were starting out in machinima, our first movie was a James Bond film, which immediately attracted far more attention than if we’d just made a generic action thriller. (Though don’t use James Bond - he’s copyrighted, and we subsequently had to take the film down.)

You don’t have to use them as the main characters - you can just as effectively use them as minor characters or background characters to set the scene. A story set “in the days of King Arthur” tells your audience right away what to expect: chivalry, a bit of magic, and some mythology. You’re effectively adding your movie to the existing canon of stories in that world. That’s how most Cthulhu Mythos stories work: they have fresh characters, but just make reference to the Old Ones or the Necronomicon to give the reader context.

If you want to be a little different, you can dig up an obscure character and completely reinvent them. You’ll have an interesting body of work you can draw on for inspiration, but at the same time you can change anything you like. If you pick a character like The Black Bat or Airboy, you’ll probably find a small nice audience who will immediately want to see what you did. Reinventing characters has worked well countless times. That’s what Alan Moore did with Swamp Thing, and what Neil Gaiman did with Sandman; both forgotten minor comic book characters who went on to become huge (though those were both done under the auspices of DC Comics, rather than being public domain). If you browse around, you’ll find all sorts of characters you can legitimately use.

And if you really want, you can plagiarise whole stories. Project Gutenberg is full of public domain works, or else look at old pulp magazines. You’ll find horror, action, Westerns, science fiction, adventure - pretty much anything you can imagine. You have a ready-made story, instantly. There’s no shame in it - 50% of Hollywood movies are based on books. It also gives your movie a certain air of authority when you can open with the credit “Based on the story by…”

There’s still plenty of creativity involved in using public domain sources. You still have to make that character or that story your own. It’s your dialogue, your characterisation, your filming. In some ways, that presents its own challenges.

Sources of public domain characters


(4) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, January 03, 2011

Machinima 2011

We’re starting to compile a list of events where machinima is accepted; contests, film festivals, screenings, and so on. Some are explicitly for machinima, others are broader events where machinima is accepted. Please note that submissions for some of these events may already be closed.

Jan 22Pacifica, CaliforniaCoastside Teen Film Festival
Feb 18-20Online48 Go Green Contest
Mar 4-13Byron Bay, Australia5th Byron Bay International Film Festival
Mar 10-13Miami, FloridaFilmapalooza at the Miami International Film Festival
AprilKAZV-TV, CaliforniaCalanifest
AprilOnlinePop Art Lab Machinima Contest
May 10-13Malmo, SwedenNordic Game
June 18Broomfield, ColoradoMachinima Fest
Aug 7-11VancouverSIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival
Sept 2-5Atlanta, GeorgiaDragonCon machinima stream
SeptOnline48 Hour Film Project
NovOnlineMachinima Expo 2011
NovOnlineThe Ollies Awards 2011
tbcAmsterdam / OnlineMa Machinima International Festival

This is just a list of festivals and contests that have explicitly said they’re open for (or dedicated to) machinima. Other mainstream film or animation festivals may well accept machinima too. There are extensive lists of film festivals and animation festivals on wikipedia. 

If you hear of other events, or if you’re running an event, please let us know and we’ll add them to the list.  We’re interested in everything from small local contests to major international festivals. We’ll aim to update this list at least once a month.

(There’s also a list of machinima festivals up there, but it’s in sore need of updating. So if anyone feels like spending an hour on wikipedia…!)

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

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