Tagged: Filmmaking

Three Reasons: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979)

andrei tarkovsky stalker 1979
Believe it or not: Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker is not part of the Criterion Collection, so they can’t do one of their famous Three Reasons videos, but I can. Why? Because I’m above the law. Just kidding. I only watched this classic masterpiece the other day for the first time and since I’m sure there are thousands of reviews about it on the web, I decided to just mention three reasons why I loved it so much. If you enjoy the Three Reasons series you can find more in the new blog section called The Reasons (under Lists). Thanks & Enjoy.  Continue reading

Documentary Analysis: Joshua Oppenheimer & Anonymous’ The Act of Killing (2012)

Spoiler Alert (For Real Life)

This is not a review, but a spoiler-filled discussion of Joshua Oppenheimer and Anonymous‘ (no relation to Occupy Wall Street I’m sure) 2012 documentary feature The Act of Killing. If you haven’t seen this documentary I suggest you watch it first before reading this, to fully appreciate it and be able to weigh-in with your take on it and your ideas. If you don’t care about spoilers or have seen the film: Read on, leave a comment and thank you.  Continue reading

Interview: Shia LaBeouf Discusses Nymphomaniac, His Character Jerôme and Working with Lars von Trier

Normally, I wouldn’t post actors interviews for upcoming (or existing) films. Since however I’m incredibly excited for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac and Shia LaBeouf doesn’t say the usual, expected things in this clip, I thought I’d post it. Zentropa, the Danish studio founded by von Trier and behind Nymphomaniac, has been posting a lot of goodies, so if you are on YouTube I’d recommend subscribing to their channel.  Continue reading

Five Film Clichés We Blindly Believe or Stuff We Simply Absorb From Cinema

cabin in the woods
What better time to discover the philosopher within yourself than the holidays? Increased alcohol consumption, a relaxed atmosphere, lot of time to think about your life. In that spirit I found myself thinking about ideologies or philosophies that filmmakers knowingly or subconsciously work into the stories they tell. A lot of these world views have become so popular, that they almost became staples of storytelling itself, genre tropes, clichés even. Some of those are easy to detect and unmask, like the famous happy ending. Some are more subtle and insinuate themselves into the film through the back door if you will.  Continue reading

Mladen Djordjevic’s The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009)

the life and death of a porno gang
Marko (Mihajlo Jovanovic) is a struggling filmmaker who can’t raise money for his high-concept sci-fi horror adventures. One day out of the blue he meets a vicious porn producer who introduces him to the world of adult filmmaking. Not satisfied with the unsurprising lack of artistic interest in the pornographic community Marko decides to hire a colorful group of adult film actors and set up a traveling sex show. The first porn cabaret, as he likes to call it, turns out to be quite the fiasco. Nobody in Serbia cares about watching a bunch of people fucking each other, while unsubtly promoting some sort of social commentary. The porno gang is struggling. There is no food. They live in the woods. Drugs keep their minds off things. Then one day, Marko meets a snuff film producer. He offers him a deal he can’t refuse: To film murder. Naturally they’re going to kill only people who agree to die and some of the money will go to the deceased’s family. Still, this is the beginning of the end of the porno gang.  Continue reading

Masumura Yasuzō’s Blind Beast (1969)

Aki (Midori Mako) is a beautiful young model that is starting to get some recognition for her work, after working with a talented photographer. Michio (Funakoshi Eij) is a lonely, blind amateur sculptor, still living with his mother (Sengoku Noriko) in a wearhouse turned studio. When Michio hears about Aki’s alleged beauty he has to find out for himself. He goes to the exhibition where Aki’s body is displayed in gorgeous black and white pictures, but being blind he will have to settle for the clay replica of Aki’s sensuous forms. Since he realizes that he’ll never the able to work with her otherwise he decides to disguise himself as a masseur and kidnap the lovely lady. Aki of course doesn’t like being held captive and decides to figure out a way to escape from the sick man’s clutches.  Continue reading

How to get your film to play at the Locarno Film Festival

The new artistic director’s tastes are a bit too obvious when it comes to selecting the films for the festival. So if you’re a young indie filmmaker and you’re thinking to enter the Locarno Film Festival here are a couple tips to make sure your film will be picked up. If you follow all of these I really don’t see how they can turn you down.


Here’s a list of characteristics your film should present if you want it to play in Locarno.

1) Make a film about film
Almost every film I’ve seen at the festival featured references to other films. Some films were about film and filmmaking, commenting on it and the industry or the filmmaking process. So if you want to be sure your film is selected just throw in some references to other films.

2) Do a genre bender
Most films I’ve seen were mixing more than one genre. None of them were straight up dramas, they always borrowed elements from one or more genres. So if you want to be sure your film makes it to Locarno don’t hold back: Throw in every genre you can think of. The more the merrier.

3) Differentiate yourself aesthetically
Nothing is more boring than a standard looking film. Do something crazy visually. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad or even appropriate to the story you’re telling: Just be different. Be bold, they’ll love it.

4) Remember your social commentary
Your film has to have something to say about society, art or life otherwise it’s worth nothing. I joke of course, but they don’t. They want a film that is relevant. Political subject matters are always appreciated, but don’t go with anything as obvious as the holocaust: That stuff is so passé.

5) Go dark
If you can create a dark and depressing mood you’ll win their hearts (maybe even the golden leopard). They love it. It makes your film look deep, even if it isn’t. If you’re not good with mood, try a dark subject matter or a dark color palette, but also remember point 3. Actually, screw it! If you want to respect only one of these points make sure it’s this one. The other ones are fine, but if your film is light, hopeful and god forbid just entertaining you have no fucking chance in hell to get into the festival.

Good luck & please do consider other festivals as well (just in case).

What makes a great movie?


Being a business student, I’ve learned that most people like to simplify. They also like to make figures and diagrams and list thing that start with the same letter, like the 4 Ps in marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotions).

In a similar vein I thought long and hard about what it is that constitutes a great movie, and if it could be narrowed down to a few simple catch phrases. What I came up with is what I like to call the 4 Ms of Movie Magic.

Totally cheesy, I know. Here it goes:

Mise en scène
It already feels like cheating, because it’s not really one word and not all of the words start with an M, but bear with me.
Basically what I mean with mise en scène are all the technical aspects of filmmaking. Thinking in terms of Oscars these would be the so called “technical awards”. Even a ‘bad film can distinguish itself for a superb mise en scène. In other words everything from cinematography, to editing, sound design/mixing, costumes, art direction and direction in general certainly have something to do with it.

Mood? “What does that have to do with anything?” You might ask. Well, the mood of a film comprises everything from the performance to the score, the color palette and the camera angles. It’s usually what we are not able to put our fingers on, but made us fall in love with a picture. Great acting, writing and directing are of course highly influential in how a film will make you feel. This is also very closely connected to another of the 4 Ms namely meaning.

What is the filmmaker trying to say? That’s irrelevant. How you perceive a film is ultimately what counts. It will also determine whether you like a movie or not. If the message seems to speak against personal convictions or beliefs you hold highly the film can be really good in all other departments, but that won’t help much. For example if a film is racist or too “self-righteous” it will never be able to win me over.

A film can be incredibly well crafted and have the most important message, but if there is no personal connection to the film how can one relate? Here’s again where the script comes in: Are the characters real? And the acting: Is it believable? We assign meaning to a film depending where we are in life, what we’ve experienced or even how we feel on that particular day. A film can take on different ‘meanings’ depending on the context it is viewed in.

As you’ve seen this was a bit of an over-simplification, but that’s the definition of schematic thinking.
When all the four Ms work together perfectly you should have a personal favorite film. Critics might consider it best movie of all time, but if you get something out of it and find yourself re-visiting it every so often, that is certainly worth more than what others think of it.

Indie Horror Filmmaker Tim Buel

Today I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Tim Buel’s short horror films are readily available on YouTube. Three of the Californian filmmaker’s shorts have been uploaded so far: Unaired (2009), On That Day (2010) and Outcast (2011). Every one of those is well worth checking out, especially if you’re a genre fan like yours truly.

Unaired (2009) is Tim’s spin on the found footage sub-genre. It revolves around a television crew, shooting a reality show on paranormal phenomena. Much like in Grave Encounters (2011), the troupe ends up being stuck in a real haunted house, unlike that movie (that came out 2 years later) this one shows you less, and that’s why it’s more successful. It’s also half the runtime and overall feels more fresh and fun. The filmmaker realizes the faux documentary angle is a gimmick and understands its limitations, but manages to respect the “rules” the format imposes and doesn’t sway from it.
I watched this one last (I started with On That Day and then went on to Outcast), but I would have to say this is my favorite of his. As a huge fan of the found footage/paranormal sub-genre I’ve seen a lot of formulaic and poorly executed films, but this one is actually quite intense and gripping. It really sucks you in and doesn’t let you go until it’s done, and that’s what you want from a good genre picture. If you know anything about sound design there’s also something for you to appreciate on that level.

On That Day (2010) is Buel’s vision of the classic zombie apocalypse, set in the suburbs. Unlike most zombie flicks in this one the characters are ready for it and seem to be excited about the idea of killing the undead. What sticks out in On That Day is the kickass soundtrack/score, composed by Tim himself. Again, although we’ve seen zombie films a hundred times, this one is definitely done with a lot of feeling, for what works and what doesn’t. Being a sucker for everything with a suburban setting of course I was going to enjoy this one. Clocking in at less than four minutes this is his shortest short.

Changing sub-genre once more with Outcast (2011) Tim does a vampire film. In his own words this is: “A short film about a normal young man who is turned against his will into a creature of the night. He must now live the life he didn’t ask for as an Outcast”. Personally I think that the vampire sub-genre is the trickiest one to succeed in, because of its complexity. This one managed to keep my interest because of the romantic subplot, which was handled and balanced very well with the horror elements in the film. The Trent Reznor-esque score and excellent sound design help enhance the experience, while creating a very specific mood and atmosphere. Being his newest available film I also noticed an improvement in the visual department.

All in all Tim Buel’s films are fun and refreshing takes on old and dusty horror tropes. His shorts distinguish themselves for their tone and atmosphere, but also their heart and genuine love for the genre while combining his passion for music. Besides being multi-talented he also seems like a very likable guy, which translates into his scripts and films in that you like spending time in the worlds he creates. His cameos are always fun to spot and prove that he has a sense of humor. He also seems to have a lot of fun doing these movies with his friends and family, which is always the key ingredient in crafting a successful film, or any piece of art.

Tim Buel is also the co-host of The Golden Briefcase podcast on FirstShowing.net with fellow filmmaker Jeremy K. Kirk. Every week Tim and Jeremy are joined by a guest that is as knowledgeable and charming, to talk new releases, trailers and topics related to the films hitting theaters on the respective weekend. Tune in for great recommendations and get to know their guests, through funny and insightful discussions.

What’s your favorite film shot?

8 1-2

Mine is pretty much a no-brainer, since Federico Fellini my favorite director.

This is a shot from his masterpiece, his 1963 film . To me this is one of the most beautifully composed visuals of all time. It’s just so incredibly haunting and when viewed in the context of the movie it gives me an eerie sense of loss and bewilderment. I almost feel suspended in mid-air myself, like in a dream.