5 Pointers for Directing Non-Actors

I cut my teeth in directing by working in the local cable industry. In case you don’t know what that is… think of the worst possible commercial you’ve seen for your local Kia dealership… Yeah… I made those.

But one of the most useful skills I picked up in the local cable business is knowing how to pull a decent performance from virtually anyone. True, we’re not expecting Deniro to emerge from someone that has never been on camera before, but gentle coaching and patience can usually end with a good result. Even though the majority of time when you’re working with non-actors will be on industrials (commercials, sales videos, training videos, etc.), these tips can be applied to all directing situations.

1. Assess the Situation

The first thing you need to know before going into any project is what you want to accomplish. This seems like straight forward advice but it is something that can be easily lost when dealing with clients and their expectations.

If you’re producing a commercial, what is the goal of the commercial? (beyond just selling stuff) Are you looking to establish the brand in a certain way? Are you trying to convey the business’s personality? If you’re shooting an industrial or training video, what are the important points you want to get across?

Now take a good look at the non-actor you’re trying to direct. Most of the time, he or she is there because they have a relationship to the producer/client (an employee or child of the guy paying the bills) and they’re working for free. Regardless of the reason why they’ve been selected to be on camera, try to find the strengths and weaknesses and determine how best to showcase the strengths on camera and hide the weaknesses.

What are you looking for exactly? You’re looking for personality traits – how does this person move? Does he or she speak with a lot of hand gestures? Is he or she comfortable reading or better off the cuff? You’ll also want to look at physical traits – try to find the best “side” and adjust your lighting to bring out your subject’s best features.

Now the first time you meet the person may be on set, so you’ll have to quick to adapt your strategy.

2. To Teleprompter or Not to Teleprompter

Memorizing lines is every non-actor’s worst fear (even though accuracy of lines is often the least important thing to capture on camera). The actual act of reciting lines is so terrifying to some that it can actually freeze them up entirely.

But a teleprompter (or low tech equivalent: cue cards) isn’t always the answer. Some people are simply terrible readers as all emotion and inflection drain out of their voice when reading a passage.

If you are doing a long presentation with a lot of precisely worded scripting, you have very little choice but to use a teleprompter. But if you are working with an environment where the script is a little looser and on camera personality is key, it may be a good idea to take away the crutch of the teleprompter/cue card and let the person speak from their our memory (we’ll have more tips on precisely this in a bit).

3. Make the Talent Feel Comfortable and Safe

I’m going to start using the word “talent” now and not in a sarcastic way. It’s easy to look down at non-actors who can’t act as “talent-less” but that is how you end up going nowhere. Everybody is capable of acting in one way or another. You’re job is to coax that person to deliver the information you want (which you know inside and out because you assessed the situation in pointer 1) in a natural way.

And you do your job by first making the talent feel comfortable and safe. What does that mean exactly? This will be different for every individual. Sometimes this means getting the talent a bottle of water and giving them the “star treatment” (goodies from “craft services”).

Does the talent feel more comfortable sitting behind a desk? Or does he feel better with a coffee cup in his hand? Or does she like to use her hands to talk? Script permitting, you want to put your talent in the most comfortable setting.

If you can eliminate the slate clapper it can help take the pressure off the talent. Some actors use the standard “Roll Camera, Sound, Slate, and… Action!” as a way to get pepped up for a scene but to a non-actor, that pressure can get wound up into a ball and come out as a flubbed line.

Depending on the situation, I sometimes drop the word “action” and go with, “take it away” or “whenever you’re ready” and let the talent begin when he/she is most comfortable. Generally when working with non-actors, the beginning is always the hardest.

Sometimes getting the talent to feel comfortable is a matter of stripping the set of all non-essential personnel. Knowing that a dozen people are watching you is a lot more stressful to a non-actor than just the director and camera operator. Sometimes, a particular person’s presence will cause the stress.

There’s an infamous story that will follow me around for the rest of my career: I was shooting a cooking segment with two women. One of the woman’s mother was sitting in an adjacent room with the door open between us. In between takes, the mother would chime in with notes on every little thing, “Why are you calling it a spring salad?” “I think you should tell us how many ounces of nuts you put in that?”… it was getting frustrating and I could see the talent getting ruffled.

I got up from my camera and walked to the door and said, “There’s a lot of noise coming from this room” and closed the door on the mother like Michael Corleone did to Annie Hall at the end of Godfather.

Now you don’t need to act like a mob boss when running a set and not all scene kibitzers have the same overt stress effect on the talent. Some times you can ask the stress causing person to handle a different task (make busy work) or just be direct and tell them, “I think you’re making the talent nervous could you come back in a couple of hours.” Most people are understanding.

3. Never Never NEVER get Frustrated

Along the same lines of making sure the talent feels safe and comfortable, you as the director must be in a constant state of calm and support. You must never let your talent feel like you are not on their side – even if every filmmaking instinct and fiber in your core screams at you “this person stinks on ice” never let that show in how you interact with your talent.

Also never let any frustration with anything else get through as this will also make the talent nervous.

Instead, always focus on the positive aspects of the performance. What went right? Be constructive in your criticism. Instead of saying, “that wasn’t very good”, say, “let’s do it again, but this time I want you to do X, Y, Z”: Specific and direct criticism with actionable instructions.

Sometimes you can even lay blame on the technical people (but in jest) as a way to alleviate the pressure from the talent. You can say, “That was the cameraman’s fault, let’s do it again” – just be sure the cameraman is professional enough to handle it.

4. Fix it in Post

Yes these are the four most evil words that can ever be uttered on a set. But there is also the adage that “Editing makes good actors into great actors”. The trick is to making something “fixable” in post is providing sufficient material for your editor to make your talent’s performance something good.

The first and best tip is to break down long bits of monologue/dialog in workable chunks. Here’s where you’re homework comes into play. You need to know where the logical breaks are in the script – where does one thought end and another one begin?

Breaking down large sections into doable chunks is also great for talent who have trouble memorizing lines. You can coach a single part of the script by having the talent take a single piece of the script and repeating it in his or her own words. Sometimes you may need to have them parrot back a line in order to get started. For instance, if you have someone giving a presentation on Dental Implants, you could ask the talent to parrot back, “Dental Implants are advantageous because…” and let them finish the thought.

If you have access to two cameras can also help your editor fix things in post. If you have one camera on a medium shot and the second camera from the same angle on a tight closeup, you will have a lot of freedom to cut in between the two different shots easily stitching a performance out of multiple takes.

And remember to have plenty of Graphics and B-Roll to lay over the edited performance.

5. Have Fun

Filmmaking is the funnest of the performing arts. What other performing art field can you screw up and just do it again? (okay, maybe music production). If you’re working with a non-actor, that person should also feel the fun of being in a production. Sure, they may be nervous about remembering the lines or looking good on camera, but at the end of the day, you want the production to be an overall positive experience for your talent.

Who knows, maybe the acting bug will catch… and maybe the next time you work with that person, they’ll have some training and deliver an outstanding performance.

20 Computer Interfaces from the Movies, Can You Name Them?

Access Main Computer File is a great site I came across while surfing the interwebs. They showcase images of computer GUI (Graphic User Interfaces) from Hollywood Movies.

So how many of these interfaces do you recognize (you can cheat by looking at the image title when hovering over)? For the answers and a ton more images check out their site. Once there, mouse over the pictures to see the movie name and year.

Before we begin, this would also be a good time to watch the “Let’s enhance” montage of faux image enhancement scenes in movies.

The Early Short Films of David Lynch

These short films are a must-see for fans of the legendary filmmaker David Lynch. The films are listed in chronological order, with brief descriptions of each film.

A DVD containing these and other early Lynch films can be purchased here.

Six Figures Getting Sick (Six Times) – 1966

1966 Six Figures Getting Sick (Six Times) Originally untitled, “Six Men Getting Sick” is a one-minute color animated film that consists of a continuous loop shown on a sculptured screen of three human shaped figures (based on casts of Lynch’s own head as done by Jack Fisk) that intentionally distorted the film. Lynch’s animation depicted six people getting sick: their stomachs grew and their heads would catch fire.

Lynch made this film during his second year at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. The school held an experimental painting and sculpture exhibit every year and Lynch entered his work in the Spring of 1966. The animated film was shown on “an Erector-set rig on top of the projector so that it would take the finished film through the projector, way up to the ceiling and then back down, so the film would keep going continuously in a loop. And then I hung the sculptured screen and moved the projector back till just what I wanted was on the screen and the rest fell back far enough to disappear” (Chris Rodley, editor, Lynch on Lynch). Lynch showed the whole thing with the sound of a siren as accompaniment. The film cost $200 and was not intended to have any successors. It was merely an experiment on Lynch’s part because he wanted to see his paintings move. (1 minute animation loop repeated 6 times)

The Alphabet – 1968

1968 The Alphabet Combines animation and live action; A simple narrative structure relating a symbolically rendered expression of childhood and aging. (4 minutes)

The idea for “The Alphabet” came from Lynch’s wife, Peggy Reavey, a painter whose niece, according to Lynch in Chris Rodley’s Lynch on Lynch book, “was having a bad dream one night and was saying the alphabet in her sleep in a tormented way. So that’s sort of what started ‘The Alphabet’ going.” Based on the merits of this short film, Lynch was awarded an American Film Institute production grant and became a minor celebrity.

The Grandmother – 1970

1970 The Grandmother After the success of “The Alphabet”, one of Lynch’s friends, Bushnell Keeler recommended that he check out the American Film Institute. Keeler’s brother-in-law had been involved in setting up the AFI. Lynch submitted “The Alphabet” and wrote a script for a short film entitled, “The Grandmother.” He sent the script and a print of “The Alphabet” to the AFI in Washington. Lynch got a call from George Stevens, Jr. and Tony Vellani at the AFI who wanted to know if Lynch could make “The Grandmother” for $5,000 (it eventually cost $7,200).

The short film combines live action, and animation again. The story revolves around a boy who grows a Grandmother to escape neglect and abuse from his parents. Silent (no dialogue) with soundtrack cues used to convey story.

The music in the film was provided by a local group known as Tractor and marked the first time Lynch would work with Alan R. Splet who was recommended to the filmmaker by the soundman on “The Alphabet”. Initially, Lynch and Splet intended to use a collection of sound effects records for the film but after going through them all they found that none of them were useful. So, Lynch and Splet took 63 days to make and record their own sound effects.

After finishing “The Grandmother”, Lynch took the film to be shown at the AFI in Washington, D.C. The head of the AFI at the time, George Stevens, Jr. found that after all the films had been categorized, only Lynch’s defied easy categorization. Stevens and Vellani recommended that Lynch apply to the AFI’s Center for Advanced Film Studies. This was a filmmaking conservatory that Vellani had recently started in Beverly Hills. Lynch and Splet both applied for scholarships and on the strength of “The Grandmother” (which won awards at film festivals in Atlanta, Belleview, and San Francisco) they were accepted into the program. (34 minutes)

The Amputee – 1974

1974 The Amputee Made for the American Film Institute while Eraserhead was in financial limbo. The AFI was testing two different stocks of black and white video and enlisted Frederick Elmes to test each one. Lynch asked Elmes if he could shoot something with this stock and so he and Catherine Coulson stayed up all night writing script. The result was a one shot scene with Catherine Coulson about a woman attempting to write a letter while a female nurse (played by Lynch) tends to her leg stumps. (two versions 5 minutes/4 minutes)

The Cowboy and the Frenchman – 1988

1988 The Cowboy and the Frenchman Slapstick made for French Television as part of the series The French as seen by… by French magazine Figaro. With Harry Dean Stanton, Frederic Golchan, and Jack Nance. (26 minutes)

Premonitions Following an Evil Deed – 1996

1996 Lumière: Premonitions Following an Evil Deed Originally included in the 1995 film Lumière et compagnie. Forty acclaimed directors created works using the original Cinematographe invented by the Lumière brothers (52 seconds)

Tarantino vs Coen Brothers

Leandro Copperfield spent 10 days watching all their films and selected more than 500 scenes to create this Quentin Tarantino vs. Joel and Ethan Coen montage.

Filmlist …

Dir.: Joel and Ethan Coen:
Blood Simple (1984)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Miller’s Crossing (1990)
Barton Fink (1991)
Fargo (1996)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
No Country for Old Men (2007)
Burn After Reading (2008)
A Serious Man (2009)

Dir.: Quentin Tarantino:
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Jackie Brown (1997)
Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Death Proof (2007)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Audio Copyright Notices:

These Boots Are Made for Walkin’by Nancy Sinatra remains courtesyWarner Music Group Corp, ® 1966.
‘Surfin’ Bird’ by The Trashmen remains courtesy Garrett Records, Apex, ® 1963.
‘Coconut’ by Harry Nilsson remains courtesy RCA Records, ® 1971
‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ by Santa Esmeralda remains courtesy of Universal Music Group, ® 1964.
‘Paint it Black’ by The Rolling Stones remains courtesy of Warner Music Group Corp, ® 1966.

John Hughes Commentary: The Museum scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

This is a small clip of John Hughes talking about the museum scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. According to Hughes, the scene at the Art Institute of Chicago was “a self-indulgent scene of mine — which was a place of refuge for me, I went there quite a bit, I loved it. I knew all the paintings, the building. This was a chance for me to go back into this building and show the paintings that were my favorite.” The museum had not been shot in, until the producers of the film approached them. “I remember Hughes saying, ‘There are going to be more works of art in this movie than there have ever been before,’” recalled Jennifer Grey.

10 Strange Filmmaking Terms Explained


So, WTF is a Slurpasaur? Today with the help of Wikipedia we explain that and nine other strange filmmaking terms. Evey industry and profession has its own slang, but the movie industry seems to be a little more creative in their lingo.

This is a first in a series of articles where we define terminology, techniques, job titles and more. Stay tuned…


“Slurpasaur” is a nickname given to optically enlarged reptiles (and occasionally other animals) that are presented as dinosaurs in motion pictures.

Concurrently with Willis O’Brien and others in making stop-motion animated dinosaurs since the early days of cinema, producers have used optically enlarged lizards, often with horns and fins glued on, to represent dinosaurs, to cut costs, and to present a living analog to dinosaurs, despite huge morphological differences between dinosaurs and reptiles. The first film that used reptiles dressed as dinosaurs was D.W. Griffith‘s Brute Force. Various slurpasaurs appeared in the 1929 film version of The Mysterious Island, the 1933 British film Secret of the Loch, and the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. The first major use of the slurpasaur was in One Million B.C. (1940), which included a pig dressed as a triceratops, with the special effects in this film re-used often, such as in the 1955 movie King Dinosaur.

Other notable films with slurpasaurs include Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) and The Lost World (1960). The former featured reptiles with attached tall spinal fans, simulating Dimetrodons and looked superficially similar to those creatures, as Dimetrodons have a low slung body structure more reminiscent of lizards than many other dinosauria. The latter is notable for a dinosaur battle wherein a monitor lizard and a young alligator engage in an unsimulated, fierce battle. On the 1960 Lost World, O’Brien, who did the stop-motion dinosaurs for the original, was hired as the effects technician, but was disappointed that producer Irwin Allen opted for live animals.

Wikipedia: Miniature effect

Fake Shemp

Fake Shemp or simply, “Shemp,” is the term for someone who appears in a film under heavy make-up, filmed from the back, or perhaps only showing an arm or a foot.

The term references the comedy trio The Three Stooges. In 1955, Stooge Shemp Howard died suddenly of a heart attack. At the time, the Stooges still had four shorts left to deliver (Rumpus in the Harem, Hot Stuff, Scheming Schemers, and Commotion on the Ocean), by the terms of their annual contract with Columbia Pictures. By this point in the trio’s career, budget cuts at Columbia had forced them to make heavy use of stock footage from previously completed shorts anyway, so they were able to complete the films without Shemp. New footage was filmed of the other two Stooges (Moe Howard and Larry Fine) and edited together with stock footage. When continuity required that Shemp appear in these new scenes, they used Shemp’s stand-in Joe Palma to be a body double for him, appearing only from behind or with an object obscuring his face. Palma became the original “Fake Shemp,” although the term was not officially in use at the time.

There have been many Fake Shemps over the years, but the most notable ones are Bruce Campbell and Ted Raimi, who have “Shemped” frequently throughout their careers. Both have had “Shemp” cameos in nearly all of Raimi’s movies, most notably in the Spider-Man franchise. Campbell is also known to Shemp in many Coen brothers movies. The Coens were involved in the editing process of The Evil Dead.

In Superman II, there is a Fake Shemp standing in for Gene Hackman during scenes director Richard Lester re-shot in order to earn full director’s credit after Richard Donner was fired during production. Hackman refused to come back and re-shoot scenes upon hearing of Donner’s firing.

Most of the scenes in Trail of the Pink Panther that have Inspector Clouseau in them are actually pieces of reused or previously unused footage from previous films in the series with its star, Peter Sellers, who died two years before the film’s release. The last scene uses a body double and was the only shot with Clouseau that was not done by Sellers.

Wikipedia: Fake Shemp

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee (also Allen Smithee) was an official pseudonym used by film directors who wish to disown a project, coined in 1968. Until its use was formally discontinued in 2000, it was the sole pseudonym used by members of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) when a director dissatisfied with the final product proved to the satisfaction of a guild panel that he or she had not been able to exercise creative control over a film. The director was also required by guild rules not to discuss the circumstances leading to the move or even to acknowledge being the actual director.

The Smithee pseudonym was created for use on the film Death of a Gunfighter, released in 1969. During its filming, lead actor Richard Widmark was unhappy with director Robert Totten, and arranged to have him replaced by Don Siegel. Siegel later estimated that Totten had spent 25 days filming, and he had spent 9-10, and each had roughly equal footage in Siegel’s final edit. But he made it clear that Widmark – rather than either director – had effectively been in charge the entire time. When the film was finished, Siegel did not want to take the credit for it, and Totten refused to take credit in his place. The DGA panel hearing the dispute agreed that the film did not represent either director’s creative vision.

The original proposal was to credit the fictional “Al Smith”, but that was deemed too common a name, and in fact was already in use within the film industry. The last name was first changed to “Smithe,” then “Smithee,” which was thought to be distinctive enough to avoid confusion, but without drawing attention to itself. Critics praised the film and its “new” director, with The New York Times commenting that the film was “sharply directed by Allen Smithee who has an adroit facility for scanning faces and extracting sharp background detail,” and Roger Ebert commenting, “Director Allen Smithee, a name I’m not familiar with, allows his story to unfold naturally.”

Over the years the name and its purpose became more widely known. Some directors violated the embargo on discussing their use of the pseudonym. In 1998, the film An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was released, in which a man named Alan Smithee (Eric Idle) wishes to disavow a film he has directed, but is unable to do so because the only pseudonym he is permitted to use is his own name. The film was directed by Arthur Hiller, who reported to the DGA that producer Joe Eszterhas had interfered with his creative control, and successfully removed his own name from the film, so “Alan Smithee” was credited instead. The film was a commercial and critical failure, grossing only $45,779 in the US with a budget of about $10 million, and the Rotten Tomatoes web site reports an aggregate critical rating of only 8% positive. The harsh negative publicity that surrounded the film drew unwanted mainstream attention to the pseudonym. Following this, the DGA retired the name; for the film Supernova (2000) dissatisfied director Walter Hill was instead credited as “Thomas Lee.”

Wikipedia: Alan Smithee


A MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is “a plot element that catches the viewers’ attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction”. The defining aspect of a MacGuffin is that the major players in the story are (at least initially) willing to do and sacrifice almost anything to obtain it, regardless of what the MacGuffin actually is. In fact, the specific nature of the MacGuffin may be ambiguous, undefined, generic, left open to interpretation or otherwise completely unimportant to the plot. Common examples are money, victory, glory, survival, a source of power, or a potential threat, or it may simply be something entirely unexplained.

The MacGuffin is common in films, especially thrillers. Usually, though not always, the MacGuffin is the central focus of the film in the first act, and then declines in importance as the struggles and motivations of characters play out. It may come back into play at the climax of the story, but sometimes the MacGuffin is actually forgotten by the end of the film.

Multiple MacGuffins are sometimes—somewhat derisively—referred to as plot coupons.

The director and producer Alfred Hitchcock popularized both the term “MacGuffin” and the technique, with his 1935 film The 39 Steps, an early example of the concept. Hitchcock explained the term “MacGuffin” in a 1939 lecture at Columbia University: “[We] have a name in the studio, and we call it the ‘MacGuffin’. It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers”.

Wikipedia: MacGuffin

Cigarette Burns

The 1996 novel Fight Club and its film adaptation of the same name drew attention to cue marks, referring to them as “cigarette burns.” This term is not used in the industry and is not a standard term. In one instance, a filmmaker has used the moniker in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: a 2005 episode of Masters of Horror by John Carpenter is titled “Cigarette Burns“; its plot revolves around film collection and distribution, with the lead character hallucinating cue marks.

Wikipedia: Cue mark


A honeywagon is a mobile toilet unit used in the film and television industry. The legend behind the name ‘honeywagon’ is thought to relate to the ‘honey-colored’ liquid that comes out of it when emptying the holding tanks.

Many are the size of a semi trailer. Some honeywagons will be just two large restrooms. Others are a combination of variously sized rooms for specific purposes. These rooms can be private dressing rooms assigned to a single person, larger rooms configured for the wardrobe, or makeup departments, small individual restrooms for the crew to share, and multiple user or individual shower rooms for bathing.

Wikipedia: Honeywagon

Uncanny Valley

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis regarding the field of robotics. The hypothesis holds that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The “valley” in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot’s lifelikeness.

The term was coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori as Bukimi no Tani Gensh? in 1970, and has been linked to Ernst Jentsch‘s concept of “the uncanny” identified in a 1906 essay, “On the Psychology of the Uncanny”. Jentsch’s conception is famously elaborated upon by Sigmund Freud in a 1919 essay titled “The Uncanny” (“Das Unheimliche“). A similar problem exists in realistic 3D computer animation.

Roboticist Dario Floreano stated that the concept of the uncanny valley is taken seriously by the film industry due to negative audience reactions to the animated baby in Pixar‘s 1988 short film Tin Toy. The 2004 CGI animated film The Polar Express as well as the 2007 CGI animated film Beowulf were criticized by reviewers who felt that the appearances of the characters were “creepy” or “eerie”.

In the 2008 30 Rock episode “Succession“, Frank Rossitano explains the uncanny valley concept, using a graph and Star Wars examples, to try to convince Tracy Jordan that his dream of creating a pornographic video game is impossible. He also references The Polar Express.

In the Doctor Who serial The Robots of Death, a similar concept is referred to as “Grimwade’s Syndrome” which is described as a psychological condition among people with frequent contact with robots, attributed to the robots moving like humans, but without any of the characteristic human body language. In the mind of those afflicted, they appear to be, in the words of the Doctor, “surrounded by walking, talking dead men.”

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Datalore“, Lore initially claims that he was created after Data, saying when Picard asks who was created first, “He was, but they found him to be imperfect, and I was made to replace him.” Later in the episode Lore reveals to Data that, in fact, Lore was created first. He explains that he was so close to human that the human colonists asked his creator to create a less-perfect android, Data. However, Lore is lying, and in a later episode the creator of both androids, Dr. Noonian Soong, tells Data that he is not less perfect than Lore, and says that Lore was deactivated because he was unstable.

The Tachikomas in the anime television series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex worry that the Major dislikes them because of their increasingly human-like personalities, in spite of their tank-like outward appearance, and try to regain her favor by acting more like robots.

Episode 12 (season 5) of Criminal Minds is titled “The Uncanny Valley” and explores the theme through the lens of a serial abductress (and murderess) who chemically paralyzes the women she abducts and treats them like dolls.

In the season 6 episode of Red Dwarf, “Out of Time“, Kryten mentions the Uncanny Valley (though not by name) as the reason his faceted head was designed to look so inhuman. The series of Mechanoids that preceded his were hyper-realistic, and people’s natural revulsion to such realistic-appearing machines severely hurt their sales.

The 1972 satirical thriller The Stepford Wives and its 1975 and 2004 movie adaptations feature, though unmentioned and unexplored, the concept of the uncanny valley. As the story’s protagonist moves to a suburban residence, she notices increasingly uncharacteristic behavior by the women in her community. As they become more and more docile and subject their behavior and ambitions to the needs of their partners, this leads to the protagonist beginning to see a conspiracy where the women are replaced by “gynoid“.

Wikipedia: Uncanny valley


Vorkapich was named after Slavko Vorkapic (English: Slavko Vorkapich). He was a film director and editor, former Dean of USC Film School, painter, and a prominent figure of modern cinematography and film art.

He is best known for his montage work on Hollywood films such as Viva Villa (1934), David Copperfield (1935), San Francisco (1936), The Good Earth (1937), and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). In October 2005, the DVD collection Unseen Cinema: Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941 was released and included a one-minute montage sequence Vorkapich did for the otherwise lost film Manhattan Cocktail (1928), directed by Dorothy Arzner.

The now-common montage sequence often appeared as notation in Hollywood scripts of the 1930s and 40s as the “vorkapich” because of his mastery of the dynamic visual montage sequence wherein time and space are compressed using a variety of editing techniques and camera moves. Vorkapich used kinetic editing, lap dissolves, tracking shots, creative graphics and optical effects for his stunning montage sequences for such features as Meet John Doe, Maytime, Crime without Passion, Manhattan Melodrama, and Firefly. He created, shot, and edited these kinesthetic montages for features at MGM, RKO, and Paramount.

Wikipedia: Slavko Vorkapic

Mull of Kintyre Test

The Mull of Kintyre test was an unofficial guideline said to have been used by the British Board of Film Classification in the United Kingdom to decide whether an image of a man’s penis could be shown.

The BBFC would not permit the general release of a film or video if it depicted a phallus erect to the point that the angle it made from the vertical (the “angle of the dangle”, as it was often known) was larger than that of the Mull of Kintyre, Argyll and Bute, on maps of Scotland.

According to Professor John Hoyles of the University of Hull, the guideline was adopted by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in 1992. Hoyles presented it as “the male performer’s penis must never appear more than slightly tumescent”. The Scottish lawyer Richard Findlay had previously alluded to it in a 1999 interview with Annette McCann. This test was subsequently adopted by UK television broadcasters and by some print publishers.[citation needed]

According to writer Emily Dubberley, the rule hampered the 1990s trend toward feminist pornography; since “you couldn’t show a man in a state of arousal”, the allowed depiction was “hardly a turn-on”, and she criticized it as a double standard that was permitted due to the perception that women did not respond to visual erotic stimuli.

In 2000, a BBFC spokeswoman commenting upon the criteria that the BBFC uses for classification denied that this test existed.

By 2002 the BBFC had largely abandoned its restrictions on the depiction of a tumescent penis. The rule is thought to have first been broken on UK television by a 2003 Channel 4 series entitled Under the Knife with Miss Evans.

Wikipedia: Mull of Kintyre test

Martini Shot

Martini Shot is a Hollywood term that describes the final shot set-up of the day. According to Dave Knox, author of the film industry slang guide Strike the Baby and Kill the Blonde, the Martini Shot was so named because “the next shot is out of a glass“, referring to a post-wrap drink.

Other named shots include:

The Abby Singer Shot – The 2nd to last shot (named after an Assistant Director Abby Singer)
The Marislasis – The 3rd to last shot (named for Elian Gonzales‘ aunt)
The Maya Angelou – The 4th to last shot (origin unknown)
The Lou Nidus – The shot before lunch (origin unknown).

Wikipedia: Martini Shot

Kubrick vs Scorsese

Leandro Copperfield spent 25 days watching 34 films and selected more than 500 scenes to create this Stanley Kubrick vs. Martin Scorsese montage.

Lists of films used …

Dir.: Stanley Kubrick

Day of the Fight (1951)
Fear and Desire (1953)
Killer’s Kiss (1955)
The Killing (1956)
Paths of Glory (1957)
Spartacus (1960)
Lolita (1962)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
The Shining (1980)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Dir.: Martin Scorsese

Mean Streets (1973)
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)
Taxi Driver (1976)
New York, New York (1977)
Raging Bull (1980)
The King of Comedy (1982)
After Hours (1985)
The Color of Money (1986)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Goodfellas (1990)
Cape Fear (1991)
The Age of Innocence (1993)
Casino (1995)
Kundun (1997)
Bringing Out the Dead (1999)
Gangs of New York (2002)
The Aviator (2004)
The Departed (2006)
Shutter Island (2010)

Build a DIY Ring Light

A ring light is a circular panel of light that goes around the outside of the camera lens to get create a full, soft, shadow-less light on the subject matter. Used in photography, the use of a ring light has become a popular stylistic choice in the fashion/commercial filmmaking styles. Here’s an tutorial on how to make your own Ring light and an example of the stunning look it creates.

Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold

Much of the TV, video, film and sport we watch is sponsored by a brand, a product, a corporation. But … why? With humor and persistence, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock dives into the hidden but influential world of brand marketing, on his quest to make a completely sponsored film about sponsorship. And yes, this talk was sponsored too. By whom and for how much? He’ll tell you.


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