Alex Garland wrote The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Dredd, and now, his first film a a director, Ex Machina. Alex Garland is passionate about art, high and low. And with his first film as a director, he has hit a subtle home run. He spoke to David Poland about the film, the process, and his artistic ambitions.
Three costume designers with projects at the Tribeca Film Festival walk us through their methods.
Movie magic doesn’t just happen. Certainly it doesn’t for the wardrobe department, and certainly not when the costume designer is operating on the sort of shoestring budget enjoyed by many independent film teams, which is to say a relatively small one.
“The standard [costume design budget], depending on the requirements, is anywhere between $9,000 and $20,000. I don’t remember exactly, but this was on the lower end,” said costume designer Ciera Wells of her new film, “The Wannabe.” ”But it’s always hard; it’s never enough money.”
“The Wannabe,” which documents the cocaine-fueled rise and fall of a couple (played by Patricia Arquette and Vincent Piazza) chasing a mob lifestyle in early ’90s Queens, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week. Malgosia Turzanska said she too was working on a sub-$20,000 budget for “When I Live My Life Over Again,” a family drama focused on an aging crooner (Christopher Walken) and his musically gifted but professionally stymied daughter Jude, played by Amber Heard.
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As the U.S. movie industry gets its swagger back, many believe that making history will send a message to the world
Ask a film executive or moviemaker about box office records and they’ll typically react like an awkward baseball slugger. “Shucks,” they’ll mutter. “We’re going to take our best swing and if it happens, it happens.”
That isn’t the case this summer, or this year, both of which have historic implications for Hollywood.
When Disney and Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” opens on May 1, it’s likely to go over $207 million and be the biggest opening weekend for a movie ever. It’s the first in a string of super sequels expected to drive a record $4.75 billion in grosses this summer. And that will put 2015 on pace for the biggest year ever at the domestic box office, topping $11 billion for the first time.
His confidence is based on a muscular summer slate stocked with sequels that include the long-awaited “Jurassic World” and “Ted 2” from Universal, “Terminator: Genisys” and Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” from Paramount and Warner Bros.’ Plus there’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” from George Miller starring Tom Hardy.
“Ours is very much a momentum business, where a run of hits can get people talking and it snowballs,” Foster said. “On a larger scale, that’s true of this year, because such a big deal was made out of 2014 being down, and the fact that if 2015 didn’t work, it would be a really big problem,” Foster said.
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Working with inexperienced actors takes a little bit more patience – here’s a few tips when working with newbies.
Employees can give the video a realistic charm, but when they aren’t trained actors they may have problems moving naturally on camera. Even an inexperienced actor who nailed the audition could have a rough time on set.
Regardless of whether your talent is having a difficult time acting out a scene or giving an interview, one fantastic technique to try is to distract them from the fact that they are on camera. It takes a lot of patience to grab your talent’s attention and keep them focused.
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Sometimes you should just let the highlights go.
More so than anything else that I do day to day, color grading has helped to improve my understanding and approach to cinematography immensely – and one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the years is that you shouldn’t always protect your highlights.
WHAT DO I MEAN BY PROTECTING THE HIGHLIGHTS?
Essentially what I’m referring to is the practice of exposing your image for the highlights (or hotspots) in the frame to ensure nothing clips. In a scenario where you have an actor standing in front of a bright window, exposing for the highlights would mean that you bring your exposure down low enough that the window isn’t blown out at all. This technique has become extremely popular amongst filmmakers (especially those from a DSLR background), simply because blown highlights on certain cameras can look absolutely awful, and underexposing is one of the simplest ways to get around it. The only problem is that this approach can often yield results that are just as bad, if not worse than letting those hot spots clip.
In an ideal world, you want every shot that you capture to be perfectly exposed. You don’t want to crush your shadows too much (otherwise you will lose shadow detail), but at the same time you don’t want your highlights to clip unnecessarily either. Unfortunately though, unless you are shooting in an ultra flat lighting situation – chances are either the highlights or the shadows are going to clip. And more often than not (at least for daytime work) it’s the highlights.
Practically any daytime interior or exterior shot that you capture is going to have some bright highlights that may become overexposed. This may be a window, a reflection, a white wall or any other number objects or sources. Even night time shots will have hotspots, usually in the form of bright light sources such as lamps or street lights that are prone to clipping. These types of shots can be a challenge to work around, but there are certainly ways to deal with them and still achieve a nice image… That said, your best bet usually doesn’t involve underexposing your entire shot.
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Christopher Nolan reflects on the steps of his career and how he moved from a small no budget film to increasingly big productions.
As an interview subject, Christopher Nolan is an expert diplomat: He’s great at sounding forthright while not saying anything particularly revealing. But, holding forth on his career in an hour-long conversation with Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller at the Tribeca Film Festival last night, the Dark Knight and Inception director did open up at a couple of points. Maybe it was the fact that he was talking shop with a fellow filmmaker, but Nolan seemed refreshingly reflective, particularly as he discussed some of the opportunities he’d been given in his career.
“If there’s one thing that I’ve been fortunate in, in my development as a filmmaker, it’s that I’ve always worked at a comfortable scale,” Nolan said. “I started very very small [with the no-budget feature Following]. Then, after I had done Following … I was able to show people the script for Memento, and it had a similarly nonlinear structure. It was a difficult script to read on the page, but Following was a clear illustration of how it might work onscreen.” Making the $3.5 million Memento, Nolan said, “was a huge leap. That was the moment in which you had to just turn up for work and see all these trucks, and all these people hanging around and this huge machine, and go, ‘Okay, I’m just diving in now.’” The success of that film then provided Nolan with his entrée into studio filmmaking, but at a more modest scale — with the moody crime drama Insomnia, which “was a very comfortable first step up — as a first studio film, my first time working with huge stars like Robin Williams, Hilary Swank … Doing my first studio film in that way was a key part of gaining the confidence to ignore the huge machinery, and not feel the weight of that every time you told somebody where to put the camera.”
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In “Getting There: A Book of Mentors”, the lauded creator candidly revewals his years of struggle and his eventual path to success.
I remember studying Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “Kubla Khan” in high school. According to Coleridge, upon waking from a deep, opium-induced reverie, he recalled a vision and immediately wrote the 54 famous lines. But when we started doing the poetic analysis, it became clear that there was no way this poem came out all at once. It has this amazing structure. We learned from letters and notes that had been discovered that it was likely Coleridge had not only worked on “Kubla Khan” for several months, but that he also sent it to friends for feedback.
Artists frequently hide the steps that lead to their masterpieces. They want their work and their career to be shrouded in the mystery that it all came out at once. It’s called hiding the brushstrokes, and those who do it are doing a disservice to people who admire their work and seek to emulate them. If you don’t get to see the notes, the rewrites, and the steps, it’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that. People who are young, or still struggling, can get easily discouraged, because they can’t do it like they thought it was done. An artwork is a finished product, and it should be, but I always swore to myself that I would not hide my brushstrokes.
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Lucas directed the original Star Wars with static cameras like a fable – JJ Abrams may be bringing the look of Star Wars more down home.
One of the first sights in the new trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is a massive, collapsed spaceship, gray and imposing like the remains of a city — looking, in that way sci-fi can, at once both ancient and futuristic.
Because Star Wars is part of the cultural vernacular in an almost scriptural way, many recognized the ship as a Star Destroyer, the flagship cruiser of the Imperial fleet — mega bad news if you see one coming your way. By sticking that ship in the dirt, The Force Awakens writer-director J.J. Abrams follows a path mapped out in his previous films, most prominently the installments of the rebooted Star Trek: He’s grounding his space escapades in our world, or at least in a recognizable version of it.
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