A while ago I started a blog series to deconstruct my blogroll of the sites and people that I follow. These are the places I go to for information, tips, and tricks about filmmaking.

First off, sorry for not posting last week.
For this week I’m covering some of the forums I frequent. planet5D (planet5D.com) and cinema5D (cinema5D.com) both are (or at least started out as) DSLR centric filmmaking forums. But, both now are focused on general filmmaking. REDUSER (reduser.net) is a forum that covers… you guessed it… RED. I visit a lot of different forums, but these are three that I visit more often.

planet5D

planet5D-new-logo-Newsplanet5D is a filmmakers one-stop-shop. This site does everything. planetMitch (@planetMitch), a filmmaker from St. Louis, runs the site. The main body of the site is curated with reviews, inspiration, interviews, and tutorials on filmmaking and film gear.

 

 

 

 

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It wasn’t always about everything, at the root of the site lives an amazing forum. And that’s what brought be to planet5D in the first place. It’s one of the most active forum ecosystems out there. Topics cover anything you’d need as a filmmaker in production. There is more coverage of DSLR based issues, but the community has evolved into a great resource for asking/answering questions and finding information about the art of making video.

REDUSER

red_logoREDUSER is another really active forum community. But, unlike other options, REDUSER focuses solely on RED. While this may seem limiting, if you’ve ever shot on a RED you’ve probably had to troubleshoot it. Which means you’ve more than likely gone to reduser.

 

 

 

 

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I was on a shoot a couple years ago shooting on a RED EPIC and the camera went down. I hopped on REDUSER and had the issue resolved in under 10 minutes. Now, there’s a trick to navigating the site that boils down to one tip: disregard the fanboyism. RED has a huge fan base, which is understandable; but the fanboys can often clog the useful information. If you get through the fanboy barrier, REDUSER is super useful and is supported by an active and supportive community of RED… users…

cinema5D

cinema5d_good_logo_weak_review-165x163Much like planet5D, cinema5D (@c5dnews) started out as a DSLR centric site. but they’ve emerged to become another resource for filmmakers. They are still rooted in DSLR and low-budget filmmaking, but they have a host of options that may appeal to filmmakers at all levels.

 

 

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Unlike planet5D, they have focused more on the forum. And by doing so, they have fostered a community that tale care of each other. This is one of my go-to forums if I need something DSLR or DIY for my rig. Like the previous forums, this one (while tapered down) is rich in user submitted content. cinema5D is one of the forums I frequent often, even as its user-base has slowed down. It has continued to be a valuable resource when looking for more indie related filmmaking tools.

If you’ve got some time go ahead and check out the sites. The admins would love to hear your ideas on how the forums are doing, and you just might learn something. Forums are a great resource, and if you’re looking for something in particular, they’re one of the best options filmmakers have.


At the end of last semester, I wrote an essay comparing various renderings of The Incredible Hulk in cinema. I’ve posted it here for your viewing. Enjoy!

Traditional American super heroes have mysterious beginnings, fantastical powers (or vast wealth), and a proclivity for sticking their noses into situations that would otherwise keep regular citizens at a distance. The Incredible Hulk works better as an accompanying character to a team of heroes, rather than as a stand-alone main character. This is proven both by sales of Hulk comics, and by the three film renderings we have of the Bruce Banner/ Hulk character.

To date, there are four versions of the Hulk character: the original Hulk created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (this includes the 1970’s Lou Ferrigno version), Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk movie, Louis Leterrier’s 2008 film, The Incredible Hulk, and the most current 2012 The Avengers film made by Joss Whedon. Each of the movie versions tries to tell a consecutive story, but the way the character of the Hulk was handled causes inconsistency; and each movie version vastly differs from the original source material. Within the last ten years, the Hulk has been reimagined three times; and while all three versions share commonalities with the Lee/Kirby Hulk, none of them hits the nail on the head with their image of who Bruce Banner and the Hulk are.

The Films:

hulk1 To begin, we must first understand how each version was treated, and we’ll start at the true origin story made Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. By 1962, the United States was deep into the cold war and communism was a severe threat.  Also in 1962, the comic book industry was taking a dive and was losing money; in return they raised overall prices from $0.02 to $0.12 per comic. This was the first price raise since the Great Depression (http://www.mania.com/history-cost-comic-books_article_116449.html). In order to compete with the raising prices and the mass hysteria of the “Red Scare” Lee and Kirby sought to create an iconic antihero that would appeal to a new generation of comic readers. Their solution was The Incredible Hulk. Right from the get-go the Hulk is set up differently from every other hero to date.tumblr_m5fhl4JugN1rur0aro1_1280 Traditionally super heroes had unknown origins and were outcasts from the mainstream to begin with. Before Bruce Banner was hit with the gamma radiation that turns him into the Hulk, he led a seemingly open life and through his interactions with other people in the series, we can assume that he had a plethora of human companions. He wasn’t an orphan, he wasn’t an alien sent to earth, and he wasn’t born with powers that outcast him from society. Being unlike every other super hero made the Hulk truly stand out in the world of comics. Lee said in an interview once, “I had always loved the old movie Frankenstein. And it seemed to me that the monster, played by Boris Karloff, wasn’t really a bad guy. He was the good guy. He didn’t want to hurt anybody. Its just those idiots with torches kept running up and down the mountains, chasing him and getting him angry. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to create a monster and make him the good guy”” (http://www.emanuellevy.com/popculture/incredible-hulk-history-of-a-pop-culture-hero-8/). While the hulk eventually became a popular character, the original series was cancelled after six issues. The Hulk went on to guest star in other series’, such as The Fantastic Four, until he ultimately became a founding member of The Avengers; and by 1968 the character garnered enough global attention to gain his own series back, taking over the Tales to Astonish series.

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66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)

Between the 1960’s and 2003 the Hulk hadn’t really changed. The 1970’s television show was closely tied to the comic books, and doesn’t count as a true reimagining of the story. But in 2003 Ang Lee, who previously directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sense and Sensibility, took hold of the Hulk and made changes to the Hulk that would ultimately prove devastating. The film cost roughly $137 million to produce, and to date has only grossed $241 million worldwide (http://pro.imdb.com/title/tt0286716/business). This version of the Hulk was considered a flop. So, if the character of the Hulk was a favorite in the global market, why did this film fail? Ang Lee made the decision to create a back story that would better align with the definition of a super hero as set forth by John Lawrence and Robert Jewett’s book, The Myth of the American Superhero. ang-lee-hulkLawrence and Jewett define a super hero as “an idealistic loner that has pure motivations and extraordinary powers, but that started out as an outcast from society and has a mysterious past.” But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had purposefully created a character that goes completely against this norm, and when Ang Lee reimagined Bruce Banner/ the Hulk’s back story, it fell short with fans of the comic. Ang Lee altered the back-story so that Bruce Banner had a genetic predisposition to become the Hulk because his father had injected him with a serum that would aide in the mutation process. Banner would eventually be raised as an orphan and have a clouded past. This alteration of the back-story is such a massive change that fans of the comics, and non-fans that still knew the Hulk’s origins, wouldn’t be able to flock to it. Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk film wouldn’t be the last reimagining of Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk.

Leterrier, LouisAng Lee’s Hulk film was left open ended so they could do a sequel; but the movie was such a flop that a straight sequel never happened. By the time Louis Letterier made The Incredible Hulk in 2008 there had been a whole slew of new comic book based movies: Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, The Dark Knight to name a few. In the midst of the comic movie trend Universal decided to bring the Hulk back to life. The best thing to do would be to start from scratch. They almost did that: a new cast, a new director, and new writers. But instead of starting at the Hulk’s beginning, they started in the middle of the story. Basically, The Incredible Hulk picks up where Hulk left off. So when we first see Leterrier’s Hulk, he’s already been transformed and caused mass destruction, he’s now running from the military and is trying to find a cure. The filmmakers could assume that most people know the basic origin of the Hulk and therefore don’t need to see him get injected with gamma radiation. But, picking up where another leaves off and not being a direct sequel is jarring. hulk2-3Instead of completely reimagining the Hulk once more, Leterrier took some of the ideals that Ang Lee was working with and adapted those into his version. The problem with this tactic comes in trying to have a film that makes money. We already know that Ang Lee’s Hulk was a flop. So why would you not get rid of that version altogether? Leterrier’s version of the Hulk is perhaps the most different from the original character as defined by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. This new Hulk is a messy amalgamation of both previous Hulks. Trying to use Ang Lee’s back story, then making the Hulk feel more like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s characteristics didn’t mesh well; and to date the 2008 The Incredible Hulk has only grossed $254 million, less than double the production budget (http://pro.imdb.com/title/tt0800080/business).

josswhedonJump forward to 2012 and Disney has acquired the rights (by buying Marvel Studios) to all Marvel characters, including Bruce Banner and the Incredible Hulk. Disney made a new game plan leading up to the release of Joss Whedon’s 2012 The Avengers film. Disney made a strict effort to release films (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger) that all show the formation of the Avengers. In this way there is a lot of built up hype about the film. So, when the Hulk was introduced in The Avengers it made sense, and the audience was on board. The avenger’s grossed $207 million in the first weekend (http://pro.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/boxoffice); and Bruce Banner/ the Hulk emerged as the audience favorite character (http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/rorschachsrants/news/?a=59452). Joss Whedon’s handling of the Hulk falls somewhere between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s version and his own comedic take on the character. The-HulkLike the 2008 Leterrier adaptation of the Hulk, Whedon chose not to divulge the back-story of Bruce Banner and the Hulk; and for the purposes of The Avengers this makes a lot of sense. Instead, Whedon focuses on how Bruce Banner works to control his rage, therefore taming “the beast within.” In this way, we see the original vision of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby come through; the 1960’s Hulk was all about staying calm in the face of anger and pressure (queue the Cold War). But Whedon also added a new level to the Hulk: comedy. The Hulk has always had humorous lines, but in 2012’s The Avengers he becomes the comic relief, saving the film from taking itself too seriously. In all three film adaptations of The Incredible Hulk there are obvious notes towards Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s intentions, but none of them fit the mold entirely. Part of why they vary so much is because of the casting choices.

The Cast:

            In less than ten years we’ve seen three actors portray the same character. We’ve also seen two of them fail miserably, and the third play a supporting role (as opposed to having his own film). In 2003 Ang Lee casted a relatively unknown Eric Bana; 2008 saw Leterrier work with an A-List actor in Edward Norton, and most recently, we have Whedon’s adaptation in Mark Ruffalo. If we look at the stage of each actor’s career during production, we can easily see what makes for the performance they gave.

Eric_bana_banWhen Ang Lee casted Eric Bana, the actor only had a few roles under his belt, and of those roles he had no leading parts. Bana was a relatively unknown actor; and that plays right into Ang Lee’s mise en scene. Lee has a tendency to work with actors at the start of their careers. Bana’s novice skills, however, came through in Hulk. His performance comes out more suited for a television soap opera than a blockbuster Hollywood film.

ed-norton-as-hulkOn the other end of the spectrum was Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. Norton was, and still is, an A-list actor; previously starring in Fight Club, American History X, and The Illusionist. Norton is known for being a versatile, dramatic actor. Where everything fell apart performance-wise is when Norton did his own re-write of the script. Rumors (which were eventually confirmed) portray working with Norton on The Incredible Hulk as difficult (http://www.slashfilm.com/the-truth-about-edward-norton-vs-marvel/).

the-avengers-mark-ruffalo-bruce-banner-the-incredible-hulkRight in the middle of the two previous castings is Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo is an accomplished actor with a number of roles under his belt. However, he’s not so big that he ends up with a mindset of “I’m above this” (Norton), and not so inexperienced that he comes off as melodramatic (Bana). Combine Ruffalo’s “just right” performance with Whedon’s true-to-heart directing style, and this is the most successful screen version of the Hulk.

The Directing:

Having the right director can make or break a film. The director is in charge of the visual and emotional aspect of a project. In the case of the three Hulk renderings, there are major differences that can be attributed to technology, style, and personal investment in a project.

377898-crouching_tiger_hidden_dragon6Ang Lee is a marvelous director in the genre of drama. All of his films focus on internal conflicts within the characters. He pulls magnificent performances out of actors; and his visual aesthetics are spot on for dramatic pieces. But when you take the Hulk, which is traditionally comedic and action packed, and mix it with Lee’s style, it doesn’t fit.

the_transporterLouis Leterrier’s film is closer to being a successful rendition of the Hulk. It’s action packed, has a top-line cast, and manages to successfully pull off a lot of the drama Ang Lee was aiming for. But, if you look at Leterrier’s previous films: The Transporter, Unleashed; he has a tendency to take action based stories and turn them dark. This aesthetic would be fine for a traditional action film. The dark, gritty antihero that everyone loves watching beat the hell out of things is a solid tactic. However, for a character based off of a comic book, it doesn’t work. Audiences expect comic heroes to have some amount of levity and light, even if the characters are darker characters.

Firefly castIn 2012’s The Avengers, Bruce Banner/ the Incredible Hulk are an important part of the story; but they are ultimately relegated to a support role. Part of this is due to Joss Whedon’s constraints in working with a “team based” film rather than a solo hero. But his treatment of the Hulk allows the audience to see some of the dark side of Bruce Banner and see the pure destructive abilities of the Hulk, and still manages to mix in some levity and comedic elements. This take on the Hulk is most like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s original version of the Hulk; and is the most successful on the big screen. Being a sci-fi/comic geek, Whedon’s attachment to the project is also greater than Ang Lee or Leterrier’s is; which makes for a more personal touch on the film.

There are many factors that play a part in determining whether a film is successful or not. Those factors get multiplied and heightened when it comes to super heroes. Audiences, even if they aren’t lovers of comics, expect a certain quality of performance, script, and action to enjoy a super hero movie. The most successful comic films combine action with comedy; and throw in a touch of drama, just enough to make the story able to stand on its own. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are without a doubt two of the most influential people in the comic book world. Their original Hulk stories are the right mixture of everything a great antihero needs. But because of the fact that the Hulk is an antihero, and goes against standard hero norms, he will always work better as part of a team, than on his own. This is easily proven if you compare the three film versions put out by Ang Lee, Louis Leterrier, and Joss Whedon. On his own, the Hulk breaks too many norms for a mass audience appeal; as part of The Avengers he not only succeeds, but also becomes an audience favorite.


Towards the end of last semester, I really fell behind with updating about my grad school experience. But, it’s a new year, and a new semester, I’m going to pick it back up again.

This semester is going to be a doozy. We’ve got 13 credits (5 classes) and each of them is going to have a heavy workload. As busy as the next 16 weeks is going to be, I’ll do my best to stay current with these weekly posts.

So, this is Semester 2, Week 1; or the 19th week overall. And since it’s the first week, I’ll give you an overview of the courses and teachers I’ve got.

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Story Development

8168925196_9ab55803f5_oStory Development is exactly what it sounds like. This class works in conjunction with the directing program and we’re developing short ideas for our thesis films. We’re also working on short films this semester, that we started developing last semester.

The teacher for us producers is Karen Loop. Last semester her class kicked my ass, but I learned a lot and really improved as a writer and story-teller; so I’m happy to have her again. Joe Steiff, who taught our boot camp back in August, is teaching the directing program. Between Joe and Karen there should be enough expertise and creativity to help us come up with some great ideas for our thesis films.

Critical Analysis of Contemporary Film and Media

large_zoran.samardzijaYes, that’s a mouthful. What is it? It’s basically another Cinema Studies class. But, instead of focusing on the aesthetics of filmmaking, it focuses more on the cultural relevance of films. We’re starting in the 50’s and working forward; we’re analyzing films and how they relate to American culture at the time of their release. We’re looking at different genres and styles, and delving into how they shape current media.

The class is being taught by Zoran Samardzija. We haven’t had him yet; but I had a chance to talk to him at a meet and greet before last semester. The easiest way to describe him is… there is no easy way. But, this should be an interesting (and extremely busy) semester with him.

Line Producing

f48f5f7182ede172e641eec2ee61aafdWe should have had this class last semester; it would’ve helped for the last project. But, it’s still super useful. I’ve done a fair amount of LP work, so it shouldn’t be too difficult, just a lot of paperwork to cover. I haven’t used Movie Magic in a while, so at the very least the review will be great.

Julian Grant is teaching this one. Again, we haven’t had him yet, but I had a chance to talk with him. He’s energetic and really knowledgeable, but I get the feeling he’s a bit of a geek too (which means we should get along). Julian’s also had a really extensive career, so I’m glad to be learning from someone with his experience.

Post-Production

6833053504_524553f04c_oMy student adviser is teaching this one, so I feel like I have an in. It’s a class on, you guessed it, post-production. But because this is a producing program, instead of focusing on editing films ourselves, we’re focusing on the whole post process. We’re looking at each step and how to manage, budget, and schedule them appropriately.

Like I said,  my adviser David Tarleton is teaching this course, he’s super passionate about filmmaking. His energy is a bit infectious. I’m sure I will have many a geekversation this semester.

Cinema Studies II

This class doesn’t start for another 6 weeks, so I’ll get into it more then. But, Karla Fuller is teaching it again. We’ll see how having two analysis classes this semester goes.


So, that’s my classes this semester. Week 1 is over, and things are already getting busy. I’ll keep posting as much as possible though. In the meantime, check out the Creative Producing Marginalia blog written by fellow CP Student, Conor O’Farrell: blogs.colum.edu


Monthly Inspiration is a blog series that’s about what inspires me; filmmakers, styles, actors, scripts… each month, I’ll cover one new piece of inspiration. Hopefully I can turn you on to something that will inspire you as well.

I’ve missed the last few months of Monthly Inspiration, but it’s a new year, and I’m back with a vengeance. Who better to be inspired by this month than indie film’s wet dream, Quentin Tarantino (imdb.com)?

tarantino

My first introduction to Tarantino was in elementary school. My brother came home one summer with VHS copies of Reservoir Dogs (imdb.com) and From Dusk Til Dawn (imdb.com). My parents told me I was too young to watch them, and sent me to bed. But, like any kid who’s told what NOT to do, i did the opposite. I snuck out of my bedroom into the living room and nestled myself between the couch and the wall where no one could see me. In retrospect, 9 may have been a little young for the Tarantino style, but from that point on, I was hooked.

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If you’ve ever seen any of QT’s films you’ll know right off the bat that they’re full of gore, sex, violence, and some of the best dialogue in all cinema. When I was younger I loved films like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction (imdb.com) for the gratuitous violence. But, as I got older, and especially when I really started getting into films and filmmaking, I started appreciating the dialogue more and more. The stories that Tarantino tells are so off-the-wall brilliant that even without the shock and awe visuals, the films would still be magnificent.

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As a writer, Tarantino crafts gritty stories that satirize and spoof everything from the mob (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction), to Nazi’s (Inglorious Bastards (imdb.com)), to Bruce Lee style kung fu films (Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 (imdb.com)(imdb.com)). Most recently he’s turned heads with Django Unchained (imdb.com), a super stylized look into the pre-Cival War south. He’s caught a lot of flak because of the content of Django (many black filmmakers (ie: Spike Lee) have chastised the film for its depiction of slavery); but, it’s an over-the-top satire film done by Quentin Tarantino, not Amistad. Ok, mini-rant over.

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So, outside the films, what’s so inspirational about Tarantino?
He’s more than just a writer/director. He’s also a pretty decent actor, and a great producer. “That’s not so unique anymore though,” you may say. But, what’s awesome about QT as a producer is that is producing credit list isn’t just the films he’s written and/or directed, he goes out of the way to produce films that fit his style that aren’t his babies.

jamie-foxx-frikarte-django-django-unchained

Quentin Tarantino is the iconic filmmaker dream. His first film (Reservoir Dogs) was a Sundance award winner, and that catapulted him to stardom. While he’s become a big name, and has worked on higher budget films, his style hasn’t changed and he still feels like an “indie filmmaker.” So, as a young filmmaker trying to make a name, I can look up to Tarantino and find inspiration in his career, as well in the films that he’s made.

Here’s the trailer for Django Unchained for everyone to enjoy:


CS6_PP_totem_5in_300ppiThe time has finally come, I’ve moved on to CS6 (adobe.com). I know most people already have, but there are a number of factors that have kept me from making the switch, and a lot of reasons why I finally have.

A little about my setup pre-switch:
For the last few years I’ve been primarily working off of my MacBook Pro. It’s a solid computer that I had Final Cut Suite 3 and Adobe CS4 installed on. So far, it’s been getting the job done. I edit on it, I composite on it, and if I ever need a second screen, I can just hook one up. But lately (as in the last 6 months), I’ve been having issues with my programs crashing (mainly just the Final Cut programs). I still use this computer, and will until it completely dies on me.

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Back in August, I got a new iMac. This thing is a beast (at least compared to what I’ve been using). 27″ screen, 32gb of RAM, the works. But I haven’t been fully utilizing it yet. I’ve been wanting to get a copy of FCP Suite3 off of Ebay, but the funds have so far not been at my disposal.

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I’ve never really used Premiere, but I’ve heard good things and decided it was time to give it a try. So, I finally jumped on the cloud wagon and got the whole Adobe suite off their creative cloud. The service is pretty reasonable. For $50/month you get access to the entire suite and whenever there’s an update, you get it automatically. No more need to purchase complete upgrades.

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So now I get all the Adobe tools I usually use (Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects); but I also get to start using some unfamiliar programs (Premiere, Speedgrade). Being new to both Premiere and Speedgrade is weird to use them, but I’m getting the hang of the programs. I still want to get the FCP Suite3, but for now I have a faster system with some more integrated options.

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Part of the reason it’s taken me this long to move over to completely using the iMac is because of the cost of programs. I’m still going to be using my MacBook, so I would need to re-buy all my existing programs to install on the iMac. Jumping on the Adobe Cloud is a good place to start, and I hope to start building up stock on the new system.

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What’s the Verdict?

While I’m still getting used to working with Premiere and Speedgrade, the whole suite is a total upgrade from what I’ve been using. The workflow is simpler and I’m performing actions in half the time. I think part of that is from having a faster computer, but also because of the way CS6 was built.

I’m also really loving all the integration between programs. Because I’m staying all in Adobe programs, it’s easier to jump content from one program to another (AE→Premiere vs. AE→FCP). Working with CS6 has been an easy transition for the other programs that I’ve already been used to, and the new tools streamline my process making it faster to get through an edit.

My next step is to slowly purchase all the programs and plugins I regularly use. I’ve also enrolled in a Udemy class about CS6; I found a discount for the classes that brings the total under $100, so it was perfect timing and I couldn’t pass it up. Working on projects completely off my iMac is the eventual goal, but I’ll be keeping the MacBook around for when I’m in the field.