Tony Zhou on editing

Who needs film school when you have Every Frame is a Painting? This couldn’t have come at a better time for me, as I’m getting into the exciting but difficult part of editing The Deadline.

Panel on getting constructive feedback for filmmakers

Hey, I’m speaking on a panel this weekend at CIMMcon in Chicago (the industry conference portion of CIMMfest). The panel is called “Constructive Feedback for Filmmakers (and Other Artists Too!): How to Ask For it and What to Do With It.” I’m a huge fan of getting feedback on scripts through table reads and staged readings, as well as getting feedback on rough cuts, so this should be fun.

Here’s the panel description:

Every Artist has to learn how to get feedback that actually helps their project, not just their ego. This interactive workshop teaches participants how to ask for and give constructive creative input at two critical stages of filmmaking: the script and the rough cut. Award-winning filmmaker and theater producer Keaton Wooden will discuss project feedback with filmmakers Erica Avery and Robert Carter, who participated in IFP Chicago’s intensive Screenwriter’s Workshop. Carter recently completed filming the script from the workshop and the group will put their new-found skills to the test during a live rough cut feedback session. While this panel focuses on film projects, artists of every discipline can apply this approach to their own work.

Full event details are here at the IFP/Chicago site.

Speeding up Adobe Premiere Pro with rendered video previews

I don’t know how I didn’t know about this. I’ve been trying to edit some really high-res footage from The Deadline and Premiere has been dropping frames like crazy (you can hit Ctrl-Shft-F11 to see if frames are dropping). Basically, it’s been really choppy and impossible to get into a good state of editing flow because of the choppiness.

Then I discovered that you can render previews of the footage. Basically, it’s the same as rendering an export, but you’re having Premiere render video to be used within the project. It doesn’t change the underlying source files, but it means that you can work with and edit much smaller preview files and get smoother playback in the monitor.

Here’s how you do it:

You can render any part of a sequence that falls under a red render bar. You can also define a section of the sequence you want to render by setting In and Out points.

Render a preview file for a section of a sequence setting In and Out points:

1. Set In and Out points to mark the area you want to preview.
2. Choose Sequence, and select one of the following:

Render Effects In to Out Renders the sections of the video tracks lying within the In and Out points containing a red render bar. Alternatively, press Enter.

Render In to Out Renders the sections of the video tracks lying within the In and Out points containing either a red render bar or a yellow render bar.

Render Audio Renders a preview file for the sections of the audio tracks lying within the work area.

Note: You can set Premiere Pro to render the audio tracks whenever you render the video tracks. For more information, see Render audio when rendering video.

The rendering time depends on your system resources and the complexity of the segment.

These options are not available if the work area is enabled.

To maximize the quality of motion in rendered preview files, check the Maximum Render Quality option in Sequence Settings. For more information, see Settings.

Oh, and you know those yellow and red lines that you sometimes see on the timeline? Red means that Adobe thinks that you’ll have a hard time playing the footage in the monitor without dropped frames. Yellow means there’s a decent chance of dropped frames. And green (which I’ve never seen until today) means that you’re all good to go.

I feel relieved at finding this and a bit dumb for not finding it earlier.

Claude Chabrol on filmmaking

I still love and find great joy in filmmaking. The part of the job that I love the most is being on set. Thanks to the 50 unlucky people that work with me all the time, they make my joy. When I start shooting I am surrounded by these technicians and actors who do nothing but to make me happy and to share my dream. What can I want more?


Luckily the cinema of filmmaking did not stop with La Nouvelle Vague. Of course there are many young directors that are avant-garde nowadays. I think all over the world there are two kinds of filmmakers: those who have the inner need to make films and those who just want to be in the film industry. The second category doesn’t interest me at all, while the first one is always very interesting. Having said that, I see a lot of movies and two or three per year are very good, but the rest you can forget.

From Claude Chbrol | The Talks.

Joe Swanberg’s Keynote at SXSW on his indie film career and financing his films

I enjoyed this one just as much as the one with Mark Duplass. I really love Joe’s films and while I don’t necessarily work in his style or want to make similar films, I’ve learned a lot from his DIY career approach and the way that he’s making a living as  a filmmaker without giving up creative control.

Wide-angle close ups and the Coen brothers

I’ve watched this EFIAP about eight times now. I watched it about a week before production on The Deadline started and I sent it to Nick the DP and he was like “oh man, I just watched that too!” So we ended up stealing the idea of going wide in close-ups and I’m really happy with the way it came out. You really feel like you’re there with the actors.

When I watch the scene in Tony’s video where the camera changes angles on Roger Deakins, I can actually feel an emotional difference–it’s subtle and probably most people can’t tell, but I think it’s meaningful.

I also like the way they shoot from “inside the space” between the two characters. Personally I don’t like dirty close ups because they take me out of the moment. There’s something ‘off’ about a character talking while we’re looking at the back of their head, and it always takes me out of the moment.

Here’s the video:

And here are some stills from the film. They haven’t been colored yet, but you feel like you’re right there with them. At least I do!Hannah's Import Sync.00_13_01_14.Still008 Hannah's Import Sync.02_34_04_13.Still029 Robert's Import Sync.00_53_03_22.Still015 Hannah's Import Sync.01_10_01_09.Still015


Sidney Lumet on theme

The question “What is this movie about?” will be asked over and over again throughout the book. For now, suffice it to say that the theme (the what of the movie) is going to determine the style (the how of the movie)… I work from the inside out. What the movie is about will determine how it will be cast, how it will look, how it will be edited, how it will be musically scored, how it will be mixed, how the titles will look, and, with a good studio, how it will be released.

— from Making Movies by Sidney Lumet

Writing again

It’s good to be writing again. I took about 6 weeks off from my morning routine while I was doing development and pre-production for The Deadline.

It was just too much to wake up at 6am, write for an hour before work, do a full day at the office and then come home and work for 2-4 hours on production prep. There was a massive amount of work that had to be done with meetings, planning the shots, breaking the script down, scheduling, finding a location, hiring crew, paperwork, project management and so many emails. You only get one shot at production so better to prioritize that over writing.

Right now I have three feature screenplays in various stages of rewrites, ranging from 2nd or 3rd drafts to “done.”1 And then I have about ten other projects that have been waiting on the backburner: a short that I’d like to shoot when I’m in Europe this summer, a short doc about my friend’s dating life that may or may not have legs, a one-act play that I can knock out in a week, a book adaptation that I’m not ready to write, two bigger-budget features that I’m not ready to make, and four narrative features that are actually feasible to write and shoot on a low budget.

I’m going to take a few weeks to outline one of those features (I have about 30 pages of notes and ideas already) and then try to write a script really fast, just to see what happens when I write 90 pages in two weeks. In the meantime, I’m talking to some producers about getting one of the written scripts into development.

If I stick to writing every day, I should have 2-3 features that are more or less ready to shoot in the spring.

  1. They’re never really done until the film is shot 

A surprising number of earnest conversations

One aspect of production that surprised me was the sheer earnestness to the many conversations I had in those three days on set and at the bar after we wrapped.

How many times in life do you genuinely tell someone that you appreciate their hard work, that you love working with them, that they’re doing great work, that they’re an essential part of the team, and that without them there, things would not have been half as enjoyable or successful?

In normal office jobs, this happens rarely. We might say these things sometimes to people we love romantically, but rarely to co-workers and even more rarely to someone we met just three days ago.

It’s a wonderful thing.

That’s a wrap

Three days on set this week, the three most intense working days of my life. My first time directing a film. My first time with a big crew (about 30 people plus 12 actors).  I can’t put the emotional experience into words. There’s an intoxicating camaraderie that develops on set that can’t really be expressed, a high as you get immersed in the flow of production.

Filmmaking is beautiful on two levels. One is the level of creating can capturing beautiful images and moments; the output.

The other is behind the camera, watching 40 people work at the top of their game. When we move to a new setup, the camera is set, actors are running lines, art is dressing the set and putting props together, the AC is putting a new lens in, I’m talking to the actors and then the script supervisor to check continuity and talk trough how the coverage will work in the edit, makeup is being applied, wardrobe is making adjustments to a collar, I’m asking another actor how his mother is doing after being hospitalized last night, PAs are washing the windows and making a coffee run, the producer is figuring out how to put up a tarp to stop the rain from leaking onto the costume rack, people are joking, someone is walking in off the street trying to order coffee from the cafe because he didn’t see the sign that says the cafe is closed and then turns around in a daze to see the lighting rigging and a camera in his face, the AD is telling me that we don’t have time to get all the shots I want and maybe we can cut the next close up and use the wide instead, the DP and gaffer are talking in their opaque shorthand, then lights and flags and screens are going up, and 20 minutes later there’s a beautiful image on the monitor.

And it’s like that for 3 days with just constant flow, a constant flow of interruptions and thoughts and notes and side discussions and jokes and war stories and bits and excuse mes because we’re all on top of each other in a cramped space and it’s like that for 12 hours a day and nobody snaps or loses their shit, even though half of us have never been through this before and the other half are doing it for a tenth of their normal day rate.

About halfway through the first day, I stopped and thought “this is what I want to do.” I’m not sure how to do it for a living but it’s what I want to do and I will keep doing it even if I can’t make a living doing it.

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