A Conversation with Christopher Nolan

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Tue, 01/27/2009 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

Winner of the American Society of Cinematographers Board of Governors Award Award-winning writer-producer-director Christopher Nolan whose most recent film was The Dark Knight will receive the American Society of Cinematographers Board of Governors Award which is presented annually to an individual who has made significant contributions to advancing the art of filmmaking. Nolan will be feted during the 23rd Annual ASC Outstanding Achievement Awards celebration on February 15 at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. “Chris Nolan is infused with talent with which he masterfully uses to collaboratively create memorable motion pictures says ASC President Daryn Okada. “His quest for superlative images to tell stories has earned the admiration of our members.” Previous recipients of the ASC Board of Governors includes Gregory Peck Steven Spielberg Martin Scorsese Robert Wise Francis Ford Coppola Robert Altman Warren Beatty Stanley Donen Norman Jewison Irwin Winkler Sydney Pollack Ron Howard and Annette Bening among others. “Chris Nolan combines classic filmmaking techniques and new technology in ways that are inspiring for the next generation of filmmakers ” says Michael Goi ASC chairman of the organization’s Awards Committee. Nolan has earned a diverse range of credits including such memorable films as Memento Insomnia Batman Begins The Prestige and The Dark Knight a run-away hit at the 2008 box office which earned rave reviews from critics. “Chris is an amazingly talented and collaborative director who brings out the best in everyone around him ” says Wally Pfister ASC the cinematographer who was by Nolan’s side during the aforementioned feature films. “I saw a film while I was Slamdance and decided that I had to meet the guy who shot it ” Nolan recalls. “During my first conversation with Wally (Pfister) I decided I wanted to work with him. We know each other better today but our relationship hasn’t changed. There is a synergy that affects our ability to translate ideas into images.” 
 Digital Cinema Report spoke with Nolan. Digital Cinema Report: When and how did you get interested in movies? Chris Nolan: I started making films when I was seven years old in London. My dad was kind enough to let my brother and I use his Super 8 camera. We shot mini-epic science fiction and war movies with action figures. We sent the Super 8 cartridges off for processing and waited anxiously for two weeks to see what we got. It was great fun. DCR: Do you recall what inspired you to make films? CN: I just loved movies and my parents encouraged that interest. They are very creative people. My father is English and my mother is American. We lived in Chicago for a while and then moved back to London where I attended University College. DCR: Did you study filmmaking in college? CN: No. I studied English literature but that got me thinking about the narrative freedoms that authors have enjoyed for centuries. It seemed to me that filmmakers should enjoy those freedoms as well. Emma Thomas and I were members of the university film society. We showed 35 mm feature films during the school year and used the money earned from ticket sales to shoot our own 16 mm during the summers. Emma is my wife and collaborator. She has produced all of my feature films. DCR: You mentioned that you have loved movies since you were a child. Who are some of the filmmakers whose works have influenced your thinking and feelings? CN: It is difficult to single out just a few. I have always admired Stanley Kubrick Terrence Malick Ridley Scott and Nicholas Roeg to name as few. I loved 2001: A Space Odyssey Chinatown and Lawrence of Arabia. Alien and Blade Runner blew me away. All of those films created extraordinary completely immersive worlds. DCR: Do you recall when you decided to become a professional filmmaker? CN: When I was about 12 years old I kind of figured out what a director did and realized that an actual job existed. I can trace my decision back to that realization. DCR: We heard that you had a Super 8 film on PBS while you were in your teens. CN: I made a Super 8 short called Tarantella with Roko Belic a friend who is a documentary filmmaker. It was on a PBS show in Chicago that aired short films. DCR: How did you get started in the industry? CN: My first feature was called Following. It’s a 16 mm black-and-white drama about a writer who follows a thief around and gets involved in his crimes. I was the writer director and cinematographer. Emma was one of the producers. It got some attention at film festivals which got the interest of a distributor. That got us the funding to get started on Memento a script that I wrote while we were finishing Following. DCR: What inspired you to write Memento? CN: It was based on a short story that my brother Jonah was writing. He hadn’t finished yet but he told me about it and I immediately told him that I wanted to write a screenplay. The first thing I had to do was figure out how to tell a story on film about a man who had lost his short-term memory. That presented some interesting challenges. DCR: Did your research include referencing older movies? CN: It wasn’t research but some of Nicholas Roeg’s films influenced my thinking from a visual point of view. I also remember talking to Wally Pfister (ASC) the cinematographer who shot Memento about the simplicity and cinematic purity of the images in The Thin Red Line a Terrence Malick movie that had just come out. They were very clear and clean images without filtration. DCR: After Memento you and Wally collaborated on Insomnia Batman Begins The Prestige and The Dark Knight. When and how did you meet? CN: I was at the Slamdance Festival with Following while Ron Judkin’s film Hi-Line was being shown at Sundance. I thought it was a beautifully executed film that was clearly produced with limited resources. I had to meet the guy who shot it. It was Wally. I decided during our first conversation that I wanted to work with him. We just clicked the way you sometimes do with people. We know each other better today but our relationship hasn’t changed. There is a synergy that affects our ability to translate ideas into images. DCR: Please explain what you mean when you say “a beautifully executed film?” CN: To me a beautifully executed film is a movie where the sum of all the images leaves a lasting impression on you rather than the individual shots. It’s how you use cinematography to tell a story. Wally is not just wrapped up in the shot of the moment. He is thinking about the whole story during every shot we make. DCR: You have also chosen to collaborate with various other people on multiple projects including your brother Jonah who has worked on stories and scripts editor Lee Smith production designer Nathan Crowley and your wife Emma. CN: When you find great people I believe that it is a huge advantage for a director to try and keep the team together because trust and communication are so important in filmmaking. Moviemaking is a unique art form because every film is a collaborative effort involving people with different personalities and visions who are working together. A big part of my job is making decisions about how all this great talent that I’m working with—actors cinematographers production designers and everyone else—blends into a single consciousness. I try to make the most of what everyone has to offer. I’m sort of a human lens through which everyone’s efforts are focused. DCR: Directing a feature film is a huge commitment. How do you decide a project is something that you’re willing to dedicate years of your life to doing? CN: For me it comes down to deciding whether it is a film that I feel I have to make. I ask myself will I be sorry if I miss this chance? Is it a film that I would be excited to see? Will the story stick in my mind years and years after it is done? Those are the types of things I think about. The irony is that once you get into the process sometimes the story leads you in a different direction than you initially imagined. DCR: Do you think of filmmaking as purely entertainment or is it more than that? CN: I think film is first and foremost entertainment. But all forms of entertainment throughout history have always produced works that last and transcend the concept of entertainment. All entertainment can take many different forms. It can be serious and intellectually stimulating and it can also be a temporary way to forget our everyday worries. There is a whole spectrum of possibilities encompassed by the word entertainment but I do believe that film has developed into the most important story-telling medium of our age. I am certain about that statement. DCR: Can you give that last thought a broader explanation? CN: As much as I love books and the theatre I think the cinema is a uniquely modern medium that we look to for the stories of our times. DCR: You made some extraordinary use of 65 mm film in IMAX format in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Please share some thoughts about that decision. CN: I have always been interested in exploring the possibilities of the IMAX medium. These films gave me that opportunity. We used the IMAX format for scenes that called for a larger than life experience that we wanted to be as spectacular as possible. I believe those scenes look and feel more natural because we used the larger format. IMAX today is the ultimate form of cinema. The large format also gave us a lot of room to experiment and that in itself was fun. I feel strongly that whether you are shooting a low-budget film or a hundred million dollar blockbuster you have a responsibility to put the best possible images on the screen. I’m always trying to maximize the images. DCR: Were you a Batman fan while you were growing up? CN: I was a Batman fan when I was a kid. I think the comic book superheroes fill a gap in the pop culture psyche similar to the role of Greek mythology. For me Batman is one of the most fascinating of those characters. He is a marvelously complex character. There is something extremely accessible about him that is timeless and universal. DCR: Do you have younger filmmakers asking you to share the secret of success? CN: They’ll often ask me that DCR. There really isn’t a simple answer except that you should work on films because you love that movie not because you think it will be a stepping stone to getting another movie that is bigger and better. I believe that you can apply that rule on any scale including kids shooting Super 8 movies like I did when I was seven. The same thing is true whether you are making a blockbuster 65 mm movie or a low budget 16 mm independent film … do it for the love of telling that story. DCR: What are your thoughts about the future of the cinema? Is the audience going to stay home and watch movies on their telephones? CN: I’m extremely optimistic about the future of the cinema. I believe there will always be a huge demand and need for a communal story-telling experience. In the past it was theatre. Today it’s the cinema. There is a special excitement that comes from sitting with a group of strangers watching a great story unfold on a big screen. It engages the imagination and transports you to another world. I think it’s a universal experience. ,695
Special Report: Run and Gun,2009-01-28, Most of Final Destination 4: Death Trip 3D was shot on Practical Locations In Final Destination 4: Death Trip 3D a sequel in the popular series directed by David Ellis death once again sets out to collect those who evaded their end—this time in a deadly racecar crash thanks to the forewarning of a teen’s premonition. DP Glen MacPherson shot the latest chapter in Warner’s action horror series in 3D. The movie is due out in August. To capture what they believe to be the first run-and-gun-style 3D motion picture shot on location instead of primarily against a green or blue screen backdrop MacPherson and digital imaging technician Nick Theodorakis say they looked no further than Sony’s F23 camera for its mobility and robustness to produce the upcoming action horror feature Final Destination 4.  
   “What we proved is that it’s possible to shoot a 3D picture like a real movie ” says Theodorakis. “We shot 80 percent of Final Destination 4 on practical locations so it was essential to have a light-weight durable camera that could survive rugged treatment.”
               MacPherson worked with Vince Pace the developer of the proprietary Pace/Cameron Fusion System and the Final Destination 4 production team to select the right camera for this project. 
     “Glenn’s clear intention was to take advantage of the F23’s superior latitude on this project. Our challenge was to integrate a camera for 3D which would be small enough not to compromise the project creatively ” says Pace. “We worked around the clock to design a system that was structurally sound for rugged in-the-field use and still light enough to work on a Steadicam.” 
 According to MacPherson the F23’s 2/3-inch sensor results in enhanced depth of field making it ideal for producing 3D imagery. “It takes a crew of five to maneuver and operate the Pace/Cameron Fusion System which consists of two cameras mounted on computerized chassis with a half silvered mirror. The camera first shoots through the mirror while the second shoots the reflected image. This configuration was used for the majority of the production while side-by-side rigs configured with two Sony F950 cameras were utilized for high-speed racing sequences as well as in the underwater scenes ” he says.
          According to MacPherson of the cameras tested for the project the F23 had the best dynamic range and the quietest signal noise essential for the daytime exterior scenes predominant in the feature. “The story doesn’t evolve in dark spooky places; it takes place in swimming pools hair salons and on race tracks ” MacPherson says. “The F23 handled the highlights beautifully.” 
 The Final Destination 4 production crew put the system through its paces dropping it from descender rigs mounting it on speeding cars and placing it underwater. Despite the rough handling according MacPherson the cameras and system are still in tip-top shape and will be used again in several upcoming productions including a scheduled Jonas Brother’s concert movie.
 The crew used Sony HDCam-SR tape as the media for all recording decks and the majority of post workflow.   Digital Cinema Report interviewed MacPherson by email. Digital Cinema Report: What work had you done before Final Destination 4? Glen MacPherson: I shot Rambo in Thailand with Sly Stallone directing just before FD4. I shot 16 Blocks with Richard Donner directing starring Bruce Willis. And I shot Trick 'r Treat with Michael Dougherty directing.
 DCR: Had you shot 3D before? If so when and what project?
 GM: I worked on an Imax 3D project many years ago in Montreal as a member of the camera crew. I learned the fundamentals of 3D but the new technology has really changed the process so I had to learn all over again.

 DCR: Given that you had to shoot underwater and in 3D did you ever consider shooting 35mm film?
 GM: No. The film was always going to shoot in 3D and the new technology relies on digital image capture. One advantage of shooting digital is you can see the shot in 3D immediately.

 DCR: How many scenes were shot in 3D? GM: The entire film was shot in 3D. DCR: There are many digital cinema camera choices. What cameras did you test?
 GM: We looked at a variety of cameras including the Sony F950 The Red One camera and the Sony F23.

 DCR: Why did you select the F23?
 GM: I liked the F23 because of its dynamic range and the way it holds detail in highlights.  I knew we were going to be shooting in locations where it would be tough to control the sun so I wanted a camera that held the highlights. I also like it's image quality - I find it has a more filmic quality than the F950 and I liked the 2/3-inch image sensor which gave me the added depth of field that I needed to achieve some of the 3D effects.
 DCR: Describe the final rig. How long did it take to feel comfortable with the cameras?
 GM: Vince and his team did a great job designing the new rigs. They were still relatively lightweight and not much larger than the F950 rigs. It basically consists of two cameras fitted with a zoom lens. One camera shot straight out through a partially silvered mirror while the other shoots straight down recording the reflection off the mirror. The 3D is controlled by a complex set of motors and proprietary software that adjusts Inter-ocular convergence lens size and focus as well as vertical (mirror) adjustments etc. We had one rig that had a camera shooting UP into the mirror that we used for handheld and Steadicam shots. DCR: I understand that Vince Pace had to design a new rig for the shoot. Why was that? GM: The F23 hadn't been used for 3D photography before so Vince had to design all new sleds to accommodate the cameras. The F950 can be broken down to just the imaging block which made the 3D rigs quite small but the F23's could not be broken down. DCR: Nick Theodorakis served as digital imaging technician on the movie. Describe his contribution?
 GM: We had two DIT's on the show. Nick and Indy. They had a formidable job as each 3D rig consists of two cameras. Each camera was recorded to it's own SRWII tape in 4:4:4 (left eye and right eye) and the two cameras were recorded to another tape that combined the two images at 4:2:2. This we called the dual eye recorder and this tape was used for viewing dailies in 3D and as the editing master. We had three cameras running which means nine tape decks recording at the same time all synced to each other. We had monitors with split images showing left and right eyes simultaneously so that we could check the alignment vertical shifts zoom offsets focus offsets camera roll problems sync problems... they were kept busy with all that plus the day to day maintenance of the gear and verifying the images were recorded properly. There was a LOT of gear involved.

 DCR: You’ve said that about 80 percent of the movie was shot on location. How many days was the shoot?
 GM: I believe we shot 60 days.

 DCR: How many set-ups did you average a day? GM: My camera crew really stepped up to the plate and learned the systems very quickly. There are a lot of unexpected glitches that can show up without warning that can be fixed quickly if you know what the problem is. My crew had alignment charts built into the slate so we could do a quick verification with every take plus they would maintain the alignment throughout the day whenever the camera wasn't rolling. I'd say we were able to pull off between 15 to 25 set ups easily and some days we hit a much higher number (during the action sequences). DCR: Did you always shoot single camera? GM: No. We usually had at least two cameras shooting and a splinter unit or full second unit shooting as well.

 DCR:I understand that the Final Destination 4 shoot included several Steadicam shots with two F23s obviously to shoot handheld 3D. Please describe what was involved with those.
 GM: We shot handheld as well as with the Steadicam. Besides being a little heavier there's no major difference. The Steadicam rig designed by Pace included a computerized base that would keep the rig balanced if convergence and/or inter-ocular were adjusted during a shot. This computerized base worked great. DCR: What were some of the big challenges of the underwater sequences? GM: We had to revert to the F950 rig for the underwater sequences that take place in a swimming pool because the only 3D underwater rig that existed was built for the F950. It was a side by side rig (meaning no beam splitter - the cameras sit beside one another). This is fine in most underwater applications but because the cameras are beside each other the minimum interocular between them is 1.75 inches. We were shooting most of the film between .6 inches and 1.25 inches. At 1.75 inches you really can't converge on a subject any closer than six feet preferably eight feet. We had a mobile lab with us at all times. We watched dailies in this trailer every day and were able to adjust alignment problems and change convergence within a shot if we needed.
Vince Pace helped us figure out a formula for convergence with the side-by-side rig and we made some major adjustments to the 3D images later that day in the trailer which included blowing up the image slightly and reconverging on our close subject. It worked great and that sequence has some of the best 3D footage. Another underwater sequence involved submerging our F23 rigs in a car that fills up with water during a car wash catastrophe. We had to design a water bag to house the 3D rig. In testing we found the cameras overheated inside the bag so we had to circulate air inside the bag - we basically blew the water bag up like a balloon. This rig was so large that we had to rebuild the back end of the car to accommodate the camera while keeping the car itself watertight so it could fill up with water.

 DCR: How did you light the underwater sequences?
 GM: Very simply with large units above the pool and submerged bounce boards. DCR: What if any shots were you not able to complete?
 GM: We did everything we set out to do including dropping a 3D rig from a building with a descender rig shooting inside a car that is filling with water high-speed race car action stuff...

 DCR: How did the camera perform?
 GM: The cameras worked great. On our last day a race car stunt didn't work exactly as expected and one of our F23 3D rigs took a direct hit. As everyone ran to pick up the pieces I noticed that the cameras were still recording just fine. We dusted off the rig and bent some parts of the rig back into shape and used the cameras for another two shots. DCR: Were you involved in editing the movie? If so talk about the unique challenges of editing in 3D. GM: I'm not involved in the editing but I do a quick 3D adjustment pass on each early cut before they screen it just to make sure the viewer has the best 3D experience for that particular cut.

 DCR: What’s next for you?
 GM: I've got a few projects I'm interested in and hope they don't all end up with the same start date. Meanwhile I'm keeping busy with commercials.

 DCR: What lessons did you learn about shooting 3D?
 GM: 3D should not be gimmicky. That gets old very quickly. It's just another tool that can be used to tell the story. Very simple 3D images are still amazing to watch. There's no need to jump objects out into the audience every chance you get.

 DCR: Would you shoot 3D again?
 GM: Absolutely. I hope to have that opportunity!

Electrosonic Debuts ES9600,2009-01-28,Dual-Channel JPEG-2000 Video Player Electrosonic has introduced the ES9600 dual-channel JPEG-2000 video player designed for 2K and HD video installations. The ES9600 uses JPEG2000 compression the same image technology found in digital cinema theatres which delivers video quality superior to MPEG thanks to its 12bit color depth and 4:4:4 color sampling. The ES9600 includes a file conversion utility that makes creating compatible JPEG2000 files hassle free and far easier than for many commonly used MPEG HD players. The ES9600’s two channels can be independently controlled or they can be synchronized for super-wide screen or stereoscopic displays. The dual HD-SDI or dual DVI-I connectors facilitate the playback of 3D video and 2K resolution files. In addition multiple units can be synchronized for multi-screen presentations or playback of full 4k resolution. The ES9600’s front panel features an easy to use graphical user interface jog wheel transport controls and video confidence monitor. The unit also features a web interface for complete remote control and playlist management. Dual Gigabit Ethernet links provide simultaneous control and data transfer connections. Sony 9pin machine control AMX Crestron and Medialon drivers will be available soon. The ES9600’s list of professional features also includes genlock input LTC and 16 channels of audio. ,701
Nine Easy Steps to Writing a Screenplay,2009-01-28,By Don Vasicek So you began your screenplay with a visual metaphor. You’ve introduced your main character the setting the time the theme and you’re introducing other major and periphery characters. You’re getting to like your story pretty well when all of sudden you hit a block. What is your story about? This question is asked many times over each day in the film business.  So you’d better be prepared for it. Your story is about a character who reacts to something that causes him (I’m using the male gender because I honestly don’t know what is correct when writing articles.  Someone please tell me how to deal with this so I can be grammatically and politically correct.) to begin acting instead of reacting to what is going on around him. The first step in your main character’s transformation (you’d better have one if you want to sell and get your screenplays produced) is when he reacts to the introduction of the dramatic premise. Until this time in your screenplay you should have established your main character who should be in a setting and time interacting with other characters who should all be showing (I emphasize showing instead of telling since all great writing shows instead of tells) different aspects of your theme. You should have established all of these elements by about page 10 of your screenplay. On or about page 10 in your screenplay you show something that occurs that is out of context of what you have set up so far. This turning point in your screenplay is when you have your main character react to something that establishes the dramatic premise of your screenplay. This dramatic premise will be the plot of your screenplay. Something happens to your main character that begins his transformation arc because he is forced to react to something he has been avoiding but he must react to it until he overcomes it or it his life will never change for the better. In the $56 million MGM screenplay I was a writer/consultant for Warriors of Virtue Ryan the main character is shown in school with his friends with his family and how he reacts to these people and this setting. Problem is Ryan wears a leg brace a defect in his leg he inherited with birth. Kids push him around. He can’t play on the football team. He argues with his parents.  His dog barks at him.  He has a lot of problems until he’s challenged to leap over this rushing water to show other kids that he’s not a wimp. Then his real problems begin. He leaps and falls into the water. He is swept into an alternate universe where he has to change or he’ll never be able to return to his home. The evil Komodo and his army a village of people and five Kung Fu Kangaroos who need his help stand in his way. This is where his transformation arc begins. This is where the dramatic premise for the movie is established. From this point on Ryan begins to change and to never be the same again. This alternate universe (no different than what your main character should be experiencing at this point in your screenplay)attacks Ryan.  He survives the plunge but now the evil Komodo’s soldiers in a forest are threatening him.  When some Kung Fu kangaroos rescue him he begins to see that someone cares about him and he doesn't even know why.  And miraculously he discovers that his leg is healed. Fearful of the village which is made up of a loving community of people  at about page 45 Ryan foreshadows he is going to be at the end of the movie.  He meets a girl Princess Anne and he isn't afraid of her.  At midpoint Komodo and his soldiers attack the village.  Though fighting valiantly the Kung Fu Kangaroos are outnumbered. They manage to drive the invaders away but they know that unless they come up with some kind of miraculous idea Komodo is going to take over the village and kill everyone.  And now Ryan has a stake in the outcome.  Where before he cared little about himself now he not only cares about himself but he cares about Princess Anne as well.  But Komodo has kidnapped her to hold her for ransom in order to force the village leaders to give in to his demands and give up the village (Komodo desires the village because of its love and its peace because this kind of behavior terrorizes him). At about page 75 Ryan tells the village leaders and the Kangaroos that he believes he can talk Komodo in releasing Princess Anne.  Interested he tells them how.     At about page 90 Ryan under the protection of the hidden Kangaroos Ryan confronts Komodo about releasing Princess Anne.  Komodo struck by Ryan's audacity challenges him to a duel with swords.  Only Komodo knows his soldiers are near to back him up but unaware of the hidden Kung Fu Kangaroos.  Komodo by far the superior warrior to Ryan is about to take Ryan's head with his sword when some of the soldiers show their faces.  At that point the Kangaroos show themselves.  An all out battle ensues. Ryan races to rescue Princess Anne.  The battle is so fierce the out-numbered Kangaroos are exhausted and about ready to admit defeat when Ryan grabs a sword and disarms Komodo.   The Kangaroos take over and defeat Komodo's soldiers.  Ryan rescues Princess Anne and saves the village. In the closing scene the village priest creates a mystical and spiritual avenue for Ryan to travel so that he can return to his parents and other life.  After a tearful goodbye to everyone Ryan leaves.  Upon his return to the town where he lives his parents friends and the kids in school see that his leg is healed and so is Ryan.  Even his dog accepts him. So you need to take your character on a journey by establishing the dramatic premise then roughly timing turning points in the story and in your main character.  Page 1: A visual metaphor that defines the theme of the story.  Page 3: A line of dialogue or an action that directly pinpoints the theme of your story.  About Page 10: Establish the dramatic premise.  At about Page 30: Something extraordinary should happen that spins your character and story around 360 degrees and sends it off in another direction.  At about page 45: Foreshadow how your main character is going to be at the end of your story.  Just a small action something your character does to reveal this like when Ryan meets Princess Anne and he is unfraid of her.   From this point forward you must have your main character creating all of the action.  In other words he/she must be pro-active in all events.   At about Page 60 midpoint you must show that about all is lost for your main character regardless of the new strength he/she is showing.  By about Page 75 have your main character change the way he/she is trying to accomplish his/her goal.  At about Page 90 of your screenplay your main character should have a direct confrontation with the villain (villain represents evil in fiction) or antagonist (doesn't necessarily represent evil so much as representing the opposing force to your main character's goal). This confrontation results in your main character winning and sets up how the story is going to end.  For the next several pages your story should build to a climax where your main character goes nose-to-nose with the villain or antagonist.  Here your main character should have an epiphany.  For Ryan it was his discovery that he must overcome Komodo in order return home to his family and friends.  It is here where your main character's fatal flaw (the flaw that has caused your main character to pursue a solution to it because it is more overpowering than any other flaw) comes to the surface and must be overcome by your main character. With Ryan it was his fear  and he overcomes it.  After the climax wrap up all loose ends and end the screenplay as soon as possible. And there you have it: Nine easy steps to writing a screenplay. Author’s Credits Donald L. Vasicek studied producing directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under the acclaimed Dov Simen’s and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay with Sally Merlin (White Squall). He has taught mentored and is a script consultant for over 400 writers directors producers actors and production companies and has also acted in 20th Century Fox’s Die Hard With a Vengeance NBC’s Mystery of Flight 1501 ABC’s Father Dowling starring Thomas Bosley and Red-Handed Production’s Summer Reunion. These activities have resulted in Don’s involvement in more than 100 movies during the past 23 years from major studios to independent films including MGM’s $56 million Warriors of Virtue Paramount Classics Racing Lucifer and American Pictures The Lost Heart among others. Vasicek has also has written and published over 500 books short stories and articles. His books include How To Write Sell and Get Your Screenplays Produced and The Write Focus. Donald L. Vasicek Olympus Films+ LLC Writing/Filmmaking/Consulting http://www.donvasicek.com [email protected] ,702
Digital Cinematography Arrives,2009-02-12, The two movies widely considered the frontrunners for this year’s Academy Award for Best Picture – Slumdog Millionaire shot by Anthony Dod Mantle and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button shot by Claudio Miranda – have several other things in common. Both could loosely be described as urban fairy tales in which the hero ultimately wins the lifelong girl of his dreams. Both are also in contention for the Oscar for Best Cinematography. And both were shot at least in part with digital cameras which the filmmakers of both movies say were the right creative tool to use each time they did. Clearly digital cinematography has arrived. For the record the two films together are nominated for a rather incredible 23 Oscars: 10 for Slumdog and 13 for Benjamin Button. In terms of percentage of screen time the digital cinematography played a smaller role in Slumdog than it did in Benjamin Button but even so it was a vital creative tool. Slumdog was shot with a range of Arriflex film cameras a prototype Silicon Imaging SI-2K digital camera and a Canon EOS-ID Mark III which is essentially a digital still camera. The scenes in the narrow crowded streets of the slums of Mumbai were shot with the two digital cameras. Mantle and director Danny Boyle say they chose those particular digital cameras for the street scenes because they were able to shoot without attracting attention. “People tend to ignore digital still cameras these days ” Boyle told one interviewer. And as one blogger reported Mantle used the SI-2K because it’s a tiny digital camera that allowed him to hold the lens of in the palm of one hand and a minuscule monitor in the other; wires went up his sleeve and into a backpack carrying a hard drive. Once director David Fincher selected him to shoot The Curious Case of Benjamin Button cinematographer Claudio Miranda says the decision to use the Thomson Grass Valley Viper FilmStream digital camera for the bulk of the production was an easy one. “We were testing other cameras but it came down to the fact that I knew [the Viper] very well ” he says. “I shot some of David’s first commercials with a Viper.” The World War II battles scenes and the idyllic Caribbean interlude were shot with an Arriflex 435 film camera and a few additional shots used Sony’s CineAlta F23 digital cinema camera. But says Miranda “95 percent of the movie was shot digitally with Viper.” In additional to the commercials he shot with Viper for Fincher Miranda the two men have had a long history of working together that dates back to the 1980s. Miranda worked as an electrician on many of Fincher’s previous feature films and he was gaffer on The Fight Club and shot for two weeks on Zodiac also using the Viper. Miranda says he and Fincher love the workflow of the Viper. They like seeing what they get and the fact that when they shoot digitally they know immediately if they got the shots they wanted the way they wanted them. For Miranda it is not a case of trying to achieve a film look digitally but is something completely different. In his mind the Viper has its own look. The fact that Miranda was familiar with the technology did not change the amount of preparation he did before shooting began. He reviewed many visual references to create the palette of the movie among them the paintings of Andrew Wyeth. “I had a lot of prep ” he says. “It does take a lot of homework.” Once production began he says the challenge is to understand how to light while shooting digitally. “I tried to [use practical lights] a lot ” Miranda says despite the fact that in his words “practical lights are a no no in HD.” There were some tips he has learned along the way. Even people who have not seen Benjamin Button are doubtless aware that during much of the movie Brad Pitt’s head is digitally placed on the bodies of younger actors. In those shots Miranda says “Even though I was shooting the face I lit it as if I was shooting the whole character.” He laughs when asked about the shots of the old man’s memories of being struck by lightning seven times. “I overexposed them dramatically just to blast them out of oblivion ” he says. The boat scenes presented some of the biggest challenges on the shoot whether shooting film or digitally. “The boat scenes were all shot using blue screen in a studio ” Miranda says. “The boat just lived in that space.” That required him to create the illusion that the boat was in the middle of the ocean that it was noon and the sun was directly overhead or that it was moving through dense fog or anchored beneath a moonlit sky. The movie which filmed in New Orleans Los Angeles Montreal and the Caribbean had a 150-day shooting schedule. Dealing with an enormous amount of footage was also made simpler thanks to shooting digitally. “At the end of the day I went home with digital stills ” says Miranda He used those images to create a website for himself and Fincher so that they could both track the progress they were making and make quick adjustments the next day. That contributed greatly to the eventual success of the movie. “You can see it so vividly in HD ” Miranda says. ,719
The Silver Screen,2009-02-12,The kind of screen an exhibitor chooses can be critical to the 3D experience. ,720
Recreating Wartime Oslo,2009-02-12,Max Manus Turns a Modest Budget into a Very Big Movie Made at a cost of just $8 million (55 000 000 Norwegian Kroner) Max Manus is nevertheless one of the largest productions in Norwegian film history. Directed by Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg Max Manus tells the story of a famous saboteur who fought the Nazis during the German occupation of Norway in the Second World War. The project involved transforming modern-day Oslo into a 1940's version of itself and filling the city with hundreds of Nazi soldiers. In total 1 800 extras were used for the film. VFX shots included the sinking of the SS Donau an authentic recreation of Oslo harbor bomber aircraft flying overhead exterior shots such as the Gestapo headquarters at the Victoria Terrace and many others. Because of the scale of the visual effects work we needed to do this film was the first domestic production to farm out shots across multiple facilities says VFX supervisor Oystein Larsen of Toxic A/S in Oslo who honed his craft on the Matrix sequels. Lab work was done in Germany final grading was done at MPC in London and in between we had five facilities here in Norway on VFX. To ensure we kept all the image data we built a floating-point pipeline anchored in [eyeon Software] Fusion. We chose Fusion because it's the complete package says Marcus Brodersen VFX and post producer on Max Manus. With a limited budget we needed the full feature set of a mature application. Working against a tight deadline required an efficient pipeline. Routine tasks such as roto tracking and keying were done in-house at Filmkameratene the production company. The plates were then sent out to the other facilities for the artistic work he says. Fusion was the common element and it worked really well as a collaborative tool. Fusion's 3D environment proved critical for the project. There was only one locked shot in the whole movie says Brodersen. The FBX input sped up our work a lot and one facility Gimpville even used Fusion to stabilize a whole sequence by mapping the camera positions and then 're-shooting' the whole take in Fusion. One particularly difficult scene – depicting a raid on German shipping – was shot on water at night. Fortunately we had done accurate pre-viz modeling based on lidar scans beforehand says Larsen. We used the 3D mapping in Fusion to take the shots apart and add the CG elements such as matte painting. The results were fantastic. No one would ever think this was a composite. It was really exciting to work on this project: this is a story we feel quite strongly about here in Norway says Larsen. Clearly the public shares his sentiment. The opening weekend box office returns for Max Manus in December set a new record in Norway and attendance is currently on track to surpass Titanic as the Nordic nation's highest grossing film. It doesn't always take a huge budget to make a great feature film says Joanne Dicaire director of sales and marketing at eyeon. With great artists and the right tools it can be done without breaking the bank. We're delighted to have contributed to this milestone in Norwegian cinema. eyeon Fusion www.eyeonline.com. ,721
Reaching Ad Avoiders,2009-02-12, Study Says Cinema Extends the Reach of a TV Campaign and Delivers Ad Avoiders
 According to a study conducted for the Cinema Advertising Council by Integrated Media Measurement says that a combined television and cinema ad campaign more than doubled the conversion rate as compared to television alone.  The combined cinema-television buy also provided double the lift; extended incremental reach; and the ability to target key demographics including ad avoiders.

 During the six-week study IMM tracked the behavior of consumers exposed to ads promoting three prominent cable TV programs. Some key findings:

Of those exposed to an ad in the study 10.1 percent of those exposed to an ad on 'TV Only' tuned in to the show's premiere while 22.7 percent exposed via 'TV and Cinema' did so. 

While 24.7 percent of panelists exposed to an ad on 'TV Only' went on to tune in to watch any airing of the shows conversion doubled to 49.5 percent when exposed to 'TV and Cinema' ads. 'Any Cinema' outperformed 'Any TV' on conversions per ad exposure by a ratio of 24 to 1.

This study proves the power of cinema to positively impact ROI vs. using TV alone says Dave Kupiec chairman and president of the CAC. There have always been synergies to combining cinema with TV on a client's media plan; most marketers view cinema as a 'network’ – one that can provide regional or national reach – and they know that cinema reaches consumers primarily on weekends when TV viewing is at its lowest. Now we have proof that by adding cinema to the media mix clients will dramatically increase their ROI. The study further quantified the value of cinema advertising to marketers based on various brand campaigns measured:

Cinema over-delivers the hard-to-reach multitasking segment of the population. Moviegoers are 64 percent more likely to reach those who text while watching TV and 25 percent more likely to reach those who are on-line. 

Cinema delivers hard-to-reach demos 13-34 (compared to the average person men 13-17 are 124 percent more likely to go to the movies and men 18-24 are 49 percent more likely). 

Cinema advertising also reaches those who are traditional media 'ad avoiders.' In fact 28 percent of frequent moviegoers are ad avoiders resulting in moviegoers being 157 percent more likely to see ads in cinema compared to other media measured.
 From Memorial Day weekend through Independence Day weekend (5/23/08 - 7/6/08) IMM isolated and analyzed the media behavior of consumers to measure the relative impact of advertising in cinema and in other electronic media.  IMM provided 3 000 panel members in New York Los Angeles Chicago Houston Tampa and Denver (500 in each market) with a mobile phone asking them to carry it with them wherever they went.  The phones were equipped with a technology that creates digital signatures of all audio media (television radio movies etc.) to which it has been exposed.  IMM then determined levels of exposure to content and advertising across a wide variety of media platforms as well as certain types of consumer behavior based on a timeline of when the media was viewed or heard inside and outside of the home.   The Cinema Advertising Council www.cinemaadcouncil.org ,722
The Screenwriter’s Success Formula,2009-02-12, By Don Vasicek Wouldn’t it be nice to come up with a formula that you could use to write sell and get your screenplays produced?  Well guess what?  There is a formula.  A-list screenwriters use it all the time.  That’s one reason they are A-list writers. The formula resides in the genre of film they are writing.  There are several steps they follow.  Some say there are twelve steps.  Others say it depends upon the genre to determine how many steps you use.  The fine point of it is if you can figure out the steps and execute them in your screenplay selling and getting it produced becomes easier.      How do you do this?  There are some people who write and sell screenwriting programs that outline steps writers can take to follow the formula of their chosen genre.  They charge prices many screenwriters cannot afford.  Other screenwriters might not be able to afford them so they go in hock to buy them.  Other screenwriters with day jobs can afford to buy them so they do.  If you’re one of those who cannot afford them then there is another way to figure out the genre formulas. The first step is to make sure the genre you have chosen for your screenplay fits the characters and storyline.  The way you do this is to think about movies that you have seen or that you want to see.  Consider if your movie idea parallels any of these movies.  If you find one that does you’re on your way if you find more than one even better.

The next thing you have to determine is if you want to write a screenplay that bears the potential of becoming a blockbuster.  If you do then you have to plug into a formula for writing it.  If you don’t the odds that you can write sell and get your screenplay produced substantially decreases.  

You have to realize that by writing screenplays you have placed yourself in a situation where the odds for success are severely limited.  There just aren’t enough movies made each year to match the number of screenwriters and screenplays out there.  Just check with the Writer’s Guild of America if you don’t believe me.  Check with production companies agencies and managers.

So you should make a conscious decision before you begin writing about whether you want to write a formula screenplay or go your own way and simply write a screenplay.  If you decide that you want to write a formula screenplay then you have to follow a formula. If you follow a formula then you must know what genre you’re writing in before you begin.  Once you determine these things in lieu of buying the expensive screenwriting program take that one movie or those movies you found that parallel your movie idea and study them.  Try to find others that are similar and study them.  Outline them scene-by-scene.  Compare what you are discovering with each movie that you’re dissecting.  Find the forumula for your chosen genre.  It’s there. Once you accomplish this then you can outline your screenplay using this formula and begin writing your screenplay. Sound simple?  Try it.  I did that with The Crown/Born to Win an action/adventure feature I wrote and sold that was produced last year.  I studied Black Stallion and outlined it scene-by-scene.  I did the same thing with several other movies of the same genre that contained elements of what I wanted to write.  Dialogue.  Visuals.  Action.  Description.  Characters.  Story.  Even story beats.  What I learned about the action/adventure formula by doing that was all the difference between getting my screenplay written sold and produced and failing at it. So if you want to write sell and get your screenplays produced you might want to try this.  It works.
 Author’s Credits Donald L. Vasicek studied producing directing and line producing at the Hollywood Film Institute under the acclaimed Dov Simen’s and at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. He studied screenwriting at The Complete Screenplay with Sally Merlin (White Squall). He has taught mentored and is a script consultant for over 400 writers directors producers actors and production companies and has also acted in 20th Century Fox’s Die Hard With a Vengeance NBC’s Mystery of Flight 1501 ABC’s Father Dowling starring Thomas Bosley and Red-Handed Production’s Summer Reunion. These activities have resulted in Don’s involvement in more than 100 movies during the past 23 years from major studios to independent films including MGM’s $56 million Warriors of Virtue Paramount Classics Racing Lucifer and American Pictures The Lost Heart among others. Vasicek has also has written and published over 500 books short stories and articles. His books include How To Write Sell and Get Your Screenplays Produced and The Write Focus. Donald L. Vasicek Olympus Films+ LLC Writing/Filmmaking/Consulting http://www.donvasicek.com [email protected] ,725
Fine Tuning the Look,2009-02-12,Lowry Digital Played a Key Role in the making of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Lowry Digital collaborated with award-winning director David Fincher on Paramount Pictures' epic feature film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. “As the creative community continues to accept new media methods for their creative options early adopters of electronic capture understand its advantages but sometimes encounter limitations and compromises inherent in this developing technology says Lowry Digital's Alan Silvers. That creates a compelling need for Lowry Digital's proprietary image processing which is custom designed to compute away artifacts manage grain and noise levels expand dynamic range and find and reveal greater picture detail – typical challenges that arise from electronic capture. Benjamin Button was captured on a Thomson/Grass Valley Viper FilmStream and Sony F23 HD camera as well as 35mm film. The images were delivered to Lowry Digital after an initial color correction pass at MPI. Patrick Cooper Lowry's supervising imaging specialist employed automated processing that eliminated any noise flicker or artifacts. We enhanced the pictures to achieve the desired amount of sharpness and noise throughout the film says Cooper. Anytime you're shooting in a variety of situations there will be differences in detail and noise or grain levels and we smooth those out by engaging a variety of settings and parameters we've developed. Afterwards the files were sent back to MPI where final color correction was performed. Benjamin Button post supervisor Peter Mavromates says Even if David had shot all of Benjamin Button on film he would have wanted to do the Lowry processing because it unifies the visual palette making it more consistent. This film covers eight decades and jumps to different places on the planet so the goal was not to unify everything; it was more about unifying certain sections of the story. Visual effects shots were also processed at Lowry Digital to remove noise and flicker and adjust for consistent sharpness levels. Those sequences were then returned to the visual effects pipeline where keying and compositing is easier with a noise-free image. Later the composited effects have the desired noise added back in. Cooper says the re-introduction of noise and the adjustment of sharpness levels require judging the images by eye which was done to standards determined by preliminary testing and discussions with Fincher and Mavromates. Lowry originally collaborated with Fincher on the 2007 feature film Zodiac. When he saw that we could help unify the look of mixed media capture and bring out fine detail that traditional noise reduction would just crush away we became part of their standard workflow Silvers says. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is nominated for 13 Academy Awards 11 BAFTA Awards three SAG Awards and an American Society of Cinematographers Award. Lowry Digital www.lowrydigital.com.