Letters to the Projectionist

Friday, April 12, 2013

Breaking the celluloid ceiling.

According to the 2013 Status of Women in the U.S. Media Report, the percentage of women in "behind-the-scenes" roles in film" has remained at a meager 18% average since 1998. There has been almost a zero percent increase in the past 14 years. In further detail, in the 2011-2012 season, women made up 25% of executive producers, 30% of writers, 11% of directors, 13% of editors, and a mere 4% of directors of photography. I find this quite disturbing, and disheartening at times, as a women with a life-long desire to find a career in this industry, and more specifically, as an editor or director of photography who so conveniently have two of the lowest percentages.

The graph below shows the statistics just mentioned, as they have changed over the course of the past fourteen years. Fortunately, women in the industry seem to be gaining way as creators, writers and producers. I believe we have Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (among many others) to thank for that one as 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation have been two of the largest television shows over the past 5 years. However, despite these growing numbers, women have yet to break a minor 40 percentage mark. And though the number of women in the categories on the left side of the graph seem to be growing at an "ok" rate, you'll notice that the right side isn't doing so well.

Photo courtesy of 2013 Women in the U.S. Media Report

So upon this recent research, I've decided to compile a list of women that not only inspire me as an impassioned editor/DP, but as a lover of film and most importantly, as a woman.

1. Lynne Ramsay
Ever since I saw We Need to Talk About Kevin I immediately became interested in Ramsay's work and began looking for it asap. She has become not only my favorite female director, but one of my favorite directors overall. She has an eye for film making that is very peculiar and original in the sense that I have never felt the mood I get from her films, in any others. She has successfully broken through the "celluloid ceiling" and is a serious contender in this boy's club that is the film industry.

2. Andrea Arnold

A director that is often overlooked and unjustly so. Arnold's films are among the most beautiful ever made. The cinematography in Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights is absolutely stunning, and yet Arnold has remained true to the 1.33:1 aspect ratio making that 100x harder to accomplish. This has always amazed me and though I am a huge advocate of anamorphic, I entirely appreciate Arnold's personal touch. I believe she has a truly one of a kind vision when it comes to shooting a film and I can only aspire to make a film as visually breathtaking as one of hers.

3. Sofia Coppola
Often times dismissed as the irrelevant "Francis Ford Coppola's daughter" but what I think people fail to realize is how great Sofia Coppola's films actually are. Before I even knew who she was, I saw The Virgin Suicides and knew it wasn't like anything I had ever seen. From that point on I watched every one of her films and still feel the same way. She got a lot of criticism for her version of Marie Antoinette, but what should truly be kept in mind is that she painted the picture the way she envisioned it, and the way that fit her personally. Coppola has always stayed true to herself no matter the amount of critique and complaints. And I truly admire that.

4. Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig & Amy Poehler
There is no doubt that since it's inception, Saturday Night Live has been predominantly run by men. Of it's 24 DVD releases titled "SNL best of... " only four of them are women, including Amy Poehler. Although they are outnumbered, these three women have proved to be some of the most crucial writers and players on the show and are highly respected comedians. As I mentioned before, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation are two of the most successful television shows with 7 and 5 seasons, respectively. And Wiig was an Oscar nominee for Best Original Screenplay in 2011 for her first feature film Bridesmaids. These women have set a new standard in comedy, and have proved that women can, in fact, be funny. Upon being honored with the Mark Twain Award for American Humor, Tina Fey gave one of my favorite quotes of all time, "Apparently I'm only the 3rd woman to receive this award and I'm so honored to numbered with Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg but I do hope that women are achieving at a rate these days that we can stop counting what number they are at things."

5. Sally Menke, Thelma Schoonmaker & Dede Allen
These are three of the greatest editors in the industry, and all three are women. Their work is outstanding and consists of Tarantino films, Scorsese films, and many others. Dede Allen was the editor on Bonnie and Clyde, which to this day has some of the most intricate editing for it's time. Their work is admirable, and though women make up only 13% of all editors, these women truly compensate for that. I can only hope to one day be in their shoes and have the opportunity to accomplish the same quality of work that these women have.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To The Wonder and the Works of Terrence Malick

Theatrical release poster for To The Wonder.

This past week the official U.S. Theatrical poster and trailer for Terrence Malick's newest feature film, To The Wonder were released. I have been following this film attentively since The Tree of Life, and I truly have never been more anxious to see a film than I am right now.

Terrence Malick, known for his poetic style of film making, brings us another beautifully photographed film with his signature graceful voice-overs. It's difficult to deny that Terrence Malick has an eye for beauty, an appreciation for nature, and a very developed ideological perception of humanity. Ever since 1973, when he made his directorial debut with Badlands, he has proven his capabilities for creating a new model for cinematic experience. However, it is often that he receives criticism for being "pretentious" or that his films "have a lack of narrative structure." But what truly carries weight here is not whether you feel he's blowing hot air or that he's an absolute genius, but that he embodies entirely the idea of auteurship and if nothing else, he should be respected. He has been praised by many acclaimed directors for not only his refined craftsmanship but for his ability to take a very specific vision and perfectly portray it through one of the most pungent mediums, in his originally stylized manner. Production designer and often Malick collaborator, Jack Fisk describes Malick as "a philosopher that visualizes his thoughts." Many actors who have worked on a Terrence Malick film discuss how peculiar and contrasting it is to prepare for a role in one of his film, and to be on set with the crew.

Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck in To The Wonder
After working on To The Wonder, Olga Kurylenko spoke about working with Malick and preparing for her role as Marina:
"Terry talks to me about life, about what’s important, about what’s real, and about “the Wonder.”... I receive pages every morning, sometimes ten, sometimes more. They’re not exactly a script—whether one exists or not is a complete mystery—but the words are (excuse my poeticism) rather like a breakfast for the soul. And every morning it’s a feast! If I digest the sense of what the pages contain, the nature of Terry’s words will shine through my eyes while we’re filming, and I won’t even need to speak."

Rachel McAdams also spoke about working with Malick on To The Wonder:
"I definitely get confused. But I like that feeling, because it forces me into something else. You’re working different muscles, you’re being asked to participate a bit more than other times, when things all make sense, and it’s all wrapped up for you, and you don’t have to ask any questions, and you don’t have to feel confused, and you don’t have to feel angry because you don’t know what something means. And I think it’s a really interesting way to watch a film. I think we’re out of practice with it a little bit.”

Ben Affleck:
Javier Bardem in To The Wonder
"The experience of it seemed half-crazy in that we didn’t really have dialogue, so I didn’t really know what was happening. Then I realized that he was accumulating colors that he would use to paint with later in the editing room."

Javier Bardem:
"When you work with Terrence Malick, you don't expect anything...I'm deeply proud of being in one of his movies. I truly believe that The Tree of Life is a masterpiece, and the experience of working with him has been great. So the end result, you may like it or not, but what I will always hold with me will be the experience of working with him."

Christian Bale:
"I found his way of working to be so interesting, that it was actually possible to work that way. I think forever I'll be trying to edge other directors into adopting the same attitude that he always had on the set, which made it so very easy in each and every scene."

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain in The Tree of Life
Brad Pitt:
"He's an extremely internal man, a Rhodes scholar, studied philosophy, has a love of science, a love of nature, a love of God...On a normal set it's very loud, generators going, over 100 crew members. There was none of that on this. There's one guy with a camera on his back, no lights, and we're free to roam wherever we want to roam."

Jessica Chastain:
"Terry would give us pages of dialogue that we could say in any order. And then we’d often redo the scene without dialogue. He’d say: “That's great, but now do the speech without the words.” And I had to convey what he wrote with my eyes and my body. Which is scary, but he made me feel like I could do anything."

To The Wonder tells a story about a man (Ben Affleck) who struggles between two loves, his recently married European wife (Olga Kurylenko), and an old childhood friend (Rachel McAdams). Upon seeing the newest and final theatrical trailer, my excitement and anticipation only grows exponentially for when To The Wonder comes to a theater in my area. Rachel McAdams says "It is such an interpretative film, and I think that it is so personal when watching it that there aren’t any right or wrong answers.” To The Wonder will be released in the United States on April 12th, 2013.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

CMF 2013

About two weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in the largest student film festival in the nation. Campus MoviFest is an organization that travels to Universities across the US giving students a chance to make a short film. They supply all the gear necessary. (Luckily I didn't have to go through the hassle of borrowing any of their gear). The only catch is that you only have one week to shoot, edit and submit your film and it must be five minutes or less.

Naturally, I jumped on board as soon as possible. My boyfriend Chaz and I immediately began planning what we were going to do with this five minutes. There were many, many hours spent shooting in the middle of the night, and without the dedication of my cast and crew there is no way this film would have been possible.

So, here is our final product. We ended up taking home the award for Best Cinematography as well as a nomination for Best Drama. We were also a runner up for the Audience Award.

Overall it was a just "ok" experience as I have found that CMF isn't exactly an accredited festival. Judging seemed to be based on how "unique" the story was instead of the quality of the film. It was definitely a let down.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Awards Season Fashion Master Post

I decided to compile all of my favorite looks from this year's awards season into one post. I tend to disagree with the popular opinion. Specifically the one that says George Clooney is anything above painfully average. So here they are: my best dressed men and women of the 2013 awards season.

Golden Globes
Nicole Kidman in Alexander McQueen
Tina Fey in L'Wren Scott
Eddie Redmayne in Hugo Boss
Robert Pattinson in Gucci

SAG Awards
Kelly Osbourne in Jenny Packham
Jessica Chastain in Alexander McQueen
Eddie Redmayne in Hugo Boss
Justin Timberlake in Tom Ford

Jessica Chastain in Roland Mouret
Olga Kurylenko in Nina Ricci
Eddie Redmayne in Burberry
Nicholas Hoult in Tom Ford

Academy Awards
Jessica Chastain in Armani Prive
Naomi Watts in Armani Prive
Eddie Redmayne in Alexander McQueen
Chris Pine in Ermenegildo Zegna

So basically what I've learned is that Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain can do no wrong when it comes to fashion on the red carpet. Needless to say the fashion was less disappointing than the actual awards. Hopefully next year's won't be so terrible that I find myself making a fashion master post instead of discussing this past years films, though I predict 2013 to be far more successful that 2012. But I guess we shall see.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Why modern romance films suck.

In honor of the arbitrary holiday that is Valentine's Day, I figured it would be a better moment than any to discuss the idea of romance in film. The idealistic, impractical, and counterfeit portrayal of two human beings supposedly being "in love." Check your local theater line-ups and about 90% of the time your average run-of-the-mill romantic comedy will be a option for your viewing. These include titles such as: The Wedding Singer, The Proposal, Sex and the City, Definitely, Maybe. You get the point. It's even gotten so bad that two of these films were released at the same time, with very similar plot lines. (see No Strings Attached, and Friends with Benefits). This formulaic message that love is where you least expect it, and that your one true soul mate is actually your best friend, and that when you meet this ungodly beautiful man he's going to be perfect in every way and you're going to live happily together in a middle class suburban area with a dog and two perfect children. This is not the way it works, and it's rather agitating that such false images of a loving relationship such as these are held in such high demand with American viewers. As a female, and contrary to popular opinion of such, I find these movies pathetic in the sense that not only do they deceive you into believing that every possible romantic interaction in your life will go as perfectly planned, but it's simply defrauding. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Romantic Comedies rank as the third highest grossing genre of cinema behind Action and Adventure. You pay ten dollars to watch an 90 minute film even though you know exactly how it's going to end. You can predict the plot line within the first ten minutes. Don't you at least think it's a waste of money?

So I find myself asking, why don't more films exist that show what it really means to love someone? Why don't more films show the pain of sacrifice? Or the pain of distance? Is it because it's not entertaining? Because it won't sell? Because it wasn't written by Nicholas Sparks? Perhaps it takes a special viewer to appreciate the value of a pictorial realism.

In 2011, a film title Blue Valentine was released. It features a story of a couple who experience an unexpected pregnancy (from another man). The current boyfriend puts his entire life on hold for the girl he loves and tells her "let's start a family" completely disregarding that the child is not even his.  They
get married and things seem great until we cut to five years later where their relationship starts to experience hardship and affliction as it begins to test the boundaries and capacity of marriage. This film took 12 years to write and get into production. It received nominations at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, London Film Critics, Independent Spirit Awards, and many more. It had a budget of 1 million dollars, and only grossed $12,355,734 in box office revenue.

In 2012, a film title The Vow was released. It features a story of a woman who goes into a coma and loses her memory. Her husband diligently stays by her side proving his love for her. Though a few moments of misfortune occur, the ending delivers favorable closure with a high predictability for future happiness. This films took a year to produce. It received nominations at the MTV Movie Awards, Teen Choice Awards and People's Choice Awards. It had a budget of 30 million dollars and grossed $196,114,570 in box office revenue putting it on the list of highest grossing romance films behind Titanic and Pearl Harbor.

So instead of wasting your time with a ridiculous display of false affection this Valentine's Day, pick up a film that proves that human emotion is something much more complex than this pretentious ideology that romance is rounded on all sides and that, in simple terms, love is an easy task. Next time you get the urge to watch Dear John, I advise you to take a look at The Thin Red Line, instead.

Happy Valentines Day.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ten favorite movie characters.

This list may be the most random combination of movie characters that a list such as this has entailed. But these are characters who I have either empathized with, wanted to be at some point, or just really enjoyed watching. This list is infinitely subject to change.

1. Lisbeth Salander//Rooney Mara//The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

2. Mona Lisa Vito//Marisa Tomei//My Cousin Vinny

3. Private Bell//Ben Chaplin//The Thin Red Line

4. Beatrix Kiddo//Uma Thurman//Kill Bill

5. Driver//Ryan Gosling//Drive

6. Mrs. O'Brien//Jessica Chastain//The Tree of Life

7. Jack Torrance//Jack Nicholson//The Shining

8. Alice Harford//Nicole Kidman//Eyes Wide Shut

9. Lily//Mila Kunis//Black Swan

10. Bonnie Parker//Faye Dunaway//Bonnie and Clyde

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Obligatory Oscar season post.

Well, the Oscars are almost here and I have absolutely no doubt that they will suck just as much this year as they have in the past. So far this awards season has gone just as horribly as I expected, the only category I believe them to have gotten right being Best Actress. So now, all that remains is the oh so prestigious Academy Awards. I honestly believe that it will go one of two ways: they will continue this "OMG ARGO" bandwagon, or they will begin making smarter choices such as even solely recognizing The Master. On another note, I kind feel bad for Kathryn Bigelow due to the bunch of insignificant overly sensitive folk who essentially ruined her chance for a Best Directing nomination (and sub-sequentially any chance of a Best Picture win.) But then again, I was never exactly rooting for Zero Dark Thirty in the first place. But I guess I'll stop rambling and get down to business. Here are my expectations for this years night of disappointment.

Best picture
Will win: Argo
Should win: Anything but Argo.

Will win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Should win: Joaquin Phoenix

Will win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should win: Jennifer Lawrence

Supporting Actor
Will win: Christoph Waltz
Should win: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Supporting Actress
Will win: Anne Hathaway
Should win: Amy Adams

Will win: Life of Pi
Should win: Films that aren't 90% CGI. But preferably The Master. Oh wait, it wasn't even nominated!

Costume Design
Will win: Anna Karinina
Should win: Snow White and the Huntsman

Will win: Les Miserable
Should win: Les Miserable

Adapted Screenplay
Will win: Argo
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

Original Screenplay
Will win: Django Unchained
Should win: Moonrise Kingdom

Original Song:
Will win: Adele "Skyfall"
Should win: Adele "Skyfall"

Film Editing
Will win: Life of Pi (not sure about this one?)
Should win: Silver Linings Playbook

Will win: Michael Haneke
Should win: Michael Haneke

Foreign Language
Will win: Amour
Should win: Amour. Shocked there was no Rust and Bone nom.

I didn't include all categories. Mostly because either I don't know enough about them, or I just don't care/didn't have a preference.
(The Academy Awards air February 24th)