Humility and Confidence in Filmmaking- Quincy Ledbetter’s advice

In a recent podcast episode with Film Riot, filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter discusses his first feature film with Paramount and how he got to where he is today. Ledbetter’s key advice is that a filmmaker needs to find the perfect balance between confidence and humility.

He went on to state that as a director it’s okay to level with your cast and crew and admit when you don’t know everything. In fact, he admitted that in several points of his career some of his best cinematic moments came from speaking with cast and crew and brainstorming together.

When describing his first feature film, Alieu the Dreamer, he described how throughout the entire pre production and pitching process he went forward with the mentally that no matter what happened he was going to make the film anyway. Fully believing this calmed nerves and helped him to gain confidence when pitching to producers.

I think everyone has heard the phrase don’t think just do. But Ledbetter really brings this mentality to life and gives humbling advice on maintaining a balance of humility and confidence as an emerging filmmaker.


Listen to Quincy Ledbetter’s full podcast with Film Riot Here


Little Women (2019) Review

Synopsis

In the years after the Civil War, Jo March lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg, is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.

Release date: December 25, 2019

(USA)Director: Greta Gerwig

Box office: 206 million USD

My Review

The first thing that caught my eye with this film was its exquisite costume, and set design. Within the first few minutes of the film I felt transported back in time, and the acting played a huge part in this as well. The chemistry between the March sisters added a lot of depth to the film, and the sisterly bond between them came to life on the screen to create an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.

The one thing that I feel this film had a difficult job executing was its non-linear plot. With the first few time jumps, I had an easy time following along. However, at several points in the film it was initially unclear to me if the film was taking place in the present or past for certain scenes. I understand what the film was trying to go for, but its execution was a bit off.

The acting in this film was spectacular, and every character was both believable and realistic. Despite Jo March being the protagonist of the film, I still felt that every other character was established and well- developed. My only complaint with the acting is that it was a bit awkward and uncomfortable watching Florence Pugh act as young Amy. Her acting all throughout was great, but it was weird seeing her play a little girl with such a deep voice.

Overall, this film is creative and worth watching. The story is engaging and kept my attention all throughout. The production design is extremely well thought out and brings the entire universe of the film to life. However, I’m not sure if I would watch it again in the future. I think once was enough for me.

My Rating

7.5 out of 10


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FireFly lane (2021) review

Synopsis: Tully and Kate meet as young girls on Firefly Lane and become inseparable friends throughout 30 years of ups and downs. First episode date: February 3, 2021 Network: Netflix Program creator: Maggie Friedman Executive producers: Maggie Friedman, Stephanie Germain, Katherine Heigl, Lee Rose, Shawn Williamson, Peter O’Fallon My Review: After watching the first few episodes of this series, I was not sucked into …

Alien(s) (1986) Review

Synopsis After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds …

Alien (1979) Review

Synopsis In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and …

Jody Lee Lipe’s Advice on the Emotional Impact of Cinematography

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Jody Lee Lipes gave some industry advice on conveying emotion through the eye of the camera lens to the audience. Jody Lee Lipes describes cinematography as the physicality of words in images, and the cinematography of a film can have a massive impact on the psyche of an audience member, and often determine the audience’s relationship with the film. Jody Lee Lipes describes cinematography as the physicality of words in images.

Jody makes a point of stating that the focus of a cinematographer should not be to manipulate the audience, but to familiarize themselves with the story in such a way that the story tells the camera where it wants to go. The art of cinematography is to lead the audience down an emotionally led journey, and often the instinctual idea you get for a shot is the right one.

When asked about his prep routine before every film, Jody advises that the cinematographer breakdown every scene of the film into a “Bible.” Breaking down each scene into one summarizing sentence. He states that the cinematographer should be so familiar with the script that he/she can back up every planned shot down to a single purpose. If they cannot back the idea up, it likely means its initial concept wasn’t strong enough. Stick to your gut and follow the story line and it will drastically aid in bringing the film to life.


“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of the poet.”

– Orson Welles

Listen to Jody Lee Lipes full podcast with film riot Here

Ron Howard’s Advice on Being a Good Director

In a recent Podcast with The Director’s Cut, Ron Howard spoke to Jeremy Kagan about the relationships he builds with his collaborators, and the impact these relationships have on a film. He describes the mutual and respectful relationship he aims to develop with both his first assistant director and the cinematographer, stating that both the 1st AD and Cinematographer work just as hard as the director.

Howard says that it’s often the most helpful when the 1st AD also functions in a producer role early on in the pre-production process. This way the 1st AD is more familiar with the film and has a voice in the decision-making process from the beginning. He describes this relationship as helping to identify the absolutes and the possible land mines that will arise later on in the film-making process.

It’s not uncommon to hear the saying- a director, not a dictator. Louise Drumm, an assistant theater director with Dublin Youth Theatre states, “To be a good director you have to know when to let go.” Ron Howard brings this quote to life by establishing a symbiotic relationship between himself, as the director, his 1st AD, and cinematographer. He seems to be aware that filmmaking is a collaborative process, and perhaps this is the reason many of his films have been so widely successful.


“One of the great things about being a director as a life choice is that it can never be mastered. Every story is its own expedition, with its own set of challenges.”

-Ron Howard


Listen to the Directors Guild Podcast The Craft of The Director with Ron Howard Part 1 (Ep. 258) here.

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) Review

Synopsis

Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) watches helplessly as his wife and child are murdered, by Union men led by Capt. Terrill (Bill McKinney). Seeking revenge, Wales joins the Confederate Army. He refuses to surrender when the war ends, but his fellow soldiers go to hand over their weapons — and are massacred by Terrill. Wales guns down some of Terrill’s men and flees to Texas, where he tries to make a new life for himself, but the bounty on his head endangers him and his new surrogate family.

Release date: June 26, 1976

(USA)Director: Clint Eastwood

Story by: Asa Earl Carter

Film series: The Outlaw Josey Wales

Screenplay: Philip Kaufman, Sonia Chernus

My Review

The short and sweet intro to the films conflict at its beginning gave me the instinct that this would be a phenomenal film. That instinct was not wrong in the slightest. This Western film showcases almost every “stereotype” of a Western film, and it does so in brilliant ways. The plot kept me interested into the film’s story, and the film is full of dynamic characters that come to life on screen.

The editing in this film surprised me in a positive way. I noticed lots of cross dissolves in the battle scenes, and this added an interesting feel and look to the film. It helped the action new and exciting and avoided becoming monotonous. The limited use of music was something that stood out to me in the films editing. There are a lot of films whose musical score completely adds to the emotion and intensity that the audience feels. However, in with a lack of music in this film the filmmakers still excelled at investing the audience into its story.

As a character Josey Wales was extremely intriguing and mysterious. Right from the beginning of the film Josey gains the sympathy of his audience members. Throughout the rest of the film the audience witnesses Josey on a journey of revenge and self growth. Clint Eastwood brought the character to life and made it his own.

I was expecting the whole film to focus primarily on the conflict of revenge in its plot. However, the plot to this film was way more complex than that, and the intertwining of several plots and stories added a lot to this film. While this film had many of the Western film traits, it showcased them in new and innovative ways. For example, unlike most Western films, the Native Americans in this film are not the bad guys. In fact, the film helps she’s some sympathy on the heartbreak they endured.

My Rating

8.5 out of 10


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Chicago (2002) Review

Synopsis

Nightclub sensation Velma (Catherine Zeta-Jones) murders her philandering husband, and Chicago’s slickest lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), is set to defend her. But when Roxie (Renée Zellweger) also winds up in prison, Billy takes on her case as well — turning her into a media circus of headlines. Neither woman will be outdone in their fight against each other and the public for fame and celebrity.

Release date: December 27, 2002

(USA)Director: Rob Marshall

My Review

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The parallel editing within the plot is unique and an artistic masterpiece. The acting, dance numbers, and singing in this film did not disappoint. My absolute favorite thing about this film is the set and costume designs. The filmmakers excelled at creating a visual experience for the audience through ornate detailing in every single set and costume piece. However, I will say that some musical numbers seemed a little pointless, and overall silly compared to the others.

It is easy to tell that both the filmmakers and actors put everything they had into this film. As usual, Renée Zellweger does a phenomenal job, and her performance in this film is both charming and daunting. Catherine Zeta-Jones shined brightly in her performance as well. Especially in the dance numbers. It was easy to tell Catherine is the better dancer between the two. Both women completely became the characters they portrayed and had outstanding performances.

The plot of this film stays consistently entertaining throughout, and for the most part I would say there is a well established balance between the dialogue and musical numbers. I know this film recreates the musical Chicago in a movie form, and it’s not the movies fault but some songs are way to silly and pointless. These silly musical numbers lost my attention into the film for their whole duration. However, the transitions into and out of the musical numbers were seamless and kept my attention all throughout.

The parallel editing between scenes in this film was extremely unique and I cannot recall ever seeing anything with a similar style pulled off as effortlessly as this film does. The creative liberty taken by the filmmakers was genius and well thought out. For example, the scene with Roxie being used metaphorically and symbolically as a puppet by her lawyer was very expressive.

Overall, this film captures the musical Chicago in a new and creative way. The film is both entertaining and enjoyable to watch. However, I’m not sure if I would ever watch this film again. Once may be enough for me.

My Rating

7.5 out of 10


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Lucas Hagar: The Influence of NArrative Storytelling on Documentaries

In a podcast with Film Riot, Lucas Harger talked in-depth about his filmmaking process as well as the creative cross between narrative film and documentary filmmaking. As a filmmaker, Lucas has been successful in crossing between editing both documentary and narrative stories to produce unique and creative content. According to Lucas, being able to create …

The Florida Project (2017) Review

Synopsis

Set in the shadow of the most magical place on Earth, 6-year-old Moonee and her two best friends forge their own adventures, while Moonee’s struggling mom and a kindhearted motel manager protect the kids from the harsh reality that surrounds them.

Release date: October 5, 2017

(USA)Director: Sean Baker

Budget: 2 million USD

My Review

A24 has produced some amazing films recently, which made me very excited to give this film a watch. I had heard such amazing things about it, and I was not left disappointed. The film was perfectly unified in its visual presentation. The color grading, camera work, set, costumes, etc. all blended in flawlessly with one another. The balance of comedy, drama, and realism was wonderfully suited. Although some people criticize the ending of the film, I found it to be the perfect wrap up to a story centered on the power of childhood innocence and imagination.

This film is heavy to watch. While the children in the film are often unaware of the dangers and reality around them, as an audience we are fully aware and that makes the film heartbreaking to watch at times. However, the audience watches the three protagonist children of this film battle their surroundings through imagination, which is touching and serves as a constant reminder that it’s possible to make the most of a situation.

The acting in this film stood out to me. I know this was both Bria Vinate and Brooklyn’s first film role, and they both did an incredible job. The close knit off screen relationship between the two was very apparent when watching the film. They appeared like a genuine mother and daughter duo, with a deep love and understanding between the two of them. William Dafoe did a phenomenal job as always, and his performance was chilling and heart-warming.

The ending of this film stuck with me as well. While some people are critical of its unrealistic and random ending, I thought it was perfectly accomplished. The entire film centers on the power of childhood innocence and the power of imagination. At the end of the film Moonee faces her harshest reality, and we as an audience member are experiencing it alongside her. The audience receives the chance to see things through Moonee’s eyes and experience childhood imagination through the sudden and imaginative ending. Real like doesn’t always have happy endings, and the only way the audience will receive their happy ending at the end of this film is if they escape to a place of unrealistic imagination.

My Rating

8.7 out of 10


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julie taymor: the cross universe of film and theatre

In a recent podcast episode with The Treatment, Julie Taymor discussed her new movie “The Glories” and how she uses storytelling to externalize what characters are feeling on screen. Julie Taymor is a Tony Award-winning director of both theatre and film. Her goal as a creative is to master the fantastical elements of the film …

r-e-s-p-e-c-t on a film set: advice from mimi leder

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Mimi Leder, an American director and producer, gave her best advice for keeping a healthy and productive film set. Mimi’s key piece of advice was to treat everyone with the respect that they deserve, and to always show them your appreciation. She pointed out that the cast …

Breaking Bad (2008) Series Review

Synopsis

Mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher Walter White thinks his life can’t get much worse. His salary barely makes ends meet, a situation not likely to improve once his pregnant wife gives birth, and their teenage son is battling cerebral palsy. But Walter is dumbstruck when he learns he has terminal cancer. Realizing that his illness probably will ruin his family financially, Walter makes a desperate bid to earn as much money as he can in the time he has left by turning an old RV into a meth lab on wheels.

First episode date: January 20, 2008

Final episode date: September 29, 2013

Spin-offs: Better Call Saul, Metástasis, Talking Bad

Awards: Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama

My Review

This is a phenomenal and consistent series that I thoroughly enjoyed watching. The thing I love most about this series is that its plot seems like that of a book. The show keeps a consistent plot from “cover to cover”, and the direction that the show takes is clearly plotted and planned. Unlike a lot of TV Shows, the show does not lose its direction, and the story-line stays entertaining throughout the entire series because of its unpredictable nature.

There are three things that stood out to me the most in this series- the cinematography, soundtrack, and acting. All three were spot on in this series and set it apart from any other series. The whole creative look of the show totally stole my attention and kept me interested in the series as a whole.

The only bad thing I have to say about this show is that it got a little slow at times. There were a few episodes I had to try harder to get through in order to reach more exciting episodes. However, this was a minor price to pay for such an incredible show. When looking at the bigger picture the slower moments helped to add in some lifelike and realistic elements. The blend of unrealistic events and realistic was perfectly balanced and in sync with one another.

One of my favorite elements of this series was the character development. Jesse and Walter are perfect character foils of each other, and the relationship between the two is extremely interesting to watch. When the series started out Walter was the moral and “good citizen”, however, the two end up switching places by the end of the series. Walter ultimately becomes the perfect representation of everything he fears and despises at the start of the series. However, the way his character redeems himself broke my heart, yet I loved every second.

My Rating

9 out of 10

I would definitely watch this entire series again in the future!

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really… I was alive”

– Walter White

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working with what you got: Advice from the creators of Faith Based

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, the creators of the film Faith Based (Vincent Masciale, Luke Barnett, and Tanner Thomason), gave constructive advice to filmmakers who think they need to wait till they make it into Hollywood to make their film. The filmmakers discussed how their original plan for the film was to shoot …

Aaron Schneider’s Directing advice from film Greyhound

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Aaron Schneider discussed the things we were forced to learn while shooting Greyhound. Most of the films set was composed of green screens, which had its challenges. Schneider’s main advice is to come up with a detailed and set plan when working with extensive green screens and technology …

Humility and Confidence in Filmmaking- Quincy Ledbetter’s advice

In a recent podcast episode with Film Riot, filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter discusses his first feature film with Paramount and how he got to where he is today. Ledbetter’s key advice is that a filmmaker needs to find the perfect balance between confidence and humility. He went on to state that as a director it’s okay …

Hereditary (2018) Review

Synopsis

When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter and grandchildren unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, trying to outrun the sinister fate they have inherited.

Initial release: June 7, 2018

(Russia)Director: Ari Aster

Screenplay: Ari Aster

Nominations: MTV Movie Award for Most Frightened Performance

Awards: Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Actress, Bandung Film Festival for Imported Film

My Review

I have always been a tremendous fan of Ari Aster’s films, becuase of their ability to create suspense and leave a psychological impact on the audience. After watching Midsommar, I had high expectations for this film, and it left me slightly unimpressed. There was a loss of mystery in this film, and I found the plot was predictable at times. However, the film is very well made from a production standpoint.

Unlike Midsommar, there were times this film was not subtle enough in its clues. For example, as soon as they showed the doormat at Joans door step, and Annie stated that her mom used to make mats just like that I knew there was a connection between the two. Since I knew the film focused around Pagan rituals, I knew the two were related, and that Joan was up to no good. While I could not fill in all the missing details of what was going on. Enough information was spoon fed to me I didn’t really pine to figure out the answers.

The one scene that had me holding my breath in suspense, was Charlie’s death scene. I did not see that coming, and it was definitely heartbreaking to watch. However, the only other time throughout this film that I felt this way was when Steve throws the sketchbook into the fire. All the other climatic scenes did not fully have my attention. Especially any scene that involved floating.

When Peter wakes up in bed near the climax of the film, and his mother Annie clinging to the ceiling it terrified me. However, when she began floating around, it looked so fake to me I couldn’t take it seriously.

I loved the parallel of the model doll house in the film, and I wish they would have done more with it. It definitely created a sense to the audience that they were looking in on “dolls” living their life, in which they have no control in the events transpiring. I really liked this, and it made me sad they didn’t go further with it.

My favorite thing about the film was the camera work, lighting, and set design. It was truly a beautiful film to watch and they clearly put a lot of thought behind every tiny detail. The acting was also phenomenal. In fact, I forgot I was watching a bunch of actors on screen. The actor’s performance definitely made up for the lack of investment into the plot and storyline for me.

Overall, the plot of this film was unique and creative. I had a hard time getting invested into the film and I wasn’t too eager to figure out what was going on. I was just watching the film, and so I missed out on the psychological impact of the movie. However, I would watch the film again to see if there were any tiny details or symbolic meanings I missed.

My Rating

6 out of 10


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Judd Apatow: The Role of improvisation in FILMMAKING

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Judd Apatow shared his advice for film directors. Judd had lots of brilliant advice to give, but the principal thing he kept reiterating was the important of improvisation in film-making. He expressed that throughout the entire film-making process he slowly allows the film to come to life. …

Control Your Property- Jim Cummin’s Advice On Distributing Your Own Film

Jim Cummings is an extremely unique director in the sense that he often heads up the distribution of his films and their production. In a recent Podcast with Film Riot, he explains to the listeners just how he goes about accomplishing this. To many filmmakers, the idea of overseeing the distribution of your own films …

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5 Things I’ve learned Since Making My First Short Film

We all have to start somewhere, and that’s okay. I recently just re watched the first short film I have ever made.. and boy was it rough. But it’s not good to be critical of our past works, because we have since grown and expanded our knowledge of filmmaking. I’m going to share with you 5 things I know now that I didn’t know when I made my first short film.

  1. The Importance of Having a Script

When I made my first short film, I did not know of plot points and the three act structure. If you need a tutorial on these things check out my blog post on how to write a screenplay here… https://cinematicgeekster.wordpress.com/2020/04/13/writing-a-screenplay-rules-and-format/. However, when I made my first short film, I didn’t even use a written script. Which I thought was okay because I was the writer, director, and cinematographer. The issue with not having a written script was that the actors did not fully understand what was happening until I gave them the rundown before each shot. It also strongly impacted the continuity of my film.

2. The Importance of Quality Audio

I knew nothing about audio editing when I made my first film. I did not understand that voice narration needed to be louder than any background noise and music. I also used my iPhone to record voice over narration, which was fine, but there was a lot of wind in the background. Looking back, I could have tried to clean up the audio in editing. However, since it was my first film I was editing on Movie Maker, I really should have just recorded in a controlled and quiet environment versus outside.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Re Shoot

In my first short film I shot each scene once and then moved on. I took no time to watch the scene I just shot and see if anything needed to be redone. I also had no idea what a safety shot was and how useful it can be when it comes time to edit. The camera work of the film was not bad at all, however, there were shots out of focus I could have easily fixed by re shooting.

4. Take Time Choosing Music for Your Film

One thing that drove me crazy the most when re watching my first short film was the choice in music. Each song I chose was extremely cinematic and dramatic. Which is fine, however, I filed almost every second of the film up with this kind of music. Because of this, the music lost all of its emotional impact since there was no clear drawn climatic moment in the music. It didn’t occur to me that not every single moment of a film needs to be full of music, and that it’s okay to have silent moments as well.

5. Don’t Skip Pre-Production

I had no form of pre-production when I made my first short film. I got my actors together, had an idea in my mind, and just starting filming. Spending more time in pre production could have easily avoided many issues in my film and I think overall it would have made the film flow better. If you want a rundown on what each stage of filmmaking involves check out my blog post on the three stages of production here… https://cinematicgeekster.wordpress.com/2020/04/17/the-3-stages-of-production/


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Too Loud For The Crowd?- Criticism On Nolan’s New Film Tenet

Christopher Nolan’s film “Tenet” has had a successful opening weekend. However, there is still much debate behind the sound-mixing of Nolan’s films and “Tenet” doesn’t appear to be any different. In a recent article with Indiwire, Zack Sharf explores the sound mixing of Nolan’s films and the reasoning behind it. Many people often complain that …

Jody Lee Lipe’s Advice on the Emotional Impact of Cinematography

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Jody Lee Lipes gave some industry advice on conveying emotion through the eye of the camera lens to the audience. Jody Lee Lipes describes cinematography as the physicality of words in images, and the cinematography of a film can have a massive impact on the psyche of an …