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


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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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 …

3 Lessons To Learn From Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock’s Rule

Hitchcock’s rule is one of the most beneficial lessons you can learn from him and apply to your own work. According to Hitchcock’s rule, everything in the frame must have significant meanings. If you pay attention to the frame in Hitchcock’s films every thing within the shot is symbolic. For example, the person who appears larger in the frame often holds all the power within the scene.

Suspense Vs Mystery

Hitchcock never made a mystery film, nor did he want to. He found that to create meaningful and captivating suspense you had to ensure the audience knew more about what was going on in the film than the characters within the film. Hitchcock’s film Sabotage is a prime example of this. A young boy is meant to deliver a package, with no knowledge there is a bomb within the parcel. However, the audience is well aware, and this causes all the suspense. Because the audience knows that time is running out until the bomb goes off, while the characters have no clue.

The Power of Birds Eye View

Hitchcock uses bird eye view shots a lot in his film, and he states that it helps to create a sense that in reality the characters within the film are tiny and have little to no control over their life. In his movie The Birds, usage of a bird’s-eye view was effective. Through the bird’s-eye view shot the audience sees masses of birds watching the town people, which adds to their threat of terror over the characters in the film. It’s also very affective in foreshadowing events that are about to transpire.


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The 3 Stages of Production

There are three crucial stages of production when making a film. Each step is as important as the next, and every stage requires lots of attention. In this blog I am going to breakdown the three stages of production and what each stage includes.

Pre Production

  1. Writing– this is the stage in which a script is written, faces peer review, and the script is re-written. This also includes story boarding ideas before you begin writing.
  2. Crew and Cast– The film is cast, and each role is filled. Each crew member is handpicked, and the film is fully staffed.
  3. Schedule– A plan for each day of shooting is written out and planned. The schedule states when and where things are to be filmed.
  4. Locations– The location scouts search for the perfect setting and if required filming contrasts are drawn up and shared with the proper business people.
  5. Props/Costumes/Art Direction– In this stage all the needed props, costumes, sets, etc are creating and ready for use.
  6. Shot List– A format list breaking down each shot, angle, and direction of the camera.

Production

  1. Shooting– This is the stage in which all the pre-production work is put into place and the actual shooting of the film occurs. The longer you spend in Pre Production, the more organized and productive the Production process will be.

Post Production

  1. Editing– The footage is all spliced, transitions are added, and overlays are put into place.
  2. Special Fx– Special effects are incorporated and added to the film.
  3. Color Grading– This is one of the most important steps in the post-production process. It will distinguish your film as professional looking and increase the quality by a ton.
  4. Sound/ Audio Foley– Sound is mixed, editing, and added under neath each shot.
  5. Soundtrack– Music is handpicked and deed to the film in order to add an emotional impact.

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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 …

Writing A Screenplay- Rules and Structure

Guidelines When Writing A Screenplay

  • Feature- length screenplays are 90- 120 pages. When formulated correctly this equals 90- 120 minutes on screen.
  • Industry Standard Formatting
    • Act 1 = pages 1-30
    • Act 2 = pages 31-90
    • Act 3 = pages 91-120

The Five and Dime Rule

Typically studios and producers look at the first five pages and the last ten pages of a screenplay to determine if they will produce it.

The Basics of Writing a Screenplay | The Film Look - YouTube

Act 1

  • Introduction to your screen world
  • Begin with an image
  • The first few moments are the most important because they will immerse the audience into your production
  • The inciting incident will occur in Act 1 and this is the catalyst that begins the main conflict of the movie
  • The “World” of your film goes from order to chaos
  • What does your character want? Will he/she succeed?
  • End of Act 1 = the first big turning point or Plot Point 1
  • Remember the end of Act 1 should occur around page 30

Act Two

  • Act 2 is the middle of the movie. Remember, according to industry standards Act 2 occurs from pages 31-90.
  • The focus is how the plot point will be resolved.
  • More complications should develop that are keeping the main character from reaching their goal or objective.
  • Plot Point 2 will occur right at the end of Act 2 (around page 90). Plot Point 2 needs to be dramatic and drastic as it will lead to the climax of the film. For example, maybe someone dies, and the main character is battling internally with whether or not he would continue. Raise the stakes!!!

Act 3

  • Act 3 is the resolution of the film
  • Remember Act 3 usually occurs between pages 91 and 120 in a feature length film.
  • An epiphany needs to happen as well as a resolution and wrapping up of loose ends.

Review

Screenplay Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

This is the typical industry format for a feature length film. Keep in mind that one minute of script should equal one minute of screen time. Also, make sure you have two plot points as this will drive forth the action of your film and captivate the audience. It’s also important to note that these ruled are more of a guide than a formula you must strictly follow. However, there is a reason these rules have become the standard, and it’s because it works. Audience members are used to this formula, and it’s what we expect when watching a film. However, ruled can be broken successfully. Especially for starting out with writing a feature-length film, these guidelines are really helpful to follow.


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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 …

Coco (2017) Film Review

Synopsis

Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting a charming trickster named Héctor, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
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Release dateNovember 22, 2017 (USA)
Box office807.1 million USD

My Review 

Pixar does not disappoint. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a Disney Pixar movie I have not fallen in love with. I finally got around to checking this movie off of my must see list, and I loved every second of watching this film.

The animation is top-notch, and the color, music, and overall environment created in this movie was astounding to look and listen to. One of the amazing things about Pixar movies is that no matter how old you are, these movies will always have a special place in your heart. This movie is relatable for a wide age range. Whether you’re a kid balancing life and family, a parent trying to understand your child, or an elderly family member stuck in the past. This movie had a lot of life lessons that could be learned, and I truly feel any audience member will connect with the film on an emotional level.

This film was not predictable for me, and I did not see the plot twists coming. Which is not a typical element of a children’s film. The plot had me interested and engaged throughout the entire movie, starting from the first ten minutes of the movie. If you are interested in learning more about other cultures and their traditions, I strongly recommend you watch this film. I have always been fascinated by the tradition of Day of the Dead. This movie gives an interesting look into this tradition, and how family is valued into Mexican Culture.

Overall, this movie is an incredible feel good movie to watch solo or with the family. It’s a highly emotional story that will tug at your heartstrings.

My Rating

4.5 out of 5

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Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) Film Review

Synopsis

Writer and notorious marriage detractor Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) falls for girl-next-door Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), and they tie the knot on Halloween. When the newlyweds return to their respective family homes to deliver the news, Brewster finds a corpse hidden in a window seat. With his eccentric aunts (Josephine Hull, Jean Adair), disturbed uncle (John Alexander), and homicidal brother (Raymond Massey), he realizes that his family is even crazier than he thought.
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Release dateSeptember 1, 1944 (USA)

My Review 

If you have not seen this film… Go Watch It Now! This movie has been on my top 10 list of films for years now.

My favorite thing about this film is the plot structure. They based this film off on a play and that shows. This play follows the old style of comedy with dramatic irony. The audience is fully aware of what is going on in the movie, however a lot of the actors are left in the dark. Which leads to a lot of confusion among the characters within the film and adds to the comedic element for the audience.

Something I love about this film that I think more plays and films need to be inspired by is all the comedic timing and use of facial expressions. Image result for arsenic and old laceCary Grant’s facial expressions throughout this film makes for some of the best comedic moments. This is also something that is known to be one of Cary Grant’s signature strengths.

The plot of this film is quick paced, and there are several stories lines going on all at the same time. Newly wed Mortimer Brewster is trying to leave on his honeymoon, his aunts are murdering elderly gentleman, his uncle thinks he’s Teddy Roosevelt, and his crazy brother Jonathon shows up  on the run from the police. While the overall feel of the movie is left very light and comedic, the action within the play is insane and the audience gets to watch along on the journey.

I absolutely adore the acting in this film. Besides Cary Grant’s amazing performance, everyone else does a fantastic job. There is not a bad acting performance in this entire film. Image result for arsenic and old laceJosephine Hull and Jean Adair as the two aunts is my favorite. These two women do not disappoint in this film, and their characterization is amazing. They are nothing short of being sweet elderly women in this film, which makes it even more of a comedic shock to find they have single-handedly poisoned and buried several men in their cellar. 

Lastly, the camera work and lighting of this film are unique and appealing. Much like the play, this film takes place solely inside the Brewster’s living room. While we see action take place in a few other locations, most of the film is set in one area of the house. However, the film does not get boring and as an audience member it’s hard to notice that the camera has not left the one room. The camera work is very innovative and creative.

My Rating 

4.5 out of 5

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Harriet (2019) Film Review

Synopsis 

From her escape from slavery through the dangerous missions she led to liberate hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad, the story of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman is told.
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Release date: November 1, 2019 (USA)
Box office: 43.3 million USD

My Review 

I was extremely excited to see this film. Harriet Tubman is one of my favorite historical figures, and it’s about time someone makes a movie about her. However, this movie did not live up to my expectations.

First things first. The soundtrack of this movie made no sense at all. I often got sucked out of the world of the film. The soundtrack did not match up with the scenes of the film, and instead of heightening the audiences emotional experience, it only took away from it. Image result for harriet movieThere is a powerful scene in the movie where Harriet is getting taken away by boat to safety after the passing of the fugitive slave law. It was a powerful and emotional scene. However, the music sounded like a song from a funeral and did not match up with the action of the film. 

One element I really liked about this film was how historically accurate they made it. By sticking close to history, the filmmakers lost a good chunk of creative freedom. But this was something I really appreciated about this film. I appreciated how they tried to incorporate the use of Harriet’s god given visions, but the way the filmmakers incorporated it into the film was confusing. It made more sense as the film went on, however, at the beginning it was hard to tell if the audience was getting a look at visions or flashbacks.

The most redeemable trait of this film was the acting. Cynthia Erivo  gave a convincing performance as Harriet Tubman. Image result for harriet movieShe did an excellent job of showing the growth and contrast of Harriet’s character from the beginning of the film to the end. However, Cynthia’s acting stood out the most and compared to her the other actors/actresses only did a sub par job.

It took me a hot minute to get emotionally invested into this movie, but once I was invested, it stayed constant till the credits rolled. I understand that the filmmakers needed to set up the story and show Harriet’s life before the Underground Railroad. But the movie did not get interesting until she ran away and come back for her husband and family.

Overall, I enjoyed this film, but I would not watch it again. However, I would recommend that everyone see it once in their life. As there is a lot to learn and appreciate about Harriet Tubman.

My Rating

3 out of 5

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5 Things I’ve Learned in Film School from a College Senior

I’ve heard many times in my life that I am wasting my time and money by going to college to study film. However, as I’m approaching my last semesters of my college career, I am realizing just how much I have learned. Here are the top five things my University has taught me about the film industry.

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1. Collaberation

The most valuable thing I have learned from being a part of the film and theatre community is that you must be willing/able to collaborate with your peers. I have seen so many people who think they know best and are not willing to listen to anyone else’s ideas. However, this only results in BAD films and bad contents. No one person is an expert in every area of film production. While it’s important to understand all the various fields such as lighting, sound, camera, directing. Everybody has their speciality and is nowhere near being an expert in these fields. The best films come from working with someone that specializes in each field and being able to listen to each other’s ideas and play off of each other’s feedback.

2. Confidence

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The second main thing I have gained throughout my college career is confidence. Being able to turn in projects and gain the feedback/ constructive criticism of classmates and professors is HUGE. A big confidence booster is being able to see your growth from Freshman year onward. That is something you can always do outside of a university setting. However, the community environment built by fellow students and faculty is an amazing place for being challenged and growing as a filmmaker. I have definitely gained so much confidence in my filmmaking and that gives me great ease as I think about graduation and getting into the film industry.

3. Connections

A major benefit I have found from attending a university for film studies is all the connections you will make. My classes have had a wide variety of guest speakers, and former students come to talk with us including an editor from the Ellen show and a camera operator from the Walking Dead. I talked to both speakers and show them my work. The feedback from them was extremely valuable and their lengthy advice for getting into the film industry. I have also gotten the amazing opportunity to showcase films in various festivals and meet filmmakers through professors and advisors. I still collaborate with other filmmakers I have met through professors and learn from them more and more every day.

4. Professionalism

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From watching film professors and being thrown into professional environments, I have learned how to act and be very professional in various situations. I have also gained more confidence in approaching and talking to peers and how to react in certain social situations. I have lots of social anxiety, so this has been extremely beneficial to me, especially as I leave school and head into the “real” world.

5. Production Elements

Having different professors that each specific in different fields is very beneficial. I have learned a lot from audio, directing, camera work, documentary film-making, editing, sound editing, graphic design, media writing, etc. Having a professor in front of you that specializes in that specific field is extremely useful, and I have learned so much. In the production side of things, I have learned way too much to count into one blog.