This is the report Kyle Jones, a senior at Tigard High School in Oregon, wrote on filmmaking, using the interview he had with us. The interview took place on Sunday, Nov 17. He got 195 out of a possible 200 points for the report.
The lights go down. The curtains open. The audience sits quietly in their seats,
suddenly being immersed into another world, a world full of heroes, villains, or just a
couple guys trying to get by in life. Whether they are there to see Obi-wan duel with
Darth Vader, Norman Bates slay his guest in the shower, or Lloyd Christmas and Harry
Dunn fight over Mary Swanson, they are all there for one reason: to be entertained. This
is what a filmmaker strives to accomplish through his work.|
A filmmaker is responsible for accomplishing many tasks through the course of
production of a film. The producer takes the majority of this responsibility. He or she is
accountable for selecting plays or scripts, arranging financing, and deciding the size and
content of the production and its budget (“Actors, Directors, and Producers,” Handbook
193). Producers also decide on who will be involved on the production of the film, by
selecting writers, directors, managers, and other positions on the staff (“Actors, Directors,
and Producers,” Internet 1). The director is the one who must then tell the story of the
film which has been adapted from a play or script. Director, producer, and writer, Alan
Winston, described his job by saying, “I coordinate and run a crew of people that, as a
team, create movies.”
Teamwork is immensely important when making a movie. Those involved in the
production must be able to work well with each other for the duration that it takes to
make a particular film, which can take less than six months to more than two years. These
long periods of time working together can cause ones stress level to become quite high.
This is especially true when one finds himself working a twelve to sixteen hour day, where
it is very easy to become aggravated with problems on the set. A positive attitude under
the most trying circumstances is of utmost importance in the long periods of time which it
takes to make a film (“Survival Guide” 1). Cooperation and the ability to work well with
others is what will get the job done. A production team has to be able to get along in
order to be successful. This is why after being in the business for a while, many
production crews are made of people who have worked well together in the past.
Technology is essential in the process of film making. It is used from the time the
camera starts rolling, to when the projector stops playing, and everywhere in between. In
producing a film, everything starts with the camera. In early film productions, the camera
was housed in a large soundproof room. This was in the time of silent movies. As
technology improved, the camera was able to move more freely. In today’s movies, the
camera can go anywhere, literally. Shots can be taken in the air, underwater, in the dark,
in bright sunlight, and move in any direction. Almost any shot is possible with today’s
level of technology in the way of movie cameras.
The responsibility of running this equipment is rarely ever up to the producer or
director. It is almost always left in the hands of the cinematographer. However, there are
some occasions where a director will want a particular shot to be taken. When this
happens, it is sometimes easier for the director to position the camera himself, rather than
try to tell the cinematographer what he wants. An example of this occurred on the set of
“Rosemary’s Baby.” Roman Polanski, the director, was looking for a very specific shot that
would actually involve the audience. In one scene in the film, a woman is sitting at the end
of a bed, talking on the phone. Originally, the camera was looking through the doorway
at her, which did not do much to grab the eye. Polanski decided to move the camera to the
left, so that the woman’s face was not able to be seen, due to the doorjamb being in the
way. At the screening, when this scene was shown, eight hundred people leaned to the
right, trying to see around the doorjamb, and into the room, to see the woman’s face.
This shot was successful at involving the audience because of the way it was filmed.
The most noticeable piece of technology, yet unnoticeable when it is at its best, is
the use of computers to accomplish effects. The best special effect is the one that cannot
be told apart from everything else in the scene. Computers have aided greatly in this area
of film making. Winston noted, “What once had to be done by a team of set designers,
modelmakers, puppeteers, and other effects experts can now be done by a few people with
Realistically, very few people become successful to the status of a Steven
Spielberg or an Alfred Hitchcock. For many, it is a labor of love, rather than of one for a
profit. It takes an extremely large amount of hard work, determination, and sacrifice to be
a film maker. No formal training is required to become a director or producer (“Actors,
Directors, and Producers,” Internet 2). Because of this, one’s success, or lack there of, is
not always dependent upon his or her education in the area of film making. Those who
are in the business for the sake of being good filmmakers and making good movies are the
ones who often times do not become successful, but then there are the rare occasions.
One man who did this was Martin Scorsese. He attended the New York University film
school, where he won awards for his student films. Scorsese is a man who wanted to be in
the business for the films themselves. This is clearly demonstrated by his first film, “Who’s
That Knocking On My Door?” He made and financed the film entirely on his own
(“Scorsese, Martin” 1). He was dedicated to his cause, and has continued to make
incredible movies, such as “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.” Those who do stay in the
business for the quality of the films, not the box office potential, earn a lot of respect
among audiences, but receive mixed reactions from others in the business. Some wholly
support the “indy” movement of films, while others are definitely against it. Winston
commented, “It’s interesting to see a film made for a few thousand dollars that’s as
entertaining as one made for many millions.” An example of this is the film “Swingers.”
The movie had a very small budget. At the 1996 MTV Movie Awards, the director of
“Swingers” said, “We made our movie for what ‘Lost World’ spent on snacks.” Oddly
enough, in the eyes of many, “Swingers,” which had a tremendously tiny budget, was
much better than “Lost World.” This is because it was a quality film; one that the director
felt strongly about. He was a director in it for the film, not the money. When asked if he
makes film for the enjoyment or the money, Alan Winston responded, “Since I haven’t
exactly made any money doing it, I’d have to say the enjoyment.”
I myself have made short films and videos myself over the past year and a half, and
find it very satisfying to complete something that I have worked so hard, and spent so
much time on. The first time I sat down and watched one with the other people who have
worked on the project with me, it gave me a great feeling of accomplishment. Film
making, whether it be on the side in front of the camera, in the sound room, behind the
camera, or in front of the screen, it is about one thing: feeling. Watching a movie can
make anyone feel an emotion that would not have been felt had it not been seen. Making
a film gives feelings of accomplishment.
“Actors, Directors, and Producers.” Internet. http://www.collegeboard.com. [13 November 1997].
“Actors, Directors, and Producers.” Occupational Outlook Handbook. United States Department of Labor. 1996-97 edition. Lincolnwood, Illinois: VGA Career Horizons, 1996: 193-195.
Belli, Moe. “Filmmaker’s Freelance Survival Guide.” Internet. http://www.cyberfilmschool.com/articles/freelance.htm. Cyber Film School [11 November 1996].
“Scorsese, Martin.” Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls Corporation 1993-1995.
Winston, Alan. Personal Interview. 17 November 1997.