Understanding the Cinematography of Janusz Kaminski

We’ve blogged in the past about understanding the techniques of some the best cinematographers working today. Now I want to turn the spotlight on arguably one of the most prolific cameramen in modern cinema; Janusz Kaminski.

Since first working together on Schindler’s List, Kaminski and Steven Spielberg have developed a loyal partnership and an immediately recognisable visual style.

The primary characteristic of his work is he doesn’t use light to represent reality but to create an atmosphere, very similar to a painter.

This superb video essay from wolfcrow breaks down the different visual styles and preferences of Kaminiski; from his use of strong backlights to his love of lens diffusion.

You could call this look film noir with soft light.

There are many detractors to this visually bold style, and many filmmakers and cinematographers alike prefer a more naturalistic look but to quote the video “the audience doesn’t care”, and I totally agree.

Anyway, enjoy the video and I hope you can learn something about this unique style.

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How to Block a Shot like a Master Director

When it comes to directing, the fine art of blocking and composition is a skill set that separates a good filmmaker from a great filmmaker.

Blocking is cinematic choreography. Simply, it’s the precise movement of an actor in relation to the camera.

Think about it – who decides where and how actors will move during a scene and when and how they will deliver each line of dialogue. Answer: The Director. And how the director answers these questions will significantly shape a movie.

Most aspiring (and even some seasoned) filmmakers overlook the power of good blocking and they do so at their own expense – as well as that of the audience.

This superb video essay from Dan Fox delves into this much overlooked and under appreciated directing skill, and how the clever staging of actors and camera movement can enhance a cinematic moment and reel your audience in.

If you’re a budding filmmaker that wants to direct think carefully about every scene in your film. Think about different ways to direct, ways that don’t just involve a shot/reverse shot formula.

Seek inspiration from the films you love and don’t simply point the camera at ‘talking heads’. But above all – don’t be boring. Remember you’re telling a story and your direction is how you weave that story. If you’re asking people to spend their time and money – you better entertain them!

Watch. Enjoy and learn.

Elia Kazan: On What Makes a Film Director

Kazan


The director does it because he has to. Who else will? Who else loves the film that much?
— Elia Kazan

Yesterday I was asked to write about why I wanted to be a Film Director – which, despite my unwavering passion for filmmaking, proved to be a lot harder than I’d anticipated.

The easy answer was “because I love movies”… but that wasn’t good enough or accurate enough.

It’s very hard to explain why anyone would want to be a film director. Why would you want to do that? What drives you? You must be a creative and a technician, while being both an artist and businessman. You must be cynical yet sentimental. You must conjure inspiration, commit with perspiration and maintain unwavering dedication. You must have all the answers to all the questions, all the time. It’s damn hard work and can hurt so damn much – there are certainly a thousand easier ways to earn a living.

Directors Close UpBut while searching for inspiration I remembered a piece of writing I read many years back in my faithful copy of Directors Close Up (if you haven’t got a copy of this book, get one pronto!)

The book is a brilliant read and features interviews with Directors Guild of America nominees for outstanding feature film directing. James Cameron, Frank Darabont, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard, Ang Lee, Baz Luhrmann, Sam Mendes, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone and Robert Zemeckis… they’re all in there and the personal insights into their filmmaking processes are priceless for professional and aspiring directors alike.

But it was to Appendix C on page 315 that I turned… because tucked away in the back of this book hides a transcript of the single most inspiring speech for anyone who’s ever wanted to be a Film Director. (more…)

Casting the ‘Astro-Nuts’

COSMOS Banner Casting

COSMOS MOVIE PRODUCTION BLOG 11:
CASTING THE ‘Astro-Nuts’


“I always take great care in casting my movies… you develop good characters with good casting.” — Ridley Scott

Every Director will tell you… Casting is everything.

The history of film is littered with examples of both good and bad casting. In the hands of an experienced actor, the corniest dialogue can effortlessly bubble with life… but an inexperienced actor can just as easily murder a film’s chances of success. Will your film serve as an inspiration to others… or a warning?

Watch this short video of director Ed Burns and commit his golden-nuggets of advice to memory…

 

Good filmmaking is 95% good casting — Ed Burns, Director.

Committing to finding the right actor for the right role is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a filmmaker. You can only make a good film if you cast good actors… and be under no allusion — good actors are hard to find.

(more…)

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