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Actor Laura Gardner on Collabortion between Actors and Directors

Advice for Directors
Laura Gardner’s commanding experience acting for stage, screen and television has allowed her to collaborate with a long list of directors. “I love a director,” she says, “who plays with me, goes along and suggests fun choices, who has a positive outlook and brings joy to the work… I appreciate a director who comes in with a plan but is flexible enough to be open to new possibilities. I appreciate a director who respects my journey and who leads the team.” 

Gardner has spent 15 years teaching acting on the faculty of the Howard Fine Acting Studio in Hollywood. She also teaches a class for actors with disabilities for California’s Media Access Office. With this background, she certainly knows something about working with actors. We asked her about the most effective approach an emerging filmmaker can take to draw out a fine performance from the actors on a project. She says, “Actors need specificity, clarity, support. The more an actor feels trusted and in a collaboration, the better the performance.”


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Apr 23, 2012 at 9:10:19 pm

DP David Libertella on Advice for Young Filmmakers

Approaching the Script
Libertella’s initial preparation for a film project begins with the script. “I read the script once through, reading aloud and paced so as to get a feel for the rhythm of the script.” He says, “I don’t begin consciously thinking about what shots or what lighting to employ until after I have read through it once and come to understand the story, the arc.”

Notetaking follows the first read-through. “I read it again and as I go through it I make notes, either in the margins or on a separate paper, about possible shots, color palettes, foreseeable problems to be solved.”

Camera Tips
Most young filmmakers begin shooting with a prosumer-level camera, such as the Panasonic DVX, long a workhorse for indie filmmakers. What does a new DP need to do when ready to film? “One of my first cameras,” says Libertella, “was the DVX, and after many years with it I can tell you to keep the gain low, and keep all your settings on manual. Manual focus, iris, zoom…the whole thing. You can learn a lot about how cameras work in general this way.”


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Mar 21, 2012 at 4:36:19 pmComments (2)

Jane Boursaw on The Film and TV Family Market

Enduring Storylines
There are storylines, Boursaw says, “… that hold up over time, because they’re things that people deal with in real life every day.” The best family films tell these stories in a way that kids and families can relate to.

Boursaw cites some common themes among family films:
•Doing what’s right, even if your peers make fun of you (How to Train Your Dragon)
•Working together to overcome an obstacle or achieve a goal (Toy Story)
•Relying on friends and family to get through life’s rough patches (Happy Feet Two)
•Pushing through, even when all hope seems lost (Arthur Christmas, Kung Fu Panda 2)
•Finding an inner strength to persevere through a tragedy (Soul Surfer)
Taking the “good” path in the good vs. evil storyline (Harry Potter, Star Wars)

“One thing I’ve noticed,” she says, “is that the simpler storylines sometimes get short shrift in the family movie industry. There doesn’t always have to be a big, monumental storyline to make a great movie.”


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jan 25, 2012 at 1:29:15 pm

A Returning Marine’s Struggle with PTSD

Writer/director Nick Brennan’s latest film, A Marine’s Guide to Fishing, focuses on a Marine veteran struggling with both physical wounds and PTSD when he returns to his former life. “I was drawn to the story first and foremost by the realization that I couldn’t count a single close friend of mine that had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. It was a pretty sad realization given how long the wars had been going on.”

Brennan also thought this wasn’t unusual for many civilians today. His insight led him to use his senior thesis film (he attended NYU’s Tisch program) to explore the stories of young veterans.

“I was also interning with the investigative unit at ABC News at the time,” Brennan says, “and ended up covering a few big stories on Afghanistan, which gave me another insight into the war.” After a lot of time spent talking with vets, and with considerable research, Brennan zeroed in on the issues of PTSD and the process of reintegration into society.


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jan 13, 2012 at 12:00:20 pm

Filmmaking Basics

We’re excited about our brand new e-book on filmmaking basics. The book walks a new filmmaker through the production process from story to marketing. Big emphasis on finding the right story, and on managing the production process.

A number of industry pros offer advice on story, casting, working with actors, sound and costume.

The e-book is for the new (or almost new) filmmaker ready to make a movie. A real film. A film to stand out from the mass of YouTube videos. The filmmaker has a story to tell. And is probably working on a limited or zero budget.

Includes info on equipment, and lots of resources. At 80 pages and 26,000 words, any new or emerging filmmaker will learn how to stand apart from the crowd.

Find it on Amazon Kindle. readable on any PC or Mac.

Filmmaking Basics Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Dec 15, 2011 at 12:53:17 pm

Ikan CEO Kan Yeung on Film Gear

The Strength of the Media Economy
“The film making and video industry are really quite strong,” says Houston-based ikan CEO Kan Yeung. “The problem is that it is changing so rapidly it is hard for those who work in or around the industry to keep up with where it is heading. The explosion of mobile media and its constantly shifting market place mean what you were able to make money doing yesterday is not going to work in the near future.

“There are drastic shifts in distribution and use of video, and the shifts are nowhere near finished. I think it will be hard to see where everything will end up, but it will never go back to the way it was before. The increase in avenues for distribution, the accessibility to the tools of production, and the ease in making content now means what is produced will become more of a commodity. How to make money - if at all - from producing will be a question for us to answer. This is going to be the biggest challenge the industry will face.”

Ikan CEO Kan Yeung on Film Gear Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Dec 4, 2011 at 12:30:31 pm

Reality TV Producer Leslie Coffee - Part two

The responsibilities behind the title “producer” will vary in reality television. Leslie Coffee, whose experience includes Police Women of Broward County, Police Women of Dallas, and Weird Travels, talks about the roles of story producer, field producer, and supervising producer.

“The responsibilities can differ,” Coffee says, “depending on the type of producer position, as well as the particular show or project involved. I mostly work as a story, field, or supervising producer on projects.”

Story Producer
“As a Story Producer, my responsibilities cover taking the story from pitch to post. After getting the initial story information, I’m in charge of finding and contacting participants for interviews, and then pre-interviewing those subjects prior to the field shoot.”

Coffee’s pre-interviewing lays the groundwork for strong on camera material. “This gives me the opportunity to find out the facts in advance for a more cohesive and better-told story. The subject may say something you had no idea happened, or correct any mistaken information. Oftentimes, this is also the point where a relationship is being established. You want the interview subject to like you, trust you, and WANT to tell their story to you.”


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Nov 28, 2011 at 11:50:41 am

Reality TV Producer Leslie Coffee

The Learning Channel series Police Women of Broward County focuses on women cops balancing intense police drama with home and family life. Reality TV producer Leslie Coffee, who works with Cheri Sundae Productions, talked to us about her role in the TLC show.

“As a field producer, one of my absolute favorite jobs to do, it’s all about getting the story in the field. On a show like Police Women, I have no idea what each day will bring, and must be able to roll with anything that happens.

“If my cop runs after a criminal, I run. If my cop is in a standoff, I’m hiding next to the car (as required), but listening to everything going on, taking notes for the hotsheet, and making sure myself or nobody in my crew gets shot.”


Reality TV Producer Leslie Coffee Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Nov 21, 2011 at 2:04:40 pm


For over 20 years VFX pro Foster has been producing and providing training for traditional and digital images, photography, illustration, motion graphics and special effects for DV and Film. Some of his clients include: Tribune Broadcasting, Motorola, McDonnell Douglas, Nestlé, FOX Television, Spike TV, Discovery/TLC, Deluxe Digital, Universal Studios, Lions Gate Films and Disney.

Foster also operates a media production company, Sound Visions Media, where he specializes in producing promotional videos for businesses, artists, musicians and entrepreneurs who have a compelling story to tell.

Basic VFX
Foster is an Adobe Certified Expert. We asked him what basic VFX techniques a beginning filmmaker with little or no budget could use.

“This really depends,” he says, “on the type of film the individual is trying to produce. If you're looking to do a sci-fi or horror film on a tight budget, then be sure to scale the production/post production to your abilities and resources or else you'll be the next Ed Wood!”


VFX PRO JEFF FOSTER Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Nov 9, 2011 at 11:20:25 am

Animator Lauren Brown

We talked to animator Lauren Brown, a self-proclaimed animation nerd, about her work. Brown presently works as an animation supervisor. She recently earned a Masters in Animation and Digital Arts from USC. Brown’s skills include animating, stop motion, editing, image manipulation and production. You can see her reel here.

Here are her insightful answers to our questions, as well as an extensive list of resources she recommends. Enjoy.

Let’s start with the story. Is story just as critical in animation as it is in live film? Are there different themes or different approaches required for an animated story?

The importance of story really depends on who you ask. Animation has the ability to tell a complex story as well as act as an emotional conduit and a moving painting. Story is only one element of filmmaking and a filmmaker can choose which elements he or she wishes to focus on. Perhaps visual beauty is more important, or emotional arc or capturing one moment in time.

It is important to note that in general, people look for stories in their media, so even if you do not provide a clear narrative that most of your audience will understand in the same way, people may interpret one from your film.

Can a filmmaker show off his/her skill in a piece as short as :30 or :60?

You can absolutely tell a story or show your skill in a short piece. Commercials are usually under a minute and can be very wonderful visual experiments and can tell very impactful, simple stories. Many animation exercises are only a few seconds in length. An animator can look at a few seconds of animation to determine your technical skill level in that method.

However, showing your story chops usually requires more than a few seconds. Short form films require different approaches to story than feature length ones because you have to hold the audience for different lengths of time and different elements are required to keep people involved.

In the age of YouTube, a short piece is a great way to share your ideas and talent and experiment with animation and visual effects. Use online animation forums and groups to get honest feedback on your work.


Animator Lauren Brown Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Oct 26, 2011 at 8:25:21 pm

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