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One-Page Filmmaking Contest

Here’s a forward from UK filmmaker and author Chris Jones. Sounds like a terrific opportunity.

One-Page Film Maker Challenge… Are YOU Up For It?

Four Days In August…
Our 1 page screenplay competition is now closed and the winner will be announced on Friday. At that point, the script will be made available for YOU to make.
You have fourteen days to complete it and upload to us.
There are great prizes up for grabs, including cash, tickets to the London Screenwriters’ Festival and the judges are AMAZING! Including Paul Greengrass (Bourne franchise director) Philip Bloom (DSLR guru) and Jeremy Bolt (big shot Hollywood producer).
Now here is the GREAT news. The script is world class, kick ass terrific! How do I know? Well I have read the twelve finalists and EVERY one of them is great. The first one I read moved me to tears… That’s when I knew we were on to something extraordinary…
If you have ever entered a film challenge before you will know it’s usually the script that lets you down – it’s crazy to write a script in a few hours and rush out and shoot it there and then. It may be great for energy, but it’s NOT great for considered work that shows off what you can REALLY do.
Of course it also means that all your competitors have the same script to work from. So the winner of the Film Challenge is really going to succeed because they were the best film makers. You can’t blame the script. ;-)
And what an amazing experiment too, to explore how other film makers interpret the same material.
OK, if you want to participate… AND YOU SHOULD! Join the email list here…
…and we will send you information in the coming days…
GOOD LUCK! It’s going to be awesome!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author 

One-Page Filmmaking Contest Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:49:28 am

A Conversation with Lars Schwetje

Video journalist/DP/producer Lars Schwetje has developed a mindset honed covering war zones in Bosnia and in Iraq. “I always use my gut instinct and experience to do the right thing in dangerous situations. You lose judgment in fearful situations if fear overpowers you.”

Now based in the United States after his stint in Iraq, Schwetje is director of photography for his own Lars Schwetje Productions, creating video for media companies such as the History Channel, ABC, and NBC, as well as an array of corporate clients.

His assignment for ARD German Television in Baghdad during the first days of the Iraq War in 2003 proved to be his most challenging project. “We crossed frontlines on the third day of war,” he says, “and drove into Baghdad to report from there.”

ARD provided the team with the resources needed for the Iraq assignment, including four satellite uplink modems for transmitting stories and for live mobile stand-ups on the road. They carried several cameras and two laptop-editing computers, as well as helmets and bulletproof vests.

“When we reached the border between Jordan and Iraq, the Iraqi (under the old Saddam regime) border police searched our car.” At that time journalists coming into Iraq were permitted only one satellite phone. “When we got searched the border police screened our camera equipment, food and personal belongings. Our four satellite modems were well hidden within the body of the car.”

Schwetje says one border officer stubbornly continued to search, ready to take their car apart. Just then coalition forces flew over the border crossing and everyone scrambled for cover. “In that moment,” he says, “our search was not that important to the police.” In the confusion, they crossed into Baghdad with all of their equipment intact.


A Conversation with Lars Schwetje Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Aug 17, 2011 at 1:42:20 pm


Multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker and editor Carolyn Voss says “I refuse to ever miss a good adventure.”

And adventures she has certainly experienced: travelling to all seven continents, over 40 countries, many of them third-world countries. All for the love of documentary film.

Ethiopia Trip
In the late 90s Voss spent a month in Ethiopia for a documentary on the African country. Ethiopia as a dynasty dates back to the second century B.C. It currently has a population of over 82 million. While most of its history saw monarchical rule, it now is fragile politically.

Voss, partnered with her cameraman, toured that world in a 50-year old MI-17 helicopter, shooting in cities, villages and rugged terrain. The helicopter had been built in the 1960s in Russia, spent years in Cuba, and now is in service based in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Abbaba. Ethiopia has 38 MI-17s. Voss travelled in one of the only two now functional.

Asked to describe her MI-17 flights, she says, “Many of the wires were disconnected… the cockpit instructions were in Cyrillic… there was no radio (and no one to call if it did work)… and we had to keep the equipment off the floors as they were awash in jet fuel.”


Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jun 15, 2011 at 11:31:05 amComments (2)

Film Composer Thomas VanOosting

Film music exists to support and enhance the story. By creating emotion or underscoring action, music pulls the viewer into a far more satisfying experience of story. Historically, music did this for silent film long before actors’ voices were heard.

We reached San Francisco-based film music composer Thomas VanOosting, who brings to the table (keyboard?) 10 plus years of experience composing for features, documentaries and animated shorts. His most recent work includes co-writing the score for PBS’s Lincoln: Prelude to the Presidency, and the upcoming Columbine documentary 13 Families.

When asked how he creates music to support story, VanOosting said, “First of all, I try not to over think it. As much as I can, I try to rely on my first instinct when I look at a film clip.”

VanOosting believes that whatever he’s feeling initially when he views a scene, there's a good chance that someone else is going to feel the same. When the scene is good he works at augmenting that feeling. When the scene isn't quite working, he’ll try and alter the feeling to some degree with his music. READ MORE...

Film Composer Thomas VanOosting Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jun 3, 2011 at 10:41:31 am

New e-book for media teachers and emerging filmmakers

New e-book titled “Understanding Digital Storytelling: A Guide for Media Teachers and Beginning Filmmakers” is a hands-on manual for digital storytelling aimed at school media teachers and beginning filmmakers.

With this e-book media teachers will learn how to develop student teams that will produce compelling video projects. Emerging filmmakers will find the e-book a rich resource in developing a creative edge, producing films, and building effective production teams. The e-book includes guidance in teacher technology, 12 teaching units, a guide to equipment, and online and print resources.

Authors Lynn Gillen and Bob Gillen taught media production at the high school level for 11 years. They wrote 60 online teacher resource guides for the website of a national publication over a five year period. Their experience also includes writing articles about music performance and production for trade publications.

Their own website,, offers solid advice for anyone interested in making films. The site features interviews, how-to articles, and tips on moviemaking.

“Understanding Digital Storytelling: A Guide for Media Teachers and Begin... is available through Amazon Kindle Books, priced at $9.99. The free Kindle application is available for download for PC and Mac, as well as iPhone and iPad, for those who do not have a Kindle reader. With its e-book format and its many links to online resources, the guide will prove a resourceful filmmaking reference.

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Mar 30, 2011 at 1:22:05 pm

Baz Luhrmann’s Set to Screen series on iTunes

Among the free podcast gems on iTunes, Baz Luhrmann’s Set to Screen series stands out as a fine look at behind-the-scenes filmmaking. The series takes the viewer through all the major aspects of shooting a film.

Luhrmann shot the 2008 Australia with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. Luhrmann chose the remote northern outback of Australia for the film. In this series he walks the viewer through choosing locations, cinematography, doing on set photography, editing, music and sound design, costume, and production design. Each video in the series runs for about 10 minutes.

If you’re teaching filmmaking, or need a few clips to illustrate some element of the process, you couldn’t find a more compelling presentation. Add the grandeur of the Australian outback, and you’ve got a winner.

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Mar 18, 2011 at 1:11:07 pm

Open Culture Features Video on New York Subway Tunnels

The Open Culture site is featuring a video by urban historian Steve Duncan titled “Undercity: Exploring the Underbelly of New York City.” In the 28 minute doc, Duncan walks New York subway tunnels, dodging trains, third rails, and the police. He talks to homeless tunnel residents, one of whom has lived underground for 28 years.

Then he takes us down to the two-hundred year old sewer tunnel on Canal Street. Rushing waste water and historic vaulted brickwork provide a backdrop for his explanation of how the sewer was built.

Finally Duncan climbs to the top of one of the towers on the Williamsburg Bridge for a breathtaking view of the city at night.

All his footage was captured with a Canon 5D Mark II. And he does all of this as a “trespasser” on city property in the middle of the night. Great suspense and drama in the editing. Check it out.

Photo credit: photo above a Steve Duncan self-portrait.

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Feb 11, 2011 at 11:47:16 am

Poems That Inspired Films

A filmmaker often finds inspiration in other art forms. Some have looked to poetry for creative inspiration.

Last month the National Film Registry named its 25 films for the year 2010. Among them was I Am Joaquin, a 20-minute film directed by Luis Valdez and based on the epic poem of the same name by Rudolfo Corky Gonzales.

The documentary film highlights the Chicano movement of the 1960s in the United States. It’s a 20-minute video montage with Luis Valdez reading Gonzales’ poem.

You can find the film in two parts on YouTube.

Here are a few more films inspired by poems:

• Gunga Din – this 1939 film was based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Gunga Din”, the story of three British sergeants and their native Indian water bearer

• Mulan – the story for Disney’s 1998 animated feature came from a Chinese poem called “Ballad of Mulan”, about the legend of Hua Mulan.

• Beowulf – the 1999 film version was loosely based on an Old English poem.

• Braveheart – the 1995 film was inspired by the 15th century Scottish poem “The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace.”

In the world of music, singer/song writer Natalie Merchant turned to poetry for inspiration on her last album. Merchant spent years researching children’s poetry from the 19th and 20th century. Her 2010 album, Leave Your Sleep, features 28 songs based on poems of both well-known and obscure British and American poets.

Poems That Inspired Films Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Jan 4, 2011 at 8:26:20 pm

The Art of Story: Public face and Inner Truth

Art reveals itself on different levels.

Louise Penny, author of the Three Pines/Inspector Gamache crime novels, speaks of the duality in her stories. There is, for her characters, both a public face and an inner truth. It's the difference between what is said and what is felt.

This is where story lives, in the unfolding of a person's true character through spoken words and external actions. The criminals in her mystery novels hide behind masks of deceit. Even the law-abiding citizens struggle to hide something of themselves, yet yearn to reveal their truth. Not necessarily a dark truth, maybe simply a part of themselves not easily shared.

Steven Whyte, a British born sculptor now residing in northern California, specializes in clay and bronze sculptures of the human form. His works range from sculpted six-inch squares (photo above) to huge public monuments. Not long ago, Whyte says, a woman approached him and asked if she could model for one of his sculptures. Deadra Hammond, a stage-three breast cancer survivor, reached out to Whyte to help her reveal the dignity she felt beneath her scarred breasts. It would be part of her spiritual recovery, Hammond told him.

Whyte sculpted the woman. He has since gone on to do others, allowing cancer survivors to reveal the inner strength and beauty of their souls.

Recently TCM aired the classic Roman Holiday. Public face and inner truth. Audrey Hepburn hides the fact that she is a royal princess who has sneaked out of her embassy to ditch mind-numbing royal duties and spend an anonymous day on the streets of Rome. Gregory Peck plays a newspaper reporter who happens to come upon the princess, discovers who she is, but hides that fact so that he can do an undercover story on her adventure.

The two develop feelings for one another, enjoy a wonderful 24 hours, and subtly reveal their truths. No spoilers. See the movie yourself to learn how it ends.

Each of our lives is a story. Each group, each community we belong to has a story.  Every well-written novel, every great film tells a compelling story. Public face and inner truth: the story of our inner lives groping forward toward the light of day.

In the film, the script, the documentary, the novel, the marketing piece you're now working on, show us what is felt beneath the spoken words. We need to see that.

This is a reprint of our December newsletter. You can sign up for the monthly newsletter on our home page.

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Dec 17, 2010 at 12:06:39 pm

Good Audio in Film

Capturing sound for film remains an ongoing challenge. Last night I watched TCM’s airing of Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 lighthearted story of filmdom’s transition from silent pictures to talkies.

In the unlikely event you’re not familiar with it, the movie, with Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, tells the story of a fictional movie company scrambling to produce its first talking movie after the industry saw the enormous popularity of Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer.

About 46 minutes into the movie, the ditzy silent-era character Lina Lamont (played by Jean Hagen) acts for the first time with a microphone. Dressed in a billowing French Revolution-era gown, a classic wig on top of her head, she looks the perfect screen image.

The scene starts with a microphone about the size of a flying saucer being hidden in a plant in front of the seated Lina. Each time she turns her head, the sound booth loses audio. So they put the mike (still flying saucer-size) in a large flower corsage on Lina’s dress.

Then the booth picks up Lina’s thumping heart beat! And each time she turns, audio still drops.

When the production company first screens the film, the test audience thinks it’s a comedy. Every non-essential sound is picked up, voices drop out, and then the sound goes out of sync with the visual.

That was the 1920’s. Ninety years later, here we are with the same challenges. We use miniature body mikes, sensitive shotgun mikes, wireless technology, graphite boom poles. Yet we still have a need to pull actors into ADR to re-record their dialogue.

We watch television programs at home on hi-def sets, but all too often our cable company’s transmission hiccups and sound runs out of sync with visual until some program engineer catches the error. Funny how the commercials never go out of sync!

And 90 years from now?

Good Audio in Film Republished by Bob Gillen

Posted by: Bob Gillen on Dec 9, 2010 at 8:03:39 pm

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