The Red Turtle: Director’s Choice to Show Rather than Tell

The Red Turtle is a Studio Ghibli film nominated for an academy award in the best animated feature film category. It is unique from other films in this category, such as Zootopia, because it does not use dialogue throughout the entire film. Director Michael Dudok de Wit talks with Indiewire about this choice and why he feels it is appropriate for this film, beginning with the fact that the main character wakes up in a forest alone; therefore, there would be no need for dialogue as he has no one to talk to. While de Wit didn’t feel the beginning of the film needed dialogue, he did believe that dialogue would be used later to clarify some aspects of the story. As production progressed, he began to change his mind and shift towards the idea that character’s body gestures and the frame could communicate the point without the use of dialogue at all.

I found this interesting as a student filmmaker and feel that most filmmakers, not just student filmmakers, could learn from de Wit’s choices in The Red Turtle. The idea of showing the audience instead of telling the audience is a common criticism given to a script or film that is dialogue heavy, but it is a lot more difficult to achieve this ability to show the audience than the critics often suggest. De Wit is successful in his lack of dialogue as he seems to understand something that escapes many filmmakers, which is that film is a visual medium; therefore, a story can be told more powerfully through a gesture from a character than a line of dialogue in many instances.

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Zootopia: Not Putting Out Mediocre Films

On The Business Podcast, Kim Masters hosts the directors of Zootopia, Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Their film has been nominated for multiple academy awards, including best animated feature film; however, it wasn’t always smooth sailing as they discuss major overhauls that happened into production.

After three years into production, Moore and Howard were forced to stand in front of one thousand animators and production crew members to inform them that much of the work done on Zooptopia was going to be overhauled. Moore and Howard tell Kim Masters that this was not due to studio intervention, but instead their own desire to not put out a mediocre film, because they knew that when done right “Disney films can have a profound effect on generations.” This idea that their film could effect generations to come made them shift towards the theme of subtle bias during their overhaul of the film as they wished to comment on the injustices happening in the world, such as in Ferguson.

I thought it was inspiring listening to these directors who had the courage to ask for a major overhaul from Disney three years into their project. The idea of overhauling a film that you aren’t happy with that late in the game would have been daunting to anyone involved; however, not settling for something you aren’t happy with is important for any artist and their example can be the inspiration for others as they created a very powerful and successful movie due to their efforts.

Ava Duvernay: Enjoying Your Time in the Spotlight

KCRW’s The Business Podcast interviewed director Ava Duvernay about her documentary “13th” and discussed the difficulty of being a woman of color in the film industry. One of the most interesting things discussed during the interview was the desire of filmmakers to gain a theatrical release, which “13th” never received because it was always supposed to be a Netflix film. While most would think that Duvernay would be upset about the lack of a theatrical release, she makes an interesting claim she just intends to make movies and is happy that she as a woman of color can reach the number of people that she has. Duvernay is consistent throughout the interview that her goal is to make movies and keep making movies as long as she can, because she knows that there are a limited number of people who are able to maintain the spotlight for very long and faces even more challenges to remain a powerful and successful filmmaker stating that only three black filmmakers have been in the top one thousand films in the last three years. Duvernay is painfully aware of the statistics of success among black and female filmmakers, but it is refreshing to hear from a filmmaker who isn’t concerned with theatrical releases or Marvel films and instead is just interested in making films for as long as she can.

New York City Invests in the Film Industry

 

If you were to ask someone who has little knowledge of the film industry where the major hubs for production are, they would immediately point to Los Angeles or New York as the center of the film industry; however, there are numerous cities that offer tax benefits and other incentives including Atlanta, Austin, and Chicago that compete with or offer more production work than New York and Los Angeles. In response to this, Variety reported that New York City is investing in a new $136 million campus targeting film and TV companies in order to maintain the nearly 385,000 area jobs that the media and entertainment sector provides, which is more than the financial and insurance industries put together. They go on to report that while the city has experienced a forty percent increase in features filmed and a thirteen percent increase in TV production, real estate remains one of the biggest constraints on the growth of production within the city. City administrators hope that this new campus will help support the industry and allow it to continue to grow over the next several years. It is nice seeing New York’s commitment to the film industry and understanding of what needs to be done in order to continue the growth that occurred in 2016.

Super Bowl Commercials: No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Indiewire’s article, From ‘Manchester By the Sea’ to the Super Bowl: How a Rising Cinematographer Landed A Major Budweiser Ad, looks at the recent work of Jody Lee Lipes as well as the creative process and backlash that came with his latest commercial project. The Budweiser commercial, Born the Hard Way, follows one of the co-founders of Budweiser as he emigrates to America and faces hardship and discrimination. This was one of several controversial commercials that aired during the Super Bowl and appeared to attack President Trump’s immigration restrictions. Supporters of the restrictions even began using #BoycottBudweiser as an attempt to fight back against the commercial. Lipes responded to the controversy stating that it was “misplaced rage” and that the commercial was intended to be “easygoing and not offensive.” The commercial was about to cross twenty-seven million views on YouTube at the time of writing this post.

Another controversial commercial from the Super Bowl was 84 Lumber’s The Journey, which featured a mother and daughter trying to make their way into the United States only to be stopped by a border wall; however, upon closer examination there is a giant wooden door that grants them entry into the US. The commercial ends with a message stating, “The Will To Succeed Is Always Welcome Here.” 84 Lumber’s video has crossed over nine million views on YouTube and continues to divide those that view it with those that support immigration restrictions claiming that it is promoting illegal activities.

What is important to note and seems left out in many of the articles addressing the controversy around these commercials is how successful they both were. 84 Lumber’s website crashed after posting the commercial because so many people were visiting it and Budweiser was able to garner almost twenty seven million views in just two days. While these commercials may have been controversial and divided people who watched them, once you look closer at how much traffic their websites are getting you have to agree with the old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

Damien Chazelle and Make Movies, Not Meetings

La La Land’s director Damien Chazelle talks to Kim Masters on her industry podcast, The Business about the journey of struggle and success that brought he and his long time partner and composer, Justin Hurwitz, to where they are today.

Chazelle and Hurwitz’s story sounds similar to many of the successful indie filmmakers who are adamant to aspiring filmmakers that if you keep working and creating then eventually you will be able to find success. The Duplass brothers, writers and directors of many successful films and TV shows, are some of the strongest voices in this argument claiming that their filmmaking motto is “make movies, not meetings.” Chazelle and Hurwitz seemed to have a similar approach to the Duplass brothers a few years ago when La La Land was in limbo at Focus Features. Instead of continuously worrying about the state of their film, which might never have been made, the two went out and shot a short film called Whiplash. This was picked up and made into a feature that was nominated for five Oscars and won three. From this success, the two men were able to finally get La La Land off the ground with the help of Lionsgate, which has just tied the record for the most Oscar nominations with fourteen!

The path that Chazelle and Hurwitz took to success is not an unfamiliar one. Indie filmmaking has seen this sort of success before and it will again, but that is not to say it is not extremely difficult. The common factor that seems to be prevalent in these stories is that these filmmakers refuse to quit and are always working to improve their craft. Chazelle and Hurwitz simply chose to work on another project when there other became stagnant instead of dwelling on potential failure and the Duplass brothers first major success came at the age of twenty-nine after years of failed attempts. These filmmakers know that success isn’t a guarantee, but the likelihood of success goes up with each experience gained and that no one will make the best film their first try.

New Study Finds “The Director’s Chair is White and Male”… Who Would’ve Guessed?

It is not a shock to see The Hollywood Reporter writing articles about the representation of women and minorities in Hollywood, especially when you examine jobs like the director, producer, and director of photography. The most recent study into this matter by USC sheds more light on just how difficult it is to continue making films as a woman or person of color even after you have produced a successful film.

The study analyzed the top one thousand films in the last ten years and found that of the group 54.8 percent of men directed just one film, while a whopping 80 percent of women directed just one film during this time; moreover, the most prolific female director during this period, Anne Fletcher, was able to direct just four films across the ten year period. This placed Anne Fletcher in 24th place on the list, which was a tie with thirty-one male directors. In comparison, Tyler Perry was able to direct fourteen films during the same ten-year period and held the number one place on the list of directors.

While this topic has been addressed many times before, the article by the Hollywood Reporter looks at a new perspective. It proves that even those women and minorities who were able to overcome the odds and make it onto the list of one thousand highest grossing films are still unlikely to be acknowledged for their achievements. It offers some potential solutions; however, this study proves that this is a pervasive problem as even the most successful female and minority directors are not getting the recognition that they deserve, which will unfortunately likely continue for years to come.