“What’s The Deal With That!?” Learning Dialogue From Seinfeld.

Dialogue is tricky, you try and be innovative and you either end up dead on the nose, or sounding like your characters are starring in their own lifetime day show. The reason it’s so tricky is because as a writer you have to find the balance of creating a character which feels real, while sneakily writing in foreshadowing, character development and even plot developments, yadda yadda yadda.

Bottom line, it’s not too easy.

So how do you do it? One show that’s known for it’s strong dialogue is Seinfeld; the show about nothing. Now I know what you’re thinking:

“But Greg, if Seinfeld isn’t about anything, how can I use it to write meaningful dialogue for my independant-character-drama about the anatomy of the human soul?”

Settle.

Copying Seinfeld is not what I’m talking about; what I’m talking about is looking at what the show does really well and using it as inspiration for your own work.

1. CHARACTER VOICE

One of the big traps about writing for multiple characters is accidentally making them feel like the same character instead of individual people.

This is something Seinfeld does really well; Jerry, George, Kramer and Elaine are all different characters that feel real and different. They get along, they clash, yet they all fit in the show’s quick-witted-sarcastic theme.

Give your character a quirk and let their dialogue reflect this quirk.

2. PULL THE RUG OUT

kramer

Nothing is worse than cliche dialogue, it’s boring and we’ve heard it a million times.

Subvert your audience’s expectations, don’t give them the same run around again and again; pull the rug out from under them.

It’s one of the reasons shows like Seinfeld and directors like Wes Anderson, or Edgar Wright are as successful as they are. They know how to catch you off guard with their dialogue.

In Moonrise Kingdom When Bill Murray gets asked if he’s concerned that his daughter runs away from home his response is: “That’s a loaded question.”

When Simon Pegg starts excelling at work in Hot Fuzz he gets punished because “Frankly, you’re making us all look bad.”

And lastly when George gets told, “It’s not you, it’s me,” his response is, “You’re damn right it’s me!” Or when Kramer says… well when Kramer says just about anything.

When writing your dialogue remember, your audience probably has a sense of where a conversation is going, try to throw them off. Set your character up for a promotion then demote them, have them take control, or lose control in unexpected ways. It’s more memorable and you’ll probably have a lot more fun writing it out.

3. BEND REALITY

When writing dialogue, you would think you’d want to write as realistically as possible. It’s not true. In real life our words get away from us. We trail on and on and on, go down tangents and rabbit holes, until we’re half way through a story about our cousin Louie.

Point is, you don’t really want to write to reality, but you do want to cater to your theme. Going back to point 1 all of the characters in Seinfeld are their own person, but their dialogue fits the tone and pacing of the show. Exhibit A.

It feels real and authentic because as the audience we like these characters and we’ve bought into their world. It’s also one of the reasons as a filmmaker why I constantly find myself using the show for inspiration.

 

Written by Gregory Garofalo. 

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You Are Responsible For What You Create

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Creativity, art, storytelling and cinematography  is a fascinating world with seemingly no limits. It can heal, harden or soften hearts in ways nothing else can. With this ability comes great responsibility.

CREATIVE FREEDOM

Most of us are fortunate enough to be allowed to create whatever we want. As wonderful as it is, it also creates the potential for danger and room for abuse. Hence the stigma of artists seeing themselves as above society’s rules and seeing no need to abide by them.

This entitlement for creative expression is often a breeding ground for selfishness and not of use to anyone. The options for artists to create are limitless and should by all means be explored, because it can simultaneously be a breeding ground for beauty.

MANUFACTURING CULTURE

Creative freedom shapes a culture and its humanity. One could almost say artists manufacture culture, because they help define cultural attitudes.  Art, (in this case film), is the most accessible form of art and is not exclusive to certain social classes or ages.

There are countless movies which have impacted society and led to a change of law, culture or perspective. To name a few, after the release of Fatal Attraction, divorce rates dramatically decreased, Anti-interracial laws were abolished at the release of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Philadelphia provided a platform to discuss the taboo subject of HIV/AIDS, and the Star Wars saga was undoubtedly a contributor to popular culture.

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OUR RESPONSIBILITY

And as present and future culture manufacturers, we have a responsibility towards our audience for what we create. Don’t simply create something without taking its consequences into consideration.

Filmmaking is hard work. And if you’re already putting so much effort and work into it, why not make it about something that will contribute to the betterment of humanity? Think about what your story promotes.

NO COMPROMISES

I’m not advocating you push for a certain message, because then your art becomes manipulative and self-promoting. It’s not your responsibility to change the whole world or create something which is forced. By all means, don’t produce something that is not genuine. Don’t compromise your uniqueness, but ask yourself if your uniqueness is being used to edify your audience.

MY PERSONAL INSPIRATION

A wonderful example of someone who has a great balance of art, personality, edification and truthfulness is Taika Waititi, director of Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilder People and  and most recently Thor: Ragnarok.

Waititi doesn’t apologize for who he is, but he doesn’t use his uniqueness to prove himself to anyone either. His stories are relatable and humorous, but they carry so much emotional weight. It doesn’t feel like he is trying to push a message on his audience, but they are left with food for thought, or at least a softened heart.

CONCLUSION

Your viewers are responsible for what they take away from the movie as well. But you’re still responsible for what your audience gets to see.

It is a great gift to create, and I admire everyone who is bold enough to create and vulnerable enough to show it to others – but, just be aware what your audience is left with when they go home after having seen your film.

You have the power to be an inspiration – whether is it temporary or long term – so let it move your audience to contribute to the betterment of humanity, no matter how big or small.

How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

“Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

1. Incompetech

I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

2. Free Music Archive

With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

3. Bensound

Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

4. YouTube Channels

Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

You can find music one of two ways:

  • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
  • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

  1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
  2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

7. Audiojungle

If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

Gavin Hood – Practical Advice and Inspiration from Eye In The Sky Director

Gavin Hood is climbing the ranks in the film industry, having directed some popular movies with tenacious morale.

I first noticed him after watching Eye in the Sky, which is about the disputes of modern warfare. I was thoroughly impressed. I don’t remember the last time I was on the edge of my seat for the duration of an entire movie. When I realized he’s a fellow South-African, I was intrigued even more – I have to admit I’m a bit biased…

The more I found out about him, the more reasons I found to acknowledge him and his work.

Gavin Hood is the kind of filmmaker who is in the business for the right reasons.

He is driven to create current and applicable content which is entertaining at the same time. When asked why he chose to direct Eye in the Sky, he commented: “It’s completely current and it’s about what’s really happening in modern warfare and it has elements of black comedy and farce that are grounded in real life.”

His choice to cast Helen Mirren (the role was intended for a male lead) as Colonel Katherine Powell was very strategic. He didn’t want to box the movie in as a war movie for guys.

He recounts saying, “I want it to be a movie about war but that it’s a conversation starter for men and women about a subject matter that I think is very topical.”

He’s also a filmmaker who works extremely hard to get where he is right now. When asked to give advice to aspiring filmmakers, he shared, “Unfortunately, […] there’s this notion that you can become famous and rich very quickly. It’s a curse I think. […]

The way you make it is by getting good at making films.

There’s no shortcut; just study the craft and practise and hopefully you’ll eventually connect with an audience. And if you don’t connect with an audience, you won’t have a career in this business.”

Hood with Barkhad

It took a while for him to gain international recognition. Even though he wanted to be an actor, he followed his father’s advice and “took his big mouth and studied law” though he only practiced it for 4 months. He was already 30 when he actually started studying screenwriting, cinematography and directing.

Although he knew he was always going to go into film, he doesn’t regret having studied law, instead he recalls, “it trained me in terms of thinking and story and conflict and moral and ethical questions.”

He continually emphasizes the importance of making films in order to connect with your audience. He himself is drawn to stories compelling him to think. “I personally, with my background of being a lawyer and growing up in the turbulent times of the 80’s in South-Africa, I tend to be drawn to […] stories that somehow challenge me in a moral or ethical way.

“Don’t tell me what to think, but present me with something morally or ethically challenging.”

He started small by making short films; The Storekeeper was one I remember seeing in Middle School. It left a big impression on me, not only because of the dilemma it presents, but because it was so close to home. It was a South-African story which could be understood universally.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoAONuFrjtU

This is another thing I appreciate about him; he bloomed where he was planted. He started where he was and then expanded, instead of limiting himself to the small South-African film industry.

Tsotsi was his breakthrough film which garnered him an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 – a film I highly recommend by the way…

It was again, an authentic story, but one exploring universal humanity.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-cQHJm25qI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wikqd0aUVkM

“I really believe that we focus so much on differences and not enough on similarities. Most people, on a very basic level, have surprisingly similar needs. The need for companionship, dignity, love. And when these basic needs are not met, you find individuals developing a very distorted sense of the world.”

By now, he has other popular movies under his belt like Ender’s Game, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Rendition.

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I celebrate people like Gavin Hood and believe there are many more like him out there who we simply need to discover.

Fellow filmmakers and actors, let us strive and work hard to tell stories worth telling. Stories that challenge people in their thinking to fight passivity.

Gavin Hood, I thank you for being an inspiration and persisting with a tenacious and creative spirit – all the best to you for your future projects!

Written by Annette Lange.

Anatomy of the Best Loglines

Knowing where to start in the creative process of writing can be daunting for a first time filmmaker. I know it was for me. I’ve tried building a story around every possible thing imaginable, and I found Blake Snyder’s longline method from his infamous book, Save the Cat, to be the most effective.

His argument centers around starting your writing process by creating something called a logline (your entire movie summarized in a sentence). He would say, if you can’t do this in a compelling way from the start, then you don’t have a story worth telling.

Many of you more seasoned writers may find this approach “formulaic,” however for writers starting out, this is a great place to begin.  

Ingredients for the best logline:

  • One Character
  • One Goal
  • One Source of Conflict with a dash of Irony

In short what you will be creating is the following equation:

Your hero is going for their goal, but something ironic happens to stop them.

If you cannot put your story within this simple formula, then perhaps your story is too complicated, OR missing a crucial element.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Disgraced pilot, E. Ripley is left with PTSD after her encounter with the xenomorph and tries to rebuild a life for herself. However, when a human colony is overrun with xenomorphs, Ripley may be their only hope.

From the film Aliens

ripley

Element 1: Establish Your Hero

The first step is to insert your main character into your logline. This isn’t a place to go into great detail on their backstory; all that’s needed are one or two descriptive words. Sometimes the scenario they find themselves in is sufficient enough information.

As Blake Snyder says, you want to paint a clear enough picture in the minds of those who will hear your logline. They need to be able to see where your story is going. This includes who your character is.

In my example, I defined Ellen Ripley as a disgraced pilot with PTSD. We know she’s an underdog, and it will be easy for the audience to get behind her.

Emma-watson-as-belle

Element 2: Establish Your Hero’s Goal

The next step is to show what the character is trying to accomplish before they are confronted by the story’s major conflict.

In Vertigo, Scottie is investigating Madeline for her husband (his goal) before he begins to fall in love with her (the conflict).

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle wants more than what her small town has to offer (goal) before she is held prisoner in an enchanted castle (the conflict).

Sometimes the goal can be something more passive, or simply keeping the status quo. For example, in Toy Story, Woody isn’t actively trying to do something new, but is enjoying the “status quo” of being the toy on top.

Don’t just tell us WHO your character is, but where we find them at the start of the story.

For Ellen Ripley, I have her trying to rebuild a life for herself.

Warrior

Element 3: Conflict with a Dash of Irony

Lastly, we introduce our story’s major source of conflict into the logline.

This is where people tend to struggle the most, either because they realize they have no real source of conflict throughout their story. Even if they do it’s lacking the crucial element of irony which gives a story it’s hook, edge, or bite.

Conflict is truly what starts your story and what moves it forward. Without this element, there is no story.

In my example from Aliens, the conflict comes from the xenomorphs overtaking a colony, forcing the corporation to turn to Ripley for help.

It’s conflict, because it’s both stopping her from starting a new life, while giving her an opportunity to gain her old life back.

Irony?

Before I explain how irony comes to play in this equation, let me explain what irony IS. There are two forms of irony: situational and irony of fate. Situational irony is when events defy expectations, while irony of fate is when it seems the gods, fate, the universe, etc are toying with humanity for their own amusement.

Situational irony would be getting robbed by a police officer (an amoral act practiced by someone who is sent out to stop such behavior). Jesus being crucified by the very people he was to save is another great example of situational irony. Both examples play on your expectations and subvert them.

Irony of fate is when something occurs with lasting consequence beyond a specific situation. A former athlete who is now paralyzed is an example of irony of fate. Beethoven, one of the world’s greatest composers lost his hearing. He can no longer hear the beautiful music he puts out into the world. Irony of fate.

Irony is all about subverting our expectations in an effort to hook us.

The irony in Aliens is drawn mostly from the situation Ripley finds herself in; she was seen as a pariah and a liability by the company at the start of the film, and becomes the very person who could save them.

That’s irony.

There’s no right way to go through the writing process, but by beginning with a logline my writing has grown simpler and stronger. I hope it helps you on your own writing journey. For more great film advice, check out Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat.

Written by Brenden Bell.

 

How To Dirty Your Actors Without Using Dirt

Written by Keaton J. Evans.

Across popular movies there have been teams of make-up artists getting the right look for characters who seem to never take showers. I’m talking Sam Neill in Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Matthew McConaughey in Mud, and Jack Sparrow.

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You get the point. Whenever a character rolls in the mud or falls off a pirate ship, there needs to be an authentic dirty look for the character.

I researched different ways to get the dirty look for any upcoming short films where I would need to portray a character who skips on the washing.

Here’s what I found.

Before I get into the steps of applying make-up, you’ll need to find these supplies:

Supplies needed:

  • coffee grounds
  • loose tea leaves
  • lotion (sunscreen)
  • brown eye shadow (I used Vino colour)
  • wet sponge
  • willing victim…er, helper

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After acquiring these supplies you’ll be ready to start with step one.

Step 1: apply eyeshadow

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In this step, you’ll use your index finger to apply the eyeshadow to the parts of the face where you think someone might get dirty. I noticed that the forehead and the upper parts of the cheekbones get dirty more than other parts, also the nose.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty then you can choose to use a small make-up sponge.

Gently rub the eyeshadow back and forth over the surfaces you think is best. After doing this in all of the appropriate areas you’ll be ready to move onto the second step.

Step 2: mix lotion with coffee grounds

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For this step, first ground the coffee beans, preferably of a darker variety, and then mix with the lotion. I used sunscreen in this step, and it worked well. This step is quite messy.

You don’t need to use much of either. Small chunks of coffee and a bit of lotion should do the trick. After mixing the lotion with the coffee grounds, then move onto the next step of applying.

Step 3: apply the mixture

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As far as applying the coffee/tea and lotion to the person’s face, you’ll need to do step 2 a few times, as there may be a few spots to cover.

Do a little mixing, then a little applying. A little mixing, a little applying, you get the drift. Apply the coffee and lotion to the same places which you touch in step 1, to have those layers.

Add to any place where you think dirt would be, say if the victim fell down face first into the dirt. With the coffee grounds, you don’t need to apply heavily, just a few small chunks here and there, unless you really want you character to look like dirt was just caked on.

After doing this enough times you should get a result similar to this one. (For me, I was trying to get a “stuck-on-a-deserted-island-for-years” look).

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After you’ve gotten all the shots you need with your actor, wash the makeup and coffee off with warm soap and water. Once you’ve washed the coffee and lotion off as well as the make-up, be sure to dry with a clean towel.

And there you have it! You now know how to make your characters look as dirty as ever, and best part is, you don’t even need to use dirt!

What is nice is you can also apply the make-up in a variety of places on the face as well as a variety of thickness, to get a unique look for each character in your film.

Hope this makeup tip helps all you independent filmmakers out there who are trying to get that professional look.

Continuity’s Best Friends: What You Need To Succeed

Written by Brenden Bell.

New to the continuity department and unsure what to bring? Check out this list and don’t be unprepared for your first day on the job!

Shopping to be a script supervisor on a film crew and shopping to go back to school are basically the same thing; it’s all pencils, erasers and rulers.

The equipment needed for other roles on a film set is obvious and overly technical. Not so for the script supervisor. The tool belt for this unique member of the film family is pretty basic.

Scripty pencil

  1. The Pencil is Mightier than the Sword

Ultimately you can use any writing utensil, but a pencil is ideal. You’re going to be making many mistakes making notes on a sheet of paper with limited real estate. The more you can erase, the more space you have to write your observations.

In this vein, it becomes paramount to have a great eraser (or rubber if you’re an Aussie), because let’s face it…those erasers on the top of pencils straight up suck. Also, I would bring along a pencil sharpener, a plethora of back up pencils, and a pencil pouch to keep everything ready to go and organised.

Script Notes

  1. The Ruler’s the Thing

The next item to include in your back to school shopping is a simple ruler. They’re nice, especially if you’re anal and like to be neat, to help keep your notes more organised, but they serve a larger purpose as well.

In your binder, you have your continuity notes on the side which corresponds with the hand you with your writing hand. I’m right-handed, so my notes are on the right side of the binder. The script pages for the scene I‘m taking notes on are FACING that page on the opposite side.

With your facing script, it’s part of your job to keep track of coverage with a combination of straight and squiggly lines. You’re creating a visual reference point for the director and A.D. to ensure that every moment from the script has been put in film in one form or another.

How does this archaic system work, you ask? A line is drawn throughout the entire portion of a scene a shot encapsulates; the line is straight during the portion of the script caught on camera in the shot, and a squiggly line through the portions not shown.

If there is a portion of the script without lines, or is all squiggly lines, then the director knows perhaps an additional shot is required in order to have proper coverage for the scene in question.

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  1. Mega-Binder

The next thing you’re going to need is MEGA-BINDER. This will either be a tome, or simply a normal, 3 or 4-ring binder (depending on the length of the script). What goes into this binder? All of your continuity notes from set and the facing script.

If I’m continuity on a feature film (rather than merely a short film), I tend to pull the notes/facing pages from the scenes on the call sheet for the day and put them in a smaller binder or a clipboard. Carrying around a behemoth of a binder becomes a bit of an issue.

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  1. iPad Dreamz

The last bit of equipment wasn’t on the school shopping list when I was a kid, but has become commonplace in the classroom these days (at least here in Australia).

This is an iPad (or tablet/touch screen PC with camera).

As a script supervisor, it’s important to have a camera in order to take continuity photos. If you don’t know why, feel free to read through this article and learn all about it.

Sadly, most digital cameras have a small display; meaning if you need to reference back to a continuity photo on set, you may need a microscope. There are countless solutions to this problem, but an iPad is one of them. The large, high-resolution display as well as the ability to zoom in on images easily is a Godsend.

It’s important to be prepared on a film set; I hope this list helps you in becoming an indispensable part of someone’s film crew.