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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Is “Guardians of the Galaxy” Marvel’s Second Best Film?

BY KEATON J. EVANS

*Warning: Huuuuge Spoilers!*

Guardians of the Galaxy is considered to be one of the greatest creative achievements by Marvel and also the favourite of many fans. But is it the best Marvel film? Or has the new Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 surpassed it?

I thoroughly enjoyed the film when I watched it a few days ago, and I wondered how it stacks up to the first one. I made three rounds for both movies to compete in and we shall see who the winner is at the end of the article.

These three points are the ones I considered to be the most important differences between the two.

ROUND 1: THE PLOT

Guardians Vol. 1: Peter Quill embarks on an adventure to escape Ronan and everyone else out to get him and the infinity stone he carries. Along the way he’s forced to work with other convicts. They all learn to work as a family and end up saving Xandar, a planet that Ronan was bent on destroying. Only by uniting as a team do they stop Ronan and take-back the infinity stone. Overall, the plot establishes the theme that family is what is most important. To read more about this, read Brenden’s piece here.

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Guardians Vol. 2: In the second installment we see the team working together to protect a superior race of people and then fleeing said people when Rocket steals one of the batteries they were hired to protect. Their ship crashes on an alien planet where they meet Peter’s father, Ego. We then follow father and son and the plot between Gamora’s sister Nebula, who’s out to take her revenge of Gamora. It’s a bit slow in some areas, which is understandable because the movie is character-focused. Both films are. But overall, the plot drags in some areas, being sacrificed to the jokes and humor, which are good, but take away from making the plot stronger.

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The first film brought the charm of family and bringing together a ragtag team to win this round over vol. 2.

WINNER: Vol. 1

ROUND 2: THE VILLAIN

Guardians Vol. 1: In the first volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy our heroes face Ronan, a leader of the Cree people who’s out for the infinity stone and couldn’t care less about Thanos. He’s about as flat as a villain could be, but still intimidating and powerful. He’s defeated by the Guardians rather easily, though that hammer of his sure was crazy good with an infinity stone strapped inside of it. Overall, he’s about as typical as Marvel villains come.

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Guardians Vol. 2: In the second volume of the Guardians’ adventure, we face a whole new kind of villain: a father gone bad. His reveal is dynamic, a twist to many fans and a highlight of the film, to be sure. I know I was shocked and I feared for Star-lord, a reaction I haven’t felt for many characters. But when Star-lord literally went starry-eyed, I was concerned. And the horror of all the children Ego killed and buried was also uncomfortable to realize. And, being a planet is something we haven’t seen yet, which adds to the originality of the character. Admittedly it feels like they’re fighting the Death Star at the end, but that’s for another round. The thing about Ego is his motives sound grand, but they too appear a bit murky.

06 (1)

With Ego being the more original and surprising twist of the two, the winner of this round belongs to Star-lord’s dad.

WINNER: Vol. 2

So far the two are tied, which is good. It’s what makes fights interesting. Good thing there’s a third and final round to settle which one’s better!

ROUND 3: THE CLIMAX

Guardians Vol. 1: The climax of the first film included an epic space battle above Xandar, the planet the heroes are desperate to save. After trying to stop a giant ship from crashing into the city, the ship is able to break the blockade and crash into the city. But before Ronan can slap his infinity stone-infused hammer into the ground and wipe out the world, he is challenged to a dance-off by Peter. After distracting Ronan he takes ahold of the infinity stone and defeats Ronan with the help of the other Guardians. The dance-off is completely unexpected and hilarious and the moment they unite is a powerful one.

08 (1)

Guardians Vol. 2: At times the climax reminded me of people trying to blow up the Death Star, and I’m still trying to figure out if this is a good thing or not. It was unique that they had to fight a being which was a planet, and it added a strange dynamic to the fight. I think Ego being essentially invincible (until you destroyed the core) made the fighting seem superfluous, but what was thrilling was seeing each member of the team having to fight Ego in their own way. There was a good deal at stake too, with the earth being in danger of Ego’s take-over.

05 (1)

With both movies having excellent final clashes, this one is probably the closest of the three rounds. But….

WINNER: Vol. 1

With two out of three wins, the original Guardians of the Galaxy remains one of the best films in the Marvel cinematic universe. I enjoyed both quite a bit, and think the second one is good, but the first one remains the better of the two. Do you agree with the results, or do you think I’m crazy?

Whatever you may think, James Gunn knows how to make popular movies, no doubt about it!

What A Stunt Person Needs In A Director

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

When it comes to knowing how to make movies, there’s one area independent filmmakers can not ignore. Stunts.

Pretty much everything else, you can “fake it, ‘til you make it”, but when it comes to stunts, you need to know what you’re doing. They’re dangerous and if you don’t have professional training, you’re creating an incredibly unsafe set.

A happy set is a safe set.

I love stunts. Watching Tom Cruise perform death-defying stunts in the Mission Impossible franchise are always a highlight. I mean, come on guys! The man hung off the side of one of the tallest buildings in the world. And, he held on to the side of a plane as it took off!

It’s inspiring to see stunt performers in action. They’re one of the most tight-knit community in film. Which, honestly, is no surprise because they have to trust each other with their lives.

As an aspiring director, I wanted to know what stunt professionals look for in a director. I reached out to a few and here’s what they had to say…

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Kyal Scott, SAP

The Tempus Elixer (2015) & Out of the Woods (2017)

Kyal is an incredible actor and stunt professional. He’s performed death-defying stunts as several iconic characters at Warner Brother’s Movie World in Australia.

“What I look for is trust. A stunt person doesn’t want to risk injury or death for the sake of a slightly better camera angle or perform a stunt that is deliberately difficult because an alternative action doesn’t adhere to the storyboard. 

“If a stunt person knows that their safety is the main concern then they will push their fear to the limit and risk their lives to create something incredible for the director to capture.

“Trust also helps both director and stunt person be far more efficient. Time is money after all.”

I think he’s hit the nail on the head. The biggest thing a stunt performer needs from their director is trust. They are putting their very lives on the line to serve the vision of the story. If they can trust they’re working with a director who will think outside the box to ensure their stunt performer is safe, the performer will work harder for them too.

It’s a mutual road.

Daniel Nelson, SAP

Deadline Gallipoli (2015) & Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Daniel currently works at Warner Brother’s Movie World in Australia and already has an impressive list of films under his belt as a qualified stunt performer.

“Sometimes directors don’t always have the same eye for action that stuntmen do. So having access to playback footage of each take and seeing what it looks like on camera is very handy. Particularly in a fight sequence.

“Directors can also spend too much time on the actors’ dialog that there is no time in the day for the stunt sequence. So a director who is aware of his time is definitely beneficial.”

This is great advice for the aspiring director. Keep an eye on the time. Stunts require a lot of work and time. The crazier the stunt, the longer it’ll take to make sure everything is set up and safe for the performer. The more a director honours this, the more a stunt person wants to make things work to serve the story.

Daniel Weaver, SAP/ Stunt Rigger

Bleeding Steel (2017) & The Shallows (2016)

As well as working for Movie World, Weaver is also a Stunt Rigger and most recently worked on Thor Ragnarok as a SPX Rigger.

“One of the things I look for in a director is being easy to communicate with. [There’s] nothing worse than trying to understand what someone wants to see if they are not clear. Some directors climb all over the ground and grab performers to show what they mean prior to shooting, so a director who is clear and not afraid to get their hands dirty is great!”

“Another is a director that understands action filmmaking. It’s awesome when you get a director that knows the value in seeing the stunts rather than a director that will just cheat the stunts to speed things up. A good director knows the time it takes to provide quality performance and maintain safety.”

I think Daniel makes an excellent point about being clear with what you want from a stunt person. The more concise and articulate you can be as a director the better. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say, learn their lingo. Find out what different stunts are called, it will save you time on set and I think it’ll make your stunt professional’s day.

Jason O’Halloran, SAP

Goldstone (2015) & The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)

Jason also works for Movie World and has had an impressive career, working on shows like Sea Patrol and Russell Crowe’s The Water Diviner.

“I like to see a director that’s excited about action. If you get on set and the director is pumped about the scene then everything just naturally goes up a notch.”

Jason gives some great advice here. At the heart of what I hear in this is, have passion for the action you’re creating. The more passion you have, the more your entire crew will want to get behind what you’re doing. Passion is a huge support to creativity. It gets the juices flowing, so to speak, and you may find your stunt professional coming up with even better takes for what you want to create.

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“All of the stunt men – these are the unsung heroes. They really are. Nobody is giving them any credibility. They’re risking their necks.” – Jason Statham

The next time you work on a set with stunt professionals, I hope you keep this advice in mind. What Jason Statham says above is so true. They really are the unsung heroes on set.

While it takes extreme effort for every crew member to serve a project, keep in mind these guys and gals are going the extra effort. Support and honor this community and listen well to this incredible filmmaking advice.

The Movie That Was To Be Poison At The Box Office

Written by Annette Lange.

If you want to know how to make movies, be sure to look at Michael Haneke’s work for inspiration in terms of affecting and capturing your audience through your film.

“How do you handle the suffering of a family member? What do you do when you stand helplessly and observe the merciless decline of a loved one’s mental and physical state?”

These are the questions Michael Haneke asks his audience with his latest film Amour (2013).

Haneke is known to be quite the perfectionist when it comes to his work. Every choice he makes has a specific purpose and is well thought-out. Haneke never gives answers. But he is able to stir up questions by getting to the very heart of his viewers’ emotions.

Amour deals with the question of how to deal with the suffering of a loved one. This same topic could have been explored through a story about young parents having to cope with their child dying of cancer, but Haneke chose a story that will concern us all at some point or another.

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The film revolves around an old couple of retired music teachers Anne and Georges. Their circumstances drastically change when Anne suffers a stroke and is left partially paralysed. They are forced to deal with their new set of circumstances as Anne’s physical and mental health gradually regresses.

Haneke chooses to tell the story through particularly long takes and steady shots. I found the distance of the camera to the characters very interesting because it was often far, while it’d be tempting to choose a close-up on the actors at particularly emotional moments.

Even these technical choices force the audience to witness and sit through uncomfortable situations we would intrinsically want to run away from, which makes the effect on us all the more impactful.

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This queasiness is added to through the choice of the location for filming. The story evolves almost entirely within the confines of Anne and Georges’ apartment – an exact replica of Haneke’s parents’ apartment. It feels as if the apartment is a character in itself, witnessing the succession of their challenges. We feel almost just as constricted as Anne who is unable to leave the apartment.

The story is not beautified through music in the background. In fact, the only music in the film is the music played by the characters themselves. This choice sets the film apart from being mere entertainment, to letting the audience feel entirely part of the story.

The audience experiences the events as they are – without embellishments.

Juliette Binoche, who has worked with Haneke, describes that “he has a drive to see and talk about the world ‘without fat’ so to speak, by removing the mask. […] A lot can be covered up in movies, and to get close to the skin, you need courage.” And Haneke definitely has that drive and courage, as well as his actors.

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His casting choice of Emmanuelle Riva (as Anne), Jean-Louis Trintignant (as Georges) and Isabelle Huppert (as Eva) couldn’t have been better. They allow themselves to sit in the emotion, the uncomfortable silences and the difficulties that come with dealing with Anne’s handicap physically and emotionally.

An example of these fascinating moments is when Georges’ realizes he just slapped Anne on the cheek in her feebleness. It hurts the viewer just as much as him. Or Anne having to be naked and washed by someone else is just as uncomfortable for us as it is for her. Most can identify with their daughter Eva who is left talking about investing in property because she doesn’t know how to handle her mother’s state.

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The situations themselves are ordinary. So ordinary, it’s scary. Haneke describes:

“My films are more difficult for the viewer to watch than they are for me and the actors to make.”

Haneke’s skill lies in the way he is able to make his audience feel.

When he introduced the idea of making Amour, his producer commented that it would be “poison at the box office” because of the taboos it would address. Countless awards later, it proved to have had the opposite effect.

Director Haneke reacts after receiving the Palme d'Or award for the film Amour during the awards ceremony of the 65th Cannes Film Festival

At first, I was trying to figure out what Haneke was trying to say or achieve, until I realized that it is Haneke’s intention to leave the interpretation up to us. “The film asks questions, something I always try to do, and if you expect an answer from me, or to provide you with an interpretation, I have to refuse it. […] I shouldn’t tell you how you are to view the film.”

Amour definitely had an effect on me. After watching it, I immediately gave my grandparents a call to tell them I loved them. And my view of the film changed from aversion to absolute appreciation after mulling over it within the next week.

Whether I understand or agree with the ending or not, is not the point. Haneke proved to be a master in his craft once again – using the powerful medium of cinematography  to its fullest potential.

How To Use Comic Books To Improve Your Filmmaking

Written by Greg Garofalo.

Film is a visual medium, unlike other forms of story everything is told mainly in what isn’t said. The classic rule of thumb is “Show don’t tell.” It’s something you have to get used to when you become a filmmaker.

One unconventional way of studying this is by reading comic books. Yep that’s right, comic books.

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Comics are an extremely visual medium, they also happen to base themselves off of cinematic angles. As in film, most of the story is told through what you see and not what is said.

I always like to go back to Matt Fraction’s run on Hawkeye.

Honestly, I believe this could be translated almost shot for shot into possibly the best movie ever made (and yes that is part of my pitch to direct, Marvel if you’re listening my contact info is at the bottom).

Take this panel for example from that particular run.

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Now let’s pretend this is a scene from a film and each panel is a shot and the characters aren’t drawn, they’re framed. What do you notice about the Femme Fatale?

Let’s dissect it visually shot for shot:

Shot 1) You never see her face you only hear her voice.

Shot 2) We only see her feet walking towards Clint.

Shot 3) We see most of her body but she’s turned away from us.

Shot 4) We finally see her face, but part of it is framed out.

Together, we are given a scene that visually supports the narrative of Clint’s question: “Are you lying?” We never see the woman fully for who she is, she’s revealed to us slowly as we gradually see more and more, but still not a full picture. We can assume that whatever she says is only a partial truth; we won’t get the full story.

Reading further, we see that the dialogue supports this idea with the woman’s line: “Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.” She isn’t exactly going to lie to him, but we’re not going to get the truth either.

We can do the same thing with Hawkeye’s character. From what we see of his apartment in the two above photos, Clint lives in a dirty, cheap place.

In the first photo he’s drinking coffee straight out of the pot and is covered in small bandages. We are instantly given something entertaining about his personality and know that he doesn’t really care about how he looks.

The bandages are a key point of Hawkeye’s character in this story; remember this is a superhero story. To have a hero with bandages tells us he’s not invincible. He’s a normal guy. This isn’t a superman we’re seeing, but an everyday guy.

It also adds a lot of personality to Hawkeye. There’s something that sets him apart visually from other characters and that peaks our interests as readers.

Basically, comic books are one big storyboard and can be a great tool to study and draw inspiration from.

Find a comic (probably a story that’s more grounded in reality than this…)

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…and try to mimic the feel of the book. Use it as a storyboard and see what you can make out of it.

Take notes on the visual exposition of the characters, and on the lighting in the scenes. How can you apply it to the films that you make?

Something else that works great for using comics to help you with your short film is knowing comics are self contained, while being a serialized story at the same time.

It’s a perfect format for short films because instantly you get thrown right into the action without being bogged down by exposition. I’ll use Hawkeye again for this. Here’s the first page of the first issue of My Life As a Weapon.

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Instantly we’re put into an exciting and interesting situation and we are compelled to turn the page and see what happens next.

Now, not every character is going to be falling out of a window in every short film, but it’s a great way to learn about getting right to the point. Viewers get bored easily and you need to find a way to get them hooked. Especially if you don’t have thousands of dollars invested into your project.

Now, if comic books aren’t really your thing and you hate them with a passion… well then, sorry I wasted your time.

HOWEVER!

If you love both film and comics, here’s a way to use your love of comics for film.

‘Nuff said.

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