Like my short film "Celeste"

Friday, March 09, 2012

We Need to Talk About Seamus

Here's my friend and Oscar nominated DP Seamus McGarvey, talking in-depth about "We Need To Talk About Kevin" in an intimate interview.

Make sure you check out the trailer (specifically the first shots in it), since he mentions the shooting of those shots after some drinks at our local pub Ear Inn.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Romanek and Kubrick

So I got this DVD with the work of Mark Romanek, his best music videos and a couple of documentaries. He's one of my favorite directors, some of his videos are just brilliantly simple and beautiful.

In the middle of one night this week I just woke up and couldn't go back to sleep so I grabbed the 50-page booklet that came with the DVD and read the whole thing. I envied the privilege that Romanek and his fellow director friends at Satellite Films (Propaganda's little sister) had, just sitting close by one another and comparing rough cuts and ideas. So many great directors came out of there, from Fincher to Jonze. It's really cool to see how their work was influenced by one another. For instance, there's no way that Romanek's video "Closer" had no influence on Fincher's "Se7en" (it's even the same song in the opening credits). And also the sharing of Harris Savides, Jeff Cronenwerth and many amazing artists that have been part of some of the best filmmaking in the past few decades.

I envy them and wish that I could be at the equivalent production company right now. Could that be Serial Pictures (Anonymous Content's little sister)? I don't know, because we don't know who'll be the next Fincher/Romanek/Jonze. But wherever that place is, I wanna be there.

Mark Romanek booklet from the DVD on top of Kubrick's Taschen Book

A huge influence in Romanek's work is Stanley Kubrick - he often mentions that 2001 was the film that made him want to make films. And in the DVD booklet, he references a Kubrick quote. It's such a powerful quote that I'm gonna dedicate a whole paragraph to it:

"Television (...) has made it necessary for films to be made with more sincerity and more daring."
This is taken from a CBS radio interview in 1958.
Romanek's summary of the quote is nicer and more to the point: "more daring and more sincere."

That just sums up any good film that I've ever seen. And I wish I'll be brave enough and free of boundaries to ever make a film like that.

It's great advice that will be in my mind when I start writing my feature film soon.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Script to Screen - IFP Event

I'm going.

If you wanna stalk me or learn about writing for the screen and even pitch your own screenplay, join me.

Here's the link:

Monday, February 27, 2012


Any artist should have a huge pile of references to very quickly grab and convey their idea to other people. That's why I own a bunch of Blu-rays and I've actually found Netflix to sometimes be the Spotify equivalent for film. It's awesome to instantly pull up a certain scene from a movie to show an actor or DP.

This past weekend I was working on a treatment for a music video and came upon some amazing references.

Reading up on how directors look for inspiration, I learned some interesting stuff. Mark Romanek researched about positive black culture by looking into the South African magazine Drum for Janet Jackson's 'Got 'Til Its Gone' (one of my favorite videos ever) and inspired the video on a lot of the stills found in old editions of that magazine. There was another director that would play the song and free associate online, just google whatever was going through his mind.

While watching hundreds of music videos it was pretty cool to see Mark Romanek evolve, for instance. (he did a lot of the same stuff in the beginning: videos in black and white, shots of fish, a person's face partially lit by a spotlight so that it looked like a hole of light, etc). And it was kind of an ego boost that his first videos weren't that great and that he grew into an amazing director. Just like I hope to some day.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Gary Oldman

This has been a very Gary Oldman week indeed.

Thanks to his long overdue Oscar nomination, there have been events around the city this week in honor of Gary Oldman.

I think I first saw him in Dracula and even though I was 9 or 10, I knew that he was an amazing actor. Then came the roles in The Fifth Element and Air Force One, then Harry Potters and Batmans, but his chameleonic acting has kept him hidden in a sense. I have a hard time remembering all his roles, but when I do realize that he was in it and it was great, I'm reminded of his superior ability to embody different characters.

Last night I went to see him play one of his best roles in the classic Coppola's "Dracula" (I like to call it that way instead). And what an astonishing piece of acting that was.

Tonight I had the privilege (one of the benefits of living in New York) of seeing him live in a conversation with Richard Peña at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. After the talk there was some time for a little Q&A.

Here are some notes I took from the talk:

He did 10 years of theater work before "Sid and Nancy" and considers he has been blessed to never having to wait tables, always made a living off acting. Gary shot a film while doing a play at the same time; at 8am he would go to the shoot to come back at 5pm and go do the play.

On working with Mike Leigh, Oldman mentions that they did 6 months of rehearsal; Leigh's method is unusual: he has a theme but by the time they start rehearsals there is no story yet; the characters and the story are developed during rehearsals.

Gary discovers characters through the way they sound; he starts with an impersonation; he impersonated John Le Carré, for instance, "then it became its own thing" he adds.

At one point, Gary stood up and mimicked an occurrence that Tony Hopkins (as he called him) had told him about how he discovered a character; Anthony was called by someone off stage and turned his head without moving his body; that's when it clicked in his mind and he realized that that was his character. On this Oldman mentions intuition, that you need to be able to recognize when something is fit for the role - he called it a "cloak of inspiration."

And speaking of which, Oldman uses music as his main inspiration, adding "acting is not intellectual, it's a feeling", so for him "music is like pornography: it's immediate." The audience laughed.

Gary believes that you have to find redeeming and likable qualities in all characters that you play, adding that "you can't patronize the character." But even this has limits. He was once asked to play Charles Manson and he refused it. "It's just too much karma (...) and his sister and Polanski are still alive."

On shooting Dracula, he recounts that Coppola had them (the actors) over at what Oldman calls Camp Copolla, the directors estate in Napa Valley, where he cooked his actors dinners and they drank a lot of his wine.

When asked by Peña what a good director is supposed to do Gary answered simply "leave you alone." "The good ones do" he added. The good ones watch you and they nudge you. He said that Oliver was a bully (a talented bully). Ha! That goes with what Seamus MacGarvey once told me Mr. Stone calls him. But that's another story.

He mentioned that Christopher Nolan is very quiet and has an incredible stamina - he looks the same on day 10 than he looks at day 120, quietly having his tea and being very certain.

Unfortunately, Gary has a favorite thing that he doesn't get to do that often, which is rehearsing. "Studios don't budget for that," he says. For his single directing experience he insisted on rehearsals and had the actors rehearse on the same locations, using the same props so they could get used to the environment. I happen to also be a great believer in rehearsals; it made a huge difference in shooting my most recent film.

Overall, he seemed a very normal human being, considers the method a bunch of crap and is not afraid to say so and has put family before work, missing out on more directing opportunities or roles that he had wanted to do.

Here's to you, Gary.

Monday, February 06, 2012

The 135K Project

A group of Aussies decided to make a movie by using a specific type of crowd-funding. Selling $1 frames of their film. At 25 fps, 90 minutes amounts to 135,000 frames.

What's different about their project is that they set out to give away the film for free using torrents. But they knew (or hoped) that eventually it would pay off. And it has. They got distribution deals, in-flight entertainment placement, etc.

Here's movie's website:

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Just watched an amazing documentary about a high school football team from Memphis, called Manassas.

This film has been nominated for an Oscar for best documentary and it was one of the best documentaries that I've seen.

It helps that I happen to love football, but this was a really nicely put together film. An honest mirror into life and the lives of these underprivileged kids.

A must-see, so when it comes out in theaters in mid-February make sure to watch it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


I've just re-watched The Dark Knight for the first time since watching it originally in theaters.

The parts shot on IMAX make such a difference. I watched on my Sony 46" TV on Blu-ray and the IMAX shots are so much sharper and rich!

And of course, it got me looking in the future and dreaming of one day shooting in the digital cinema equivalent of an IMAX camera. The RED 65 sensor perhaps? Because while IMAX is amazing, it's still super expensive and the cameras are very cumbersome.

So I'll just keep dreaming, for now.

Couldn't Resist

Stopped by the Taschen store in Soho on my way back home and couldn't
help buying this amazing book.

In it you'll find some amazing gems, like the photograph of an 8 year old (or so) Hitch on a horse next to his proud father in front of their family's store.

But another picture grabbed my attention: Hitchcock's self-portrait. It reminded me not only of his incredible illustration and design talent but also his keen sense of branding. The book explains that in one discussion in Hitch's earlier days his friends were talking about who they made films for. Some said "for the audience", others "for distributors" and Hitchcock said "for the press." Because they influence audiences and in turn audiences influence distributors. Apparently, Hitchcock consistently kept close ties with the film critic community, wining and dining them, much to the likes of Godard, who having started as one, often would have film critics do cameos in his films.

Ah, there's still so much to learn from Hitchcock!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top Films of 2011

In my humble opinion, here are the top films I most enjoyed in 2011, in no particular order:

The Descendants
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Tree of Life
Girl With the Dragon Tatoo
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Ides of March

Disclaimer: I have no seen a lot of other acclaimed 2011 movies yet, so this is a short list from the list of films that I've watched from this year.

Scorcese, Baz Luhrmann and Festivals

Recently, thanks to the Lincoln Film Society, I was invited to a special member event. A surprise screening from a legendary filmmaker.

I was secretly hoping that it was David Fincher, being my favorite living director. But when my buddy and I got there, I heard some people mention Scorcese. And then when they handed out 3D glasses, I got even more confused. "3D? Is it Spielberg and Tintin?"

For some reason, amidst an avalanche of trailers I somehow forgot about "Hugo."

And then Peña came up to the stage and introduced Scorcese, to a standing ovation. He got such a reception! It was inspiring to see him in the flesh. Such an amazing director and yet so humble.

Having been showing my own film, "Celeste", to people for around 4 months now, it was awesome to see him say the same things I have been telling people. "Please, it's just a work in progress", "there's no final mix", "no final visual effects." It was comforting to know everyone goes through the same.

The film was great - this was in October 10th of last year - but I thought the pacing didn't feel quite right.  Granted it didn't have Howard Shore's soundtrack, but I'm hoping that he tightened the cut since then.
I'm very excited to watch the final piece and compare it to the earlier cut I saw.

That was a great moment as a film fan and student of film. One of those moments where I'm very happy to be in New York. It is truly a privilege.

And speaking of "Hugo", last week I met Baz Luhrmann. What does "Hugo" have to do with Baz? Well, Baz and I started chatting about VFX, since I was working in Autodesk's Smoke when he popped up in my office, and the conversation drifted to Stereo (3D) because he just shot The Great Gatsby on RED Epics in Stereo and I mentioned "Hugo." He said "Marty had me over to watch some scenes while they were editing." "Marty" - I thought. That awesome! I hope one day I can call up Marty or get a call from Marty wanting to share cuts!

Meeting Baz was fun. He has so much energy, it's crazy. I thought of giving him a screener of my short film but I just wanted to be cool at that moment. Maybe if he stops by my office again I'll hand him a screener and see if he likes it. Having him review my film for me would be amazing. I'd love to hear what a director that I admire thinks of it.

Because so far, film festivals have not selected my film, aside from Lucerne back in October. I'm not sure why, because it's been getting a great honest reaction from people - filmmakers and "civilians." I woke up today thinking that I should try to cut half of the film and make it a 15 min film - more film festival friendly. But that's maybe for next year. I'll stick with the 30 min version this year, see if it flies.

Here's hoping it does!