Like my short film "Celeste"

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.