25 Filmmaker Quotes

September 30, 2009 by Samantha Halfon · 25 Comments
Filed under: Arts, Cinephile 
  1. As filmmakers, we can show where a person’s mind goes, as opposed to theater, which is more to sit back and watch it. –Darren Aronofsky
  2. You see so many movies… the younger people who are coming from MTV or who are coming from commercials and there’s no sense of film grammar. There’s no real sense of how to tell a story visually. It’s just cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, you know, which is pretty easy. –Peter Bogdanovich
  3. Pick up a camera. Shoot something. No matter how small, no matter how cheesy, no matter whether your friends and your sister star in it. Put your name on it as director. Now you’re a director. Everything after that you’re just negotiating your budget and your fee. –James Cameron
  4. Most people don’t know what they want or feel. And for everyone, myself included, It’s very difficult to say what you mean when what you mean is painful. The most difficult thing in the world is to reveal yourself, to express what you have to… As an artist, I feel that we must try many things – but above all, we must dare to fail. You must have the courage to be bad – to be willing to risk everything to really express it all. –John Cassavetes
  5. Cassavetes

  6. The funniest thing is that all the things every director goes through, I thought I could shortcut, but there was no getting around those issues. –George Clooney
  7. I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians. –Francis Ford Coppola
  8. In the future, everybody is going to be a director. Somebody’s got to live a real life so we have something to make a movie about. –Cameron Crowe
  9. And I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets here, but there are a lot of terrible scripts in this town. –Frank Darabont
  10. The camera lies all the time; lies 24 times/second. –Brian De Palma
  11. My old drama coach used to say, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there.’ Gary Cooper wasn’t afraid to do nothing. –Clint Eastwood
  12. eastwood

  13. Anybody can direct a picture once they know the fundamentals. Directing is not a mystery, it’s not an art. The main thing about directing is: photograph the people’s eyes. –John Ford
  14. Movement should be a counter, whether in action scenes or dialogue or whatever. It counters where your eye is going. This style thing, for me it’s all fitted to the action, to the script, to the characters. –Samuel Fuller
  15. A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order. –Jean-Luc Godard
  16. I’m a storyteller – that’s the chief function of a director. And they’re moving pictures, let’s make ‘em move! –Howard Hawks
  17. The directing of a picture involves coming out of your individual loneliness and taking a controlling part in putting together a small world. A picture is made. You put a frame around it and move on. And one day you die. That is all there is to it. –John Huston
  18. A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later. –Stanley Kubrick
  19. A lot of times you get credit for stuff in your movies you didn’t intend to be there. –Spike Lee
  20. For any director with a little lucidity, masterpieces are films that come to you by accident. –Sidney Lumet
  21. I studied English Literature. I wasn’t a very good student, but one thing I did get from it, while I was making films at the same time with the college film society, was that I started thinking about the narrative freedoms that authors had enjoyed for centuries and it seemed to me that filmmakers should enjoy those freedoms as well. –Christopher Nolan
  22. I mean, certainly writing, painting, photography, dance, architecture, there is an aspect of almost every art form that is useful and that merges into film in some way. –Sydney Pollack
  23. Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out. –Martin Scorsese
  24. Scorsese

  25. People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning. –Steven Spielberg
  26. I steal from every movie ever made. –Quentin Tarantino
  27. I think it’s a very strange question that I have to defend myself. I don’t feel that. You are all my guests, it’s not the other way around, that’s how I feel. — Lars Von Trier
  28. If two men on a job agree all the time, then one is useless. If they disagree all the time, then both are useless. –Daryl F. Zanuck

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Last Night Filming at chezGrace

December 19, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arts, Filming 

We’ve filmed vernissages at chezGrace several times over the past three years and as time went by we learned a few business tricks.

At first, Grace’s attention was with the attendance. She loved videos showing that several various people came and enjoyed the show. As time went by, the main subject of these short videos became the artist and his works. Of course, we also film the visitors, especially visitors contemplating and commenting on the works. Eventually it evolved into a combination of the two.

Nassim Al Amin - chez Grace

Nassim Al Amin - Caméra Cachée

I really enjoy filming the artwork in motion, moving in and outside of the piece if it’s a canvas and around it if it’s a sculpture. When used with care during editing, it can produce a great effect in the final product. If we just want to use a frontal shot of the work, we usually rely on a photo shot instead of video. The photo shot is easier to reframe or color correct later. Also, for a frontal shot to work, the video camera needs to be perfectly still for four seconds. So, for four seconds, no one can enter your frame. This is easier said than done when filming a live event.

Filming the artworks can be teadious especially if they are framed in glass. A polarized filter on the photo camera has been our best solution so far.

The second difficulty is to interact with people. First, I usually try to let them know that they’re are in the frame. I make sure they are aware of my presence and that I’m filming. I pay attention to their reaction. At the least sign of embarassement, I’ll stop filming and go ask them if it is a problem. If someone says he or she doesn’t want to be filmed, I won’t point the camera their way again and if ever they are in the frame, I’ll cut out the shot. This is actually very rare. Most people agree to be filmed. I often reassure people and tell them we’ll edit the footage and take out everything inapropriate so they shoudln’t worry. Surprisingly, few ask what the video is for. I usually go ahead and tell them because they are even more cooperative when they realize the video is only to promote the artist and Grace.

We do not ask people to act. We try and capture the fun moments of the evening. One thing I have learned though, was to recognize the people that are really confortable around the camera. They will usually accept, if asked, to repeat something they just did that I might have missed. We also get a lot of cooperation from the artist (after all, he or she is the one who will benefit from the video). We’ll often ask the artist to be filmed in front of his works or around his friends and also, a necessary shot each time, with the host of the exhibition.


Nassim Al Amin

As I’ve said, we do not direct people, they are visitors and we are only covering the evnt. We have to capture moments and try not to get in people’s way. One thing we can do though, is give our input beforehand. For example, changes in the lighting or move some furniture around. An important thing we discvoered was that the cocktails should not be in the main exhibition room.This creates a huge gathering around it that makes it difficult to film. Shots of people eating or drinking are really not what you want in this type of video. If the cocktails are placed too close to the exhibition space, you will always have someone eating or drinking in your frame.

Filming a live event like this is an interesting exercice. On one hand, the creative part is limited: we don’t direct people or prepare shots. But, on the other hand, we learn to react quickly, to adjust and to observe. A lot of the work is done in the preparation. You have to always be ready to catch a good moment. You need the right equipment for the job. It should be light and efficient. Also, it’s a great occasion to practice and see what does and doesn’t work.

Picasso et ses maîtres

December 15, 2008 by Samantha Halfon · 2 Comments
Filed under: Arts 

This week end, my mother came for a two days visit to Paris and, despite the legendary wait and the bitter cold, we went to see Picasso et les maîtres (Picasso and his masters), the exhibiton at the Grand Palais in Paris. picasso_and_the_masters My prior knowledge of Picasso came from two exhibitions I attended before:

  1. the Picasso museum in Paris 5th arrondissement where the visitor  gets a chance at seeing a lot of paintings from the blue period, the beginning of the cubism, several portraits of Dora Mar and a number of works (drawings or paintings) coming from Picasso’s work on Guernica. At least, these are the works I clerly remember seeing there. The visit presents the work in chronological order and, right from the beginning, we study the paintings in order to determine how close Picasso is to entering his next period. The references are always to his own work since he is opening a new path. There seems to be no connection between what he is doing, what his contemporaries are doing and what the previous masters done before.
  2. the Cézanne – Picasso exhibition which shows several pieces that bring out the light on the ressemblaces between the two painters I tought were opposed. Picasso and Cezanne share a mutual admiration for one another and actually, inspired each other. Several Picasso paintings are answers to some of Paul Cezanne paintings. In that second exhibition, Picasso appears less isolated since his work is compared to the one of Cezanne. Indeed, that exhibition reveals that at least part of his inspirations came from his contemporaries and that, after all, he was not reinvented painting all by himself. It also, by making him the one that followed Paul Cézanne’s path, gave him a place in the History of Painting. He now had a place in the chain that connects Renoir to Pollock.

El Greco - Portrait

Pablo Picasso - Portrait inspired by El Greco

What this recent exhibition revealed (at least to me) is that Picasso was not only inspired by his contemporaries but also the most academic of trainings. He studied the masters, before moving on to create his own style, and by doing so, reinventing painting for the 20th century. He accepted this as his mission. Like most artists, he felt he belonged to a tradition and to an History. He knew he would have to create his own style to move painting forward and to write his own chapter. His inspirations came from every an incredibly wide range of artists: Rembamt, El Greco, Velasquez and Delacroix, Ingres, Matisse, Cezanne, Renoir and Gaughin, le Douannier Rousseau among many others. Picasso had an incredible style, that makes him stand out and easy to recognize but he also has an incredible capacity to learn from everything, and imitates most anything. What a versatility is displayed a h the exhibition: not only did Picasso go through several periods (styles) but he could paint any subject or genres. To illustrate the exhibition, here are Velasquez Menines (which is actually one of the paintings missing at the show) followed by two of the paintings it inspired Picasso. What is fascinating is how Picasso graps the subject and starts taking away from it, changing the lines and colors but still, you can still recognize the original and yet, it’s evidently a new work of art on its own. Sometimes, this proces could take him months and a lot of paintings to arrive to the destination of this inspirational journey.

Velasquez - Les Menines (1656)

Velasquez - Les Menines (1656)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

Pablo Picasso - Les Menines (1957)

If you are in town and care for paintings, dont miss this incredible gathering of masterpieces. Just an adivce, the shows closes at 10pm, plan to get there at 8pm, the biggest part of the crowd is gone by then…

And now, from the filmmakers perspective, we learn two things from what Picasso achieved:

  1. It is necessary for people wanting to make movies to watch movies and to learn from the masters. There are technics and ideas to be taken from every movies out there, no matter their genre or time period. That is something we strongly believe in and, if nothing else, we make sure to watch several movies a week with attention. Well, that’s not difficult. We just love it.
  2. Picasso is the avant-garde figure of the 20th century. He is the inventor of cubism and therefore known for his opposition to a classical, academical, pictural representation. But, as any avant garde artist, he is in the first place a master of academism.

Méliès to Hopper: Parisian Cinema

November 24, 2008 by Derrick Faw · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arts, Cinephile 

Yesterday Samantha and I visited La Cinémathèque Française to see the Dennis Hopper exhibition and to my surprise we were also able to visit the exhibition on Georges Méliès and the Musée du Cinéma. The Cinémathèque is located at 51, Rue de Bercy in the 12th Arrondissement. Paris surely has a rich culture based in cinema. It is an ideal place for cinemaphiles. Any given day you can go see classic films in various places in the city. I was first impressed a few years ago when we ducked off the Champs-Élysées into an underground cinema to watch James Stewart in Anthony Mann’s The Man from Laramie. I could of never imagined such a wealth of movies to go watch back in North Carolina. Since then we’ve seen many great films in Paris. One of the most noted treats was last year when the Cinémathèque showed Howard Hawks’ Sergeant York. They even show such rarities as Bob Dylan’s Renaldo And Clara. In Paris we also have the opportunity to attend master classes from noted Directors. For example, I had an excellent time hearing Michael Cimino discuss Heaven’s Gate before the movie aired. Though I throughly enjoyed watching Thunderbolt and Lightfoot on the big screen far more. For a listing of English speaking movies in the Paris area you can check out the AngloInfo website for the Ile de France region at http://paris.angloinfo.com/information/movies.asp

The Museum of Cinema at the  Cinémathèque was very interesting. There you have an opportunity to see the instruments that were first used in cinematography. There are many different types of costumes and props from the early years. I was dissappointed a bit that there was very little from later years on display. However one fascinating piece was the actual skull Alfred Hitchcock used for Norman Bate’s mother in Psycho. I found the real treat of the Cinémathèque on the 5th floor. It was the exhibition on George Méliès, the Magician of Cinema or the Cinemagician. Though most noted for La Voyage dans la lune or in English A Trip to Mars or A Trip to the Moon, Méliès can be credited for over a hundred other films.

Georges Méliès

He was a true genius and pioneer in the craft of making films. With his incredible sense of humor and curiosity, the imagination of audiences could explore regions never before envisioned. Being a true student of the technology of the time, he set a standard for special effects which holds up, even in today’s world of computer generated effects. He invented techniques such as the “stop trick” and was one of the first to use such features as dissolves, time lapse photography, multiple exposures, and color. On display was a model of his studio which was located in the suburbs of Paris. This fascinating building was constructed almost entirely of glass, with panels that could be opened on the roof to let in valuable sunlight. The building also included such things as trap floors to assist in the trick shots he preformed. Though his films may not hold up as great stories or have inspiring scripts in the terms of film language, they are no doubt some of the most important treasures for anyone interested in cinema and cinematography. I find myself great inspiration in his experiments of what can be done with a camera. As we begin to make our own films, I will try to keep in mind this kind of ingenuity and invention.

Finally we found ourselves at the Dennis Hopper Exhibition called Dennis Hopper & le Nouvel Hollywood. On display were many photographs, paintings, film clips, and various other curiosities, both from his own works to his private collection. Of all Hopper’s talents in the field of the arts I think I appreciate most how he composes himself verbally. At the beginning of the exhibition was a video of him reflecting on many of the important events that have shaped America politically and through the cinema in his lifetime. Included in the show were works by Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, Roy Lichenstein, and Jean-Michel Basquiat among others.

Dennis Hopper, John Ford, & John Huston

He established himself firmly in the old regime of Hollywood, working for great directors such as Nicholas Ray and George Stevens. Hopper is one of the founders and remains a benchmark of American counter culture. He stands in an unique position as being a witness and participant in the birth and death of the New Hollywood. From working with such figures as Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood to James Dean, to photographing Andy Warhol at the Factory and Martin Luther King in 1965. He even remains relevant today among his more modern acquaintances such as Quentin Tarantino and Sean Penn. In addition to a multitude of acting roles in film and television, he has written and directed several films. Most notably of course is Easy Rider, which will go down in history as one of the films that changed the course of popular culture. The exhibition, without much elaboration was simply great and I recommend it to anyone in the Paris area. It is on display until January 19th, 2009.