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Filmmaking Journal

Mise-en-scène 101

I ran across this brilliant article and infographic on Mise-en-scène at ShoHawk. The term has always been a bit confusing to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone. As I digested this, I basically came to understand it as the collection of aesthetic choices between the director and production designer (as informed by the script, of course) that results in how meaning and emotion are visually captured within the frame and communicated to the audience.

I may add more to this post later 😉

Hey Sound Guy!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me, with two different opportunities to crew up as a sound recordist on documentary projects.

I can’t talk about the first one, but last Thursday was an all-day shoot for a documentary on the Morris Trophy, which is a college football trophy awarded annually to the best offensive and defensive linemen, as voted on by the players on opposing teams. The offensive winner for 2017 was UW Husky Vita Vea, which was a bonus for me since I work for UW.

There were 5 or 6 solo interviews, a chat between the two award winners, and the award ceremony itself, so I was really able to work in many different scenarios, which was rewarding. Initial reports from the editor is that the audio was great, which is always nice to hear. 🙂

Next up, I’m starting a screenwriting class with Brian McDonald tomorrow night that runs 6 sessions over the next 3 weeks. I’m really looking forward to gaining some good insights.

First Things First

Tonight was 2018’s first First Tuesday workshop from TheFilmSchool, featuring Brian McDonald speaking about story and clone characters. Brian is the author of Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate (now at the top of my reading list), among many other things.

The main topic of clone characters was demonstrated using clips from some classic films that made great use of the device:

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • A Christmas Carol (the Patrick Stewart version)
  • Marty (1955) written by Patty Chayefsky
  • Tootsie

Here are a few other tidbits from my notes:

  • Story is the telling or retelling of a series of events leading to a conclusion.
  • Why we tell stories – survival. That’s why we need conflict.
  • Theme – or as Brian refers to it, armature – should take the form of a sentence and be provable (or disprovable).
  • As writer or director, always know who wins the scene.
  • Contrast is how we see everything.

One thing I appreciated about Brian’s workshop was his openness about his dyslexia, and how it actually was a positive force for him in some ways. As an Aspie, I could relate, and I think it’s important for voices like Brian to speak about their neurodiversity. It’s very empowering and it helps people find meaning in places they might not expect.

Brian, if you read this, it was a pleasure meeting and learning from you, and I look forward to more opportunities in the future. Check out TheFilmSchool.com for upcoming chances to learn from a master.

Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence – Lane Shefter Bishop

This is a brilliant book focused on one thing: writing the best logline possible.

It’s common to see back cover blurbs like “the only book you’ll ever need…”, but in this case, I think it’s really safe to say this book covers the art of writing logline to the fullest. The author clearly defines what a logline should be, and what it isn’t, and breaks it down into 3 big questions: who is the protagonist (really), what do they want, and what’s at stake. There are tons of guidelines and tips on crafting the perfect single-sentence pitch, backed up by years of experience.

The book goes further than most by offering not only real world examples, but full-on exercises for readers to work through, with answers and explanations. There’s also a “Logline Cheat Sheet” towards the end of the book that I can see referencing for the rest of my writing career.

“Clearly, the payoff is that a successful logline not only sells the creative work upon completion, it also keeps the creator inexorably on-point throughout the process. That’s why I always tell people to try to design their logline first, while they are fleshing out what they want to write, and then get started on the bulk of their masterpiece.”
― from “Sell Your Story in A Single Sentence: Advice from the Front Lines of Hollywood”
I would add this to the list of “must have” books for creative writers, both for learning how to talk about and sell your writing, and for better focusing your writing on the core of the story.