Props



If you're curious about what happens behind the scenes, this video - about the importance of props in motion pictures from Rishi Kaneria - is well worth your time.

As is this Feb. 7, 2018 Creative Future interview with Elisa Malona (follow this link), head of props for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

To make theatrical films, television and theater - or to simply appreciate them as the product of disciplined artists - it's useful to understand how the illusions are created. One of the most ancient practices involves creating (or renting or buying) and preparing the objects that the performers will hold in their hands.

Film Education: Bridging the Gap

The most important part of motion picture making is rarely addressed in film schools. 
That may be because it is constantly changing - and arguably doesn’t even exist. 
In my experience, the most critical part of motion picture making is the gap - the distance between the filmmaker’s work and how the user receives the film.
Is there a film school spending sufficient (any?) time on bridging that gap between the film and the viewer. 
I’m not talking about marketing. 
Although marketing is a part of it. 
I’m talking about the gap that every motion picture must bridge in the endlessly repeating process of touching each unique viewer.
Using language from other disciplines, the gap I am describing might also be called an interface. 
[In computer programming, there are human interfaces, where the software interacts with humans, and there are APIs (Application Program Interfaces), where software interacts with other pieces of software.]
How much thought is given to the gaps where films interact with the audience?
In film schools, directors, cinematographers and editors hear lectures on film grammar - which touch on how humans in general seem to have reacted to certain conventions that were established 100 years ago. And producers take classes on film marketing, where students learn about the platforms and messaging that have historically been used by film studios to get customers to buy a product.
But, as the technology changes and films are created, discovered, circulated and experienced on new devices in new ways, shouldn’t all film students be spending more time thinking about how to bridge the gap between their work and the user?
Especially now that the old super highways for making and delivering motion pictures are collapsing and new roads - including millions of winding social media pathways - are appearing?
Yes. Most of today’s paths to viewers are difficult and dangerous. 
Relying on old conventions and the routes of the last century is easier. And relying on (now incorrect) legacy ideas is all many film teachers know. So much (most?) of the University teaching about motion pictures consists of talking about the old ways - as if the still had a chance of bridging the gap - with a few teachers stitching in info about the few commercially-viable remaining pieces. 
It’s expedient for the teachers. But is that approach optimal for the students?
The wrong tools beckon because they are easier. And traditional.
But should decisions about what to teach and how to teach be based on what worked for the last century?
I am not suggesting that we break all the toys. But conservatism that ignores how motion pictures have changed - and will continue to change - seems destined to fail the students. 
And don’t Universities have a duty to advance the practice of the art?
I’ll readily admit there is no one true method. No silver bullet. 
But simply teaching the old tools and techniques - without addressing the changing context - is folly.
As user experience pioneer Alan Cooper has observed: "The assumption that the merits of a given method are its merits at all times, in all places, and for all practitioners, is simply not true."

In my view, motion-picture-making education would benefit from a refocus on the people and the processes (new models of creative collaboration and interactivity targeted at bridging the gap), rather than a continued focus on Old World tools and techniques. 

And, unfortunately, managers attached to an Old World “command and control” model are the wrong choice to implement the necessary changes.

Filmmaking for the 21st century is not what it was 20 or even 10 years ago.

21st century filmmakers must embrace the challenges of bridging the gap. 

The insights and perspective that will focus on how the users will interact with motion pictures are not part of traditional film education. But, increasingly, they are what really matters.


Lest We Forget....

This week the President of the United States, while discussing immigration from Haiti and Africa, questioned why the US would want people from "shithole" countries.

Which got me thinking.

The President (and readers of this blog?) may not realize that there are numerous motion pictures that would not exist, but for authors from “shithole” countries.

Two examples from one author?


The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo were both written by Alexandre Dumas (pictured below), who lived in France, but whose background might, even today, help explain what it means to be Haitian. 



Many people may not realize that Alexandre Dumas’ father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie (pictured below), was a black man and war hero, born in 1762 in the French colony of Saint-Domingue - present-day Haiti.



Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie's parents were Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, a French nobleman and Marie-Cessette Dumas, who a contemporaneous letter says was purchased from a Monsieur de Mirribielle “at an exorbitant price," and then years later, sold, along with her two daughters, "to a... baron from Nantes". 

Just to make my point crystal clear, the man who wrote “All for One and One for All” was the grandson of a slave - and his father (one of many from his homeland who have served proudly in the military, but who, to my knowledge remains the highest-ranking man of African descent ever to serve in a European army) was Haitian.

Note: The poster for The Three Musketeers silent film above is from the 1921 version, that starred Douglas Fairbanks and Adolphe Menjou. If you enjoyed A Hard Day's Night (1964), you might want to see how director Richard Lester handled the same basic story in 1973, with stars like Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, and Richard Chamberlain. The Count of Monte Cristo has also been remade many times as a motion picture. The 1934 version with Robert Donat as Edmund Dantes (poster above), made a big impression on me when I was a kid. But in hindsight, it's not a fully satisfying retelling of that great story. I didn't think the 2002 Hollywood version, directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Jim Caviezel, got it right either. Perhaps versions I have yet to watch, like a futuristic retelling in anime, Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo (2004), or a reputedly more faithful 1998 French TV mini-series version, starring Gérard Depardieu and a raft of great French actors, or a (hard-to-find?) BBC miniseries version from 1964 starring Alan Badel might offer better options. 

Love and the Producer: Big Money From Interactive Storytelling That Targets a Key Demographic in China - Young Women


The future of interactive storytelling might be emerging right now in China via a (new at the end of Dec. 2017) romantic mobile game.

"Love and the Producer" takes all those Western dystopian fantasies about men dating shapely androids and turns them on their head - by making the female (!) player in this relationship game an ambitious executive with 4 comely men to keep on a string as she tries to build her TV production company.

And the real world cash being collected - mostly apparently from young female players - of 恋与制作人 ("Love and the Producer") is rumored to be approaching successful indie film levels - and growing. 

That massive popularity, its appeal to young women, and the way "Love and the Producer" is straying into areas once reserved for films and TV series, might suggest that this Chinese sensation deserves a look from future motion picture makers.

Without delving too deeply into the gameplay: "Love and the Producer" unfolds as the tale of MC - a female TV producer - who must pay attention to several story threads, with each player trying to level up as MC.

There's...

1) A business storyline, that concerns MC trying to make her media production company successful through canny hiring, etc.

2) A love storyline, that requires collecting different cards from 4 dreamy guys.

3) And a supernatural powers storyline (with the superpowers known as evol), with each of the 4 guys having a unique power.

According to TheBeijinger.com, "The game, which went live on all platforms on December 20, [2017] is expected to pocket RMB 50 million (USD 7.6 million) in revenue during its first month."

Also, it's kind of hot:




Randy Finch's Film Blog:

Thoughts from a film producer about making and distributing films.