I wish the story of how I decided to become a filmmaker was unusual and exciting. I wish it involved an embittered rivalry, a heart-stopping chase sequence, and a gorgeous romantic interest. I wish I could describe the atmosphere of the carnival tent when the old, weathered hag turned over the five of diamonds. How she pointed her crooked finger at me and cried, “You! You shall be… a film director! You will achieve fame everlasting as a brilliant artist and have more money than you know what to do with!” How the thunder rumbled off in the distance, and how at that moment- I knew.
Alas, that’s not what happened. I don’t think there was even one moment where I decided this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I remember looking at a website about picking careers and thinking that it looked cool. I remember watching North by Northwest, Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Seventh Seal, and Lawrence of Arabia, and the impression they made on me. I remember watching a movie based off of a book that I loved and thinking, “I can do better than that.”
Many professional filmmakers will tell you they caught the bug early, playing around with their parents’ 8mm and video cameras. I made videos with my brothers and our friends in the backyard- there was Nauseating News (top story: An interview with a man jumping over a pit), and a series about a vicious stuffed teddy bear named Hubert.
I noticed that our videos turned out better the more we planned them in advance, with scripting and rehearsing. Now when I shoot, I plan everything, down to the smallest detail. Each shot carries a specific piece of the script. Copious coverage– shooting take after take from every conceivable angle- seems like a waste of time to me. Planning everything in advance takes more time before shooting, but it simplifies post-production, and I feel the product is stronger for it.
I decided to practice writing as much as I could when I was younger; it was the most preparation I could do without actually shooting anything. The first was probably The Adventures of Captain Dishdrainer, about a boy named Max, his first officer, General Garbanzo, their ship, the Starship Spaghetti, and their nemesis, an evil storm cloud named It. I always imagined turning my stories into movies, but I was very protective of them. If anyone was going to adapt them into movies, and possibly bad movies, I wanted it to be me.
My taste in genres is broad and hard to pin down. I’ve enjoyed everything from Zombieland to The Lives of Others to WALL-E. For a long time, I said I liked science fiction, but that was really only Star Trek. I don’t have much interest in pandering to the lowest common denominator. Not that there’s anything wrong with that- there’s good money in telling fart jokes, and some of my closest friends have a real knack for them. But I believe the general public has better taste than they’re often given credit for.
I’m greatly interested in how movies work, and why people respond to them the way they do. Unfortunately, much of the Film Theory I read in school was dense and impenetrable, and those were the best cases. In the summer of 2009, I found David Bordwell’s blog and a switch went off.
Finally, here was someone who thought about movies the same way I did. DB’s work is exhaustive and thorough, with average-shot-lengths and still frames, whether he’s talking about silent comedies, studio-era program pictures, or Hong Kong action movies. He focuses on answering specific questions, and often includes research in cognitive and evolutionary psychology.
He’s written dozens of books and articles, but I’m most familiar with the essays he posts on his site. A few favorite entries are Unsteadicam Chronicles (About The Jason Bourne Trilogy), Hands (and faces) Across the Table (There Will Be Blood), The Cross (Blocking actors), Bond vs. Chan: Jackie Shows How It’s Done (Tomorrow Never Dies and Police Story), and This is Your Brain on Movies (Maybe) (Suspense).
You can see some of the movies I’ve made on the Media page, as well as a few scripts I’ve written. In addition to making movies that are enjoyable to watch, I’ve tried to include some of the things I’ve learned from DB in my work. Whether I’ve been successful… well, I’ll let you decide that. If you like what you see, leave a comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Feedback is always appreciated!