Friday, May 29, 2020

Film Noir

Film Noir:

The Elements of Film Noir (documentary)

Here are a few things to watch for as we screen The Maltese Falcon:

1. A protagonist that is cynical or detached
2. A femme fatale who leads the protagonist astray
3. A mystery, crime, or use of suspense
4. A naive scapegoat to take the rap of some "crime"
5. Goons (hired criminals who give the protagonist a hard time)
6. Razor sharp dialogue
7. Reference and description of low key lighting

The Maltese Falcon, directed and written for the screen by John Huston
Based on the novel by Dashiell Hammett
You can read the script here at this link.
Other film noir films of the 1940's:
Now a little technique and advice about making films:

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Film Treatment

What is a Film Treatment?
A pitch is used to convince a film company to produce your film. The pitch is usually a one page summary of the main action, characters, and setting of the film. Essentially it deals with the idea of your story. It is essentially a summary of what the story is from beginning to end.

The film treatment is usually a much longer piece (usually up to 50 pages or more) but, for us, a 1-3 page document that tells the whole story of a film idea focusing on the highlights or important scenes. It is usually more detailed than a pitch. It can include a scene by scene breakdown of a script. It is used BEFORE writing the real script so the author can plan his/her project.

In fact, if you write a good treatment, you can copy and paste a lot of what you write by prose into the script itself. This can make the description (action) portion of your film script easier to write.

How To Write a Treatment
The treatment should read like a short story and be written in the present tense (like all scripts). It should present the entire story including the ending, and can use some key scenes and dialogue from the screenplay it is based on. Instead of using quotes, handle dialogue like a play script (but without the weird indentations!)

TEACHER: Get it?

What Should Be in the Treatment?

1. A Working title
2. The writer's name
3. Introduction to key characters
4. Answers to who, what, when, why and where.
5. Act 1 in one to three paragraphs. Set the scene, dramatize the main conflicts.
6. Act 2 in two to five paragraphs. Should dramatize how the conflicts introduced in Act 1 lead to a crisis.
7. Act 3 in one to three paragraphs. Dramatize the final conflict and resolution.
The Three Act Structure
Basic screenplay structure for a full-length film usually has three acts.

In The Poetics, Aristotle suggested that all stories should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Well, duh. You know that. But really. You need to remember this advice.

Breaking the plot of a story into three parts gives us a 3-part or act structure. The word "act" means "the action of carrying something out. For our purposes think act one (beginning), act two (middle), and act three (end) of your short film.

Act 1, called the Set-up, The situation and characters and conflict are introduced. This classically is 30 minutes long. For a short film, it can be only a few minutes or 1 minute. Your first act could only be a paragraph or two (and no longer than 1 page of text).

Act 2, called The Conflict, often an hour long, is where the conflict begins and expands until it reaches a crisis. This will be your second page, for example. Or your 3-5 paragraphs.

Act 3, called The Resolution, the conflict rises to one more crisis (the last one called the climax) and then is resolved. This will be your last page or your last paragraph.

How To Write The Treatment
Find A Title
The first contact a prospective producer has with a script is the title. Pick a title that gives a clear idea of what genre the screenplay is written in. Blood House is probably not a romantic comedy. Americans like one or two word titles: Psycho, Saw, Year One, Rocky, Pan's Labyrinth, Animal House, Tangled, Avatar, etc.
After a title, start a logline: a brief one-sentence summary of the movie.

For example: And Then Came Love is a character-driven romantic comedy about a high-powered Manhattan single mom who opens Pandora's box when she seeks out the anonymous sperm donor father of her young son.

Your treatment should include a synopsis. Here are some samples to help you get the idea...

Treatment sample #1
Treatment sample #2

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Golden Age of Film

The 1930s is considered the Golden Age of Film. Please review and take notes on these following film clips when you get a chance. You should note who is starring in which roles and how certain actors and directors helped shape the genres we now recognize in film today. You will be tested on the material found here at the end of the course, so please watch attentively and make some observations about films in the 1930s.

As for camera work, there are few tricks being used with cameras. Angles are mostly eye-level, with medium, long, and close up shots being used with transitions such as the wipe, the iris, fade to black to indicate scene changes. There is still rear-projection, tracking shots, dolly shots, and elaborate sets (particularly for war and epic films), but overall, the feel of 1930's film is like watching a play. With the invention of sound, movies rely on written dialogue to move the plot and develop character (as opposed to using solely a visual medium popularized in silent films). Famous directors and writers such as Frank Capra, Walt Disney, and writer George S. Kaufman to name only a few make their appearance in this era. Since sound is a new invention, the use of music is an important element. See what other details you can observe as you watch the clips:

Hell's Angels (1930) clip with Jean Harlow
Anna Christie (1930) With Greta Garbo
Tarzan, The Ape Man (1932) Johnny Weissmuller
Morocco (1930) with Marlene Dietrich
Grand Hotel (1932) with Joan Crawford & John Barrymore
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) Clark Gable & Charles Laughton
Captain Blood (1935) with Errol Flynn & Basil Rathbone (documentary clip)

Universal Horror Films:
Dracula (1931) Bela Lugosi (Tod Browning's version)
Dracula (clip 2)
Frankenstein (1931) with Boris Karloff
Frankenstein (2nd clip)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1932) with Boris Karloff
Bride of Frankenstein (2nd clip)
Freaks (1932) Tod Browning director
The White Zombie (1932) Bela Lugosi
The Mummy (1932) Boris Karloff
The Invisible Man (1933) with Claude Rains

Screwball Comedies:
The Thin Man (1934) with Myrna Loy & William Powell
A Night At the Opera (Marx Brothers, cabin scene) (1935)
Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katharine Hepburn & Cary Grant

Frank Capra films:
It Happened One Night (1934) Claudette Colbert & Clark Gable
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) Gary Cooper
Lost Horizon (1937) and clips from the film...
You Can't Take it With You (1938) with a very young Jimmy Stewart
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) with Jimmy Stewart
It's a Wonderful Life (1946 clips)

Gangster Films:
The Public Enemy (1931) (full film, extra credit option)
Scarface (1932)

Cimarron (1930)
Stagecoach (1939) John Wayne (John Ford directing)

War Films:
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The Gay Divorcee (1934) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
Top Hat (1935) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire
Swing Time (1936) Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire (again)
42 Street (1933)

Popeye the Sailor (1933) with Betty Boop (and Popeye, of course)

Blockbuster Technicolor films:
Gone With the Wind (1939)
Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn

The Murky Middle (Even More Advice)

Aristotle wrote that stories should have a beginning, middle, and end. Middles can be difficult. You might have a smashing opening to a stor...