Tag: stars

3 Things I Learned About Filmmaking from… the Opera

1. You Can Do Almost Anything, So Long As You Sing It
How you tell a story is what’s important. Sure there are underlying messages beneath the overall framework of the story, but how you communicate the story will determine how how entertaining it will be. You’ve heard “write what you know” and when you think about what you know it may seem a little boring… OK, take the “boring” (which you know so well) and make it interesting by how you express it.

2. The Star System Makes It Happen
Even years ago when operas were first written, Stars helped to shape the final product. Take the Romeo & Juliet opera (by Charles Gounod). As I’ve heard the tale, Gounod was commissioned to write the opera for the opera house owner (who’s wife was going to be the Star). The Star didn’t like one of her solo arias and asked for it to be rewritten. Gounod was unhappy (to say the least) about having to rewrite it, so wrote a solo aria for her that was totally different in tone from the rest of the opera – a waltz. Perhaps he hoped to embarrass her with the “unfitting” aria… but what happened instead was that that waltz aria became his most famous song. How the star system helped push him to create some of his best work!

3. A Story Is Filled Arias & Recitatives
An aria is basically a melodic song, whereas a recitative is basically sung prose. You can’t string aria after aria for an entire opera – it would be too much. You can’t have only recitatives for the entire duration either – it would be too dull. You need pacing between songs and prose. That’s the journey. When it comes to movies, I see the arias as action sequnces, or comedic moments, and recitatives as deeper moments, linking moments. And yes, the right pacing makes it work.

All the best & an operatic shoot to you!


Edward Woodward: When We Crossed Paths…

When someone dies, with whom you have crossed paths, you can’t help but remember how they touched and helped to shape your life.

I was blessed to have worked with very talented Edward Woodward on “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” early in my career… a time when I had much less individual responsibility on the crew than I did later in my career, and so I was gifted to learn a lot by observation.

We worked overtime for every episode of the series, save the one that he was in. You see, starring in nearly every scene of the script, he had the authority to set the maximum number of hours he would work on a shoot day. In so doing, he saved the entire cast and crew from working overtime – for one episode, anyway. Oddly enough, we still got our days and the scenes we needed to cut together a really great episode. It just took more planning to do so. And so early in my career I learned a very valuable lesson about the importance of preproduction. Thank you, Mr. Woodward.

We rarely find out how we touch the lives of others, which is kind of strange since this industry is all about communication of ideas and stories! So, let’s just live well & kind, and trust that we have a positive effect.

In thoughtful memory,

3 Things I Learned About Filmmaking from… My Mother

Life can teach you about filmmaking even when you’re not making films… these gems I learned from my mother… a wonderfully optimistic spitfire of a woman who I am so very fortunate to be related to. I had brought my mom with me to a music concert to which I had been gifted complementary passes. This one evening brought together these 3 very important reminders:

1. Rest when you can
She fell asleep during the concert (and happily did not snore, so I did not wake her until the end). A freelance film life is full of hurry up and wait both on set and between jobs. It is a very stressful existence. You have to take care of yourself and get sufficient rest both during production and between jobs (ok, but I do not recommend sleeping on the set!).

2. They… uh… we are all just people
After the concert I took her backstage to express our thanks for the complementary tickets. My mom always admired the artistic lifestyle from afar, but never grew up with it. Still, you would never know it to meet her, she appears to take it all in stride, unfazed. She has a unique ability to chat with anyone and put them – and her – instantly at ease.  Stars, Directors, Production Assistants, Drivers, Stunt Performers… they are all just people too. And you never know who you are going to meet or what you are going to learn when you start a conversation with one of them.

3. Find the magic around you
As we left, we exited the stage door, and fans were crowded around the door awaiting the star’s exit (not ours, hee-hee). As we distanced ourselves from the theatre, my mother bubbled with excitement. She remembered  being such a fan waiting at the stage door many years ago, but she never dreamed she would be one to exit a stage door herself – a dream of hers had just come true! As you learn the “secrets” of this industry, it is too easy to become jaded over time. Keep the magic fresh within you. Remember who you were coming in to the industry and find the magic all over again, every day. You make the magic. So, enjoy living the dream!

Magical wishes to you!


5 Expensive Budgetary Items – III

There appear to be no end to expensive expenses in the production budget… here is another round of “favourites”:

11. Lots of Set-Ups – There could be two reasons why there are lots of set-ups: either you have multiple cameras running (so there are extra expenses in labour and equipment, and more time to choreograph it all, plus more editing time to sift through the footage); or you have lots of coverage and camera moves planned (so you are not capturing much of the script as you move the camera around for all that coverage, and need more shoot days). Either reason is expensive!

12. Lots of Unit Moves – Not only do you have more costs associated with location rental and management, but you are spending precious daylight hours in vehicles moving from place to place instead of capturing images.

13. Name Stars – Their salaries are obviously high, but what about the extra costs? Do you have fly in their entourage? Send them home every weekend? Do they want a car for themselves, separate from their car and driver on the set? Will they only work for a certain number of hours? Does their limited schedule on your set force you to schedule around them? And yet, aren’t they so worth it? Oh yeah.

14. Weather-Dependant Scenes – Waiting for makeup and hair to be completed is one thing, but to have a whole cast and crew wait around for clouds to clear (or to arrive) feels really silly, and you can feel the money being spent. If you can help it, do not get caught with unfilmed exteriors at the end of your shoot.

15. Rush Hour, Hockey Season & Other Fun Times – There are times when a downtown street cannot be locked, or a hockey rink cannot be closed, for filming. In some cases, you can pay the premium to secure what you need for these “fun times”, but that’s expensive. Typically, instead, you have to schedule around these “fun times” and find yourself locked into shooting on weekends or at night (expensive item #3).

Happy budgeting!