Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Back to India -- Kalluri Vaanil

So, I've continued watching "Animus" and I have decided that I do in fact love the film. The more I watch it the more I notice, both in terms of what he did and what he was trying to do. It ain't perfect, but it's still good stuff.

Anyway, moving on.

This next video's most popular iteration on YouTube is titled "Crazy Indian Music Video". It's actual title is "Kalluri Vaanil" and it's by the artist Prabhu Deva. Before I researched the short (and given that I don't speak the language, I actually have no idea how I managed to decipher it enough to search for it properly), I would describe the film thusly:

"Imagine that a dance choreographer had one week to live, and he chose to put every idea he'd ever had into one last blow-out music video. I think this video is pretty close to what it would be like."

It's kind of weird at first, especially the high-pitched treatment the female vocals get, but dammit, it's catchy as hell, and the dance moves are really energetic. This makes ME want to shoot a crazy music video of some kind, because it looks like they're all having a hell of a good time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


As the folks reading this may or may not know, I'm a sucker for martial arts movies, particularly kung fu stuff. A former roommate of mine had a similar obsession, and had a library of old Shaw Brothers and other obscure or rare titles that I still miss today. Among that library was a DVD called Everyone is Kung Fu Fighting, a collection of amateur martial arts short films. Most of them were pretty crap, but there was one called "Cradle of the Blind" that I really dug. The choreography was solid, and of the same tastes that I find fun and interesting in fight choreography. I was also really impressed by some of the clever camera work.

Well, at one point when surfing Craigslist for something to stave off my pre-RvD2 boredom, I came across a posting by the same Anthony Alba who had made "Cradle of the Blind," looking for a writer to help him with a book idea he had. I got in touch with him, we met up and although that specific idea has not yet come to fruition, we've kept in touch the last couple years, shared some WIP stuff, and I'm pleased to say that one of the WIPs that I saw a few years ago is finally a finished film, called "Animus".

When I saw the rough cut of "Animus", I have to say I didn't get it. But I liked the final version a hell of a lot. There are interesting choices made in the shooting and editing that I keep watching over and over. Give me a few more days and I might even say I love the thing; I'm not sure I'm ready for that kind of commitment just yet.

One thing I can say for sure: Anthony is insanely talented, as a director and especially as a fight choreographer and martial artist.

Case in point: if you've seen Equilibrium, you may remember the fight scene at the very end with the Big Bad, where the two characters were supposedly doing a wild and highly technical gun-fu fight against each other -- when in fact they were playing patty-cake, batting each other's weapons away lazily as the camera dollied frantically about them.

Starting at 2:11, "Animus" has the fight scene we SHOULD have gotten at the end of Equilibrium.

I'm not going to comment or review the film itself here, other than to say that the film managed to hold my interest for over 20 minutes in a dinky low-rez YouTube window, and that's hard to do. I enjoyed it and I told Anthony I would use my Intarweb Powerz to try and get the word out.

I've been helping him with a concept shoot for a feature he's co-written with his brother Ski-ter1, and I think our respective teams -- me and Ryan with Anthony and Ski-ter -- have a long and fulfilling future of collaboration and partnership ahead. Once you see some of Anthony's work, I think you'll be as excited about the prospect as I am.

If you have a YouTube account (and all the cool kids do), be sure to click through to the actual film page and leave a comment for him, so he knows his work is seen and appreciated. That's really all us filmy-types want.

Without further ado, "Animus":

  1. If you have the RvD2 DVD, Ski-ter shot some of the pyrotechnic BTS. He's the guy behind the camera who says "You gotta love that sh*t."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Touching base

Sorry I haven't updated this week. I've had other duties to attend to.

Anyone following my Twitter feed knows some of this already, but I'll go for it anyway.

Firstly, I've officially wire-transferred the money to pay for the RED camera and all the accessories. In my previous post on the tripod I meant to mention this, but if you live in California and your main source of income is TV or film production/postproduction, the California State Board of Equalization is your friend. Specifically, Regulation 1532, and most specifically, Section 6378.

What is Section 6378? It is a form you fill out and present when making a purchase of any equipment that you will use more than 50% of the time for "teleproduction". It is a sales tax exemption of 5.25% -- meaning that instead of 8.25%, you pay 3% in sales tax for said equipment/products. Tripods, computers, cameras, accessories...aaaalllll gooooood.

Considering the size of the purchases I've been making, that one little form has saved me nearly $3000 in sales tax. Which means I have a cushion for making payments AND a little extra for accessories I didn't know about before.

The wire transfer takes a few days, they'll probably ship by the end of next week and it'll probably be in a week or so after that. Then we play.

Next bit of news. I finished and submitted my latest draft of The Descendants. Everyone liked the script in general and hated Act 2 in particular.

I don't blame them. Act 2 is fucked. Act 2 is always fucked. It's probably the hardest part of any script -- at least for me. Usually I'll generally know the beginning, generally know where I want to get to at the end, and it's bridging the middle bit that's the nightmare.

But I think it's almost there. I give the middle section a bit more purpose and we're ready to take it to the next step. I got some really great notes from the producers and some readers and I think this next draft might really be the one.

I've read for a few friends in return, one script and one treatment. Luckily both by good writers. Both stories have potential, and I like wrestling with other peoples' ideas, seeing what I can do to make them more interesting to me. Giving notes is always a subjective thing, so I just focus on what I think would fascinate me and get me talking after a film.

Good stuff all around but a lot of writing (especially the giving notes part; I try to be thorough), so my writing muscles needed a rest from the blog.

I'll probably go light this weekend, but I've got a few YouTube vids to share so that should make up for my silence this week.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Tripod Man

I was going to blog about 3D/Stereoscopic filmmaking today, but I'll save that for later, and instead share an anecdote that happened to me yesterday.

Having gotten an uber-loan for my RED, I'm in the process of actually spending all this money on the equipment that I borrowed the money for in the first place. And let me tell something to all the folks in the "DV Rebel" tier that I'm springboarding from: these ain't your momma's tripods.

I come from a place where cameras weigh, like, 5 pounds on the outside, and you can buy a Bogen tripod and get decent results with it. Though admittedly most of the time you end up going handheld anyway, because you want to move the camera and you can't afford a dolly/jib.

The RED camera body is 10lbs, and that's just the body. By the time you add batteries, rails, lens, mattebox, follow focus, EVF, monitor, and drives, you could be looking at upwards of 40lbs for the camera, at about $1K per pound. You're not going to pop that onto a $300 still-camera tripod and hope it holds.

I also want the camera to get some play in the rental market, and an unspoken evaluation of one's "package" seems to be the quality of your "sticks" (the innuendo is lost on neither of us). But the fact is, if you want professionals to take your camera rental package seriously, you've gotta have serious camera support.

I found a place that has a bundle package specifically designed for owners of the RED camera, based on feedback from RED owners on what they're glad they bought and what they wished they hadn't. The package was under a discounted rate as a bundle, so not only did I happen to get a package which contained EVERYTHING I was already planning to buy, at a discounted rate, but they also threw in carrying cases for the equipment. It's like the carrying cases cost me negative money, because I saved a couple thousand off what I planned to buy and got them on top of it all.1

I'm buying the O'Connor Ultimate 2060HD Fluid Head with 150mm Ball Mount, on the O'Connor Cine HD aluminum tripod sticks, also with ball mount. Apparently at this level of equipment, you buy the tripod head separately from the tripod legs. The tripod head can then be taken off the sticks and thrown on a dolly, jib, crane, "hi-hat", etc. as necessary.

There are two kinds of mounts.2 There are ball mounts, which allow you to rotate the bottom of the tripod and level it on potentially uneven surfaces, and there are Mitchell mounts, which are solid, flat connections that expect a level surface. And it's regarding this choice of mounts that I wanted to tell a little story.

I was at the reseller and putting the package together, and another customer there and I started making conversation. He had been a focus puller for 13 years before making the move to DP, and he asked what kind of mount I was getting on my tripod. I told him I was getting the ball mount, then admitted that I had no idea what the pros and cons were in either direction.

There are two ways someone can respond to that. The amateur version is to roll your eyes and start off with "You DON'T KNOW..." and then launch into a condescending explanation, while all the while giving off an air that you're doing me a favor digging into these totally basic depths of your knowledge.

The professional version is to explain the facts based on one's experience, with a view towards helping someone else understand the same things you do.

This guy was a professional. He spent a good fifteen minutes weighing the pros and cons of the two different tripod mounts for me. He was ultimately a Mitchell man, and said that most of the rented equipment that you'll find on a film set, such as cranes and dollies, will come with Mitchell mounts. So for interoperability and speed of use, he was all about Mitchell. He even went so far as to inquire into whether or not I would have the option to swap the mount, or if my ball mount could be adapted to a Mitchell.3

Two things about the guy struck me. Well, really one, but it manifested in two ways.

First of all, the guy was a focus puller for 13 years. Think about that. For 13 years his main job was to stand next to a film camera and make sure the shot was in focus. And make no mistake, that is a crucial job on a movie set, and requires a hell of a lot of technical know-how and skill, but it's hardly glamorous -- even by the already unglamorous standards of below-the-line film labor. Now, the focus puller is also known as the 1st AC, a more hoity-toity title, but also a more appropriate one, as he is essentially in charge of keeping the camera loaded, clean, and running. The fact that he was a 1st AC for 13 years, and willing to downplay it by saying "focus puller" instead, tells me that what we've got is a man who just loves being in the movies.

Likewise, his passion for tripod mounts was both amusing and moving. Again, here's a guy who cares so much about something that is both incredibly important (for what we do), and incredibly obscure. A guy who just loves being a part of the art and business of movies, and loves sharing what he knows with others.

I love meeting people like that.

  1. I won't quote the price here, but the company was Abel Cine Tech. If you're a RED owner or plan to be one soon, call them for bundle pricing and availability. It's still in the many-thousands-of-dollars range, but it's pro equipment for a discounted rate, and the cheapest I found anywhere.

  2. "Package", "sticks", "mounts", yes. Freud would have a lot to say about tripod terminology.

  3. As it turns out, the O'Connor 2060HD comes with a Mitchell mount, to which the ball mount attaches. In purchasing the ball mount version, I am effectively purchasing both, which is the best of both worlds.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NAB Rundown

NAB is still going on out in Vegas, but I'm home in L.A. as of 3 A.M. this morning. Which was probably a mistake -- the big Final Cut Pro User Group Super Meet is happening tonight and I would have liked to go -- but I couldn't justify another $100 night out of town when I've got so much to get done.

But people have been asking my thoughts on some of the big announcements at NAB:

Scarlet: RED's new 3K, "pocket" camera. Fixed lens, 2/3" sensor, REDCODE RAW to flash media, up to 120fps recording with 180fps possible in "burst" mode.

This is not only an HVX-killer, it's an everything-in-this-market-segment-and-the-one-above-it killer. Assuming the increased dynamic range that's being rumored with the new Mysterium X sensor, the only thing keeping this camera (which RED says will retail for under $3,000: "3K under $3K") from destroying a huge chunk of the high-end camera market -- including the Sony F23 and Viper FilmStream -- will be the fixed lens.

Will we have a use for it? At that price, with those specs, no one with even a semi-serious interest in filmmaking/shooting can afford not to have it. It's not the RED ONE, it's not going to get 35mm depth of field, but it's a massive step up from the HVX at HALF the price.

I'm aware that Panasonic has come out with two new solid-state cameras, as replacements for the DVX and the HVX. HD, heavily compressed (the HVX replacement DVCPRO HD, the DVX replacement the MPEG-2-based AVCHD), proprietary P2 card format, 1/3" sensors, tops out at 60fps recording, and that only in 720p mode, and even the cheaper one costs more than Scarlet. They might as well pack up and go home. And don't get me wrong, I love Panasonic to death. They made 24p happen in the prosumer market. But Scarlet fucks them raw.

Likewise Sony, with their announcement of the EX3. HD resolution, 1/2" sensor, solid state recording. Lame, lame, same as Scarlet. The only thing the EX3 has that Scarlet doesn't is the option for interchangeable lenses. But is that worth the $10,000 difference in price to most lo/no-budget shooters? I didn't think so.

Epic: 5K, Super35 format. Up to 100fps at full-frame 5K resolution.

This one makes less sense to me than Scarlet does, and even with RED's exceedingly generous and, I have a feeling, unprecedented upgrade path -- buy a RED ONE now for $17,500, and trade it in towards the cost of an Epic next year at full, non-depreciated cash value as long as it still "works" -- the $40K price tag makes it unlikely too many people will jump on that ship.

Based on the limited specs released so far, the Epic will boast the new Mysterium X sensor, meaning greater dynamic range, higher possible framerates, and higher possible bit rates. The thing is, Jim Jannard (founder/owner of RED) has stated that around the same time that Epic/Scarlet start shipping, R1 owners will receive a sensor upgrade as well. I'm sure the upgrade won't be free, probably a couple thousand, but it will put a Mysterium X in your R1 -- gaining you the dynamic range, frame rates, and bit rates, presumably.

So what's Epic for, at that point? 5K recording? Call me unimaginative, but I don't see what use 5K is when we don't even have reasonable workflows for 4K yet, and most films shot on 35mm even today only scan/master in 2K.

Epic, as far as is known right now, is a camera with a 40% reduction in weight and a relatively unnecessary 40% boost in resolution from the flagship R1. Not that both of those things aren't great, BUT, when you factor in that even with a full-value R1 trade in, and subtracting the money you'd pay anyway for an R1 sensor upgrade, you're still looking at another $19,000 or so to pick up an Epic, I really don't think anything I've seen, thus far, would be worth that, when you could grab another R1 body for the same price.

I personally think it would make more sense if Epic were a 65mm equivalent camera instead of Super35. For one thing, it's the format that a lot of the old school epics were actually shot on. Films like Lawrence of Arabia, The Ten Commandments1, 2001, and Ben-Hur. If you've ever been on a movie-ride like the recently closed Back to the Future at Universal Studios, or 3D "spectaculars" like T2-3D: Battle Across Time (also at Universal), you've seen imagery shot on the 65mm format.2

It's also basically the format of IMAX production, and in that may be facing a resurgence. Christopher Nolan was so impressed by the IMAX presentation of Batman Begins, scaled-up digitally with high-quality algorithms, that he committed to actually shoot chunks of its sequel, The Dark Knight, directly to the IMAX format.

Unlike a mere boost to 5K, an affordable Digital65 camera genuinely creates a whole new market tier, AND a good reason for the additional resolution boost. What they announced at NAB is really just RED TWO, and not a camera I would personally call "Epic".

In terms of price, while compared to the RED ONE I don't think that the small tech advances justify a more-than-doubling of the body price, when put into perspective it's still a steal for $40K. The Sony F35, Sony's Super35 response to RED, retails for $350,000, and it's still only an HD chip with HD output. And you'd never see them offering full-cash-value trade-ins -- or any trade-ins at all -- to owners of their F900 series cameras (which retailed at around $150,000). So can you really complain about RED's business model or pricing structure? No. It's still a steal anyway you slice it.

But does upgrading to the Epic from my RED ONE make a lot of sense to me? Not from where I'm standing right now.

Stereoscopic (3D) Filmmaking: Stereoscopic (aka stereo, aka 3D) production and post-production was a concept that had surprising prevalence on the show floor. It seemed like every booth had one product geared toward stereo -- projector systems, display systems, dual-channel color correctors, etc.

I'm going to do another post on the resurgence of 3D, but I wanted to mention that the people who produce product for this industry are not all looking at it as a gimmick. Many of them are starting to see it as a big, big deal.

Vegas: Just a quick note on Vegas. I spent most of the time in the city either on the show floor, at parties in the evenings, or in my hotel room. I was amused by the notion that I should be in Vegas and completely fail to do anything Vegas-y. And I kind of liked having the freedom to do that, to go to Vegas and not feel compelled to "Do Vegas". Plus I saved a lot of money that way.

Anyway, glad to be back, getting back into the swing of things.

  1. Ten Commandments was technically shot on Vistavision, which is 35mm film run sideways through the camera so that the image prints on the same surface as would normally print two 35mm frames, for a 70mm widescreen frame. Vistavision never caught on as a capture/display format, but found new life in the special effects industry. Before computers, composites had to be made optically, and at each stage any grain or noise from the source would be added on top of the grain in the printed film. Vistavision had smaller grain proportional to the size of the image, so it could go through more optical generations with less of a quality hit. Even with digital compositing now being the standard, big movies like Spiderman 2 and The Matrix still sometimes shoot FX plates on 65mm/Vistavision for the quality boost.

  2. Anyone remember the original 3D spectacular, Captain E-O? Also 65mm.

Friday, April 11, 2008

My Technology > Yours

So, as those following me on Twitter ( [dead-eyed shell of a man] JOIN US [/shell] ) will already know, I have just today been approved for a loan in the amount of approximately $55,000 in order to purchase my RED ONE digital cinema camera.

Two things about this:

1) Fucking
2) Sweet.

How do I feel right now? Some gut-churning combination of "euphoric" and "terrified". I've never had a responsibility for that much money at a go in my entire life. My biggest debt -- the one that took me five years to pay off -- was $10,000. This is five times that, and my repayment term is three years. There's a lot of pressure to make a success of this, but hopefully I find that I thrive that way.

Anyway, got a script to finish and then I've got three days in Vegas for NAB. Won't be blogging, will be Twittering.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Too Much Time on My Hands

Here in L.A. we have a radio station called "Jack FM". Their whole thing is "Playing what we want." There are no DJ's, no talking, and no requests. Basically someone put an iPod shuffle on the radio. But it is one rockin' iPod shuffle.

Even though I've been listening to Jack for three or four years (however long it's been on the air, it was formerly the classic rock station Arrow, which I still occasionally call it), I still discover songs I haven't heard before, or re-discover songs I haven't heard in quite some time. So it was with Too Much Time On My Hands, by Styx1. I knew the lyric "Is it any wonder I'm not the President?" which amuses me because of how the singer does it, sounding like a pouty child. But for the first time I really listened to the lyrics, and I discovered that, like Alanis, they had apparently written a song hinging strongly on a phrase they were using incorrectly.

The phrase "Is it any wonder...?" is meant to be ironic -- it's usually used as part of an explanation, and the expected answer to the idiom is "no."

"The guy was insulting my wife, is it any wonder I decked him?" Et cetera.

But as you can see by reading the lyrics, in most parts the question becomes straightforward. "I spend my time in bars and have nothing going for me. Is it any wonder I'm not a criminal?"

As a matter of fact, it is a wonder.

I guess I can't entirely say it's being used "wrong" since, grammatically, it still kind of makes sense. It's not like the out-and-out wrong usage of Ironic in the song of the same name. But that's not what the phrase is understood to mean, so it seems a little weird to use it that way.

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands" is, however, fairly non-sensical. Because he doesn't explain where this time has come from. If he had talked about being fired from his job, or something, this might have worked, but he just jumps in on having too much time on his hands, and never bothers to explain where it came from. So "is it any wonder" is out of place.

The only time it's used in its most common form is the line about being President. Maybe that's why it's the one I remembered best.

I do have more important things to write about than Styx songs, I swear. But at the moment it's more important that I do them, than blog about how I ought to. So in the meantime, anyone else got song lyrics that just bother them every time they hear the song2?

  1. Best known to my generation, perhaps, for Come Sail Away, Eric Cartman's favorite song.

  2. Another good example is Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die: "If this ever changing world in which we live in." Agh.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Fucking Twitter

Alright, I gave in and got a Twitter account because I'm a connectivity whore.

What is Twitter? It's like blog-lite. Any time anything I think even remotely interesting goes down, I can post an update to Twitter and you can see it. As they say on the site:

Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

As I understand it, either Facebook or Friendster has a similar function available. So it's like Facebook-lite, too. It would seem that there is a Facebook client for Twitter, through which your Twitter updates, and those of your friends, can be followed directly from your Facebook page.

Why did I get a Twitter account? Besides the aforementioned whoredom, it struck me this evening, when I came home a good five hours later than I expected to, that perhaps my roommates might be interested in keeping up with where I am and what I'm doing.

But I imagine when I do something interesting -- such as going to NAB next week, or when I'm on location of a production -- occasional updates might be notable.

You can find my page at twitter.com/DorkmanScott. If you're already a Twitter member, let's "follow" each other. And if you're not, come hop on the bandwagon.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Let's be "Honest"...

A lot of people think I'm a jerk. In fact, probably more than a jerk. A "right prick" as British slang (my favorite type of slang) goes. In particular, the people who know me primarily via the internet.

For a while, especially looking back, I was pretty much a prick. I was young and brash and I was right about EEEEEVERYTHING. Now I'm older and I don't necessarily always feel that way -- I am still usually right, but I'm much more willing to consider the possibility that I'm not.

And now you ask yourself (or maybe you don't, which is part of the issue probably): "Is he being sarcastic, or is he serious?" I'll let you mull it over, because if it's sarcasm it's hardly as funny if I have to say so.

Certainly that's part of it. People who meet me online seem to think I'm a tremendous ass. People who meet me in person generally find me to be very funny and approachable. The problem people have with me, I think, is that I'm honest.

An example:

Recently, a new series came on ABC called Eli Stone. It's about a lawyer with a brain aneurysm who hallucinates musical performances of George Michael songs that also manage to show him the path he's to take in life, and his Chinese-American acupuncturist/spiritual guide has a tendency to insist that Eli may be a prophet. If the description feels cumbersome, then it's captured the show. The description of the show as a male Ally McBeal is about right, if a little less quirky.

We probably wouldn't have wound up watching the show, if not for the fact that Ryan is working on the show as part of the Stargate Digital team. I watched it several weeks late, having a lot to get done and not a lot of time to watch the show. When I watched it, I was struck by one sequence in particular. Eli is up on a mountain in the Himalayas, for reasons that are beyond the point of my story here, and it was SO OBVIOUSLY greenscreen. Like, it was pretty bad overall. But other parts of the show were quite good -- several parts I didn't even know were effects until Ryan told me.

So later that night, Ryan and I were out to dinner and I asked "So, are you involved with the team that does Eli Stone?"

"Yeah, I'm on the show."

"Did you do any of the work on the pilot?"

"Yeah, I did some shots for most of the episodes so far."

"What did you do on the pilot?"

"That stuff where he was up on the mountains."

"Oh...yeah, I thought that stuff was bad."

My other roommates, who were there at the time, were shocked at me. To be fair, it did kind of seem like entrapment where I was getting him to confess to the part I didn't like. But I was honestly hoping that he would say he'd done something else. Someone else might have changed their tune upon finding out what it was. Just veered away with a "Ah, just wondering. Good stuff overall." But that's not what I do. I don't blow smoke up peoples' asses, and at any rate Ryan isn't someone who wants smoke blown up his.

After that, I discussed with Ryan why I didn't think it worked. For example, the background was too sharp to be strictly "correct" as a composite. But that's what the client wanted ("We paid a lot of money for that shot, we want to see it in focus"). If I had just told him good job and patted him on the back, neither of us would have learned anything. In this case, I was the one who learned a lesson about being a good client and trusting the artisan to know the right thing to do.

I believe in being honest. For one thing, that's the best way to learn. For another, even if it means I'm often critical, it also means that if I'm praising someone for something, they know that I mean it, because I wouldn't say it if I didn't. I don't think that my opinion of something ranks too highly on anyone's scale right now, but I do think that people value it for what it is. If I don't like something, I'll say so, and I'll say why. If I say I like it, I really do like it, and no one ever has to wonder if I was "just being nice", because that's not how I roll.

The other benefit is that I engender the same honesty in return. If I was strongly critical of someone's work, then when I come out with my own work, they're more likely to be critical back at me. If they thought I was particularly harsh in my criticisms, they will themselves be harsh in judging my work. To an extent this can mean that the negative reviews I receive need to be parsed -- what part of this really didn't work, and what part of this is just this guy being an asshole because he doesn't like me? But by the same token as above, I know that the positive comments and reviews I receive are genuine. When someone wants to tear me a new one but has to grudgingly admit that I pulled something off, that has way more value than people who are going to tell me anything I do is great.

Honesty is one of the most important traits, and constructive criticism one of the most important skills, that I think anyone can develop, especially working as an "artist" in some form. Both giving it, and taking it.

Now, there's a difference between honest, constructive criticism, and just being an asshole who tears people down. I think that when I was younger, I was probably on the wrong side of that line. I delved into this a little bit in one of my earliest posts, regarding insecurity and what I called the Better-Than Fallacy.

Acknowledging that someone is good at what they do does not equate to denigrating your own talent, and trying to cut someone down or insult them probably just means that you think they make you look bad. Don't be that guy. If someone is good at what they do, you should be getting to know them. If they're better at it than you are, learn from them! Find out how they do what they do. Trade ideas, build a relationship. You can't do it all yourself anyway.

Likewise, realize that being honest doesn't automatically mean that you're right. One extremely important "spoonful of sugar" when giving criticism of some kind is to make it clear that it is coming from your perspective. "I didn't think this worked," "I didn't understand why the character would do something so stupid," "I don't like the color combination here," "I think it would have been better if you'd let someone else have a pass at the script." Whatever.

You can be as harsh as you need to, as long as you remember two things:

1) It is coming from you. You do not speak for everyone and should never make absolute statements like "You shouldn't break the 180-degree rule, you'll confuse the audience." Rather, it should be "When you jumped over the 180-degree line, it confused me. It may just be a guideline, but I find that outside of action scenes it's generally less distracting if it's followed."

Always remember the difference between "This is how it is" and "This is how I see it."

(You may notice that in my blog I sometimes fail to phrase it like this. For one thing, it's more important to do when your criticisms are addressed TO the person; for another, being that this is a personal blog, I'm just assuming that "this is just my perspective" is a given.)

2) Your criticism should be aimed at helping the other person improve what they're doing, to get better. The saying goes "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." I disagree with that. Instead of "nice", I would amend it to say "If you can't say anything useful..." Many times you may see something that doesn't avail you to say much that's positive at all. But presumably the person has a passion for what they're doing.

If you're better at what you do than they are, then it's your job either to encourage them and help point them in the direction of where they went wrong, or for all our sakes, just keep your fucking mouth shut.

Now, you're going to come across people who don't actually want constructive criticism. They don't want criticism at all. They just want you to tell them how great they are.

I cannot abide these people. You go out of your way to give them a detailed critique, and they just turn around and start insulting you, or accusing you of being a jerk or trying to make them give up.

As I've always said, if anyone's critique can make you give up on something you supposedly want to do, you probably didn't really have a passion for it anyway, and it's better that you quit anyway. If you DO want to do it, then nothing anyone says will deter you. So don't ever let anyone tell you that you've killed their dream, and don't you DARE be someone who tries to put that shit on someone else.

I just thought of a third thing to keep in mind:

3) You're learning too. Whenever you critique someone, you're articulating why you feel the way you feel about what they've done. It helps you understand your own sensibilities and your own work better when you give an honest, informative critique.

Anyway, I usually like to wrap up my posts better than this, but my writing brain's attention is kind of split between this and the script that I've got to finish in the next seven days, and this wasn't the topic I originally set out to talk about when I started writing this entry. So I'll just say that's all I can think of right now, and if I think of more, I'll write another post about it (questions and comments always help!).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

And we're back

Did you have a good March? Mine was pretty good. Admittedly I didn't get as much done in my "time off" here as I planned to, but it helped to decompress a little.

So now I'm back and I'll be posting again. Yaaaaaaay.