Bob Gillen on Storytelling

Tag: filmmaking (Page 1 of 3)

The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon

The award-winning short film, The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon tells the story of Walaa, a seventeen-year old woman refugee. Walaa, who is originally from Daraa in south Syria, took refuge in Jordan along with her family of 10 in 2012. She “needed to express what had happened to her and to tell her story.” 

According to The Jordan Times, Walaa “…participated in a training course on filmmaking for girls organized by the International Rescue Committee. The course armed her with the tools to tell her story through her short film.” 

The Girl, Whose Shadow Reflects the Moon won an award in 2015 from PLURAL +, a youth-produced video festival. PLURAL+  encourages young people to explore migration, diversity and social inclusion, and to share their creative vision with the world.

The group supports dialogue between young people from different cultures.

Walaa’s message: “I wish to become something.”

Here’s her film:

Keep your film dialogue short

For filmmakers and script writers, here’s practical dialogue advice from screenplay expert Michael Ferris:

Keep your film dialogue short.

computer keyboard“A script is not a play – your goal is NOT to have dialogue that looks like a bunch of monologues. Try to keep 95% of your dialogue to 3 lines or less on the page. Clever dialogue is found in quick back and forth exchanges, not prose-y speeches. Think about one of the best screenwriters known for his dialogue – Aaron Sorkin. Have you ever watched a scene from The West Wing? It’s not a perfect example, but it illustrates the point that if you keep it snappy, it keeps it moving. And a fast moving script, like a fast moving story, is entertaining and – sometimes – it can move so fast that you don’t have time to realize whether it’s great quality or not. You just know you’re entertained. So, use it to your advantage. Keep the dialogue short, quick back and forths, and you’ll reveal plot and character just as quickly.”

The quote is from my ebook, Filmmaking Basics: Finding Your Creative Voice.

Using your iPhone camera to capture good video

A while back I interviewed filmmaker Choice Skinner about his short film A Second Thought. He shot the two-minute film on a two-hour bus ride through city streets.

Choice Skinner

Choice Skinner

Skinner says, “I decided to shoot it on an iPhone because I knew I would be stealing shots and shooting it on a bus without permits. I also didn’t have the money or the resources to do what I normally would have done, which is hire a crew and shoot on the Red Epic or Canon 5D.”

Check out these tips from ProEditors for using your iPhone camera to capture good video.

And see Choice Skinner’s IMDb page and his filmography.

“A dizzying, evocative reflection of restless youth”

Graphic novelist Dash Shaw’s film My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea is “a darkly comedic and crude animated comedy.” Shaw’s exciting animated film from the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival is now looking for distribution.

My Entire High School Sinking into the SeaCheck out Kate Erbland’s IndieWire interview with Dash Shaw, done by Kate Erbland. Shaw says, “The first time that I saw that I could make gifs in Photoshop, that you could line up images and that Photoshop could arrange them in short animations, I thought, ‘Oh!’ The scanner is right here. The tools are very accessible. I don’t need a multi-plane camera the way Disney needed a camera. I have a scanner, I can make an animation with the same tools that I use to make comics.”

Eric Kohn’s review of My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea said: “Every image in graphic novelist Dash Shaw’s animated feature delivers a dizzying, evocative reflection of restless youth. At the same time, it remains grounded in a familiar world of geeky teens, smarmy upperclassmen and disgruntled school administrators.”

Kohn continues, “…the visual approach fuses lively watercolors with flowing black ink, silhouetted figures and paper cutouts into a collage of personal expression.”

“The movie felt successful when we finished drawing it,” says Shaw, “like ‘I can’t believe we actually pulled this together.’ That had maybe the biggest wave of feeling, excited or kind of sitting back like, ‘Wow’.”

The Power of Silhouettes in Filmmaking

“Use silhouettes to define characters and situations in an elegant, crystallized visual portrait.”

In a No Film School blog post, Max Winter talks about the way cinematographer Roger Deakins exploits light to “tell a story more fruitfully.” Winter bases his observations on a video essay done by H. Perry Horton.

Several highlights

Build gravity. Deakins uses silhouettes to help the audience understand the deep significance of a simple moment.

Heighten drama. A scene shot in silhouette can “push tension to the breaking point.” Too many details would distract.

Show the weight characters carry. “Consider the silhouette for stories in which morality plays a huge part.”

Applications for Storytelling

How can writers use these film techniques to improve their stories, their character development?

Too many details can distract. Write a scene in stark simplicity. Avoid background details. Center on the character to build tension.

Filmmakers use the extreme close-up for deeply emotional moments. When your book character comes face-to-face with emotion, write the scene simply. Focus only on what your character is feeling, seeing. The writing equivalent of an out-of-focus background. Little or no ambient sound. Describe your character’s face. Describe a simple, telling action.

Maybe it’s all about pacing. Deep emotion requires pinpoint focus.


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