Sometimes it’s the written word. Other times, it’s a still photo. If the camera is too revealing, we can communicate via video or sound. Said filmmaker Robert Bresson’s in his 1975 book Notes on the Cinematograph: “A locomotive’s whistle imprints in us a whole railroad station.”
Communication is a game of elements. Film is the art of combining images and sounds; it excludes what overexplains or impresses.
“One should not use the camera as if it were a broom.”
A good filmmaker lets the mind dance with imagination. A movie is both a creative and viewing experience. It can be dull and instantly lively, like the pendulum of our everyday lives.
“My movie is born first in my head, dies on paper; is resuscitated by the living persons and real objects I use, which are killed on film but, placed in a certain order and projected on to a screen, come to life again like flowers in water.”
The Verge interviewed legendary director Werner Herzog about his online class where both aspiring filmmakers and professionals can learn his tips and secrets on moviemaking.
Not surprisingly, Herzog practices an unusual style of teaching too. He encourages his students to break the rules of storytelling and make up their assignments.
“don’t wait for the system to accept you. You create your own system, create your own [budget] and make your own first feature film or your first own documentary.”
For all the affordable technology today though comes our self-inflicted barriers of Internet addictiveness. To avoid the pitfalls of a “parallel surrogate life,” filmmakers need to get offline and touch things. Herzog only owns a cell phone for emergencies.
On the contrary, he reveals a fascination with technology, particularly Bitcoin, as it relates to news ways of storytelling.
“I’m interested how can I commit a bank robbery holding up the bank and getting away with loot of something that you cannot even touch”
The funniest part of the interview is when Herzog needs an explainer on Pokemon Go. He does not think the game is moronic, only that it is not for him, at least not as real as the human connection. Talking about virtual reality, he still prefers it when you get on your two feet and encounter the world and others face to face.
When asked how screenwriter and film director Paul Schrader came up with some of his scripts for the movie First Reformed, he responded like all remix artists:
PS: The secret of theft, which is also called “creativity,” is you have to steal a bit from a lot of different places. You can’t go to the same 7/11 every time because they’ll catch you. So you go to the photo shop, and you go to the gas station, and you go to that little hot dog stand that nobody goes to and by the end you’ve stolen enough stuff from enough places that people think its yours.
The internet can be the largest copy-paste machine. But it also offers a chance to pluck from a diversity of sources. Just be sure to recast, remix, and redistribute them in your own voice. To put it another way, Steal Like An Artist.
RIP Bill Gold, considered one of the best movie poster artists of all-time. Below are a couple snippets from the obituary in the New York Times but the whole article is worth reading.
Long before poster artists turned to photography and computer-generated images in the 1980s and ’90s, illustrators like Mr. Gold billboarded movies with freehand drawings, based on scripts and first screen prints, that hinted at plots and moods and mysteries, without giving away too much — priming audiences for love, betrayal, jealousy, murder.
“Classic movie posters are memorable; they are held in as much affection as the movies themselves,” Lars Trodson wrote on the film website The Roundtable in 2009. “When a classic movie is matched by a classic poster, you’re held in the thrall of a distinct and pleasurable memory. The poster image becomes part of the movie experience, and is, in the end, another of the reasons why movies are so essential to us.”
We all start out with a dream, a goal of someone or something we want to emulate. We keep that dream close, putting up bedroom posters and memorizing phrases that propel us to keep pushing toward our goal.
But then something else happens along the way? The creative gods tell us to do something else instead.
“The grind is not glamorous.”
Casey Neistat wanted to be a filmmaker, another Spielberg that entertained the masses. But he didn’t have enough money nor resources. So he chased the dream for ten years and succeeded: he entered Cannes and won some awards etc. until one day he realized he was pursuing the wrong end. “Fuck it,” he said. “I just want to make internet videos.”
See, when we hunt down goals, we usually get redirected to something else that’s more personal. Technology broke down all the barriers to traditional creativity, production, and distribution. YouTube is Neistat’s movie theater.
Check yourself before you wreck yourself
Sure, imitate at first and get really good — everything is practice. But we shouldn’t forget to reflect and dive deeper into a passion that excites us the most. As Jim Carrey said, ‘your vocation chooses you.’
Don’t fight what’s natural even if no one else is doing it yet. Give in to the original inclinations and push onward.
A book triggers the imagination. A movie tells all.
A book can change your life. A film can change your perception, but only momentarily.
Reading creates a theater inside your head
When it comes to reading versus watching a screen, it’s all about mind control. You can either make your own mental movie or acquiesce to the images fed on a wall. Said Ray Bradbury in an interview with Bradbury scholar Sam Weller:
It’s different because when you read it, you’re creating it in your own theater inside your head. But a film is total realism. You can’t change it, it’s right there, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can change a book in your mind. Every book is like Japanese flowers that go into your head and they sink down through the water inside your head, and then open out. The difference between books and film is books are unreality. They open up inside the head. They become yours. They’re more personal. Films are immediate and insistent. They’re like a bully. They bully you with their brilliance and you can’t turn away from them. Later you may, in remembrance, change them, but you can’t have the immediate thing that the book does where it fantasizes in the head. After all, it’s only print, it doesn’t mean anything. You have to learn at a certain age how to read those symbols and turn them into paper flowers that open in the mind. A film makes you think you know everything — you don’t. You can’t escape film.
Last weekend I was fortunate enough to see my brother Ryan Baum graduate from SCI-Arc, an architecture school in downtown Los Angeles.
Each student was responsible for presenting their thesis in front of faculty and special guests. For his final project, my brother put some renderings together over the Stahl House to recreate the iconic modernist house built by American architect Pierre Koenig in the hills of Los Angeles in 1969. He also redesigned the interior dining room and living room with sculpture.
You may have seen the Stahl house in fashion ads and movies like the Big Lebowski, or most famously in black and white photographs taken by Julius Shulman who helped spread modernist Southern California architecture with his “one-point perspective.”
Inspired by the technological blurred paintings of Gerhard Richter, Ryan 3D painted the house’s corrugated facade.
As you can see, Ryan’s contemporary redesign purposely blends in his with the house, making it look authentic. But it his short, hilarious Lebowski-esque film that takes the masquerade metaphor once step further, adding to the mystery of why the home could never sell. The Stahl House was finally declared a LA-historic monument in 1999, before becoming listed as National History place in 2013.