6 Filmmaking Tips From Nicolas Winding Refn


While doing press for Valhalla Rising, Danish American filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn announced that the film marked a new stage in his career. After the manic, Brechtian anti-biopic Bronson; the sprawling Pusher trilogy that’s more Gaspar Noe than Gaspar Noe; and the little-seen Fear X, Refn began a series of films about quiet, enigmatic supermen. He continued this focus with Drive, his commercial breakthrough, and has now followed it up with Only God Forgives, which sees a VOD and limited theatrical release this Friday.

While Bronson and the first Pusher film were justifiably celebrated, it’s this current stage of his career that has, for many, defined what “a Nicolas Winding Refn film” means: atmospheric, ultra-violent, deliberately paced, heavy on style. Refn is one of the strangest young auteurs working today, in terms of both his esoteric films and his occasionally bizarre interviews. And his career is only going to get more interesting: his vast slate of possible subsequent projects that include a Logan’s Run remake, a Wonder Woman movie, an adaptation of the comic Button Man, a prequel to the 80s midnight flick Maniac Cop, and an erotic horror film titled I Walk With the Dead.

So while he’s on the up and up, here’s some free advice (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man responsible for Mads Mikkelsen’s one eye, Tom Hardy’s curly mustache, and “The Gosling Stare.”

Find Your Film Through its Pieces

“I don’t know if there are any filmmakers here, but this is how you survive in the film industry. Go to a distributor, and say, ‘Mads Mikkelsen, Viking, action, violence.’ And they’ll says, ‘Sure, we’ll pay for that.’ Then you get the money. And then you go to a really remote area where nobody wants to film.

Then you say, ‘Okay: what would I like to do today?’…And I put everything on index cards because I’m not a very good writer. But I’m a fetishist, so I sometimes have to do it myself. Because it’s sometimes hard to explain to other people about high heels, or women’s legs without being embarrassed. So the idea of putting everything on cue cards is so that you can constantly see everything unfolding.”

This quote came from a recent screening/Q&A of Refn’s 2010 film Valhalla Rising at Brooklyn’s Videology Theater, in which the filmmaker explained his method of “organic screenwriting,” where he assembles his films together not as a narrative whole, but as individual, associated images that he eventually juxtaposes together.

Refn credits this process, in part, to his dyslexia, but it goes a long way to explaining his atmospheric, episodic, sometimes fragmentary approach to his films, contributing to an aura in which anything can happen, and the road to whatever happens is visually stunning.

 Get Excited…Like, Really Excited

“Art is an act of violence. My approach is somewhat pornographic – it’s what excites me that counts. I can’t censor this need.”

“I don’t consider myself a very violent man…but I have surely a fetish for violent emotions and images and I just can’t explain where it comes from. But I do believe it’s a way to exorcise various things. Let’s not forget that humans were created very violent: our body parts are created for violence, it is our instinctual need to survive. But over the years we no longer need violence but we still have an urge from when we are born – which itself can be an act of violence.”

Refn has released some of the most elaborately violent films in recent memory. His films glorify, sensationalize, and aestheticize violence (while also making no uncertain terms of its repercussions). Usually that’s the mark of an irresponsible approach to media violence, but Refn pursues violence with a sense of artistry and finesse that’s more entrancing than it is perhaps immediately justifiable (a friend of mine once referred to Refn’s work as “high trash,” which I read as praise; another term could be “artsploitation”).

During the Cannes press conference for Only God Forgives in May, Refn gave this explanation for the personal, cathartic appeal to representing violence onscreen: it both excites him and exorcises a base need. Films can be a productive place for exploring and sating our obsessions, our most Freudian proclivities.

Listen to Brian Eno and Cry


Kill Your Masters and Do All the Things

“I grew up in a cinema family. My parents were brought up on the French New Wave. That was God to them, but to me it was the antichrist, and how better to rebel against your parents than by watching something your mother is going to hate, which were American horror movies. When I saw Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I realized: I don’t want to be a director, I don’t want to be a writer, I don’t want to be a producer, I don’t want to be a photographer, I don’t want to be an editor, I don’t want to be a sound man. I want to be all of them at once. And that film proved that you can do it because that movie is not a normal movie.”

That Texas Chain Saw was Refn’s induction into cinephilia and the possibility of becoming a filmmaker should come as a surprise to nobody familiar with his work. But the context the he elaborated in a 2012 Scott Foundas interview is important: he deliberately distanced himself from the European arthouse cinephilia of his parents and saw cinematic mastery in the “lowest” of genres: horror.

And it was in horror, not the auteurist tendencies of the Western European filmmakers, that he saw the potential for a comprehensive, startling notion of cinematic vision. Each generation might elevate a new set of beloved filmmakers, but each successive generation has the responsibility to tear that down in order for cinema to be exciting, risky, unsafe. And being friends with Alejandro Jodorowsky doesn’t hurt.

 Allow Your Films to Unfold Chronologically

After hearing that American indie pioneer John Cassavetes shot some of his films chronologically, Refn decided to take a similar approach. Here’s what he had to say:

“And after I did it on my first movie, I felt, ‘How can you do a movie any other way?’ It’s like a painting—you paint the movie as you go along, and I like the uncertainty of not knowing exactly how it’s going to turn out.”

 Let Your Actors Create the Character (and Watch Kenneth Anger’s Movies)

In this 2011 interview, Refn explains how Drive’s iconic scorpion jacket came into being, complete: first with his own idea, then with giving the actor permission to find clothes that make the character, and thirdly with a shared revelation between actor and director while viewing a film. This is far from a dictatorial approach to filmmaking; instead, Refn soaks in the potential contributions of various voices until he finds what’s right.

Refn explained his work with actors further in the aforementioned interview with Foundas: “But I try to draw the actor in—to force them in, in some cases, because a lot of actors don’t want to discuss things or go in deep; they just want to come and do the work, play their part and walk away. But for me, it doesn’t work like that. You’ve got to get absorbed and dirty, and a way to do that is to ask the actor what they would like to do. It also forces them to be more truthful.”

What We’ve Learned

Nicolas Winding Refn works from the gut. For someone who has become a staple at Cannes, his approach to filmmaking is hardly heady. He’s far more interested in emotion, in exploring what affects him, in doing what feels and looks right beyond intellectual or logical explanation.

Whether crying on set to Brian Eno or digging into what excites him pornographically or shooting his films chronologically after assembling it through a series of isolated images, Refn’s approach is one that sees affect as the end game – he wants us to feel what he feels, to see what he sees, to obsess over what drives him.

For somebody so immersed in style, that’s an admirably honest method of filmmaking.


Article by Landon Palmer

Full article can be viewed here: filmschoolrejects.com


‘Man Of Steel’ Director Zack Snyder’s 10 Rules Of Filmmaking

 ‘Man Of Steel’ Director Zack Snyder’s 10 Rules Of Filmmaking Include “The Will To Suffer” And Shooting On Film


With the first wave of mixed “Man of Steel” reviews (here’s ours) dropping earlier this week, and Warner Bros.confident enough in its reception this weekend to fast-track a sequel, director Zack Snyder seems to have stabilized a career that was growing shakier by the film. Now, we can look upon efforts like “Watchmen” and “Sucker Punch” as stepping-stones to Superman, and as Snyder approaches his franchise future, he’s assembled a list of filmmaking tips to pass onto others.

Moviemaker have recently asked a solid line-up of directors, including Danny Boyle and Jim Jarmusch, to pen a list of artistic Golden Rules, and this week they devoted one to Snyder, who laid out ten in total. The pleasurable aspect to these lists comes in retroactive comparison of the rules to the directors’ work, and in Snyder’s case, directions like no. 4, Storyboard (“[How] I make a movie… how I structure a scene”), or no. 10, Shoot Every Shot (“Doing it yourself keeps the tone consistent“), matches up quite well.

Other tips include having The Will To Suffer (“…the person who can endure the most pain will be the one who succeeds in the end…”) and, in a surprising move considering his digital preferences, I Still Shoot Film (“Call me a purist, but it’s just how I feel”). And regardless of what you think of Snyder’s work separately or as a whole, his views toward the art and business of film are definitely worth a look. Check out the full 10 below and then read Snyder’s complete thoughts over at Moviemaker, before you head to the theater to see “Man of Steel.” [via Filmmaker IQ]

Zack Snyder’s 10 Rules Of Filmmaking

1. There are No Rules
2. The Will to Suffer
3. Your Point of View
4. Storyboard
5. Movies are Pictures
6. Respect
7. Throw things
8. I Still Shoot Film
9. Passion
10. Shoot Every Shot


Article from Indiewire



6 Filmmaking Tips Form Guillermo del Toro

Here is a great article by Landon Palmer, enjoy.


Guillermo del Toro abides by zero perceived distinctions between high and low culture. Whether working with Hollywood popcorn properties like Blade II or Hellboy, or creating imaginative, dark arthouse fare like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro has demonstrated a singular creative vision that stands out against an unimaginative Hollywood.

That’s why this weekend’s Pacific Rim, despite being marketed as Transformers 4, promises to be a gloriously geeky respite in a summer of largely unsatisfactory blockbusters. Coupled with the recent news that del Toro might be directing a Charlie Kaufman-scripted adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, there are many reasons to celebrate the fact that the restlessly imaginative man who introduced himself with Cronos bounced from the streamlined Hobbit adaptations. Equal parts Jim Henson, Brothers Quay, and Terry Gilliam, del Toro is a visionary who also happens to be a bankable name. That’s a pretty rare commodity these days.

So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the guy who we’ve forgiven for making Mimic.

Lucid Dream and Share the Dark Side of Life

In this 2010 BBC interview, del Toro talks about his propensity for lucid dreaming since childhood. Though I’m not sure how accurate del Toro’s definition of lucid dreaming is here, the filmmaker makes explicit how concretely he’s held onto a childhood imagination unencumbered by waking life. His efforts to maintain this lively imagination well into adulthood no doubt accounts for his seemingly boundless creativity and vision, and likely contributes to his interest in the subject of childhood and dreaming on display in Pan’s Labyrinth. Couple this boundless imagination with a decidedly unromantic view of youth, and you have the recipe for a style of filmmaking that possesses a unique ability to address complex, dark themes with astounding vision.

As del Toro told Time in 2011, “As a kid, I dreamed of having a house with secret passages and a room where it rained 24 hours a day. The point of being over 40 is to fulfill the desires you’ve been harboring since you were 7.”

Cast the Right Person for the Right Part, No Matter Their Seeming Limitations

Del Toro, like many directors, has surrounded himself with a reliable set of creative collaborators, like Federico Luppi and the human chameleon Doug Jones. But del Toro is probably best known for his collaborations with actor Ron Perlman. When the director sought to cast Perlman for his first feature, the largely Spanish-language vampire film CronosPerlman labored in a futile attempt to master his dialogue in Spanish.

When Perlman finally met with del Toro to try his lines in Spanish, the director casually said that Perlman’s Spanish was terrible, alluding that he had written the part in English with Perlman in mind despite the fact that there was little apparent justification for an English-fluent, Spanish-clunky character named Angel de la Guardia in the film. But no matter; Perlman is so fittingly cast the finished film that the question of language doesn’t beg being asked. And thus began his most important years-long creative partnership.

Know the Roots of Your Myths

From vampires to mecha anime to Grimm-style fairy tales to an alt comic book superhero, del Toro’s films deal with characters, properties, and narratives that carry legacies well outside the boundaries of his own films. In his 2011 contribution to the web-based Big Think video series, Del Toro discusses the literary origins and legacy of vampire narratives, describing with precision the character of the vampire and why its original form remains a fascinating and productive narrative tool.

His words exhibit a palpable respect for and knowledge of source material. It’s perhaps the best-reasoned critique of where Twilight-era vampire culture may have gone wrong; but more importantly, it illustrates that proper knowledge of, and respect for, a trope’s origins can enliven creativity, not stifle it.

Make One Movie You Love, Over and Over Again

It’s a mandate of auteurist logic, but beloved directors are perceived to have a common thread in their work because they labor over the same themes, ideas, and aesthetics in film after film. Del Toro will be the first to admit he does this as well. Sure, his movies possess greater differences than what he’s illustrating here, but in a more general sense, if the formula makes for one good movie, why change?

Here’s what he had to say on the subject in a January 2013 interview with TwitchFilm:

“I cannot pontificate about it, but by the time I’m done, I will have done one movie, and it’s all the movies I want. People say, you know, ‘I like your Spanish movies more than I like your English-language movies because they are not as personal,’ and I go ‘Fuck, you’re wrong!’ Hellboy is as personal to me as Pan’s Labyrinth. They’re tonally different, and yes, of course you can like one more than the other – the other one may seem banal or whatever it is that you don’t like. But it really is part of the same movie. You make one movie. Hitchcock did one movie, all his life.”

Your Own Politics Belong in Movies, and May Even Show Up Despite You

Del Toro’s films aren’t often thought of as overtly political, but the filmmaker views the genre of horror (and rightly so) as inherently political in its structure, themes, and mythology. In the aforementioned “Time” interview, del Toro states of the horror genre:

“Much like fairy tales, there are two facets of horror. One is pro-institution, which is the most reprehensible type of fairy tale: Don’t wander into the woods, and always obey your parents. The other type of fairy tale is completely anarchic and anti-establishment.”

Where does Del Toro’s filmmaking lie in this institutional spectrum? With his portrayal of revoltingly oppressive characters like Sergi Lopez’s Francoist patriarch in Pan’s Labyrinth, or the cutthroat industrialists of Cronos, coupled with his Catholic upbringing that he has described as “morbid,” del Toro has a dedicated anti-establishment sensibility that breathes through the conventions of the genres he works in.

Del Toro explained, “I hate structure. I’m completely anti-structural in terms of believing in institutions. I hate them. I hate any institutionalized social, religious, or economic holding.”

Pay It Forward

Del Toro’s production company, Miranda Studios, has spearheaded quite a few notable genre films of the past few years, including J.A. Bayon’s Spanish import The Orphanage, Vicenso Natali’s Splice, and Andy Muscietti’s Mama, released last year. The company has also backed (in collaboration with Alfonso Cuaron) Spanish-language fare like Sebastian Cordero’s Cronicas and Carlos Cuaron’s Rudo y Cursi.

When the company’s official incorporation launched in 2010, they announced that their focus would be on the practice of storytelling, and they’ve worked largely with first-time filmmakers or filmmakers who might be rejected by the studio system. Del Toro is using his success, and his interest in – if not eye for – storytelling (he’s not always a storyteller; Hellboy II is feather light on plot but one of my favorites of his), to make sure other visionary genre filmmakers have a chance to get their imaginations realized as well. Here’s the head of Miranda Studios discussing the process of adapting Mama as a three-minute short into a feature length film:

What We’ve Learned

If one thing is for certain about Guillermo del Toro, it’s the fact that he has a solid sense of his own long-developed taste in cinema – a taste that he can justify and discuss through knowledge of the legacy of certain storytelling and generic tropes, a frank admission about his pattern of revisiting similar material, and his eye for perceiving similar talent and taste in others through his production company.

Del Toro’s films are fascinating and rich for many reasons, but one of these is the fact that he’s merged a vulnerable childhood imagination with adult intellect and a seemingly instinctual sense of narrative in a way that compromises none of these components alone. Also, the filmmaker has cast Ron Perlman five times so far. That’s the first step to doing something right.

– See more at: www.filmschoolrejects.com

Canon introduces EOS 70D DSLR, says its autofocus changes the game for filmmakers


Canon’s impact on amateur filmmaking shouldn’t be understated — its 5D Mark II made incredible image quality and portability affordable, easily making it one of the most important DSLRs ever. Canon is calling on that pedigree today as it introduces the successor to the EOS 60D. The EOS 70D is a mid-range DSLR that’s built for video, and Canon thinks it has something that can change the game once again: an all-new focusing system that it says will allow autofocus to work beautifully while shooting video.

In most areas, the 70D is a modest but welcome improvement over the 60D, which it’ll be replacing when it launches sometime this September. The 70D adds Wi-Fi and NFC sharing, it brings touch capabilities to its 3-inch LCD display, and it has a slightly higher megapixel count on its APS-C sensor, bumping it up to 20.2. That all makes for the type of fine upgrade that you’d expect, but it’s the camera’s new “Dual Pixel CMOS” focusing system that Canon thinks will really make a difference.

Traditional autofocus systems are built around photography: they make one quick jump to get nearly into focus, and then a second small adjustment to perfect it. That works great when speed matters the most, but on video it creates an unpleasant stutter that has long made autofocus unusable for most filmmakers. Canon says the 70D should fix that: the new autofocus system is meant to move into focus smoothly and on the very first try. In our limited testing of the camera, it appeared to do just that.

 That means that filmmakers should be able to achieve a smooth transition between subjects without carefully turning a focus ring by hand. To make it work, Canon effectively built a phase detection autofocus system onto the imaging sensor itself. It uses each pixel to make two measurements at once, combines the data, and then uses it to calculate focus correctly on the first try.

The camera can still return to quicker autofocus modes when shooting photographs — but Canon wouldn’t be quick to suggest it. The company hardly mentioned basic photography when explaining the new camera, despite it being a DSLR at heart. And while the 70D is aimed straight at filmmakers, its new focusing mode is unfortunately short on creative options: while it’s easy to focus using the touch screen, you can’t select how quickly or slowly the focus will transition between subjects. Using the 70D’s autofocus may be easier and more convenient for most amateurs, but it’s not about to kill the manual focus ring.

The 70D will be available body only for $1,199, with the 18-55 STM lens for $1,349, or with the 18-135 STM lens for $1,549. That places it above Canon’s consumer-oriented Rebel series, but beneath its prosumer cameras like the 7D. The 70D will also include Canon’s Digic 5+ image processing, built-in image and video filters, and continuous shooting of up to 7 frames per second. That all makes Canon’s latest look like a fine camera — but whether a fancy autofocus system is enough to set it apart from the company’s more-affordable Rebel models will be a tough question for filmmakers on a budget to answer.