#1  
Old 12-06-2013, 04:43 PM
2014 Film Reading Group

Some historical background: Digi and I have been going the autodidact route with film. This involves both analyzing/breaking down films, and reading various books and essays on a variety of topics. We have been discussing this at some length for a few months in back-and-forth PMing.

I wouldn't wish to speak for Digi, but I believe he has been doing this for a considerable length of time (quite successfully) and has been doing this in and out of conjunction with university film classes.

I have been doing this intermittently, losing my earlier intensity to attend Grad school, but have now decided to leave Grad school and rededicate myself to reading on films.

The Purpose of the Reading Group: The reading group is thus sort of a mix, or conjunction, of our two interests and ways of going about things. Having just come out of school, I'd like to essentially do the equivalent work you would find at a year-long Grad Seminar at any decent university. This comes from a certain dependence on needing a forum to read, think aloud, and exchange ideas about a reading, and a Syllabus of sorts to structure the work involved and make sure to keep up the pace. Digi I imagine is more of the ilk that since he reads on his own widely and intensely, having one or more persons with whom to do readings and film analysis is simply not a terrible extension of his project of self-learning.

The Pace & the Method: We -- and I use that term loosely, since the thread requires commitment and I can only require myself to keep things up -- will be going at the pace of as I said a regular seminar, so about a book a week, with the possibility to extend a discussion which is particularly interested or complicated for one or two extra weeks. Each week will involve a different topic and a different book, to be outlined ahead of time (the initial outline being for the first 12 weeks or so) involving everything from the very technical to the very theoretical. It is my opinion that if others here force me to read some book or other that I do not want to, I may find that I actually discover something I wouldn't have otherwise.

The weekly topics and books will take the form of a new cycle every Monday, with various explanations, questions, discussions, etc. to be posted as we read along. Depending on who participates, how seriously, etc. I don't think a weekly Skype meetup along the lines of a once-a-week-class would be a terrible idea. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

Finally, I also think it's fair to say that if anyone here is involved in film school, productions, anxieties about about trying to that-oh-so-vague-and-abstract-phrase-"make-it" then this is also a thread to pop into. For now I think the first goal has to be to set up our Syllabus for the first four months based on what we're hoping to learn. By organizing it in this way in December we'll hopefully have enough time to track down the books via a (university) library or Amazon.
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  #2  
Old 12-06-2013, 05:12 PM
Some Books/Topics, and routes that have already been mentioned or suggested:

Light/Sound
Editing
Theory
Philosophy of/throygh Film (Continental/Anglo-American)
Film(s) Analysis

Sound Design by David Sonnenschein
Film Lighting by Kris Malkiewicz
Film Form: Essays in Film Theory by Sergei Eisenstein
The World Viewed by Cavell
The use of constructive editing in Bresson and Wes Anderson.

----------------------------------------

Narrative
Theory
Form
Style
Editing

Bordwell's Film Art
Filmmaker's Eye (by Mercado)

Building Towards: Applying these ideas in order to analyze e.g. l'avventura and the meaning/use of Image, action, and mise en scène
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  #3  
Old 12-07-2013, 05:25 AM
Anyone who's interested just PM anyone of us - we'll share the books in PDF form.
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  #4  
Old 12-07-2013, 07:32 AM
More reading

Sight, Sound and Motion


The Visual Story


Directing the Story


Stanislavsky Directs - The book from which Kubrick learned how to direct


Sculpting in Time


TBC...
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  #5  
Old 12-08-2013, 01:13 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digifruitella View Post
More reading

Sight, Sound and Motion

The Visual Story

Directing the Story

Stanislavsky Directs - The book from which Kubrick learned how to direct

Sculpting in Time

TBC...
I actually wouldn't mind starting with Sight, Sound and Motion somewhere near the beginning. I'm also interesting in Stanislavsky Directs.

So just to interpret the private messaging in a room without crazy character restrictions, we're planning on doing something like the following. A look at the Continuity system from an interesting perspective -- something that gives us a more interesting take on cuts and shot sizes in the rhythm of a sequence. Then the bread and butter of film -- light and sound. S/S/M is about "light and color, space, time-motion, and sound" which is basically what the first three weeks should be. I'm interested though in the nitty gritty technical aspects of sound, and given its importance I don't think a technical week on Sound is out of the question at some point.

One thing I appreciated about Filmmaker's Eye was that it took as its point of departure a deconstruction of what made some random student film he watched terrible. Have you guys watched the number of terrible student films I have? I think this is an interesting point of departure for us also. Reviewing the basic rules of the Continuity System, so that we beat this into our brain every chance we get (they're easy to learn but I imagine we all underestimate how much constant refreshing it takes to make them intuitive). Next, we need lighting and sound. Then composition, shot selection. Then narrative. And so on. And so on.

Let me put up a full list of topics and see where people object. For example, do we really want to do "directing" topics, e.g. "directing the actor"? That strikes me as a way down the line sort of thing -- everyone is so anxious to do this thing called directing they forget it's a position which emerges from all the other film related questions. (I'd be more interested in looking at a book on acting for actors). For now I think it's about bread-and-butter questions (light, sound, framing) narrative questions, and technical questions.

One thing we may wish to begin considering is the films and scenes we want to get to in conjunction. Each week I think we should be applying the reading to a specific scene or film. But, we may also want to take some time to look at books on specific filmmakers while watching their films. What specific directors interest us? One thing I'd like to do is shot-breakdowns of scenes. Where we look at each unique shot used in a scene and consider the reasons and implications.

The list of topics as it currently exists:


Light/Sound
Editing
Form + Style
Narrative Theory + Film Analysis
Philosophy of/through Film (Continental/Anglo-American)

Last edited by Gordon; 12-08-2013 at 01:17 PM..
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  #6  
Old 12-08-2013, 02:29 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon View Post

One thing I appreciated about Filmmaker's Eye was that it took as its point of departure a deconstruction of what made some random student film he watched terrible.
That was the one thing that sold me on that book immediately, and I'm glad he chose to begin the book with that story because it essentially set the tone for what was to be discussed and how important every element of a film truly is. I began to realize the great care that goes into image-building.
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  #7  
Old 12-08-2013, 02:36 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon View Post
do we really want to do "directing" topics, e.g. "directing the actor"? That strikes me as a way down the line sort of thing -- everyone is so anxious to do this thing called directing they forget it's a position which emerges from all the other film related questions. (I'd be more interested in looking at a book on acting for actors). For now I think it's about bread-and-butter questions (light, sound, framing) narrative questions, and technical questions.
yeah I don't really care for paying much attention to that - it is exactly a down the line thing. I'm a lot more interested in the mise-en-scene and scene construction / editing at this point since if you don't understand the importance of those elements, you can't really "direct" an actor or direct anything.

Quote:
One thing we may wish to begin considering is the films and scenes we want to get to in conjunction. Each week I think we should be applying the reading to a specific scene or film. But, we may also want to take some time to look at books on specific filmmakers while watching their films. What specific directors interest us? One thing I'd like to do is shot-breakdowns of scenes. Where we look at each unique shot used in a scene and consider the reasons and implications.
Oh yeah, definitely. I've also been doing entire shot breakdowns of films already. I have an entire folder of films so far and I've been doing breakdowns for this entire season of Homeland so far. I have all that in PDF form.

Quote:
The list of topics as it currently exists:


Light/Sound
Editing
Form + Style
Narrative Theory + Film Analysis
Philosophy of/through Film (Continental/Anglo-American)
I think we should begin with Filmmaker's Eye since it's the most fundamental thing to grasp. From that point on we should use the examples from Shot by Shot or 5 C's of Cinematography to talk about eyelines and axis lines when filming people talk etc. Table scenes in particular are enormously difficult for axis and eyelines.

I will post images or examples of these things here too. Those concepts are followed fairly well in the Continuity System.
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  #8  
Old 12-09-2013, 03:59 PM
One topic I don't know if you guys have considered going over or not is writing. Film is a form of storytelling, and so therefore it's important to know how to tell a story. I don't mean just learning how to write a screenplay, but writing in general. Character development, themes, metaphors, etc.
I have a few books on the subject, but only physical copies. No PDFs. I might be able to scan some though.
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  #9  
Old 12-09-2013, 05:59 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeMovie View Post
One topic I don't know if you guys have considered going over or not is writing. Film is a form of storytelling, and so therefore it's important to know how to tell a story. I don't mean just learning how to write a screenplay, but writing in general. Character development, themes, metaphors, etc.
I have a few books on the subject, but only physical copies. No PDFs. I might be able to scan some though.
Well, I have McKee's "Story" - I have the audiobook broken down with timeframes I noted. I can share it and the notes and we can pick and choose things to discuss. He talks a lot about those things in it.
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  #10  
Old 12-09-2013, 06:35 PM
To a certain extent I suppose we imagined we were covering many of those topics already -- books on "form" "narrative" "theory" and "history of cinema" are all tackling those questions pretty head on. I might also suggest that even books on e.g. shot composition are also actually going through "how to tell a story" since there is no such thing as simply "the visual aspect" as some disengaged aesthetic sphere -- any good book will take as its point of departure that the visual aspect is so intertwined with narrative (both in means and ends) that it's impossible to tackle one without the other, and then construct an understanding of composition by going to great lengths to understand various narrative functions. (Image System! Hitchcock Rule! Emblematic Shots!)

So many of these books do focus on many things that I think are of profound interest to screenwriting.

But how about "writing"? I guess it depends on how much time you want to spend and in what way you want to go about learning about writing in general. The best may really be to go back to Aristotle's Poetics. (We're basically all hyper-familiar with Aristotle's poetics now, since it's the "formula" in a "formulaic Hollywood movie") Mamet also wrote a book of sort of aphoristic intuitive wisdom about writing that could be of interest. The thing is writing is such a deep field in its own right that it's a bit of a rabbit hole; we'd have to be pretty precise with what we're hoping to achieve in order to get in and out without some sort of endless quagmire.

Last edited by Gordon; 12-09-2013 at 06:37 PM..
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  #11  
Old 12-09-2013, 06:43 PM
Exactly. We're going to go over a lot through the stuff we'll be reading and discussing that in essence is storytelling.

Speaking of Mamet, I definitely want to add this to the reading list.



Mamet is also a perfect guy to learn from. His commentaries are interesting too (also something we should include).

Here's an excerpt from his book

Spoiler:
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  #12  
Old 12-09-2013, 09:00 PM
We may have to list out which directors we want to read and how much time we want to read books on/by specific filmmakers. The list of filmmakers we've already mentioned is probably like 3 months of work even with the diligence of once-a-week book reading. (We haven't even mentioned the Truffaut/Hitchcock interviews which is probably if anything the one absolute must read.)

For the moment I'm thinking something like as follows.

For the rest of this month we can maybe go over Filmmaker's Eye and Shot by Shot a bit just to get a feel for how to tackle this thread. Starting off the new year we could go

Week 1 -- Bordwell
Week 2 -- The Visual Story
Week 3 -- Sight, Sound, Motion Applied Media Aesthetics
Week 4 -- Sound Design by David Sonnenschein
Week 5 -- ??

I'll stop myself from going any further, and ask for you guys to start to edit this first list and/or fill this in further. Just starting to actually construct a list with logical sense makes you realize how much stuff there really is to read (and how even attending to a reading group with an intense pace like this one it will still take months and months before you really start to make a dent).
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  #13  
Old 12-09-2013, 09:12 PM
I have that entire Truffaut/Hitchcock discussion in its original raw audio recording. We can definitely go over that since I've been meaning to do so myself.

That week breakdown looks good to me. The Visual Story I have already read and took notes on so I'll just wait on you guys - same with Bordwell, I'm in the process of Film Art. Though Bordwell has some very interesting books that we should tackle, though maybe down the line sometime.

I'd say starting with Bordwell's Film Art is perfect to begin, and to warm up with Filmmaker's Eye which is such a quick and easy read. For anyone even interested in participating it would be a great way to begin. (Once again, anyone interested we have most of these books to share in PDF form)

The Visual Story is great because it breaks down the specifics of the visuals only - making you understand the differences between what an aerial perspective is or just one, two, three-point perspective. Or what is an open frame or what is a closed frame and how it affects you psychologically.

I have nothing to add for these first 4 weeks, it looks perfect to me. I'll be able to add suggestions for later readings a bit later.
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  #14  
Old 12-09-2013, 10:16 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digifruitella View Post
Well, I have McKee's "Story" - I have the audiobook broken down with timeframes I noted. I can share it and the notes and we can pick and choose things to discuss. He talks a lot about those things in it.
Okay cool. I didn't just mean screenwriting though, I meant literature and philosophy as well. I know it's a whole subject in itself, but I thought it would be interesting to learn about different concepts and how they might apply to film. For example character archetypes, and philosophical themes. Not necessarily stuff like structure, but not necessarily excluding structure either. But of course maybe this sort of thing would be more appropriate later down the road.

I like the agenda so far, first 4 weeks look fascinating.
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  #15  
Old 12-09-2013, 11:04 PM
Hey Mike, any chance we may get you to say a little bit about yourself and your interest? I have been doing a lot of philosophy and aesthetics the past few years, which is perhaps why I failed to mention it. There are really a cluster of things of interest in the sense you state things, like Literary Theory, Philosophy of Film, and Philosophy through Film. But then there are tons of different schools and schisms within all three, first Anglo-American versus Continental approaches, and then schools within the two different traditions (Deconstruction; Russian Formalism; Hermeneutics; Cognitive Film Theory; Lacanian Analysis; etc.)

The books that I think would really be most interesting and pertinent in film would be Bazin's Cinema and Stanley Cavell's The World Viewed.

In Literary Theory we might Walter Benjamin who I think is a very interesting figure.

For now though I might suggest you consider taking a look at this for literary theory and maybe this for some intersection of philosophy/literature/cinema.

I have plenty of PDFs for aesthetics so maybe I will upload some.
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  #16  
Old 12-09-2013, 11:37 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon View Post
Hey Mike, any chance we may get you to say a little bit about yourself and your interest? I have been doing a lot of philosophy and aesthetics the past few years, which is perhaps why I failed to mention it. There are really a cluster of things of interest in the sense you state things, like Literary Theory, Philosophy of Film, and Philosophy through Film. But then there are tons of different schools and schisms within all three, first Anglo-American versus Continental approaches, and then schools within the two different traditions (Deconstruction; Russian Formalism; Hermeneutics; Cognitive Film Theory; Lacanian Analysis; etc.)

The books that I think would really be most interesting and pertinent in film would be Bazin's Cinema and Stanley Cavell's The World Viewed.

In Literary Theory we might Walter Benjamin who I think is a very interesting figure.

For now though I might suggest you consider taking a look at this for literary theory and maybe this for some intersection of philosophy/literature/cinema.

I have plenty of PDFs for aesthetics so maybe I will upload some.
I'm interested in various arts. Film, music, literature, philosophy etc.
I read up on philosophy now and again, but i'm not nearly as learned on the subject as I want to be. I'm also a writer, so everything I learn can help me improve my craft which is always an important goal.

All these books you guys are mentioning sound great, and I look forward to reading all of them. I just wish I could be of more help and make recommendations of my own haha
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  #17  
Old 12-10-2013, 10:23 PM
Well very cool, glad to have you on board. If there are any books that pop into your head at any point, anything at all that you'd like to get to, (especially something that you're interested in related to any of the things you've mentioned), make sure to bring it up, don't hesitate to suggest, etc. Books, PDFs, etc. it's all possible to track down. For now maybe we work off of this list for the first four weeks and see what we feel like at the end of the month.

Digi, you mentioned before the problem of when to read/post with the week span. I started thinking that since you have a head start on the reading, I'll start working on the readings some time this month, and this way if each week we have a good head start on each reading it won't be too much of a burden to condense reading/writing about it thoughtfully.

Also, if you could aim me in the direction of the Hitch tapes I'd be tremendously grateful.
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  #18  
Old 12-11-2013, 08:11 AM
I have another recommendation to add. A book I've wanted to read for a couple months now.

On Film-making: An Introduction to the Craft of the Director


Spoiler:


The book is supposedly comprised of all the lecture notes / packets Mackendrick gave out to his film students when he taught film.

I also will share Bergman Makes a Movie which Criterion released. I watched it over the summer and it's incredible insight. I also have Kieslowski's 2 hour masterclass on directing. Great stuff all around.
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  #19  
Old 12-11-2013, 09:05 AM
Melville on Melville by Rui Nogueira, I'd love to read more about one of my favorite filmmakers.
The Fright of Real Tears by Slavoj Zizek might be a good read later down the road. From what i've read about it, he examines the films of Kieslowski in methods antithetical to Bordwell's. It could be interesting to see a differing view point.
I Lost it at the Movies and other books by Pauline Kael would be fun, and interesting reads.

Those are some that are related to film that I think would be interesting. But where do you guys go to track down all these PDFs? There's so many books I want to get my hands on that I can't find at the local library, and cost an arm and a leg ordering online.
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  #20  
Old 12-11-2013, 09:13 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeMovie View Post
Melville on Melville by Rui Nogueira, I'd love to read more about one of my favorite filmmakers.
The Fright of Real Tears by Slavoj Zizek might be a good read later down the road. From what i've read about it, he examines the films of Kieslowski in methods antithetical to Bordwell's. It could be interesting to see a differing view point.
I Lost it at the Movies and other books by Pauline Kael would be fun, and interesting reads.

Those are some that are related to film that I think would be interesting. But where do you guys go to track down all these PDFs? There's so many books I want to get my hands on that I can't find at the local library, and cost an arm and a leg ordering online.
The books we can't track down at universities or online we'll have to hold off on reading. We have a lot to get through of what we do have. A lot of material.

Good suggestions Mike, I've heard of Melville on Melville.. Actually all of the "on" series are worthy reads. I read Kieslowski on Kieslowski one in the summer. I have a bunch of autobiographies too but we should leave those for later
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  #21  
Old 12-11-2013, 11:43 AM
Unfortunately, it seems our Dropbox has directed itself to nonexistence. In the meantime I've at least got a good chunk of reading to get a head start on.

The funny thing is when thinking about the first month I mentioned that you kind of realize holy shit there are so many different things I want to read it will take me forever to make a dent. I think it's the same thing with directors. The more you guys mention, the more I keep thinking "Gosh, I'd love to do a week on Kubrick, I'd love to do a week on Tati, I'd love to do a week on Eisenstein...." Perhaps we might do a month of just straight directors / scene analysis, a month on straight Film Theory / Philosophy, and so forth. I might also say I'm really excited about that Mackendrick book. All of these possibilities are almost now distracting, since I want to read them all.

I've also been wondering one thing recently about how to approach film through filmmakers. This is more of a personal question then one relating to the group or what we should be reading here. So in my experience in Philosophy and capital-t Theory (Literary, Political, etc.) the people that have success almost always do a couple things. First, they do the obvious prerequisite thing which is learn a lot about history, method, all the canonical figures, etc. But usually after doing so at a young age, they then in their twenties usually focus on the work of one or two people, and they do so in such depth that they manage to get an extraordinary amount out of the experience. This is usually the launching point for their brilliance and the original work they start to do. This is true of Kant, Marx, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, Kafka, the list goes on. I've often wondered if it might be the most rewarding to really dig into two people.
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  #22  
Old 12-11-2013, 11:46 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digifruitella View Post
Good suggestions Mike, I've heard of Melville on Melville.. Actually all of the "on" series are worthy reads. I read Kieslowski on Kieslowski one in the summer. I have a bunch of autobiographies too but we should leave those for later
Yeah I'd like to check out most if not all of them. Especially Melville on Melville and the Truffaut on Hitchcock tapes!
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  #23  
Old 12-11-2013, 11:52 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon View Post
I've also been wondering one thing recently about how to approach film through filmmakers. This is more of a personal question then one relating to the group or what we should be reading here. So in my experience in Philosophy and capital-t Theory (Literary, Political, etc.) the people that have success almost always do a couple things. First, they do the obvious prerequisite thing which is learn a lot about history, method, all the canonical figures, etc. But usually after doing so at a young age, they then in their twenties usually focus on the work of one or two people, and they do so in such depth that they manage to get an extraordinary amount out of the experience. This is usually the launching point for their brilliance and the original work they start to do. This is true of Kant, Marx, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, Kafka, the list goes on. I've often wondered if it might be the most rewarding to really dig into two people.
This sounds great but the problem is, how do we all agree on which two? Surely we all have different filmmakers which interest us, even if there is overlap. Maybe we could all pick one filmmaker to dig into and then attempt to write some sort of thesis on the filmmaker? I don't really know if writing essays was something you guys were considering or not.
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  #24  
Old 12-11-2013, 04:57 PM
Personally, this is something I tried with a friend but he didn't follow through. We chose Bresson and basically begun from the bottom up. We could simply do the same thing. Pick a filmmaker and watch his/her films from the beginning and just talk about each once in a while.

One thing to keep in mind is to NOT overload ourselves. We could do this like once a week or so.

Also, some morale boost https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5K_UAowTszU
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  #25  
Old 12-11-2013, 05:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeMovie View Post
This sounds great but the problem is, how do we all agree on which two? Surely we all have different filmmakers which interest us, even if there is overlap. Maybe we could all pick one filmmaker to dig into and then attempt to write some sort of thesis on the filmmaker? I don't really know if writing essays was something you guys were considering or not.
I think I said this in the OP, but I wasn't terribly clear. I've been thinking about this in regards to my own life recently. -- It's just a theoretical question for the group, since I hope all three of us can use this as a place to air out some broad ideas and questions about how to approach film and life. The question is just: If I am interested in Philosophy, Literature, and Film, at this point in my life - having gotten to some extent the well-rounded aspect from heavy reading and film-watching - wouldn't I do better to narrow myself to the figure who interests me the most but really take studying him very very seriously, instead of having continued angst over trying to cover the inexhaustible list of philosophers/authors/filmmakers that are invariably worth trying to learn? It doesn't mean doing this at the exclusion of all others, it just means allowing your study to stake out a capital, and letting your study of other people become a bit more provincial.

Digi has it absolutely right that we need to be worried about getting so massive in scope or theoretical possibilities that we lose all the actual detail and leg work. All of this study takes place one page and one frame at a time, and I'm uncertain how to sort through and fit in all of the material worth taking a go at. I'm rambling a bit so I'll stop. If anyone is interested in directing, I think the question of broadness and specificity is probably something you really have to sort through in your thinking.

As far as the group goes one approach we could take to specific films and filmmakers is to carve up a huge chunk of time for them. Y'know, like several months on technical details, then form, style, and theory, then finally we arrive at directors and films and just spend months doing a book/film for a new director each week. Who knows. While at first I wanted to do up a whole syllabus and everything, for now I'm just focusing on January and think we should figure things out brand new each month.

I've started reading the Bordwell (Film Art) and it's absolutely tremendous. The first chapter alone gives an incredible overview of what the hell is going on in this holistic Business-Art-Technology Thing that so fascinates us. Insofar as it is repetitive of things we all already know, it contextualizes things so broadly that I just can't help but think that re-reading about the nuts and bolts of the film business, continuity style, technical aspects, shot flow, etc. is just what the doctor ordered: like learning a language, constantly repeating the words in different contexts (in this case books) is terribly conducive to the sort of hyper-memorization we call fluency.
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  #26  
Old 12-11-2013, 06:34 PM
I understand the predicament of too much to learn, too little time.

By each of us focusing on one filmmaker that inspires us, we could each write an inspired essay that's informative and passionate. There's no reason that we couldn't share our results with the group. My point being, we could read from the ever growing list of books, with the current plan being largely unchanged. Over the course of 6 months or so, we could take notes and seriously study that one filmmaker. And at the end of that 6 months we could all exchange our essays. It wouldn't be that much more work than what we're already talking about doing, but it could be another great source to learn from.
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  #27  
Old 12-12-2013, 10:57 AM
I recommend the following. Instead of focusing on a certain filmmaker - we focus on a specific portion of film technique. For a week, or two, or a month - depending on how complex or easy to grasp it is.

For instance. At some point we decide to focus on "a LONG take... in the process of whatever amount of time we decide to focus on it - we analyze, ask questions on why a long take has the effect that it has, why it is chosen by a filmmaker, how does it relate in the grand scheme of the entire film (ex: is it a stylistic choice that is present once in the film or throughout it? i.e. Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise" a long take is throughout it...etc, so we ask questions and try to understand)

Then we move on to for instance...studying one-point lighting instead of 2 or 3, etc etc... the point is to immerse oneself totally into understanding film form and film style. From that point on - say mid summer or whatever, we can do something like focus on a particular filmmaker for the entire remaining year (or quarter, depending on how much we still need to cover)

I just think that's the best way to academically approach film study.
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  #28  
Old 12-12-2013, 12:27 PM
I'm a little unhappy to derail the conversation, since I think my slightly off-topic musings were taken as somewhat on-topic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Digifruitella View Post
I recommend the following. Instead of focusing on a certain filmmaker - we focus on a specific portion of film technique. For a week, or two, or a month - depending on how complex or easy to grasp it is.

For instance. At some point we decide to focus on "a LONG take... in the process of whatever amount of time we decide to focus on it - we analyze, ask questions on why a long take has the effect that it has, why it is chosen by a filmmaker, how does it relate in the grand scheme of the entire film (ex: is it a stylistic choice that is present once in the film or throughout it? i.e. Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise" a long take is throughout it...etc, so we ask questions and try to understand)

Then we move on to for instance...studying one-point lighting instead of 2 or 3, etc etc... the point is to immerse oneself totally into understanding film form and film style. From that point on - say mid summer or whatever, we can do something like focus on a particular filmmaker for the entire remaining year (or quarter, depending on how much we still need to cover)

I just think that's the best way to academically approach film study.
I agree totally with this; am not sure if you took what I said as somehow antithetical to this approach; you've given a precise account of how I want to go about things and the way to build readings on top of one of each other. -- It also appears to be the Bordwell way, from what I've read so far.

Where I'm on board with you is that people are I think too anxious to skip straight to studying films/filmmakers, or just to say fuck theory and go practice when I think studying (abstractly) a cluster of rules, wisdom, and technique is what we'd call the necessary conditions for those activities to gain meaning. (I'm trying to think of film art as an instance of Wittgensteinian rule learning) And I don't think it means reading about what an aperture is on wikipedia. I think it means reading dozens of books where you understand the uses of framing, depth of field, lighting, etc. so well that you want to pull your hair out it seems so God damn repetitive.

In academia the "study one guy" thing pops up only at the dissertation level, never before. I want to build on techniques generally (though technique is always contextual, and needs to be studied in context, as Bordwell points out) and I think that's a very serious and extended project in itself. But we might say an emergent property of technique generally is, for example, "Kubrickian technique." (Incidentally this isn't limited to Kubrick, since Kubrick has taken up a sort of style/form/technique which is being exploited with incredible power right now among others by PTA.) So I'd like to push studying the directors back a long ways until we've really gone through technique.
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  #29  
Old 12-12-2013, 01:38 PM
I'm just brainstorming here seeing as how we're still kind of forming how to go about it. It doesn't have to be the only way but a combination. I'm right there with you of reading many books, essays, what give you of the entire topic to grasp - though I think it would help if maybe we concentrate on certain aspects of film technique as well. Again, I don't know how or when - but I think at this point the best thing to do is just see how January works out.

And no I didn't take your approach as antithetical - I just have a weird way of beginning a sentence. Just think of my last post as a backing up of doing half of this and half of that (studying filmmaker(s))

Last edited by Digifruitella; 12-12-2013 at 01:40 PM..
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  #30  
Old 12-12-2013, 02:00 PM
I like the idea of going through all the techniques ad nauseam. While I wait to get my hands on Bordwell's book, I'll reread some film books I own.
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  #31  
Old 12-13-2013, 03:10 PM
Bordwell seems to be a great point of departure, since it covers just about everything, it's a complete survey book that also manages to get into striking detail. Whichever book you're reading right now in preparation, consider reading it in its entirety. I've read Shot by Shot and Filmmaker's Eye in the last week, and starting with the Bordwell it's pretty great to think about patterns of ideas which are stated in all three works from different angels. So I encourage you to take that tack. [Though you'll have to get a head start on the Bordwell before Jan 1, since I think it'd be a difficult one-week read.]

I've been meaning to ask -- Mike, have you gone to film school?
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  #32  
Old 12-13-2013, 03:48 PM
I intend to start 'Filmmaker's Eye' today, and I suppose I'll start Bordwell very soon too.
Yeah I went to Full Sail University very briefly, but dropped out after a few months. I wasn't learning anything I couldn't learn on my own for free. And I wasn't making the kinds of friends I wanted to make. Plus some of the teachers were questionable in there idea of what film should be.. All around not my cup of tea. Why do you ask?
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  #33  
Old 12-13-2013, 09:57 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeMovie View Post
I intend to start 'Filmmaker's Eye' today, and I suppose I'll start Bordwell very soon too.
Yeah I went to Full Sail University very briefly, but dropped out after a few months. I wasn't learning anything I couldn't learn on my own for free. And I wasn't making the kinds of friends I wanted to make. Plus some of the teachers were questionable in there idea of what film should be.. All around not my cup of tea. Why do you ask?
Fair enough, I can imagine Full Sail being a nightmare. It seems sort of shady and shabby even in the world of for-pay Film Schools, which is probably the shabbiest and shadiest of possible worlds. I imagine the ratio of Jackass fans to Kubrick fans is tipping in the wrong direction, and it's a lot of barely high school graduates that didn't quite know what to do with themselves....who teach there. I just asked because I assume you might have some particular ideas about how to do certain things if you'd gone through 4 years of film school. Can't imagine how jarring it would be to want to go into film, start to, then unwittingly find yourself attached to a shitty community. Hopefully this time next year you might be able to say you've learned more from this collaboration than from any sort of sail.
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  #34  
Old 12-13-2013, 10:38 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gordon View Post
I imagine the ratio of Jackass fans to Kubrick fans is tipping in the wrong direction, and it's a lot of barely high school graduates that didn't quite know what to do with themselves....who teach there.
That sums up the experience too perfectly.
I'm certain that this collaboration will yield much better results than Full Sail. Which school did you attend, and how was it?
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  #35  
Old 12-13-2013, 10:38 PM
Well I know for a fact that at NYU there's a Sight & Sound course in which one of the ways they study the film form and style is through conscious analysis of watching scenes, commercials, music videos by breaking them down and asking "Why" - "Why does it cut to... / Why does the camera move here... / Why is this light so..."

The whole point is to ask questions about what you're seeing.
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  #36  
Old 12-14-2013, 08:58 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digifruitella View Post
Well I know for a fact that at NYU there's a Sight & Sound course in which one of the ways they study the film form and style is through conscious analysis of watching scenes, commercials, music videos by breaking them down and asking "Why" - "Why does it cut to... / Why does the camera move here... / Why is this light so..."

The whole point is to ask questions about what you're seeing.
I didn't mean to imply that we were, as a class, questioning imagery. I love the Socratic method and believe it to be one of the best ways to engage students. In fact none of the classes I took involved any sort of Film Theory at all.
In fact, I don't recall seeing any Film Theory classes on the entire course chart. Which is not surprising considering a vast majority of the teachers there looked at film as a product to be sold to mass consumers rather than art.
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  #37  
Old 12-14-2013, 04:36 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by MikeMovie View Post
I didn't mean to imply that we were, as a class, questioning imagery. I love the Socratic method and believe it to be one of the best ways to engage students. In fact none of the classes I took involved any sort of Film Theory at all.
In fact, I don't recall seeing any Film Theory classes on the entire course chart. Which is not surprising considering a vast majority of the teachers there looked at film as a product to be sold to mass consumers rather than art.
I was only shedding light on how they study film. Kind of brainstorming and spitballing.

As for FSU, I think that school is good for crewing only or for creating independent filmmakers. Independent as in, you go to FSU and after graduation you go back to your hometown and shoot weddings. Etc. If you actually want to study film in depth, only really prestigious schools are worth it.
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  #38  
Old 12-15-2013, 01:50 AM
A film is a complex set of overlapping and interconnecting motivations. The basic analytic tool of cinema is motivation. This is more and more striking as I read across a variety of subjects. Motivation is the basis of the screenplay -- screenplays are based around character motivation, and the inclusion of any scene is motivated by structure. Shots are all motivated by the meaning of the action in the film's overall Form. Objects and their relative presence in the screen is motivated again by the larger structure of the narrative and the image system. etc. etc. -- To the extent that there is something on the screen that is without motivation*, it is an oversight or an error.

*Unless the motivation is spontaneity, in which case again the choice of unplanned spontaneity and the inclusion of that shot in the final edit is motivated by a larger narrative/cinematic conception of the film.
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  #39  
Old 12-15-2013, 01:56 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Digifruitella View Post
As for FSU, I think that school is good for crewing only or for creating independent filmmakers. Independent as in, you go to FSU and after graduation you go back to your hometown and shoot weddings. Etc. If you actually want to study film in depth, only really prestigious schools are worth it.
If we're going off of the psycho crazy not terribly intelligent hyper-christian ex-girlfriend of my buddy who is MFAing over there, then I have anecdotal proof of the sorts of people that are bumming around their film dept.

Not sure where you got the FSU thing from. (PM?) But, I think the biggest thing with a lot of these schools is whether you're doing a BA or an MFA. As well as how old you are when you start and how much experience you've accrued.
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  #40  
Old 12-16-2013, 08:18 PM
Suggesting we add

The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema

Film Language - A Semiotics of the Cinema
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