Friday, July 18, 2008

The importance of watching a lot of movies

Little follow up from yesterday's rant. :)

One of the best classes in terms of film making I took at the AAU was Pixar 3 with Jimmy Hayward and Alex Orelle. I would have pages of notes due to Jimmy's ongoing rants, verbal abuses and movie recommendations (sounds familiar, doesn't it?). It was awesome. His movie recommendations were great and forced me to open myself up to all kinds of movies, good and bad, old and new, all serving the greater purpose of learning visual storytelling.

After graduating in Spring I took one more class in Fall with Scott Clark and Angus McLane. I was again told to watch at least one movie a week (I believe Angus said that) and I've tried to do that ever since. Animation is not just about moving things around in a pretty and entertaining way. You need to be a filmmaker as well. You need to think about storytelling, which tools you can use to do so, like the use of camera, staging, composition, color, movement, sound, etc.

One of the best ways of learning something new is by immersing yourself in it. Want to learn French? Go to a French speaking country and live there. Obviously it's not always easy to do just that. Same with film making. Not everybody has time and money to take classes and whatnot. But one easy and entertaining way is to watch a lot of movies. So pick up basic film making books (here and a lot more here), learn the basics so you know what to look for, but most importantly, start watching movies.

Lots of movies.

It will help you with building a visual library of acting moments, camera set-ups, composition, editing, how to lead the audience's eye, etc. You will also quickly compile a huge list of audio clips that you can animate to. All that serves as inspiration, guidance, or at least a starting point for your shot so that you can embellish on that and make it your own.

But where do I start? What movies should I watch?

There has to be a class you can take at the AAU about film making and that will give you a quick overview of classic movies. Look into it, take advantage of the classes that are being offered. Apart from that, why not just go through the typical list of AFI's Best Movies of All Time. Or you can go through here, here and here. Or here. It's very easy to google for a best-of list. Agree with the list or not, at least pick and choose some of them and start going through the list. Comparing the list you will find so many movies that show up on all of them, and there is probably a good reason why that is. But don't just go with classics like Citizen Kane, The Day the Earth stood still, North by Northwest, 2001, French Connection, The Thing, Godfather, etc. make sure you check out classics like Goonies, Big Trouble in Little China, Ghostbusters, Stripes, Haunted Honeymoon, Up the Creek, Porky's, etc. etc. ... etc.

And of course Ice Pirates. Gotham Knight was meh. Just watch Batman Begins. And The Prestige. And... you get my point.



Bernie Warman said...

Hey JD,

Awesome post! I always try to watch movies (usually I watch more than 3 a week), but the thing is… sometimes (most of the time) I find myself more concern with the story than the movements or acting of the characters…. I should definitely instruct myself to keep looking for the little details of acting. A good example is Die Hard 1, I have seen this movie more than 40 times (no kidding), but I have never realize the editing and the cuts used in that scene where Hans, John and the stupid hostage are talking in the radio.
Anyway, when Tarantino was 22, he got a job at a video rental store, where according to him he learned everything about movies just watching it. Since he never went to college and drop school when he was a teen ager, I guess you are giving us a good advice 

Anonymous said...

Thanks! The part about immersing yourself really hit home with me.

Its funny how just one word can really change how you look at something. I hadn't totally realised before how if you really want to get good at something it is a good idea to stop beating around the bush and just get so involved with it you forget about any other trivial stuff that could distract you.

Jean-Denis Haas said...

"... I guess you are giving us a good advice?"

Oh boy...