By definition, a prop is an object used by an actor in a film (for films) and that can be held. (Understand, a swimming pool is not a prop). They are the seemingly ‘little’ details that will enhance the world your character lives in, making it believable or not and giving layers to your story, or not.
Funny enough, many people think that props are found during pre-production by the art department, and do not necessarily take time to introduce significant props in their screenplay (unless it’s a gun or a bag full of cash, two props to possibly ban from your story.)
The video below, by Pictures Up, evokes different ways props add to your story.
Think about Morgan Freeman’s character in Se7en, starting the metronome and how much it revealed about his relationship to time.
Or just look at the picture opening this article: if you’ve seen Brokeback Mountain, just the sight of this shirt on a static frame will likely trigger the full story behind it.
That’s the power of props and one you can use when you create your characters on paper, asking yourself: what object can help enhance, reveal, trigger her/his personality on the screen and without words?
This will also help make your writing much easier and a lighter exercise. We often focus too much on words, when a prop can say more with less. (Check How Did They Write Itfor successful examples of props use in scenes).
The video below says it well: “This is what makes props so fascinating. Because by themselves, they are nothing, but once they are attached to a character’s emotions, they gain power.”
“Nobody is explaining to us the meaning, the philosophy of light; the philosophy of color.” That’s legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro talking about the transmission gap in film school when it comes to the power and meaning of color (as opposed to the technical knowledge required to capture such elements).
Thankfully, Lewis Bond has started bridging that gab with his excellent video essay about ‘Colour in Storytelling.’ In sixteen minutes, Bond not only shows the use of colors throughout the years in films, but how hue (the actual color), saturation (the color’s intensity) and value affect what you convey in a film. If you change any of these elements, then you change the tone of the film. Change the tone, then you have a different movie.
Another important concept Bond mentions is that of using colors in an associative or transitional purpose.
The use of a color with an associative purpose means that a specific color and its scheme will be linked to a character or an idea throughout the film, letting the audience connects extra dots through the simple presence of a particular color.
A transitional use of color means that the colors associated with a character or an idea will change, either brutally or over the course of a film (depending on the story’s arc) and that change will help give an extra layer or meaning to the story told through images. A great example Bond uses is that of the Last Emperor, with a transitional usage of color that covers 180 degree of the color scheme wheel, starting with red and ending with green.
There is a reason behind every color choice in a film.
Here are three more points Bond makes in his film:
– color is often a psychological process
– using color creates certain atmospheres
– creating a scheme around a color can emphasize that atmosphere
All those elements are good to keep in mind when you’ll enter that phase of filmmaking where you need to convey the words onto the screen.
The video below gives great examples to illustrate the difference concepts Bond mentions.
Enjoy and hopefully it will inspire you for your own projects:
The interview was filmed and shared by Niko Tavernise, who’s also part of Aronofsky’s team of regulars, and who shot all the making-ofs, including The Wrestler‘s.
The interview is 5 minutes long and very interesting. You can see it full below. Make sure to check after the video if you’re interested in either Aronofsky’s work and team, or in music scoring, there are a bunch of connected articles that should interest you.
[title type=”special-h4″ color=”#66ccff6″ animation=”” animation_delay=”” class=””] Clint Mansell on Understanding The Wrestler’s Universe [/title]
“It was a very different story, a simple, straight ahead story, a character study I suppose, and that’s where the challenge became something different for me because it was a very intimate tile and everything that we’ve done so far from the music standpoint was like okay, the music is almost telling the story along with it, whereas with this it didn’t feel like that was going to be the approach at all.
And I asked Darren what interested him about this story because it was so different, and he said to me that he was really fascinated about the idea of being unable to do something you love to do, like as an artist, ‘what if you can no longer write’, ‘what if you can no longer take picture’, ‘what if you can no longer paint’, and it was the same for this guy, whatever the subject matter was, effectively it was the removal of your drive in life.
I guess that for me was my hook into the film.”
[title type=”special-h4″ color=”#66ccff6″ animation=”” animation_delay=”” class=””] Clint Mansell on Deciding What Space the Music Should Take [/title]
“The music became almost like an underscore, but it just had to be something that would help support the environment and the emotion of the film, but not sort of comment on it too much.
One of the thing we really thought about early on was that we couldn’t judge this character.”
[title type=”special-h4″ color=”#66ccff6″ animation=”” animation_delay=”” class=””] Clint Mansell on the Importance of Having Great Musicians to Interpret the Score [/title]
“Like I’ve said about Requiem for a Dreams, The Fountain, and it’s the same with The Wrestler, I might write the notes, but the performance elevates the notes to the real level of action if you like.
It’s that performance where somebody understands the film, understands the music, they can inject themselves, and the performance of what they’re doing into that music that gives it that connection I think, that’s so important.”
Being an indie filmmaker can feel a lot like being a juggler with too many balls at times.
While making your film, it’s hard enough to handle the creative process intertwined with the logistic involved, you also have to start building a list of film festivals, making sure you hit their deadlines and requirements to be considered.
Most of the time, we stop there: trying to get into a film festival.
But that’s far from being done.
Once you get into a film festival, you better have a plan, or your days/week will go by before you realize it, and your window of opportunity will close.
With his 20+ years of experience on all stages of the spectrum, filmmaker, producer and Raindance Film Festival founder Elliot Grove shares 5 tips to help you ensure that you will make the most out of your time at a film festival.
Filmmaker: Maximise Your Film Festival – 5 Essentials
“You’ve spent a fortune applying to film festivals. I know this because I do this with my movies. You’ve had a series of rejections – and do they sting. I’ve been turned down by dozens of film festivals with my various projects. Now you’ve finally got accepted to a film festival. Congratulations! You plunk down your last chunk of change and book travel and accommodation to a festival screening. Once there, how do you maximise your festival attendance.
Here’s what I have noticed fimmakers attending Raindance have done to make their screening and their attendance a standout.
Make no exception – the number one reason you go to a film festival is to make connections and these happen on several different levels, and to access each you will need different skills.
your screening audience – getting live feedback from a room full of strangers is an experience that you cannot buy. Whether they laugh at the right place, or laugh at all are lessons you’ll carry for the rest of your career. Of course, applause at the end of the screening is a great added bonus too.
fellow filmmakers – learning from your filmmaking colleagues is a sure-fire way to gain valuable knowledge. They won’t teach these tips at any film school.
attending film professionals – the filmmaking industry is a people industry. Building relationships with industry professionals is much easier at a film festival. Don’t ignore this valuable opportunity.
[title type=”special-h4″ color=”#66ccff6″ animation=”” animation_delay=”” class=””] 2. Promoting your film and yourself [/title]
Learning the art of self-promotion is an important skill. Start the buzz.
business cards – consider a business card as a micro poster about you. Remember to keep the card’s back clean and matt so people can write notes.
lobby cards – ideally postcard and letter size with a brief synopsis and your contact details on the back. You will never know how much space is allocated for filmmakers’ cards until you arrive.
your film’s campaign image – the most important element of your promotion is an eye-catching visual image. Getting this right can be a series of trials and errors.
using social media – this has become the essential skill filmmakers need to know. Learn how to devise and execute a memorable social media campaign – both for your film and for yourself.
film trailers – many people make their decision on whether or not they’ll watch your film based on a 2 minute trailer. Try to convey the emotion of your film. Raindance’s filmmaker-in-residence Christian Bell made a stunning trailer of Deadly Virtues seen over 200,000 times. Note the eye-catching image as well.
[title type=”special-h4″ color=”#66ccff6″ animation=”” animation_delay=”” class=””] 3. Getting press for your film [/title]
The art of getting press is another filmmaker essential no film school in the world teaches you. Press is the life-blood that drives your fim to viewers. Without viewers your film will end up in a graveyard filled with the corpses of other films strangled by lack of publicity.
creating a press kit – a proper press kit contains all the story and production notes of your film. Successful press kits create their own unique story of the film, almost the written equivalent of a good film trailer.
getting press – a press agent or publicist is another essential member of the team. Remember their task is to distibute your story, not to create it. You still have to create the story of your film.
conducting an interview – have you ever been interviewed? Film festivals love to interview filmmakers. The interview is one of the key ways you can start the ‘buzz’ for your film. It’s a really good idea to prepare a list of questions and include it in your press kit so journalists get an idea of what topics to ask you.
Can you remember why you wanted to make a film in the first place?
creating a business plan – this simple document should lay out the ‘why’ you want to make a film, contains bios on your key team members as well as the financial information. Make certain you throughly examine your distribution strategy – unless you don’t care whether your investors ever get paid back.
pitching successfully – the ability to succinctly and clearly verbalise your film’s story is yet another essential skill. Practise on your friends so when you get to a film festival you’ll be able to quickly and confidently answer the question: “What is your film about?”
Isn’t it great when a distributor rushes up to you after your screening and offers to take you out for dinner? Of course you politely decline because you know they are trying to get you out of the building away from their competitors, all of whom are trying to negotiate for your film.
It’s easy enouygh for me to go on and on about how filmmakers attend film festivals. what have I missed out? Do me a big favour and stick your thoughts and comments in the box below.
Elliot Grove founded Raindance as a thought experiment: Can you make a film with no money, no training and no experience, he asked? Elliot has produced over 150 short films, 5 feature films and has written eight scripts. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe, Japan and America. Elliot teaches several courses at Raindance including Lo To No Budget Filmmaking andWriter’s Foundation Certificate.
We’ve all experienced it, in various areas of our lives, and as storytellers, even though we know there’s a limited number of themes that are told over and over again, stealing like an artist can sometimes feel like a heavy burden.
So I was pleasantly surprised and touched to hear no others than Wim Wenders talk about this moment where he already have 8 shorts films and three feature films under his belt, and yet, wasn’t feeling like a real filmmaker.
It’s during his Lifetime Achievement ceremony in Berlin that Wenders evoked the film, actress and moment that graduated him, and here is what he says:
The Impostor Syndrom: Wim Wenders on the Film that Made him Feel Like a Real Filmmaker [/title]
“Litte Alice… When we made that movie, and it’s no coincidence that it was Lisa [Kreuzer], Rudiger [Vogler], and little Alice [Yella Rotlander], who together made Alice in the Cities and that was the beginning of me as a filmmaker.
I had made theater films before, but I didn’t believe it was for me and I had it in me to make something that was entirely mine, that was my handwriting and that I didn’t owe to anybody else.
And I was a little desperate because I felt, if I make another film that I owe everything to Cassavettes or Hitchcock or Anthony Mann or whatever, then I’m going to give up, I have to be able to make something that doesn’t owe anything to anybody; and it became Alice in the Cities and it became that film because there was a little girl in it called Yella Rotlander.
Luckily you didn’t know the weight you had on your shoulders, and the guardian angel you were for me for the next twenty or thirty years.”
I find it encouraging to hear a man with five decades of experience, who gave 50 advice to filmmakers that spread everywhere, who is at the source of films considered classics and is still working talk about this moment of fragility and doubt, that doesn’t go away when you make your first feature, or get recognition, but when you finally feel like you are expressing your voice.