Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Three best animated things ever.

Got forced into this today. And I surprised myself with my answers. Also surprised by how old everything on the list is. There was a time when animation was inventive and brave.

Twice Upon A Time (uncensored version only)
Mouse in Manhattan

Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings gets an honorable mention.

No order. Mouse in Manhattan is perfect by the way. A 7 minute version of every MGM musical in the 40s to 60s. Animation is unreal. Brilliant!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Directors You Should Know # 4

Frank Capra

Considered by many the most "American" classic film director, Frank was of course an immigrant. And like any decent artist, Italian. (check out my last name again, pison)

I could go on about how being an immigrant is the classic modern American experience and how that gave him both the distance and passion an artist should bring to his subject. Which in Frank's case was American life itself. Or how his early experiences shaped his strong views on how art should be made. Or a dozen other things about his character and approach to the craft that fascinate me, but I don't need to. Frank said it all better himself. His autobiography Frank Capra: Name Above the Title is my all time favorite film biography and a gripping, funny, insightful, inspirational read. I strongly recommend it.

Check out any of his early films that still survive when you can, but a short list of his best films is:

The Bitter Tea of General Yen
It Happened One Night (first classic "screwball" comedy in my opinion)
Mr Deeds Goes To Town
Lost Horizon (one of my personal favorite films)
You Can't Take It With You
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Meet John Doe
Arsenic and Old Lace
It's A Wonderful Life
State of the Union
Pocketful Of Miracles

Frank also did my favorite educational series of films. They affected me deeply as a child. I own them all now and watch them with my children over and over. They love them too. Wonderful, optimistic stuff about the only uniquely human creation other than Art; Science. That's right, everything else in your experience is also done by insects, primates, lizards, and bacteria. Only Art and Science mark us as unique creatures.

Our Mr. Sun
Hemo the Magnificent
The Strange Case of Cosmic Rays
The Unchained Goddess

Update and advice

Again I've neglected the animation lessons. I plead overwork. The new film has been an exhausting thrill ride as we are not only designing, modeling, and storyboarding a very fun musical comedy, but actually building one of the smartest pipelines I have ever heard of. This is definitely the right way to make an animated movie. Of course building the road as you are driving 60 miles an hour down it is a big job for all involved, but there is nothing more rewarding than doing something like this right.

I've always wanted to do a musical and I've gotten my wish but as usual in the most out-of-the-box, quirky way possible.

However that is probably the last comment I will make about the film's content until it is finished. Film makers chatting about their projects as they are working on them just strikes me as a bad idea on a lot of levels. Film making is an intense, very expensive, trust based undertaking and the Director (especially but not exclusively) should treat everything he knows, sees, or is said to him as confidential.

Side note: That is true after the film is finished too. Maybe it's my Chicago upbringing, but I strongly feel "family business" should stay in the "family". People make a living doing this and I never want to say anything that could make that harder for someone. This can be difficult when erroneous information/assumptions about who made particular decisions, budgets, script changes, casting, and the like are tossed around publicly after a film comes out. Especially when it's done by people who were involved in the film and clearly know better. But my advice to a young film maker is to shut up and stay shutted up. It's more important that people trust you than the world hears your side of every bit of BS floating around the web.

Look at it this way - I've never been out of work in the last 12 years. I've gotten to write and/or direct the kind of projects I've always wanted to and I make a pretty good living doing something I love. I get to travel all over the world teaching technique and lecturing about the process and craft I am passionate about. If that sounds like a nice life then take my advice and don't try to convince fools and amateurs to agree with you. Smile, wish them well, and get back to doing what the Great Spirit In The Sky put you here to do.

Everyone you're all worked up about will be dead in a hundred years anyway. So will you by the way, so get back to your work!

Anyway I've just been swallowed up by the creative process and it's hard to pull my head out to talk about general theory when I'm so intensely involved in figuring out the precisely correct application of all these theories to specific problems of story telling, design, acting, camera, color, etc. I just don't have enough emotional distance to discuss abstracts right now. When things lighten up, I'll pick it up again.

But we can continue the Directors You Should Know discussion. So new "Director Post" in a few minutes.