This beginner’s technical breakdown of lighting is perfect for those just starting out.
If you’ve just started your filmmaking journey, lighting may not be on your radar quite yet—but it should be. It’s one of the most important elements of cinema not only because it’s the very thing that makes it possible, but because it’s one of the most powerful tools a filmmaker has to tell a story. If you’re a little intimidated, don’t worry. Yes, lighting can be complicated and yes, it’s going to take you years of practice to be any good at it, but this 30-minute video from Kevin of Basic Filmmaker breaks down almost every basic technical aspect of lighting, from color temperatures to lighting cable quality, to help give you a more sturdy foundation.
(Kevin highlights one mistake in the video: when he refers to CRI as Color Temperature Index. It stands for Color Rendering Index.)
Parrot potty training is a thing – and Japanese bird owners have apparently taken it to the next level with a potty that’s just for parrots. It looks kind of like an ashtray with a bird-shaped perch attached.
The parrot potty pictures are labeled with a hashtag referring to Japan’s unofficial Toilet Day, which falls on November 10.
As everyone knows (right?), the real Toilet Day falls on Nov. 19. So why is it different in Japan? Because “in Japanese, the numbers 11 and 10 can be read as ii toire, meaning ‘nice toilet.'” Read more…
Would X-Men franchise star Anna Paquin be interested in making a cameo on The Gifted as Rogue? Did you know Chris Hemsworth almost passed on playing Thor? Have you bought your Justice League tickets yet? Is Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi interested in returning to the franchise at all? Want to see Jeremy Renner‘s new look in Avengers 4? All that and more in this edition of Superhero Bits.
Baymax is back in action in a sneak preview of the Big Hero 6 animated series coming to Disney XD this fall.
In case you didn’t see, /Film was invited to screen a bunch of footage from Cars 3, which is about half the movie. You can read through our detailed reaction to the footage to see how it holds up against not just the rest of the Cars franchise but also Pixar’s body of work in general. But we wanted to call specific attention to a particular new character in the sequel who elevates the movie to a place that the Cars franchise has never reached before, at least from my perspective.
Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo) is a yellow 2017 CRS Sports Coupe who works as a trainer at the new Rust-eze Racing Center where Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is hoping to get the same state of the art technological training that has turned his rival Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) into a finely tuned racing machine who is dominating the track. She’s tech-savvy and upbeat and has no problems telling McQueen how slow and old he is, despite the fact that she’s been a big fan of his for years.
Initially it appears like this character is just a means to an end for Lightning McQueen to win yet another race, but a turn comes when the emotional core of Cars 3 is revealed, and the big beating heart of this sequel is just what the franchise needs. Find out more about Cruz Ramirez in Cars 3 after the jump, but beware of possible spoilers.
Cruz Ramirez Was Originally Male and a Farmer
When I sat down for an interview with director Brian Fee to talk about Cars 3 (we’ll share the full interview soon), I asked him what some of the huge changes were made between early development and the long road that a Pixar movie has to take before the story is finalized (which still fluctuates even while the film is being animated). It turns out one of the major changes involved the character of Cruz Ramirez. While the character is a female race trainer in the final version of Cars 3 we’ll see this summer; originally the character was a male farmer. Brian Fee explained:
“Cruz was a male character. The story took place in central California. Cruz was a farmer and was completely different. McQueen was just on this journey throughout the central valley of California and he happened upon Cruz. He was kinda handcuffed with Cruz throughout the journey. We always had a mentor story looking at McQueen and Doc’s relationship and then looking at McQueen and Cruz’s relationship. Then the story went through completely different changes where we kept that mentorship, but we moved them across the country to the South, and we were looking at McQueen’s career as a racer a little more.”
Eventually, Cruz became female and received the design that you see in the concept art above. But for a brief while, the mentorship part of the story took a backseat to the movie becoming a more typical sports flick with the mentoring element used as more of an undercurrent. But Pixar determined that angle wasn’t working, and they brought that mentor relationship back to the core of the movie. It’s a good thing they did because it gives Cruz a wonderful story arc where it’s not just about her helping McQueen.
Cruz Ramirez’s Secret
In the footage presentation shown to us, the final sequence that we saw in Pixar’s private theater had Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez getting into an argument. McQueen flat out tells her that she doesn’t understand racing because she’s just a trainer, and he’s sick of wasting his time trying to get her to understand where he needs to be in order to get his career back on track. Suddenly, Cruz loses her chipper personality and gets somber and serious.
Cruz Ramirez tells Lightning that she didn’t have dreams of becoming the trainer who prepares other cars to hit the race track. She wanted to be a racer herself. In this heartfelt scene, she explains how she loved racing growing up and saved all her money to go to the races and studied the sport her whole life. During this story she still refers to Lightning as Mr. McQueen, showing the respect that she still has for her fallen idol, even in this vulnerable time. She’s a car who has racing in her heart, and she wanted to be a racer because of Lightning McQueen.
Even though her family told her to “dream small,” she still persevered and made strides towards become a real racer. But when she entered her first race, she felt out of place. She says the other racers didn’t look anything like her because they were all so big and confident, just the sound of their engines said as much. And she gave up.
This adds such a meaningful layer to her character. Cruz Ramirez isn’t a character who was held back by a glass ceiling or adversity but only her own self-doubt. In comparing herself to the racers around her, she feels inadequate, out of place, and unable to follow through on her dreams. That’s something that anyone can identify with, but there’s a thread here, albeit possibly but doubtfully unintentional, that ties Cruz’s story to that of immigrant families and the difficulty children from these units have in succeeding because they’re intimidated by the status quo. This especially holds significance with a comedian like Cristela Alonzo voicing the character. Producer Kevin Reher even says:
“We were inspired by Cristela’s story. Stand-up comedy is an intimidating industry for a newcomer and Cristela had to find her way despite huge odds. Cruz’s passion for racing is pretty reflective of Cristela’s experience.”
Cruz Ramirez is a character that will resonate with anyone who has ever had self-doubt and lacked confident in themselves. It’s not just a character meant to appeal to female audiences, though that will be a side-effect of her creation, but a character that gives a voice to those who maybe need the right motivation and encouragement to succeed in following their dreams.
The Future of the Franchise?
Cruz Ramirez is a prominent character in Cars 3, but since we’ve only seen half the movie, we don’t entirely know where she ends up just yet. However, knowing her backstory and the obstacles that she has to overcome, I have a feeling that Cruz will eventually realize her dream to become a racer. In fact, since this movie is about Lightning McQueen, perhaps in the last leg of his career, I think this would be a fine time to pass the torch of the franchise from McQueen to Ramirez. And it seems as if Pixar might be thinking that too.
Right now there is a traveling Cars 3: Road to the Races tour that has life-size versions of Lightning McQueen, Cruz Ramirez and Jackson Storm for fans to see and take pictures with. What’s interesting is that Cruz Ramirez looks a little different than she does in all the footage that we’ve seen so far. Here’s an image of the real-life Cruz Ramirez:
Notice anything different from how she looks in the above images? Not only does she have those blue rims, but she also has some noticeable aesthetic changes that indicate she becomes a race car. Not only does she become a race car, but she’s sponsored by the big time fuel company Dinoco, the company that Lightning McQueen was so desperate to land in the first Cars movie.
This isn’t a look that we saw the character have in any of the footage screened at Pixar and there isn’t a single shot of her in the trailer with these modifications. There’s a chance this is just a cosmetic change to make her look a little cooler on display, but more than likely, it’s because, by the end of Cars 3, she finally follows her dream of being a racer. And who better to continue the Cars franchise than a character who had to overcome her own self-doubt in order to reach her goals.
Here’s hoping Cruz Ramirez actually becomes a racer and carries on the franchise. If you want to see Cruz in person, see where the tour is stopping through the spring and early summer over here. Otherwise, we’ll see what happens when Cars 3 arrives on June 12.
Cult film director Gary Sherman remembers casting his signature 1972 horror masterpiece Death Line
In the early 1970s, young Chicago-based commercial filmmaker Gary Sherman found himself in London and inexplicably getting complete creative control over a fully-funded British horror film that he co-wrote and directed. That movie was 1972’s Death Line, one of the most remarkable, revolting and ultimately emotionally affecting genre movies not only of its decade, but of all time.
Inspired by the story of notorious cannibalistic Scottish highwayman Sawney Bean, the horrifying fate of The Donner Party and the creation of the London Underground, Death Line tells the bone-chilling tale of the sole surviving descendant of a cave-in during those long-ago early tunnel digs who, after being born and raised cannibalizing the dead, has emerged from under the subway tracks and is now dragging hapless British commuters into his moldering, blood and bone draped lair while frantically searching for a new mate to carry on his diseased lineage.
A clear precursor to Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Pete Walker’s Frightmare, Death Line sports a solid and often darkly hilarious performance by the great Donald Pleasence as a Police Inspector trying to get to the bottom of the mystery and a cameo by the legendary Christopher Lee. Starring as “the monster” was actor Hugh Armstrong and while one cannot imagine any actor doing a better job, it’s a little known fact that Sherman almost cast Hollywood legend Marlon Brando in the role.
With Blue Underground prepping to release the film totally uncut in a 2K scan on Blu-ray on June 27th, we spoke at length to Sherman about the making of the movie. In this excerpt he discusses not only how he landed Lee – then the biggest actor in the genre due to his run as Dracula – to appear in the film but the tale on how Brando flirted with fictional cannibalism in the sewers and subway tunnels of London.
ComingSoon.net: How did Christopher Lee end up in Death Line?
Gary Sherman: First of all, (producer) Paul (Maslansky) was very close friends with Christopher Lee, and Christopher was over at Paul’s flat, having dinner with him and said, “What are you doing?” And Paul told him, and he said, “Oh, let me read the script.” So, Christopher reads the script and says, “I’ll be in this movie, if I don’t have to wear teeth.”
CS: Of course. At that point he was just sick of all that, for sure.
Sherman: Yeah. It was right at the point that Christopher announced that he was never going to wear the teeth again. Anyways, there, actually, there was this connection with, you know, with MI-5 in the original script, but there wasn’t a character representing him, I thought. You know what? I’m getting a little ahead of myself. When I wrote the script, I had Donald Pleasence in mind for Inspector Calhoun. And so, I ended up flying to New York. Donald was on Broadway doing Man in the Glass Booth. And, so, he was just about to close that and coming back to London, but we wanted to lock him in, so I flew to New York, gave Donald the script, and he read it, and he loved it, and said, “Oh! Man! I wanna do this. Nobody offers me comedy. And even though it’s a scary movie, you know, my part is all comedy. And I love it. And I love the juxtaposition of the comedy against the horror.” So, we signed Donald. So, when Paul was having dinner with Chris Lee, because Chris, at the time, was the most expensive actor in Europe Because of Dracula. And, you know, the Hammer films. And there was no way, I mean, what Chris used to get paid for a movie was more than our whole budget.
Sherman: So, Chris said, “If I don’t have to wear the teeth and I can do a scene with Donald Pleasence, I will do this for scale.” So… I wrote that scene. (Laughs).
CS: That’s amazing.
Sherman: So, anyhow… so, now we had Donald Pleasence and Chris Lee and Norm Rossington. And Jay Cantor, who had been Marlon Brando’s agent, throughout his entire career says, “God, I wonder if Marlon would want to play the monster? He’s in Paris right now, working with Bertolucci on some crazy movie. So, let me call Marlon, and let me send him the script, and see if he wants to do it!” And so, Jay does. And Marlon, who, Jay says, “Marlon loves make-up. He loves putting the make-up on!” Because, you know, he had that idea, when Francis wanted him for Godfather, and nobody at Paramount wanted him in Godfather…he went and he came up with that whole idea of stuffing his mouth with Kleenex and he went in and blew them away.
Sherman: And so, I know he loves doing that kind of stuff. So, anyways, Marlon agreed to do it.
Marlon Brando in 1972’s The Nightcomers
CS: Well he’d also just done a horror film with Michael Winner prior to this, 1972’s The Nightcomers.
Sherman: Yeah, which Jay and Laddie (Alan Ladd Jr.) had produced.
CS: Oh, well, there you go. Okay.
Sherman: It was a Jay Cantor, Alan Ladd Jr. and Elliot Kastner who did The Nightcomers. I mean, there were no two people closer than Jay Cantor and Marlon Brando. And, so, anyways, then, at the eleventh hour, Marlon’s son, Christian, comes down with pneumonia in Los Angeles and is, like, on a critical list. So, Marlon has to jump on a plane and goes back to Los Angeles, and we lost Marlon. Which, I mean, we weren’t going to advertise the fact- I mean the whole idea was, is that Marlon is gonna do it and we were never gonna tell any- we were not gonna put his name on the movie, and it was just kind of gonna get leaked out that, “Maybe that’s Marlon Brando” (Laughs).
One of the most magical parts of Moana is the very first scene, in which an infant Moana waddles up to the shore and discovers that the Ocean is actually alive. Wordlessly, she coos and plays with the waves, and the waves playfully toss her about as well, leading her observing grandmother to realize that Moana is the Chosen One.
But that gorgeously rendered and enchanting scene almost didn’t make it into the movie. In fact, it was never meant to be in the final film at all, according to directors Ron Clements and John Musker. The scene was originally created as test footage, to see if they had the technology to render a sentient, alive Ocean. But test audiences loved the footage so much that the filmmakers had to find a way to put it in the movie.
Musker told the Huffington Post they wanted to explore the idea of a sentient Ocean before they even settled on the idea of making Moana. “And this test was the very first footage to be animated for this film,” Musker said.
Clements and Musker tapped story-artist-turned-director Chris Williams (who would go on to co-direct the Oscar-winning movie Big Hero 6) to create the sequence. Williams drew from his own personal experience of taking his two-year-old daughter to the ocean for the first time and watching her play with the waves, and a magical scene was born.
Williams boarded the test scene and — with the assistance of Moana art director/production designer Bill Schwab, who came up with the adorable toddler version of this film’s title character – put together just what Clements and Musker asked for. In fact, he did it a little too well. The original test footage (in the video clip below) was so popular with test audiences that Clements and Musker were constantly asked “Where does it fit in the movie?”
Hank Driskell, a technical supervisor on Moana, remembered the overwhelming success of the footage:
“At this point, that Baby-Moana-meets-the-Ocean test footage had kind of taken on a life of its own. It wound up being shown at the D23 EXPO. And even though it wasn’t even part of this film’s storyline at that time, it was so adorable and so many people had fallen in love with it that the story team eventually decided that they had to find a way to integrate this test footage into the story.”
But the scene didn’t fit with Clements and Musker’s original storyline for the film, which had Moana meeting the Ocean when she was a teenager. Musker recounted:
“For a long time while we were working on this movie, Moana didn’t actually ‘meet’ the Ocean, realize that it was a living thing until she was a 16 year-old. But the only problem with that Moana-meets-the-Ocean scene was that it wasn’t nearly as charming or powerful as that test footage that Chris had put together. We tried multiple versions of this introductory scene with Moana as a 16 year-old. But none of them were as good or as strong as what Chris had done.”
The filmmakers and crew struggled to organically fit the Baby Moana sequence into the movie. When they finally did, “there was this audible sigh of relief in the building,” David Pimental, Moana’s Head of Story said. “People here were saying things like ‘She’s in!,’ “It worked!’ It was such a good day.”
And we were blessed with an wonderful scene — in a year filled with adorable baby versions of beloved characters (Hey Dory!) — that elevated the film to become one of the best Disney animated films of the past decade.
Here’s the scene — in the international trailer for Moana — as it was shown in the final movie:
Three SXSW cinematographers share death-defying stories from the field, plus great tips for any DP on and off set.
Climbing mountains while filming an unbroken shot, scaling the sides of skyscrapers, hanging out of moving cars trying to grab footage…
These are only some of the feats that cinematographers have to face in the line of duty, and the three DPs on this episode of the No Film School podcast have lived to tell the tales—barely.
At SXSW last month, No Film School host Liz Nord spoke with three cinematographers with three very different films in the festival. Autumn Eakin shot Jessica M. Thompson’s realist, contemporary The Light of the Moon, which won the Narrative Feature Audience Award at the festival. James Axel West shot Adam Keleman’s stylish, ‘70s-referencing drama Easy Living, and Shane King shot Jennifer M. Kroot’s feature documentary The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin, which won the Audience Award in the festival’s Documentary Spotlight section.
This summer will mark 18 years since The Blair Witch Project took the box office by storm, becoming one of the first viral sensations at the cinema. Some audiences weren’t sure whether the movie they were watching was real or not thanks to a clever marketing campaign creating a fake ghost story online (when the internet wasn’t anywhere near as widely used or quite as untrustworthy) about a witch in Burkittsville, Maryland. The movie scared the hell out of people, especially the troubling ending. But it turns out that ending was almost drastically different and potentially not as frightening.
Find out about The Blair Witch Project alternate endings below.
Entertainment Weekly recently talked with Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez about the ending of the movie, which was always something they struggled with. Myrick explains:
“We didn’t want to lead the audience on this entire build-up and then just cut to black; there needed to be some kind of what-the-f–k moment at the end, but at the same time we didn’t want to see a person in a bad witch costume come out and grab them.”
Sanchez adds that their extremely low budget made it difficult to create a satisfying payoff at the end, and that’s why it ends in a way that is somewhat anti-climactic, but no less scary:
“We didn’t have any money, so we couldn’t do any special effects so we had to figure out how to end it without ruining the rest of the film. We came up with the idea three days before we shot it. We thought it was great — kind of unexplained, but it gave you the idea that something supernatural was happening.”
The ending of the movie shows Mike (Michael Williams) standing in the corner (seen above), a reference to a story they’d heard from a resident they interviewed while shooting their documentary. Suddenly Heather (Heather Donahue), who was holding the camera through which we see Mike in the corner, screams crazily before being hit in the head, knocking the camera down and giving the movie quite the grim ending.
It turns out that audiences were confused by that ending, but they weren’t any less scared. Myrick says, “When asked if they were scared, 19 out of 20 hands went up.” Even so, Artisan Entertainment was a little worried about audience confusion, and they wanted Myrick and Sanchez to shoot something more definitive.
Since the directing duo didn’t have the money to shoot the endings they initially thought of, Artisan gave them they money they needed to shoot them. All the endings gave Mike a much more horrible ending including having him hanging from a noose, crucifying him on one of the film’s signature stick men, and just having a bloodied chest. In addition to the endings, they shot one more thing.
Sanchez and Myrick were still hopeful to keep their original ending, because, “What makes us fearful is something that’s out of the ordinary, unexplained. The first ending kept the audience off balance; it challenged our real-world conventions, and that’s what really made it scary,” said Myrick. So that’s where they shot the pick-up scene where one of their interview subjects tells the story of the killer Rustin Parr, who made kids stand in the corner while he killed his other victims, giving the ending clearer significance.
Even though studio executives were hesitant, they let the duo keep their original ending, and the rest is history.
We reviewed the Panasonic UX180 camera, which aims to cover all of the bases—and almost succeeds.
The Panasonic UX180 is intended as a “do anything camera,” with ergonomics and workflow that make it good for live events, documentaries, ENG, BTS, and more. It follows in a lineage of cameras like the DVX-100 and HVX-200 that were once popular not only for ENG work, but also for narrative content—though that narrative market is now often covered by DSLRs.
Making one camera that covers all the bases is hard, and to truly have a camera that does everything well is impossible. Inevitably, sacrifices will need to happen. While the UX180 comes close to really being good at everything, it has a few weaknesses that make it the right choice for only certain subjects.
The rolling shutter makes this camera less than ideal for sports or heavy action work.
Below, we reviewed a UX180 that Panasonic loaned us for several weeks and tested it in a variety of situations.
In Die Hard 2, John McClane (Bruce Willis) found himself trapped in a bigger building, Dulles Airport, with hundreds of more people at risk than the original hostage situation he thwarted in Die Hard. To show the new terrorists are even deadlier than the Nakatomi thieves, Col. Stuart (William Sadler) crashes a plane full of passengers when his demands are not met.
Screenwriter Steven E. de Souza revealed that the studio filmed a second plane crash sequence. Why did they do this? Find out after the jump.
Speaking at a 30th-anniversary screening of his film The Running Man, de Souza revealed that the studio wanted to hedge their bets on the collateral damage, and thus shot a second plane crash in which far fewer innocent people would die, just in case.
“In fact, the studio insisted,” de Souza said. “They said, ‘You can’t kill all those people. We’ll lose the audience. It has to be a UPS plane.’ They actually spent money and they filmed a model UPS plane crashing as a fallback position in case the audience left the theater when we crashed the plane after we put the seat belt on the little girl’s teddy bear. Only two people died, a lot of packages are gone.”
It’s surprising that this alternate footage has not shown up on any Die Hard 2 DVDs or Blu-rays. A test audience ensured that the version of Die Hard 2 we all know today made it to the screen.
“Fortunately the audience loved the movie at the test screening and we kept it in,” de Souza said. “For a while, if you didn’t count George Lucas blowing up Princess Leia’s planet, that was the highest body count movie because of the plane crash with imaginary people in it.”
There was an important reason de Souza wanted to show such mass casualties. Die Hard presented McClane as an everyman hero. Having survived Nakatomi made it more difficult to believe McClane was in any real danger in future adventures. If McClane’s triumph was a given, he could still struggle and fail, to save other lives.
“Since then he’s become a superhero in the sequels,” de Souza said. “In fact, in the first sequel, in order to try and get that vulnerability in there, that’s why I crashed the plane. We knew he’d live because of the first movie, but I had to have him have big, colossal failures. That’s why I invented his desperate attempt to signal the plane.”