Filmmaking Lessons from David Fincher

Back when DVD’s were a thing, it was always a joy to rent anything directed by David Fincher. Whether or not you enjoyed the movie itself didn’t really matter because every Fincher DVD came with the director’s invariably intelligent and thoughtful commentary track. If you paid attention, it was like a grad school class for filmmaking. You’d learn why he set up shots and edits in specific ways, the character development motivations for holding on to a long take or creating an elaborate, circling camera move. It was always my favorite part of the DVD experience.

Sadly, this piece doesn’t include any Fincher commentary, but it does show the amazing focus to detail he brings to pursuing his vision. Truly remarkable. The green screen sections starting around 3:47 are breathtaking…


The visual effects company behind this spectacular work is Artemple Hollywood. Creating a fantastic alien or a futuristic city on a distant planet is a true challenge, but creating visual effects that appear seamlessly invisible? Those are truly special effects. Wow.


Heard Any Good Movies Lately?

It’s amazing how well-produced and deftly-applied sound empowers a film. Much has been written about Hans Zimmer’s extensive use of “Shephard tones” in his soundtrack for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment.

I did however, just watch the trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s new star-studded horror movie Mother!  If you need a quick refresher on how to make music and SFX really work, watch this: Continue reading

This Weekend, I Saw The Future of Film Rendered In Breathtaking CGI

No, I didn’t see Avatar–though I will.  As a student of culture, I must.  In one month, Avatar’s already become the second highest worldwide release ever, behind Cameron’s own Titanic.  And this despite having a title set, as Element 79 art director Lindsay Stevens first noted, in the horrid Papyrus font.  But I digress…

Instead I saw this twelve and a half minute piece called “The Third and the Seventh” by Alex Roman on Vimeo.  Do yourself a favor and cleave off the time to watch this on your computer in full screen and HD.  If you can’t afford the time but can find a minute and a half, watch this.  And then remind yourself that despite the natural lighting, despite the seemingly hand-made erraticism of some camera moves and depth of focus changes, regardless of the incredible details of wear and tear on vintage film cameras and the botanic splendor of deciduous trees and waving shafts of wheat and grass…heck, notwithstanding even the appearance of a photographer in some of the scenes…none of it is real.

You really have to force yourself to fully absorb that.  None.  Of.  It.  Is.  Real.

Should you doubt that, watch this.  And if you want to see exactly how the filmmaker uses 3dsmax, Vray, After Effects and Premiere, he shows you.

In these times of Harry Potter and Transformers, the most remarkable cinematic effect of all is to see something utterly believable rendered staggeringly perfect through entirely artificial means.  The very invisibility of the effects in this piece will blow your mind.  What it means for the future of Hollywood and commercial set building remains to be seen, but this will be used.  And we’ll have more actors scampering across blue screens, only later to be turned into fantastic images and landscapes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Alex Roman (real name Jorge Seva) is a classically trained painter who spends his days working in the world of arch viz: architectural visualizations created through computer graphics.  Some amazing masterpieces of architecture appear in his film, including MAM, Milwaukee’s fabulous art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava.  For more information on this filmmaker, here’s the only substantive interview I could find, conducted early in the process as he was creating various pieces before they all coalesced into his final film.

“The Third and the Seventh” refers to pillars of Art: Architecture (third) and Cinema (seventh).  I’m not familiar with the entire list of pillars or their ranking, but I can speculate on the foundation of Art…


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

A Thought For The Week’s End

The Wikipedia essay on Jim Jarmusch details this director’s relentless quest for personal expression and his obstinate resistance to convention.  Given how critical the notion of originality is to this filmmaker, the following quote from a piece he wrote for MovieMaker titled “The Golden Rules of Filmmaking” may come as a surprise, and yet it perfectly reflects our post-modern, mashup world where we have ready access to so many varieties of stimulus: cultural, personal, historic.

Sadly, I don’t know who did the graphic design but it is aptly energetic and showcases his thinking memorably.  Think great thoughts and enjoy your Friday.

Austin Kleon — Director Jim Jarmusch on “borrowing” for art, from...

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79