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Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Sex Party E1362691463335

A couple of weeks ago Evan Luzi of the Black and Blue wrote a fantastic post entitled 25 Filmmaking Terms that Sound Like Sex Acts (and What They Actually Mean), I thoroughly enjoyed the post and even added “ubangi” to the comments section of his site. Definitely give it a read, and check out some of his other posts, he is doing great stuff.
That post made me realize that there are hundreds of sexual sounding terms we use every day on set and many of them just so happen to belong to grip & lighting! Although these are mostly terms we use In Canada, I’ll give it a shot…

Here are 25 Grip & Lighting Terms that Sound Sexual & What They Really Mean

1. Butt plug – This is a 2k to 750 adapter. Not all stands have the combo ability, so a butt plug is used to “plug” the 2k hole of a stand and make it a 750 spigot. Why would you use this? Well, sometimes you just need a much beefier stand for a small fixture, like when it needs to go really high and no other stand will cut it.
2. Lollypop – This piece of grip gear allows you to add a heavy duty, larger puck + 2k hole to any 2k stand. Great for when you’re putting grip arms on 2k stands or even for butterfly frames.
3. Rimmer – A “rimmer” or “rim light” is back light used to separate the subject from the background.
4. Whip – This is another term for an extension cord or cable run. “Run a whip out to me, please”
5. U-bangi – This is used to off set a camera from a dolly. The term “u-bangi” refers to the lip ornament used by the Sara tribe of Africa. Not the most politically correct term, lets try to call it an offset from now on.
6. Spoon – We all know the saying “Spooning leads to forking”, well this type of spoon leads to a lower camera position. The spoon (A.K.A. Enterprise) allows you to get the camera just that little bit lower when on a dolly in low mode.
7. Jelly Roll – The Canadian term for a rolled up sound blanket (A.K.A. Sound Blanket Burrito) Learn how to roll up your own.
8. Head Cable (A.K.A. Header) – This is the cable that allows you to attach HMI’s or KinoFlos to their ballast.
9. F**k the Truck – This term is used to remind the electrics that the male end always runs toward the power source. Anyone that has ever run 500 feet of sea-way backwards knows how important having such a term in the back of your mind is.
10. Pads, Wedges & Pancakes - Used to level dolly track. It never quite sat right with me when the Key Grip asked me to spread around some pads and wedges for him.
11. Fill it in – Usually called out by the Key Grip or Dolly Grip once they are done leveling and want someone to fill in the empty spaces.
12. S**t Coil – Sounds like something that could be done in some weird German film, this term is often used for a poorly wrapped piece of cable. “Who made all the s**t coils?”
13. Ball Buster – Another term for a poorly wrapped piece of cable. This one refers to sea-way when it hasn’t been wrapped the correct size causing too much of one end to be left hanging lose. When picked up the lose end can easily hit you in the…balls…I’ve also heard this term used for heavier, 35lb sandbags.
14. Open Holes - This refers to live, open holes in seaway or power towers. Open holes are dangerous and hearing “No open holes!” over the walkie talkie is nothing new. Jason Winget adds the phrase “Get your fingers out of the holes!”
15. Horse C**k -  A slang term for thick cable, like 2OT or 4OT. No one wants to run cable at 6am, especially not horse c**k.
16. Pig Tail – A Short piece of cable with a U-Ground on one end and a bulb socket on the other. Usually used with china balls or for getting light bulbs in odd places.
17. Mombo Combo – The official name for a very large collapsible stand. Mombo Combos are extremely useful, but often times a bit of a head ache to deal with. Almost sounds like a weird courtship dance you would do with a partner.
18. Best Boy Grip – “Best Boy” in general sounds a little gross, but there is something about “best boy grip” that just doesn’t sit right.
19. Undersling – This grip & lighting term basically refers to using a stand or piece of gear in an out of the ordinary way, like setting grip arms upside down.
20. Low Mode – Another dolly term, this means using a dolly in its lowest configuration. I do beleive there are other situations where you can use the term. Feel free to share in the comments.
21. Drop the Skirt – A “skirt” refers to when you use duvetyne to control sources like china balls. The light actually ends up looking like it is wearing a skirt. A skirt can also just be duvetyne hung horizontally across a set to keep light off of one of the walls.
22. Top Stick – This term refers to when you have reached the maximum height of your stand. So, the next time a spark calls out “That’s the top of my stick” try not to giggle.

23. Hand Squeezer – A dimmer.
24. Beaver Board – This is an American term for a 750 base plate (A.K.A. Baby nail on plate / Baby pin) drilled into a pad / pancake.

Added by our Readers

25. DP – Not exactly grip and lighting, but I think this one should definitely be on the list. We all know “DP” stands for “Director of Photography”, but how many times have you had a non film friend snicker when they hear you say “I DP’d that” – This one comes from local Toronto Director / Cinematographer Cabot McNenly. Have a look at his very beautiful reel HERE.
26. Juice is lose – This is what is often announced over the radio when the BB or electrician turns the generator online. Added by Jason Winget
27. Hot Box – Hot box is how we refer to any distribution box that is energized.. And it can get naughty… “Thats a hot box, stick it in there”. Added by Jason Winget.

Well, what do you think? Are some of these wrong or do you think you can come up with a better definition?
Do you have a couple of gross sounding terms up your sleeve? Do you work with a crew that coins your own terms? Please share in the comments section below!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

'Naked Lunch' (1991)
The Grand High Master of turning "unfilmable" books into unforgettable movies (remember "Crash"? Of course you do!), David Cronenberg took William S. Burroughs' stream-of-consciousness junkie memoir and turned it into both a twisted alt-world biopic and cinematic love letter to its one-of-a-kind author. Peter Weller (never better) is Bill Lee, an exterminator-writer who descends into Interzone, where he talks to typewriters that turn into giant bugs and dabbles in shadowy conspiracies involving a race of creatures known as Mugwumps. Or something. It's awesome, and it's all Cronenberg, all the time. No one else could touch this madness with a ten-foot pole.

'Unforgiven' (1992)
If "Naked Lunch" is all Cronenberg, then this classic revenge drama and morality play disguised as a Western is pure Clint Eastwood. Probably Eastwood's best work as a director, "Unforgiven" tells the dark tale of retired gunslinger William Munny, "a known thief and murderer, a man of notoriously vicious and intemperate disposition," who must come to terms with the fact that he's better at killin' than farmin' when he's called upon to avenge the disfigurement of a prostitute at the hands of thugs. "Unforgiven" could in many ways be seen as "the last Western," and it's only fitting that it's our most famous movie cowboy who made it.

'Groundhog Day' (1993)
One of the darkest dark comedies ever made and one of cinema's most classic existential conundrums, "Groundhog Day" could've easily become stuck in its own dramatic loop were it not given so much forward momentum by the singular talents of star Bill Murray. Sure, you could probably tell this oddly sinister holiday fable today, but it just wouldn't be the same without Murray as Phil Connors, a weatherman whose life becomes a Beckett play when he finds himself forced to repeat the same day over and over in the same nowheresville Pennsylvania town until he "gets it right." Murray seems more in his element here than in his other one-man showcase/holiday movie, "Scrooged," and director Harold Ramis has never been more confident.

'Pulp Fiction' (1994)
Don't even think about it. Ever. For almost everyone on the planet, the '90s were Quentin Tarantino. And if there is an A-Number-One '90s Tarantino movie, it's probably "Pulp Fiction." Please, Hollywood, don't ever touch this. You'd see the smoke from the moon.

'Clueless' (1995)
Director Amy Heckerling's '90s-era Beverly Hills remix of Jane Austen's "Emma" was the alternative screening choice during the summer of '95 for those tired of being pummeled into submission by the season's big loud action offerings like "Die Hard With a Vengeance," "Batman Forever" and, uh, "Johnny Mnemonic." One of the decade's funniest comedies, "Clueless" just simply couldn't exist today without the very, very '90s kind of materialism -- and matchmaking methods -- embraced by our heroine, Cher Horowitz (Alicia Silverstone, who somewhat unfortunately would never give a better performance). You'd have to account for Facebook and Twitter and Texting and Instagram and all that crap if you were going to make this movie today, and really, who cares about that stuff?

'Heat' (1995)
Michael Mann's "Los Angeles crime saga" could've only been made by Michael Mann. His meticulous obsession with every single detail, from the weapons used during the game-changing heist sequence to the color of Tom Sizemore's socks, is what makes "Heat" one of the most authentic and satisfying action epics of all time. And "Heat" would be rendered barely half as effective if it didn't also serve as the much-hyped team-up of dramatic heavyweights Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, whose first on-screen meeting had them sizing each other up over a cup of coffee (and no doubt trading "The Godfather Part II" stories in-between takes). It was a collaboration that was only meant to happen once, as evidenced by the wretched "Righteous Kill," released 13 years later.

'Showgirls' (1995) 
"Showgirls" already gave us everything -- who would dare ask it to give any more? Really, Paul Verhoeven's instant cult classic went from being one of the most reviled films in the history of cinema to one of the most brilliant (well, let's not go that far ... actually, why the hell not?) as we realized as the years went by that it kind of wants us to hate it. In fact, it dares us to hate it. In fact, isn't it kind of lovable how awful this big, gaudy, indulgent, vulgar schlockfest really is? Really, no drunken slumber party is complete without the Blu-ray of this thing, and no modern-day update could come close to delivering its forbidden sorta-pleasures.

'The Usual Suspects' (1995)
Really, what could a new version of Bryan Singer's classic noir mystery possibly contribute to the world? We would never, ever, under any circumstances need a reboot of the tale of notorious criminal kingpin Keyser Soze and the two-bit thieves who get involved in his secret dangerous world. Really, the only thing any filmmaker could possibly do with this is pull a Gus Van Sant and do a shot-for-shot remake, just to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that, like Van Sant's "Psycho," there was absolutely no point whatsoever in engaging in such an endeavor. Actually, Soze himself might appreciate such a devious stunt.

The Big Lebowski' (1998) 
There may be more than one Jeffrey Lebowski, but there is only one Dude. Abide, Hollywood.

'Fight Club' (1999)
If there was ever a classic of pre-millennial tension and '90s-era spiritual discontent, it's David Fincher's "Fight Club." It was the perfect movie with which to close not only the '90s but the entire 20th century as our unnamed Narrator (Edward Norton) literally beats the crap out of himself in basements whilst scheming to blow symbols of runaway consumerism (like, you know, credit card company highrises) to smithereens, all while hiding behind an alter ego who looks like Brad Pitt. Sure, "Fight Club" is still relevant today, but the 21st century should find its own angry anti-heroes, no?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

For the past twenty years of film history, cinematic storytelling was the only way to convey story. As sync sound was not invented, movies like The Great Train Robbery, Metropolis, and The Battleship Potemkin had to use non-dialog techniques to carry character and plot. Titles cards were used when explanations were necessary, but always as a last resort.

Camera placement, lighting, composition, motion and editing were relied on as the primary storyteller. Cinematic tools, like camera, were not just used to record the scene. Instead, they were responsible for advancing plot and character. There was no dialog to default to.

After soaund came in 1926, dialog and voice-narration soon appeared in movies. These device, borrowed from novel and plays. Were literary in origin, and were floated on top of the moving picture. Many purist bemoaned the coming of sound, while others saw enhancement. In either case, both storytelling system were available to screenwriters and directors.

+Cinematic storytelling : Jennifer Van Sijil

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ron Howard’s Oscar-winning A Beautiful Mind unfolds as a psycho-thriller, mental-illness melodrama, and touching romance (depending on the scene), but fits into a peg hole easier than the unpredictable story behind it. While watching Ben Affleck’s historical drama-thriller Argo, I had the feeling it was taking similar liberties so as to likewise create (as Screen Rant‘s Kofi Outlaw put in his review) “worthwhile genre entertainment (no more, no less).”

That hunch turned out to be correct, but it raises the question: Would a ‘facts-only’ version of Argo have made for better or weaker entertainment – not to mention more (or less) relevant cultural resonance? Well, that’s what we’re here to investigate.

Argo, like Beautiful Mind, plays out as a clever mix of genre formulas. The opening minutes feel lifted from a documentary about the 1970s Iranian Revolution; grainy photography from Rodrigo Prieto allows stock footage to blend seamlessly with the actual film. Affleck’s direction and Chris Terrio’s script allows the film to smoothly shift from white-knuckle thriller to CIA socio-political drama, Hollywood satire, and back to high-tension yarn during the third act. In order to reach the sweaty-palm climax, though, a fair amount of exaggeration takes place.

In David Haglund’s article for Slate, it’s pointed out that virtually all the obstacles Argo throws at Affleck’s CIA agent Tony Mendez and the six endangered American embassy escapees during the third act were, in fact, made up. The reason things went so much smoother in real-life? It turns out Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor (played by Victor Garber) and a fellow embassy employee John Sheardown – who does not appear in the film – were more involved with the rescue effort than the movie suggests. The two not only helped scout out the Iran airport in advance, but also purchased the Americans’ tickets, coached them in having a Canadian accent, and were even responsible for setting the rescue plan in motion to begin with

However, at the end of the day, sticking closer to the facts might have resulted in an Argo movie that’s less accessible and watchable for your average moviegoer; though, on the hand, also one more thoughtful and even-handed than your average cinematic sermon from Hollywood. The path Affleck took played to his strengths as a storyteller, more so than a different strategy would have. Maybe somewhere down the road, as Affleck continues to gain confidence (not to mention, credibility) as a director, he will strive to break further away from convention than he has so far. That’s all the more feasible, assuming he continues to develop at the same pace as he has with his first three films.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Based on Joseph Conrad's first novel, the movie tells the story of a Dutch trader, Almayer, struggling to survive in Malaysia at the turn of the 19th century. Almayer's dream of finding a mythical gold mountain is at odds with his plotting wife, colonial authorities, the political machinations of a local chief with Arab traders, and his daughter's love for a freedom-fighting Malay prince.


Almayer is a lone Dutch trader grubbing to survive in colonial Malaysia. He sends his 10-year-old daughter Nina to Singapore to be educated as a Westerner, much to the distress of her mother, Mem, a local woman of Betawi origin. The couple stop speaking to each other as a result.
When Nina returns as a beautiful woman ten years later, she finds the family home and business in dire straits because of Almayer's obsession with finding gold in the mountains. Her return rekindles interest in the Almayer household, bringing in new business that allows Almayer to build a lavish new house in his compound.

Nina's presence attracts a number of suitors, including the nephew of a prominent Arab who asks for Nina’s hand in marriage. Almayer rejects the proposal, however, igniting an animosity between the traders that helps lead to Almayer's later downfall. Almayer guards Nina jealously as he sees her as an important part of his unrealistic dreams. He believes her beauty, combined with the gold he expects to unearth, will help him build a trading empire and fulfill his fantasy of a glorious future back in Europe, a world he has never seen.
A handsome Malay prince and trader named Dain Maroola enters the scene. Dain wants to buy gunpowder through Almayer. Almayer doesn’t question why the man wants explosives. Dain manipulates him with tales of the legendary gold mountain of which he claims to know the location.
As Almayer’s trading post prospers, he believes he is in reach of his dreams and readies boats and equipment for his gold-seeking expedition. In his fanaticism, he doesn’t notice Dain and Nina fall in love.
Mother Mem knows Almayer won't tolerate such a union. Given the deep animosity she feels toward her husband, she fuels and encourages the relationship while keeping Almayer in the dark.
Dain turns out to be a Malay freedom fighter who uses the purchased gunpowder to blow up a Dutch vessel at the mouth of the river. Now an outlaw, the British and Dutch military hunt along the river.
When Dain's men are attacked by colonial forces during a violent tropical storm, Dain is believed killed. Almayer fears he has lost his chances to find gold and goes on an alcohol-fueled binge. He doesn't know that Dain faked his own death and eloped with Nina. When he learns the truth from Mem, Almayer heads off in pursuit of the couple up river, determined that his daughter will not leave for a Malay.
When Almayer finds the couple, he's unable to convince his daughter to return. Heartbroken, he helps them escape and returns to his new house, which he burns down. Alienated and distraught, he is left with only his shattered dreams and the burned ruins of "Almayer's Folly".

[edit]Director’s statement[3]

Hanyut is a story about a cosmopolitan society living and working together along a riverbank somewhere in Malaysia. It attracted many sea travelers seeking opportunity and rewards.
It gives us a window into the Malay society in Malaysia in the late 19th century: A highly competitive mix of indigenous Malays, tribal aborigines, Europeans, Arabs, Indians and Chinese living and working together.
Although the book starts out as though it is from the perspective of the European protagonist, the narrative is dynamic. By the end of the story the protagonist (and the audience) discover the understanding of his own insignificance.
In the beginning of the story Almayer appears to be at the center of society, but in the end we see that he is very much peripheral and alienated, and that the real cultural, political and economic life of the community is located elsewhere and involves other people besides himself.


  • Written and directed by
  • Producers
    • Julia Fraser ... producer
    • U-Wei Haji Saari ... executive producer
  • Cast
    • Peter O'Brien ... Kasper Almayer
    • Diana Danielle ... Nina
    • Sofia Jane ... Mem
    • Adi Putra ... Dain Maroola
    • Khalid Salleh ... Orang Kaya Tinggi
  • Cinematographers
    • Arkadiusz Tomiak
  • Editors
    • Kate James
  • Production company
    • Tanah Licin Sdn Bhd


  1. ^ "Hanyut The Movie"Yahoo Movies. Malaysia: Yahoo. 2011.
  2. ^ "Hanyut the Movie"Kuala Lumpur: Golden Screens Cinemas. 2011.
  3. ^ Bissme (2011-02-16). "Hanyut/Almayer's Folly (2011) ~ Bissme vs. U-Wei". Kuala Lumpur: Ajami Hashim. Retrieved 18 February 2011.

[edit]External links

In 1910 Sir William Mackenzie hired Robert Flaherty to prospect the vast area east of the Hudson Bay for its railway and mineral potential. Over the course of several years and through four lengthy expeditions Flaherty had frequent contact with the region’s Inuit (Eskimo) people. He was taken by their traditional survival skills, and found an unexpected spirituality in this northern extreme—a profound cultural grace and dignity in a wickedly unforgiving environment. He also knew that he was witness to and a harbinger of its obliteration. What could be done? On one of his expeditions, Flaherty brought along a motion picture camera.

Nanook of the North was not initially intended as a documentary, a genre which had not even been defined at the time of the film’s production. As Flaherty’s widow Frances affirms in the interview featured on this disc, the film was made with an eye for commercial distribution and exhibition, and for audiences accustomed to narrative fiction films. Flaherty was not an ethnographer, but he was building his story out of the materials of real life. In this he was blazing cinematic trails, and even though the tenets of anthropological filmmaking were not nearly in place, it is remarkable how much he still managed to get right. Initiating a practice that would later become fundamental ethnographic etiquette, Flaherty developed each day’s footage and screened it for the participants, who were encouraged to make suggestions. Since the Inuit were the authorities on their own lives, many of these suggestions were incorporated into the film. Consistent with this substantial artistic collaboration, and contrary to a narrative and stylistic impulse that would prevail elsewhere for many more years, Flaherty does not intrude on his subject. He is not the star of his film, and though his effaced presence causes a few unsightly wrinkles (contrivances—like Nanook’s biting of the phonograph record—are presented as actual and natural), for the most part it means that the credit for the film’s feats of courage and grace goes precisely where it belongs: to the Inuit.

In its earliest years (approx. 1895–1902), film production was dominated by actualities, short pictures of real people in real places. Comprised largely of two categories—the travelogue and, more substantially, the industrial-life portrait—these films favored an unmediated view of the world over arranged spectacle. Though they gave way in popularity to the narrative fictions of Georges Méliès and Edwin Porter, they continued to be produced in great number. Robert Flaherty’s great innovation was simply to combine the two forms of actuality, infusing the exotic journey with the details of indigenous work and play and life. By so doing Flaherty transcended the travelogue, as the picturesque became a real and respectful portrait.

That portrait has two things that, even today, remain at the very core of the documentary idea. These are process and duration—the detailed representation of how everyday things are done (burning moss for fuel, covering a kayak, negotiating ice floes, hunting, and caring for children) and how long the doing takes. For instance, consider Nanook’s stunning igloo-building sequence, where labor is not only revealed in its social context, but emerges, through Nanook’s skill and Flaherty’s cinematic revelation, as an ideal of beauty and spirituality. First there is shelter, then warmth, and finally light (the window!); here and elsewhere in the film, by giving real processes a human dimension, craftsmanship and artistry become one. Nanook of the Northpioneered these ideas, and it remains nearly matchless in executing them.

Nevertheless, the film is full of faking and fudging in one form or another. Observers (starting with John Grierson) would come to accuse Flaherty of ignoring reality in favor of a romance that was, for all its documentary value, irrelevant. The family at the film’s center was not at all. These were photogenic Inuit, cast and paid to play these roles. The characters’ authentic clothes were actually a nostalgic hybrid; the Inuit had started to integrate Western wear some time previously. This integration was in fact quite general: igloos were giving way to southern building materials, many harpoons had been replaced by rifles, many kayak paddles by motors. The seal that appears to be engaging Nanook in a delightful tug of war is actually dead; Nanook is in fact being pulled around by friends at the other end of the rope, standing just off camera. During the famous walrus hunt the hunters desperately asked the filmmaker to stop shooting the camera and start shooting the rifle. For his part, Flaherty pretended not to hear, and kept filming until the prey was taken in the old way. A failed bear hunt (not appearing in the film, but related in Flaherty’s northern memoir, My Eskimo Friends) left its participants, Flaherty included, stranded and nearly starving for weeks.

Flaherty’s shortcomings, as well as those of his films, are certain, and they should be acknowledged. However, it is fair to point out that, with regard to endangerments for the film’s sake, Flaherty exposes the Inuit to difficulties that are well within the realm of their traditional experience. More importantly, Nanook’s partial inaccuracies and manipulations resulted from Flaherty’s desire to preserve a sense of ancient traditions before it was too late. 

When confronted with the dubious documentary status of his last film, Flaherty would emphasize its title, which was of course Louisiana Story. Likewise, an essential addition to this new version is Nanook’s original subtitle: “A story of life and love in the actual Arctic.” In making this film, Flaherty was telling a story, and from first to last he never claimed differently.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cinematic Storytelling
"Here is a uniquely fresh, accessible, and truly original contribution to the field. Jennifer Van Sijll takes her readers in a wholly new direction, integrating aspects of screenwriting with all the film crafts in a way I've never before seen. She underscores cinema's collaborative nature, and celebrates the collective family of film artists who struggle together in the creation of worthy movies. It is essential reading not only for screenwriters but also for filmmakers of every stripe."
                                                                 - Prof. Richard Walter
                                                                 UCLA Screenwriting Chairman 

"A powerful and evocative guide for screenwriters and filmmakers alike."
                                                                 - Frank Beddor, Producer
                                                                 There's Something About Mary 

"Cinematic Storytelling shows you how story ideas are realized in script form and then transformed again when it moves from script to screen. It underscores how this process necessitates the collaborative relationship between writers and directors. Van Sijll has written an essential guide for aspiring writers and directors."
                                                        - Mardik Martin, Screenwriter
                                                        Raging Bull, Mean Streets, and New York, New York
                                                      Senior Lecturer of Screenwriting at USC 

"Wow! A screenwriting book with an original and insightful approach. Jennifer Van Sijll takes you step by step through the complex transfer from blank page to motion picture. I can finally show a book to my mother and say 'This is what I do for a living."
                                                                 - Larry Karaszewski
                                                                 Golden Globe-winning screenwriter of
                                                            Ed Wood and The People vs Larry Flynt 

"Ms. Van Sijll breaks down years of film school into one magnificent book. Three cheers for this clear-cut and extraordinary work."
                                                                 - Libby Hinson
                                                              two-time Emmy winner, Humanitas nominee and
                                                         winner of the 2004 New York Film Festival Award 

"A valuable contribution to the art of storytelling. A must read."
                                                                 - Michael MacMillan, Producer
                                                           CSI:Miami, CSI:NY, CSI:Crime Scene Investigation
                                                      CEO Alliance Atlantis Communications

"For anyone serious about writing and directing."
                                                                 - P.J. Haarsma, writer of The Softwire Series

"Cinematic Storytelling, as its name implies, conveys, in visual images, the most essential, most effective cinematic techniques directors and cinematographers use to tell stories. Employing classic images and accompanying text from some of the most memorable scenes in some of the most innovative films in recent times, the book is an instructive visual feast for everyone who aspires to effectively tell great stories with compelling images. Highly recommended."
                                                                 - Jeffrey M. Freedman, Screenwriter, Author

"This is the preeminent text for any screenwriter who is seriously thinking about directing their own screenplay. By blending classic and contemporary references, Van Sijll plants the seeds for a new generation of auteurs."
                                                                 - Catherine Clinch, Creative Screenwriting

"Jennifer Van Sijll's book makes a direct hit in terms of concise information and perfectly chosen visuals, but it also searches out an emotional core that many books of this nature either miss or are afraid of...this book finds it."
                                                                 - Kirsten Sheridan, co-writer, In America
                                                                 director, Disco Pigs

"A smart, analytical guide. Van Sijll truly understands what makes great movies work. A first-rate roadmap and a veritable tour de force of succinct writing.""
                                                    - Jake Eberts, Executive Produce, The Name of the Rose
                                                 Hope and Glory, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances with Wolves,
                                                A river Runs Through It, Chicken Run 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Being an assistant director is not easy work and mistakes can be made. Making mistakes is a part of the job but that being said; learning from your mistakes is one of the most important parts of any job. Everyone makes mistakes but not everyone owns them, be the kind of person that owns up to a mistake and then don’t do it again.
Below I have listed what I think are seven of the most common mistakes that assistant directors make, either when starting out or when they get over comfortable with what they are doing. If you think you might be guilty of any of the following, my best advice is to try to correct the mistake or people will soon stop calling you for work.

Mistakes Often Made by Assistant Directors

Over Confidence - To me there is not much worse than an assistant director that comes to set full of confidence that errs on the side of arrogance and then under performs at their job. This isn’t to say that I don’t want my assistant director to have confidence; I think being confident is a major part of the job but your confidence has to match your skills. An arrogant assistant director that isn’t very good at their job is only going to piss people off and make the crew lose respect for them. You need to focus on your ability to do the job and then with that, should come the confidence.
Under Confidence – To now go in the complete opposite direction, it is very frustrating when you get on a set and you can’t tell who the assistant director is because you can’t see or hear them. The assistant director is the voice on set, people look to the assistant directors to know what is happening and when. If you lack confidence and are not firm in your decisions and instructions then no one will listen to you and it will be very hard to keep the day moving as people will constantly be wondering what is going on. You need to be assertive and confident to get this job done correctly.
Easily Distracted – One of the most important skills for an assistant director to have is focus. You need to be paying attention to many things, sometimes all at once and you are also in charge of other people. No one wants to see the assistant director hanging out and chatting at the craft services table or sitting in a corner playing on their phone. I know you want to be the Angry Birds champion but there is a time and a place and set is not it. Keep your eye on what is important, make your day and lead the team. If people see that the assistant director isn’t focused then they too will lose theirs.
Unaware of Role - Before you take a job make sure you know what is being asked of you. I don’t think that it is fair to accept a job offer if you a) don’t know how to do the job properly or b) aren’t passionate about what you are doing. The assistant director is hired to do so much more than just call rolls and call out when you’re moving on. The assistant director needs to be heavily involved in the pre-production process of any project, the more involved in pre-production the smoother production will go. While on set the assistant director needs to oversee what is going on at all times. You need to be the person on set that has all of the answers and if you don’t have an answer then you need to know who does. Know the schedule, after all if you are doing your job right then you created it. Know what options you have should anything go wrong such as bad weather or someone not showing up to set. Never assume that you are only hired to say “roll camera”.

Micro Managing - The assistant director has a lot on their plate and they only make their job and life harder and more stressful when they feel that they can’t trust their team to do the job that they were hired to do. The assistant director oversees but doesn’t have to have their hands in everything. Trust that if you have given an instruction that it will get done, if you ask how long something is going to take then let that time pass before you start harassing the team. Trust your 2nd and 3rd AD’s as well, they are hired to make things easier for you, let them do their job so you can focus on yours.
Unable to Delegate - This one kind of goes hand in hand with micro managing except with this I mean don’t make yourself do all of the work because you are afraid to ask for help or don’t know who to give certain jobs to. You have a team for a reason, get them to work on things that you don’t have the time to do. Don’t be a martyr, share the work load and get things done as a team. Also know when someone is under performing, if you have tasked someone with something and they can’t deliver then get someone else to do it. Be professional, don’t worry too much about hurting someone’s feelings, keep your eye on what needs to be done. It’s nice to make friends at work but that isn’t why we do it.
Hoarding Information - I will admit that I get irritated quite easily but I cannot stand when someone is hired as an assistant director and they think that, that gives them power. Hoarding information as an assistant director is essentially the opposite of what you should be doing. I don’t mean gossip, I mean share things that need to be shared, don’t keep things to yourself until the last possible minute because you felt special knowing something that others didn’t. The best way to run a set is to be open and communicative, sharing information and problem solving is how you get the job done.
These are, for me, the seven biggest mistakes made by assistant directors. You don’t have to be new to make these mistakes, I have known people working for years as assistant directors that are still guilty of these things.
Be aware of how you are perceived and be aware of how smoothly your sets run. If you are sitting and wondering why you aren’t working more or getting more calls maybe consider that you may be guilty of one or more of these.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

We here at How To Film School have talked to some local cinematographers and lighting technicians and have compiled a list of tips to help all you young aspiring cinematographers out there get started. Now, some of these might be a little obvious, but you would be surprised how many people don’t realize how much work they need to put into their careers if they want to be successful.
Many people starting off in the film industry think that they will become the next Roger Deakins or Wally Pfister over night, what they don’t realize is that someone like Pfister worked at and improved on his craft for almost two decades before even meeting Christopher Nolan and shooting Memento.

5 Tips for the Aspiring Cinematographer


Study as many techniques as possible and try to be on top of the latest technology. The internet is a wonderful learning resource and this is only one of thousands of web sites where you can learn about film making, cinematography and lighting.
You can also buy books on cinematography there are hundreds of cinematography books on I also recommend getting a subscription to the American Cinematographer Magazine. It doesn’t end at that…watch movies! Pay attention to how the light falls, light quality and camera language. Cinematographers are always striving to be better and push the limits of the technology and you have the ability to be right there with them.

Get a DSLR

Photography is the basis of cinematography, through photography you will learn framing, composition, exposure, etc. If you are shooting 16mm or 35mm you can use your DSLR to get an idea of how your lighting will look before you roll on it. Not only that but most new DSLR’s have the ability to shoot HD video. That’s all that you need to start shooting and getting your work out there. You don’t need to invest in a $100,000 camera package to start shooting quality work.
You can find great deals on DSLRs at your local retailers or online. Some of the best online prices for DSLRs are from and You also don’t need to invest in the best glass like Zeiss Cp2′s or Canon “L” Series either. Old Nikon lenses can be found on eBay and adapted to various mounting types.


Get out there and meet people, you don’t have to have a reel, website or business cards right away, although they help. The more film makers and enthusiasts you know the higher your chance of getting a cinematography job, any set job even. Networking can be done at parties, screenings, on set and even on social networking websites like Twitter or Facebook.
You could be as low as a Production Assistant on a movie and make good friends with other assistants or even the Production Manager. All it takes it saying “Hey, I’m into shooting and I’d love to work with you”. Done! You just networked and you’re on your way to getting that first Director of Photography job.

Get on Set

It doesn’t matter if you’re the cinematographer, a lighting technician, a production assistant or making food for craft. Get on some film sets and pay attention to how scenes are being lit, in fact pay attention to EVERYTHING. Many of the most successful and talented Cinematographers and Directors these days came from another department in the film industry. They worked for years taking in everything around them and learning from what other people did right and wrong. Imagine working on a feature film and studying how and why they lit and covered their scenes, then getting to see it all cut together. Sounds great, right?

Shoot Something

This one seems very obvious, but you would be surprised how many aspiring cinematographers and filmmakers just leave it at that, an aspiration. Do you really want to Direct Photography? Well, get out there and shoot! Lights, no lights, standard definition, high definition…those are just words and words shouldn’t hold you back.
Experience speaks for itself and any experience is better than none. The more you shoot the more comfortable you’ll be with cameras, working with actors, directors and the more you’ll understand about lighting, composition and camera language. Not to mention the more people will see your work and be more likely to throw a job your way. So, shoot something, ANYTHING!


Monday, April 1, 2013

One thing I didn’t really understand until I started working on sets was the role of the assistant directors. In this three-part blog I will break down the roles of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd assistant directors. Let’s start at the top. The role of the 1st Assistant Director is a very important one on any set and thinking that you can get away without one is a big mistake. You will want to have your 1st Assistant Director hired as early as possible; the 1st plays a very big role in pre-production.

Responsibilities of the 1st AD in Pre-production:

  • Breakdown the script: this means going through the script and making note of any and every aspect of the script that will require attention. This could be making note of props, sounds, special effects etc. Check out Breaking Down Your Script for more in-depth details.
  • Break the script down into 8ths of pages: once you have experience with this you can do this by eye, but when starting out it is best to mark the pages. Each script page gets broken down into 8ths; this information is useful for both schedules and call sheets. Each page of the script should equal about 1 minute of screen time.
  • Create the schedule: This is a task that requires input from all department heads, as well as the director and the producer. To make your life easier I recommend Movie Magic Scheduling. Your shooting schedule should outline the order in which you plan to shoot and all of the required talent and special needs of the scene. It is also very important to work with department heads here and figure out how long scenes will take to shoot, find out whether or not pre-calls are required and plan out the timing of everyday.
  • Breakdown sheets for all scenes: these can be made easily in Movie Magic Scheduling and they are great to distribute to all departments. They are detailed sheets that highlight all the notes you took when breaking down the script. Movie Magic Scheduling is available from
  • Create a One Liner: this is a document that shows the scenes you will be shooting and the order in which you will be shooting them. It is a quick reference document with the most important details like the scene number, scene name, one line of description, time of day and how many pages.
  • Complete a Day out of Days: this is a chart outlining the cast members and the days they are working. This is for you to know how many days each cast member needs to be paid for. This should be completed once you have finished the schedule and is also subject to change.
  • Have a list of all locations: it is good to include the real name of the location as well as the name used in the script. Your locations manager should provide this list to you, if you have one, if not the production coordinator should have this.
Once you have these documents made and sorted you can have your 2nd AD begin work on the Call Sheets. When shooting begins the paperwork shifts to the 2nd AD and as the 1stassistant director your responsibilities shift to the following.

Responsibilities of the 1st AD during Production:

  • You are to be the voice that gets the crew doing what they are supposed to and making sure that the day is made.
  • Introduce yourself on the first shoot day, make yourself accessible but also be firm and don’t let yourself get taken advantage of. You have a schedule to keep.
  • Make sure that a blocking is done, if a private blocking is required allow that to happen first and then have a blocking for the departments to watch.
  • Once the blocking is finished hand the floor over to the techs and allow them to light the scene. Once the techs have finished with the floor, final touches by the art department can be done.
  • Allow for a rehearsal or two, especially if there are any effects or dolly moves that need to be practiced.
  • When you are ready to roll make sure that everyone is aware, be sure to make your commands out loud as well as over the walkie.
  • Call for a lock up, quiet, roll camera, and roll sound. Make sure to key the walkie and say “rolling, rolling” and when the take is over key the walkie again and say, “cut”. It is very important to address everyone in the room as well as those over the walkie. People may be all over the set and not hear you.
  • Reset everyone back to 1st positions if you are going for another take or if the director is happy and wants to move on then let everyone know that you are moving on and what it is that you are moving on to.
  • Keep the day on schedule, if you are falling behind try to motivate the crew to work a little faster and you may need to speak to the director if they are taking too much time on things.
  • Ask for Grace: If you are ever running behind and it is looking like lunch might need to be pushed later, you need to ask each department head for Grace, you can’t just push lunch. Ask each department to agree to it, it is very important that the crew feels that you respect them.
  • Communicate with the Crew: as with lunch, the same goes for shooting past the standard 12+1 day, if you think you will be going past that, run the idea by your department heads before you make the decision.
  • Have a set box: this can really save you. It is good to have copies of important documents in there, as well as water, a first aid kit, a couple of tools, nails and screws etc.

Skills Needed to Work as a 1st Assistant Director

  • Be Organized. There is a lot of paperwork involved in AD’ing and the more organized and well thought out things are, the smoother things will run when shooting starts.
  • Manage Your Time. The more you work as an AD the better you will get at knowing how long it will take to get things done. When you are creating the schedule make sure to allow enough time to get your scenes shot. Don’t cram scenes in that you know you won’t make because you think the producer will appreciate your ambitiousness. Give reasonable amounts of time to get things done and also allow for set backs.
  • Manage Others Time. Along the lines of managing your time, you need to manage everyone else as well. If you have allowed an hour to shoot something and you know that to be a reasonable amount but your director is over shooting or the lighting team is over tweaking, know when to cut them off and get things moving. A director will shoot until you tell them to stop and the lighting team could tweak all day if you gave them the time. Know when enough is enough and get things back on track. It is up to you to make the day!
  • Be Confident and Communicate. Confidence is must have skill when it comes to working as an AD. You are the voice on set that is telling everyone what is happening at all times. If you are shy or quiet than this is not the job for you. When you give instructions to the crew it needs to be done with authority and the crew needs to know that you are serious. If you have to be strict then do it. If you are confident; your crew will be confident. Don’t give your crew any reason to doubt you. Be clear in your instructions and keep an open communication with the team. Listen to suggestions and take them into consideration when moving through the day.
  • Problem Solve. If issues arise you need to be the person who is staying calm and coming up with solutions. The director might freak out and you can let them but you need to be doing everything you can to solve the problem. In a single day you may be hit with a lot of problems, you might have talent that isn’t cooperating, you may lose a location, you might be running out of daylight and the list keeps going. Keep a level head and work out a solution.
  • First Aid Training: As the 1st Assistant Director it is standard for you to have your First Aid Training. There may be another safety rep on set or even a medic but the 1st should be trained to give medical attention in the case of any on set accidents.
Overall the 1st Assistant Director needs to be the person of authority on set, you need to get the crew moving and keep them motivated. Respect their requests and try to keep them happy, the better the crew feels, the harder they are willing to work. Your goal is to make your day, stay on schedule and try to not have the director compromise their vision. Know when to move on and know when to let the director have extra time. 1st AD’ing is something that you get better and better at over time. The first time you do it will be very intimidating and more than likely scary. It will get easier and you will pick things up along the way that will make you better at the job. The 1st AD has a very important job and it can be quite stressful, work together with the crew and it will make your job easier.

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