3/22/2007

LIBERTAS Review: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 9:17 am

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Director Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley won the top prize at Cannes and can now be seen in limited release. The film stars Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later), is set in 1920’s Ireland, and tells the tale of the rise of the Irish Republican Army. It’s a film with strong performances, beautiful production design, a lovely score, and no story whatsoever. Fawning critics claim the film is really about the Iraq War; that this story of the British occupation of Ireland is somehow analogous to the West being in Iraq. Unfortunately, I’m not historically illiterate enough to make that connection. Wish I was though. At least the movie would’ve felt as though it were about something.

Barley starts out well enough with the forming of an Irish guerilla group led by Damien (Murphy) and his brother Teddy. We see the brutality of the English occupiers and how the Irish guerilla’s use their brains to fight back due to being vastly outnumbered and gunned. But within thirty minutes the movie completely collapses into an episodic talky mess. There’s no narrative momentum, the relationships are underdeveloped, and after a hundred minutes when you’re finally clued in as to what the film was about, you don’t care.

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Here’s the second act: The guerilla’s attack. The British retaliate. The guerilla’s are captured. The guerilla’s escape. Someone gives a speech. Then someone else gives a speech. The guerilla’s attack. The British retaliate. Then there’s a scene so long and filled with so many speeches I was sure it had to end with a balloon drop. These characters have no goals, and worse, they have no real enemy.

You can’t tell a story about a group of men fighting for independence without a Sheriff of Nottingham. The Government does not make for an interesting antagonist, especially when we know going in that nothing’s resolved for another 70 years. Knowing there’s no possible outcome and that the guerilla’s goals aren’t achievable sucks all the momentum from the story. The goals of our protagonists should’ve been smaller. Should’ve been realistic. You can tell a story about a major political movement or war without boring the audience to death. You simply boil the conflict down to a particular moment or battle. You have your story be about a plot to destroy the guns of Navarone, or take Harper’s Ferry, or capture Fallujah.

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You also need to have your story be about people. In the end, Barley tries to be about people, pitting brother against brother, but it comes as a surprise way too late. Had this been foreshadowed there might’ve been some actual tension in the second act as events and emotions entangled and we came to dread the inevitable confrontation. But no threads are laid to pay this confrontation off. If you’re going to pit brother against brother we should care about them and their relationship. We should mourn the love lost. And it would help if they had distinctive personalities that allowed us to tell them apart.

Distinctive personalities are a problem throughout. The only interesting characters are a couple of informers who come and go much to quickly. Otherwise, the good guys are just a bunch of working class corner boys and the bad guys wild-eyed psychopaths. There’s a truly lame attempt at a love interest between Damien and one of the IRA women, which I guess one might call subtilely handled, but I would call woefully underdeveloped. You feel no emotion or longing between them. And when she’s tortured by the British and Damien is forced to watch instead of help, the camera’s on everyone when it should be on him and his anguish.

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Imagine On The Waterfront without Eva Marie Saint as the love interest, without Lee J. Cobb as the antagonist, and with Rod Steiger and Brando as brothers but completely indistinguishable from each other. Then remove Brando’s inner conflict over his loyalties and have him decide ten minutes into the film to fight a faceless entity known as The Corrupt Union. In other words, strip away what made On The Waterfront a classic, and what you’re left with Barley.

As far as the film’s politics, I just don’t have a mind simple enough to see it as a criticism of the Iraq War. No rational person can connect the British occupiers in Barley to the Americans in Iraq. If anything, we’re the IRA in Iraq, fighting to give a country and its people the independence and constitution they voted overwhelmingly in favor of. We’re the ones fighting off the foreign invaders and local tyrants. I’m sorry, I wanted to be offended — it would’ve been nice to feel anything besides the tennis elbow I developed checking my watch — but because I actually understand something about history, my indignation refused to rise.

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The film also betrays itself. It wants us to believe it’s the story of a people’s right to self-determination. But in the end, like the the Sunni insurgents in Iraq, our band of freedom fighters choose to kill their own people rather than live under the treaty an overwhelming number of self-determined Irish voted in favor of. In the end, this is a film about what openly socialist director Ken Loach argues for in many of his films: People stripped of their property and it evenly divided amongst the lazy, er…Proletariat. 

I wonder how much stuff Ken Loach owns? Think he’s rich? I’ll bet he is. Bet he’s got more than me. Think I’ll ask him for my fair share. And that his next film has a little thing called a “second act.”

Anyway, if you want to see what a real filmmaker can do using the IRA and British occupation as a story point, watch John Ford’s masterpiece The Informer. It has more character development, more emotion, and says more about the world in its first shot than Barley musters over 127 butt numbing minutes.

3/21/2007

Cathy Seipp 1957 - 2007

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 9:54 pm

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This was posted at Cathy’s World just a few hours ago:

We lost Cathy at 2:05 PM today. May her memory last, her family persevere and her friends endure this terrible loss. We’ll all have more to write shortly, but for now I’d like to truly praise Susan Estrich. She has the classiest column out there about Cathy. A real letter of love and admiration. Read it. Goodbye, Cathy.

And Susan’s column is very classy.

I didn’t know Cathy. I just read her blog everyday, which of course made me feel as though I knew her. All I can say is that I’m going to miss Cathy’s writing. A lot. I only met her once. It was Govindini who introduced us at a conservative function. Cathy was a beautiful woman with a force of personality you don’t meet very often. She was extremely gracious, easy to talk to, and I would’ve loved to have known her better.

Our prayers and sympathies are with those who truly knew her. Especially her father, mother, sister, and daughter Maia.

Upcoming Movie Reviews

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 11:25 am

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I’ll be seeing The Wind That Shakes The Barley today and will try to post that review yet tonight, or tomorrow morning. A warning, however: If The Wind That Shakes The Barley ends up being The Movie That Numbed My Buttocks, that will be the last time I invite opinion.

I will see Shooter Saturday and post same day.

Well, I’m off the see the barley shake in the People’s Republic of Santa Monica. Don’t worry I’ll be safe. I have my clip-on pony tail, tiny round sunglasses, and that little sour look on my face Tim Robbins calls acting. Are you feeling the love? Tell me you’re feeling the love. 

The Duke

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 9:33 am

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Tomorrow at 7pm PST, TCM airs the rarely broadcast Island In The Sky, which is a superb 1953 drama about a group of men struggling to survive after their plane crashes in the middle of nowhere. I saw this for the first time just last year when the Wayne family finally released it on DVD, and was surprised at how suspenseful and emotional it was. Great film, even if you hate John Wayne and AmeriKKKa. If it helps, it’s set in Socialist Canada.

Also, finally being released on DVD is Big Jim McLain. This is the one liberals sneer at most because The Duke plays a federal agent working for the dreaded House of un-American Activities charged with hunting him down some commies in Hawaii. Is it a great movie? No. Is it a good movie? No. Is it better than the equally preachy crap we’re suffering through today? Of course it is. Because unlike today’s leftist tripe, Big Jim McLain has a real star in it and a just cause.

What kind of idiot looks back and thinks anti-communists were a bigger threat to our civil rights than actual communists…? That would be the same idiot who considers George Bush and climate change a bigger threat than global terrorism: A Useful Idiot.

Another Morality Tale

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 9:14 am

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This is a fascinating piece on a pretentious director squandering an extraordinary opportunity. There were a lot of things I wanted to try when it came to my film, but I promised the producer I wouldn’t argue with the audience. And I didn’t. And when our scores doubled I was thrilled to be wrong and relieved to admit it. She let me have my shot. You can’t ask for more than that. Unless you’re a fool.

“Everyone Looks At Me Like I’m The Biggest Moron In The World.”

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 8:28 am

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You’ve got to read this over at Serpahic Secret.

3/20/2007

Stuart Rosenberg 1927 - 2007

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 7:49 am

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As usual, the guys at Power Line get it so right:

Stuart Rosenberg is the Hollywood director who hit a homerun his first time up in 1967’s “Cool Hand Luke.” It was Rosenberg’s first film and is my favorite movie. With a terrific script and an audacious allegorical overlay, the film tells a gripping story that is brought to life with great humanity by an outstanding cast. Paul Newman’s performance seems to me an absolute classic of American film acting. Newman’s performance contributes both hilarity and shocking sadness. “Cool Hand Luke” has it all, an achievement for which Rosenberg should be remembered.

Cool Hand Luke is a remarkable film that gets better every time I watch it. Also of note is a little gem Rosenberg directed called The Laughing Policeman with Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern. It’s both a terrific police drama and character piece that deserves more attention from film enthusiasts. RIP Mr. Rosenberg.

Wow. They Get It

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 6:41 am

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From that same terrible L.A. Times article cited earlier comes these two terrific quotes. First, 300 director Zack Snyder:

“When someone in a movie says, ‘We’re going to fight for freedom,’ that’s now a dirty word,” Snyder told Entertainment Weekly. “Europeans totally feel that way. If you mention democracy or freedom, you’re an imperialist or a fascist. That’s crazy to me.”

300 creator, Frank Miller:

On NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” last month he expressed his dismay about the “state of the home front” and his disappointment at the fact that “nobody seems to be talking about who we’re up against — and the 6th century barbarism that they” — by which he meant not just terrorists, but entire civilizations — “actually represent.” (He also, incidentally, quoted philosopher Will Durant’s line — “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within” — which opened “Apocalypto,” another movie that was either a comment on our current political situation — or not.)

In a sane world, neither of these quotes would be newsworthy; they would be common sense. They would be as obvious as saying the sky is blue.

The success of 300 terrifies Hollywood. They’re completely stumped. They seriously consider it conservative because it’s not liberal. They actually consider it prejudiced because it’s not politically correct. They’ve had their way so long, they’ve forgotten what a universal theme is. Hollywood, if you want to learn how to make films appealing to more than just the Blood Diamond crowd, park your Prius next to the Hummer, enter your mansion, send the exploited underage coke-addicted hookers and illegal alien housekeepers home, and turn on Turner Classic Movies for a day.

Someone Should Kick The L.A. Times Into A Well

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 6:13 am

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The L.A. Times doesn’t suck because it’s liberal. It sucks because it sucks. This piece on 300 I quote from is a meandering biased mess. Doesn’t anyone at the L.A. Times read the New York Times? At least the New York Times knows how to write a well-written biased piece:

The question isn’t even if Xerxes is intended to be perceived as a big, gay menace. (Although, maybe that one thing is clear: Snyder has allowed that the overtones of sexual menace were not accidental, because “What’s more scary to a 20-year-old boy than a giant god-king who wants to have his way with you?”)

So what if Xerxes is “intended to be perceived as a big, gay menace?” Why is that an issue? Gay people can’t be big, gay, and menacing? Gay people are immune from being portrayed as the villain? When did this innoculation take place? Making the bad guy gay is not gay-bashing any more than making the bad guy white is white-bashing, or making the bad guy heterosexual is heterosexual-bashing.

My Brad Pitt issues aside, I may not be gay, but I can’t imagine Xerxes offending me a tenth as much as the sick and unfair portrayal of Cole Porter in De-Lovely. And how many screaming man-hungry queens has Nathan Lane portrayed? How many mommy-addicted wrist-flappers has Harvey Fierstein portrayed? Xerxes may be the villain, but at least he’s a strong individual capable of more than calling his mommy after a bad day. Is the left so far gone they prefer an insulting condescending stereotype over being the bad guy?

Margaret Thatcher Film In Works

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 4:59 am

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Via Drudge:

The French production company that helped bring “The Queen” to the big screen is turning its attention to another British female icon: Margaret Thatcher.

The film will focus on one of the former prime minister’s crowning glories, the 1982 Falklands War against Argentina.

French-owned U.K.-based production and distribution banner Pathe has joined forces with the BBC and independent producer Damian Jones (”Welcome to Sarajevo”) to develop the project, which they said Monday will offer “a revealing and intimate portrait” of the woman dubbed “the iron lady.”

This film is a direct result of the success of The QueenThe Queen was a success because it treated its subject with fairness, humanity, and respect. Had The Queen done what most films do and trash the institution its charged with telling a story about, it probably would’ve failed and most certainly would not have been an outright hit. Even if Hollywood doesn’t, a lot of people love tradition and the institutions behind them. By not not closing this movie off to that part of the audience, it made more money than it ever would’ve otherwise.

And this is how Hollywood will change. Not with a revolution. Not with a storming of the walls and the lopping of heads, but drip by drip. A film about Lady Thatcher’s finest hour was unheard of five years ago. Thatcher is as hated by the British filmmaking community as Reagan and Bush are here. But The Queen worked because the filmmakers were smart enough to edit out all the cheap shots in the original script and make it fair — make it accessible — make it a hit.

Who knows, this film may trash Thatcher. But I doubt it. A lot of Hollywood-types were surprised by the profits The Queen brought in, and the awards. But I think they’re starting to get it. Margaret Thatcher is a conservative icon. We love her. If the filmmakers want to make money they need not be conservative cheerleaders, they need not put her on a pedestal, they need only be fair. We’re not hard to please. No one has to give her the JFK Hollywood white-wash treatment. We don’t need her lionized like FDR. We just want her to be treated fairly. Not only because she deserves it, but because the movie will be better for it.

UPDATE: This post has been edited to correct my error in citing the director’s cut of the film as being edited, as opposed to the script. My humble apologies to Mr. Frears and my thanks to reader Campaspe for bringing this to my attention.

3/19/2007

Cathy Seipp Has Been Hospitalized

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 5:49 pm

This is from a post at Cathy’s World from Cathy’s devoted daughter Maia:

As earlier mentioned in the comments section, my mother is in the hospital. The doctor says that right now they’re just making her comfortable. She’s sedated, with painkillers among other things. Lungs collapsed so right now we just want to make sure she has dignity and is not in pain. The doctor says she has a couple days left. I want to thank all her readers for reading this blog, her friends for supporting her who made up “Team Cathy.” Through you all, I learned what a true friend was. I’m at her bedside now, holding her hand. I tell her she has 292 comments on the latest blog post..her last but she just squeezes my hand. She was very happy with this blog. In honor of her, if you can…support the American Lung Cancer Society and or adopt stray dogs and cats from the pound. Those were her causes. Thank you all so much. Will keep everyone posted.

Our prayers and thoughts are with Cathy and her family.

Hollywood Fear Mongering

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 11:24 am

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Hollywood doesn’t want us getting all sweaty over the real threat of terrorists determined to kill us because that might get Republicans elected over appeasing Democrats like Obama. But they sure like to get us all freaked out over global warming because that might get a Wal-Mart closed. Some scientists don’t think it helps:

Professor Hardaker warned against the “Hollywoodisation” of weather and climate seen in films such as the 2004 smash hit film The Day After Tomorrow, which depicts terrifying consequences after the melting of the Arctic ice shelf.

Such films, he said, only work to create confusion in the public mind.

“I don’t think the way to make people pay attention is to make them afraid about it,” he said.

Hollywood has an agenda and fears a lack of fear will hurt it. Hollywood used to be great.

Seven Tips For Indy 4

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 9:52 am

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I agree with all of them. Especially this one:

4. Call back Frank Darabont, or some other good writer, and have them do an extensive re-write on David Koepp’s script. Again, no, I haven’t seen the script, but I’ve simply never seen a film written by Koepp where afterwards I thought “Wow, how about that dialogue?” “Catch those unexpected plot twists?” “How did he pull out that ending?” I’ve never had anything close to those thoughts. I nearly fell asleep in my seat during the crashing bore known as Spider-Man [1.] Are you nostalgic for Jurassic Park’s script? Me neither. I don’t even think there was dialogue during War of the Worlds. Let’s get pro-active on this one and assume that the script is flat, predictably paint-by-numbers and at best, a gentleman’s C+, and have someone save it now, before it’s too late. How about William Monahan? Christopher McQuarrie? Shane Black? David Mamet? There are plenty of good people out there who know how to sharpen up genre like a Ka-Bar and I would hate to think they’d be kept out of the process because of unfounded pride.

I would add this as number 8: NOOOOoooooo……. But to be honest, I have zero emotional investment in this film. I could barely tolerate 2, kind of liked 3, but this franchise is over. Harrison Ford has been over for a decade. Spielberg hasn’t made a memorable film since Schindler in 1993. And David Koepp hasn’t written a decent script since Mission Impossible. I’m just curious about how bad this is going to be bungled.

Put Up Or Shut Up Part 49: The Art Of Articulation

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 9:17 am

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Before we head into post-production, I want to focus on what I think are the three most important skills a director must have in order to be successful. I think these skills are often overlooked because they seem so obvious. But in my experience, they have to be honed and exercised. If someone had explained the obvious to me before this all began, I might have avoided one of many daily deer in the headlights moments.

1. Vision: This word’s thrown around so much that it’s lost the power of its meaning. But having a vision for your film is crucial to making directorial decisions. Having a vision is knowing what you want and knowing what you don’t want. There’s an instinct to directing. An instinct that tells you when you’re seeing something that isn’t working, is working, or is working better than you’d hoped. I have this instinct and it served me well. Where I fell short are with the two skills I’ll be discussing next. But when it came to instinctually knowing if something was what I wanted or not, it was pretty easy.

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I want to focus for a bit on the ability to know when something is better than you’d hoped. This is a crucial skill and the difference between having a “vision” and having a “tunnel vision.” If everyone involved on my film had done everything exactly as I saw it in my head, the film would’ve been a disaster. You have to know you don’t know everything. You have to know that what you have in your head is merely a starting point. You have to put your ego aside and admit others are going to do a better job of interpreting your vision than you ever could.

The worst directors are the ones with no vision. With no vision they have no idea what works and what doesn’t. So, they dither, get insecure, and throw their weight around to cover their ignorance and balm their ego. It was humiliating for me to be the focus of everyone and be wrong so often. But it happened everyday. It happened on set in front of pretty girls including The Hot Little Number I Call Mrs. Harry. It happened in post-production yesterday. And it will happen today. I am wrong all the time. But I’m smart enough not to put any kind of ego-investment into daily decisions. Because if I did, I’d end up fighting a lot of stupid little battles for my pride while losing the war for the best film possible.

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Vision is instinctually knowing what’s best for the film. But it’s not always about the details. You can’t always know how a character will say something. But when you hear it, you should know if it’s something that sounds right coming from that character. You don’t know the exact notes to hit in the score. But you should know if those notes belong in your world. A lucky director is never the smartest one in the room. A lucky director has smart people around to bring a vision to life in ways he or she never imagined. And a smart director gets himself and his ego the hell out of the way.

2. Articulating What’s Wrong: Whatever instinctual gifts I might possess have obviously sucked a lot of juice from my ability to articulate. The struggle to articulate my instincts is a daily one. Knowing something doesn’t work and being able to make a cohesive argument as to why, are two completely different sets of skills. The good news is that you don’t always have to do this.

It’s not always constructive or helpful to talk about what’s wrong. In fact, you’ll probably do more harm than good because you can humiliate and demoralize harping on the negative. I’ve never told an actor, composer, editor, or any artist what was wrong with their work. It serves no purpose. You’re job as a director is to articulate to these professionals what you want (which we’ll talk about next). But sometimes you do have to talk someone down from a bad idea. So, you had better be prepared.

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The beauty of production is that a disagreement can easily be extinguished by merely shooting something more than one way. Everybody gets what they want on film, so, what’s to argue about? But in post-production things are beginning to be set in stone. This is where the creative tension bubbles up. And this is where you have to be ready to articulate an argument.

No one comes up with more lousy-movie-killing-ideas than me. No one is a bigger danger to my film than I am. My inexperience threatens the film everyday. But that doesn’t mean that every once in awhile I don’t have to step in and save the film from some else’s bad idea. You will have to do this as well. And when you do, you had better be prepared. You had better make a strong, cohesive, articulate point you can defend. 

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You are not the boss of the film — which is a good thing — the producers are. And their job is to keep the director from going over budget and making bad creative choices — especially a first time director. In my experience, the producers have usually been right when it came to creative decisions. But sometimes they’re wrong. And when they are, I had better have my ducks in a row. “I don’t like that,” or “That doesn’t feel right” will only get so far. Others on the production will be as invested in their own ideas as you are. You have to be able to talk ‘em down. So, before you go in there, give it some thought. Another benefit to this kind of approach is that it can sometimes mitigate a shouting-match. Not always, but sometimes.

3. Articulating What You Want: This is something we’ve covered before, but it bears repeating. Learn your adjectives. As a director, your job is to modify nouns, but you can’t do this without the vocabulary. This takes homework. Go through your script and put adjectives next to each piece of dalogue. Put some thought into it.

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There were so many times I was caught off guard because I assumed everyone would intepret a scene the way I did. It was obvious, right? Well, no, it wasn’t. And while my instincts worked telling me it was wrong, I was a deer in the headlights trying to explain what would make it right. I didn’t know the adjectives to get what I wanted. The result was time wasted and a frustrated artist.

William Wyler was one of our great directors. He directed Wuthering Heights, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Big Country, and a host of other timeless classics. But I’ve read that early in his career actors hated working with him because he couldn’t articulate what he wanted. The result was Wyler sitting under the camera repeating, “Do it again. Do it better,” for forty takes — sometimes while reading a newspaper! Wyler got away with it because that was during the mogul days. Sam Goldwyn liked Wyler’s end product and actors under contract to Goldwyn had no choice but to work with whomever Goldwyn told them to. But those days are over. And that style of directing may be a humorous anecdote today, but in practice, was a bit sadistic.

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Whether you’re dealing with the actors, crew, set decorator, composer, DP, or sound mixers, you have to be prepared to say more than “Do it again. Do it better.” You have to respect people’s time. A lot of directors use variables like “Give me choices,” or “I’ll know it when I see it.” But this is still bad directing. Granted, you can’t be perfect in this regard. No one can. But the good people you work with will know the difference between a director who’s prepared and who isn’t. But remember, knowing what you want isn’t enough. Because no one will know what you want unless you’re prepared to communicate it.

Next, we’ll move into post-production, which I’m about a month from completing. Post-production is as different from production as the planet Earth is from a telephone. The ride’s just beginning.

3/17/2007

Put Up Or Shut Up Part 48: Continuity

Filed under: — Dirty Harry @ 10:14 am

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Continuity matters. It matters a lot. It’s not something that’s often discussed in filmmaking books, but it should be. Because a lack of continuity takes your audience out of the story and looks amateurish. And yet, it happens all too often, even in studio films. In The Untouchables there’s that famous shot of Sean Connery where in one angle his collar button is buttoned, and in the next it’s not. Now that I’ve made a film I have a better understanding of how these things can happen, but I’m no more tolerant of them.

Making a no-budget film is about proving what you can do with no budget. Proving you can marshall the forces, tell a story over 90 minutes, sustain a narrative, and work smart. Work smart as hell. No one’s gonna look at my film and think it’s a studio production. But everyone aware of the budget who sees it is knocked out. Through sheer hard and smart work we found 25 locations and had a DP who did wonders with next to nothing. But you have to work smart in all areas, and continuity is a big part of that.

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Continuity has absolutely nothing to do with budget. And if you’re going to make a no-budget film anything that has nothing to do with budget must be executed perfectly. You may not be able to afford to move the camera, but it doesn’t cost you anything to find a good frame. You may not be able to afford to light the whole room, but you can afford the time to light your actor like von Sternberg lit Dietrich. What doesn’t cost money, you must excel at. So, make sure you’re organized enough to avoid lazy stupid continuity problems.

That being said, there are two continuity mistakes in my film. And they are highly embarrassing. We found them while editing but couldn’t cut around them. One was because an actor improv’d an action, and the other was wardrobe. But I also think about the mistakes we barely caught. After spending 9 months cutting the film and watching it a few dozen times it still wasn’t until we were a polish away from locking picture that I realized a character’s glasses were appearing and disappearing in TWO DIFFERENT SCENES!

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Continuity mistakes have a way of creeping on screen in two ways: Things shifting between takes and because scenes are shot out of order. From my experience, they mostly occur in wardrobe and when things are moved. And don’t blame the actors. Continuity is not their job. It’s the script supervisors and yours.

Photographs are vital when it comes to wardrobe. Because you’ll often shoot the character in the cafe one day and the character exiting the cafe on another, it’s easy to forget if the shirt was tucked in or whether the tie clip was showing. Before the start of each scene, your script supervisor should take a photograph of the actor and make sure the actor doesn’t absently roll up their sleeves or unbutton a collar in the middle of the shoot. In the photograph, the actor should hold a number up indicating the scene number and just to be safe the script supervisor should also take notes on wardrobe as back up in case you lose the photo.

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If you’re filming the same scene over a couple of days, you want to take photographs of the room and how it looked ( I would even suggest this before a meal break). And not just a shot of the room, but photos of how the stuff on the tables and shelves are arranged. It is so easy for things to get shifted — for a knick-knack on the wall to disappear and reappear because you used different takes. But this stuff doesn’t need to happen, if you’re organized.

There’s a major continuity issue in Michael Mann’s Manhunter where William Petersen and his son have a conversation in a grocery store aisle. If you watch closely, you’ll see that the food on the shelves behind them keeps changing even though they don’t move. This is the obvious result of lines being cut to shorten the scene. Be aware of this. This problem could’ve been solved with some foresight. Because you wouldn’t see the actors’ mouths, a shot of them from the back walking up the aisle would’ve allowed Mann to plug any dialogue he wanted in there while at the same time making the background changes make sense.

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Continuity is a reverse forest for the trees problem. You can get so wrapped up in the forest that you lose sight of the details. Well, details make a scene. Whether it’s a pause, or a look, or a movement, or a shift in emotion; details are what make a scene. It’s called texture. Two heads spouting dialogue back and forth is boring. But just as a detail can work for you, it can work against you. So, be mindful of this. Be mindful of that which you can control. A low budget film is essentially a resume’. Maybe you couldn’t afford Harvard, but that doesn’t forgive the typo.  

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