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For many filmmakers, branded content is a tough code to crack. With variables including — but not limited to — product, budget, timelines, and internal politics, it may seem like a game not worth jumping into. But, allow Scott Ballew, YETI’s Head of Content, to simplify it for you.

It shouldn’t surprise you that Ryan Koo didn’t go to film school. He is, after all, the founder of the wildly popular website No Film School, an indispensable resource used (and loved) by independent filmmakers around the world — us included. No Film School is a direct extension of Ryan’s scrappy, independent mentality. This is a guy who does things his own way. Like when he moved to New York to start a job as a graphic designer at MTV, despite having zero design experience. Or when he ran a Kickstarter campaign for a film that ended up being years away from being produced.

There is a painting in France that historians believe is 32,000 years old. The oldest surviving film, on the other hand ⎯ incidentally, also French ⎯ is only 128 years old. A film called Roundhay Garden Scene. 2.11 seconds long. Filmmaking has obviously come a long way since 1888; but compared to painting, it’s still in its infancy. There’s plenty of new territory to explore. It’s only fitting that a painter-turned-filmmaker is one of the people breaking new ground — for example, by creating a documentary about a New York street football team in the style of a Beats by Dr. Dre ad. That’s what Bennett Johnson set out to do, and the result ⎯ Coach Pamz ⎯ is a beautiful statement about life, sports, and the brotherhood of amateur athletes.

The best stories are often the ones we find by accident while we’re working on something else. We don’t force them into being. They already exist. We catch sight of them and can’t get them out of our head. They’re a gift. Or, in Diego Contreras’s words, “a miracle.” And he would know. It was only after abandoning two fully formed concepts and scouting a completely unrelated project that he came upon the subject of his recent short film, The Sandman. Pound for pound, it’s one of the best films we saw last year. And it was a total accident.

Writing about authors, Annie Dillard warns: “He is careful of what he reads, for that is what he will write. He is careful of what he learns because that is what he will know.” It seems there is such a thing as useful ignorance. It is possible for artistry to be spoiled by intellect. Or maybe what we’re trying to say is simply this: Be careful what you learn in film school.

We’ve been fans of Diego Contreras since before his breakthrough film Islands nabbed a Vimeo Staff Pick in 2013. Since then, his career has been on the rise, taking him briefly through one of the most well-respected ad agencies in history (BBDO), and more recently into the realm of professional filmmaking. Not long ago, he directed two stunning short films for The Lincoln Motor Company, Bloom and Open Your Eyes. And he’s done it all within two years.

Something weird can happen when you start making a film (or start making anything, really). You can get too close to the project, lose perspective, and start writing things that sound good but aren’t actually true at all. It happens so easily, and you often don’t realize it until you look back. For Douglas Gautraud, the filmmaker behind the My RØDE Reel 2014 award-winning short film My Mom’s Motorcycle, telling the truth in his projects is the most important thing.

It’s very hard to tell what makes a film great. Students spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to learn the secret. Critics write hundreds of thousands of words trying to explain it. And still, it usually remains a mystery. But we had a revelation recently while talking to Diego Contreras about his “Unimpossible Missions” series for GE, an ad campaign meant to show off GE’s ingenuity by accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks. What makes Diego’s work great is how he invests a staggering amount of meaning into even the smallest details of his films. There is nothing trivial in his work. Even the snowballs have backstories.

The Oscar-nominated Body Team 12 would be a sci-fi horror film if not for the fact that it really happened. The short documentary follows the eponymous Liberian body team tasked with the most grueling job in the fight against Ebola: collecting its victims. Their work was dangerous and controversial; but more than anything, it was heroic.