Over the past few weeks I’ve received some great news that is really going to impact my time at BU next year. My best friend (and sometimes my greatest nemesis) is moving to Boston this summer. My older sister, Madison, is graduating from college this June and then she’ll be headed my way to take on Boston with me.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from her impending arrival, it’s how much I still have to do here in Boston. She’s constantly rattling off ‘we should try this’ or ‘let’s do that when I get there.’ It’s like she’s more familiar with the city than I am lately. For this reason, I’m really making an effort to get out into the city this semester, take the time to familiarize myself with the areas I don’t spend as much time in, and branch out.
An aide to this exploration is actually my Production 1 class. All Film and TV students have 4 required courses: Production 1, Understanding TV, Understanding Film and Screenwriting. Production 1 familiarizes students with different equipment and editing software. Another aspect of the class is filming 3 different ‘short film’ projects over the semester. While it’s a lot of work outside the classroom, it’s also a great excuse to get off campus and into Boston. I’m only three weeks in and I’ve already had so much fun going into the north end and over to the financial district to scout locations for my projects. It’s also helping me find a few things I’m excited to try with Maddie when she arrives too.
While she still doesn’t understand that an apartment in the north end isn’t in walking distance to my classes on campus or that the t is our public transportation system not just a letter in the alphabet, she’s still teaching me a lesson or two. It’s going to be hard to sacrifice some of my binge-TV time (which I’m sure she indulges in just as much as I do) but I’m excited to dive into our little, (or not so little) Boston Bucket List together.
In the midst of awards season and with the Oscars right around the corner, it seems like all the talk around COM has been about movies, so I thought I should be a good film student and make my “Top 5 Movies of 2013” list.
5. Captain Phillips
Pretty much anything with Tom Hanks gets my stamp of approval, but this movie really stands out. Going in, I was a little worried the story was going to get the Hollywood treatment and seem too over the top. I was surprised though; while Tom Hanks does come off as a hero, they don’t make him a saint, and I actually even felt bad for the pirates at some point. Barkhad Abdi makes his film debut as the leader of the pirates, and gives one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. The director Paul Greengrass’ shaky-camera style from the Jason Bourne movies is in full effect here, and it works perfectly with the cramped shots inside the boat. For a movie where you know the ending going in, there’s an incredible amount of suspense.
4. Inside Llewyn Davis
I’m usually not a huge Coen brothers fan. I liked True Grit but beyond that, I feel like I just don’t get their movies. Inside Llewyn Davis was another pleasant surprise for me. The music alone is great, featuring Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, and Marcus Mumford. Some of the tracks are depressing (fair warning, the whole movie is pretty depressing) but some are a lot of fun, like “Please Mr. Kennedy,” JT’s protest song asking JFK not to send him to the moon (yes, it’s as strange as it sounds). The movie is slow, but I was never bored. Personally I feel like it got shorted at the Oscars and deserved to at least be nominated in a lot more categories, if not win them.
Frozen is fun. There’s no other way to put it. The songs are catchy, the characters are goofy, and I haven’t talked to a single person who didn’t like it. It’s a new take on the Disney princess formula, and the characters are all so quirky and odd instead of being fairy tale perfect, and they completely pull it off. I guarantee you’ll walk out of the theater with a smile on your face, and at the end of the day, that’s what movies are about.
2. American Hustle
I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about American Hustle, people seem to either love it or hate it. I thought it was one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time. The dialogue was quick and funny, a lot like David O. Russell’s last movie, Silver Linings Playbook. The cast is a who’s-who and everybody does a great job, most of them taking on roles that completely contradict their usual roles. (When’s the last time you saw someone go from Batman to a potbellied comb-over wearing con man so well?) There are lots of twists and turns, and the movie moves so quickly it doesn’t give you time to try and stop to figure out who’s conning who. Think Ocean’s 11 with goofier 1970’s hair.
1. Much Ado About Nothing
Ok so I know putting a black and white Shakespeare movie as my number 1 looks really pretentious but hear me out. Joss Whedon is about the only guy who could go from writing and directing the Avengers to a small project like this, and have both of them be so great. The story behind the movie is almost as good as the movie; coming off the Avengers, Whedon wanted to make a movie with some friends, so he got together with actors he had worked with before and in 12 days they shot the entire movie at his house. The whole movie feels like that too, it just seems like everyone is having a lot of fun instead of worrying about making a nose-in-the-air Shakespeare movie. I’ll be honest, I had to look up some Sparknotes at the beginning, but once it gets going it’s actually really easy to follow and a great movie.
Now a first semester junior, I have been putting off Production I for some time. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with production in the past, but always as a production assistant. I observed first-hand how much work goes into directing your own film. I’m currently enrolled in Production I and shot my final film this past weekend. It was even more difficult than I thought it would be, but in the end, it was a totally gratifying experience.
Originally, I thought the class was about learning all the technical aspects of making a film. But really, it is about learning to make a film, start to finish. While the technical side of the class is important, the biggest take-away for me will be learning how to coordinate a production. There is an incredible amount of planning that goes into it. Unlike most films you will ever make, Prod I requires you to make them on your own. Well, not entirely on your own. If you’re lucky like me, you’ll have a few stellar friends and classmates willing to help you out. But, you will call all of the shots. Literally.
A note for anyone taking a production class next semester – pre-production is key! I dealt with a million and one problems before I started shooting –actors dropping out, locations falling through and unavailable equipment, just to name a few. I found out 5 days before I my shoot that one of my actresses was a union member. Using her in my film would require paperwork, signatures and a $50 deposit – all due one week before filming. Oops! Luckily, I settled things with a very understanding woman at the SAG office. Because I was able to deal with these problems beforehand, the actual shoot went smoothly.
That’s not to say production won’t yield its own complications. Murphy’s Law is in full effect on most film sets. A pair of socks I bought as the focus of my film ended up being too dark to be seen on camera. My crew spent an hour in one scene trying to light them. My advice is to schedule yourself plenty of time to shoot. As my professor always says, shooting will take you three times longer than expected. I scheduled using this rule, plus added an hour in between location changes. I expected to be ahead of schedule all day, but I barely maintained it.
So even though I don’t plan on continuing with production, this class was an invaluable lesson in planning and budgeting (time, not money). I hope you all get the chance to get out there and make some movies!