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Directing TV Commercials: Practical Tips and Advice

Directing TV commercials involves more than just shooting a 30-second movie: there are some critically important issues that normally do not arise in feature films. In this post I will share some tips that are specific to shooting 30-second commercials or any film/video project that must have a short and very specific length. You must […]

How to Frame Over-the-Shoulder shots: a Detailed Guide, with Pretty Pictures!

In this post I will deal with framing over-the-shoulder shots, a skill that every filmmaker ought to have in the toolbox. What’s the big deal with over-the-shoulder shots? Over-the-shoulder shots are considerably more laborious to frame correctly than other shots, such as close-ups, because it is not enough to frame the subject correctly – the […]

The Big Camera Question for Independent Filmmakers

“Which camera should I use?” This is one of the questions I am asked most frequently, and the time has come to address this issue once and for all. First things first: camera shopping has nothing to do with being a filmmaker. In this post I will write about why you need to start shooting […]

The Film Marketability Reality Check

Before you pour your heart and soul into your next film, make sure that you will be able to convince people to watch it when it’s finished! Filmmakers tend to be very bitter about the concept of film marketability – the result of repeated rejections from sleazy distributors and similar characters. That is a shame, […]

A Detailed Breakdown of a 30-second TV Spot (with diagrams)

In this post I will provide a detailed breakdown of a 30-second Public Service Announcement (PSA) I made in 2005 for a competition. We shot the spot on a bitterly cold night in November 2005 in Oxford, UK.  The spot is set in an exterior night location and we therefore had no choice but to […]

6 Great Spielberg Shots

“Munich” (2005) (Dir. S. Spielberg; DP J. Kaminski) The color scheme in this shot is absolutely gorgeous.  The warm/cold combination of color temperatures is nothing new, but the blue hue of the light in the background is particularly beautiful and delicate. The colorist undoubtedly deserves some credit. Classic foreground texture by Steven Spielberg and exquisite […]

6 Lessons I Learned on the “Harry Potter” Film Set

In October 2000 I was in my final year at Oxford University and before I had even finished settling into my room for Michaelmas Term I was eagerly informed by friends that the “Harry Potter” film crew was going to spend several weeks shooting in our College (Christ Church). I had never heard of Harry […]

6 Awesome Shots from 6 Unforgettable Films

“Terminator 2” (James Cameron, 1991; DP Adam Greenberg) “Hasta la vista, baby!” No kidding. Bold use of two color temperatures (cold and hot). Crucial point: Cameron didn’t just rack focus to the gun — he also tilted down to exclude the eyes, to make the audience focus on the gun. Humans tend to keep looking […]

The Top Three Skills that a Film Director Must Have

“What are the top three qualities that a director must have?” A reader asked me this question yesterday on Twitter and it made the wheels turn inside my head – even better than coffee! I always tell people that filmmaking is a sublimely difficult art at which to excel, because it encompasses many art forms, […]

10 Lessons I Learned in 10 Years as a Filmmaker

June 17th, 2012 – Today is exactly 10 years since the first day of principal photography on the first project I directed. I will celebrate by sharing 10 lessons I learned in 10 years as a filmmaker. 1. The director’s reel is king The one thing I am glad about is that I started on […]

How to Become a Film Director: a Sharp Reality Check

This topic has been clouded by wishful thinking and pernicious misinformation for too long. Time to clean up! 1. Directors are hired on the strength of their reel A director’s reel is simply a collection of the best work done in the past — the 6-9 best TV spots for a commercial director or a […]

“Should I Go to Film School?” – Advice from Famous Filmmakers

In this post I will dismantle once and for all any delusions you might have about the merits of going to film school. The film school industrial complex does not want you to read this article. First things first: I have a lot of respect for higher education and I myself had the privilege of […]

Lessons from my favorite film directors

In this post I will share some skills and lessons that I learned from some of my favorite film directors. Some quick points: 1. None of this should be taken to imply that these films are mandatory material for filmmakers – I enjoy sharing, but you should feel free to follow whoever you admire. 2. […]

Stanley Kubrick’s Legendary Film Techniques

Following my hugely popular post on Steven Spielberg’s film techniques, here are my thoughts on Stanley Kubrick’s film techniques.The same disclaimer applies: one cannot do justice to any decent artist in writing, but at the same time I cannot help spotting trends, and I enjoy writing about them. 1. Slow, protracted scenes One of the […]

Long uncut master shots in films

Reader’s question: As a fan of Andrei Tarkovsky I really love long takes with few changes of angle. I believe that with the utmost balanced use of track shots, composition, lightning, foreground and action within a frame, an audience won’t be bored even without sudden changes in camera placement. I understand that this isn’t the […]