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Hulu Summer Film School Week 7: Post-Production

August 28th, 2014 by Kelly Lin

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In an interview with NPR, the acclaimed editor Walter Murch (Godfather Trilogy, Apocalypse Now) described his job as “a cross between a short-order cook and a brain surgeon.”

The work of an editor is highly complex. As the last shepherds of the film, they reorder, splice, trim, and shape the raw footage to breathe mood, tension, and structure into the film. Under the guardianship of a great editor, no frame goes unexamined and no contributionwhether it be in acting or cinematographygoes under-appreciatedIn this final week of Hulu Summer Film School, we’re celebrating these unsung heroes by exploring how they carry the film through its final legs of production. 

Required Viewing:

1) Sans Soleil

A fluid travelogue of cinema, Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil explores the mutable nature of memory, time, and its effect on our perception of history. Using elliptical editing techniques to marry documentary and found-footage, Marker’s film sends us from the bustling cityscape of Tokyo to the wilds of Guinea-Bissau in Africa to the extraterrestrial landscape of Iceland, and back again to Japan where we bear witness to a religious ceremony honoring cats. Through all of this dazzlement, Sans Soleil is devoid of synchronous sound and uses an unseen narrator (reading aloud the journal of a fictional traveling cameraman who captured the images we’re seeing) as the binding force for the material. The editorial synthesis of sight and sound becomes simultaneously lasting and ephemeral, not unlike someone trying to recall — and re-experience — a distant memory.

Later in the film, Marker reveals his affection for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, referring to it as a quest to discover an “impossible memory, insane memory.” Memory and time contort into an endless spiral as Marker showcases still images from Vertigo intercut with footage of his own sojourn to San Francisco to recreate scenes from Hitchcock’s film. The editing is crisp and precise, snapping from a still of Vertigo to its corresponding live action shot in Sans Soleil while the narrator draws a comparative deconstruction of Hitchcock’s film, musing about the impossibility “to live with memory without falsifying it.” Memory becomes a kind of personal armor, protecting us from the harsh iniquities of objective truth and allowing us – both filmmaker and viewer alike – to remake history as desired by the needs of the present.

-Naveen Singh 

2) Breathless

Jean-Luc Godard’s first feature film Breathless revolutionized the way films were edited. It made the jump cut a viable way to compress narrative time. The plot is heavily informed by popular film culture from before 1960: a young thug goes on the run from the police with his American girlfriend. But the energy of the film has little to do with the plot and everything to do with the loose way in which the film was shot and the endless invention of the film’s editing.

Consider Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo) as he takes off in a stolen car in this clip from early in the film. The jump cuts do not preserve continuity of time or space, but there’s an emotional logic to Michel’s tear through France. The film forces the audience to see Michel the way he sees himself (as cool, but playful, full of vibrancy and passion), and Godard’s style is like crazed stream-of-consciousness filmmaking – he captures life the way it is, or at least the way we would like it to be in our mind’s eye.

- Christopher Rowe 

3) Manufactured Landscapes

Much more than any other genre, the documentary’s structure is shaped in the editing room. On a typical documentary production, hundreds of hours of footage will be shot and then brought to the editor who will cut the content down to a 90-minute feature.

A testament to documentary editing can be seen in Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes, in which Baichwal follows photographer Edward Burtynsky as he captures various landscapes around the world that have been shaped by industrial production. One of the film’s many visually-stunning shots is a long take of Chinese manufacturing workers lining up to take orders from their managers. The wide angle highlights the sheer magnitude of identically-dressed workers and also serves to emphasize the lack of individualism in the space. This shot is followed by a match cut to Burtynsky’s photograph of the event and then another match cut to Burtynsky’s photo in a gallery space with visitors passing by it. Through this sequence, Baichwal depicts editing’s ability to transcend not only time but also space. As a result, viewers gain a better understanding of the power of Burtynsky’s images to communicate social and economic situations to the rest of the world.

- Kelly Lin 

4) Primer

In “Primer,” two scientists accidentally discover time travel and it slowly affects their lives, over and over again.  It’s fast-paced, yet slow and brooding, and completely immersive.

In this clip, Abe and Aaron discover that time travel may be happening right in front of their noses.  As they are both trying to make sense of what’s happening, the editing is jumpy, frenetic, and a little disjointed, matching the activity of their brains.  But as they reach a conclusion they both agree on, the editing slows down, allowing us to spend a bit more time on each shot.  This subconsciously gives our minds a little space again – a way to say “we’ve settled here,” just like the characters have in the story.

-Jonathan Katz 

Supplemental Viewing:

5) Rashomon 

6) The Pianist 

Extracurricular Links: 

1) The Top 10 Most Effective Editing Moments of All Time – Some of the best editing in film is the editing that draws us so deeply into the story that we aren’t even cognizant that the post-production process is taking place. This video from CineFix takes some of the most highly regarded films of our time and explores how different editorial techniques help them achieve greatness. After watching this clip, check out some of CineFix’s other short form content, all designed to both instruct and entertain filmmakers and movie buffs alike.

2) Vashi Visuals - Run by editor Vashi Nedomansky, this blog gives an in-depth look into the editorial workflow and the reasonings behind editorial choices made both by him and other editors in the business.

3) Movie Editing Techniques from LA Video Filmmaker - This blog post explores the most commonly used editorial cuts in cinema, with gifs to back them up.

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Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to see full-length versions of our selections and explore past lessons.

Hulu Summer Film School Week 5: Costumes & Set Design

August 14th, 2014 by Kelly Lin

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Where and when does the story take place and how can we design the film’s landscape to reflect this? Is the film’s setting rooted in reality or does it have fantastical elements? What will the characters wear and how will their clothing reflect their inner thoughts and feelings?  These are just some of the questions that run through the minds of the costume and set designers during the production process of a film.

As the architects of the film’s visual environment, the costume and set designers create stunning visual experiences that immerse the viewer into the world of the film. For this week of Hulu Summer Film School, we’re honoring their work with a playlist of films that use visual style to craft substance. For each film featured, we’ve honed in on a specific costume or set piece that helps cultivate the visual experience. 

Required Viewing: 

1) Earth Girls are Easy

Valley Girls and Alien Hunks: The Cool Costumes of Earth Girls Are Easy by Rookie Magazine writer, Marie Lodi. 

2) Ghostbusters

Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge & Suzy Benzinger

Production Designer: John DeCuir

While the overall costume design of Ghostbusters deftly utilizes the ordinary as a means to reveal character (the sarcastic Venkman, for instance, dresses like a slapdash substitute teacher), the most memorable vestment is clearly the Ghostbusters’ workman uniforms and their weapon of choice, the proton packs.  The uniform is the work of costume designers Theoni Aldrege and Suzy Benzinger, while the proton pack — equal parts attire and prop — was created by John DeCuir and his production design team.

The Ghostbuster uniform conveys the team’s blue collar work ethic and is akin to that of a janitor or exterminator’s outfit.  Similarly, the design of the proton pack looks cobbled together, as if made in a garage from discarded hiking gear and a spare nuclear reactor.  After all, what better way to take down some ghosts than to fire an iridescent silly string of positron particles (to counteract the negative ectoplasmic energy of said ghosts, of course).  It’s the combination of costume and prop gives the Ghostbusters their identity and swagger, inspiring countless fans to create homemade versions of their own.

Don’t cross the streams.

-Naveen Singh 

3) Computer Chess

Costume Design: Colin Wilkes

Andrew Bujalski’s Computer Chess has a tricky tonal feat to accomplish: it’s an absurdist comedy set in the 1980s with a found footage aesthetic that eventually devolves into surreal chaos. And while Mr. Bujalski’s direction deserves a lot of credit for keeping these disparate ambitions part of a cohesive whole, a lot of credit for the tonal success must go to costume designer Colin Wilkes.

The costuming in Computer Chess accomplishes many objectives that are seemingly at odds with one another. The costumes are inconspicuous and plain enough to perpetuate the suspension of disbelief necessary for a viewer to believe that this is “real life” being recorded for documentary purposes, yet also heightened enough to give the impression that the characters are “types” – caricatures you would encounter in a dream (or nightmare). The costumes are appropriately specific to the 1980s so as to create a sense of authenticity, and yet timeless enough to invoke the spirit of the True Nerd. It’s all there in Patrick Reister’s glasses and expressions: this is the world as you know it, and the world as you’ve only dreamt in all of its mundane and weird, zany glory.

-Christopher Rowe 

4) Hook

Costume Design: Anthony Powell

Set Design: Norman Garwood & Garrett Lewis

Journey into a world of pirates, fairies, mermaids, and lost boys with this popular feature about a grown up Peter Pan who returns to Neverland to save his kids from the grasp of the evil Captain Hook. An Academy-Award nominee for both its Costume and Set Design, Hook is a visual treat that provides an ocean of scenery for Hook  (a wigged Dustin Hoffman), Peter (portrayed by the late, great Robin Williams), and the other actors to explore.

While there is much to discuss in this elaborate feature, the movie’s title object, Hook’s shiny prosthetic, plays a key role in the film both for identifying our villain and symbolizing his past experiences fighting and losing to Peter Pan. Furthermore, it serves as a daily reminder to this character of what has been lost and what drives him towards revenge.

-Kelly Lin 

Supplemental Viewing: 

5) The Great Beauty

6) Grey Gardens

7) Whale Rider

8) Primer

9) Charade


10) Bill Cunningham New York

11) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 

Extracurricular Links: 

1) 45 Iconic Fashion Films as chosen by the writers at Stylist Magazine

2) 17 Costume Designers Reveal Their Favorite Film and TV Fashions - Really interesting read featuring the costume designers for shows like Breaking Bad and Scandal discussing the significance behind their visual choices.

3) Christopher Guest’s Production Designer On How He Sets the Movie’s Mood – The designer behind such iconic mockumentary projects as Waiting for Guffman and This is Spinal Tap talks about working with Guest and playing with a “playground of imagery.”

Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to see full-length versions of our selections and explore past lessons. 

Last comment: Aug 19th 2014 3 Comments