DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

Digital Filmmaking

Bates Motel: The Original Psycho is Back

The Slasher horror-movie genre started with him—at the exact moment he yanked back that famous shower curtain. He is one of a handful of characters that forever changed film audiences’ expectations. He is Norman Bates and during the 53 years since he first appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s shock-thriller masterpiece, Psycho, film audiences still can’t get him off of our minds.
Norman-Bates-2013
A new Norman for a new age: Freddie Highmore shines as a young Norman Bates in A&E’s Bates Motel.

“How well we remember Norman Bates,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert. “Tens of thousands of movie characters have come and gone…and yet he still remains so vivid in the memory, such a sharp image among all the others that have gone out of focus.”

And now Norman’s back, in a wildly imaginative franchise reboot of sorts called Bates Motel.

Back to Before the Beginning
The new A&E series is earning rave reviews for giving us the Norman Bates story from a different vantage point—of teenage Norman before he grows up to be…well, different. In another smart move, the show is set in the present—which somehow gives the series more teeth than if it had been set in the 1950s.

Although only a few episodes of the show have aired, there’s already a buzz surrounding the show. In Bates Motel, high-schooler Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), buy a rundown roadside motel in a scenic yet odd town on the Pacific coast. (The series is one of many shows filmed in British Columbia these days.)
Norma-Bates
“A boy’s mother is his best friend.” Vera Farmiga kills as Norma Bates, the “Mother” we only thought we knew.

While Norman and “Mother” have been trying to repair and renovate the motel, some local town folk haven’t been very welcoming—which resulted in the show’s first killing. Now new characters are being introduced, like a potential girlfriend for Norman (not to mention a long-lost stepbrother). And then there’s that pesky local sheriff, who just can’t stop noseying around the motel…and meddling in the Bates family’s activities.

A&E’s Bates Motel is just getting cranked up, but it’s already showing signs of starting to attract a growing fan base like AMC’s The Walking Dead before it. We’re already hooked.

Cutting Remarks
Norman Bates, originally played with nervous precision by Anthony Perkins, took filmgoers by surprise when Hitchcock’s Psycho stormed into theaters. Film audiences weren’t used to villains who seemed like genuinely nice people—that is, until their murderous psychology compelled them to kill again. Prior to Psycho, screen villains acted villainous most of the time.
Norman-Bates-1960-skull-image
Tony Perkins as mad, bad Norman Bates. Notice the image of teeth superimposed on Norman’s mouth, which is the beginning of a skull image that Hitchcock will place over Norman’s face, in a creepy final touch.

Some stray trivia you may not know about Norman Bates:

• When Perkins took the role that would make him globally famous, director Hitchcock refused to instruct the young actor in how exactly to play the part. “Hitch” left it to Perkins to develop the character himself, which he did to perfection. Prime example: Norman’s nervous munching of candy corn.
• There was a real person that inspired Robert Bloch to write his suspense thriller, Psycho. The killer was named Ed Gein, and he served as the prototype for Norman Bates and Dr. Hannibal Lector (from The Silence of the Lambs). However, his actual crimes were far too shocking to portray in movies, although at least two later films were directly based on Gein’s life.
• There have been five “Psycho” films, including the original classic. One of the more interesting sequels was Psycho 3, which was directed by Perkins himself.
• The original outdoor facades for the Bates house and the Bates Motel were originally constructed on a back lot at Universal Studios, in a money-saving move. Now, more than 50 years later, the famous film location is still preserved as a favorite part of the Universal Studios Hollywood Tour.

Lights, Camera…Suspense!
Hitchcock’s Psycho was a daring work of modern art that broke rules and took chances—and resulted in an artistic triumph and commercial smash. Hitchcock shot the film with the production crew from his television show, and ran the entire budget on a shoestring. His creative ingenuity paid off in huge dividends on the screen and at the box office.
Bates-Motel-sign-2
The next generation of filmmakers are already planning their own masterpieces and developing their personal dreams of working within the exciting world of film. To help those dreams come true, kids and teens will receive expert instruction in digital filmmaking at Digital Media Academy tech camps across North America.

DMA offers a variety of filmmaking courses, each geared to a different age level and expertise. Students in DMA’s Digital Filmmaking for Teens – Beginner camp, for example, will be exposed to each part of the film production process, from shaping a script to directing a shoot to editing the final product. They’ll be taught by industry professionals who know film from the inside out, and that instruction will be powered by today’s leading film-production software, such as Final Cut Pro®.

The next Hitchcock could be studying film at DMA this summer. In fact, the next Hitchcock could be…you! Now how’s that for a shocking twist? Hitch would be proud…

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,Featured and have No Comments

Who will Direct the Next “Star Wars” Movie?

Star Wars fans can breath a collective sigh of relief, Walt Disney Studios has reportedly tapped J.J. Abrams to direct the next “Star Wars” film for the studio. Disney purchased the lucrative franchise from George Lucas for 40 billion dollars in 2012.

Meet the Director
Abrams, the director of “Mission: Impossible III,” and the recent “Star Trek” reboot, is considered by many to be this generations Spielberg. Abrams’ production company Bad Robot is a Hollywood heavyweight, turning out event movies like “Cloverfield” and “Super 8.”

jj-abrams
Director J.J. Abrams will helm “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which hits theaters in 2015.

In November, Abrams told Entertainment Weekly that while the original “Star Wars” and its special effects “blew my mind,” he, declined an offer to helm the first post-Lucas “Star Wars” film. Why? Abrams already has a relationship with Paramount Studios who he will deliver the upcoming “Star Trek: Into Darkness” for on May 18, 2013. Hollywood insiders say if Abrams has signed a deal with Disney it may significantly complicate his relationship with Paramount.

The Power of the Force
The new head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy has been reportedly meeting with several directors including Zack Synder and Ben Affleck to direct the upcoming “Star Wars” film, already slated for a 2015 release.

It’s rumored Kennedy’s relationship with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas helped bring Abrams onboard. Kennedy, who helped produce the Indiana Jones movies, in addition to “Back to the Future” movies has been a big fan of Abrams and believes he can deliver what fans are expecting. Driving script development for the new “Star Wars” film is screenwriter Michael Arndt, who also penned “Little Miss Sunshine.”

star-wars-space-battle-death-star-super-star-destroyer-tie-fighters
Lucasfilm wrote the book on how to create Hollywood visual effects with ILM and the first “Star Wars” movie.

Abrams, also the co-creator of the popular television franchises, “Alias,” “Lost,” and “Fringe” is a long-time fan of the “Star Wars” franchise, he told Hollywood Life the film “is one of my favorite movies of all time.”

But unfortunately, for any director, “Star Wars” also comes with a lot of baggage, Abrams said this before he got the job: “I frankly feel that — I almost feel that, in a weird way, the opportunity for whomever it is to direct that movie, it comes with the burden of being that kind of iconic movie and series. I was never a big “Star Trek” fan growing up, so for me, working on “Star Trek” didn’t have any of that, you know, almost fatal sacrilege, and so, I am looking forward more [than] anyone to the next iterations of “Star Wars” movies.”

The Next Generation of Filmmakers
Abrams comes from a new generation of filmmakers who are their own PR engine, using ComicCon, Twitter and Reddit AMA’s to engage with fans. They’re making movies with Final Cut Pro and even may have spent a summer at a film camp. For this generation, there are so many ways to make and share films and the results seldom less than amazing.

Personally, we can’t wait to see what Mr. Abrams does with Star Wars…

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT –or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Charlie Brown, Snoopy to Star in New 3D CGI Movie

For nearly 65 years children of all ages have treasured the lovable gang featured in the “Peanuts” comic strip. Now, Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Woodstock, Lucy, and the rest of the gang are headed to the big screen, thanks to 20th Century Fox Animation.


The gang from one of the world’s most beloved comic strips.

In Development
Blue Sky Studios announced the film through a “Peanuts” Movie Press Release. Details are still being released; so far we know the project will be directed by Steve Martino (“Ice Age: Continental Drift,” “Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!”) and he will shoot from a script by Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates.

The film will mark the first time the “Peanuts” gang will be showcased in a full-length film as 3D characters. Craig Schulz, the son of the late Charles M. Schulz, is President of Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and working with 20th Century Fox on the movie. “We have been working on this project for years,” he said. “We finally felt the time was right and the technology is where we need it to be to create this film. I am thrilled we will be partnering with Blue Sky/Fox to create a ‘Peanuts’ movie.”


When the comic strip first appeared (the early 1950s), the characters—and their problems—were much simpler.

“Peanuts” and Its Impact
It may be difficult for today’s youth to understand just how much impact “Peanuts” once had on American pop culture. At its peak, “Peanuts” was everywhere.

At one time the comic strip was read by 355 million daily readers (in 75 countries). Then there are the classic holiday television specials—especially 1965’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (soon to be celebrating its own 50th anniversary) and 1966’s “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Both TV specials became enduring classics and today seeing them is considered a rite of passage and a “must see” each holiday season.


 In theory, the starring character in “Peanuts” is everyman Charlie Brown…

Add to that, the popular “Peanuts” Broadway musicals, ice-skating shows and all types of “Peanuts” merchandise, like toys, calendars, books…and “Peanuts” became a billion-dollar marketing empire way before anyone had ever heard of Spongebob Squarepants…and this was back in the days when a billion was a truly astronomical amount of money.

The 65th Anniversary of “Peanuts”
The 2015 “Peanuts” project will mark the 65th anniversary of the debut of the “Peanuts” comic strip and the 50th anniversary of the landmark television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The first movie, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” was a major 1969 success and caught the massive wave of popularity that surrounded “Peanuts” during the 1960s and 1970s. The movie franchise carried on with varying success during three sequels: “Snoopy Come Home” (1972), “Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown” (1977) and “Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!!” (1980).


…in reality, however, the star of “Peanuts” has always been Charlie’s pet dog, Snoopy, here assuming the role of a WWI fighter ace atop his airplane (cough)–uh, doghouse.

The gently humorous vision that cartoonist Charles Schulz created has lived on well beyond his death, and shows no signs of going away any time soon. He continues to inspire a new generation of cartoonists and animators and anyone else who wants to learn how draw cartoons.

“Peanuts” remains popular. The comic strip ran without interruption for almost 50 full years, from Oct. 2, 1950 until Feb. 13, 2000. One college professor called that fifty-year run “arguably the longest story ever told by one human being.”


Strip creator Charles M. Schulz turned his gentle humor and simple characters into a vast marketing empire worth more than a billion dollars.

Inspiring the Artist in You
Today, the world of cartooning and animation is light years ahead of what Charles M. Schulz may have envisioned. Kids and teens that want to learn animation or cartooning can attend animation camp, and with tools like Maya and Toon Boom Studio, making a cartoon or learning to become an animator has never been easier.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THE ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,Digital Photography,News Blog and have No Comments

“Walking Dead” Season 3 Premiere: Review

It’s the creepiest show on television – and one of the highest-rated – “The Walking Dead” kicked off its third season by consuming the ratings and becoming the highest-rated television series premiere this fall.


Andrew Lincoln as Sheriff Rick Grimes in a scene from “The Walking Dead” season 3 premiere.  

The Season 3 premiere walked away with over 10.9 million total viewers (a 50% increase over last seasons “Walking Dead” premiere) and is now ranked in the basic-cable history books as the biggest telecast of any drama series.

For fans of the show, the stats shouldn’t be a surprise, for viewers new to the show however, a Walking Dead Episode Guide will come in handy. But if you’re like us, you glued yourself to your television screen for possibly the best hour of scripted television currently on air.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead
The Season 3 opener (titled “Seed”) is set a few months ahead of Season 2 and starts as our band of human survivors are scavenging an abandoned house for supplies. As faithful viewers recall, Season 2 abruptly ended with their former sanctuary, going up in flames when it was overrun with zombies. The group is again on the move, critically low on ammunition as well other supplies.

Eventually, their quest rewards them, when they find a maximum-security prison nestled in the woods. The prison’s heavily fortified walls could give the group all the protection it needs. But there’s one problem: The place is crawling with the undead. Zombie prisoners lumber alongside still-uniformed prison guards in riot gear. Rick and team make quick work of the walkers, then find a part (C Block) of the massive prison complex they can seal and guard effectively.


What’s scarier than a zombie? A zombie wearing riot gear.

Search and Destroy
The next day, Rick leads part of the group on an exploratory mission to find the prison commissary and armory. This goes about as well as you’d think it would considering the surprises that lurk around every corner – and to save you the grief of us spoiling too much – a few of those surprises include an team member amputation and zombies, who aren’t quite zombies…

Like every episode of “The Walking Dead” the writing is exceptionally sharp, plus the actors are in their third season stride and have long settled into character. Speaking of characters, “Seeds,” introduces the cloaked figure we got a glance of last season: Michonne is a female warrior whose preferred method of zombie killing is lopping the heads off with her katana. Michonne makes for a very interesting survivor, especially since she always got two zombies in tow, courtesy of a chain around their necks.

The show contains as many soap-opera elements as zombie themes, so the Season 3 opener also had to deal with Rick’s killing of Shane—his former best friend—which was a huge plot development in the series’ history. In “Seeds,” Rick tells Lori (who had a brief affair with Shane in Season 1, when she presumed Rick had died) about what happened and how Shane was about to kill Rick before Rick beat him to the punch. Lori pulls away from Rick in shock and disbelief. This underscores the growing tension between Rick and Lori, which remains a constant drumbeat in the Season Three opener.

Another complication is revealed when Lori confesses to Hershel (who has been the closest thing to a group medic, based on his previous occupation as a veterinarian) that she has grave fears about the health of the baby she’s carrying, including the possibility that the child might be born as a zombie, or could transform into one over time.


Michionne played by actress Danai Gurira will have a major role in season 3.

“Walking” Tall
What’s next for “The Walking Dead”? Tune in each Sunday night at 9pm EST to find out. The show’s third season will be split into two batches. The first eight episodes began with last night’s installment. Afterward, the program will go on hiatus until the spring, when the remaining eight episodes will be presented.

“The Walking Dead” is only beginning its third season but it’s already made TV history. It’s easy to see why; “The Walking Dead” is a gripping story of group survival punctuated with gruesome moments of pure horror. The story is compelling and its often nauseating special effects rival anything put on film. No wonder it’s a hit both with horror fans as well as those interested in learning how to create special effects.


“Walking Dead” Special FX Makeup Designer Greg Nicotero digitally zombified celebrities…such as “Lord of the Rings”/“The Hobbit” director Peter Jackson. (See the rest of the zombie celebrities at AMC’s “The Walking Dead” web site.)

If you haven’t gotten bitten by “The Walking Dead” yet, there’s still plenty of time and opportunities to get up to speed on TV’s greatest thrill-machine. In fact, you can start watching the show from the beginning: NetFlix has each episode from the first two seasons online and available as instant (and commercial-free) streaming video. (And for a brief time, the “Walking Dead” web site has the Season 3 opener online for free viewing whenever you want.)

Check in with us for future updates about “The Walking Dead.” We’re eagerly watching each Sunday night. And just like the zombies, we’re always hungry for more.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT – or – SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Behind-the-Scenes: Making “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

As the three-part prequel to the massively popular “The Lord of the Rings” films, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” re-introduces us to Middle Earth characters like Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. Together, the unlikely pair embark on their first brave journey…


What’s gotten under Gollum’s skin? Maybe, it’s actor Andy Serkis; he plays the character in the new film—and had the same role in previous “The Lord of the Rings” movies—using a motion capture suit. 

The Fellowship of the Hobbit
Film rights for “The Hobbit” had been tied up in bankruptcy procedures with MGM Studios. But IMAX 3D will finally bring audiences into the story when the film hits theaters just before the Christmas holiday. It’s expected to be a holiday box-office record-setter.

The cast for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is made up of great actors like Cate Blanchett, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee, and they bring the ancient world of J.R.R. Tolkien to life. Just take a look at the new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.


Gandalf is once again played by Sir Ian McKellen. 

The story is straight from the Tolkien book: a curious Hobbit (Bilbo Baggins) follows a wizard into the wild (Lonely Mountain, to be exact). The purpose of the trip, taken with a stout group of dwarves, is to recapture a grand prize from an evil dragon.

When film production finally started in March 2011, the actors and crew headed to New Zealand. That is, except for Ian Holm and Christopher Lee, who filmed their scenes at London’s Pinewood Studios, due to health reasons. But that’s not the only juicy bits of Hobbit trivia we were able to dig up:

  • The production was almost cast out of New Zealand when several unions and guilds blacklisted the production.
  • Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug/Necromancer) have acted together before—previously in the BBC production of “Sherlock” (based on Sherlock Holmes). Cumberbatch played the title role of Holmes while Freeman portrayed Dr. Watson.
  • Guillermo del Toro was originally set to direct but stepped down when MGM put the project on hold while it recovered from bankruptcy.

 


“Dragon? Did you say ‘dragon’? Nobody said anything about dragons…” Bilbo and his counterparts are greeted by a new challenge.

Production Stills: The Cast of Characters
Fans can’t get enough of the early buzz and online sneaks. With the film’s director Peter Jackson doing video blogs for “The Hobbit” production and character stills appearing, message boards and Facebook pages have lit up with anticipation about the movie. It’s easy to see why in the stunning production stills.


Actor Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins.

Bilbo Baggins is beckoned by the wizard Gandalf the Grey to join a group of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield. Their quest is to recapture the Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug…but Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers all lie in their path.

Spoiler Alert: It’s also in this movie that Bilbo gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring. Get ready for classic Tolkien action, adventure and un-imaginable fantasy—all served up Dungeons & Dragons style.


The cast of characters in “The Hobbit” rivals “The Lord of the Rings” films—and their wardrobe and make-up are just as impressive.

Making Make-Believe
The film employed both traditional theatrical artists (like make-up) and digital ones to create the characters. For example, the 3D character creation team (of over 300 people) was using Maya to create Orcs and Goblins.

Pencil artists even took to 3D storyboarding so filmmakers could get an accurate look at what shots might look like in the third dimension. In fact, not a detail was overlooked to bring the digital re-creation of the amazing literary classic to life.


Grab a pair of old-school 3D glasses to get the full impact of this 3D scene from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”.

Add all this hard work up and you’ve got the recipe for a blockbuster. This looks to be Hollywood filmmaking at its finest and we can’t wait for one of the most anticipated films of the year to hit IMAX screens. “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will open December 14.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS: 

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

“Dark Knight Rises” Sequel

Okay, so it’s not actually a sequel. In fact, it’s not even a movie yet, but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood voices from discussing the next Batman movie—three or four years ahead of time.


If you’re a video gamer the next Batman movie may look very familiar.

While “The Dark Knight Rises” continues to climb at the box-office (with total global earnings now officially above $1 billion), there is already lots of industry talk about what will happen next to the Caped Crusader. Christopher Nolan has already stated “DKR” will be the last film in the trilogy the director started with 2005’s “Batman Begins.” So, as massively successful as this franchise reboot has been, it’s time to start re-imagining the next series of Batman films.

Unfortunately fans eager to see a new Batman movies will have to wait – a new Batman movie isn’t expected to hit theaters until 2016.

Lunatics in the Asylum 
That main rumor circulating the fan sites is the newly rebooted franchise will be based on the “Batman: Arkham Asylum” video game produced by Eidos Interactive/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (and developed by Rocksteady Studios on the Epic Games Unreal engine). Reportedly, Warner Bros. movie executives have been wowed by the mammoth popularity of the “Arkham Asylum” game, which spawned a sequel.

Both games received raves from game sites and top game magazines. The original dynamic, third-person action/adventure found our old friend, The Joker, running a demented asylum full of Gotham’s most diabolical and dangerous criminals.

A League of Their Own
The Batman 2016 project looks to be just one in an entire new series of blockbusters featuring the stalwart superheroes of the DC Universe. According to rumors, the Batman movie will be preceded by a Justice League film due for release in 2015, not to mention the next Superman movie—“Man of Steel,” now scheduled for 2013 release. (Also in the pipeline: films featuring Wonder Woman and The Flash.)

Guest Scars
The Joker figures prominently in “Arkham Asylum,” which has comics fans wondering if Batman’s greatest villain will return in the 2016 reboot. This could prove tricky for any actor bold enough to take on the role, which was made unforgettable by Heath Ledger in his final (and Oscar-winning) film performance in “The Dark Knight.”


Batman’s main nemesis, The Joker, is the head madman in charge of “Arkham Asylum.”

Fans are also wondering if arch-criminal Bane—who’s still battling it out with Batman in theaters, by the way—might show up in the next Batman project. Bane (played in “DKR” by Tom Hardy) appears in “Arkham Asylum,” so there could be some basis for bringing back the grate-faced villain in the next Batman blockbuster.   

Never Can Say Goodbye
Even though director Christopher Nolan has now finished his Batman trilogy, he is still being consulted by Warner Bros. concerning where and how the franchise should move forward from here. Industry people in the know expect Nolan to serve as an Executive Producer on the next Batman films. If the mortals who run the DC Universe have their way, the next few years will see an explosion of movies starring DC characters.

Reportedly, producers instructed the digital filmmakers who will bring The Justice League to the big screen that this new film should have a unique visual look…and look nothing like 2012′s “The Avengers.”

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

The 50th Anniversary of James Bond: The Best Bond Movies

This year a major British institution celebrates a major milestone: It’s been 50 years since James Bond first exploded onto movie screens. The cinema’s greatest action hero has been on the job ever since.


This summer, Daniel Craig stars as Agent 007 in “Skyfall,” the 23rd James Bond film.

Licensed to Thrill
The Bond character has been played by seven actors in 23 movies (including the upcoming “Skyfall,” due out later this summer). James Bond has endured as a movie mainstay because he always delivers the goods. And while not every Bond flick turns to cinematic gold, audiences keep coming back because he’s one of the best-drawn and most complex film characters ever created.

And for anyone interested in learning how to make a movie or learning film production and special effects, Bond flicks are showcases for how big-budget action movies were meant to be made.

As part of our extended tribute to “Bond…James Bond,” we’ve watched all the Bond films and selected our picks for the top five Bond movies:

1. “Goldfinger” (1964) 007: Sean Connery

Sean Connery as James Bond, wearing his signature white cocktail tuxedo. 

Why It’s On The List: ”Goldfinger” is the “gold standard” in the film franchise, and the film all other Bond flicks are still compared with. One reason for its success: timing. By this point, Bond mania was everywhere, rivaling only The Beatles as a pop-culture phenomenon. “Goldfinger” is pure film excitement.

Key Scene: It’s known on the Internet as the James Bond laser scene. Bond, abducted by villain Auric Goldfinger, is strapped to a table while Goldfinger aims an industrial laser at him. Sweating bullets, Bond defiantly asks, “Do you expect me to talk?” Goldfinger: “No, Mister Bond…I expect you to DIE!”

The action eventually lands in Fort Knox, Kentucky—and a 24-karat robbery of all the gold in the U.S. reserves located there. Add in a woman murdered by being covered completely in gold paint (she dies of skin suffocation), a massive and deadly silent henchman named Oddjob and the first appearance of Bond’s tricked-out Astin Martin sportscar (complete with passenger ejector seat) and you’ve got possibly the best vintage Bond ever.

2. “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) 007: Roger Moore

Roger Moore takes aim as James Bond in “For Your Eyes Only.”

Why It’s On The List:  “For Your Eyes Only” is the only serious-minded and less gimmick-happy Bond film of the 1970s. During the 70s, the Bond franchise starred Roger Moore, who made seven movies. And while Moore had a near-impossible job in replacing much-beloved Sean Connery, the decade wasn’t Bond’s best. ”For Your Eyes Only” returned the secret agent to a more serious tone.

Key Scene: During the opening sequence, Bond is strapped into a helicopter being flown by remote control by Blofeld, head of the evil society known as SPECTRE. After climbing into the cockpit (from outside the chopper) and disabling the remote control, Bond starts flying the whirlybird. He uses the helicopter skid to hook Blofeld’s motorized wheelchair, then flies it to the top of a factory smokestack. Bond tilts the chopper’s nose downward, releasing the villain into the smokestack’s narrow opening. We hear Blofeld’s echoing screams as he takes the big plunge all the way down. Now that’s entertainment…

3. “GoldenEye” (1995) 007: Pierce Brosnan

“GoldenEye” not only made Pierce Brosnan an action star, the film also spawned a hit Nintendo video game that still has a cult following today.

Why It’s On The List:  It’s the first Bond flick not based on one of Ian Fleming’s series of Bond novels. “GoldenEye” was also the first time the role was played by dapper Pierce Brosnan, who may actually have been closest to the author’s idea of the Bond character.

Here Agent 007 is working overtime to keep an evil arms syndicate from causing a global financial meltdown by using the GoldenEye satellite weapon against London. This film marks the first Bond picture made after the fall of Communist Russia, causing Bond to hang up his Cold War efforts against SPECTRE and become more of a global policeman working against rogue villains who operate without a political agenda.

Key Scene: Bond’s about action, right? Well, it’s hard to find more thrilling action than during the breathtaking bungee jump in the opening sequence. Shot at a Swiss dam, the 720-foot leap into oblivion was voted the best movie stunt of all time in a 2002 Sky Movies poll. At the time, it set a record for the highest bungee jump ever successfully completed off a fixed structure.

4. “Casino Royale” (2006) 007: Daniel Craig

At first, Bond fans protested the casting of actor Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale.” Now it’s almost unthinkable that anyone else could play him as well.

Why It’s On The List: By the time the franchise turned 40, it was in sore need of rejuvenation. Luckily, actor Daniel Craig entered the picture, bringing some much-needed muscle and menace back to the part. Less suave and witty, Craig’s Bond is more athletic and somber. The film that introduced Craig as Bond was a franchise reboot in the best possible sense.

Key Scene: There are quite a few in this film: the brutal torture Bond suffers while being interrogated, the final fight scene where Bond battles baddies as a building in Venice, Italy collapses in on him. But the best scene in the film—and the one that made fans believe in Craig as Bond—happens at the beginning of the movie, as James Bond parkour chases a terrorist down through the streets of Madagascar. And yes, that’s Daniel Craig doing all of his own stunts.

5. “Thunderball” (1965) 007: Sean Connery

“Thunderball” culminates with a massive underwater war, with teams of spear-gun carrying divers. A pair of armed nuclear weapons hangs in the balance. Check out the “Thunderball” trailer.

Why It’s On The List: In terms of sheer movie coolness, no Bond was ever frostier than Connery in the fourth flick. Much of it takes place in the Bahamas (a key Bond locale) and “Thunderball” features a sensational villain in the eyepatch-wearing Emilio Largo and one of the most gorgeous of all “Bond women” in French actress Claudine Auger.

More than any other early Bond flick, this one (the all-time box office champ among Bond movies) provides the blueprint for the modern action film. It’s stuffed with amazing action sequences, including one of the biggest underwater combat scenes ever filmed, complete with spear-gun warfare.

Key Moment: In the opening, Bond attends a funeral, only to later go into hand-to-hand combat with the “widow,” who is actually a male SPECTRE agent in drag. After Bond snaps the villain’s neck with a fireplace poker, he casually grabs a handful of flowers and tosses it on the dead man’s corpse—strictly for his own amusement. Then Bond straps on a Bell Rocket Belt jet pack and flies away as the villain’s henchmen stare in dazed wonder.

Coming up next in our extended tribute: 50 pieces of James Bond trivia.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Is George Lucas Retiring?

It’s the question that’s on the lips of sci-fi fans across the world: Will “Star Wars” creator George Lucas retire? The iconic director of such films as “American Graffiti” turned 68 on May 14th of this year.


George Lucas on the set of “Star Wars” in 1976. 

The answer is…yes, it appears Lucas will “force” himself into retirement.

Lucasfilm, the studio founded by George Lucas, announced on Friday that the “Star Wars” creator will “move forward with his retirement plans.” Officials with the studio say Mr. Lucas will continue to serve as CEO as as he transitions out; replacing Lucas will be longtime friend and veteran producer Kathleen Kennedy. Kennedy already serves as a co-chair on the Lucasfilm board.

Lucas said he selected Kennedy as his successor for a very simply reason, “she’s someone with great creative passion and proven leadership abilities, but also someone who loves movies.” Kennedy is also extremely talented and has spent years learning how to make movies.


Kathleen Kennedy served as an executive producer on “Back to the Future.”

Who is Kathleen Kennedy?
Kathleen Kennedy is a legendary film producer; she first broke into filmmaking as a production assistant to John Milius who was working with Steven Spielberg on the film “1941.” Later, Spielberg hired her as a secretary but wasn’t a very good typist. Spielberg kept her on because he liked her production ideas.

Kennedy went on to serve as co-producer for “Poltergeist,” then as a producer on “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and a little film called “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The rest, as they say, is history. Kennedy’s film credits as a producer or executive producer reads like a Greatest Films of All Time list: “Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “The Color Purple,” “Schindler’s List,” “Jurassic Park,” “Seabiscuit,” and the recent “War Horse,” just to name a few.

Currently part of the executive team at The Kennedy/Marshall Co., where she still continues to work with Spielberg to make blockbuster movies, Kennedy will step down to assume her new role at Lucasfilm.

The Future of the Force
It’s unknown if Lucas will serve in any capacity on future “Star Wars” projects. A live-action “Star Wars” television series is currently in development and the “Star Wars” franchise is a bazillion-dollar business. Which Lucas is notoriously picky about: “My movie, with my name on it, that says I did it, needs to be the way I want it.”

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Behind the Scenes of “The Avengers”: The Storyboarding Process

“The Avengers” continues to set box office records. The reason? It’s a fun and well made movie. Behind the film were literally hundreds of artists (both traditional and digital) who brought the director’s vision to life.


A scene from “The Avengers,” in storyboard form.

For any special-effects movie (including “The Avengers”), after the script has been written, one of the first parts of the pre-production process is visualizing what the scenes will look like. For this process, storyboarding is essential; set designers, filmmakers and digital artists will all use the storyboards as a blueprint.

What are Storyboards? 
Storyboards are hand-drawn panels that show filmmakers how each scene will look. Storyboards usually look almost like comic-book panels, except without those little word balloons. Storyboards are primarily used for camera setups and effects shots where the effect will be created later, but they extremely helpful for the entire process.

For Marvel Studios’ “The Avengers,” the filmmakers enlisted artist Federico D’Alessandro.  D’Alessandro is the Head Storyboard Artist and Animatic Supervisor at Marvel Studios. He’s currently overseeing storyboards for “Iron Man 3,” but is also known for his work on “I Am Legend,” ”The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,” ”Where the Wild Things Are,” ”The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” “Thor” and ”Captain America: The First Avenger.”


Federico D’Alessandro, Head Storyboard Artist and Animatic Supervisor, at his desk in Marvel Studios.

“A storyboard artist can progress to working as a director, which is something I always wanted to be. What I enjoy most is having control over how my vision is conveyed to the viewer,” D’Alessandro said in a interview. ”That means not only representing what the scene looks like in my head, but how it feels. When I create an animatic, I want the viewer to have an emotional experience. That means having control over not only the visual storytelling, but the pacing, the sound design and the musical cues. When all of that comes together and I’m able to show the viewer the same scene I imagined, that’s enormously gratifying.”


The battle sequence between Iron-Man and Thor was planned out using storyboards (click image for a larger view).

The Origins of Storyboarding
The storyboarding process was first developed by Walt Disney in the 1930s at Walt Disney Studios. In the biography “The Story of Walt Disney,” Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller remembered that the first complete storyboards were created for the animated short “Three Little Pigs.” The process evolved from “story sketches” that Walt would have artists create to set up key scenes.

Disney artist and animator Webb Smith was credited with the idea of drawing scenes individually and then pinning them to a bulletin board (hence the term “storyboard”). Within a few years, the idea had been adopted by other studios and by 1938 storyboarding was a standard practice.

“Gone With the Wind” (1939) was one of the first live action films to be completely storyboarded. William Cameron Menzies was hired by producer David O. Selznick to design each shot. The great suspense director Alfred Hitchcock relied heavily upon storyboarding, so much so that a myth emerged that he never bothered to look through the camera’s viewfinder to set up any shots.

In addition to storyboards, animatics are also used to help filmmakers visualize the story. Animatics are animated storyboards. These give filmmakers a way to see the action in real time, so shots can be planned.


For a sequence in “The Avengers” in which Black Widow attempts to take down an airborne alien, several drawings were required to convey the action.

Creating the Action
Learning movie making is not as simple as learning to point a camera. There are several skills that go into making a film, including scriptwriting, editing and, of course, storyboarding. Good directors (and for that matter, good filmmakers) understand that it takes more than one person to make a film and to use the latest technology available, while not forgetting the tried-and-true techniques that have worked for years.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS: 

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Best Memorial Day Movies

Memorial Day is not just a three-day holiday weekend. It’s also the time when we pause as a nation to remember the brave men and women who defend the United States, and risk life and limb to protect this country and its core freedoms. So, if the weather puts a damper on those outdoor plans this weekend, consider screening one of the following war movies, each of which puts a distinctive spin on a particular American war.

Glory (1989)

The Civil War rages once more in “Glory.”

Last spring marked the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War – the nation’s deadliest war. “Glory” is about human dignity as much as it about conflict, but that’s no slam against the film’s battle scenes, which chronicle the rifle-and-cannonball action seen by the Union’s first division of black troops. Hugely entertaining film with memorable performances from a dignified Morgan Freeman, a somber Matthew Broderick and (especially) Denzel Washington, as a runaway slave turned angry soldier…with a major score to settle.

The Dawn Patrol (1938)

Errol Flynn keeps the “lads” flying as a WWI commander in “The Dawn Patrol.”

Civil War Gen. Sherman famously said, “War is hell,” and many films have echoed that theme. Here’s one with a British accent. “The Dawn Patrol” tells the WWI story of an English aerial combat squad waging a seemingly endless air war against German fighter aces. British pilot Errol Flynn mocks his C.O., until he has to replace him. Suddenly, Flynn learns what it’s like to send young and inexperienced aviators to their deaths. Lots of aerial dogfights and camaraderie…plus the most rickety flying contraptions ever seen.

Patton (1970)

WWII from two different perspectives. “Patton” celebrates individual genius…

Maybe it’s unfair to pick two movies to represent WWII – but then again, it was a pretty big war. “Patton” celebrates individual genius, and how it contributed to the war effort, while “Saving Private Ryan” is about the collective sacrifice of battle and how soldiers unite to achieve the impossible. “Patton’s” opening scene will inspire you to battle, while the blood-and-thunder opening of “Saving Private Ryan” (i.e., the Omaha Beach landing on D-Day) will make you glad you weren’t there – but grateful that others were.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

…while war is a team effort in “Saving Private Ryan.”

Tom Hanks and Matt Damon starred in Steven Spielberg’s epic. The Omaha Beach scene cost $11 million and required more than 1,000 extras to shoot. The movie’s riveting early sequences capture what it was like to face the combat of D-Day from an almost video-game-like first-person perspective. The movie went on to influence other war filmmakers and even spawned the HBO television series, “Band of Brothers.”

M*A*S*H (1970)

The original Hawkeye (Donald Sutherland) and Trapper (Elliott Gould) play the Army for laughs in 1970′s “M*A*S*H.”

If you only know the TV show, it’s time you see why critics (and everyone else) got knocked for a loop by Robert Altman’s absurd take on American surgeons operating in an Army hospital during the Korean War. Whereas the show went first for broad laughs, then for a mix of comedy and social activism, the film has its own subversive vibe and crazy rhythm. No wonder it made stars of Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould and many others. Bloody battlefield surgery collides with umpteen types of humor, and the war comedy is never the same again.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Here come the Americans.

Many films admirably portrayed the Vietnam War, but none captured the sheer confusion quite like Francis Ford Coppola’s war opus. “Apocalypse Now” is not just about the madness of a renegade colonel gone native, but also the insanity of trying to graft an American design for war on a country like Vietnam. A fool’s paradise of cinematic riches,  “Apocalypse Now” is a massive spectacle of a film, which nearly killed and bankrupted its makers. And its centerpiece – a dizzying helicopter assault on a coastal village (scored with opera, no less) – is still arguably the greatest battle scene in all of film.

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Although set in 1993 in Somalia, “Black Hawk Down” speaks to our current conflicts.

Modern warfare has gotten even more complicated than it was in ‘Nam. Ridley Scott’s re-enactment of all the various things that went wrong in 1993, when an American helicopter crew crash-landed in Somalia city streets, is terrifying even before the chopper is down and the crew is savagely overrun by violent locals. What happens next is a sobering look at the dangers faced by our military personnel everywhere the U.S. is not wanted. “Black Hawk Down” is the link to recent movies that deal with America’s ongoing wars.

This Memorial Day, the staff and instructors of Digital Media Academy applaud the service of America’s military personnel, no matter where they find themselves stationed during this holiday weekend. We also thank military families for the lifetime of sacrifices that they make on behalf of our nation.

Digital Media Academy was ranked the World’s Best Tech Camp in 2011.

SIGN IN TO LEAVE A COMMENT -or- SHARE THIS ARTICLE WITH OTHERS:

[Bloglines] [del.icio.us] [Digg] [Facebook] [Furl] [Google] [LinkedIn] [Mixx] [MySpace] [Newsvine] [Propeller] [Reddit] [Squidoo] [StumbleUpon] [Twitter] [Email]
posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments