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Who Was Edgar Allan Poe?

“The Raven,” stars John Cusack as one of America’s greatest literary figures. The thriller, set in 19th century Baltimore, involves a string of brutal and horrifying murders, crimes that seem inspired by the shocking stories of a local writer—Edgar Allan Poe.


In “The Raven,” John Cusack plays Poe in a tale of murders most monstrous.

This isn’t the first time Poe has appeared in a motion picture. In fact, the famous writer/poet/critic is featured in Francis Ford Coppola’s experimental horror film, “Twixt.” In that story, the main character (played by Val Kilmer) has an eerie dream in which he visits with a very-much-alive Poe…despite his death in 1849.

Haunted from Birth
So who was this strange little man with the haunted eyes and drooping moustache? In many regards he was America’s first professional writer; before Edgar Allen Poe, the thought of a writer actually making enough money to support himself was laughable. Poe was one of the first writers to make his living completely from his pen.

But it wasn’t an easy life. An orphan at age 2, Poe was dead by 40 (and under mysterious circumstances: found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, incoherent as if drunk and wearing clothes that he did not own). To this day, there is no final verdict on what killed him.


One of the few photographs of the real Edgar Allan Poe, taken about a year before his mysterious death.

During his short life, Edgar Allan Poe experienced much tragedy. He grew up in a foster family where he received harsh discipline. As a young man, he dropped out of the University of Virginia, in part due to mounting gambling debts. Later he was court-martialed out of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for neglecting his duties.

Years later, after he was steadily making a name for himself as a writer, he published the classic horror poem, “The Raven,” but although the poem made Poe world-famous, there was no such thing as copyright law at the time and Poe only earned $7 for his masterpiece. Shortly thereafter, his young wife died—emotionally scarring the brilliant writer. Within seven years, Poe himself was dead.


In Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt,” Val Kilmer consults with Poe (played by Ben Chaplin).

Tortured Soul…But Productive Life
And yet, in spite of a brutally hard life, Poe achieved some amazing things:

  • He’s considered the father of American horror, as writers like Stephen King have often acknowledged. Many of his scariest works have been adapted for film over the years.
  • Poe is one of the first American writers credited with popularizing the short story as a literary format.
  • The father of the modern detective story, Poe’s famous “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the very first ever in which a detective solves a mystery by piecing together clues and using deductive reasoning. (Modern TV shows like “CSI” owe Poe an enormous debt of inspiration.)
  • Poe helped establish the genre of science fiction.
  • A great poet, Poe published classic verse like “The Bells” and “A Dream within a Dream.”
  • Poe was also a hugely influential literary critic, who commented on the work of other writers and poets.

Finally, Poe was a larger-than-life character whose own personal misfortunes seemed to mirror the awful and mysterious aspects of his writing. There are only a few photographs of Poe and he’s never smiling in any of them. Furthermore, there are few if any “happy endings” within his stories and poems. Poe seemed to be as haunted as his imagination, and the public image of a troubled, unhappy artist has stuck with him for well more than a century.

Poe in Pop Culture
Edgar Allan Poe cast a very long shadow and he’s rarely been out of public circulation. This “master of the macabre” keeps turning up in the strangest places:

1. “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles…Poe is one of the many celebrities and public figures featured on this 1967 landmark album’s equally famous cover. The collage mixes the images of more than 70 figures, with Poe anchoring the back row (between pioneering psychiatrist Carl Jung and Fred Astaire, Hollywood’s greatest dancer).


Even The Beatles saluted Poe; he appears in the middle of the back row of celebrities on “Sgt. Pepper.”

2. “Play Misty for Me”…In the first film Clint Eastwood directed (1971), Clint plays a DJ who has a brief fling with a fan, not realizing that she’s a complete maniac. But he finally gets the point…or nearly does. Played by Jessica Walter (now the mother on TV’s “Modern Family”), the unhinged fan quotes from Poe’s tragic love poem “Annabel Lee,” and it’s never gotten a spookier reading.

3. The Baltimore Ravens…The pro football team (which captured the 2000 Super Bowl championship) needed a new name when the Cleveland Browns franchise was bought and moved to Baltimore. A fan contest was conducted to select the new name. Although other titles were considered (e.g., “The Baltimore Marauders,” “The Baltimore Americans”), the team was eventually named in honor of Edgar Allan Poe and his most famous poem because Poe had lived and eventually died in the northeastern city. Now the team’s three raven mascots share his name; one’s called “Edgar,” another is “Allan” and a third is called “Poe.”


When a new NFL franchise came to Baltimore, a fan contest chose “Ravens” in honor of Poe’s famous poem.

Putting Poe to Work
Edgar Allen Poe would have loved the medium of digital filmmaking—now it’s possible to bring a writer’s vision to life and take audiences even deeper into their world. All it takes is an active imagination and some Hollywood visual effects to help create nightmares that leave a lasting impression on people. Poe would be proud.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Scorsese & Coppola: Old-school Directors Embrace Digital Filmmaking

They are two of the greatest directors in film history, each the maker of acknowledged movie masterpieces. Both Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese came to prominence during the 1970s, one of cinema’s greatest and most productive decades.


Hugo is director Martin Scorsese’s first film to use 3D.

But both directors are closely identified with the films they made thirty to forty years ago and that presents a small problem. Now each director has to compete with his own legend, and each must prove that he can make new films that are accessible to younger audiences. To that end, each director has a new project that takes advantages of new techniques in digital filmmaking.

Coppola: The Godfather of Cinema                       
Before he was known as a master filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola was a respected stage director and had directed a couple of films. But that was before 1972 and the release of the movie that would secure his reputation as a giant in cinema. The Godfather created a sensation and became one of the best-loved films of all time, and Coppola hasn’t been out of the public eye since. Along the way he’s made other masterpieces, including the Vietnam war drama,  Apocalypse Now.


From young lion to grand old man of the cinema: Francis Ford Coppola talks about his passion for film at the Toronto Film Festival.

For his latest project, Twixt, Coppola returned to one of his favorite film genres — horror. In the movie, a horror writer (played by Val Kilmer) visits a bizarre town which may or may not be inhabited by vampires. In one amazing scene, director Coppola has star Kilmer engage in a one-on-one conversation with the father of all modern horror, Edgar Allan Poe.

Coppola not only experimented with story elements but the director was also using an iPad for film editing. For example, when Coppola appeared at Comic-Con 2011 to showcase Twixt, he talked about his desire to take the film on the road and present it along with an orchestra — basically directing the film’s performance as a fresh audience experience each time out, even shuffling the order of shots as the mood of the performance struck him.

He told the Comic-Con faithful, “What I’d love to do is go on tour, like a month before the film opened…and go to all the cities myself, with my collaborators, with live music and actually perform the film for each audience uniquely for them — a different version for each audience.” The maestro also put his own unique stamp on using 3D. In Coppola’s case, that meant utilizing the effect selectively and only in certain scenes.

Coppola had seen a recent blockbuster and liked its use of 3D, but didn’t care for keeping on the special glasses throughout. “I enjoyed very much Avatar,” he said, “But I confess that I took the glasses off during much of the movie. And whenever I saw the images start to show that it was going to be 3D, I put them on and saw a wonderful sequence, and then I took them off again.”


Coppola not only paid tribute to early horror writer Edgar Allan Poe in Twixt; the 3D lenses Coppola handed out at Comic-Con 2011 were inset into Poe face masks. 

And although Coppola enjoys 3D, he doesn’t want to use it as a one-trick pony. “How dare anyone think that all movies have up their sleeve is more 3D. Cinema has many more surprises that you and your children will invent, because it’s at the beginning of this expression of image and sound.” While other art forms are thousands of years old, Coppola noted that film is still in its infancy as an art form. “Music and theater are thousands of years old. Cinema’s a baby.”

Scorsese: Genius Moves to the Third Dimension
Among major directors, few are as passionate about the craft of filmmaking as Martin Scorsese. Through landmark films like 1976’s Taxi Driver and 1980’s Raging Bull, Scorsese tackled tough subjects and did it all with a virtuoso’s artistry. His uncompromising vision has led him to a Best Director Oscar (for 2006’s The Departed), as well as other prestigious awards, such as the Cannes Film Festival’s highly prized Palme D’Or for Taxi Driver.

In 2006, Scorsese was presented the Oscar for Best Director for The Departed by Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola…the other major American directors who came to prominence during the 1970s. Scorsese’s natural sense of humor was on full display when he asked the presenters to “Check the envelope, please.” (Scorsese had been nominated five previous times before winning.)


Few directors have made more great films than Martin Scorsese, and even fewer have studied film in depth as Scorsese has done.

Now Scorsese is back and with a different type of movie than he’s ever made. Hugo (which opens November 23rd) is an adventure/puzzle of a movie, and it follows the title character, a resourceful boy trying to unlock a secret left to him by his deceased father. A dazzling visual experience, Hugo is Scorsese’s first foray into making a 3D movie, and he recently talked about embracing the popular technology.

“Most people have stereoscopic vision so why belittle that element of our existence? Why not use it? We’re basically headed for holograms. You have to think that way.” He’s convinced of the screen power of 3D, although combining the technique with Scorsese’s patented perfectionism didn’t lead to quick results. “It really was an enjoyable headache,” the famous director said. “It demands respect. We just kept pushing it to see how far we could go. We would look at a shot and say, ‘What could we do to use the depth?’”

A Fresh Approach to Filmmaking
When Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese were learning film production, the only real source of training (besides on-the-job experience) was offered by film schools. Today, anyone interested in filmmaking can pull out their smartphone and post a video up to their YouTube channel. Still, the professional world of filmmaking demands that you master new technologies; after all, it’s a digital filmmaking world.

Aspiring filmmakers can now study film production and learn how to make a movie at film camp without waiting to be accepted to a full-time film school. Digital Media Academy is a state-of-the-art, critically acclaimed digital media education company that offers personalized instruction from seasoned industry professionals. You’ll also get exposure to the latest film-production techniques and hands-on training in film production and how to use editing software (like Final Cut Pro). Interested in becoming the next Coppola or Scorsese? Learn how from DMA.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Coppola’s Twixt: Using Technology to Re-invent the Movies

He’s acknowledged as one of the greatest directors in film history, and now he’s back with a wild new movie. Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) has always been a bold filmmaker. His latest film proves once again that he’s not afraid to take chances: Twixt is a 3D movie, with a twist.


Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola made the 1972 classic,  The Godfather.

Val Kilmer (Top Gun, Batman Forever, The Doors) plays Hall Baltimore, a down-on-his-luck horror novelist, who specializes in books about witches. Baltimore is touring the West Coast on a self-managed low-budget book tour. When he stops in the small Northern California town of Swann Valley, he realizes he’s wandered into a twilight zone that’s populated by odd happenings, menacing Goth teenagers and other strange characters. He becomes haunted by the ghost of a young girl (played by Elle Fanning, from Super 8).


The ghost of V haunts Hall Baltimore.

Dynamic Cinema
Coppola previewed Twixt at Comic-Con 2011, where he gave out Edgar Allan Poe Masks (with 3D glasses inserted in the eyes) to convention attendees. The preview was one of the highlights of Comic-Con.

Coppola teased the film as a “dynamic cinematic experience.” Basically, his vision is that depending on where and when you see the film, the version of the story you see could be completely different than someone else’s. It’s an interesting take, but one made possible with technological advances, “How dare anyone think all (cinema) has got up its sleeve is 3D. Of course we’re going to see wonderful innovations,” Coppola remarked.

The director went on to demonstrate how scenes might be “remixed,” as Coppola created a couple of different versions of the trailer. The crowd watched as Coppola used an iPad to edit on the fly. Basically what he envisions – to some extent – is what the final film presentation might offer.


The trailer for Twixt is remixed for the audience at Comic-Con.

Poe Show
Cranking the weird meter to eleven is a surprise “cameo” by no less than the godfather of horror, Edgar Allan Poe. Poe died young and mysteriously in 1849, but only after defining American horror with stories and poems like “The Raven” (which dealt with insanity), “The Cask of Amontillado” (where a character is buried alive) and “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” (which includes cannibalism among its many horrors). Given the overwhelming weirdness of Swann Valley, Poe, it seems, finds himself right at home.


Strange encounters are the hallmark of Twixt, including this one with long-dead, horror icon Edgar Allan Poe.

Twixt had its world premiere Sunday at the Toronto International Film Festival, and the famous director talked about the movie’s origins during a Q&A session with festival attendees. Coppola got the idea while visiting Istanbul and after a night of drinking a potent Turkish liquor. The film’s concept came to him in a dream. Upon waking the next morning, Coppola immediately preserved his thoughts by using his iPhone to capture the idea.

Because of his legacy, anticipation greets every new Coppola film. And even though he’s made horror films before (most notably, 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula), this is Francis Ford Coppola’s first film to use 3D. (However, the 3D effect is only used in two scenes, and the film signals the audience members about when to put on their 3D glasses.) No release date has been set for Twixt just yet; Coppola is still shopping the movie around and trying to find a distributor.


Coppola, Kilmer and…Edgar Allan Poe (played by Ben Chaplin) on the set of Twixt.

In the Final Cut
It’s no surprise Coppola used an iPhone and iPad to preview his latest creation at Comic-Con. In addition to making some of the cinema’s most important and beloved movies, Francis Ford Coppola has always been a technical innovator. Like many of today’s most celebrated filmmakers, Coppola has been using Final Cut Pro to edit movies for years. Twixt showcases the director’s vision in a way that pushes the cinematic experience to new heights, and we can’t wait to see the results.

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posted by DMA Jordan in News Blog and have No Comments