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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…

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posted by Vince Matthews in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

E3 2012 Announcements & Surprises

This week, the 18th annual E3 is taking place in Los Angeles. Started in 1995 (because video game companies felt lost among the massive Consumer Electronics Show, or CES) E3 has developed into a showcase for gamers and game developers alike.


Video game journalists and fans from across the globe descend on the halls of the LA Convention Center.

This week we’re covering the announcements and surprises that come out of the show – and the games you’ll be playing in the months ahead. Let’s start our coverage with a look at what trends we’re seeing coming out of the show at the end of Day One:

Trend: The Death of the Handheld
Why You Should Care: Gaming on the go will never be the same.

This E3 could be known as the “last roundup” for handheld game devices, although Nintendo will likely remain in the arena it helped build (with its Game Boy). Still, Nintendo hasn’t been able to find much support for its Nintendo DS device, just as Sony has struggled to find an audience for its PS Vita handheld. So what’s responsible for the rapid decline of this game niche? That’s right—the massive success of smartphones and tablet devices, which are now leading mobile gaming.

Trend: Xbox Becomes More Integrated with Your TV
Why You Should Care: Microsoft is light years ahead of Apple and Sony and on a track to be a full-service media provider.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is dominating Day One and Microsoft wants to go a step further – and dominate your living room. To that end, Microsoft is continuing to use the Xbox as a type of “Trojan horse” to gain more access to your living room. This includes new music and video services being served up by – you guessed it – the Xbox.


“Star Wars 1313″ was one of the major titles announced at E3 2012. 

Trend: Reviving and Reconnecting “Star Wars” Fans with “Star Wars 1313”
Why You Should Care: It’s the first serious gamers “Star Wars” game in years.

While fans are still taking in the recent announcement that George Lucas is retiring from filmmaking (at least from big-budget movies), the game company he inspired is gearing up for a comeback. LucasArts hasn’t introduced a new title in almost two years, so expectations are already running high for “Star Wars 1313,” in which a bounty hunter makes his way through “a ruthless criminal underground.” (Think “Mass Effect” meets “L.A. Noire.”) The big difference around this time is the targeted audience; whereas most “Star Wars” games are marketed to younger gamers, “Star Wars 1313” will aim to strike a chord with older players; the game is already touting an “M” rating.

Trend: Blockbuster Sequels/Kinect
Why You Should Care: Motion games and sequels continue to drive the industry — and that’s not necessarily a good thing…

The Kinect system keeps charging ahead, and so do new titles that support it. Games announced at E3 that support Kinect include “Madden NFL 13” and “FIFA 13.”  “Halo,” “Gears of War” and “Forza”—each of which has been a certified Xbox smash—all have sequels announced at this E3. It means more mass-market games and less indie titles, although we must confess, we’re drooling over “Halo 4,” which is slated for a November release.

Trend: Saving Sony
Why You Should Care: Gamers are a passionate bunch who don’t easily forget.

At this year’s event, Sony will be trying to soothe the tempers of gamers still fuming over network hacks and botched system launches…cough, PS Vita. Sure there are some stellar titles on PS3, but gamers haven’t been bowled over by Sony’s corporate missteps and the company needs to work hard to mend relationships with its audience.

Stay Tuned!
As industry events go, E3 has something for everybody, from those who play games to those want to learn how to make video games. Check back in with us this week, as we present special editorial coverage of E3 2012.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog,Video Game Design and have No Comments

Frank Darabont’s Lost Indiana Jones Script

Frank Darabont has an impressive resume: Not only did he develop the critically acclaimed Walking Dead TV show, he’s also a three-time Oscar nominee, having directed The Green Mile (1999) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Recently his script for the fourth Indiana Jones movie surfaced on the Internet.


Writer, producer and director Frank Darabont. 

Reinventing an Icon
Darabont, who previously worked with George Lucas as a script writer on the The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones television show, was hired to write a script in May 2002. The script, called Indiana Jones and the City of Gods, had Indy being pursued by ex-Nazis in the 1950s. For Darabont it would be no easy task to follow Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (a film that many felt effectively wrapped up the franchise) but his script did that, and then some.

Darabont finished his script toward the end of 2003 and presented it to Steven Spielberg. Spielberg, who thought up the story concept for the fourth film, loved the script. George Lucas, however, who created Indiana Jones, didn’t like it.

Spielberg and Lucas had long discussions about the story – both had issue with the 1950s setting, and that it ignored the Cold War. After some additional reflection, Spielberg (who had also received an Oscar for Schindler’s List) decided it would be inappropriate to satirize Nazis in the next Indiana Jones movie. Harrison Ford too, who played Indiana Jones, also felt the franchise had “wore the Nazis out.”


Grab a box of tissues and get ready to cry over what could have been…

Sadly, neither felt Darabont’s script was what they were looking for. Eventually, Lucas took over the script-writing duties and other screen writers came on too, with Russians becoming Indy’s main enemy, although one of Darabont’s story concepts remained: Marion Ravenwood as Indy’s love interest.

Script Writing 101
Fans have badmouthed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull since it was released, and story elements played a huge part in that – including the scene at the beginning of the movie where Indy saves himself from a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator. Writing for the screen is a craft that takes years to develop, but film camp can provide a great start and learning script writing can be a great asset for beginning filmmakers.

Check out Frank Darabont’s Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods script and see what goes into making the written word come to life on the big screen. It’s a craft that can pay off big; at last count, the Indiana Jones franchise has grossed over a billion dollars.


George Lucas, Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg on the set of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.

The Future of Indiana Jones
So what lies ahead for Indiana Jones? Is a fifth film in the works? Inside sources say yes, that Speilberg and Lucas “have a story that they like and they’re working on it.” As for rumors that Shia LaBeouf will take over the franchise, don’t hold your breath for that one to come true.

In a recent interview with Time magazine when he was asked about passing the proverbial torch (or in this case, hat) to LaBeouf in the next movie, Ford replied, “What are you talking about? It’s mine. I would love to do another Indiana Jones movie. George Lucas is working on an idea now. Shia can get his own hat. I earned that hat.”

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posted by Vince Matthews 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 Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

The Best End-of-Summer Movie EVER

If you’re looking for a movie to celebrate summer, you can’t go wrong with George Lucas’ 1973 classic, “American Graffiti,” which is quite possibly the greatest end-of-summer movie ever made. People unfamiliar with the movie are surprised to learn that the “Star Wars” wizard made this film classic earlier in his career. And not only did “American Graffiti” put director/co-writer Lucas on the map, but it also relaunched the acting career of Harrison Ford and made other actors in the film major stars of television and movies.


Before ”American Graffiti,” Harrison Ford had given up acting and was supporting himself as a carpenter. The role of cruiser Bob Falfa lured Ford back into show business. Within four years, he would be world-famous for his role as Han Solo in “Star Wars.”

Once Upon a Time
In a Hollywood long ago, there was an enterprising young film student named George Lucas. Lucas met and partnered with Francis Ford Coppola (Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt” starring Val Kilmer releases this year). Together they made “American Graffiti” — Lucas directed, Coppola produced — and the results were cinematic magic, as Lucas sketched a lasting portrait of the last night of Summer 1962.

The film tracks its four primary characters as their paths intersect repeatedly during the night. But “American Graffiti” was practically the autobiography of George Lucas. Lucas grew up in Modesto, California during the 1950s; “American Graffiti” is set in 1962 Modesto. There’s a restless spirit in the air as the last long summer night unwinds and the streets are packed with teenagers cruising their hot rods (Lucas was also a gear head as a teenager). Made on a modest budget with many unknowns, the film became a surprise hit and its huge financial success (ultimately grossing more than $200 million) gave Lucas the industry cred he needed to make “Star Wars.”


George Lucas had only worked on a few films before ”American Graffiti,” which gave him instant industry clout.

The story is told through the eyes of four high school friends (and a massive cast of other unforgettable characters)See which stars you recognize in this trailer for “American Graffiti“.

In case you didn’t recognize the cast, that was Ron Howard (from TV’s “Happy Days” and now a respected filmmaker), Cindy Williams (TV’s “Laverne & Shirley”), Richard Dreyfuss (“Jaws,” “Close Encounters”), Suzanne Somers (TV’s “Three’s Company,” ”Step by Step”) and the man in the hat, “Indiana Jones” himself, Harrison Ford (wearing a white Stetson in this film).


George Lucas directs Ron Howard’s starring performance from under the counter at Mel’s Diner.

Ever wonder what inspired the long-running TV series Happy Days“ and kicked off a major 50s revival? This is it. Now recognized as a national treasure, “American Graffiti” took the simple premise of four friends hanging out together on the last real night of summer and turned it into a masterpiece that still speaks to each new generation. As long as there are teenagers with cars who are trying to find some action, there will always be a place for “American Graffiti.”

Music Makes the Mood; Details Make the Movie
Perhaps most interesting about “American Graffiti” is the extraordinary way that Lucas uses sound to set the mood in the film. The AM radio broadcast of DJ Wolfman Jack’s show seems to be blasting from every car and at every location. The hits (41 of them) just keep coming, and everyone and everything is tuned to the same station. No wonder the two-disc soundtrack album became a huge hit.


Paul LeMat became a 70s star on the basis of his portrayal of John Milner, the fastest hot rodder in the Valley. Model car kits are still available of his classic yellow Deuce Coupe.

“American Graffiti” is like an anthropology study of an ancient culture, explained in a wickedly funny and ultra cool way. The movie also has great precision in how it presents the time period, the last night of summer in 1962. Every detail of the era is correct and the energy of the film captures the time period, too. Ultimately, it’s about a slightly more innocent America, right before John F. Kennedy is assassinated and the country is sucked deeply into the Vietnam War and its own internal struggles over civil rights and the rise of the counter culture.

Telling Your Story
If you have a passion for filmmaking, follow your dream like George Lucas did. There are plenty of ways to do that: Take a course about movie making from professional filmmakers. Online courses can be good sources of information, too, although you’ll get your best training one-on-one from an industry filmmaking veteran who is passing their experience along firsthand.

At Digital Media Academy’s Stanford Filmmaking Summer Camp, students learn how to make digital movies from the pros. The program is taught by professional filmmakers, and daytime activities include real production meetings (just like Hollywood studios have) — you’ll also make a movie. Evening activities can include taking in a movie premiere like real Hollywood filmmakers (such as the special pre-release screening of the latest Harry Potter“ that DMA’s Stanford campers attended last summer). So now, are you ready to make a classic like ”American Graffiti”?

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments