A word about Martin Scorsese and his lost documentary “Street Scenes” from 1970.

Martin Scorsese is in the news a lot these days. He’s got a new movie coming out, The Irishman, which is a big event for the 76 year old director, but mostly people are talking about his comments that Marvel movies are not “cinema”. Here is the exact quote, probably taken out of context:

“I don’t see them. I tried, you know? … Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”

The comment sounds pretty much like anyone’s grandfather, and the fact that it sparked a global debate is what I find interesting. We’re talking about words here, and their power, and that is something that is very relevant today, regardless of what you think about superhero movies. The term “cinema” (and I mean “term”) meant something different during Scorsese’s time then it did before him, or now. When he learned the term it was the time of the New Wave, the Cahier du Cinema, independent filmmaking, the great revolution in American film that seperated flickers from movies, and movies from cinema. It was a classification that had a distinct definition to it, and most of us grew up watching cinema, learning from the greats before us.

Simply put there was no such thing as CG. It wasn’t part of cinema, or movies, or flickers. Claymation or animation was the closest thing that you had probably, and most movies were considered cheap, except for maybe Fantasia, which I bet Scorsese wouldn’t consider cinema either. Cinema to Scorsese meant live action humans creating a story through the visual medium of film that changed the perception of the viewer in a completely realistic manner. I know because he speaks about it in Scorsese on Scorsese.

One thing to note is Scorsese is one of the biggest film theorist and historians we have. His opinions matters simply put since he can see the whole scope of the history of film. For modern film goers, Marvel films might be some of the only films they’ve ever seen, and they take offense to this type of comments, but in reality this type of CG blockbuster is a mere ten minutes into the 24 hour day that makes up the history of filmmaking. Like it or not, I understand Scorsese’s point, and while a bit rude, I can understand what he means. It’s also just his opinion folks.

Again though what is most fascinating is the word “cinema” and the meaning, or change of meaning it is going through. I think that some of the Marvel films are certainly cinematic and deserve to be called cinema as much as Citizen Kane or Taxi Driver. I just find it amazing how people can argue so violently about the words they use and not see that the meaning is the same. I see both sides of the fence, and think this is a prime example of how words can have power, and how that power can change or grow over a generation.

News, president, war, Wall Street, racism, loan, news, socialism, Russia, fact, there are a lot of words I feel have taken on different feelings since I learned them. Their meanings might stay the same, as in their definitions, but the feeling behind it, the “terms” in which we use them change a lot. I came across this documentary that Scorsese did in the 70’s when the students were revolting in disagreement to the war. It’s fascinating to see, to hear the people’s language and think about our present condition here in the United States. It’s amazing sometimes to see how far we haven’t come, or how we just have changed the words we use for the same problems.

Rs

http://www.robertoserrini.com

 

The Smallest Film Festival with the Biggest Heart.

Frank Zagottis is a fun guy. A Queens local, he’s got this nice house off Newtown Road right in the heart of Astoria. Like most locals, his parents were immigrants, his father came to this country as a tailor, and spent his life fitting clothes to support his family. Now Frank is giving back a bit, in his own way, and keeping his neighborhood friendly.

For years each summer Frank will hang a large white sheet that his own father sew over the back of his house, set up a little projector on an aluminum stepladder and invite anyone that wishes to come by to watch a classic Hollywood movie. He serves up snacks, puts out chairs, and doesn’t charge a thing. It doesn’t get more cozy then this.

When you live in a city of steel and stone like New York, it can be very easy to be beat down by the grind, and to forget that humanity exists. It’s people like Frank with his Newtown Road Backyard Film Festival that make us remember that we’re really all neighbors sharing one big backyard. Thanks Frank, you truly are a good guy.

Rs

 

Do You Need Film School

No.

Thanks for reading.

Ok, I’ll go a bit deeper.

I went to film school. It was fantastic. I would definitely say that going helped me become a better filmmaker/storyteller/human faster.

Did I need to go to be a filmmaker/storyteller/human? No. But that’s me… some people do need to go, they need the structure, they need to meet the right people. Some people definitely don’t need to go, they are already on their way to making film fantastically. Either way, Film School is definitely not going to hurt.

I studied Film Theory. They didn’t actually offer Production at my school which is a bit different than most academic entries into the wonderful world of going into debt, I mean, making films. I studies a lot of Plato, Eisenstein, watched a years worth of Buster Keaton, and even studied Pornography with Constance Penley. The idea here was to look at film from a psychological, and theoretical standpoint. Instead of learning how to make something look a certain way, we learned why something was a certain way.

I’m not going to say you needed a lot of marijuana to fully understand most of what was taught, but it was California…

Ok, so now I’m out of school, and never even saw a camera. How the hell was I going to make films?

Well, you just sorta do.

You get a camera and you start making films. You’ve heard this before. Like anything, your success depends a lot on you. Also like anything else, you need instruction despite what Robert Rodriguez or Tarantino might have you believe. Sure, you might be able to make a sound by just picking up an instrument, but you’re going to get to playing a song much faster if you have someone teaching you.

Enter the internet. That’s right, it’s much more than just a tool to watch porn.

The first thing I learned was how to edit. This made sense because if you make films, and you suck, which you do, no one will want to edit your film. You can find a cameraman, actors, even a lowly sound guy, but an editor? Good luck. I still have a love hate relationship with editing, even though it eventually became a very serious career for me before I had enough skill to call myself a director. Being an editor is also an advantage at any level of production, no matter what you want to do. It’s like being a composer that plays another instrument. You just get the big picture.

How did I learn? http://www.creativecow.net

Before www.nofilmschool.com and other sites whose sole goal was to replace conventional film school, creative cow was the place to get free instruction. You could, and still can, learn absolutely ANYTHING. Final cut? Check. After Effects? Check. Da Vinci? Check. The name Aharon Rabinowitz taught me more than any professor in college, and for absolutely free. Indebted is not the word.

I have a nostalgia for these tutorials from time to time. They were funny, with cheesy jokes, easy to follow, and were at a time when filmmaking was still so new, and the idea of not having to work at a bar, or hotel, or retail was still so far off.

The way this learning worked was actually quite genius. Say you wanted to make something “glow” in post. You would search for it, and maybe find a tutorial on how to make a light saber effect. Not exactly what you wanted to do, but once you learned the skill you could apply it any creative way you wanted to. If you were in a classroom, the teacher may show you a different “more correct” way to get the result of what you wanted, but this way, you were using tools that perhaps weren’t designed for what you were wanting to do, in a novel way. That created originality. It also allowed you to do anything you want and not feel like you were doing it “wrong”.

There are a dozen ways to skin a cat, and about 30 ways to roto an object out of a frame.

So for me, I feel like film school was a great addition to my career. I feel that if I went to a production school, I may have entered my chosen profession earlier, but, would have had way less of a unique voice. I think by studying the philosophy of cinema first, then teaching myself the technical aspect of filmmaking, my craft is just that, craft. Self made. My own. I would imagine if I went to USC perhaps I would have been on a set at 21, and being told to make film a certain way, having my style be given to me more than formed. Mind you there is nothing wrong with that, I just think personally feeling that I don’t have a cinematic voice and trying to find it years after forming my craft would be way harder than working at the front desk of a hotel for a handful of years before teaching myself enough to call myself a filmmaker and be hired to do just that.

So, do you need film school? No. Is it useful? Yes. Most useful is your drive to learn, which if you have a strong one, the sky is truly the limit.

Seymour is the reason for film.

There are certain films that just water your soul. Seymour is one of them, and it’s a great example of why film is.

Lot’s of people like to go to the movies to escape. There are plenty of films that are so submersive that they make you forget you are in a chair watching a wall. Seymour however breaks through that wall; it’s the type of film that pushes through your life, and puts the mirror on you. You see the best of yourself, of life, of human kind, and you walk out, well, a better person.

Not bad for $16.50 and 84 minutes of your time.

I won’t tell you what Seymour is “about”. It’s not “about” a storyline. The story is in you, and this is just a chapter of it that was brilliantly shot. Go see it if you have the opportunity, it will nourish you for sure.

In theaters March 13th. Don’t miss it.