Thursday, February 21, 2013

Top 10 Films of 2012

             My “Top 10” list of 2012 consists of films that I consider to be technically and artistically beautiful, but that also managed to move me in some way, and inspired me as a filmmaker and person.  This was one of those years that had an inordinate amount of terrific movies. Plot and storytelling were the key ingredient to many of this year’s amazing movies. I wish I could have made a “Top 20” list instead of a “Top 10,” well, I sort of cheated and included three more.
              I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts on my favorite films of last year, and feel free to share which ones made it to your “Top 10” list.

             If I had “broken the rules” and named this post my “Top 13 Films of 2012,” these three movies would have been included: “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (Dir. Lorene Scafaria), “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Dir. Stephen Chbosky), and “Wreck-It Ralph” (Dir. Rich Moore).

10. “The Queen of Versailles” (Dir. Lauren Greenfield)

I’m kicking off this list with a documentary. Why not? This informative documentary about the rise and fall of the Siegel family is clever and funny. Director Lauren Greenfield successfully covers the human side of “the queen” and her self-made billionaire husband. The viewer embarks on a two-year journey with them as they face economic struggles that lead them to make lifestyle changes and make tough choices in both business and their personal lives. This was definitely not what I expected, and the trailer is nothing but a sneak peak.

09. “The Master” (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

Personally, I didn’t love this film. I guess that explains why it’s number eight on my list; however, it was thought provoking, fearless, and distinct. These are the kinds of movies I like to go see. You may leave the theater with a bittersweet feeling, but at least it managed to make an impact on the viewer and led to dialogue and debate between viewers. Films such as this one are a rarity these days.

07. “Life of Pi” (Dir. Ang Lee)

How did he do it? He’s Ang Lee. This is definitely Mr. Lee’s come-back from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” The story is interesting and makes me want to read the book. Visually, I don’t even have to talk about it. It’s amazing the doors that technology has opened. I smell an Oscar for Claudio Miranda’s splendid cinematography, even though I would personally give it to Seamus McGarvey for his work in “Anna Karenina.”

08. “Anna Karenina” (Dir. Joe Wright)

The third collaboration between director Joe Wright and Keira Knightley proves that rejoining forces does work on the long run. It’s their best collaborative piece so far and I find it disappointing that Knightley’s performance failed to be recognized at this awards season. This theatrical-like film has the best cinematography I witnessed this year (and that’s a lot to say since there were so many films this year with mad cinematography). The production design better get the Academy Award as well as the costume design. This film is one of those that I wish had gotten more hype. The story is heart breaking and intense. Anna is one of those characters you hate to love and love to hate.

06. “Django Unchained” (Dir. Quentin Tarantino)

Tarantino does it again. The cast, the plot, the dialogue, the comedy... they are all there. He manages to portray a touchy subject tastefully and eccentrically as one might expect. The Globes brought a smile to my face last month as they honored Christoph Waltz with an award for bringing Doctor Schulz to life. I was also impressed and content that they gave Tarantino the Globe for best screenplay. Having read the script myself, I can say it is mind blowing, and it keeps you awake till dawn because of the thriller and all of its elements. He has definitely left his signature on this film and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

05. “Les Miserables” (Dir. Tom Hooper)

The leap of faith was worth the risk and all I can say is that this is the best musical film I’ve ever seen. Its value and content are unbelievable. As many of you might agree, the best part of the film is Anne Hathaway's long shot delivering "I dreamed a dream." I was also moved by the scene where Russell Crowe hands his medal to the dead kid. Tom Hooper was definitely snubbed by the Oscars.

04. “Zero Dark Thirty” (Dir. Kathryn Bigelow)

Let me just say I have plenty of respect for Kathryn Bigelow for taking on such a controversial and important role. The story couldn’t have been told better. Maya, played by last year’s “It girl,” Jessica Chastain, is empowering and inspiring. You see her grow throughout the years as she works on the assignment to hunt Osama Bin Laden. As she gets better at her job, the suspense increases and keeps you on the edge of your seat. In my opinion, this should have been Kathryn’s year. She should have been the first women to win an Oscar for best director this year, and not in 2010.

03. “Argo” (Dir. Ben Affleck)

“Argo” is “The Town” on steroids. I have to admit I simply watched it due to all the hype and awards it's been receiving. After leaving the theater, I literally asked another viewer why it had taken me so long to watch it. The edit was outstanding. The pace was fast and kept you engaged. It wasn’t slow, like I feared it would be, and even though you already know what’s going to happen (well, kind of), you are taken on a roller coaster ride that almost moves you to tears as it comes to an end. I identified myself with this film because of all the Hollywood references, from the moment it starts with those storyboards, throughout the film when they’re trying to get a producer, all the way to the end where you see the Star Wars action figures. It definitely is a special film about filmmakers and unsung heroes of this country.

02. “The Impossible” (Dir. J.A. Bayona)

This movie about a family who survives the tsunami that hit Thailand in 2004 is definitely the most emotional film I saw this year.  It simply gives you an appreciation of life. As soon as it was over it made me want to run to my loved ones and hug them. J.A. Bayona recreated the series of events as realistic as possible. Having shot in the actual hotel where it happened, with actual people who were there as extras, it made it much more organic. Naomi Watts should have definitely been this year’s leading actress winner in the various awards held this season, and I wish Ewan McGregor had been recognized for his work as well.

      01. “Cloud Atlas” (Dir. Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski)

How in the world did they do it? I don’t know where to begin. I love this movie so much it's hard for me to put in words what it makes me feel. This year’s most underrated movie had all the components (literally) that made it unforgettable.
Just like “Melancholia,” my favorite movie from last year, “Cloud Atlas” kept me up at night for two straight weeks. It made me think about numerous things, not just about the craft of filmmaking, but about life, people we meet, things we do, just to name a few. The most memorable elements from this movie were the beautiful score, the production and costume design, and the edit. This is the definition of a fearless movie that took many risks; for me, it worked. I'm currently reading the book, and all I can say is that it takes a group of geniuses to adapt such a twisting story and bring it to the big screen. Here's my favorite quote from the movie: “Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.”

             Since I just started this blog six months ago, I wrote my “Top 10” from the last two years as a note on my personal Facebook. Here they are:

“Top 10” from 2011:

10. “The Art of Getting By” (Dir. Gavin Wiesen)
09. “Like Crazy” (Dir. Drake Doremus)
08. “The Artist” (Dir. Michel Hazanavicius)
07. “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (Dir. Sean Durkin)
06. “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (Dir. Stephen Daldry)
05. “Drive” (Dir. Nicolas Winding Refn)
04. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (Dir. David Fincher)
03. “The Tree of Life” (Dir. Terrence Malick)
02. “J. Edgar” (Dir. Clint Eastwood)
01. “Melancholia” (Dir. Lars von Trier)

“Top 10” from 2010:

10. “Never Let Me Go” (Dir. Mark Romanek)
09. “Conviction” (Dir. Tony Goldwyn)
08. “The Kids Are All Right” (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko)
07. “The Fighter” (Dir. David O. Russell)
06. “The Social Network” (Dir. David Fincher)
05. “The King’s Speech” (Dir. Tom Hooper)
04. “True Grit” (Dir. Ethan & Joel Coen)
03. “For Colored Girls” (Dir. Tyler Perry)
02. “Inception” (Dir. Christopher Nolan)
01. “Black Swan” (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tips From a Production Coordinator's Daily Life

            Growing up watching films made me idolize actors and directors for the vision, emotion, and storytelling they would bring to life. As I started my career in film school, my appreciation for other crafts in different departments of the industry broadened. I realized that film is a collaborative effort where all the pieces must fit in order to finish the jigsaw puzzle.
            As my school program went on, I became attracted to the production department; I was UPM (Unit Production Manager) for our very first short film for a digital cinematography class. What caught my attention was the ability to be aware of everything that happens in each department. I considered myself to be good with people and at being organized, so it seemed like an appropriate fit.
My interests in this department, which I consider to be underrated, started to grow. I was like a kid at a toy store; there were many people to look up, books to read, interviews to watch, and stories to hear. I began researching production managers and production coordinators and learning more about their jobs.
            I was lucky enough to meet Steve Cainas a little over a year ago. He’s a production coordinator who’s a graduate from my alma mater and happened to work on my all-time favorite television show, Lost. I am grateful he took some of his busy time off to answer some questions regarding a day in the life of a production coordinator.

            How important is deal making and negotiation on your job, and how does it change depending on the project? Are there any advantages and challenges by being in your position? 

Huge part of my job and an important skill set.  No matter what size production we always have a budget that must be adhere to.  Everything is negotiable.  Obviously working on an independent film with a limited budget creates much more deal making on the daily basis.  The advantage is to establish long lasting relationships with vendors so that you can call upon them to help resolve a situation efficiently and cost effective. 

            When negotiating with other people, how do you separate the person from the problem? Has there been a time when you had difficulty controlling your emotions in order to get something?

Not at all.  It's always important to keep a business relationship when negotiating with people.  I keep my personal life private from my professional life.  You have to be strong, aggressive, and confident to succeed at this job.  Shy and quiet regretfully does not work in a position when you have to manage people and resolve chaos on a daily basis. 

            What strategies do you use when negotiating with others. How do you get to your objective criteria and what are some tips or suggestions you may have for someone who is in a similar situation?

I always have the other person see the WHOLE picture, not just a slice of it.  For example, I might ask to reduce a grip package to $5,000 that originally was quoted at $9,000.  Seems substantial, but I make sure to point out that it's not a 2 week rental, but rather a 26 week rental that will result in $130,000 of revenue!  My current project is an HBO series that is filming the first season.  I make a point to share that the show might, very well, be in production for several years and that I would like to maintain a working relationship with this person or vendor that potentially will last for a while.  That always opens their eyes.

            Could you share a moment when you had a hard time coming to an agreement or getting what you needed for a project, but ended up being successful? How did it impact the project, and what would have happened if you hadn't been able to obtain what you were looking for?

As a Production Coordinator, you are constantly solving problems.  Recently I needed to make a deal with a vendor from California to provide power generators. My budget was $50,000 for something that truthfully should cost $100,000.   I had to find several other competitors that were interested in the business to bid the project, thus creating a "bidding war" that at the end resulted in getting the equipment that I needed for substantially less and meeting my budget.

            Something new that I learned is how important it is to find many competitors when you want to obtain something; at the end of the day, you want to get the best deal. It’s about letting one party know that its competitor has a sweet deal in order to find a better one from them. Another crucial thing that I am working on is my aggressiveness and confidence. I’ve learned from working as a personal assistant that there is always a way to get what you want as long as you’re firm and negotiate effectively. There is no reason for anyone to intimidate you.
            I’m glad I’ve already started to set my foot on the door and that I’m slowly learning from my mistakes. It’s interviews such as this one that remind you to open your eyes a bit more. This is the first of many more that I am planning on writing once or twice per month. Hopefully you gained some knowledge from this blog post by someone with twenty years of experience in the industry.