Martin Scorsese’s Inspiring Speech and Advice to Filmmakers

Martin-Scorsese's-Inspires-Young-Filmmakers-at-Film-SchoolThe pursuit of the arts, and specifically filmmaking in our case, is never a pain-free journey. There’s often a lot of confusion, doubt, and struggle along the way. By interviewing professionals of the entertainment industry, I often hear two dreaded words: “Burn out.” If you ask around, it’s not uncommon to meet professionals who are sick and tired of working in “the business.” I wish I knew how that change of hearts happens, where that feeling of sometimes regret, sometime resentment, sometime good plain disappointment comes from. But if I were to guess, I’d say it creeps up to you, gradually, and when you least expect, bam! You realize it’s no longer fun. That dream you had, gone! It’s possible that tragic cases from world-renowned celebrities taking their own lives (whether accidental or intentional) like Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Williams fall into this category of burning out as well. But this post is not about celebrities.

In more down-to-earth scenarios of “regular” people, most of whom do work behind the camera or off the set, I occasionally hear from them that they regret not pursuing another aspiration that they had when young; an aspiration not in the arts. The cause, no doubt, varies from case to case, and, as such, I’d rather not speculate on why this happens. (As a part of an upcoming interview-based Career Series that I will be publishing on this blog, you will see many of those accounts first-hand. Stay tuned for more.) For now, I just wanna tell you that working in the film industry is not all glitz. Many a times the glamour wears off rather quickly, and then it becomes work as usual.

But Scorsese is Here to Motivate You

Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, gave a great inspirational speech at the Tisch School of Arts this past spring. Listening to him, I was aware that a lot of the obstacles that exist today, already existed in the 1960’s when he started his career. Such as the time when Scorsese asked Elia Kazan (On the WaterfrontA Streetcar Named Desire) to work as production assistant for him, to which Kazan replied, “We don’t do that.” Of course, approaching a director of that stature is even harder nowadays.

Scorsese’s complete speech, which you can watch below, is full of uplifting takeaways that I hope will encourage you to keep your goals alive. There’s one particular piece of advice that I wanted to emphasize:

“It’s a very strong thing, that desire, that initial impulse — like an obsession. But it’s deliciate too and it needs to be nutured and protected against the incursions of the world which can be merciless.”

By doing the research for the Career Series, I have heard many people refer to that feeling in one way or another. But Scorsese is right, it’s the merciless world that hinders and poisons your initial desire. It is your mission to preserve that flame in you. Let it stoke your passion without burning you out. The industry is merciless, but perseverance will get you though. Stay positive and learn healthy ways to cope with stress and challenges.

Scorsese also quoted Theoter Roosevelt:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

 

Remember that knowing defeat is necessary to know know victory. Here’s the full address video:

Martin Scorsese – Honored Speaker at Tisch Salute 2014 from Tisch School of the Arts on Vimeo.

Quentin Tarantino’s Movie Theater, The New Beverly, and His Love for Film Prints Explained

Quentin Tarantino's PULP FUCTION

Pulp Fiction is screening this weekend at Tarantino’s movie house, The New Beverly Cinema, in honor of the movie’s 20th anniversary. The picture plays as a double feature with The Professional.

 

The transition to digital has taken the industry by storm. First the cameras, then the  projectors. Nowadays, actually celluloid film is a rare sight.

But one old-school advocate vows to keep 35mm projections alive and available to the  interested audience. Quentin Tarantino, who purchased The New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles in 2007, is finally taking over as its programmer, showing the movies he wants to, which happen to be 35mm prints from his own collection. The question in many people’s mind is, Is film projection really that much better than digital?

Obviously, digital is far more convenient. You don’t have to deal with the wear and tear of the reel, and the eventually fading of the colors. It’s easy to create duplicates, and it can be transferred over the airwaves, allowing movie houses to download from the cloud!

But does film look better than digital?

Tarantino certainly thinks so. In a recent interview for KCRW’s The Treatment, where he was promoting his theater, Tarantino left us with the promise of screening film prints exclusively — mostly 35mm but also some 16mm for films were the wider format is not available.

In the radio show, Tarantino talks about a 4k restoration of A Fistful of Dollars that he watched at the Cannes Film Festival that  aggravated him immensely:

 

It’s the closing night of the Cannes Film Festival. And this is a movie I’ve seen a million times. Did it look nice? Yes, it looked nice. My laser disc looks nice. My DVD looks nice, alright. We are not talking about nice. I was depressed, the whole screening. I was sitting in the Grand Palais, the Big House, and I felt I should be pointing a remote control at the screen.”

Tarantino and radio host, Elvis Mitchell, go on to discuss the “flicker effect” and how a digital projection will never be the same as real film. Tarantino explains that the “flicker effect” is an important part of how the eye ball and your brain in connection to each other work to take in the image.” Mitchell talks about how the flicker affects brain chemistry, which is lost in digital.

Tarantino also reminds us that digital (or video) requires a technology to be seen: “You can’t open up an old video cassette and hold up to the light and see the picture. You need a decoding machine to watch this piece of technology.” The most illuminating part about Tarantino’s musings is how film creates a snapshot in your brain, which, according to him, doesn’t happen in digital or television, “That part of the brain doesn’t get worked. That snapshot never actually happens (in digital).”

In the interview, Tarantino also talks a lot about IB Technicolor, which is a technology sold to the Chinese that made the color dyes last longer on the film. That was interesting because I never thought about the different technologies used to make film prints. And as an aficionado, you know Tarantino is only going to curate the best material possible, so I want to believe that the projections at the New Beverly will be spectacular. Whether you live in Los Angeles now, or are planning to visit in the future, to add the New Beverly to your sight-seeing list.

This weekend, the New Beverly Cinema is showing a double feature of Pulp Fiction and The Professional in honor of their 20th anniversary. If you are in Los Angeles, consider stopping by to check them out. I will be going tomorrow, Saturday. Hit me up if you are the in the area.

 

Coming Soon: Your Hollywood Career (and How You Can Be a Part of It)

I often receive questions about specific careers in the industry. Sometimes these questions are basic enough that I can answer them without missing a beat. Other times, however, I have to investigate, dig around, ask a friend… Call it research, if you will, and I love doing  it!

So I’m happy to announce my plans to develop a collection of blog posts about different professions in the industry, all with real insight and first-hand account from actual professionals working in Hollywood and around the globe! How amazing is that! I wish I had thought of it sooner! And shame on you loyal readers for not suggesting it! I’m kidding, of course. I love all of you.

I am calling this Your Hollywood Career for now, but it may change later.

How You Can Help

There are about a hundred different jobs in the industry. I need to know what YOU are interested in so I can chase the right interviewees and ask them the right question. I already have a producer and a DIT technician lined up for interviews soon. I am super stoked for these, and I hope you are too.

Don’t forge to sign up for our email newsletter, so you will be the first to know when this series goes live. Look for the sign up form on the right sidebar.

Let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below. If you have nothing to say, at least tell me this: where do you see yourself in 5 years?

MIT Scientists Can Eavesdrop on Silent Video

This new technique reads tiny vibrations in an object to extract audio from it.

Now here’s something straight out of a sci-fi movie: scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have joined forces with researchers from Microsoft and Adobe to develop an algorithm that can analyze silent image and extract sound from it. And they developed the hell out of it!

The scientists recorded a video of a plant and a bag of potato chips vibrating to some sounds and music streamed through a loudspeaker in the room. Note that the camera is not recording any sound, but recording only the objects vibrating to the sounds. The invisible-to-the-naked-eye vibration is then analyzed by a computer software, which runs the silent video, and sound is extracted from it.

Here’s a video from one of the researchers:

This process works better with high-speed cameras because they are able to record over 2,000 frames per second and thus gather more information. (Compare that with most DSLRs and smartphones which shoot at 60 fps. ) High-speed cameras come with a debt-creating price tag, so this technology is not really accessible to the average consumer, but it’s curious to witness what can only be described as the birth of a new technology.

This is how MIT explains the process:

That technique passes successive frames of video through a battery of image filters, which are used to measure fluctuations, such as the changing color values at boundaries, at several different orientations — say, horizontal, vertical, and diagonal — and several different scales.

The researchers developed an algorithm that combines the output of the filters to infer the motions of an object as a whole when it’s struck by sound waves. Different edges of the object may be moving in different directions, so the algorithm first aligns all the measurements so that they won’t cancel each other out. And it gives greater weight to measurements made at very distinct edges — clear boundaries between different color values.

The researchers also produced a variation on the algorithm for analyzing conventional video. The sensor of a digital camera consists of an array of photodetectors — millions of them, even in commodity devices. As it turns out, it’s less expensive to design the sensor hardware so that it reads off the measurements of one row of photodetectors at a time. Ordinarily, that’s not a problem, but with fast-moving objects, it can lead to odd visual artifacts. An object — say, the rotor of a helicopter — may actually move detectably between the reading of one row and the reading of the next.

For Davis and his colleagues, this bug is a feature. Slight distortions of the edges of objects in conventional video, though invisible to the naked eye, contain information about the objects’ high-frequency vibration. And that information is enough to yield a murky but potentially useful audio signal.

Law enforcement and forensics are just two fields that can greatly benefit from this technology. Pretty slick, huh? What do you think?

(via MIT)