Claire-Dee Lim

Writer, Content Marketing

DIY Ways to Learn About the Movie Business

UPDATED with screenplay link: 11/13/17

I get this question a lot from my film students: what more can I do to learn about filmmaking and the industry?

The answer is multi-fold:

  1. Watch as many films or TV shows as you can. From indies to blockbusters, foreign films, in a theater, streaming, it doesn’t matter. The more content you watch, the more you’ll learn about storytelling and filmmaking techniques. (Although, I’m not a fan of phone viewing; all you get is the story and not the incredible cinematics.)

This seems pretty obvious, right? You’ll be amazed at the number of students I’ve encountered who don’t see anything. The reasons why are always the same: any extra time is spent texting, on social media channels or watching YouTube. I admit to falling into a YouTube cyberhole (Dr. Pimple Popper, stop feeding our popaholic addiction!) but I can pull myself out. For some, it’s practically impossible. Which leads me to …

  1. Prioritize your viewing. If you want to be a director, cinematographer, editor or production designer, watch all the films made by your favorites and analyze them. Go the extra mile: listen to their DVD commentary, read interviews and film criticism. You love Christopher Nolan or Gordon Willis? Dive into their oeuvre—it’s the best kind of personal film school.
  2. The same goes for being a writer, producer, documentarian. Immerse yourself and become that annoying film nerd … and I say this with the utmost affection.
  3. Also, for aspiring writers … not only should you watch movies written by your fave screen and tv writers, read the scripts. It’s easy to get caught up in the visuals of a movie, so reading helps isolate the written storytelling and structure. Scripts are available online. For free! (Read the 2017 award season screenplays too.)
  4. Read the trades to find out what producers, directors, actors, and studios are doing what, what’s in development, what are the hot spec screenplay sales, ratings, studio wars, intrigue and more—this info is all there for the gleaning: THR, Variety, Deadline, Cynopsis, TV By the Numbers, to name a few.
  5. Listen to The Business on KCRW, hosted by Kim Masters, editor-at-large of the Hollywood Reporter, the weekly program covers an industry report then follows with interviews of mainstream to indie talent about their current projects. There are lots of insights to be had here.  Previous shows are archived.
  6. Listen to The Treatment, also on KCRW, hosted by film critic Elvis Mitchell. In his weekly show, he interviews innovative talent from the entertainment industry. He’s such a film champion that he can always find something informative and positive to say about any movie. I may not agree with his tastes but I always get something out of his perspective.
  7. Practice, practice, practice. Write and shoot. Technology has made it so easy to shoot and edit anything, and it’s cheaper than ever. And there’s really no excuse not to.

Tidying Up: More Than A Clean Garage

In my effort to lead a minimalist lifestyle, I’ve been falling into a cyberhole–specifically watching lots of YouTube videos. From decluttering, tossing, photo organizing, drawer porn, to creating your own capsule clothing collection (is it really possible to only wear 30 items, including accessories, per season?!), these videos offer the promise of leading a serene life in a totally white kitchen with nothing on the counters except a bowl of limes, for that pop of color, and a sparse closet of black and white clothing on blonde wood hangers. At some point, you have to stop watching, get brutal and dive in.

It’s really not difficult to de-junk closets and a garage if you embrace the Marie Kondo of it all. That old lawn mower sparks more despair than joy, especially since we removed our lawn and created a xeriscape years ago. Until I got to the shoeboxes of letters and postcards I’d received over the decades. Before email and texting, we wrote letters. Remember that time? Handwritten letters filled with stories, anecdotes, and humor. And the emotion is incredibly poignant, honest, and so drama filled. As I started sorting through these gems from my past, I laughed out loud, got teary, and marveled at the effort placed in these missives.

Before I tucked into the organizing task, I had a plan: to keep the best letters and toss the rest. But once I started … well, could I really throw away the love letters from long-gone boyfriends and long-distance romances? These scribbled out pronouncements of love and detailed descriptions of everyday tedium on lined notebook paper? Long-distance phone calls were really expensive back then, so we had to keep our loved ones and friends filled in on the minutiae to keep the “relating” part of the relationship going.

I did manage to toss some letters from high school and travel pen pals; all filled with angst about homework, restrictive parents, and college applications. I felt no nostalgia for that time in my life however, I kept a few from the summer after 8th grade. I was 13 going on 14, puberty hormones were raging and no surprise, boys were the hot topic. My best friend at the time wrote me while I was away at music camp. She talked about going to the movies at the multiplex with two boys she and another friend liked. They saw Jaws for $2!!, then attempted to sneak into these horror “classics,”  Bugs and Sssssss, the same evening. Who sees double features these days let along three movies in one evening?!

Her description of the evening was so vivid and detailed down to the seating arrangements. Who sat next to whom! This stuff mattered to teenage girls!

Not only did this letter catapult me back to that summer but it also reminded me that letters and cards are records of our lives. While some letters were cringe-worthy and painful to read (particularly those from college friends who never got off the party train and who are now deceased), most were beautiful expressions of friendship, shared experiences, and love … all sparking joy.

 

The Mourning Dove Whisperer

My mother, Barbara, is known for being skilled at many things. To name a few … she’s an incredible cook (her flan is perfection), an expert gardener (we affectionately call her the Garden-ator) and a fierce tennis player and bowler. Now we can add bird whisperer to the list. Here’s a guest post from my father about another of her impressive skills.

The Mourning Dove Whisperer by Paulino Lim Jr.

For five years now in Spring, Barbara has been running an Airbnb for doves. The bnb is a brown plastic pot filled with leaves and twigs, hanging from the west beam of the pergola. The dove “guests” come in pairs, the smaller dove about to lay eggs. Barbara watches them through the sliding glass doors while working on the computer on the desk facing the garden.

The doves flit about in the garden, the water fountain, and other hanging plants before trying on the nest. They may be called birth tourists, like pregnant foreigners giving birth to babies to gain U.S. citizenship. Each season the Airbnb averages three births, with twins each birth. In five years there have been only two failures: one with both babies dying because the male pigeon disappeared, and the other with only one egg hatching. The offspring become citizens of the garden.

Backyard oasis and a peaceful getaway.

Barbara would open the door and greet the doves in a falsetto voice, “Good morning. How are you?” She talks to them, and they no longer fly away from her. As soon as the doves vacate the nest, she removes the detritus and prepares it for the next pair. She recognizes some as returnees. This season two sets of doves had hatchlings; a couple more pairs might show up before Spring ends.

Something unusual happened this year. The backyard pot was occupied so resourceful doves made a home for themselves in the front hanging pot.

Clearly, the “guests” give Barbara’s accommodations five-star reviews. No wonder they are so eager to come stay.

 

A Gentleman in Moscow: Truly Obsessed!

Have you noticed that everyone on social media is obsessed by something? Whether it’s a raging enthusiasm for beauty products, the latest foodie trends, the Pantone color for 2018 (ultra violet, btw) or politics, the Internet is where we make our passions known. I am no different.

I am obsessed by Amor Towles critically-acclaimed novel A Gentleman in Moscow. While I am late to the party—the book was released in fall 2016—I’m so glad I finally showed up. Set right after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the story is about Count Alexander Rostov, who is sentenced to “house arrest” at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, after writing an incendiary poem which challenges the new Bolshevik regime. What follows is a thirty-year span that skillfully weaves the courtly and intelligent Count’s adventures, and Russian history along with myriad, fully fleshed out supporting characters.  All the threads are beautifully orchestrated and paced, creating an exhilarating literary experience. I was so enthralled and reluctant to leave this rich, detailed and thought-provoking world Towles created, I listened to the audiobook too.

If you’re in the mood for a captivating and brilliantly written novel, check out A Gentleman in Moscow. His first book, Rules of Civility, while entirely different in style and subject matter, is also delightful. More on that book later!

 

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