Feb 4, 2013

Actor tributes

Paying tribute to an actor or actress, as I understand it, consists in choosing a sufficient variety of clips from their films showing all their different faces, expressions, looks, attitudes, smiles... helping the audience understand where the charisma, beauty or talent of the star resides. My friend Claudia does this wonderfully with her tributes to classic Hollywood legends, capturing the essence of each star with the perfect music choice. This one being absolutely spot on and breathtaking:

Claudia wrote this for me, about this particular work of hers: "I heard the track from the Moulin Rouge! Soundtrack. It was really haunting, moody, mysterious, and somehow I could see Garbo's face the entire time. If I played the track back, I could already see some of her film moments edited with the music - all in my head. It was perfect for her, and I set out to make the tribute immediately. I knew that the strength of Garbo was in her face - her stares, her eyes, her expressions - and that was how I went about choosing clips". And she added, now talking about the art of paying tribute to movie stars: "Actresses like Garbo and Marilyn - the music has to have a sad and sombre sound. Actresses like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford the song has to be about strength, the plight of the woman, heartbreak (like so many of the characters in their films). My Gene Kelly tribute had to resemble his vivacity, the life and creativity he brought to the screen. Whilst my Bogie and Jimmy Stewart tributes had to mirror their heroic, iconic performances onscreen". She's edited tributes to Grace KellyJames Dean, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner,...

When editing a montage for an actor, I don't use clips from each and every one of their movies, I prefer choosing a quality of the performer and exploring it with the right song. For example, Paul Newman and Harrison Ford have many dramatic roles in their filmography, with some impressive performances (The Verdict or Witness, to mention just a couple), but I wanted to focus on their charisma as leading men, their charm as ladies' men, their rebel attitude as scoundrels and, why not, their sex appeal. I made an obvious song choice for Newman, I admit it, but it's such a great classic and I think it suits his character:

Harry is also a great action star, but I left that out to show his "joker" quality, hence the music choice, also very appropiate thanks to the "space cowboy" thing:

When paying tribute to an actress, there's always a lot more images to choose from, especially if they're beauties like Michelle Pfeiffer or Winona Ryder, cause directors do linger a lot on their gorgeous faces. For Michelle, I wanted a sexy song from the 80's, and Robert Palmer was just perfect. If you ask me, she's one of the most beautiful women in cinema history, but she's not a diva, she doesn't take herself too seriously. That's what I wanted to show, her feline eyes, her slim body, her discreet curves, yes, but also her coolness, her likeable character (which makes her twice as sexy):

Winona is veeery different. She has a lovely face, like an angel, and a peculiar body (she's very short and she has a great rack, pardon my language). But it's her vulnerability, her sweetness, her childlike expressions, her tormented soul that makes her so irresistible. "Crazy" by Aerosmith was the perfect choice for my vision of Winona, I wanted to make reference to her troubled personal life outside the screen, but to say "we love you just the way you are" in the end:

Michael J. Fox has been one of my favorite actors since I was a very very little girl. When I started his tribute, I knew I wanted it to show how universally funny and lovable he can be. The song is taken from one his films, "Doc Hollywood". It's a very cheesy song, I know, but I love the fact that it's saying that he's unique and he did everything just the way he wanted to do it. I presented a bit of his dumb side, too, cause he does have a lot of talent for comedy. And I couldn't resist making reference to his height:

The other actor I was crazy about during the 90's was Keanu Reeves. I know his filmography and his expressions like the back of my hand. We all agree he's not a great actor, but I think he's fantastic in physical performances (which he also enjoys like crazy, he does his own stunts in action films) and he's incredibly sweet and funny when he's given the right role (sometimes involuntarily funny too). Many people think he's inexpressive, and I can't help but see him exactly the other way round, as a very espontaneous, natural, even childish actor who has a talent for a very particular type of performance. It's hard to explain, maybe my video will elucidate:

My latest actor tributes were for a couple whose careers I've been following closely since 1990. Both from my own generation, they proved the world you can be a child actor and survive. For Chris Ricci I tried to claim the magnetism of her face, her big eyes, her unconventional attitude and the sexiness of her body (even when some people have said she was overweight, I actually think a few extra pounds suit her). She changes so much from one role to another, it's amazing. She's not a great actress, but I do think the camera loves her:

Watching Elijah Wood grow up on the big screen is somehow fascinating, especially when you realize he has hardly changed in the last 15 years! It's funny that his first appearance was in Back to the future 2, with Michael J. Fox, who's probably the greatest example of being 32 and still looking 17... "When I grow up (to be man)" by the Beach Boys seemed perfect for this, and also has that same positive attitude, nice disposition, sweet character Elijah shows in so many of his roles:

I also have tributes to Geena Davis and Jennifer Connelly, and I have a song ready for Russell Crowe.

Nov 28, 2012

One video for one film

The basic form of movie montage is the tribute to a single film. Of course, "basic" refers to the fact that you're using footage from one film and no more, but you can make the video as complex as you can imagine. Here's an excellent example, a beautiful and very personal tribute to a masterpiece, again by my friend somersetVII:

When editing a tribute to a film, you can encapsulate the whole story in a few minutes (the duration of a song, for example). This is an editing exercise Steven Soderbergh himself does at home, choosing a film and telling its story in a small fraction of its real length. He says it's an excellent way to fully understanding a movie and practicing storytelling. You can edit a trailer-like video, presenting themes and characters but avoiding spoilers. Another option is focusing on a particular plot line or character, which is easier to explore and exploit in a deeper way than the whole film. Or you can edit something completely personal about what the movie means to you, how you understand it, why you love it so much.

The MUSIC CHOICE will very much determine the tone of the video: Choosing a track from the score of the film itself will definitely reinforce the general feeling of the movie, while choosing a song with lyrics will add some literal text to the images, so you can offer something that's not strictly related to the story, expressing your own point of view. And you can also edit a "true music video", making the song be the star and the images revolve around it, playing with them just for the pleasure of getting a nice synesthesia between music and visuals.

TO SPOIL OR NOT TO SPOIL? Personally I don't mind including spoilers and I don't mind finding them in other people's videos. I never watch a tribute to a film if I haven't seen the film before, why would I? I don't even watch trailers anymore cause most of them tell the whole story. Sometimes you need to show the ending of a movie to give full meaning to your tribute and sometimes you don't. In case you "spoil" the film for someone, it's their own fault for watching your video before the film itself. 

I've edited 57 videos for 56 different movies (I paid tribute to Aronofsky's The Fountain twice, but I don't really like repeating films, that was an exception). I'd like to think I have different styles for different genres and that I always express my personal point of view (sometimes through the music choice, sometimes through the selection of clips and quotes). I'm gonna choose some examples of different styles of mine.

Here's my "action-packed-music-video", summing the film up in a couple of minutes, re-creating the rythm and the adrenaline feeling of this type of movie:

Like this one, I have tributes to Casino Royale, ZombielandPoint break, SpeedDawn of the dead, The Departed, Fight Club... I usually edit each one of these in a couple of hours. The fast pace of the film inspires me to edit without thinking too much, just following my instinct. And, as an editing experience, it's really fun and exciting.

Many times I focus on a single aspect of the film, ignoring the rest of the plots, so the point of the video feels much more intense. Ignoring the "big picture" to concentrate on a single plot usually shows your personal feelings about a movie. For example, my tribute to Inglourious basterds focuses on Shosanna and the Bear Jew, ignoring the Hans Landa-Aldo Raine confrontation cause, even though I think these last two have some of the best moments in Tarantino's career, what really moved were the vengeful and self-sacrificing hearts of Shosanna and Donowitz:

I also skipped many plot lines and characters in my tributes to Carrie, Drive, The Neverending Story, InceptionDuneMaster & Commander... 

My "trailer-like" videos aren't really trailers, cause I always tell the whole story, including the ending of the movie, but the approach is similar to a trailer's. Mostly it's a particular track from the score that inspires me to edit a video like this, trying to re-create the narrative and the feeling of a film, in the mot faithful way, in the duration of a very characteristic music theme from the soundtrack. An example: 

I really enjoy editing this type of video, I let myself get carried along by the progression and the climax of the music, using its ups and downs to reinforce the ups and downs of the story. And I always include dialogues, with either a dramatic or a comical purpose. Other videos of mine with this spirit are: Excalibur, Star TrekTropic Thunder or How to make an American quilt.

Sometimes I like experimenting, not necessarily telling the story, just playing with the images to create the maximum synesthesia with the music. Like this:

Other playful videos of mine: Alice in Wonderland, Black Swan, 300Hero and my second tribute to The Fountain, which was recently blocked worldwide.

A very particular form of tribute I adopted at the very beginning of my editing career is the "Why a certain film is the best movie ever made". I've edited only two videos with this philosophy, but I have many more in mind. My first one was about Aliens, one of my top 3 favorite films, which I truly consider a masterpiece, not only of action genre, but of cinema in general. And the next one was this (a video that took a lot of time and thought):

With this type of video I'm not actually saying that these are the best movies ever made, my purpose is to claim them as perfect works of art, cause I feel they are still underrated.

And, finally, when editing something absolutely personal about a movie I love, the result is unpredictible. One of my very first tributes was the one to my favorite film, Donnie Darko. I edited it without thinking at all, I hadn't even decided any music or structure when I sat in front of the Final Cut, it simply came out like this, in a single day of work:

I know this film like that back of my hand and it means an awful lot to me. Watching the video I made for it, I realize I re-created some of the moments that got to me the very first time I saw the movie. And I also selected a tragic-comic mixture of quotes that don't mean to express a particular idea, they just show the bittersweet and surreal tone of the film. My first tribute to Aronofsky's The Fountain was also something quite out of the blue, edited only a few days after I had first watched the film.

Other very personal tributes of mine did have a lot of planning behind them, like The curious case of Benjamin Button, House of Flying Daggers or Blue Valentine.

I'd like to send you again to the very first video that opened this post, my friend somerset's tribute to his favorite film, Seven. What a brilliant piece of work, made with all the thought and care and admiration and knowledge and intensity and complexity that only a true lover of the movie can manage. It's obvious that the film means a lot to him, that he has thought a lot about why he loves it so much and how he understands it. And he shows all that magnificently in his choice of music, his selection of clips and his editing. I asked him to write something about this particular work of his: "The images and acting in this movie are incredible and I wanted a song that matched. Comptine d'un autre été, l'après-midi from Amélie was what I chose and believed it worked well as a sort of theme song for the two lead characters. This is my favourite movie and I think I could edit a 100 videos of it and not be able to display how good it really is. So for this I just tried to piece together what it is about this story that I've always been drawn to, the relationship of Mills and Somerset and the amazing directing of David Fincher". Considering the movie, many people would have chosen a dramatic, noisy, dark music, something like the title sequence theme, or one of those disturbing tracks from the score by Howard Shore. But he chose a music from another film, the tender Amélie, and applied it to this tragic story, adding an extremeley melancholic feeling that offers a whole new perspective to detectives David Mills and William Somerset's experience. 

Nov 3, 2012

What is a movie montage?

You'll be wondering "who is this girl to talk about movie montages?". Well, here are my credentials:
My montages on Youtube

Now, let's define the concepts of "viral video", "remix", "mashup", "supercut", "compilation", "top list video", "fanvid", "video tribute" and "movie montage", which are frequently mistaken. And we'll see some examples to illustrate them.

VIRAL VIDEO is a video that becomes popular through the process of internet sharing (video websites, social networks and e-mail). A movie montage can become a viral video, but that's not the point of editing movie montages, is it?

REMIX is the adoption, alteration and recombination of pre-existing material to create something new, mostly in a musical sense. The star of this type of video is not the image, but the audio. This one's great, by Pogo:

MASHUP or "mash-up" is the "combination of multiple sources of videos which usually have no relation with each other than a derivative work, often lampooing its component sources or another text. Many mashup videos are humorous movie trailer parodies" (extracted from wikipedia). Here is one of the best I've seen, by Vayabobo:

SUPERCUT is defined as a fast-paced montage of short video clips that obsessively isolates a single element from its source, usually a word, phrase, or cliche from film and TV. It can be set to music or not. Here is a very clear example, from the tv series "Community", edited by Zack Prewitt:

COMPILATION is generally a media product that is put together by assembling previously separate items. As a video, it's simply the accumulation of clips with a common theme, it doesn't need any real editing work, it's just a copy/paste of the unmodified clips in no particular order. This one is a classic example:

TOP LIST VIDEO is a compilation but in a particular order, as a countdown to the number 1. It can be a Top Best based on an official list or a personal Top Favorite of the editor, and it can be set to music. This one is edited by my friend Claudia:

FANVID is a fan-made video set to a song celebrating, like other fandom media, a film, tv show, music band, actor... in a very passionate, non-professional way (and I don't mean to underestimate them, I'm just saying that people who name their videos as "fanvids" are usually young and amateur, not film lovers, but huge fans of a film, saga or character, mostly fan phenomena products). Fanvids are edited by fans for fans, meaning that, for example, if you're not a Twilight fan, you can't possibly enjoy a Twilight fanvid. A very common variety of fanvids is the FanFiction.

VIDEO TRIBUTE is a generic term to name an audiovisual work that pays homage (shows gratitude, respect, admiration, even love) to something, in this case a film, a tv show, a director, a performer, a genre, etc.

And MOVIE MONTAGE is the object of this blog. "Montage" is the process, technique and product of selecting, piecing and editing together separate sections of audiovisual material to form a continuous whole. So everything we've seen before could fit in this definition but, as a movie montage editor myself, I like defining it with a little more precision, from a more personal perspective. I've asked a couple of fellow editors how they understand a "movie montage", to help explain what I mean.

My friend somersetVIIan excellent editor with a special talent to portray his point of view, his great love for films, defines it like this: "It's a way for film lovers to take what they're passionate about and have continued appreciation by manipulating the material. Whatever way you package it, you're trying to pay homage to someone else's work. At the end of the day, my goal is not to make them for anyone but myself". His definition confirms the way I see his work, he edits using both his brains and his heart, and it's undeniable how personal and special his videos are. His editing flows in a very natural, instinctive, musical way, and he gets the highest video quality I've seen on Youtube. Oh, and his music choices are often brilliant. Here is an example:  

The lovely Claudia (monroesmile) expressed her idea of movie montage with the same passion she edits her wonderful tributes: "A movie montage is a way by which the beauty and meaning of films with its famous moments and wonderful faces can be compacted into a few short minutes. Film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world and via a montage you compress that power so it overwhelms the viewer with the strong emotions they feel for that moment, movie, character, actor or director". Claudia is an expert in classic movies, black and white cinema, the Golden Age of Hollywood. And, in my opinion, her greatest talent is the way she captures the essence of a movie star, like she did with this most heartfelt Marilyn tribute:

Another fellow editor of mine, ebcooper44, gave me this beautiful phrase: "I choose movies I love and I try to find a way to make a video so when someone sees it, they understand why I love the movie so much". I think that is precisely the essence of a film tribute video. I also agree, wholeheartedly, with the conviction behind something he wrote in the description of a Halloween video he edited a couple of years ago: "I only included Halloween films that I really like, not because I think they are the best but because I like these more than others". That's honesty, that's consistency, that's true love for movies. Here's one of his most original works:

My husband, a video editor too, known as Brutzelpretzel around the net, wrote this for me: "A movie montage is a compilation of movie moments related to a particular theme (a film, a character, a technique, a genre, a director...), portraying an idea around that theme (its characteristics, for example, or what it means to the editor) and edited as a short audiovisual piece. A good movie montage, for me, has a clear idea behind it, follows some sort of narrative line so it doesn't feel repetitive, and its final purpose is not just showing the editor's skills". For my man, it's all about knowing what you wanna say with the montage and being honest about it:

Now, what is a movie montage for me? Well, it's the personal editing work of a film lover, and its main purpose is paying tribute to a movie related theme. It should be a TECHNICAL EXERCISE as well as a TOKEN OF LOVE and even a commentary or MEDITATION. An editor is a compiler, a technician and an artisan, but in this case he's also like a humble admirer writing a love letter. I've seen many movie montage editors who call themselves "creators". Nonsense. If you want to be a real creator, write a novel, direct a film, build a sculpture, draw a comic-book. If you wanna edit a movie montage, you have to understand that the real creation are the films you're using. Your work might be creative, and it is a form of art indeed, but you're not creating anything original from scratch, what you're doing is re-creating the magic of a pre-existent material. RE-CREATION, for me, is the perfect word for a movie montage. When I edit a tribute to a genre, for example, I try to condense its structure, highlights and feeling in a few minutes, so that when you watch the video, you can recognize the essence of these films and remember why you love them so much: