We talk to a lot of talented filmmakers at Musicbed, but not all of them win Oscars. And we all know that you can be a world-class filmmaker and not take home the golden statue—Spike Lee, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, are a few great examples. In other words, not all great filmmakers have won Oscars. But, we can probably agree on something else: All Oscar-winners are great filmmakers.
We’ve talked many times about creative constraints and their value, but sometimes as filmmakers we don’t have the luxury of constraints. As they say, there’s nothing scarier than a blank page, and that’s just what Director Josh McGowan was faced with in his production of Cadillac’s Oscar spot.
Now that the 2020 Oscar Nominations have been released, it got us thinking a little bit. How much weight should we give to these awards? Just ask any filmmaker, and they’ll be able to give you a list of 10+ movies they believe should’ve been nominated. You could argue that it’s the academy’s short-sightedness, but 2019 was also one hell of a year for movies and you could argue it was hard to choose.
The Oscar-nominated Body Team 12 would be a sci-fi horror film if not for the fact that it really happened. The short documentary follows the eponymous Liberian body team tasked with the most grueling job in the fight against Ebola: collecting its victims. Their work was dangerous and controversial; but more than anything, it was heroic.
Three recent design school graduates are sitting in a room somewhere in the Netherlands, listening to an album. The record skips. They think: Did the record just skip? Or did we travel through time a little bit? It’s the kind of bizarro question that will become common for these three. Jump-cut 10 years into the future, and this seed of an idea has become the Oscar-nominated animated short film A Single Life, created by the now-renowned animation studio Job, Joris & Marieke.
There’s a moment in Free Solo during Alex Honnold’s historic, rope-less ascent of El Capitan when the audience sees cinematographer Mikey Schaefer doubled over, so sick with anxiety that he’s unable to watch what’s happening. It’s a powerful moment. And, after speaking with Co-Directors Jimmy Chin and Chai Vasarhelyi, it seems to accurately sum up what sounds like the most stressful production we’ve ever heard of — a production they weren’t even sure they wanted to take on:
It’s that time of year again. From Sundance to the Oscars, the Globes to SXSW and Tribeca, nominees and winners are everywhere in the trades right now. But if you’re sitting at home stockpiling a slew of rejection notices from festivals, labs, or contests and still grinding away at your work, seeing others bask in their achievements can become disheartening.
There is a point at which most creatives wonder if they’ll ever get where they’re going. Usually, it comes along after they’ve invested a number of years, a lot of effort, and a substantial amount of money. There doesn’t seem to be a way forward, and there doesn’t seem to be a way back. In story terms, you might call it a dark night of the soul. For Rachel Morrison, ASC, this point came about after she spent two and a half years directing photography for a reality show called The Hills.
Roger Deakins said, “People confuse ‘pretty’ with good cinematography.” In a way, he’s saying cinematographers’ work is more important than simply the look of a film. It serves a greater cause — the story. In fact, the visual side of a film, ‘pretty’ or otherwise, can tell a story as much as a script can.
At just 26 years old, Daisy Jacobs was nominated for an Academy Award for her animated short film, The Bigger Picture. Short in this context is a bit ironic. The project was physically massive: life-sized paintings painstakingly animated frame by frame over six months. The result is striking — unforgettable even. Ostensibly a simple story about a family, the film explores life-sized issues including death, loss, anger, and grief. In many ways, the scale of the art matches the scale of the themes. But that might be too tidy of an interpretation. Daisy’s reasons for working in the large scale are much more down to earth: “Personally, I can get more into the character,” she told us. “He is the same size as me; and what he does and physically touches, I’m animating at the same scale I encounter in the real world.”