Ingmar Bergman and Sven Nykvist

Film Production: Why The DP is Your MVP

I’m mentoring a young friend through the process of writing and directing his first feature, which he’ll shoot in a year; he’s still in development tweaking the script before it goes out to cast. His executive producer, the former president of a major studio, said to him the other day, “Your cinematographer is the most important person on set after you.” I couldn’t agree more.

There’s nothing like working with a great DP, it makes all the difference in the world to the outcome of your film on many levels. The most important level for me is the personal, the experience of making a film. I don’t get to direct often, so when I do I want to enjoy it, to be carried away by, yes, the quasi-spiritual experience of creating something worthy in harmony with my crew, as cheesy as that might sound.

Jessica Chastain Tree of Life

Filmmaking: Is Voiceover Narration Always a Weakness?

A couple of weeks ago I was in a preliminary meeting for a TV series I am being commissioned to write. One of the associated producers, who has hitherto exclusively made reality-TV fare, suggested the characters break the fourth wall and talk to the camera, in mockumentary style, which works to great effect in both TV and feature-film comedies — note the word “mock” — but not in drama.

As a purist, I was taken aback by the suggestion of deploying this unnecessary device. I reigned in my kneejerk contempt for it by nodding and muttering, “Hmm, interesting idea.”  It just didn’t suit my vision for this particular piece at all, but I’m also coming in later in this project’s process. I’m changing it from a comedy to at most a dramedy, although by the time I’m through it’ll likely be an outright drama with comedic hints now and then; one of the main characters has a personality disorder that is too often the butt of jokes, which isn’t so bad as it is tiresome and inauthentic to how both people with the disorder and their caretakers deal with it in real life.

Cary Fukunaga

Content Creation: ‘Endings Are So Difficult’

The most controversial topic strafing the Net this week hasn’t been Putin’s grab for the Crimea; after all, since the dawn of the Industrial Age every Russian emperor’s mandate has been to secure access to a warm-water port, so is this really controversial? It hasn’t been the missing Malaysian Airlines flight, either (however, if I were Boeing’s PR department, I’d be in preemptory damage control mode right now — I’ve got a sneaky feeling that plane wasn’t flying right.)

Nay, nothing has ruffled more feathers this week than the ending of HBO’s True Detective.

If I were to imagine a word cloud rising from the chatter about the finale on Sunday, the leading adjective, the one in the center in the biggest font in the brightest magenta, would be “DISAPPOINTING.”

Tower of Silence by James Killough

‘Just Don’t Die in India’

During my early years in India, back in the late 80s, when I was writing the first feature film of mine that would go into production, I was invited to dinner at the home of a charming socialite in the Juhu area of what was then called Bombay. Some people say Juhu is the Malibu of Mumbai, but that isn’t being fair to either California or India. The only things that make the comparison viable are the location on the beach, the presence of film folk, and the insane real-estate prices. To be honest, the strongest shared quality is that the two names rhyme.

Irving Penn Scream

The Essential Art of Not Taking Offense

A recent controversy surrounding the stand-up comedy group All-India Bakchod (‘fuck senseless’) caused them to take down an inflammatory video of a roast they did from YouTube. My Hindi is intermediate, not good enough to follow Indian stand-up comedy, which is a huge pity: it is a cultural phenomenon that is rising like a fire-breathing dragon in the New India, a welcome appropriation from what I am henceforth calling the American Raj, our unstoppable cultural hegemony that digs deeper,

Channing Tatum Foxcatcher

Oscar Race: The Uphill Battle of the Physical Genius

I first stumbled on the theory of multiple intelligences around a decade ago while training at a boxing gym in London. I was a competitive swimmer as a youth, then into “power yoga” as it was called when the craze first hit these shores, then weight lifting, all solitary sports that requite little interaction with anyone else. Learning how to box was transformative, empowering; fighting other men in a rather primal sport forces you to overcome the innate resistance to violence that most people are born with as a survival instinct. Contact sports like boxing teach your body that fight is as viable as flight.

Buddha holding Lotus

That Progressively Luminous Clarity

I am a devotee of dream interpretation, a gaga-brained, cymbal-clanging, dancing-and-clapping Hare Krishna singing its praises in the streets, oblivious as to whether anyone thinks I’m a fool. If you know how to read dreams, if you track them diligently, if you learn how to interact with them, they offer a perspective into your current state of being like nothing else. And, provided you don’t have a personality disorder or other mental issue that requires professional guidance, if you do it right you can conduct your own psychotherapy right from the comfort of your bed.