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JIGGLE IS GOOD

Posted by Gil Bettman on Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Just to make sure I got it right in my last blog, I went out and saw “A Separation” for a second time. I got it right. If you aspire to break through like the Coens did with “Blood Simple” or Tom McCarthy did with “The Station Agent”, which is to say, if you will max out your credit cards to make an ultra, low budget feature with your name on it as writer and director, you must go see “A Separation”. This film should become your Holy Grail, because, as I said in my last blog, a movie on this scale is within the reach of every aspiring filmmaker. It is 90% close ups and two-shots of people talking in rooms.

Far too many of my students in the film school at Chapman University have been weaned on the big Hollywood franchise films – Batman, Spiderman, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. When they set out to make their first great film, they try to make a scaled-down version of one of these monster budget films. This is a formula for disaster. If you want to launch your career as a director you must think in terms of stories which can generate narrative drive by showing people talking in rooms. More about the key to this kind of small scale story telling in a later blog.

As a visual stylist, Fahardi is completely current. He knows perfectly well that contemporary audiences, whether they are sitting in a theater in Tehran or Topeka, will get bored and tune out if he does not present them with a kinetic image. So, when it enhances the story, he moves his camera. He does this the cheapest way possible – by hand holding the camera. Interestingly, when the story does not call for camera movement, he often continues to hand hold the camera and shoots many shots which are otherwise static with a hand held camera. By continuing to hand hold he introduces a slight jiggle into the shot which keeps the frame energized.

Thirty years ago, when I started my career as a director, this little bit of jiggle was unacceptable. If you were gunning to make a film which would be shown in theaters or on mainstream TV you expended a lot of time and money to make sure the product was jiggle free. Static shots had to be rock solid static and moving shots had to be mirror smooth. Then, starting with “NYPD Blue” and continuing up to “CSI”, mainstream TV cop shows went completely handheld. Audiences started developing a taste for a little jiggle in the frame. Then director Paul Greengrass pushed this trend into theatrical features by shooting all the “Bourne Identity” films handheld. Now what was once eschewed is considered a plus. A little jiggle is good.

Fahardi is completely down with this trend. Because jiggle is now good, the cheapest and easiest way to move the camera is now sexy. This is a win-win for anyone with little or no money to spend who wants to make a film which will rock the world. Fahardi has done it in “A Separation.” By following his example, you too can do it. Jiggle your way to the top!

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