Category Archives: MAKE MOVIES YOURSELF!!

You want to “GRAB AN AUDIENCE!”

No thank you. I hate being grabbed by anyone especially a stranger. You don’t want to grab your audience for the simple reason that then you’ll start thinking about “how to grab them,” which means you’ll start to wonder if they’ll like this shot or if they’d rather see this. You won’t be making the film yourself but for a phantom producer.

What’s the core of your film?

What’s the single most interesting shot (sequence) you have? Start there – then build – put together the elements that excite YOU first then you can go back and be more critical – “this is boring, this too long, maybe people won’t understand this part or it needs more explanation.” That’s fine but whatever you do – FIRST put it together for yourself


FIRST CHALLENGE filmmaking begins with editing




Perhaps when the film is as iconic as PSYCHO.

So could you shoot a dozen or twenty images of your day — a ride on the metro – an open air

market – and reduce them to four images which could communicate what happened???

That’s our first exercise.

What do you need to tell the story???



In getting ready for my workshop this weekend I came across one of the most famous experiments in film editing: Lev Kuleshov was a Russian filmmaker in the early 20th century and this brief little film explores one of the most important formal elements of  modern cinema. Watch it first:  (it’s silent) 

People have always marvelled at the depth and subtlety of the actor’s performance his ability to evoke hunger, despair and desire. And though he was a star of the Russian Cinema, Ivan Mozzhukin, here was performing nothing except a blank stare. The three images he sees – the soup, the child, the woman — were basically “found footage” intercut with Mozzhukin’s close-up. Get it? He wasn’t looking at anything except possibly the back wall or the cameraman’s head. It is the viewer who creates the relationship between the images and gives them meaning.

It always kills me though when somebody critiques a film and says “and the photography was gorgeous!” So what?  The photography is meaningless unless you’re talking about Cartier Bresson. Editing is the unseen engine of filmmaking; it’s not the shot but the sequence which determines the viewer’s response.

And now we learn about ….

EDITING — start with the end …Part 7

When I started at 60 MINUTES, my father, who’d never been quite sure what I did for a living, was trying to explain to friends that I was an editor which ” uuhh means I guess you cut out the bad parts isn’t that it?”

I said, “No, Dad, I select the best parts and put them in order.”

August First I had the first of my workshops for filmmaking. It was test run with four incredibly intelligent women – Meg Zembeck Phyllis Flick and Dorie Greenspan but after three and a half hours we had a glass of champagne and – me? I felt it went well because I learned all over just how much I love filmmaking because it’s about writing, about light, about spatial relationships and communicating.

And a big thank you to my friend Patty Lurie who helped me hash this out. By the way she has an amazing APP based on her book: A Guide to Impressionist Paris. Check it out.


this, by the way, is a Moviola upright.

This is how movies were editied for probably seventy-plus years.

You may see the Stone Age – but I see my youth hunched over that machine

Zen and the art of cleaning lenses – Part 6 “Make Movies Yourself”

It’s always a balance between the mechanics and zen. Mechanics? The night BEFORE clean your lens, charge your batteries and make sure you have enough cassettes. And when you get back from the shoot it’s not a bad idea to go through the same process – just in case tomorrow brings another opportunity.

The Zen? Well you know the five W’s of journalism – who, what, when, where and why? Okay they’ll be useful later but first combine them all into one…

BIG W: What do I WANT?

What do I hope this footage will be? How will it look and feel and fit into the bigger picture? Think about it – get a mental image. Be ready to change it on the spot – in fact expect to — but keep the feeling, understand the reason you’re there, what do you WANT?

ARE YOU REALLY SEEING OR JUST LOOKING? Part 5 of Making Movies Yourself!

When CBS asked me to do a story about the Eiffel Tower my first reaction was “what IS the story?” It’s there, it’s a symbol, first thing I wanted to see when I first came to Paris etc etc. so what? That’s not a story. I thought about doing a day in the life of … the engineers arrive, the tourists line up, the first tickets are torn, the elevators rise, the guys who maintain the … where’s this going? also stories like that take quite a while to shoot; in order to capture “a day” you’re more likely to shoot for a week and I didn’t have that kind of time.

Then I realised I was overlooking the most obvious part of the story and knew exactly what the beginning, middle and end had too be. Watch the story – M. Eiffel’s Tower and see what I mean. The lesson here is: when you pick up a camera DON’T CENSOR YOURSELF!