Go to a museum

There are some interesting things that have surfaced in my life currently, and there are a few different subjects I will touch on in future posts, regarding my own personal struggle with my often-frustrating work ethic; women (and youth as well) unwilling to praise themselves confidently, and how I'm seeing this in my students (seriously, it's as if anything remotely resembling bragging has a death sentence tied to it); my newest troubles (and painful lessons learned) from working for a film school that does not have it together; and the ongoing parade of new technology and formats that keep surfacing, turning out so quickly that I feel overwhelmed and want to hide in celluloid. Light, chemicals, a shutter... so much simpler.

But for now, just a quick thought.

I often run into a creative block. My cinematography gas tank goes empty. I am stuffed full of films watched, video demos played, forums read and magazines about cinematography scoured, yet my work is dry. My inspiration is gone. Everything I shoot or plan looks or sounds like some other movie that's already been made. And sometimes, you know, I just don't want to talk about making movies. And if I have to discuss film vs. digital one more time, I'm going to drive a butterknife into my eardrums.

Listen, filmmakers. You cannot live on movies alone.

Painters do not learn to paint solely by looking at other paintings. You need a subject, real inspiration. An image, a story. Otherwise, we'd have a lot of paintings of paintings, photos of photos, books about writing... and the world would become so beyond meta/postmodern I think I might die.

Films are not about filmmaking, unless you're Tarantino, and let's face it, a lot of young filmmakers think they're Tarantino, make Tarantino films at film school and their professors pull their hair out and try to keep the other Tarantino wannabes from tearing the student film apart, have a discussion on what the film is really about and why they are making it, and this process continues until eventually most graduates move on with a diploma in Accepting-That-I-Am-Not-Quentin-Tarantino.

Go study something else. You know movies, you study movies, you love movies... but if your entire world is movies... what the hell are you gonna make movies about?

Read! Study! Literature, history (oh my god, history!) A trip around a historical art exhibit in a museum is chock full of story and drama and characters... go to an art museum and just soak it in for an entire day.

DP's, I would encourage you to look at paintings in particular. Classic, old paintings. There you will find RICHES BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION. These were the masters of color and shape and lines and texture and composition and light! LIGHT! The very tool that you work with!

I do not claim to know a single thing about painting— only that certain types and styles have really moved me. I have my styles, time periods, names and history all mixed up, but, from what I remember from high school, pieced together with wikipedia-knowledge, I've figured out that I particularly love Baroque painting, and the chiaroscuro (or contrast) of Neo-Classical painting. I often look to Cubism for texture and color palettes and lines... Expressionism for mood, Impressionism for shape and light...

One of my favorite paintings is The Execution of Lady Jane Grey by Paul Delaroche:

(Do try to see the real thing, or at least an actual print of it, because all the internet versions totally suck.)

So many things about this painting had me captured, namely the drama of light and dark... But the detail that sends a chill down my spine is the small, delicateness of her hands. Every time I look at this painting I am in the moment.


Mark Jensen said...

wow Lore, you really spoke to me in this blog. I am just like the person who is all about movies, watching them, analyzing them. You made me think of actually going to a museum or photo gallery and find inspiration from other people's work. I don't really like history or any other core class I have to take, but I realize that a lot of movies are actually based on historical events. Thank you for writing this blog.

LH said...

Thanks so much, Mark!