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Filmmaker Must-See: Gareth Edwards SXSW 2017 Keynote

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Back in 2010 I remember stopping by The Ritz Theater in Philadelphia and seeing a last-minute screening of a little indie film called Monsters. One of my other film nerd buddies tagged along and we were astonished at how a movie with such a title could contain so few, well, monsters. It wasn't a bad thing, it was an extraordinarily impactful reminder that the scale of a film is what you make it (it was also my introduction to Scoot McNairy, now an essential face in almost all my favorite films and TV shows). 

What I wouldn't learn for another 7 years is just how a production such as Monsters could ever happen, and where it would take director Gareth Edwards, now better known for directing Godzilla and Star Wars: Rogue One. For a filmmaker of any sort, to hear this guy speak is like hearing a future version of yourself calling out to tell you what it'll take to get you where you want to go. 

Yes this is an hour-long speech, but if you have an ounce of inspiration in your body I cannot recommend it highly enough. Even if you consider his recent work flawed (and, c'mon, your horse isn't that high, you can be happy for the guy), I think the work and excitement and risks that he's put into his films is undeniable and are a true gift. I dare anyone interested in film to watch this and not immediately start jotting down ideas for their future projects. 

Filmmaker Must-See: 'Phantom Thread' Camera Test with commentary by Paul Thomas Anderson

In college I had a few classmates who struggled with school. Tests, assignments, homework, etc. It didn't agree with them. But all their lives they had been told that it was necessary, that school was the way they would get ahead in life. They were battered with this idea and it visibly ate away at their self-worth. I remember sitting down with one of them and saying "Listen, I know this isn't for you, that school isn't your strength, but that's okay. It isn't mine either. It's okay because we're aspiring filmmakers and our achievements won't just be about assignments and tests, they're going to be within the real world while we make goddamn movies." 

I'm glad that this remained true through my own (still young) career, as I've learned more while tinkering on sets than I'd ever learn in a classroom. And this is exactly why it's important for every filmmaker to catch a golden glimpse of the behind-the-scenes work of a master such as Paul Thomas Anderson. We've been gifted a glance into his world thanks to the lovely folks at Universal where we can see him test and tinker with lenses, film stock, light, and Daniel Day Lewis. For some this may be boring and trivial, but for filmmakers looking to light a candle under their own ass (like myself) I highly recommend setting aside the 8 minutes and 42 seconds this video offers. 

For those of you who have worked on sets before, it may seem fairly obvious that pre-production of this minute scale is necessary, but I can't tell you the amount of times I've been rushing to light a set that I've only just seen for the first time a few minutes prior. It's proof that these things take time and consideration and second-guessing. Nothing should just be "good enough" on the first try, and if you're setting up your camera where a comfortable apple box happens to be for your butt, you're probably wrong.