Common ground is overrated

It’s been a tough week. All this happened in the last seven days:

I’ve been making more blog posts/newsletter entries because I wanted to give updates on my life and share my thoughts on film and pop culture. But on a week like this one, all that ephemera can seem completely insignificant compared to the tragedies we are now weekly faced with. if you’re like me, it can be difficult to know how to balance the desire to stay engaged with the need for self-care. I wish you all the best in finding the right balance for yourselves.

In the meantime, I did want to share this article by Tayari Jones for Time entitled, “There’s Nothing Virtuous About Finding Common Ground”:

I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we “meet in the middle,” as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse. The middle is a point equidistant from two poles. That’s it. There is nothing inherently virtuous about being neither here nor there. Buried in this is a false equivalency of ideas, what you might call the “good people on both sides” phenomenon. When we revisit our shameful past, ask yourself, Where was the middle? Rather than chattel slavery, perhaps we could agree on a nice program of indentured servitude? Instead of subjecting Japanese-American citizens to indefinite detention during WW II, what if we had agreed to give them actual sentences and perhaps provided a receipt for them to reclaim their things when they were released? What is halfway between moral and immoral?

Jones concludes by saying, “Compromise is not valuable in its own right, and justice seldom dwells in the middle.” I hope these are words we can all keep in mind as the U.S. mid-term elections are 9 days away and rapidly approaching.

Vote. Do what you can to create a future you believe in. And remember that there’s nothing inherently valuable about making sure everyone agrees with you.

A few things I read and appreciated this week:

The post Common ground is overrated appeared first on The Life and Times of David Chen.

No Dead Scenes: How to Create Much-Needed Conflict Between Characters

Characters just saying and doing things isn’t enough to make a scene successful.

Okay, you’re sitting there re-reading your script and you’re beginning to realize something: it’s boring. But why? Your characters are interesting enough, the things they’re doing and saying are pretty entertaining—but everything just seems a little flat. You, my friend, might be missing conflict. If you’re a little at a loss on how to create some, check out this video from the team over at The Film Look. In it, you’ll not only learn how to inject conflict into your scenes but also how to check to see if that’s what your scenes are missing.

Most screenwriters understand that a script should have an exterior and interior conflict that span across the entire story—the hero must save the world (exterior) but first, he must believe in himself (interior). However, conflicts should also appear in each and every scene in your screenplay. No, it doesn’t have to be some big, hairy one like saving the world or overcoming a fear. It can be something as simple as a disagreement, a reluctance to do something, or a sharing of mutual disdain between two characters.

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Debugging Video Editing Software Problems

About once or twice per week minimum I have a reader contact me about a problem they are having with editing their videos or producing a final project.
In nearly every case when this happens I know the person is not going to solve the problem by themselves even though I am pretty sure they probably could.
That’s why I am posting this article so here goes!
First up you…
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I’m Obsessed With Camera Gear, and There’s Nothing Wrong With That

I'm Obsessed With Camera Gear, and There's Nothing Wrong With That

We hear all the time about how it’s not about the gear, it’s about the photographer using the gear. And we hear about how you shouldn’t focus on the latest and greatest camera equipment. I’m here to tell you that’s not always the case.

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Masterclass: How to Make a TV Show from Start to Finish

TV shows give films a run for their money at being the prime medium for visual storytelling, but how in the hell do you even start the process of creating one?

In the last decade, we’ve seen the incredible democratization of filmmaking. Inexpensive but good cameras, software, and distribution outlets have allowed creatives with budgets large and small to not only make their movies on the cheap but get them out to thousands of people who might want to see them. This kind of creative environment has made it possible for countless filmmakers to bypass the Hollywood gatekeepers and work in an industry that was previously closed to outsiders. Can’t get a meeting with a movie executive—put your film on YouTube. No one wants to option your script—turn it into a film yourself.

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ѓhopliftersҠReview: A Beautiful and Unsentimental Family Portrait

Families are like systems. Some are feedback loops: what you put in you get out. There’s an order to them. Everyone has their place and everyone knows what that is. Other systems aren’t quite as stream-lined. There’s an internal logic that presents as dysfunction to the outside. For Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda, families are a never-ending source of fascination. He’s interested in them in all forms: after the death of their estranged father (Our Little Sister), after the long-ago death of a son (Still Walking), after the discovery that babies were switched at birth (Like Father, Like Son). Now, in Shoplifters, Koreeda explores a chosen family and its perceived illegitimacy in the eyes of government authorities. Always returning to the question of “what makes a family: DNA or affection?”

The film opens with a dance routine. Well, sort of. A young boy and older man share a fist bump before engaging in some stealthy shoplifting at a local supermarket. It might not be dance in the traditional sense, but their moves are choreographed and injected with the spontaneity of great dancers. Still, Koreeda doesn’t make their skill flashy. They need to be good thieves because they need to eat. Before he steals something, the pre-teen Shota (Jyo Kairi) performs a little ritual with his fingers. Whether it’s superstitions or just a quirky habit, these rituals reinforce the bond between Shota and Osamu, played by Koreeda regular Lily Franky.

On their way home, they cross paths with a shivering toddler (Miyu Sasaki), standing alone on her balcony. They take her home with them with the pretense of just warming her up with some hot stew. But Osamu’s wife Nobuyo (the wonderful Sakura Ando) resents having another mouth to feed, but as soon as she sees the scars on the child she can’t bring herself to send her home. A little while goes by and they’ve still heard no reports of a missing child, so they christen her into the family. They burn her clothes, cut her hair, and give her a new name: Rin.

Everyone in the family works. Osamu works the odd hard-hat jobs (until he injures his foot), Nobuyo works at a factory and then a department store and Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) is a sex worker, who works in front of a one-sided mirror at a strip club. And they all share Grandma’s meager pension. They justify their shoplifting with the tenuous argument that as long as they’re only stealing from shops, they’re not stealing from people. No small crime is too small if it means getting money out of it. And Koreeda doesn’t show a flicker of judgement towards this ragtag family that has been mostly left behind by their country’s economy.

In keeping with form, Koreeda divulges information patiently. Because connections between family members aren’t outlined straight away, at the beginning we assume that everyone is biologically related, except for Rin. But when Osamu pleads with Shota to call him “Dad”, it becomes clear that these connections are earned, they’re not born into. Names are an attempt to bridge the biological gap, and Rin and Nobuyo get so close that their relationship would surely pass as mother/daughter if in public. But it all comes to an end in an explosive final half hour. Koreeda’s social critique comes to the fore when Osamu and Nobuyo get pegged by the media as villains, not resourceful victims. After watching them this whole time, we know that their criminal actions were motivated by love and survival, not ill-will. And despite the detective interrogations revealing the lies characters hid from each other, their lies don’t come across as malicious, but protective.

The mistake that often befalls family dramas is that the family takes precedence over the individual thoughts and idiosyncrasies of each family member. We can’t see the trees for the forest, if you will. But Koreeda gives every character their space (even in such a cramped house) while still feeling like they’re a cohesive, if makeshift, family unit.  If Like Father, Like Son swayed too close at times to the binary of rich and poor while sentimentalizing poverty, Shoplifters stays away from “poverty porn.” He does not judge his characters but he is also not afraid to show their greed and deception. Koreeda avoids sensationalism when drawing on the many colors he uses to paint this family portrait.

The post ‘Shoplifters’ Review: A Beautiful and Unsentimental Family Portrait appeared first on Film School Rejects.