Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Olympic Lessons: Reflections

Quick special effects tip from a Fruit of the Loom commercial:

Fruit of the Loom - Anthem

They took the time to add reflections to the words. This small detail makes a huge difference in how well the effect works.


Often, effects shots aren't so much about what big things can you do in the shot. Rather, the effectiveness of a sfx visual comes down to the tiny details others overlook and your audience shouldn't notice.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Olympic Lessons: The Queen's Memorable Moment

I've been annoyed by NBC trying to convince me that the Queen jumping out of a helicopter is her memorable moment of the opening ceremony. It's not. The memorable moment is her scowl:

Look At All These Countries I Used To Own

There are many reasons why the James Bond gag didn't stick. Here are a few of them:

1. We Never Saw It Happen
I already covered this after watching Priest: We didn't get to see the needed moment. In this case, we never saw the Queen land. Her double floated off camera and then, a few seconds later, she walks out of some doors. The two moments were completely disconnected.

2. Continuity
You take the time to get J.K. Rowling, Rowan Atkinson, and Kenneth Branagh. But after filming some segments with Daniel Craig, you can't get him to escort the Queen into the stadium? Seriously? Lame. The fact that Bond wasn't there after the setup further disconnected the two events and made the whole thing utterly unmemorable.

3. There's Something Better
Even if you botch a few key elements--even massively important ones like those outlined above--the audience can forgive you if that's all you give them. To err is human. To fail at producing a solid moment of comedy in the middle of a complex live is event is understandable. But we'll quickly move on if something better comes along. ...something like a scowl during the performance of some special needs children signing your song.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Humanize the Enemy

It's common to dehumanize our enemies. It makes it easier for us to root against them and knock 'em off should the need arise. As long as they aren't human, their suffering and pain doesn't bother us... in fact, it may make us hate them more.

But if you want to turn the tables on your audience so they begin to feel for the bad guy, you have make the enemy a person again. But how? The fact that they are a person isn't enough. We need to create a new kind of connection. One way to do this is spend a ton of time with the person and get to know them. This is the approach of movies as wide and varied as Beauty and the Beast and District 9.

However, if your show isn't really about the bad guys, you don't have time to develop this theme. You need a way to quickly get the audience to go from hoping the guy dies to feeling for his condition. The best way to do this: Give him something uniquely human and vulnerable to do.

In the second episode of Breaking Bad, the starved and almost dead bad guy is given a sandwich. He takes a moment to remove the crust.

He Doesn't Like the Crust

The scene could have easily been one where he gobbles down the food like an animal... and we'd further despise him. But this simple act snaps him back into humanity. He could be our neighbor, our friend, a relative, or even ... us.

Notice too: This is, in large part, visual storytelling. The actions we give our characters to do in response to situations have profound impacts on how the audience thinks about them.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Producing a Spoof: An Edit That I Used to Know

Body paint themed music videos first showed up on my screen with the reminder that I am not a robot... which was a relief to hear again. But that meant that when I saw the video by Gotye, I felt like I was seeing a video done by somebody that I used to know.

And now, I've finally had a chance to watch The Star Wars That I Used to Know:

This is an excellent parody. They really knocked it out of the park. But the editing was off at several points. Not really far off, but enough to be painful. In fact, it's so close, it's a little more noticeable than had it been off by a few seconds. Instead, the cuts come 2 to 5 frames too early. Going back and watching the original again confirmed that the edits there flowed, but the parody felt like it skipped and jumped around a few times.

Still well worth the watch! But notice how a cut just a moment too early can snap you out of a an otherwise really great video.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


How to Interview Yourself

One of the problems with being a truly independent filmmaker is that you are all alone. So filming yourself can be problematic. If I'm shooting with a still/video camera hybrid, I stick my camera on a tripod and snap stills of myself until I'm happy with the framing.

Checking My Framing

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor