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Articles focused on the intersection of creativity and technology.

  • Writer's pictureMarcelo Lewin

Man with a Movie Camera and Other Great Movies to Watch

Transitioning to Filmmaking Day 21: Man with a Movie Camera

One of the nice things about attending UCLA Extension for their filmmaking program (versus learning filmmaking on my own) is that I get to watch a lot of movies I would normally no watch on my own.

For example, I watched Citizen Kane in my Language of Filmmaking class and loved it. I even wrote my final paper on it, which you can read more about it here and now I'm actually in the middle of reading the book "Citizen Kane: A Filmmakers Journey", which I highly recommend.

For this quarter, among other classes, I'm attending "The Art and Craft of Film Editing", which so far, it's great. In fact for our first homework, we had to watch many videos and movies including the silent experimental movie, "Man with a Movie Camera", made in 1929.

After watching it, we had to answer the following questions:

  • Does the movie have a structure?

  • Does it have a theme?

For those of you that didn't watch it, this movie is shot without actors and/or storyline. Basically it's a documentary shot from the perspective of the filmmaker. The film was shot by Mikhail Kaufman, directed by Dziga Vertov and edited by Vertov's wife, Yelizaveta Svilova. You can read more about the actual movie here.

As far as my answers to the questions above, see below.

Is there a structure to the storytelling?

Dziga Vertov appears to have been documenting everyday life in Russia during that era, so an argument can be made that there was no distinct structure in this documentary. However, I do feel that he tried to “arrange” the scenes in some manner. For instance, the opening and closing scenes seem to encapsulate the entire story, being that it starts in a theater and ends in a theater. Some of the scenes in the middle seem to follow an organizational order, such as “marriage” and “divorce” paired together, birth and death, work and pleasure, etc. But I don’t feel it has a traditional structure.

Is there a theme? If so, what?

While an argument can be made that this film merely documents everyday life in Russia, without a broader theme, I feel that Vertov tried to, maybe not deliberately, highlight the disparities between the rich and the poor. For example, at the beginning of the film we see a montage of people sleeping in the streets, unwashed, juxtaposed against people in large homes waking up, grooming themselves. We see other juxtapositions later in the film such as the individuals working in factories contrasted by those relaxing and playing at the beach.

What struck me the most and got me the most excited about this film was how editing was implemented in this film, considering that this was 1929 when it was made. The use of slow motion, speed ramping, optical blending of shots, jump custs and even match cuts. Truly amazing for the time.

If you want to watch this film, you can on YouTube.

Part of my homework was to also watch "The Cutting Edge" documentary, which it's all about editing. It's around 1.5 hours long and bit older, but really worth the watch, especially if you want to hear from great filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg and more.

We were also encouraged to watch clips from Walter Murch's (editing Cold Mountain) and Robert Rodriguez (The Making of "El Mariachi"), two filmmakers I love.

I then took it upon myself to continue watching more clips and found the following clips to be really helpful, especially if you are focused on editing and post production. By the way, Lawrence Jordan will actually be on my podcast too!

Cutting it as an Editor in Hollywood

What does a Post Production Executive do?

Troublemaker Studios tour with Robert Rodriguez

That's it for now and until the next journal entry!

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