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silent films?


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#1 william everett

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 04:11 PM

I love the old silent films and would love to experiment with it - making shorts to get the feel and then creating a feature length silent film, in time.

Does anyone make silent features - not ten minute student films to get a grade in a class, but full length silents for commercial distribution?

Am I way off base thinking that a silent film would be much less expensive to make than a "talkie"?
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 05:39 PM

Since silent movies are driven narratively by images (and a minimal use of title cards hopefully) in some ways it can make shooting more complicated because you can't fall back on a talking head to explain some plot point (not that you should do that in a sound movie.) You can think of some commercials and music videos are silent movies, and they aren't necessarily cheaper to shoot...

"Sidewalk Stories" (1989)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098325/

and Mel Brook's "Silent Movie" (1976)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075222/

are the only modern silent movies to come to mind, but there are plenty of image-driven, minimal dialogue movies to consider, such as Terrence Malick's movies (though there is a lot of voice-over narration of the "inner" dialogue type.)

It takes a lot of skill to tell a feature-length plotline in images mostly, plus you have to write a script that is well-suited for that style. One of my favorite silent movies is Buster Keaton's "The General".
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#3 dd3stp233

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 04:27 AM

You may want to check out the films of Guy Maddin. He has made shorts and features that are heavily stylized on silent and early sound movies.
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#4 william everett

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 09:39 AM

Thanks for the tip on Sidewalk Stories, which I will look for. Guy Maddin has interesting work, as well, yet I am thinking more of traditional narratives.

Imagine: you are at a film shoot with no sound crew or sound equipment, and no need to mask backround noises like flying airplanes. The director can even talk to his actors during the shot. Without scripted lines to memorize, there can be no flubbing the take with a mispronounced word. Fewer crew members means less time tending to their concerns. A director would need fewer takes to get a scene, since there are fewer technical mistakes to overcome. In theory, many scenes can be done in one take.

Am I off base with this scenario?
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#5 Adam White

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:18 AM

Thanks for the tip on Sidewalk Stories, which I will look for. Guy Maddin has interesting work, as well, yet I am thinking more of traditional narratives.

Imagine: you are at a film shoot with no sound crew or sound equipment, and no need to mask backround noises like flying airplanes. The director can even talk to his actors during the shot. Without scripted lines to memorize, there can be no flubbing the take with a mispronounced word. Fewer crew members means less time tending to their concerns. A director would need fewer takes to get a scene, since there are fewer technical mistakes to overcome. In theory, many scenes can be done in one take.

Am I off base with this scenario?



well you cant deny that shooting mute will reduce some technical issues but the director will still be striving for performances to meet the level of his expectations. This will be be exacting, as David stated, as the performances would need to convey everything without the "luxury" of the spoken voice. Also I would be very interested in performances when you have a director prompting from the sidelines. It makes me think of the scenes in "Shadow of the Vampire" where Eddie Izzard putters though scenes on the prompting of the director.

I would certainly go for it as the medium has very strong relevance today (like in a club where the noise simply drowns everything out or a person with an IPOD that only hears the song - Face Off anyone?) and it really sets challenges for all levels of crew and cast. Are you going to do it? let us know. . .
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:29 AM

I think your motivation to make a silent movie has to be more than saving money and time! Afterall, you could not make anything and really save a lot of money and time.

Like I said, you need to find a story that specifically benefits from being told through imagery and editing, not propelled by dialogue. That's not easy, not for a feature length, because you need the structure of a plot to sustain something of that length. And you often find that image-driven movies are actually harder to make, not easier, because there is a greater burden on the images to convey meaning, mood, etc. A page of non-verbal descriptive action in a script generally involves more work than a page of two people sitting and talking.
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#7 bragis chut

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:45 AM

I saw a rather interesting film called CLAIRE which was shot silent, on black and white, using I believe an actual movie camera from the silent era which was restored just for the purposes of shooting the project. It may have been written up in AC a while ago, not sure though... Anyway, it had some interesting visuals and I especially liked the use of title cards. I got a copy by contacting the filmmaker directly. If he/she is still sending out copies it might be worth your time to try and track one down.

Best of luck,

--Bragi
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#8 Adam White

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:55 AM

I saw a rather interesting film called CLAIRE which was shot silent, on black and white, using I believe an actual movie camera from the silent era which was restored just for the purposes of shooting the project. It may have been written up in AC a while ago, not sure though... Anyway, it had some interesting visuals and I especially liked the use of title cards. I got a copy by contacting the filmmaker directly. If he/she is still sending out copies it might be worth your time to try and track one down.

Best of luck,

--Bragi



Its a fascinating story, and thats just behind the scenes of the filming! For anyone interested, heres a link on the filming of "Claire"

http://atlanta.creat.....?oid=oid:6825
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#9 william everett

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 02:55 PM

[quote name='David Mullen ASC' date='Jun 20 2006, 08:29 AM' post='110996']
I think your motivation to make a silent movie has to be more than saving money and time!


Good point. I should have said more.

My favorite scenes in films are those without dialogue: Keira Knightly seeing the video of her own wedding in "Love Actually"...the storming the Winter Palace scene from "Reds"...Eva Peron coming home from the hospital in "Evita"...The farm woman being informed of her sons' deaths in "Saving Private Ryan". I could go on and on. When we think of the silent movies of Chaplin and Buster Keaton, et. al. we think of their primitive look and overacting. (Douglas Fairbanks putting hands of his hips and throwing his head back to denote laughter) The exaggerated makeup and gestures. But now we have eighty years worth of technology, acting styles, and stories that were unavailable in Chaplin's day.

We admire moments from the silent film era, like the ending of City Lights, or Harold Lloyd struggling to hang on to a clocktower in Safety Last. Fair enough. Now take the discipline of telling stories without words, and add our technology, and you could have something beautiful.

Most modern films could NOT be done well without dialogue. The Da Vinci Code needed words. But imagine Saving Private Ryan or the recent King Kong without words. It could have been done.

Thus, my interest in the possibility.
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#10 Robert Hughes

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 06:34 PM

I see so many interesting television commercials during the World Cup, and several of them play independent of dialog. They're "silent" in that the actors don't speak - rather an offscreen Voice sometimes does the narration. Many are complete stories in 30 seconds.
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#11 melissa.c

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Posted 02 July 2006 - 09:42 PM

You should check out the movie "3-Iron" (american title), directed by Ki-duk Kim. It is a Korean film that premiered at Sundance a couple of years ago, but I'm pretty sure you can get it at your local video rental. Anyway, there are two lines of dialogue between the main characters, who are on screen for most of the time. Random characters will speak now and then, but the three main characters hardly say a word to each other...for the entire film. It is essentially a silent film, like those parts in those movies you were talking about that were so powerful. It is so well-done, however, that you hardly notice no one is talking til it's over.

However, I doubt the filming was much cheaper or easier. It wasn't silent, it only lacked dialogue, so the director couldn't direct the actors as they acted. Of course, the acting had to carry the whole thing and it did. It can be done without words, but I don't know about without sound. The sound design was amazing and is what I believe makes you forget that nobody is talking for forty-five minutes.

I think you can tell a story that is primarily visual, but the other elements shouldn't be forgotten completely. I wouldn't cut sound out entirely or you might lose most of your audience, that is, if you're concerned about that. I'd love to see you go for it, though.

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#12 Matthew Buick

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Posted 03 July 2006 - 07:39 AM

How about using subtitles instead of title cards to give your MOS movie a (slightly) modern twist.
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