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Arts & Entertainment

Short Takes: Tips from a Failed Filmmaker

CEC’s annual Shorttakes Festival takes place Tuesday night, and once again, we’ll see the best short films UCLA and college campuses across the country have to offer. But I’m not going to talk about those films because there’s something much more pressing at hand: the fact that I submitted a short film (see below) to the contest and it did not get selected.

Now, I’m not here to bemoan my loss or claim that my entry should have gotten in, but I like to view every failure as an opportunity to learn. So I’d like to examine my piece and go through the process of making it, step-by-step. And maybe, by the end of this article, you’ll feel confident enough to make a short film of your own (because if I can do it, anyone can).

First, try to work with a budget of $0. I’m a big supporter of independent filmmakers, and I firmly believe that you don’t need a ton of money in order to make a great film. Just look at Robert Rodriguez’s early film El Mariachi. He had an incredibly small budget, so before he filmed, he sat down and listed off assets that could be utilized in the film (a school bus, a jail, a motorcycle and a pitbull). This way, he saved money on props and locations, and he wrote the script around these assets. So if you know you won’t be able to shoot in a grocery store, don’t write a scene that needs to take place in a grocery store. Just use what you have. I adopted this approach to my film. I knew I had access to a Jesus costume, so I wrote a story around that. Don’t ask me how I got it.

Next, get your friends to be actors and crew. Unless you’re making some artsy, avant-garde film with zero people in it, you’re going to need a cast. And while the School of Theatre, Film, and Television certainly has some talented students, you don’t need to go looking that far to find actors. Just work with people you already know. This provides the benefit of working with people who know you and will try to help you. Also, you’ll know beforehand how your friends act, so you can write characters that play to their strengths. I had a friend who I knew could do a gruff-sounding voice, so I wrote in a homeless character who spoke like that.

Lastly, if it’s your first time filming something, realize that you’re going to make mistakes. I’m not a film student. I have a very elementary knowledge of the mechanics of filmmaking, so I mostly tried to recreate camera angles and cinematography that I’ve seen in movies and TV shows I like. As I was editing, and once I completed the final product, I realized there were a lot of things I wish I had done differently. It ranged from wishing I had filmed a scene from a different angle to forgetting I needed a transitioning shot between two scenes that I had forgotten to film. Don’t beat yourself up too hard for rookie mistakes, and don’t let it discourage you from filming something else. Learn something from each experience and keep making movies. Eventually, you’ll make something really spectacular.

CEC’s Shorttakes premieres Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom. No reservations are necessary, so go on down and see some great movies. And if you want to see a pretty good movie right now, watch my film at the top of this article.

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Arts & Entertainment

Little Known Quentin Tarantino Films

Quentin Tarantino is one of the most influential directors of our generation, boasting a list of critically and commercially successful films like Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds. Today Campus Events Commission is kicking off the new quarter right by screening his latest film, Django Unchained. Despite all of his success, Tarantino has been known to pop up in some unusual places (as evidenced by The Golden Girls clip above). So instead of making a list of all his great films you already know about, I thought it might be a bit more interesting to look at some films of he was involved in that are less well-known.

1. It’s Pat (Uncredited Screenwriter): For those of you into old-school Saturday Night Live sketches, you’ll probably remember Pat as the androgynous character played by Julia Sweeney whose actual gender is never revealed. Like most SNL sketches, it was turned into a movie. And like most SNL movies, other than Blue’s Brothers and Wayne’s World, it was terrible. But you may be surprised to learn that Quentin Tarantino was an uncredited screenwriter for the film. Honestly, it’s probably a good thing he didn’t have his name on this thing.

2. The Rock (Uncredited Screenwriter): Michael Bay films have become synonymous with explosions and ludicrous plotlines, but in 1996, The Rock was actually a pretty solid action flick. But once again, Tarantino decided not to have his name in the final credits. Some other uncredited screenwriters for this film include Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Nicolas Cage. With all that insanity in one writers’ room, something good had to have come out of it.

3. Little Nicky (Cameo): Adam Sandler films haven’t evolved much since his career began in the 90’s, and 2000’s Little Nicky is a prime example of an Adam Sandler comedy at its worst. For those of you lucky enough to have never seen it, Little Nicky is about Satan’s son, Nicky, coming to earth to stop his brothers from creating a new hell on earth. Needless to say, dumb jokes ensue. But the film does boast a surprising amount of celebrity cameos, one of which comes in the form of Quentin Tarantino playing a deacon.

4. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (Guest Star): This documentary was made by Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me), and it’s a very interesting look at how product placement makes its way into films. One of the many people Spurlock interviews is Quentin Tarantino, who talks about how he wanted to have scenes in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction take place in a Denny’s, but Denny’s wouldn’t allow him to use the company’s likeness. Out of all the entries on this list, this is the one you should probably check out.

If you want to see Quentin Tarantino’s latest cinematic venture, CEC is showing Django Unchained Thursday, April 4 at 8 p.m. in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom. Admission is free, and no reservations are necessary. What’s your favorite Tarantino film? Comment below or tweet @dbmojo.

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Arts & Entertainment

Best Bond Moments (From Connery to Craig)

With the coolest suits, the most beautiful women and the most iconic beverage order in history, it’s no wonder why James Bond has been a cultural icon for the past 50 years. Campus Events Commission, along with the Rally Committee, will be showing the latest Bond installment, Skyfall, as part of the Pauley Pavilion Lock-In Friday night. Since there’s no better distraction from midterms than reminiscing about the greatest secret agent, let’s look back at some of 007’s finest moments.

1. Sean Connery – Deadly Laser Pointer (Goldfinger): “Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond – I expect you to die!” Sean Connery was the first James Bond and this moment in the iconic film Goldfinger has been recreated in countless TV shows and movies. Fun fact: The script called for a spinning buzzsaw as opposed to a laser beam, but it was decided that a buzzsaw had become too unoriginal.

2. George Lazenby – Honeymoon, Interrupted (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service): The final moments of Lazenby’s only entry in the Bond franchise produced one of the most shocking moments in Bond history when 007’s new wife, Tracy, is shot in a drive-by in their wedding car. Bond proves himself to be just as human as anyone else when he’s holding his wife in his arms and saying, “We have all the time in the world.”

3. Roger Moore – Epic Ski Chase (The Spy Who Loved Me): Connery briefly returned as Bond after Lazenby’s departure, only to pass the torch to Roger Moore. Moore’s finest moment in the 007 canon is arguably the epic ski chase down the Austrian slopes. When it looks like Bond is facing certain doom going off the cliff, he releases his parachute with the Bond theme kicking in right as it opens.

4. Timothy Dalton – Rooftop Joyride (The Living Daylights): Dalton replaced an aging Moore for two Bond entries: The Living Daylights and License to Kill. 007 grabbing onto the roof of a jeep before sending it over a cliff in a fiery inferno is one of the most thrilling scenes in Bond history.

5. Pierce Brosnan – Insane Bungee Jump (Goldeneye): There was a six-year gap between Dalton’s last Bond film and Brosnan’s first, but when Bond came back, he came back in style. 007 jumps off the Archangel Dam with nothing but a bungee cord attached to him. Not only is it awesome to watch, but the scene broke the record for the highest bungee jump from a structure in a movie.

 6. Daniel Craig – Bathroom Brawl (Casino Royale): There was some hesitation at having a blonde James Bond, but all of that was thrown out the window when the black-and-white opening sequence to Casino Royale came on screen, and we all had the pleasure to watch Daniel Craig beat the snot out of some dude before drowning him in a sink. I guess blondes really do have more fun.

If you want to see even more great Bond moments, Skyfall will be shown this Friday (Feb. 8th) at 11 p.m. in Pauley Pavilion. Who’s your favorite Bond? Leave a comment or tweet @dbmojo.

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Arts & Entertainment

Easter Eggs, Cameos and References in ‘Wreck-It Ralph’

Taking many arcade gamers down memory lane, Campus Events Commission is showing Disney’s Oscar-nominated “Wreck-It Ralph” today at 7:30 p.m. “Wreck-It Ralph” is filled with references to the golden age of arcade games and other easter eggs. Without spoiling too much of the movie (most of these scenes have appeared in the trailer), check out our “teaser” list of allusions that you should keep your eyes peeled for tonight as you watch the movie. That said, minor spoilers may follow although most refer to specific scenes without revealing the plot.

1. “Bad-Anon” meeting 

As seen in the trailer, look out for the “Bad-Anon” support group meeting during which you will see the villains from “Super Mario Bros.” (Bowser), “Sonic the Hedgehog” (Dr. Robotnik), “Street Fighter” (M. Bison and Zangief), “Altered Beast” (Neff) and “Pac-Man” (Ghost) all on one screen. One of the many highlights of this scene is Kano performing his signature move from “Mortal Kombat” on a zombie based on Cyril from “House of the Dead.”

2. Imaginary Game Parallels

Many of the imaginary games in the film are based on other games. For example, many of the races in “Sugar Rush” are very similar to “Mario Kart,” but with candy. Yes, there is a version of Rainbow Road. “Hero’s Duty” calls to mind games such as “Halo,” “Call of Duty,” “Gears of War” and “Metroid.” And can we just point out how much Sergeant Calhoun, the main character of “Hero’s Duty,” looks like the actress that voiced the character? Yup, that’s Jane Lynch, more famously known as Sue Sylvester on the TV series “Glee.”

3. Konami Code

During the film, one character hits Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, on a controller, a sequence known as Konami Code. This cheat code can be used in games such as “Contra” and “Castlevania.” You can also try it on a lot of websites including Facebook, Google Reader and Digg.

4. Post-Credit Scene

Be sure to stay for and after the credits for some bonus footage. During the credits, the main characters take part in the different games featured in the film, giving the audience a sort of “tour” of this game world. As for those who are patient enough to stay after the credits, you will be rewarded with the screen that many have faced when they reached the level 256, the last level on “Pac-Man.”

5. Other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments:

Keep your eyes open during the bar scene where you may see the bartender from “Tapper” and Ryu and Ken from “Street Fighter.” The Game Central Station also features many game characters from games such as “Sonic the Hedgehog,” “Q*bert,” “Paperboy,” “Pac-Man,” “Pong,” “Dig Dug,” “Dance Dance Revolution” and many more.

Skrillex also makes a non-speaking cameo appearance, as does a well-known character who is shown dozing off while on the job at a scrap metal lot.

We know we definitely saw Mario’s mushroom in there somewhere. So where’s Mario, you ask? Keep your ears open, and you might also hear a reference to a game character that Angelina Jolie very famously portrayed.

Let us know if we missed any references or what your favorite arcade game was by tweeting @dbmojo or commenting below.

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Arts & Entertainment

Whitney Port Holds Q&A with Students

Last night, while UCLA sports fans headed to Pauley Pavilion to watch the USC basketball game, UCLA fashionistas packed into Moore 100 to hear Whitney Port (a USC grad) speak.

Port, an L.A. native, rose to fame as the cast member of the popular MTV reality show “The Hills” and later started her own spin-off show “The City.” Now, Port lives her life off-camera, trying to transition from TV personality to designer, working on the next collection of her clothing line, Whitney Eve.

Campus Events Commission organized the talk by Port, who has been touring colleges recently to answer fans’ questions about her career and encourage young women to pursue their dreams.

Although she is a designer, Port said she never took any design or sewing classes. She gained the bulk of her experience by interning at places like Women’s Wear Daily and Teen Vogue. So her best advice to young go-getters, she told the crowd, is to find a company you want to work for and send them everything you’ve got: a resume, portfolio, etc. She also encouraged audience members to send their resumes to her company and email [email protected] to apply.

After dishing out the career advice, Port addressed some of the following questions about her reality TV life:

  • How much of her show The City is real and how much isn’t? The show was not scripted but scenarios are “played up” by producers.
  • Is Olivia as vicious as she seems? She can be catty, but is mostly just frustrated by the cameras.
  • Does Whitney see Spencer, Heidi or LC much? She never sees Spencer and Heidi, but catches up with Lauren every once in a while, most recently during a furniture shopping trip.

And the best question of the night: How does she make herself so beautiful? She washes her face regularly and uses hair masks, she said. But now that she isn’t constantly being filmed, she said she puts in a lot less effort.

“I don’t know … Now, if you saw me the office atmosphere, you wouldn’t think I was so beautiful,” she said, laughing.

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