Jamison Bright – the ‘Auteur’ Theory

What ‘makes’ a film? Is it the writing? Is it the editing? This is the question many have sought to answer. Auteur, a term not so commonly used these days, is defined as a director who so influences a film, that he or she becomes the author, making it what it is. But how can we prove or disprove this? By looking at a handful of short films by one director – Jamison Bright – we can see how each work carries on the director’s film style and personal principles.

Jamison Bright is a young, up-and-coming, film director who has so far built a solid portfolio of live-action and animated shorts. Formerly known as Xavier Vanegas, Jamison is a director, actor, and producer, using all of these positions to create pieces of art that help define the human condition and entertain the world.

Early works

When looking at Jamison’s extensive portfolio to get a clear picture of how he thinks and what messages he wants to give to the world, you must begin with his early works.

One Night Stand shows a young man’s attempt to escape an apartment after spending the night with a woman. Despite being an early piece of Jamison’s work, we can see marked creativity in his shot selection and awareness of location, a favourite part being the use of a mirror to avoid using a standard cut away.

Pass/Fail Episode Two is similar in theme, however this one included dialogue that sounded both realistic to the age group and garnered a chuckle. With more actors and scenery to command, it was a tough job, but definitely shows his progression in skill. The shot selections are textbook, setting the scene and letting the characters tell their stories.

No university film degree is complete without making a zombie film. Zombs focuses on the in-between moments. Minor technical elements such as lighting and sound could have been improved, but it added to the psuedo-normalcy of the event.

Also dealing with death in a mostly comedic way is Remembering Jim Thatcher. Through quick glimpses of Jim’s life at the open of the film, we are instantly connected to him. The use of a green screen, though sometimes very evident, generally worked for the best. We are able to concentrate on the characters and their plight, rather than background stimuli.

Jamison’s focus on his own age demographic highlights his admitted desire to help others define their personal experience. He knows what they are going through, especially at a time when they are searching for meaning and attempting to understand life.

Later works

The first I will discuss here is my personal favourite. Abby and the Lights in the Sky tells of a young mother who is struggling after losing her baby. One night, strange lights appear outside the window, filling her with a sense of peace and closure. It used music in an interesting way, alongside subtle reactions, which often mean more than melodrama.

Just like you’d expect, Jamison’s later works all show a massive improvement in terms of technique. In progressing from short films to a possible future in features, he has begun to release a series of shorts that will combine to create a much larger story. These instalments: Park Bench, Bench Décès, and Statica Segment 1 are just the beginning of the series that promises to get darker. The latter two are in black and white, giving a noir-esque feel. The close framing and odd angles keep you off-balance, adding to the intrigue and showing Jamison, having mastered the basic filmic techniques, has moved onto using the shots to tell the story and not just capture the action.

Another instalment of an ongoing series is the endearing animated film Fink Forest Friends: The Invisible Honk. Though focused to a much younger demographic, it still portrayed a sense of morals, making it not just entertainment.

The Current Beneath is a stand-alone short film that uses an older cast and a more emotional take on death and loss. Telling its story in only a few minutes, the use of quick editing heightened the panic. It is one of the many works that Jamison has added a charity/cause credit to, with this one hitting close to home.

Telling a long tale in a short period of time, Mary Wollstonecraft of Sector Seventeen doesn’t feel like anything is left out. It is both funny and serious, and is similar to the Bench series in it’s use of black and white and shadow.

Common elements

Whether or not we are aware of it, we all have a specific way of seeing the world. After watching a few films by Jamison, you will be able to identify a number of common elements that all illustrate his world view and areas of interest.

All stories tend to have a moral message behind them, and Jamison uses his own age experience to target his messages to young adults. His films include immaturity in relation to sex and relationship, but also the heavier subjects of the shortness of life and how not even the youth are immune to it.

No filmmaker is alone in creating their art. Despite the obvious influence the director has on the film and its meaning, it is the contribution of others and their ideas that make it a more comprehensive product. Some of Jamison’s frequent collaborators include his family, and friends Cody Theilman, Christopher Dinriquez, Evan Muehlbauer, and Lyman Johnson.

The human experience is one of trials and tribulations, with almost everyone just trying to do their best. By helping each other, we can not only ease the suffering of others, but bring joy to our own existence. Over the handful of years that Jamison Bright has been studying and honing his craft, he has done this by outwardly dedicating his works to known and lesser-known causes, and by his film themes. It is only by continuing to watch his creations that we will see his ideas and morals grow, entertaining and positively affecting more and more people around the globe.

You can find his works at the following links:

instagram.com/jamisonbright

vimeo.com/vanegas

www.facebook.com/jamisonbright/

www.youtube.com/channel/UCcQxdn-oNblZlfaAeZHPixw

Writing How-To: Character Profiles

Whether you’re writing a short story, television series, movie, novel, etc., you are going to have to complete more than one character profile.

Over the years, I have completed MANY of them, and have collated a well-rounded list of character qualities to help you decide who your character is.

CLICK BELOW TO DOWNLOAD DOCUMENT:

Character Profile notes


If you can’t download the file, here are the profile notes:

CHARACTER NAME:

AGE:

ETHNICITY:

DESCRIPTION (EYE COLOUR, HAIR COLOUR, HAIR STYLE, HEIGHT, WEIGHT, BUILD, ETC.):

STYLE OF DRESS:

PHYSICAL FLAWS, ABNORMALITIES OR DISABILITIES:

SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIPS:

WORST MEMORY:
BEST MEMORY:

QUIRKS AND MANNERISMS:

WHAT DO THEY BRING TO THE WRITING PROJECT/HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER CHARACTERS:

WHAT PART OF THEIR PERSONALITY CAN/SHOULD CHANGE:

DO THEY WANT TO CHANGE:

WHAT ARE THEIR LITTLE, SOMETIMES UNREASONABLE, FEARS:

WHAT ARE THEY SCEPTICAL OF, AND WHY:

RELIGION/CULTURE/TRADITIONS:

WHAT DO THEY DO ON THEIR DOWN-TIME:

WHO IS/ARE THEIR BESTFRIEND/S:

WHO IS/ARE THEIR ENEMY/IES:

SKILLS:

HOBBIES:

FAVOURITE FOOD:

LEAST FAVOURITE FOOD:

FAMILY (PARENTS, SIBLINGS, ETC.):

FRIENDS:

PETS:

LIFE-SHAPING EVENTS AND THEIR LONG-TERM EFFECTS:

HAPPY/SAD CHILDHOOD:

EDUCATION:

OCCUPATION:

INTERNAL CONFLICTS:

EXTERNAL CONFLICTS:


Don’t worry if you can’t answer all of these questions yet, some of it will be decided as you go along.

Let me know how you go.


Make sure you also check out my other Writing Tips and Tricks:

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Writing How-To: Format a Script/Screenplay

If you love writing, then write. Things like formatting don’t matter until you’ve put pen to paper.

This post is about the technical formatting of your screenplay/script. I will write another post soon about what to put in your script, and how to use proper terminology.

For those that are ready, here is my step-by-step tutorial Writing How-To: Format a Script/Screenplay. I usually use a program called Movie Magic Screenwriter by Write Brothers, but I will be showing you using Word, because it’s free and still easy. I will be using a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Band Candy script as examples throughout (don’t worry, I won’t put any major spoilers in it).

You can do it in any order, but I will be going from front to back.

Step One

TITLE PAGE

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Title and Names:
Courier New 12pt, centred, two inches (6 ‘enters’ from top margin, title in bold (sometimes underlined), names clear formatting.

Contact Info:
Courier New 12pt, flush right. Name, address, email address (professional), phone number

Step Two

CAST LIST

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Title:
Courier New 12pt, centred, two inches (6 ‘enters’ from top margin, title in bold (sometimes underlined)

Names:
Justified, clear formatting
*Regular cast (for television series) goes first, then guest stars.*

STEP THREE

SET LIST

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Title:
Courier New 12pt, centred, two inches (6 ‘enters’ from top margin, title in bold (sometimes underlined)

Text:
‘Set List’ underlined, centred
‘Interiors’ and ‘Exteriors’ underlined, justified
Rest in justified, clear formatting
*Interiors first, then Exteriors*

STEP FOUR

ACT ONE or TEASER – Page 1

Television shows have a short section at the start to introduce the main story of the episode. Films just begin with Act One.

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Title:
Courier New 12pt, centred, underlined
*Title no longer on screenplay/script pages after this*

Text:
‘Teaser’ centred, capitals
‘Interior’ or ‘Exterior’ capitals, justified
Scene, character, and action description flush left, clear formatting
Character name in capitals in description first time mentioned
Character name (dialogue header) capitals, left indent (6 ‘tab’ from left margin)
Dialogue centred, left indent (3 ‘tab’ from left margin), 10cm long

STEP FIVE

END OF ACT ONE or TEASER

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Text:
‘Fade to Black’ or ‘Black Out’ flush left, capitals
‘End Of…’ centred, capitals


So, there you go. This is how you format a screenplay/script using Word and no template. Templates are easier to use – programs are better, though – so decide wisely.

Writing How-To: Improve writing conversations

I answered this question on Quora but I thought I would expand it and make it a full blog post.

Q.  How can I get better at writing conversations?

There are a few things you should do if you want to get better at writing conversations. This can be writing for short stories, novels, screenplays, anything.

1. Listen to conversations going on around you, and write them down.

Whether you’re on the bus, in a cafe, or walking down the street, pay close attention to the conversations happening around you. Listen to the inflections in the banter, then write it down.

2. Read them aloud.

You can get a friend to help you, or do this yourself. Your ear is more likely to pick up errors, and notice if the words sound false or awkward.

3. Remove or refine dialogue tags (e.g. said, asked, replied).

You don’t need to get rid of them all, but including them at the end of every line of dialogue stunts the flow of the conversation. Once you make it clear who is talking, you can even go for short bursts without the tags altogether.

Example –

“Hey Marie, how’s it going?”

“Not too bad, you?”

“Can’t complain. Did you get that text I sent you the other night?”

“No, I didn’t.”

You can see that you don’t need the tags. The punctuation can almost tell it all.

You can also choose to refine your tags. The thesaurus is filled with helpful synonyms of ‘said’ and ‘asked’, etc. Or, better yet, include descriptions and actions after the dialogue.

Example –

“Hey Marie, how’s it going?” David asked, though he already knew the answer.

“Not too bad, you?”

“Can’t complain.” A shrug left David’s shoulders. “Did you get that text I sent you the other night?”

“No, I didn’t.” Marie shifted her gaze, unable to look him in the eye.

See? Just by adding some descriptions and actions, you bring the dialogue to life, and progress the story. We learn more about the characters and the situation.

4. Character backgrounds.

One mistake some writers make, is to make all characters sound the same. Each character has a different background, so use that. Think about:

– Born and Raised. An Australian doesn’t speak the same way as someone from New York. If English is not their primary language, are their phrases stunted?

– Education. Do they talk in slang, or technical terms. This also depends on their degree, for example, technical writing terms are very different to technical medical terms.

– How old are they? Teenagers are more likely to talk in slang and unusual terms. The elderly might not use conjunctions as often.

– Who are they talking to? What relationship do they have? Have they been in a sexual relationship before? Are they hiding a secret from them?

5. Read, read, and read some more!

All of these are important, but you really do have to make sure you read. Read a short story, read a book, read a screenplay, read a news article, read a magazine. Just read anything!

Further reading:

There are MANY blogs, books, and online tutorials that talk about this and other writing tips, tricks, and techniques.

Check out: Creative Writing Now, Writing Forward, Daily Writing Tips.