Barry Jenkins, writer and director of the Oscar-winning Best Film “Moonlight,” gives a masterclass lecture and Q&A in Holland and drops serious knowledge of his passion, expertise and background. Key insights I took from this lecture are under the video:
- FILM IS MORE ABOUT IDEAS & PEOPLE THAN THE STUFF THAT MAKES THEM (at least Moonlight, Art Films and most Oscar-worthy films). The cameras, technology, framing, lenses, makeup, costumes, etc. are NOT the film. The story is the film. And those elements, including the actors, are simply tools to help tell that story. The tools help build the house. The tools are NOT the house. Do not allow the hammer to be the focal point, or to lead or steer the production of that house. There are many hammers that can drive a nail. Remember the house, keep the house first priority.
- TELLING THE TRUTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEAUTY. Jenkins insisted that all the black skin glistened in the sunlight, as it really does in the hot Miami sun. He insisted that the colors were vivid and the sun was glaring, as it really was in his memory of growing up in Miami. Though these elements would normally detract from the gloom, serious tone, etc. he used them to portray the truthfulness of Miami, as opposed to creating a gloomy, cold, desaturated palette that would normally be used to portray the hard streets with dealers on corners and bullies in schools.
- KNOW YOUR CRAFT. Jenkins said he dropped out of school for one year to strengthen his film craft so that he could be better in school for his major. I wish I had that foresight, that courage, that clarion-clear direction as an undergrad, but I digress. He spoke of shooting Naomi Harris’ hallway scenes in 48 frames a second (2x the normal frame rate) so he could have “control over the image without the sound,” meaning, he could use the clip with her audio as usual, or he could also use the clip in slow motion MOS / mis on scene (video with no heard audio). He ended up doing both to tremendous effect.
What insights will you glean that I missed? Comment below.