As always, we’re breaking our annual “most read Filmmaker posts” into two lists — 10 posts published in 2017 and 10 archival posts that are still registering large readerships. Throughout the 20, and particularly in the archival posts, there’s a strong current of practical advice conveyed by working filmmakers — the hallmark of this magazine. Here are our most popular posts of 2017.
Published in 2017
1. The Visual Language of Oppression: Harvey Wasn’t Working in a Vaccum. Our top post in 2017 was filmmaker Nina Menkes’s preview of a presentation she’ll give at Sundance next month, one in which she draws from filmmaker and film theorist Laura Mulvey’s pioneering work on the female gaze to argue that mainstream cinema’s representation of women enabled the thinking and attitudes that find their worst expression in sexual harassment and assault. With over 5,000 shares on Facebook alone, Menkes’s fusion of film theory and activism struck a huge chord, and we’re looking forward to covering her talk in Park City.
2. 25 New Faces of Independent Film, 2017. Menkes’s piece took the top spot from our annual survey of new talent, which always draws huge traffic for us, as it continued to do this year in the number two spot. The biggest traffic-getter: filmmaker Laura Moss, who occupied our lead-off piece.
3. 27 Movies Shot on 35mm Released in 2016. Every year Vadim Rizov surveys the state of celluloid — specifically the use of 35mm in theatrically-released feature films. His 2016 list was posted just into the New Year, and it was our third most read post.
4. The 50 Most Anticipated American Films of 2017. Another list! Early in the year Dan Schoenbrun drew up this mammoth survey of films to look forward to. Published back in January, Schoenbrun offered early enthusiasm for films like The Florida Project, Mudbound, Columbus, Good Time and Phantom Thread.
5. Like Sand through the Hourglass: Twin Peaks: The Return. We ran quite a bit of content this year about Twin Peaks: The Return, and filmmaker Gina Telaroli’s allusive, mysterious-in-its-own-way piece was one the one that resonated the most.
6. “If You Can Fall Asleep in a Movie, It Means the Movie Often Works” DP Christopher Doyle, legendary for his work with Wong Kar-wai and a director in his own right is always good for a beer-fueled quote. There are more than a few of them in this interview by Kaleem Aftab conducted during the Cannes Film Festival.
7. DP Erik Messerschmidt on Shooting Mindhunter with a Custom Red Xenomorph. In his Shutter Angles column, Matt Mulcahey goes in-depth with today’s top cinematographers, often presenting them with a series of shots and having them detail the lens and lighting choices that went into them. In the first of three posts on these lists, Mulcahey talked to DP Erik Messerschmidt about David Fincher’s ‘70s-set serial killer procedural Mindhunter and his use of the director’s tricked-out RED Xenomorph.
8. Choosing the Alexa 65mm over Film and Finding the Right Format: On Lion and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Mulcahey’s second post was focused on another camera, the ALEXA 65mm, as discussed by DP Greg Fraser, who used it on both Lion and Rogue One.
9. Reed Morano on Successfully Pitching for and Directing the Intensely Emotional Dystopian Drama, The Handmaid’s Tale. Meredith Alloway’s interview with Reed Morano about pitching for and then getting the pilot directing gig on Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a must-read for any film director looking to break into television. The level of Morano’s preparation for her interview with the producers is astonishing, and the fact that she both got the job and then won an Emmy for her work on it proves that sometimes smarts and hard work pay off. Specifically, read how she conceived of the 70-page lookbook/presentation document that combined images with specific passages from Margaret Atwood’s novel.
10. How Can You Make an Elephant Communicate Different Emotions: Director Kristen Tan on Pop Aye. Every year Filmmaker asks Sundance’s incoming directors a single question. This year the question was about communication — specifically, what communication challenges their films faced, and how those challenges were surmounted. Kristin Tan’s response about how she shot and edited her co-lead — an elephant — to convey emotion in her truly odd-couple drama, Pop Aye, rounded out our 2017 list.
Published before 2017
1. The Seven Arts of Working in Film: A Necessary Guide to On-Set Protocol.. Brandon Tonnor-Connolly and Alicia Van Couvering’s tutorial on on-set protocol is the most-read article ever at Filmmaker and regularly tops this list. Part of the reason, I think, is that the tough love contained within not only is relevant to the scores of young people entering the film business each year but any new worker starting a new job.
2. 15 Steps to Take After You Finish Your Script. My article on things to do after you finish a screenplay is another perennial favorite. (It’s probably due for a rewrite, too — what would you add? You can always email me at scott AT filmmakermagazine.com.)
3. A One-Camera Show: DP James Laxton on Moonlight. Mulcahey’s third post is an interview with cinematographer James Laxton, Barry Jenkins’s regular DP whose work on the Oscar-winning Moonlight received widespread acclaim.
4. How to Deliver your Film to a Film Festival. This 2015 piece by Sergio Andres Lobo-Navia on how to delivery your film to a festival is poised to become a perennial — but for how long? Nearly all of Lobo-Navia’s pieces for Filmmaker grapple with the reality of technological and format change — how evolving storage mediums, codecs and practices impact filmmakers. For now, his article on DCP creation and KDMs and 24-bit PCM .wav files at 48kHz is up-to-date… we’ll let you know when it’s not.
5. How To Option a Book For Film Adaptation. Lawyer Robert Zipser’s piece on book options is a very solid chunk of information on best practices when optioning a literary material for the screen.
6. What Everyone Does on a Film Set. The second part of Tonnor-Connolly and Van Couvering’s piece breaks down film jobs, department by department, and with just a touch of irreverence, demystifies them for the uninitiated.
7. 13 Ways to Cast A-List Actors in Microbudget Films. Director and Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish published a book — The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking — that drew in part upon his informative and irreverent articles for Filmmaker. Here, he gives advice on scoring name talent for your feature film.
8. The Art of First Impressions: How to Cut a Movie Trailer.. Critic Stephen Garrett also happens to be an ace trailer editor with a company, Jump/Cut, that handles many of today’s top speciality releases. His tips on how to conceive of, edit and structure a trailer is truly evergreen.
9. HD: XXX and Indie Film. For the most part at Filmmaker, we don’t do clickbait. I think that’s less for some high-minded reason and more because our small staff just doesn’t like writing it. It feels icky and unimaginative. And, as we ourselves grapple with the ever-changing dynamics of web publishing, we’re also aware that, despite the “read the original article at…” links, every casual write-through deprives some other site of a little bit of their revenue. We’d rather keep you coming back to Filmmaker because what you read here is original to us…. But this wasn’t always the case. Back in 2004, we didn’t engage in such moral calculus before throwing up something quick and amusing and designed to scoop up traffic from casual surfers. Still, I’m kind of embarrassed that number 9 on this list is something I don’t even remember writing, a 2004 link to a Variety article on how HD will change the make-up requirements of everything from the nightly news to porn that contained this still-inscrutable quote from adult director Joone: “The way I see it, independent film sort of died in the early ’90s when Miramax got bought by Disney. HD is changing that. I’m hoping people see sex as just the commercial that pays for the movie.” All the links contained within the post are dead, so it’s truly zombie content.
10. How to Find a Producer. Just below my quickie clickbait is another piece of mine, one written for the print magazine that, on the other hand, I spent many hours on. It’s my honest response to the perennial question, “How do I find a producer?”, and it aggregates commentary from my colleagues who had thoughtful commentary on the question.