Tim Buttner - Multi-Media Expert

Tim is a Multi-Media Expert with skills that span various forms of media. Tim began writing screenplays before he was twelve, completing his first feature-length screenplay at sixteen. He began filming in high school and at seventeen gained experience interning at Edgewood Studios on the set of Zombie Town. Tim continued to study film at Drexel University, establishing himself in the Stereoscopic 3D revolution after attending workshops in New York City with Florian Maier on Stereoscopic Film Production. After graduating from Drexel's Film & Video Program with a Bachelor of Science, and with a Screenwriting & Playwriting Minor, Tim worked for Digital Revolution Studios under Craig Tanner and further worked in stereoscopic 3D. While at Drexel Tim co-founded a company (One Forest Films) with high school friends and for several years helped build the company as CTO, and Chief Web Designer. Tim has been a contributing writer for MarketSaw, and as well selected as a Beta Tester for Blackmagic Design on the URSA Mini 4.6K camera.




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Tim was also a contributing writer to MarketSaw, a 3D blog. Check it out: www.marketsaw.com



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—Favorite Quotes—

"Cinematography, a military art. Prepare a film like a battle." — Robert Bresson

"'Nobody's perfect' is the line that most sums up my work. There is no comedy, no drama about perfect people." — Billy Wilder

"Structure depends on strategy: strategy is determined according to events." — Cao Cao, from Sun Tzu's The Art of War

"I shall hang my 'lecturing' on the same peg with my other failures and follies. It must be a long peg and a strong peg to hold them all." — George Perkins Marsh

"Will the science of the human heart, around which all contemporary art is based, exhaust so completely the writer's powers of imagination that in future the only novels that are written will be chronicles of various events?" — Giovanni Verga

"Train easy, fight hard… and die.
 Train hard, fight easy… and win." — Unknown


—Personal Quotes—

"Movies are not watched. They are an encounter with a life's experience not your own."

"I'm well trained in the art of turning shit to gold."

"'My favorite movies are the ones inside my head."

From Page to Screen: Realism to Neorealism

Updated on March 21, 2009, 9:24 PM - Written by Tim Buttner


La-Terra-Trema-PosterFrom the time that audiences were shown a black and white motion picture of a train pulling into a train station, and tried to flee the theater for fear that they would be run over by it, film has used realistic elements to stimulate audiences to care about the characters and the plot they are entangled in. Actors and actresses, whose pretty faces shined bright in front of the many eyes of the world's populace, played these characters but they never uttered an audible word. Then sound was added and playwrights, who had been influenced by the realism and naturalism movement in the mid-nineteenth-century, were brought in to make the dialogue naturalistic, and actors had to find their voices. When certain people thought that "talkies" would never catch on, they were proven wrong, just like later when those who thought that color would never become mainstream were. With color, and a wider screen size for a field of view more akin to human eyes, audiences were able to experience movies as if they were real events happening in front of their very eyes. For the last century film has sought to achieve realism in the technical aspects, with 3D being the next evolutionary step, and beyond the technical with regards to the narrative.

Many years before the invention of motion picture film, an Italian writer wrote to a friend, Salvatore Farina editor of a Milanese literary review, about a short story he had "recorded" after picking it up along the country byways. He called it, "a slice of life, as they say nowadays, that will possibly be of interest to you and to all those who study the hearts of men and women."1 As he continued to detail his reasoning for writing the tale down, this Italian writer made a prediction about the future of storytelling. This prediction was unknowingly the screenwriting process, which is fundamental to filmmaking. The passage in his letter reads, "Will the science of the human heart, around which all contemporary art is based, exhaust so completely the writer's powers of imagination that in the future the only novels that are written will be chronicles of various events?"2 Indeed, the novel has taken a backseat to the graphic novel, comic book, and television & film, however the writer's power of imagination has yet to be exhausted because novels still manage to get adapted to the times that surround them. This writer lived long enough to witness the emergence of film and even saw at least six of his stories adapted to film, Cavalleria Rusticana having been adapted thrice before his death in 1922. The Italian writer who wrote this letter to Farina was at the forefront of a literary movement known as realism, and his name was Giovanni Verga and the short story he narrated to Farina was Gramigna's Mistress.


Stone-Breakers (1849)
The Gleaners

The Gleaners (1857)

Realism came about in the mid-nineteenth-century on several different fronts. The first front was that of art, where in France during the 1850's artists sought to depict their subjects as they appear in everyday life without elaboration. This often meant that the harshest of conditions that laborers worked in were portrayed, whether it is Stone-Breakers (1849) by Gustave Courbet3 or The Gleaners (1857) by Jean-François Millet4. The reception of this art was mixed at first because the audacity to leave the romanticism art, which was dominating, was something that critics did not see eye to eye with. Realism found it's audience, and with the advent of photography it took on a new form, and literature soon followed in the footsteps of visual art.

Realism, in literature, began in mid-nineteenth-century France, specifically the French novelists Gustave Flaubert and Honoré de Balzac, whom Verga studied, were major influences on the genre and are considered its founders. Realism was a reaction to romanticism, which Verga had previously written several novels that were undistinguished, and sought to break away from the emphasis on inspiration, subjectivity, and the superiority of the individual found in romanticism. Verga also read "the first volumes of Zola's Rougon-Macquart; and he followed as closely as he could the development of French naturalism and the many discussions reported in French Literary journals,"5 where he discerned his own analysis that rejected the basic principles of French naturalism. Naturalism tended to attempt to apply scientific theories to art, such as how heredity and social environment determine one's character, and therefor is an outgrowth of realism since realism is concerned more with what is objectively distinguishable through keen observation.

Verga's first foray into realism began in 1874 with his short story Nedda. By no means a masterpiece, the short story is pivotal in the chronological events that lead to Verga's genius. He began work on his great novel I Malavoglia (The House by the Medlar Tree), which many literary critics view as a leap of genius, in 1875 and after many rewrites had it published in 1881. During the time he took to write the novel he tested his literary convictions in a number of short stories that were later compiled into a collective volume titled Vita dei campi (Life in the Fields), and among these stories were Cavalleria Rusticana, La Lupa, Rosso Malpelo, L'amante di Gramigna, and Jeli il Pastore. These short stories are renowned and considered some of the best written in the Nineteenth Century. Cavalleria Rusticana was later adapted in 1890 into a world famous opera by Pietro Mascagni.

Realism opera is by no means what people would understand it as, instead it is more commonly referred to as versimo, which is the Italian word for realism. Georges Bizet's Carmen in 1875 France was the first realism opera to premier, although it took another fifteen years before Italy made the leap with Cavalleria Rusticana. "Mascagni had written to Verga on 10 March 1890, only a few weeks before the work was due to be performed, to ask his permission to stage the opera, to which Verga, unable to foresee the extraordinary favour it was to enjoy with operatic audiences through the world, consented on 27 March."6 Verga couldn't comprehend how opera was to make the leap into realism, but Cavalleria Rusticana began the movement of versimo opera. Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera I Pagliacci (1892), which beyond being known for the use of its aria "Recitar! ... Vesti la Giubba" in The Untouchables (1987) in a sequence that follows a veristic POV shot, has become a permanent fixture to Cavalleria Rusticana in opera repertoire. A certain great Italian composer, who was fresh off his second opera Edgar (1889), found Cavalleria Rusticana to be so ground breaking that "before its first performance, Giacomo Puccini had shown the opera libretto to the Milanese music publisher, Giulio Ricordi, who had been unimpressed, saying he could not believe in it ('non ci credo')."7 The opera became a hit, and the libretto was published by Eduardo Sonzogno.

Giacomo Puccini is considered by many to be the greatest composer of versimo, and two of his most famous versimo works, La Bohème (1896) and Tosca (1900), are among two more of his and eight other famous composers' operas, including Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci, that are the most performed operas in the North America. Leoncavallo also made a La Bohème (1897), based as Puccini's was off Henry Murger's La Vie de Bohème (1851), however Puccini's became the most popular. Verga's 'Springtime' (1875) has literary anecdotes that can be traced back to La Vie de Bohème, and G.H. McWilliam states in his Introduction to Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Short Stories that "the Milanese world depicted by Verga in 'Springtime', with its Galleria, its famous opera house, its garrets, its cafés, its ambitious young artists and its seamstresses, was to be given definitive form some twenty years later in Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème."8 Verga therefore is "The Godfather" of versimo, just as he is father to Italian realism, and the grandfather of Italian neo-realism.

After World War II, Italy experienced a renewal of realism in cinema in large part because of the hardships that the Italian people faced before, during, and after the war. This renewal became known as neo-realism, and its influence on the world of cinema was so profound that it served as the impetus for the Oscars to add a Best Foreign Language Film category in 19569. In 1943, before the war's end, Luchino Visconti's first film Ossessione came out, which was a precursor of neo-realism, and after Giorni di Gloria (1945) Visconti came out with a pure neo-realism movie called La Terra Trema (1948). La Terra Trema was loosely based upon Giovanni Verga's I Malavoglia, "which narrates the struggles of a family of Sicilian fisherman to free itself from poverty and exploitation."10 Neo-realism films focused on the lower-class characters and their struggles, just as Verga had written some seventy years before, and often dealt with contemporary social and political issues. The town where Verga based his story, and where Visconti shot, did not change a whole lot in those seventy years, and was very much as it were during Verga's time. The movie was shot like many Italian neo-realism movies of the late 1940's and early 50's in that it mainly used nonprofessional actors, "they were genuine fishermen and inhabitants of Aci Trezza (Sicily). The credits doesn't give the name of any of the actors; they are collectively listed as 'Pescatori Siciliani' (Sicilian Firshermen),"11 shot almost entirely outdoors using natural light, and used (necessarily) very small budgets, "when financing fell through, Visconti was forced to sell some of his mother's jewelry and one of the family's apartments in Rome to finish the film."12

In La Terra Trema Visconti paid homage to Verga by naming a character Nedda after the short story that began his leap into genius. However, it has to be noted that Visconti leaves Verga's narrative and time setting of I Malavoglia for a more modern time (note certain communist allusions) and a story that focuses more on the aspect of 'Ntoni's personality that Verga alludes to in I Malavoglia. Visconti's framing of shots is very reminiscent of the realism paintings from the mid-nineteenth-century, although in black and white, creating a feel that what the audience is viewing is the most sincere portrayal possible. Shots early in the movie of the fishermen tending to their nets is so reminiscent of Millet's The Gleaners, that the audience instantly associates with their long, strenuous hours in order to get a decent days wage to feed their family. The film was shot, like most neo-realism films, in a documentary style, where shots are held and the natural environment sound fills the space with the dialogue. The dialogue is not literary like Hollywood pictures but instead conversational and full of dialects hard to recognize as Italian found only in Sicily, just as Verga had sought to do with his stories. The film is also accompanied by a voice-over narration that has a feel as if Verga's story is being read out loud by a poetic voice. With the exception of Don Salvatore whistling opera tunes, there is little evidence in the movie of influence from versimo, however composer Willy Ferrero used Sicilian folk music and that could perhaps fit more with the realism of the movie as it is used sparsely enough to feel as though it were being played on the street corners. The narration becomes a form of music as a result.

The same year that La Terra Trema was released, so was another great neo-realism masterpiece. In fact, Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief, 1948) by Vittorio de Sica is hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made, and surpasses La Terra Trema because of its emotional clarity, social righteousness, and brutal honesty. In 1950 the movie was "voted by the Academy Board of Governors as the most outstanding foreign language film released in the United States during 1949."13 It recieved an Honory Oscar and, as referenced to above, was the film that served as the impetus for the Oscars to add a Best Foreign Language Film category. The legacy of the neo-realism films are continually felt through film history to the present.

In a movie by Gus Van Sant about a high school shooting, Elephant (2003), he chose to shoot it in a style very similar to neo-realism. He mainly used non-professional actors, almost all sound and music came from an onscreen source, and he used long shots. The movie uses the Steadicam, which was invented in the 1970's by Garret Brown, to great effect where the camera follows the characters down school hallways, outside on the school grounds, and through classrooms to give the audience a sense of the authenticity of the setting. The movie ends like most neo-realism movies did: There are no winners, only losers. However, this movie lacks greatness because of the use of non-actors, because it was released at a time when film acting had gone through a revolution.

Acting was an art form greatly affected by the realism movement. In theatre, playwrights were effected by realism as early as the 1850's:

They argued that because we can know the real world only through direct observation, playwrights should write about the society around them and should do so as objectively as possible. Given these premises, it was logical that realists and naturalists would write primarily about contemporary subjects (unlike earlier serious dramatists who usually chose historical or mythical subjects) and introduce behavior not previously seen on the stage.14

Theatre received heavy criticism for this bold move, as had art, but the playwrights fought to defend their art. They argued that if audiences found distaste with their portrayals of life on the stage then, "they should change the society that furnished the models rathe than denounce the playwrights who had the courage to portray life truthfully."15 Acting managed to advance because of the movement and within the century, Konstantin Stanislavsky's system of acting, which he developed through the Moscow Art Theatre, had a profound effect. One of his basic principles was "to act truthfully, the actor must be a skilled observer of human behavior,"16 which is something that comes out of every realists handbook.

Stanislavsky's teachings influenced American school of thought, especially in the years after WWII, and influenced some of the greatest actors to come out of its teachings. Perhaps the greatest student of this system, Marlon Brando, was an actor so prestigious that his influence and likability was what changed the very way in which audiences and critics viewed acting. Brando, "captured the public's imagination with his portrayal of the inarticulate, uneducated, and assertive Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire (1947, {stage; 1953, screen}), directed by Kazan."17 The movie version of this is one of amazing stature. At the Oscars the movie managed to walk away with all possible acting awards, except for Best Actor, which is a shock for those who had seen Brando's performance. Nonetheless, "Brando's impact was enormous, not only affecting acting style but also contributing greatly to the influence of the Actors Studio and its version of the Stanislavsky system, usually referred to as "the method."18 The method has become the most influential style taught to actors, and is something that at the same time in Hollywood when technical standards for movies were changing.

Despite every movie made during the neo-realist era, or past to modern, none could achieve a true form of realism visually, Each camera development has advanced the perception in a 2-Dimensional sense, from color to widescreen, that what an audience is viewing is, as Verga said, "so perfect, the sincerity of its reality so obvious, its manner and raison d'être so assured, that the hand of the artist will remain completely invisible."19 However, this is still in a 2-Dimensional realm, and humans see in a 3-Dimensional space, so the next leap for camera technology is obvious. Sound, which didn't get attached to film until 1927, was mono for a shorter time than the visual images projected for the audience. Sound achieved stereo quicker in both the theater and home markets, but film has been experimenting with stereography since it was first invented. However, the old methods were too difficult to synchronize or project well enough. Special mirror rigs and camera's with digital technology has changed that, along with continued study of human vision so that projection is precisely calculated at the time of shooting. With this new 3D technology and with social themes coming from a country coming out of a disastrous war and a recession audiences again will witness a reemergence of realism in movies and this time, "the work of art will seem to have created itself, to have grown spontaneously and come to fruition as though it were a part of nature, without preserving any point of contact with its author."20

1 Verga, Giovanni. "Letter to Salvatore Farina." 1880. Trans. G.H. McWilliam. Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Short Stories. New York: Penguin Classics, 1999. pp. 93-94.

2 Ibid., p. 94.

3 Courbet, Gustave. Stone-Breakers. 1849. Original Destroyed in 1945 during World War II; Formerly in the Dresden State Art Collections, Germany.

4 Millet, Jean-François. The Gleaners. 1857. Musée D'Orsay, Paris.

5 Cecchetti, Giovanni. Introduction. I Malavoglia. 1881. By Giovanni Verga. Trans. Raymond Roesnthal.  1964. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983. vii.

6 McWilliam, G.H. Introduction. Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Short Stories. By Giovanni Verga. Trans. G.H. McWilliam. New York: Penguin Classics, 1999. xiii.

7 Ibid., p. xiii.

8 Ibid., p. xx.

9 Dirks, Tim. "Greatest Films: Timeline of Influential Milestones and Important Turning Points in Film History." Greatest Films, <http://www.filmsite.org/milestones1940s_2.html>, owned by American Movie Classics, LLC. (March 17, 2009).

10 Morandini, Morando. The Oxford History of World Cinema. Ed. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. p. 357.

11 "La Terra Trema." The Internet Movie Database. Imdb.com, Inc. Copyright © 1990-2009. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040866/trivia>.

12 Ibid., <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040866/trivia>.

13 Oscars.org. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. <http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1237531710100>. © 2009.

14 Brocket, Oscar G., and Robert J. Ball. The Essential Theatre: Eighth Edition. Belmont: Thomson & Wadsworth. 2004. p. 154.

15 Ibid., p. 154.

16 Ibid., p. 165.

17 Ibid., p. 195.

18 Ibid., p. 196.

19  Verga, Giovanni. "Letter to Salvatore Farina." 1880. Trans. G.H. McWilliam. Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Short Stories. New York: Penguin Classics, 1999. pp. 93-94.

20  Verga, Giovanni. "Letter to Salvatore Farina." 1880. Trans. G.H. McWilliam. Cavalleria Rusticana and Other Short Stories. New York: Penguin Classics, 1999. pp. 93-94.


La Terra Trema. Dir. Luchino Visconti. Perf. Antonio Arcidiacono, Giuseppe Arcidiacono, Venera Bonaccorso, and Nicola Castorino. Universalia Film. 1948.

"La Terra Trema." The Internet Movie Database. Imdb.com, Inc. Copyright © 1990-2009. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0040866/>.


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