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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—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."

Akira Kurosawa: The Samurai Master


Updated on June 14, 2010, 1:01 AM - Written by Tim Buttner

 

When such masters as Sergio Leone, John Sturges, and Martin Ritt have remade his films, and George Lucas has claimed that Star Wars (1977) was greatly influenced by Kakushi-toride no san-akunin (1958), then it can't be denied that his significance in the filmmaking world was great. Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese painter turned filmmaker whose films would become a staple of Japanese cinema, and as well an influence on generations of filmmakers. He was a director who greatly cared about his actor's performances, using a telephoto lens and multiple camera set-ups to allow his actors freedom from the constraints of the camera. He had influences from Shakespeare, loosely remaking such classics as Macbeth and King Lear. Akira Kurosawa was, and will always be, a masterful filmmaker whose technique and artistry filled the cinema screen with grace and poise that generations of filmmakers can only wish to emulate.


Akira Kurosawa was born March 23, 1910 in a suburb of Tokyo to a family of eight older siblings. His father was the director of a junior high school, and they were a well off family. A major influence on the life of Kurosawa was a teacher, Tachikawa, who emphasized art on his young pupils. It was through Tachikawa that Kurosawa was introduced to art and film, became a painter, and enrolled in an art school. He joined an artists' group that had an enormous emphasis on nineteenth-century Russian literature. This is where Kurosawa picked up further influences and even a film project for later in his life. His brother, Heigo, was also a significant influence to Kurosawa because of what he did for work and how his suicide affected Kurosawa. Heigo worked as a narrator for foreign silent films, or a benshi, and lost his job when sound came to films, which occurred later in Japan than other foreign countries, so he committed suicide. Kurosawa soon after became the only living boy in his family. It was 1930 when he responded to an advertisement in the newspaper for a job that landed him as the assistant director to KajiroYamamoto. Yamamoto took to Kurosawa because he had knowledge of other things that didn't relate to film, and soon made him a protégé. He began to write scripts and direct sequences for Yamamoto within five years, and by 1943 directed his first filmSugata Sanshirô.


His preparation for a film never ceased because according to his family he would often sit quietly thinking about shot compositions. Kurosawa frequently collaborated on the screenplays to his movies with his screenwriters, who he worked with on more than one movie. The five screenwriters he worked with the most were Eijiro Hisaita, Ryuzo Kikushima, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni, and Masato Ide. It was the same for his actors, who he constantly worked with. One, Toshirô Mifune, is a greatly famous director-actor collaboration that marks its place high in the list of collaborations throughout cinematic history. There are more than 20 collaborations between the two including Rashômon (1950), which was winner of the 'Golden Lion' at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, Yôjinbô (1961), Shichinin no samurai (1954), and Kakushi-toride no san-akunin. He also had two composers that he collaborated with, at the beginning and the end of his career. The first was Famio Hayasaka, who he worked with in his early days as a filmmaker until Hayasaka passed away. The scores that he created for Kurosawa were poignant and beautiful. They built towards a climactic resolution, and often Kurosawa would only have certain passages, or instruments, played in the beginning and a full orchestra played at the end. Until his death by tuberculosis Hayasaka was Kurosawa's great collaborator. The second was Hayasaka's pupil Masaru Satô, who worked with him through his later films. He had a resemblance to Hayasaka, but managed to retain his own uniqueness. His collaborations with Kurosawa were mesmerizing and breathtaking. A great example is during Ran (1985) when Lord Hidetora's castle is burned and Kurosawa chose to cut all sound except for Satô's music. Overall it's an example of Kurosawa's mastery of the elements.


He often used many similar elements in several of his films. He used weather to a great extent in order to heighten the mood of his pictures. The rain at the beginning of Rashômon, which he notoriously had the crew pour black ink into the rain machine to make it stand out, and there's also how he used rain during the end battle sequence of Shichinin no samurai. He used the relative of rain, snow, in Ikiru (1952) and the segment "The Blizzard" from Dreams (1990).  In the segment "The Blizzard" he personified hypothermia in a spiritual form of a beautiful woman who pulls blankets over one of the weary mountaineers telling him, "The snow is warming The ice is hot." When he fights her to get up her face turns to a monstrous form, and when he wins she flies away. He used fog to shroud and mystify, or to reveal and surprise, such as he did in Kumonosu-jô (1957) and the segment in "Sunshine Through the Rain" Dreams. It is because of Kurosawa's immense respect for nature that it took such a prominent role in his films. It was as if it were a character itself, working with or against the human characters, but no matter how powerful the characterization was the setting was still pivotal to the plot of the movie.


Kurosawa often dealt with themes and settings out of feudal Japan. He is most famous for his Samurai films, which his last masterpiece was Ran, which was also a loose adaption of Shakespeare's King Lear. He considered Ran to be his greatest accomplishment because of the sheer scope of the production. The perfectionist that he was he had a castle constructed on the slopes of Mount Fuji so that he could burn it down for one of the most awe-inspiring sequences ever filmed. It was a film that took Kurosawa ten years to write and bring to the screen. There were so many costumes that the costume designers had to create them by hand, and that took two years to complete. During the time it took to prepare the film Kurosawa storyboarded every shot of the film as paintings, which is what he did on all his films. Kurosawa also adapted another Shakespeare play, Macbeth, as Kumonosu-jô (1957) in the same year he adapted Russian playwright Maxim Gorky's play The Lower Depths as Donzoko. A literature lover he also made films out of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot in 1951 called Hakuchi and Vladimir Arsenyev's book Dersu into Dersu Uzala in 1975.


Kurosawa was as much an influence on other filmmakers as he had gained inflience from literature. Shichinin no samurai was adapted by John Sturges into the western The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Yôjinbô was adapted by Sergio Leone into the Spaghetti Western Per un pugno di dollari (1964). Kurosawa was greatly influenced by American westerns, especially filmmaker John Ford, so there's a sense of circularity that found his samurai films being adapted into westerns. According to the Internet Movie Database's Trivia section on Kurosawa, "Kurosawa worshipped legendary American director John Ford, his primary influence as a filmmaker. When the two met, Ford was uncommonly pleasant to the younger Japanese filmmaker and after wards Kurosawa dressed in a similar fashion to Ford when on film sets." Perhaps one of the most fascinating influences that Kurosawa inspired was George Lucas's Star Wars, which can in many ways be classified as a space western. Star Wars even has samurai tradition in the fighting form of the Jedi, who fight with katana-like weapons called lightsabers. The shared connection that Star Wars and Kakushi-toride no san-akunin have are "common story elements," which "include General Makabe, who became Obi-Wan Kenobi; Princess Yuki, who became Princess Leia, and whose trick of disguising herself as a handmaiden would later be used by Queen Amidala; and the farmers from whose viewpoint the film is told, Matashichi and Tahei, whose constant bickering inspired C-3PO and R2-D2." Lucas consciously modeled the pace and look of Star Wars after Shichinin no samurai, and many American blockbusters followed suite. Lucas even was the executive producer for the international version of Kurosawa's Kagemusha (1980).


The thematic stream that ran through all Kurosawa's films was his portrayal of humanity, which built from his compassion for his characters. Besides working with actors again on several pictures, Kurosawa rehearsed heavily with his actors. He was referred to on set as tenno, "The Emperor" in English, and it was an endearing term. Kurosawa is quoted as saying:


A film director has to convince a great number of people to follow him and work with him. I often say, although I am certainly not a militarist, that if you compare the production unit to an army, the script is the battle flag and the director is the commander of the front line. From the moment production begins to the moment it ends, there is no telling what will happen. The director must be able to respond to any situation, and he must have the leadership ability to make the whole unit go along with his responses.


During Kurosawa's golden period of filmmaking he commanded an army of artists and they took the world by storm. The way that Kurosawa commanded his crew was through respect, and that is why he continuously worked with the same people. Kurosawa truly understood people, and because of the way his crew regarded him, he was able to devote a lot of time to his actors' performances to achieve the best performance. He said this about his thoughts on the rehearsal process:


I begin rehearsals in the actors' dressing room. First I have them repeat their lines, and gradually proceed to the movements. But this is done with costumes and makeup on from the beginning; then we repeat everything on the set. The thoroughness of the rehearsals makes the actual shooting every time very short. We don't rehearse just the actors, but every part of every scene - the camera movements, the lightning, everything.


When he shot the scene they only needed one take. He was a master of multiple camera set-ups and through them was able to allow his actors to perform without thought about playing the scene to a single camera.


His influence will be felt in generations of filmmakers to emerge in the Twenty-First Century as they are directly and indirectly affected by the brilliance that he brought to the cinema. Kurosawa will remain pivotal to Japanese cinema for bringing it to the respect of the rest of the world, and for additions to the art that came from the country. In the end Kurosawa was a humanitarian and philosopher whose significance in the world will transcend far beyond the bounds of the films that he shared with the world's audience, and one day he will be held in the same high esteem that his influences were.

 

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