In Hillman Curtis on Creating Short Films for the Web, New York-based Web/motion designer Hillman Curtis reveals his DIY (Do It Yourself) digital video production. With nine short projects—produced exclusively for the web—ranging from designers’ documentary, portrait and music video, to short movie, Curtis shares his experimental approaches to filmmaking: how a movie or a song inspires his vision; how he comes up with a concept; how he learns from his mistakes.
Curtis is not only an exceptional designer, but also a fine writer. Even though he touches briefly on technical notes (equipment acquiring, lighting, directing, editing, and interviewing) here and there, the heart and soul of Creating Short Films is behind the thinking process. This is where his ingenious writing comes in. He knows how to float his words on the page, and his style is captivating. Take the following paragraph for example:
Like most of Mogwai’s songs, “Sine Wave” starts low and mellow, and then builds to a dissonant crescendo. It consists of a warm, basic chord progression on a keyboard, coupled with a static, harsh percussion track. In fact, the song sounds just like James Victore’s work looks: stark, dissonant, and above all, beautiful. Victore’s work, like the Mogwai song, consists of just a few strokes that, taken collectively, build on one another to covey powerful, often jarring messages. Like Fellini’s film, the song gave my imagination a jumpstart, setting me back on track.
The language is beautiful and Curtis’s honesty is delivered. Not too many designers (especially those who are highly respected) would write about a project that has failed miserably. In the making of Superdrag’s “The Staggering Genius” music video, Curtis not only explains why his concept didn’t work, but also admits his failures (something most designers have a hard time dealing with).
For those who seek to go into filmmaking, Creating Short Films is an invaluable text to initiate your experimentation, to learn the process, and to build up your confidence. Even if you have never shoot a film before, this book will motivate and encourage you to pick up the camera. With his openness to a personal level, Curtis has crafted an enjoyable book to be read from cover to cover.