Film Word of the Week: Nickelodeon

By Kierston Drier

Anyone born after the 1980’s is likely to conjure up the classic warm-and-fuzzy nostalgia at hearing the word “Nickelodeon”. The image likely involves Saturday morning cartoons, flannel feet pajamas, and sugar-crusted cereal. But the history and origin of this family-friendly word trails back long before the TV network used it to brand their franchise. Believe it or not, the word Nickelodeon travels back to the 1880’s, and, diving even deeper, into Ancient Greece. Surprised? Don’t be. Today on Film word of the Week we will break this down.


Nickelodeon can trace its base root word “odeon”  from  “Melodeon” which means ‘Music hall.” The root of that word can be linked to the Greek work “Oideion”  which loosely means “building for musical performances.” This is likely based on the ritual practice of community-wide attendance at theatrical performances. A practice that was viewed by the Greek civilization of as a form of society-wide catharsis. Centuries later, when the jukebox was in its’ infancy, the word “Nickelodeon” would come into existence in relation to it, as the machine would offer a round of songs for a nickel.


When the development of commercial cinema led to the creation of theatre houses, admission prices were low to attract the masses, averaging around five cents. This low admission price, coupled with the long-running variety of short cinema reels and often serialized pieces, led to high popularity among the growing middle class. The word “Nickelodeon” began being associated with the movie theatre, and the jukebox became…well, the jukebox.


In 1979, when Parent Company Warner Cable was an opportunity in creating commercial-free children’ programming under the name, to give them an edge over competitors, they launched the channel, as the first ever all children’s network. Although it struggled at first and failed to gain widespread excitement, after some rebranding the channel would take off. In the mid-1980’s Nickelodeon went from a day-time children’s’ programming channel to a 24-hour channel when it launched “Nick-at-Nite” and later, created an educational preschool programming section called “Nick Jr.” From Pinwheel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nickelodeon has had notable success as the first children’s programming channel.


While Nickelodeon may have shaped many-a-childhood, the origins of this film word stretch out all the way back to Ancient Greece. Who’d have thought? Just one more cocktail fact to throw around at your next film-related party.




Film Word Of The Week: Best Boy


By Kierston Drier

Have you ever watched credits at the end of the film and been perplexed by the acknowledgement of the “Best Boy”? You’re not alone. Occasionally even people in the industry have the think for a few moments before the title and the associated job link up.


A Best Boy is a position held in the actual production of the film or television piece. Unlike Post or administrative-based production work (which tend to take place in offices and involve the planning, coordinating or finalizing the product) production work often takes place at ground zero- on the floor or location where the film is being shot.


The Best Boy is a member of the Lighting, Electric or Camera department. These are incredibly important departments and are critical to creating the ‘movie magic’ that makes everything on screen looks so highly polished and beautiful. The Best Boy position is essentially the chief or senior assistant to the Gaffer or Key Grip. While the heads of work with any of the aforementioned departments work with creatives to carry out the specific look of the scene they are shooting, the Best Boy must manage and maintain all the equipment, gear, scheduling and other managerial needs of that department. The best boy is, by and large, the second-in-command, and often swings between the needs to the camera, electrics and/or lighting teams. All teams are necessary in capturing the scene, and the teams must work closely together with sound communication in order to get the desired shot.


In essence, the Best Boy of these technical production departments lends themselves to their team in regards to all on-the-floor needs and requirements for the days’ work. They may coordinate with the Bests’ on other departments to ensure all departments have what they need for the days’ scenes.  


It is unclear exactly where the term “Best Boy” came from. It has been thought to come from the pre-union film days, from the concept of sending the “best boy” from your department to another department to assist with department-specific needs. Unable to lend the key of the department to assist, the team would send their most trained, highly skilled worker, that they could afford to lose for short term assistant. This morphed into the “best boy” a highly-skilled position that often swings between departments understanding the needs of both.


Best Boys are skilled and highly revered jobs, they can take years of training and working to be accomplished enough to be a Best. It should be noted that they are many “Best Girls” and the position is sometimes referred to as simply the “best”. So next time you are watching a movie and something wonders allowed what a “best” is in the credits- you might be able to enlighten them.



Wikipedia (basic referral only)


Camera Action

Inside The Chaos: Breaking Save The Cat (Cinema Structure)


by Kierston Drier

Today, we are doing something that has been done by screenwriters everywhere at one time or another- but it is no small feat. People have been attempting to crack the holy grail of cinema structure, basically, since cinema has begun.


   Well, technically, it goes back to the beginning of storytelling itself. We could spend hours breaking down the Epic of Gilgamesh, or The Iliad and The Odyssey. But we digress. For the sake of time, we are going to move our breakdown ahead by a few centuries.


The history of film is long, rich and fascinating, but- to be very brief, the first films came to light in the last decade of the 1800’s and they were total novelties for the common audience member. Animation would appear right before the turn of the 19th century. Typically under a minute long and made without sound, the pull to these films was that they were simply incredible feats of technology for the time. The first film with sound would be The Jazz Singer in 1927, which helps to illustrate the world of early film as being very simple, silent and much more similar to a theatrical stage performance than the cinema we see today.


But where does that leave the story? To condense down a massive amount of history, industry, and technology into an impossibly small time-frame, suffice to say- there was no hard and fast rule on “how to tell a story”, in cinema’s early days. Yet, as the film became more profitable and its audience grew, as well as the advancements in technology, stories became richer, fuller, deeper in context and more realistic. The end of “silent films” and the development of “talkies” would usher in a more life-like sense of story telling.


Doubtless, there were schools of thought, instructions, books, and guidelines for writing movies and shows, but one of the major game changers was Blake Synders’ Save The Cat, which breaks down the Hero’s epic journey. The book has had multiple reprintings and has topped the charts on best-selling manuals for screenwriting (ex- the number one selling book on screenwriting on Amazon in 2015)


Synder’s Save The Cat is an Icon. Primarily because it acts as a minute-by-minute breakdown of the hero’s journey. Better yet, the pattern Synder lays out can be seen in famous movies like Star Wars, Toy Story and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and countless others.


But what is so magical about Save The Cat? Let’s break it down to see:


  1. The Opening Image (p.1)- The strong, sharp, efficient image that sets up the world of our character.


2.Theme States (p.5) -A subtle line, usually by or to the main character that will undertone the main conflict or crux of the story.


  1. Set-Up Section (p.1-10)-  We fully meet our main character and see their life right before it gets taken for a turn by the epic story they are about to engage in. We need to make up are mind about how we feel about the character in this section, and we need to see the problem that will ultimately push them into action


  1. Catalyst (p.12)- The problem that was hinted at earlier now has to come fully in the face of the main character- compelling them to act. Their world has been shaken and they must act.


  1. Debate Section (p.12-25)- The main character must come to terms with their new situation, and battle (either with themselves, their world, or other external elements or people) to decide on the next forward moving action. The outcome must be their decision to push forward with conflict, for better or worse.


  1. Break Into Two (p.25)- We enter Act two of the story, and the character is now completely out of their element. Whatever they have done in the plot has propelled them into an utterly new situation and they are well outside of their comfort level.


  1. B Story (p.30)- the establishment of a B story takes place. A B-story may have been hinted at earlier, but now we allow some time for that secondary plot to establish itself and hint that it may create more conflict later.


  1. Fun and Games (p.30-55)- Whatever genre your story is, this is where the conventions of that genre get played out- Action movie? We have a car chase where our hero is triumphant. Horror film? We have some spooky supernatural events, some deaths, and some narrow escapes. Romantic comedy? Some events that compel us into some screen chemistry occur.  A suspenseful mystery? We have some juicy clues and red herrings that propel us into a certain direction. Bottom line; whatever tantalizing bits of your movie that would go in the advertising trailer- those bits happen here.


9.Midpoint (p.55)- The stakes rise! Everything for the character gets more complication. Things will get worse if they don’t act, and act soon.


  1. Bad Guys Close In (p.55-75)- Whatever your character is fighting against (themselves, their world, others) is rapidly getting bigger, worse and uglier. Whether the character ignored the warning signs, or the problem itself is far out of control, the Problem now must be resolved or may already be too late.


  1. All Is Lost (p.75)- The problem reaches a crisis level and everything falls apart. Our hero has seemingly failed. Whatever they have tried to do has backfired, and they are to blame.


  1. Dark Night Of The Soul (between p.75-85)- Hopeless and dejected, they are at their lowest point in the film, emotionally, psychologically and metaphorically.


  1. Break Into Three (p.85)- Entering the third act, your character is brought hope, whether it be in a supernatural, introspective and external form. If the B-story hasn’t crossed directly into the line of your hero yet, this is the time for it to happen. The character is revitalized- not all is totally lost.


  1. Finale (p.85-110)- In one last attempt to fix the major problem, the Hero summons their strength, armed with any new lessons they have learned along the way and sets off to defeat the problem. This time they succeed!


  1. Final Image (p.110)- We close our script on an image similar to our opening, except that it now includes our newly changed Hero, now grown wiser and more mature from their experience. The world, or their world, has been altered forever. They are now the master of their own destiny and now long hurled to the whims of fate.






– it creates a simple, yet highly customizable template that maps out a hero’s journey from start to finish, including their victories and defeats.


-It builds on an established set of tropes that can be examined a large variety of films regardless of their genre


Yes. Sure. But WHY does Save The Cat work?


This is a highly subjective issue that can be debated till dawn breaks a hundred years from now. This reviewer will argue that Save The Cat works for three basic reasons:


1)  It Makes Us Feel.


Ultimately, every film needs to do one major thing- make the audience feel.  The structure, when followed makes it necessary to establish a connection between the audience and the hero, which makes the audience care. In between The Set-Up and The Debate we have seen the character go from comfortable- too uncomfortable, to dealing with internal conflict- to making a choice. This natural progression allows the audience time to develop an emotional connection with the character. We may hate them, we may love them- but we feel something for them. This means we have become invested. In short, we care about them, and we will care about their outcome.


2) It Utilizes Archetypes


Without getting too philosophical, Archetypes are basic concepts that reoccur all societies regardless of time period or cultural differences. Think stock characters like The Trickster and The Wise Elder that get shaped and reshaped in all our favorite films over and over again. The Trickster is Bart Simpson (The Simpsons) is Arlechino (comedia Del Arche) is Jim Halpert (the Office). The Wise Elder is Yoda (Star Wars), is Rafiki (The Lion King) is Gramma Tala (Moana).  They are all different individual characters, but they are built on the same foundation.  And why do these characters keep coming up over and over again? Because they somehow tap into the collective consciousness of human beings as story-tellers. Somewhere in our collective brains resides a comfort in these classic characters that help convey stories, pass along information and tech lessons.


In the Save The Cat breakdown, we walk our main character through the steps that turn them from ordinary to extraordinary. We move with them, in secret, and we share their failures and their successes. We have unfettered and VIP access to our hero as they leap from what is average, to what is great. This plays into two archetypes, The Underdog and The Hero, and joins them together. It is a combination that audiences naturally enjoy watching, and the story that develops from it satisfies the viewer.


3) It Creates Wish Fulfillment


When we follow Save The Cat, as it is written, we begin our story with a character we can relate to. Even in a high-concept fantasy, where we are living in a totally unrealistic world- even if the character isn’t human- the “hero” is still relateable. They may suffer from human flaws or insecurities. Yet they overcome those problems and rise to the occasion to triumph against all odds. It is the concept of the “everyman” winning the day over the terrible foe that makes the story so inviting. The audience wants to relate to the hero because they want to be the hero. They want to believe that they too, could rise to the occasion and beat the odds. The viewers, however, are safe and watching the hero- their hero- win the day in their place. Following Save The Cat means we see the character when they are their most relatable, and watch them grow into the hero. We get to live their adventure with them, and they fulfill our dreams. Save The Cat creates a Wish Fulfillment pattern that makes the viewer feel as those they are part of the Heros’ main journey.


So why does Save The Cat work? To be brief- because of its clean, concise and does the equivalent of a Jedi-Mind-Hack on our emotions. There are other outlines that work well too- like Dan Harmen’s Story Structure 101, or, going back even further, Aristotles’ breakdown of comedies and tragedies. And they work too! But we can talk about them next time…


Kickstarter Interview: Ryan Oswald (WHEN THE GODS TREMBLED Short Film)

when the gods trembled

Make a donation on the short film:

Interview by Kierston Drier

  1. Tell me a little about yourself, your background and your work as a filmmaker/creator.

 My name is Ryan Oswald. I very first started out as an actor when I was about 12 years old. I landed a few smaller roles in indie films at the time in LA, and then transitioned to mostly theater acting throughout high school. I fell in love with the ability to express and share stories in different ways and film making gives you should a wide array of opportunities to do just that. My friends and business partners ended up meeting me here in Idaho several years later after graduating film school and we saw the opportunity to start working on the projects we wanted to work on. To tell the stories we wanted to tell. I started out as an assistant director on most projects, with a few stints since as a script supervisor, and so on. This is my first project as the Director, and I am loving every minute of bringing this story to life.

  1. Let’s talk about your project! What is your Short about?  

My short film, When The Gods Trembled, is a short – silent film. The story follows two soul mates from a world long before our own, when gods like Zeus roamed the earth. Our two protagonists lead passionate and free lives together, until an angry Zeus has had enough. He curses them, and all humans, by separating them to the far ends of the earth, making life this search for your missing half. The story picks up during this time frame and then follows the two women through different iterations of time. From a prehistoric time frame to the 1920s prohibition, to modern day on their search for their missing half.

3.Tell me about the origins of your project? What was it born out of? What inspired you to create it?

 I was inspired to tell this story originally many years ago. When I was in 7 – 8th grade I was took Latin and courses on Greek and Roman mythology. I loved it and was fascinated by the stories they would tell, they would they would explain the world through these very elaborate and winding stories. I read the symposium by Plato, and in it he uses different characters to debate and explain the origin and meaning of love. The one that stood out to me, and if anyone is familiar it’s probably the one they have heard of before, that humans were once physically connected one to another, making one whole human. Soulmate to soulmate. I loved this idea and the imagery and symbolism it represents and wanted to see what would happen if I were to introduce characters to this world. When The Gods Trembled is the result of that idea.

  1. What about your upcoming film really excites you?

I am really excited to finish the project first off. I first wrote the story about two years ago, we began filming a little over a year ago, and now have just the final scene to produce. I am most excited about the period we are shooting this scene in. I love the 1920s and am very excited to be working in that time period on this story, and I’m excited to show it off.

  1. You are running a Kickstarter right now, correct? What are the basic details?

We are running a kickstarter campaign right now. It has 7 days to go as of writing this piece on September 7th, 2017. The basic details are this; we are shooting the final scene we need to finish making this film. The scene takes place in the 1920s during prohibition in a speak easy – jazz club. To make this scene come out looking like its in the 1920’s and not a costume party gone wrong, we need to put 20 extras, 7 band members, 5 featured extras and our 2 cast members in period appropriate costuming. We also need lights and set decor to bring it all together, and all of these things cost money, even with all of the generous folks helping us along the way.

  1.  What will the funds you raise go towards?

The funds specifically will go towards: costuming, lights, hair and make up, props, lights, and a gimbal we need to pull off some of the shots on my shot list.

  1.  What are some of the rewards you can get through funding it?

There are several fun rewards you can get through our kickstarter, but some of my personal favorites are; a one of a kind transfer art piece made by Cochina Transfers of the cover art and it’s the only one like it in the world. Backers can also get a handmade replica of the bracelet worn in the movie in beautiful wood carvings, t-shirts with different cover art options, tickets to the live premier, and every backer – big or small will get a personal thank you video live from set!

  1.   Tell me why you think everyone needs to check out your film?

Everyone should check out When The Gods Trembled because it tells the story of enduring love throughout the ages. This story hits a nerve deep inside all of us, I believe, that we all ultimately hope there is that one perfect soulmate, that missing half out there and what we might do to find and hold onto it if we ever found it ourselves.

  1.  Tell me some inside scoops- have any wonderful anecdotes come out of your short so far? Fun facts? Fun stories?

We have had a blast making this project all the way through. I have such an amazing team of people around me that I love working with, cast and crew, that it’s hard not to have fun working with them. I could tell several stories about funny things or even misadventures along the way so far, but I will tell you my favorite so far. We were shooting on location outside of Garden Valley, Idaho out in the woods and rivers. This beautiful and rugged terrain. The cast and crew camped near our shooting locations for four days while we were doing the first round of shooting. We were walking Josh, the actor who plays Zeus, down the river to his first location while in his full costume and makeup. We decided to bring along a few sidearms with us for safety since this is definitely grey wolf territory. So here is Josh dressed up in full costume looking like Zeus, 3 crew members and myself all with holstered guns and a camera walking down the path, and here comes this family complete with mom, dad and little girls all coming back from the hot springs that walk right past us. We couldn’t help but laugh as they walked by just thinking at what a sight we all made, Zeus and his body guards carrying a camera and gear to the hot springs. I hope they see the short some day and have a great laugh realizing they saw us out there and this is what we were working on.  

  1. What is one thing you want to aspiring filmmakers everywhere?

I guess I would still consider myself an aspiring filmmaker to some degree, but if I were to pass along any wisdom to any others out there it would be to surround yourself with people who are talented and hungry to make movies, and go shoot it. Perfect is the enemy of good, and in no budget film making you may need to beg, borrow, and steal your way through every scene but just go do it. I think the rest will come and we all get better with practice, with learning and opportunity, but especially with this business you need to make those opportunities for yourself.

  1. If I wanted to go check out your Kickstarter right now, where would I go?


Kickstarter Interview: Dominic Crisp (ESCORT Short Film)

Make a donation on the short film here:

Interview by Kierston Drier

  1. Tell me a little about yourself, your background and your work as a filmmaker/creator.

I grew up rurally in Oxfordshire, middle of nowhere with not too much going on. So a lot of time when I was young was about making up stories with friends that we’d play out in the fields, all very picturesque.

At 19 I got in to the Oxford School of Drama, where I trained as an actor for the next four years. During the final year and a half at drama school I started to write for both film and stage, and this summer, having just graduated, I am now able to start producing my own work. This is essentially the first film project that I’m heading, so I’m kind of floundering in the deep end. But that’s good, I’m learning a lot, I believe in this story, and it’s all about taking risks.

  1. Let’s talk about your project! What is your Short about?

SO! This short is taken from a wider feature script that I’m developing, which is about the relationship struck up between a male escort and his female employer. The short charts the developments of their first date, from awkward beginnings to surprising ends

  1. Tell me about the origins of your project?What was it born out of? What inspired you to create it?

So I’d just started my final year at The Oxford School of Drama and I’d moved home for the final two terms, commuting in to the school. I was eating with my mum and dad and we were talking about how I was going to earn money living in London and one of us joked that I could become an escort, that there’d be a fair whack to make out of that. That basically sparked the whole concept, and things moved from there. I now live in London, I’ll let you decide whether you think I followed through on the job idea.

  1. What about your upcoming film really excites you?

When I first started telling people about the idea they kept asking me ‘Oh, have you seen pretty woman?’. I guess what I think is exciting about this film is that it reverses the roles in that film, its not stereotypical. Here we’ve got the female character in complete control and I think that makes for something a little different. I’m really not trying to be a martyr or anything by championing the fact I’m writing a strong female character, that should be the norm. But I do think there’s something really exciting when you put Jo (lead female character) in the drivers seat, where the outcome of a lot of the story is in her hands. I don’t know if I’ve seen that before in this context.

  1. You are running a Kickstarter right now, correct?What are the basic details?

All or nothing. So if I don’t raise the full amount, I get Nada. So a bit stressful. There’s four days left on the campaign so it’s really getting to crunch time.

  1. What will the funds you raise go towards?

All the funds raised will go in to production costs. It will cover travel and food for all cast and crew, enable me to buy some lighting equipment (I’m going for the visuals of Mulholland and the story power of Blue Valentine). It will also pay for a Colourist, who will really make the picture come alive visually in post-production. It will also mean I can get a sound designer on board to compose a score.

  1. What are some of the rewards you can get through funding it? 

There are four different awards

£10  gets you first online viewing of the finished article

£20 gets you a digital copy of the finalized short script

£50 gets you a canvas print of the Escort artwork that heads the Kickstarter page

£200 Just like in the short it gets you a dinner date (within the UK) with me, whether that’s a reward or not you can decide. I’ll be a paying for this one though.

  1. Tell me why you think everyone needs to check out your film?

Because if they don’t they’d regret it for the rest of their life!!!! Ha, no. I think it will tell a really engaging story, that should also look exceptional, and if that’s your cup of tea, get on board.

  1. Tell me some inside scoops- have any wonderful anecdotes come out of your short so far? Fun facts? Fun stories?

If running a Kickstarter has taught me one thing, it’s how to sell yourself to other people. So I guess for this film, that’s pretty apt.

  1. What is one thing you want to aspiring filmmakers everywhere to know?

I guess without trying too sound preachy (as I’m very much an aspiring filmmaker as well) I’d say that you’ve got to believe your own story. It may still fall flat on its face but at least then you know that what you’re doing is honest.

  1. If I wanted to go check out your Kickstarter right now, where would I go?


Make a donation on this short film here:

Movie Review: DISNEY CARTOON CAMERA (USA, Documentary)

Played at the August 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival

by Kierston Drier

A fascinating look at the history of cartoon cinema, from the early 20th century to present, Disney Cartoon Camera breaks down the cartoons through the technical lenses- literally and metaphorically.


Following respected and often renown Disney animators, archivists and technicians, this 30 minute short doc takes us step by step through the detailed and highly nuanced breakdown of creating lush and realistic art. From Snow White to Chicken Little we see the elaborate and innovative technology that makes it all possible. Bright, colorful, nostalgic and beyond fascinating, there is something for everyone in this cartoon-classic doc.


Disney Cartoon Camera takes on a far more educational tone that a more story-driven or character-driven doc, but it is nevertheless engaging and captivating. For the movie buff, the young-at-heart or even the cartoon geek, this is a film to watch, savor, learn and enjoy.

DISNEY CARTOON CAMERA, 23min, USA, Documentary
Directed by David BosserDisney Cartoon Camera, hosted by acclaimed historian Leonard Maltin, tracks the history of animation cinematography – from the origins of crude “down shooters” to the first multi-plane camera fashioned out of old car parts, to the latest digital camera capture systems – through the eyes of the camera operators and technicians.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!

Movie Review: MY NAME IS JOAN (USA, Documentary)

Played at the August 2017 DOCUMENTARY Short Film Festival

by Kierston Drier

My Name is Joan, packs an exceptional emotional punch. Poignant, compassionate and full of intrigue, it follows a story that is nothing short of scandalous, involving the mother-and-baby homes of the 1920-1980’s in Ireland. We follow Susan Drew, born Joan Fagan to an unwed mother in Dublin and adopted under mysterious circumstance, as she recounts her story of discovering her past. As Susan revels her own history- and that of her mother who lost her daughter in a mother-and-baby home to an overseas adoption, we also uncover the history of illicit adoptions performed through the Catholic church in a time when unwed mothers faced extreme persecution.


Untold numbers of women gave birth out of wedlock after the second world war. While the Irish government looked away, those women were sent to Church-run mother-and-baby homes, where they were promised totally anonymity and safety to deliver their babies. What they were not told was that they would be subjected to difficult conditions, poor treatment, neglect and that their children could be taken from them and adopted out- with very little they could do about it.


Susan would have been one more unnamed child lost in a sea of murky documentation. That is, if it hadn’t been for one nun who saved and scanned the paperwork of every child she saw under her care- Susan being one of them.


My Name Is Joan is an incredible documentary. Susan’s journey being the primary tale, the story still branches out, spider-web like, into the larger scandal. With jaw-dropping statistics and frightening conclusions to be drawn from them, it is incredible that such an event can take place, seemingly under the nose of a country. My Name Is Joan is one woman’s story of finding her past, and changing her future. It is also a story of a nation whose women and children were under siege. A gripping, emotionally ambitious and incredibly moving film.


MY NAME IS JOAN, 30min, USA, Documentary
Directed by Margaret Costa

Tells the story of Susan Drew, a woman who was born Joan Fagan to an unwed mother in the St. Patrick Mother and Baby Home in Dublin, Ireland in 1949. While the documentary chronicles Susan’s journey to find her true identity, it also highlights the illegal exporting of children by the Catholic Church to families in other countries for profit while the Irish Government looked the other way.

CLICK HERE – and see full info and more pics of the film!