All posts by jburwick

Documentary Final

My documentary is titled “Why Do We Laugh?” In the three minute documentary I explore some of the benefits of laughter in our everyday lives as well as conduct and interview with my classmate, Jeremy Yan.  Laughter matters to me, because in a world where stress is an ever present factor in our lives, I personally believe that laughter is the best medicine. I cannot imagine a life without laughter, and hopefully you won’t want to after watching my documentary. To prepare for making this film, I watched several documentaries where comedians described their ability to make people laugh. Not a single comedian could genuinely explain how to be funny, and they all said it was just a natural emotion. It is important to indulge in that natural emotion in our lives and their is strong research to back that up.

When Making the documentary, some challenges occurred as a result of only having one camera, and several different angles to film. As a result, after conducting the entire interview from one angle, I would conduct the same interview again from another angle. I had to ask Jeremy to keep his answers relatively similar each time. I think one of the strengths of my doc is the opening, The entire year I have been struggling with opening my projects with titles, so I decided to move the title past the beginning clips to really dive right into the film and get people interested.

Please enjoy my documentary if you want to:

Face to Face Meetings (James)

My favorite face to face meetings were the ones to the Musee Mechanique/Exploratorium and to the BAMPFA.

I had never been to the BAMPFA before and let me tell you, it is well worth the visit. We got to see more different art forms than you could possibly name off the top of your head. Each piece was uniquely different and had countless stories behind it. We also got to visit a station where you could make your own art. They had the largest collection of stamps that I had ever seen and it was awesome. There is a picture of some of the stamp themed artwork that I created in my visual journal down below. (It might be hard to tell the difference between my art and the art in the museum)



Next, the face to face trip to the Exploratorium and Musee Mechanique was great as well. We learned about early filmmaking techniques and even got to see them in action. We saw several zoetropes, including one at the Exploratorium of lego Batman, which was very interesting. It created a more modern feel for an old technique. The Musee was great with several different old arcade games. Some were slightly scary, like one with dancing puppets hanging another puppet, and some were fun and interactive, like a hoops game (photo below). The best part about this combined trip was that we could interact with all of these concepts that we were learning about and solidify them in our brains. We were no longer just reading about this work, we were actually experiencing it.




Projects (James)

One of my favorite projects was when we created our own stop motion films. My film is called “Brainstorm” and it was inspired when I couldn’t think of an idea for my stop motion film. It is entirely shot on my real life desk with over 300 still pictures. It follows my desk supplies trying to come up with some brainstorm ideas. The stars in the film include; my pens, a valiant pencil, and a hell of a trash can. Please enjoy.

Another project that we did was to watch a movie from the criterion website and to storyboard it. I chose to watch the movie “Dazed and Confused.” (1993) This was and early Richard Linklater film that he both wrote the screenplay for and directed. The film is set in America in 1976 on the last day of school, following several rising freshmen and rising seniors. Most of the film is based around teenagers just waiting for something to happen and the social interactions that come about as a result of their teenage boredom and angst. If you have not seen the film, I highly recommend that you watch it. The movie is strongly captivating, despite the lack of steady plot. The plot itself is very reflective of the emotions teenagers in the 1970’s can relate to. I storyboarded four shots from this film:


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This is one of the opening scenes of the movie as we are still learning about the characters. Pink does not want to sign a pledge contract to not drink or do drugs in preparation for the upcoming football season. He does not even know if he even wants to play football anymore. The close up of his coach symbolizes the power and the pressure that looms over him with regards to playing football. In this scene Pink is shown in a long shot, showing that no matter what he does, his life is still dominated by his coach and social pressure. He even tries to walk away in the middle of this scene but is called back, showing his teen rebellious and non-conformist spirit. When this scene cuts between the coach and Pink, the camera zooms in on the coach during his shot. After a cut to Pink, we find that when we are back on the coach, the camera has become much closer in between the cut. The camera on Pink stays the same, further accurately representing the power dynamic and Pink’s relationship with his superior.


Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 11.08.14 AMMitch is an incoming freshman and after being beat up by some seniors (as a tradition), Pink invites him to hang out with them where he experiences his first high school party. Mitch is currently both drunk and high and walking through the party. The camera is a medium shot of his face and is handheld. The shakiness of the camera further implements the idea that Mitch is drunk and losing some control as the party roars behind him. The camera is only focused on Mitch, creating a disconnection from the party and focusing in on Mitch at this one moment of absolute drunkenness. The handheld camera combined with the absolute focus on Mitch provides the audience with a first hand experience into the world of being drunk for the first time.


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This scene is the closest thing to a climax that this movie will get. Throughout the entire film, different groups of teenagers have been driving around until finally somebody organizes a kegger. The bored group of teens drinks and get wild and finally emotions boil over for Mike who initiates a fight with Clint (the “dominant male monkey mother fucker”). After landing the first solid punch, Mike is immediately tackled and beaten badly. The camera angle that we get is a medium shot that captures both Clint’s anger as well as his fist beating down repeatedly towards the camera, like he is beating up the audience. The camera is handheld and moves as we imagine Mike’s head would, as we are in his perspective. The jump cuts between Mike’s frantically moving head and the pans of the rowdy drunk teenage crowd, we get a sense of utter chaos. Everyone is yelling and screaming and nothing is still. Finally when the fight ends, we hear only music (Tuesday’s Gone – Lynyrn Skynyrd) and everyone’s voices fade out. There is an aerial shot of the teenagers dispersing and the sun beginning to come up. The night is over and we begin to move into the next day.


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This scene marks the moment where Pink finally stands up to his coach and refuses to sign the contract. Throughout the entire movie, he has faced either his coaches or his friends telling him to sign the contract and this is the moment where he finally makes a clear stance for himself by crumpling up the contract and throwing it at his coach. This camera shot perfectly embodies the emotions in this scene. All we see of the coach in this shot is and over the shoulder shot. He has no power to stop Pink from what he is about to say and it is almost like he is not even in the scene. This is a drastic change from the first time we meet the coach where he as a zooming in close up. The rule of thirds is used very effectively here with the two polar opposites of the coach and Pink with Don in the back middle, symbolizing that Don is on both sides of the argument. He wants Pink to play next year, but he shares the same rebellious teenage spirit. We see Pink in a medium shot, but the angle is slightly leaning upward from the coaches shoulder, giving Pink an even stronger position of power. This radical shift from the beginning is very noticeable and the camera angles and shots perfectly capture this absolute change in the power dynamic.

Tokyo Drift

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was the third installment in the Fast and Furious series. It made its debut in 2006 with a current box office estimate of $158.5 million. It is ranked a mere 37% on rotten tomatoes and was the least popular film in the Fast and Furious series. Although this film is the least popular film in the seven (and soon to be eight) film series, it was the turning point in the franchise in terms of directing. Another reason this film stands out so much from the rest was its deviation from the natural plot. The normal sequence of events in a Fast and Furious movie follows a crew completing a heist of some sort. Tokyo Drift follows the life of Sean Boswell and includes almost none of the original cast. The movie is centered on his entrance into illegal Japanese street racing and builds up to him ultimately challenging D.K, the nephew of a member of the Yakuza, for high stakes.

Justin Lin, the director of Better Luck Tomorrow, was hired to direct the third installment. He agreed on the condition that he did not want the film to just be about “fast cars driving around geisha girls,” something the previous films were notorious for. Lin wanted to make the series sleeker and decided the film had to be set in Japan to become more “postmodern.”

Lin went on to direct films three through six and Tokyo Drift marked the start of a sleeker series. Although Lin took the films in a new direction when it came to directing (see below storyboards for further insight), the audience did not respond well to the rather flat acting or the differentiated storyline. After Tokyo Drift, the films more or less returned to their natural plot, but Lin’s directing still remained to ultimately transform the entire series.

Fun fact about the movie: after negative screenings to test audiences, Universal Studios decided to have Vin Diesel make a cameo in the end of the film in order to stimulate profit. Vin Diesel and the original cast proved essential to the success of the franchise.

Reflective Paragraph

This was the first time that I had seen Tokyo Drift. I have seen all of the other films in the series and the biggest difference was definitely the color scheme. In all of the other films, bright colors are used almost everywhere you look. This is the kind of cheap attention that they are using to draw in audiences with while they combine this technique with constant explosions and over the top plots. Tokyo Drift was much simpler and toned down. It felt realistic. Not everything in life is full of color and I think the dark color scheme made the movie more relatable and connected with me as a member of the audience. Not to mention the plot did not involve any high tech weapons that could recognize your face from any point on the entire planet.

Besides color, I thought that the camera work inside of the vehicles genuinely made the movie great. These techniques were much more subtle, but the camerawork in the vehicles perfectly mimicked every twist and turn of emotion. The superb mix of high and low angles affectively mirrored positions of power. The most impressive technique used was varying the quality of handheld shots. When a character was losing control or in danger, the shots were shaky and chaotic. When a character was hitting his/her stride and entering a position of power the shots were stable and longer. Filming inside of a vehicle is no easy task and those were the shots that captured the entire emotion of the film.

I attended this movie at the New Parkway theatre in Oakland. The majority of the audience was white (about 90%) for this CAAM Fest film. Although this movie takes place in Tokyo, two of the four main characters are white (and they are arguably the two most central characters). This film is entirely based in Tokyo, yet we only experience the story from a white man’s view. I did some research, and it turns out that had the main characters been completely Asian, the film would have suffered huge profit losses. This was because the idea of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” was already regarded as ‘foreign,’ in a predominantly white American film franchise.  As a result, the initial story was created to have Sean (the main character) move to Tokyo from America.

Scene Analysis: (Lens of class)

The opening scene of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is a car race between a jock and Sean. The entire POV of the movie is a bystander experiencing Sean’s actions. Sean is from a lower class family and moves around constantly. He is both an outsider as a result of class and as a result of his constant moves. When Clay (the jock) catches Sean talking to his girlfriend, he immediately gets on the offense and makes fun of Sean and his car, calling him “trailer trash” and a “hick,” all the while bragging about his “80 grand,” “500 horsepower,” sports car. 

Although these insults may seem rather silly, and it appears that Sean will have the last laugh by winning the race, the reality is that those insults have very solid ground in the real world. When they are at the police station, an officer tells Sean that Clay and his girlfriend will go free without a slap on the wrist because their “mommies and daddies are too hooked up.” Sean faced hard jail time at the age of 17 for the same crime that two people of a higher class will forget about in a few years after getting zero punishment. The silly comments made earlier become all too real and reflect powerfully the lens of Sean as a lower class.



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Shot 1: (29:00-31:30)

At first glance, these two shots seem rather similar. In this particular scene, Sean is racing in Tokyo for the first time against D.K (the nephew of a powerful member in the Yakuza). Sean does not know how to drift and is losing badly to D.K. The low angle used with D.K embodies the position of power that he has over Sean in the race. Sean’s eye level angle conveys that he is not as powerful as D.K in this moment and also conveys a lack of stability. The low angle shot with D.K is shot with little shaking while the eye level shot with Sean is shaky and shorter, creating a type of chaotic feel. Lastly the shot with D.K is a medium shot, allowing the camera to observe his fluid motion as he shifts gears, turns the wheel, and shows less emotion. The other shot is a close up of Sean, allowing the camera to see his emotion (which shows that he is out of his element) and also restricts the camera from seeing some of his hectic movements (shifting gears and turning the wheel) that creates a rushed and uncoordinated feel.


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Shot 2: (1:02:35-1:03:25)

This shot is the scene where D.K beats up Sean after finding out that he had been driving with his girlfriend (Neela). This entire scene is shot on a handheld camera (even leading up to the actual action) and it forces the audience to lose a sense of control. D.K is only portrayed with a low angle shot while Sean is only portrayed in a high angle. These angles are meant to establish D.K in a position of power and Sean in a position of weakness. Twinkie can be seen in the back, completely helpless and unable to help Sean.


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Shot 3: (1:11:15-1:16:09)

This is the shot moments before Han’s car is slammed into by another vehicle, ultimately leading to his own death. Before this, there is a chase, and the shot lengths were used very effectively during the entire scene. At the start of the scene, the shots of Han and D.K were rather lengthy, but as tensions built, the shots became more and more hectic; shortening and becoming shakier. This shot is the final shot in the chase and it more than a second long. Every other shot leading up to it had been a fraction of that length. The build up of the speed creates a very chaotic feel that eventually plateaus into this shot where the audience is entirely caught off guard by the big crash. Another element that greatly helped the overall affect of the crash was the music that stopped the moment of the crash.


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Shot 4: (1:29:15-1:34:26)

These shots are taken from the final race scene between Sean and D.K where the loser must leave Tokyo. This shot is interesting because it is the exact opposite from their first race (shot 1 above). This time, D.K is shown at eye level, having lost his position of power. He also has a close up that clearly reveals that he is sweating. Sean is shown at a low angle, having taken over D.K in the race and as ‘drift king.’ His close up, opposite to D.K’s creates a stronger position of power as it reveals he is smiling. The shots of Sean are long and steady, aiding his emotional close up in convincing the audience that he is now in control. The shots of D.K have become shorter and shakier allowing his loss of control to be revealed both through his emotion and through the camera work.


Finally, for your viewing pleasure I have provided a brief short film reaction to Tokyo Drift to showcase my own driving skills. Just a bit of background: Each song used in the short movie is taken directly from the Tokyo Drift itself. Also, many of the shots are modeled after the ones used in the real life movie. Have fun watching this little short film and take pleasure in watching my friends make fools of themselves while I school them in some Oakland Drifting. Enjoy!


Tokyo Drift imdb


Tokyo Drift Box Office

Justin Lin

Tokyo Drift Background

Tokyo Drift Rotten Tomatoes


James Burwick (4/4/16)