Friday, February 29, 2008

Mona Lisa Smile

Is the world’s most enigmatic smile a fake? Is Mona Lisa really smiling or is she faking it?

Because real and fake smiles are controlled by different parts of the brain, different muscles are used to create them – and this indicates whether a smile is genuine or not. When faking a smile, the brain signals the major muscles in the cheeks to contract and pull the corners of the mouth outwards.

Genuine smiles are triggered by feelings of pleasure which pass through the part of the brain that processes emotion. When a smile is real, the eyes crease up, and the end of the eyebrows dip slightly.

Looking at the right side of the painting of Mona Lisa it is instantly evident that she has definite up-turned lips for a smile.

But her eye on this side does not show 'laughter lines' at the outer corner of the eyes where the skin crinkles up. There is no smile evident in this eye. Overall, this side of her face indicates her mouth is smiling but her eye is not part of it. This is a gentle 'polite smile' we all can turn on and off at will.

On the picture's left side, the body language indications are reversed. Her lips do not have a smiling up-turn, but, we can see that this eye hints of the tension associated with a true smile. The upper and lower eye lids have a slight upward pull at the outer edge. But a smiling eye without a smiling mouth contributes to an uneasy feeling of mystery and bewilderment of this painting.

The body language indicators are conflicting in this face. It is easy to understand how this could happen if Leonardo painted different parts of her face at different times. Her mood may have been different over several days. Her left eye may be her Monday eye, her right eye may show her Tuesday mood, her right mouth side possibly Wednesday, and maybe he painted her left mouth last and that gentle smile was for Leonardo on Thursday as he finished his masterpiece!

So the answer to whether Mona Lisa is smiling or not depends.

So what does this have to do with us? We spend a lot of time behind the camera lens and in the editing suite. We are practiced observers and can spot a fake smile from 50 paces. Fake smiles rarely "make the cut" into our wedding movies. Although it is a very subtle cue, viewers can also spot a fake and can feel there is something "a bit off" even if they can't place a finger on the inauthentic smile. That is why we film a lot on a wedding day; so we can be very, very picky and make each wedding movie feel unstudied and real, in the best possible way.

Some brides fear they will not look good in their wedding movie. We find that people who behave in a contrived fashion don't look their best. So, we don't pose people, ask for "re-enactments" (which can never capture the original feeling), or ask people to do cheesy unnatural things like throwing the veil over the groom's head of having the groom dip the bride. Because we allow the action to unfold naturally, we are much more likely to capture people's natural expressions. And, people are less anxious because they are engaged in actions that they would naturally do. So...with us, everyone looks their best.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Editing Oscar Award Winning Movies

Here is a 7-minute video of the 5 Academy Award nominees for Best Editing. Mark Helfrich, who edited Rambo, Predator, Rush Hour, Family Man, X-Men and 30 more movies, gives incisive commentary on the style of each of the nominees and why they were chosen.

Excellent editing is a series of decisions. One key decision is the length of the individual clips. In the Bourne Ultimatum the clips were unusually short (1-2 sec), creating a tense, edgy feeling. In No Country for Old Men, the clips were rather long (7-8 sec) and also led to an almost unbearable tension. In There Will Be Blood, the unflinching camera stays on a static shot of Daniel Day Lewis for an unheard of 25 seconds, cuts away for 6 seconds, then returns for another 25 seconds. The editing does not allow you to look away. It compels you to be involved.

The key is to know which length of cut should be used in different parts of a movie and to understand the impact of that decision. During a particularly emotional vow or toast, we tend towards longer edits to capture the passion and intensity. And when the intensity is boiling just under the surface, and is expressed in a very subtle way, it's even more important to "hold the gaze" and not cut away or it would dilute the impact.

During a fast dancing piece, 1-second cuts (or faster) convey the high level of energy. As Mark Helfrich says, "Imagine having to sift through all your footage to find that perfect 1-second part of the take and stringing these 1-second shots end-to-end to create a fantastic story. A great amount of effort goes into it...and the results are fantastic." Exactly.

Another decision is whether to tell the story in a linear or non-linear way. In Into the Wild, the story was told in a very non-linear way, jumping from the present to the past and back again. Actor Hal Holbrook credits his Supporting Actor nomination to the editing on this film.

Another decision is which 'take' to choose. Good editing can put together the best of each take. How does this apply to us, since we don't direct on the wedding day or ask for a second take? We still have 2 or 3 or 4 camera angles on certain scenes and need to select the angle which is most flattering and which tells the story the best.

Another decision is whether or not to use music. In No Country for Old Men at the moment of greatest intensity, there is no music, just the sounds the protagonist would hear. And because there is no music, each sound is intensified.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

World's Best Film Festivals

Tonight something interesting is going to happen at the Academy Awards. I can predict with 100% confidence that the Best Picture Oscar will go home with a film-festival filmmaker because all five films nominated for Best Picture were seen at the world's top film festivals. This trend started In 2005 when Crash was the first film festival acquisition (2004 Toronto Film Festival) to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Atonement debuted on opening night at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. Michael Clayton premiered at the 2007 Venice Film Festival and was later seen at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. Juno, made on a budget of only $6.5 million, was judged Best Film at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. No Country for Old Men by the Coen Brothers premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, six months before its limited commercial release in the U.S. It was also seen at the New York Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. And There Will Be Blood's director, Paul Thomas Anderson just won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival for Best Director.

Is this a good trend? I think so. We can derive so much inspiration from people all around the world who have different experiences, different views of the world, and different styles of visually expressing themselves. Is it ever a bad idea to gain a greater global understanding?

So, in order to get a jump on next year's Academy Award nominees, here are the World's Top Film Festivals, based upon popularity, quality of films, and prestige.

Cannes International Film Festival - May 14-25, 2008

Cannes is graced by some of Hollywood's A-list celebrities, and its roster of past winners includes: "Easy Rider" (1969), "Taxi Driver" (1976), "Apocalypse Now" (1979), "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Fargo" (1996).

Venice Film Festival - Aug 27-Sep 6, 2008

The Venice International Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world. It evolved out of a Venice art exhibition in the mid-1930's. Federico Fellini once said that "entering the Film Palace of the Venice Film Festival was like passing a final exam."

Berlin Film Festival - Feb 1-Mar 1, 2009

The Berlin Film Festival was founded in 1951, just six years after the end of World War II, as part of an attempt to restore Germany to its former artistic glory. The first film screened at the Festival was Alfred Hitchcock's "Rebecca". The Berlin Film Festival quickly gained momentum, and within a few years it rivaled Cannes and Venice as one of the premiere film festivals in the world.

There are plenty more film festivals from Anchorage to Zanzibar. Here is the A-List of international film festivals, according to the International Federation of Film Producers Association:

Mar del Plata International Film Festival- Apr 24-May 8, 2008
Shanghai International Film Festival -June 14-22, 2008
Moscow International Film Festival - June 18-27, 2008
Locarno Film Festival - Aug 6-16, 2008
Montreal Film Festival - Aug 21-Sep 1, 2008
Fresh Film Festival- Aug 27-31, 2008
Cairo Film Festival - Aug 29-Sep 1
Toronto International Film Festival - Sep 4-13, 2008
San Sebastian Film Festival - Sep 18-27, 2008
Tokyo Film Festival - October, 2008

Festivals well-known for showcasing independent films are:

Sundance Film Festival - Jan 17-27, 2008
Vail Film Festival - Apr 3-6, 2008
Sonoma Valley Film Festival - Apr 9-13, 2008
Tribeca Film Festival - Apr 23-May 4, 2008
Telluride Film Festival - Aug 29-Sep 1, 2008
New York Film Festival - Sep, 2008
Raindance Film Festival - Oct 1-12, 2008

And a few festivals close to home are:
Cinequest Film Festival - Feb 27-Mar 9, 2008
San Francisco International Film Festival - Apr 24-May 8, 2008

If you can't attend in person, then live vicariously through these blogs of the goings-on at the latest film festivals:
Film Festival Today
Short Film Review
Independent Films

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Extravagant Valentine's Day Gifts

Valentine's Day is a day of fantasy. Since we are fantasizing, we might as well go all the way. Here are some extravagant Valentine gifts that will put the romance in your day (and night).

For Her

Champagne: Krug, Clos du Mesnil 1995 - $750 per bottle; comes from one small walled vineyard of just 4.5 acres; only 12,624 bottles were produced in the 1995 vintage.
Chocolates: Knipschildt $250 per dark chocolate truffle
Perfume: Clive Christian No. 1: $2,350 per ounce
Romantic Getaway: Private Reserve, Soneva Gili Resort & Spa, Maldives, $10,000 per night; 15,000 sq ft suite in 6 buildings built over the water; 2 personal assistants included.

For Him

Lamborghini Murcielago, $362,000; This convertible is sleek , fast and stylish. Or for a million dollars more, you could buy a Bugatti Veyron.

Or you could pack a picnic lunch, and read her the poem you wrote for her under a spreading oak tree.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Savadelis Films Featured in Your Wedding Day Magazine

We were surprised and delighted to open the latest Spring 2008 issue of the beautiful magazine, Your Wedding Day and see ourselves mentioned in 'Things We Love'. Event planner extraordinaire Cindy Danbom of Belle Notte Events shared what's hot in San Francisco including Miette, The Pampered Girl, the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus, the SF Giants, Courting Eileen invitations! Here's what she said about us:

A good movie tells a story. It's a series of unfolding moments - as is your wedding. Savadelis Films professionally and poignantly documents your wedding for those who couldn't be there as well as for everyone who attended. Chuck and Jewel Savadelis can also broadcast your wedding day live to friends and family members around the world.

Thanks Cindy!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Savadelis Films Featured in

We've been featured and quoted in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of - in at least three editions - Northern California, New York and Philadelphia! Here's the text:

For guests who can't attend, weddings can be streamed online in real time. "It used to require a permanent setup with Internet access," says Jewel Savadelis of Savadelis Films in San Francisco. "Now all you need is a cell phone signal." Improved technology, including faster Internet connections, guarantees a higher quality video than ever before - think YouTube, not webcam. "Couples can share their wedding videos the same way they share their photos," says Jewel. With online hosting, through your videographer or through sites like, your wedding video can be easily emailed, or downloaded to a video iPod.

"One of the most creative ideas we've seen lately: sending guests a video save-the-date. "It's sort of a tease - it lets guests know to expect a wedding full of surprises," says Jewel. These videos range from simple, personal messages to extravagant productions. Typically, videographers use shots from the venue and interviews with the couple, to give guests a sense of what's to come.

High -definition DVD packages are becoming increasingly available, and while HD will become the standard eventually, the preferred format remains foggy. [Note: The world of technology moves fast. Since my interview last autumn, the format wars have been decided. It's 99% certain that Blu-Ray and not HD DVD will be the standard.] Talk to your videographer about the pros and cons of an HD DVD; if you're alredy hooked up at home, we think it's a great investment.

Some videographers are using a "surround sound" approach to capture more of an event's auditory details. "In addition to mic'ing the couple, readers, officiant and musicians during the ceremony, a sound engineer also places a few mic's discreetly throughout the space," says Jewel. "Those mic's record guests' reactions. It's a big hit," she says.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Kooza and The Alps

This was a great week for us. We went to opening night of the latest Cirque du Soleil show Kooza with its featured 'Wheel of Death' act, and then a few nights later we went to the opening night for the Imax movie 'The Alps' in which a trio are filmed climbing the Eiger in Switzerland. Both were spectacular and had our hearts in our throats. During both, you felt fearful that one wrong move could result in death. It was very intense.

Chuck and I watched a scene in the movie 'The Alps' where you are soaring over the jagged mountains and then you fly over the last peak and, without warning, the earth drops away. We felt a sudden drop in the pit of our stomachs. We gasped along with the rest of the audience. We asked ourselves, would our hearts be pounding if we were shown individual still images, or a slide show of the same scene? No. Not at all. So, what is the difference?

While a photo can artfully and beautifully capture a single moment in time, what it can never do is capture the fluid motion, voices and sounds a video can. It isn't that emotions can't be captured in a photograph, they can. The challenge to brides and grooms is that the number of photographers who are able to capture and convey true emotion in the same manner and to the degree a video can are few and far between.

For 1 million years, our brains have been finely honed to perceive and interpret the slightest movement because our survival depended upon observing and interpreting movement correctly. We are wired to automatically respond to movement. Sometimes it's a benign response when there is no threat present. Because a photo is an abstraction of reality, it rarely triggers the same level of response.

When Chuck and I make a movie, we keep these things in mind. When we are filming, we look for the broad and subtle cues in each movement. We look for the flash of his smile, the gentle lowering of her eyes, his hand that gently finds the small of her back and pulls her to him, the sweep of her train. We all have the visual vocabulary to interpret each of these movements as being joyful, demure, sensuous, and elegant respectively. We assemble all these cues and skillfully edit them into a sequence with a pace that will enable the viewer to experience those emotions.

There are hundreds of these emotion-triggered moments every day, but most pass without our conscious notice. We are more likely to notice them when our senses are heightened and we are fully engaged in an activity. It happens while watching a sporting event, attending the theater, praying at church, on a first date. Or on your wedding day. That is why you may find your experience is more powerful when watching your beautifully filmed and edited wedding movie, than looking at still images.

Because that's the way we are wired.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Style Me Pretty

Remember the phrase, "The best part of waking up is Folger's in your cup"? Well today there was a better reason to wake up.

The ever-lovely Abby Larson of Abby Jean Press has invited us to join Style Me Pretty's Little Black Book of the best wedding professionals! Abby, author of 'the Ultimate Wedding Blog', is the arbiter of good taste and all things chic. She is very diligent when it comes to researching whom she personally recommends. So it is a special honor to be featured in Napa/Wine Country.

We have worked with many Style Me Pretty San Francisco wedding vendors and highly recommend them, including: Angela Nelson of Lulu Events, Bridget Brown of Bella Bridesmaids, Nick Brown Photography, Lisa Lefkowitz Photography, and Barbara Callow Calligraphy. In Napa, where we are listed, you'll find fine professionals such as Dee Merz of Everlasting Memories, Jessamyn Harris Photography, Sabrina Moyel of Hello Lucky!, and Karen Hsu from Grandi-flora.

For those of you in the perspiration, oh I mean preparation stages of your wedding planning, Style Me Pretty is a blog full of ideas and inspirations for creating a wedding that reflects who you truly are.