Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

20 Films About Film

Massive blizzards do strange things to people. After responding to a student who posted asking for movie suggestions to battle her blizzard-wrought boredom, my mind kept trying to add more ideas. This is what happens when we don’t have school for awhile. To battle cabin fever, and help you do the same, I compiled a list of 20 great films that involve making films (or TV). Here are my faves, in alphabetical order. How many have you seen / not seen?

Adaptation – Nicholas Cage as Ouroboros, the screenwriting snake that east its own tail, AND as its hyper-successful identical twin brother.
American Movie/Coven – Heartbreaking doc about a woeful Wisconsin filmmaker and his cast/crew of local celeb wanna be’s. Wonder if you can still call Mike Schank?
Argo – Arkin and Goodman hit home runs as slightly slimy hero Hollywood types. If only it wasn’t true…
Barton Fink – writer’s block has never looked so grim. Or, why I never want to see cheap wallpaper ever again.
Boogie Nights – ok, get over the porn part. This is solid, well-crafted storytelling that takes you through the smokey whirlwind of late 70′s LA and the unthinkable conversion to video. The film that showed us Mark Wahlberg was a legit actor. Oddly enough, this is also the film that showed us Burt Reynolds was a legit actor.
Bowfinger - Great writing and performance from Steve Martin, Heather Graham (un)intentionally revisits her ‘Boogie Nights’ territory and Eddie Murphy serves up his TWO most under-appreciated roles.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – Clooney’s hidden gem, full of layers, beautifully lit and shot and packed with terrific performances. Too often overlooked! Besides, what if its all true!?
Ed Wood – watch this and then immediately watch ‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’. The recreations are uncanny. Plus, Johnny Depp in a dress – what more could you want?!
Goodnight and Good Luck – another Clooney masterpiece. This kid just might have a future in Hollywood. His ode to Murrow and guide to standing up to bullies everywhere.
Hugo - the section that explores the career of ‘original YouTuber’ George Melies is a must-see mini film school.
Living in Oblivion – an unapologetic look at/tribute to indie filmmaking. It takes place during one day on the set of a no-budget movie.
Lost in La Mancha – this doc shows that everything that can go wrong in filmmaking, can and will go wrong in filmmaking. Terry Gilliam and Johnny Depp and their French friends chase windmills and dodge financiers all across Spain. Special guest appearance by the Spanish Air Force, which, who knew Spain had an Air Force?!
RKO 281 – solid exploration of Welles’ battle to get ‘Citizen Kane’ to the screen. Chock full of stars, great recreations from ‘Kane’ and tons of insider Hollywood political machinations.
State and Main – David Mamet’s take on the genre. Probably should have turned out better than it did. Maybe if they had combined it with The Last Shot? Why is Alec Baldwin in both of these?
Sunset Boulevard – still and always a classic, still raw and unnerving and still featuring Cecil B. DeMille and Buster Keaton as themselves. Epic in scale, crushing in its intimacy and able to turn Hollywood inside out at a time when such things just weren’t done. Without this movie, ‘The Player’ and ‘The Artist’ never get made.
Swimming With Sharks – dark and sinister look inside the agent side of the business.
Tropic Thunder – the best ‘high-concept’ American comedy in ages.
The Artist – a true love letter to Hollywood’s silent era, including countless historically significant locations and John Goodman’s THIRD appearance on this list. What’s not to love?
The Last Shot – clever FBI/Hollywood mashup, a la State and Main, with some nice RI mob action thrown in, to boot. Basically a Bowfinger-lite. Why is Alec Baldwin in both of these?
The Player – try to count the cameos as Altman’s masterpiece unspools. The opening crane shot alone should be required viewing in every film class.

Honorable Mentions: Day for Night, Hearts of Darkness, Mulholland Drive, Gods and Monsters, Man in the Chair

Top Ten Video Suggestions for Teachers

Top Ten Video Suggestions for Teachers

With Sandy having dumped so much misery and strife along the coast, and with 5 days (and counting) without students, I wanted to put some of this unexpected time to good use. As a result, here are my Top Ten Video Suggestions for Teachers – simple ideas that my fellow educators can use to beef up their digital presence using video to help deliver information to their students.

All of these suggestions should be fairly easy to execute, taking the attention away from daunting production problems and focusing instead on delivering information. In other words, teachers should feel empowered to explore these ideas in as simple (talking directly to the camera) or complex (B-Roll, graphics, transitions) a manner as they wish, depending on their comfort level with video.

I also wanted to make several broad suggestions that could be shot once and viewed numerous times, by multiple classes or even across several school years. In short, I’m hoping to inspire my fellow teachers to embrace video in ways that can minimize their management time and supplement their teaching time. Dig? I hope so!

Happy shooting and be sure to drop me a line if you need help or just to let me know how your vids come out!

1] Welcome Video
Give students a warm welcome to your classroom – without repeating it 5 times on the first day of classes! Share your expectations, an overview of your class, a favorite quote, highlights from your syllabus, a few facts about you (pets, fave sports teams, etc) and any words of wisdom that you feel will start the course off on the right foot! [The beauty of sites like YouTube is that parents will get a chance to hear your welcoming words, as well!]

2] Class Rules/Grading Policies/Etc
Can’t tell you how many times I go over this information on the first day of school. And, since I teach at a high school, I always fear that I left out a crucial piece of this info for one period – and of course I can never remember which bit of info or which period got shortchanged. With a simple 2-3 min clip, you can avoid these same stumbles!

3] Policies and Procedures (hall passes, take out, put away, etc)
Similarly, detailing procedures and behavioral expectations repeatedly for my five classes gets to be a real drag. By containing all the classroom procedures that you want all of your students to adhere to in one video, you can keep your vocal chords from blowing out, insure that all your students get the same message, and (maybe best of all) you can later refer students who forget any policies back to the video for a quick refresher. For more video-savvy teachers out there, consider adding some B-Roll shots of students demonstrating any take out / put away procedures for materials in your room!

4] Fire Drill / Evac / Lockdown Procedures
This one is a no-brainer! Which form of media do you think students will respond to more readily!? A map of the school tacked somewhere in a corner of your room, or a video that actually walks them through the drill and evacuation procedures for your classroom, wing, hall or building?? Again, your version can reflect your level of comfort with video – start with simply talking the students through the proper routes for escape, and, if you are feeling confident, try a hand held shot that literally walks the students through the path they should take to safety.

5] Safety Tips (tech ed, science, etc)
Here’s another no-brainer! For all you science, tech ed, gym, vocational or computer lab teachers (and any of us that teach in non-traditional areas or rooms with specialized equipment), cover your safety and equipment use and procedures in video form. Pros: shoot it once, post it once, and you never have to repeat it! Students can be redirected for a reminder on safety guidelines. Parents, admins and others will think you are super hip for covering this material in a video. ETC ETC ETC Cons: NONE! My version would include mentions of electrical safety, food and beverage restrictions, correct computer use, proper treatment of cables, etc. What would your version cover?

6] General Study Tips
I’m always shocked that more teachers don’t have this kind of helpful information (educational coaching?) available for their students. After all, is it our responsibility? The guidance departments? The parents? Stop worrying about it, and focus on giving your students an easy-to-employ list of helpful study tips. Then shoot it and just put it out there. They’ll thank you for it – all of them: students, parents, other teachers, guidance counselors…heck, even admins will love you for this video!

7] Samples of Previous Student Work Products
I’m a big fan of showing current students examples of successful student work products that were completed by their predecessors. Of course, since I teach video, this is probably easier than it might be for a math teacher, or a gym teacher. But I think this is a hugely under explored area for increasing student success, in any content area. And I think video is the perfect way to share examples for your current classes. So don’t think about it – just go for it…!

8] Vocab Review (or any content, really)
Think about the benefits of posting vocab reviews, chapter reviews, expectations for lab reports, guidelines for proper source documentation, examples of powerful opening statements in written assignments, etc, etc, etc. The only limitation in this area is your own imagination. And think about how powerfully video versions of material will activate learning for your aural and visual learners!

9] Study Guides
Similarly, posting video study guides at the close of a chapter or unit, or just before a quiz or test can only increase the likelihood that your students will succeed on whichever summative assessment you offer them. Think about the difference between a student who reads a review sheet the night before a quiz, and the student who watches a video that you post (hearing YOU speak and show the review content to them). What about a student who has access to both of these formats? Can you see their quiz grades rising yet? I can.

For those of you who are worried that students will access this info before you want them to, explore the public / private access settings on sites like YouTube. You should be able to post tons of review videos at once, and then toggle the public / private as needed. This should allow you to control which videos students can see, and (more importantly) when. If you struggle with these kinds of settings, simply post the review videos in a timely manner, and then delete them before you hand out that next quiz! This should insure that students (and their smartphones) won’t have access to the answers during the assessment, quiz or test!

10] Contact Info (email, sites, accounts, other resources)
Lastly, post a short video reminding students (and parents!) about the best ways to contact you. Include your school email address, any sites (like or a Moodle) that you utilize in your instruction, your YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter accounts and any other resources that you want your students to explore. For those of you with a real handle on YouTube, you can add annotations that will generate clickable links to your email, site, etc.

So – I hope these inspire you to start posting some useful video for your students. Please feel free to pass the link for this post to any other educators that you know, and feel free to contact me if I can be of any help! Good luck, enjoy and be well. ~ JMilesTV


Been a busy Spring and early Summer, including stops at the CT Student Film Fest, the CT DMV Teen Safe Driving Contest Awards Night and the Westport Youth Film Fest! Here are some highlights from the last few weeks! Enjoy ~ and Keep Conquering!

My pal Val runs a great blog for photogs and artists and was kind enough to interview me.
Val’s Blog

I also recently appeared on the show ‘Frames Per Second’, produced by the fantastic TV/video students at Central Conn State University. Here’s a taste.
Frames Per Second

I directed a music video for the New Haven alt rock band ‘Mission 0′, which went on to win the ‘Best Alternative Music Video’ award at a recent CT Film Fest screening. Here’s the vid:
Heavy Boots

And finally I am once again proud to be a sponsor of the New Haven 48 Hour Film Project, which challenges teams to complete a 4-7 min film in TWO DAYS! Here’s the info:
New Haven 48HFP

Stay tuned ~ more great news coming soon!! And thx for your support!

Help Portrait: New Haven

In early December, 2011, I spent a day with a student of mine shooting video for the New Haven version of Help Portrait, an international event that brings pro photographers and hair/makeup specialists together to donate portraits to anyone who walks through the door. This is the result. Tissues recommended!

February Events

Excited to announce two upcoming events, both taking place in Feb 2012! For more info on attending, please click the links found below, and I’ll see you there!

On Thurs, Feb 23, I’ll be giving a beginner video workshop in NYC at Manhattan’s famed Adorama camera shop! Sign up early – seats are limited!
Adorama Workshop

On Wed, Feb 29, I am participating in an exciting fundraising and awareness event for New Haven’s LEAP For Kids program! I am thrilled to be a guest of honor for this outstanding organization. Please click the link for more info and details!
LEAP Year Event

Three to Get Ready

Am thrilled to share three awesome articles from what was a wonderfully successful December! Thanks to you all for the support, and here’s to Conquering in 2012!

1] From Ben’s Journal: Mr. Ben randomly stumbled on the book at the library and this is the blog review that resulted! Thanks again Ben!
Ben’s Journal

2] From Jumping the Candlestick: Deborah Diesen’s great blog features all things books, including her successful series ‘Michigander Mondays’. She was kind enough to include me and I am super thankful!
Jumping the Candlestick

3] MovieMaker: for their 2012 Movie Making Guide, the great folks at MovieMaker Magazine contacted a number of MWP authors. I was honored and excited to have my advice included among such great company. In addition to checking out my article, if you are at all interested in making indie films, then be sure to order this guide.
Miles in MovieMaker

The Perfect Present

Stuck for gift ideas? Here are 8 + 12 suggestions for why a copy of “Conquering YouTube” makes a perfect present!

8 Reasons Why This Book is Perfect for Hanukkah – one for each night!
1 Cover offers nice, smooth surface for dreidel spinning.
2 Pages can be used for squeezing extra oil out of latkes.
3 Lighting tips help make Menorrah *really* glow!
4 Recreate the victory of the Maccabees in ten shots or less.
5 I am almost completely sure that the book is 100% Kosher (I mean, it’s printed using recycled stock from mixed sources, which is probably fine. One just can’t be too careful these days…).
6 Viewed from above, book has EXACTLY the same number of sides as a dreidel. Coincidence? I think not…
7 What!? Yer gonna be YouTube friends with The Lee Vees with no uploads? Oy!
8 The tradition of giving gelt (money) to the local teacher during Hanukkah was a way to show appreciation for education. What better way to continue this tradition than with a nice video book? (Did I mention that I’m a teacher? Are you smelling what I’m cooking here, people? LOL)

12 Reasons Why This Book is Perfect for Christmas – one for each day of Christmas!
1 Drumming drummers can practice rudiments on extra-sturdy book cover.
2 Basically guarantees that this year’s video of the “Lords a Leaping” contest will be IN FOCUS!
3 Gives whole new meaning to that “Do you see what I see?” line in that drummer boy song.
4 Helps you white balance for those tricky winter wonderland shots.
5 Audio section helps eliminate pesky Silent Night issues.
6 Details proper lighting for family recreation of epic Heat Miser/Cold Miser battle.
7 The weather outside really IS frightful. Stay in and edit.
8 Fits under ANY tree (stocking stuffability on a case-by-case basis).
9 Insures eye lines will be correct for that scathing tell-all interview with Vixen.
10 In a pinch, can be used for roasting chestnuts (not recommended before first reading).
11 Available in Log Cabin or Fresh Pine scent* (*totally not true. But you could add your own, with one of those spray can things… sold separately!)
12 No batteries required!!

Good, good, good…

Lots of good stuffs brewing – my next event is coming up quick – a special HOW TO video demo of all kinds of spooky cool Halloween tricks, at Hagaman Memorial Library, in East Haven, Conn. Click RIGHT HERE for more info, and to register!

Also excited to be working with the great team at the Civic Life Project – bringing several CT high schools and their video/civics students the chance to explore Democracy digitally! Stay tuned!

Finally, just booked my first appearance at a major NYC photo/video outlet – I’ll post more info/dates ASAP! Thank you all again for all of the support! And keep Conquering!

The latest…

…lots of stuff coming up! Booking events and workshops for Oct, Nov, and Dec – hit up my Twitter feed to stay tuned: @JMilesTV Also started a documentary style shoot with a top Reddit “IMMA” writer, and am super excited about it – more info soon! Have amped up the FB page for the book ( so be sure to swing by and click LIKE to get all the latest info. I recently was asked to submit a story on my Top Tips for shooting movies for the Web, for a prominent movie magazine – will let you know as soon as it drops! And finally, am beginning preproduction on a muisic video – my first since LA – with a hot up and coming New Haven synth-folk band. Synth-folk? Is that even possible???

Random Sightings!

So I sat down this morning, as I do every Friday, and logged in to the author portal on to check out the latest week of book sales. The Amazon author portal allows me to see up to 8 weeks of sales at a time, including where in the US books have sold, and how many have sold in each market. As you might suspect,  sales tend to score higher in major markets such as NYC, LA and DC. But today I took a closer look. You see, the data that Amazon provides includes a category of “combined areas”, which are smaller regions and towns lumped together geographically.

OK, so? So, Amazon also displays a clickable map of the USA, which reveals a more exact breakdown of what’s going in some of these mysterious “combined areas”. A few mouse clicks later, I was thrilled to discover that Conquering YouTube has been conquering some pretty random and surprising locations. Through Aug 14, 2011, I have sold at least one copy of the book in the following random and/or memorable places:

Eureka, CA
Yuma, AZ
Reno, NV
Bend, OR
Yakima, WA
Minot, ND
Marquette, MI
Rhinelander, WI
Twin Falls, ID
Grand Junction, CO
Amarillo, TX
Cheyenne, WY
Meridian, MS
Lima, OH
Ft. Smith, AR
Topeka, KS
Mankato, MN
Presque Isle, ME
Wheeling, WV
Salisbury, MD
Elmira, NY
Charlottesville, VA
Terra Haute, IN

and some place called Prowers, which just might be in Colorado…

pretty awesome, huh? And interesting. I’ve always been into geography, especially the weird things we name places. If you are from one of these fantastic towns (especially if you live in Bend, OR – I mean, that’s just…wow), add a comment and tell me more about how you heard about the book and how my tips are helping you conquer! And please consider leaving a customer review on the Amazon page for the book (‘specially if you have nice things to say!!). Thanks again – and keep Conquering!