Learning by Seeing: Firefly

The best way to learn something is to do it, but when you’re talking about film/video editing, sometimes watching can be just as important.

My wife and I have been re-watching Joss Whedon‘s short-lived television series Firefly, and although I’ve seen the series twice before (once during its televised run, and again on DVD), the writing and filmmaking astound me afresh.

This time around, we’re watching the episodes with commentary, which turns out to be something of a class in directing from Whedon. During the first episode’s commentary, he points out why he chose specific camera moves, notes scenes that were reshot and then spliced back into the original footage (seemlessly), and says, “Oh, that’s my favorite shot of the whole series” at least three or four times. It’s not a step-by-step film class, but rather insight from a talented writer/director. Highly recommended.

(The series is available as a 4-disc set; only 11 episodes were aired before the executives at Fox killed it. I hope it’s not too rude to say that I’d bet the fact that the series offered creative writing and fresh filmmaking was probably waaaay more than their little brains could handle. TV history is littered with promising shows that have been killed too early, but I think Firefly stands above even the best of those. See teevee.org for better commentary than mine.

Fortunately, all is not lost: Whedon and the entire cast have just finished shooting Serenity, a feature movie that will arrive in theaters in April 2005.)

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