We’re not smart enough to figure out how to live in this world. So, we change it.

On a lazy Sunday, I watched all Hillman Curtis short films. My thoughts? People and emotion. Hillman Curtis had a passion for exploring people and emotion. In all of his work, he captures the raw emotions and experiences of reality in simple yet provocative cinematography:

  • Varying the length of shots: Some scenes were short and choppy – jumping from angle to angle – which worked to increase the intensity of a story. Other times, the shots were long and steady, allowing the viewer to get sucked in to the story and character emotions.
  • Interesting camera angles: Rather than merely focusing on one object face-on all the time, Hillman Curtis shot scenes from unique angles – over someone’s shoulder, from the ground looking up, going underneath outstretched arms, etc.
  • Zoomed in vs. zoomed out: Some shots were extremely zoomed in and focused (on faces, on hands, on objects in the scene, etc.), others were more panoramic views, allowing you to take everything in and see the whole scene in context.
  • Focus: By alternating between sharp focus and blurred effects, Hillman Curtis directs the viewer to what’s important and helps to focus the viewer on the raw emotions of the characters.
  • “Home movie vibe:” Because of the somewhat shaky, unsteady camera, many of the short films give off this feeling of a home movie or maybe a documentary that’s in the thick of real life action, which makes the stories seem even more realistic and relatable.
  • Music: Hillman Curtis uses music to his advantage to establish mood and create a particular atmosphere that relates to the emotions expressed by the characters.
  • Color: I thought this was Hillman Curtis’ best technique – producing films in black and white, color, or a mixture of the two. I really loved the vibe of the black and white ones. They just seemed much more stripped down and focused on the emotions of the characters and the story. American Spirit may have been my favorite, simply because the entire film was in black and white until the very end when it faded to color while the camera captured a group of kids running down the street in slow motion, shot from the ground looking up.

Not only did Hillman Curtis use interesting film-making techniques, but the stories he created were often thought-provoking. Occasionally, I was a little lost or left wondering what the true meaning or purpose of the film really was, but I liked that it made me think rather than just allowing me to blindly accept what he chose to say. It really is saddening that Hillman Curtis passed away earlier this year because I would love to see more work from him. He is such a creative, intensely passionate man who encourages reinvention and following your intuition.


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