The best part of owning a DVD or Blu-Ray is the behind the scenes featurettes that most of them include. Besides being just plain interesting, some of them can offer some very useful tips as a filmmaker.

Some of them will break down how they accomplished a certain effect while others simply film a tiny interview and call it a behind the scenes. So if you’re looking for something educational, definitely pick up the ones that break things down and explore new frontiers in filmmaking.

Here are 3 DVD extras chosen at random with information about what/if you can learn from them and apply the information to your own filmmaking. (Also, the rating is based on a scale of 1-5).

Atonement

ateonment 3
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  • Director: Joe Wright
  • Most Useful for: Directors
  • Interesting to Watch: 4
  • Educational: 3.5

What You Can Learn:

  • How to bridge a character’s life among three different actors
  • Ways to help your actors feel more at home with their characters and the story
  • How the camera can reflect a character’s personality
  • Ideas on shooting an epic steadicam shot

Overall, the behind the scenes on Atonement shows how the cast and crew really dissected the script and used everything around them to tell a moving story. It was a story-centric film, and the behind the scenes reflected that as well. There are definitely some good points made for directors to consider while working on a project.

Unbreakable

  • Director: M. Night Shyamalan
  • Most Useful for: Directors
  • Interesting to Watch: 3
  • Educational: 3

What You Can Learn:

  • Ways to bend the rules in writing
  • Benefits of storyboarding
  • Planning a shot list
  • How to effectively use colors to tell a story
  • Innovative ways to approach sound and music for a film

It may have been more educational in its day, but there are still some great ideas behind the film. Unfortunately, the behind the scenes only briefly touches on most of these elements. There isn’t much of a breakdown of how they actually accomplished things. There are explanations about choices they made for the film’s look, and that can be helpful, but it’s still really only a glimpse into the production.

Black Swan

  • Director: Darren Aronofsky
  • Most Useful for: Directors, Production Designers, Cinematographers, VFX Supervisors
  • Interesting to Watch: 5
  • Educational: 5

What You Can Learn:

  • How to dress a set around camera blocking
  • How to shoot using mirrors
  • How to shoot a POV of a person spinning
  • Lighting and film stock choices
  • Relationship between director and actor
  • How to film with a stunt double
  • Makeup effects breakdown
  • Digital effects breakdown

This was one of the best behind the scenes featurettes by far. It’s great for independent filmmakers because they shot this very intentionally. It feels like you’re a fly on the wall in the production and you get to see how they really were on set. You can actually see how they accomplished effects and shots that are seen in the film. Plus, it’s really encouraging to see the struggles they faced with time and budget because that’s something that will burden every independent filmmaker. Definitely check this one out.

What are your favorite movies to watch behind the scenes?

Rachel M Taylor

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Rachel is a writer/director. She loves character driven movies and really good cheese.

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