Aug 13, 2010

Top Ten: Commentaries and Making-Ofs

Aug 13, 2010
So tell me, are you the kind of person who enjoys watching Behind-the-Scene documentaries and listening to audio commentaries?

Well if you're not, here's a free heads up; you are probably going to hate this blog, as it's pretty much a diluted, conjectural and mostly plagiarised version of that.

The best Making-Ofs (M.Os) are goldmines of experience: sharing mistakes and solutions, inspirations and methods, tips and tricks. But they're not all like that. There are also bad M.Os, glorified production company ads or the briefest of vignettes - lasting only long enough to confirm that yes, a composer may have been hired.

The Silent Knight's
Top Ten Commentaries and Making-Ofs

This is a list of the Making-Ofs we found the most useful. A collection of what we thought were the most interesting and educational bonus features we've found. I'm sure if you've listened/watched any M.Os, you will have already seen a few of these. Hopefully there will be a few new ones - and if your favourite one isn't listed below, please drop a comment so everyone can find a copy.

The Mummy
They rip into their own film. On their own DVD commentary. Brilliant. Definitely worth checking out just to hear film makers being honest about their work and it's shortcomings.

Lion King
All bonus features
This is one of the most perfect movies ever made, and there are lots of lessons to be learned from this. The one that stuck with me the most was how they really simplified down the story, while maintaining such rich detail. It was also a joy to hear how they came up with the music and Rafiki and all the twists and turns.

Kung Fu Panda
The people behind this film care so much about every little detail - you'll realise layers you never knew were there, and how to add them to your own ideas. They also talk in great depth about how to really nail a theme.

All bonus features
A brilliant movie that should not have worked, but did. The bonus features and commentary really expand on exactly how a documentary about a political interview could be turned into a fast-paced subtext-ridden Hollywood nail-biter, and not feel wrong. It also explores how actors can really make or break a movie.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Behind the Scenes feature
No matter what you think of it, Atlantis really aimed for the stars - and as such it was plagued by a range of strange and unique problems. Their cast were so varied and ambitious each had their own obstacles - one was animated overseas in a different style, and another was covered in intricate tattoos. They were still struggling with 3D and how exactly to use it. The expensive opening scene was abandoned and the story naturally turned into two separate movies, that constantly fought for attention. Of course, all that made for a much more interesting Making Of.

The Matrix Collection
All bonus features
The Matrix Revisited is definitely right up there in showing that the Brothers Wachowski really fought for their dream and gave 110% to get it made. Now, that alone would be interesting, but then we really get an incredibly rare insight into why the sequels didn't work so well. How? They let critics do their own commentaries and pick it apart. Wow. This alone demands your hard-earned cash.

Futurama Series
Filled with humorous stories by interesting people who really care about their craft. As of two years ago, Luke now officially quotes the commentary more often than the show.
Star Wars Original Trilogy
Empire of Dreams documentary
A compelling documentary explaining how Star Wars, a franchise that changed so much, came to be. And more interestingly, how it almost didn't come to be.

The Incredibles
All bonus features
One thing Pixar Making-Ofs excel at, is showing how far from the finished product they start. Watching the M.Os for Finding Nemo (2003) or Monsters Inc. (2001) is terrifying, because it isn't until almost the very last moment that it all pulls together. However it is The Incredibles M.O. that really stands out, because in addition to this it also contains eye opening views on design and extremely applicable writing dos and don'ts. I am always referring back to how Brad Bird dealt with the scene ‘Snug’s Death’.

Could anything else be on the top of this list? Now I think the LotR trilogy is easily one of the greatest trilogies ever made, and even then... I almost think that the Appendices are better than the films. It is the most complete account of the journey of making films we've ever seen - by the end of it, you really feel you were part of it. Extremely interesting all the way through, and that's saying something - just look how much that is:


Of course ten is a pretty arbitrary number, and we have a few more that we really learnt a lot from. Other great Making Ofs to check out are:
We'd love you to share with the group any good ones you've found.


  1. I agree that making ofs are quite useful and inspiring. it's like being in a free lecture.
    I actually learned most of my film stuff from making ofs.
    these are the ones i can only seem to recall at this moment- (because of this blog Ive started to write down every film Ive seen so i can reference them when I need too.)

    In no particular order:

    Gus Van Sant's- Elephant
    Because It's such a tragic and serious film I needed to watch the making of to see the cast as them selves.
    Also to get answers because van sant sometimes doesn't give much away. It was quite intriguing.

    Reservoir Dogs
    best bonus disc ever.
    Three film critics interpret key scenes of the movie including the ear cutting scene and the opening scene realist dialog.
    There's interviews with most of the cast ten years after the film was shot, which was interesting.
    Also it's insightful hearing tarantino's reason for choosing certain songs and why he chose this particular cast.

    Robert rodruigez - El mariachi
    He explains how to make a film on a small budget. I found it helpful,
    he explains why and how he edited the film as he filmed it, to save time and money.

    spirited away
    Its inspirational finding out where and how his ideas started for this film and who his characters are based on.

    a scanner darkly- having the whole rotoscoping thing explained and watching the artists in action.

    the wrestler- another little film in a little town, it's inspiring to see young director's making of's. the director explains his journey of writing 'the wrestler'.
    no country for old men- Everything in this film is amazing, the music, location, cinematography, the writing and the characters.
    How to make a ruthless bad guy, very insightful.

  2. I cant speak for the others on the list, but #1 & 2 are fantastic choices. Making of's gives folk outside of the enclosed film industry a glimpse of what is inside. Lots of people working together, working hard, having fun with different skills sets towards a master vision. Front and foremost by someone that can see it all come together.

    I think it's an amazing illustration. So many talented artists working together to create something amazing. Despite the individualistic tendencies of many talented artists, it's a testament to them how often brilliant their collaborative work is. (And equal times awful as well, where the final production doesn't achieve anything of value) A lesson for us all.

    Peter Jackson blew me away.

    Even if you are not convinced on the ethics of middle earth. His incredible effort and vision for the final production blew my socks off. Having come from some smaller productions; and then to step in to one of the biggest production effort of all time, was truly astonishing. Astonishing! Definitely inspiration to us all again. That having confidence, and taking that leap of faith; we have been given God given abilities to do amazing things.

    All credit to pixar for their integrity in making such decent films.

    Pixar get it right. And will be rewarded for doing so. Again, we can learn from their success. Their positive attitude and jovial collaborative environment. And last but not least, their noble intentions.

    Great post Mutt.


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