Wednesday, November 25, 2009

If I Designed 6x1 Part II

Well, I assume the topic refers to the notion of what my plans would be if I were to be in charge of designing another 6x1 class in addition to the current one. A sequel of sorts. In response to that, I would say, keep things going the way they are. The format works well for the span of a semester, and the workload is not overbearing. Six films throughout the timeframe of a semester is just right. It may seem like a lot at the start of the class when you're first introduced to the due dates as they come one after the other, but if the student does not put it off until the last minute, then there is more enough time allotted for each film. I guess the only amendment or request would in regards to the 48-Hour Film Race. If it could be done over the weekend, instead of during the week, it would be a bit easier, especially if you need to find any crew for the project. Maybe start it on a Friday to Sunday, or even Thursday at the end of class until Saturday. I still found enough time to do my film, so it's just a thought, not a complaint. I also think that the continuation of the blogs is an important part of getting credit for the course, especially since there's not a lot of reading and no real papers required.

I guess the best way to add an additional course to the already existing one would be to keep the exact same format, but with new techniques. I'm sure that Andre knows a lot more than what he was able to teach us in the span of just one semester. Maybe even combine two or more techniques together for some of the projects. Also, there could always be the addition of more themes for the projects in the same manner that our first one was elements, or the baby food jars for the race. Me, being a person who usually likes to include an agenda of some sort in my films (be it quite subtle or extremely obvious), I would not mind seeing themes like politics or taking a topic from the news and running with it.

Obviously, I don't know how to successfully plan a college course, so the above is merely a compilation of some suggestions. I can say that were there to be an additional course of 6x1 focusing on experimental film and taught by Andre, I would definitely sign up for it (and I'm not just saying that in hopes of a good grade). Honestly, I enjoyed the course thoroughly, and I learned more in this class about making films than I have in any other class in my two and a half year college career. I have already incorporated some of the techniques and know-how into my other projects, as well as my own personal filmmaking. I have also changed my mind about experimental filmmaking as a whole. I, like many of the students from what I have overheard, was a bit closed off to the idea of experimental filmmaking, but I allowed myself to be open to the course, and my opinion changed quickly. Now, I must admit that I enjoy both watching them, as well as making them, and I definitely intend to continue exploring the experimental world of making movies. To wrap up, I thoroughly enjoyed this class, and while I am a perfectionist and never truly feel done with anything I do, I can honestly say that I am pretty much proud of my films and the work I've done in the course.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cucalorus as an Event

This was my first year experiencing the Wilmington film festival, Cucalorus. Last year, I was able to acquire a pass for access to all the screenings and events, but was unfortunately swamped with school work at the time and therefore, unable to attend. This year, I made sure I had time to at least go to one event. I tried to acquire a pass again this year, but was unsuccessful due to the decreased amount supplied to students, not to mention my forgetfulness in waiting until the last hour of the last day to make an attempt.

Anyway, the film I saw was The House of the Devil, which played at Lumina. I had a music recital that I had to attend for another class on both Thursday and Saturday night, as well as an appointment for my car to be inspected on Friday morning and a group meeting on Sunday, so its placement on Friday night was perfect for me. It also doesn't hurt that I am obviously an avid horror fan, and have read a few articles on the film prior to even knowing that it was playing at Cucalorus.

The theater was quite packed, though there were a good amount of seats remaining in the lower floor section. Before the film started, a guy came on with a guitar, though instead of playing it, he just smacked it and sung a song. When he finally did get around to plucking the strings, one broke. This may have been a sign. This being my first year, I don't really know who the performer was, though I heard some people behind me comment things like "Oh, this guy?" and "He's at every one of 'em." I'm not sure what that meant, but I assumed from it that he was obviously associated with the festival in some way, shape, or form.

Next, the director, Ti West, came up to talk for a few sentences about the film, and then the lights dimmed. Prior to The House of the Devil, we were treated to a short film about a dead cadaver and cremation. It was kind of neat, but it would have been nice to know that we were seeing it beforehand. As it began, I thought, "Man, this is kind of a weird start, considering I know what the film is about and everything." It wasn't until after it ended that I realized that it was just a short to accompany the feature, and I'll have to look up the name of it later. After all that, we finally got to see the flick.

Overall, it was a pretty good horror movie, though it was still a near miss. I overheard some kids talking about how it was the greatest horror movie that they had ever seen, and to that I must assume that it was also their first. As I said, it was not, overall, a bad film. It had a nice look to it, and I remember reading that he shot it on 16mm. It also had a nice build up in the story, and I was with it right up until what followed a blunt, gruesome, and very satisfying death scene. From there, the movie just kind of petered out and West overflowed the screen with fake scares (telephone ring meant to make the audience jump) and shots of the main actress simply walking around the house. It was not until the last five minutes did we actually get some satisfactory movement within the story. Unfortunately, it was capped off with a "devil baby inside you," reveal that was all too predictable, and all too cliche if you have seen any horror movie made in the 70's about religion.

Prior to seeing the flick, I read a review in Entertainment Weekly which gave it a B+ and said that it paid homage to the horror movies of the 80's without ever winking at the audience. They are correct about the homage, but the entire film from and including the opening titles to the closing credits was a wink to the audience about what the filmmaker was up to. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I find it weird in that it was winking to those of us who have seen those films, but presented a conclusion that was just as unoriginal as those films, if not more so now that it's coming twenty years later. Oh well. Overall, as I said, it was a near miss, and I am still glad that I went out to Cucalorus and saw it.

As for the festival, I wish I had more to judge on, and would definitely like to partake in the seminars next year. As for one thing, I was pleasantly pleased with the type of people that turned out to the film I saw. There were the typical students who were stuck on campus without a car on a Friday night, but there also appeared to be some real horror fans, and many people who were obviously not students, but still hip to Cucalorus, nonetheless. It's promising to know that the festival is reaching such diversity in awareness, and I will most certainly make more time for the festival when it comes next year.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Rough Theatre

My rough theatre was a theatre I used to frequent when I was a young lad around the age of 16 or so, which was very long ago indeed. The theatre was called Northpoint Movie Theater, I think. Honestly, I believe that was the name of it. I do not recall it having any more official name associating it with a big string of movie theater chains. This is also probably why it ended up failing. Nonetheless, Northpoint Movie Theater was in an area called, surprise surprise, Northpoint, which was not far from a town called Dundalk outside of Baltimore City in Baltimore County (Dundalk is to Baltimore as what New Jersey is to America, though that's another story for another time, and I really have nothing against Jersey). The theater was a second run theater which means that it played movies after the really nice swanky joints were done with it, and after the print had been disheveled and dilapidated containing hundreds of bad splices from each projectionist who came before. Wilmington does not have any second run theaters around here. When they were mentioned last week in one of Professor Berliner's lectures, most everyone had a glaze in their eyes as to what he was speaking of. It's also worth noting that he said that they were all gone and that video replaced the second run theater, but some are still thriving in my home town.

Anyway, the theater had been around as long as I could remember, but the only two movies I am sure that I have seen there as a child are Major League and Ghostbusters 2. Both of these were with a friend and his father from across the street though looking back, he was obviously not the greatest parental figure as we would have both been about 8 when the R-rated Major League came out. Still, one day, and I don't remember it exactly, my buddy Derek and I were looking for something to do. Movies were an obvious option and for some reason we ventured over to Northpoint Movies to catch a flick that I can not even recall the name of anymore.

That was where it all started, and it did not stop until they eventually closed their doors permanently. The experience there was great. Surprisingly, it was not a dirty theater, though that was probably due to the fact that no one else frequented it, so there was no need for the meticulous cleaning of it. I know that my buddy and I were the only two in the screening for almost every flick that we saw there. I actually prefer to be alone or with people I can trust to never talk at all. I take my film viewing very serious, and despite loving going to the movies, I completely despise seeing a movie with any sizeable amount of people.

Anyway, the cinema itself was just kind of old. It was probably outdated by about ten or fifteen years by the time I made it my own, and one thing I do remember was that certain screens had a few blotches on them from what I can only assume was an unruly customer who threw their tasty beverage at it in disgust over a film he saw who knows how long ago. The price of the theater when I started going was either $1.50 or $1.75, and this was in the late 90's. It may have reached the steep amount of two bucks before it closed up. Nevertheless, it was a theater that my friend and I could call our own for a while, and some of the flicks I saw there were The Newton Boys, The Replacement Killers, and Firestorm starring former football player Howie Long as a skydiving fireman (yes, this film exists, and it was a wide release from 20th Century Fox). But now it's all gone. Torn down in the name of consumerism. A Wal-Mart now resides there, but somewhere underneath that corporate icon of a store must still lie a fragment or two of the old Northpoint Theater. Maybe a speck of foam from one of the ratty cushions or even a piece of hardened gum from beneath one of the seats. Yeah. No doubt about it, a part of it is still there.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mystery Workshop

The mystery workshop was focused on 3-D filming and the process of achieving the effect. Unfortunately, I was absent from class that day due to illness; a rarity for me as I take my attendance quite seriously. Anyway, I did get to see a few of the finished films, and I was quite impressed by what I saw. I especially liked the film that had the girl facing the camera with her hair over her face and only after the action stopped, did I realize that she was not facing away from the camera, but right towards it. I am not sure if that was a desired effect of the makers all along, or a happy accident, but it was effective and cool nonetheless. I am sorry that I missed the experience.

Since I did miss the workshop, and I am not one to chince out on my workload, I guess I will talk about the topic that the workshop covered: 3-D. I find 3-D to be a very interesting tool in the filmmakers bag. When used correctly, it can be quite enjoyable and actually engage the audience more in the overall experience of viewing a film. When used incorrectly, you get thing like Jaws 3-D; a film where every single shot revolved around how the image on camera would or could pop out at the audience. In that respect, it's quite distracting and somewhat annoying and the list does not stop with that film as there are a plethora of films that fall under that category. And there are many acclaimed filmmakers who seem to believe that 3-D is the future of all films to come. George Lucas has said that he thinks that eventually all theaters will become fitted to show 3-D, and that this will ultimately lead to all films being made in 3 dimensions. Of course, I could easily debunk him by saying: aside from the first Star Wars flick, how does he know because what has he done? Then again, what he has done is made more money than all of Wilmington combined will ever make, so he definitely knows that end of the business. His buddy Steven Spielberg seems to have the same feelings regarding the new version of 3-D; not the ole red and blue glasses of my day. And now, a lot more films are coming out in 3-D. Not only is there all of the animated films that come out in 3-D, but even James Cameron is bringing his long in gestation Avatar out in the format. Granted, the flick looks like mostly rubbish, but then again, when has Cameron made a bad flick, and the answer is: never. I guess we'll just wait and see how that one turns out, and if, in fact, these mavericks of celluloid are correct in their predictions.

When it comes to 3-D, my biggest problem with it is the glasses themselves. I don't want to have to sit through a 3 hours long flick with cardboard glasses resting upon my nose; though I know the new glasses are usually made of plastic. Nevertheless, I just don't want to wear them. Honestly, I do not see why they could not find a way to put the material that the glasses are made of over the actual screen instead of on my face. It seems plausible enough to me. It could even be used as another screen to unfurl in front of the standard one and can, therefore, be put away when not needed. Still, I'm not an expert in the technology by any means, so I won't presume to act like I know what I'm talking about... too much. At any rate, it looks like the technology of 3-D is here to stay for the time being, so I guess I'll just have to wait and see how it all shapes up, and what it will mean for the filmmaking world.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Yes Men and Assignment 6

The Yes Men was a very interesting flick, and they had quite an intriguing little scam going on. I find it funny how little people actually pay attention, in the film and in life. They exhibited this perfectly when the corporate stooges not only did little checking as to whether or not they had even booked the correct and proper representative for the WTO, but also in how no one seemed to really grasp that everything that they were doing was a big joke. It was especially satisfying to see them "perform" in front of the college audience and play up to how self-important and self-serious some college kids can be. I imagine if I were in on that seminar in person, I would have reacted with the same amount of laughter that I did when watching it on the screen, knowing that it was a joke. Like the film we watched about the art of covering up graffiti, it would have been hard to take it seriously after a certain point. But they did, and so did so many supposedly intelligent business people at the other seminar who are unfortunately responsible for running the world. It's equal parts humorous and sad. Nonetheless, I commend The Yes Men group. They are out there rattling cages, and that's always a good thing. Everything deserves to be shaken up.

I think this directly relates to assignment 6. Like the film The King of Kong, things are only perceived by their audience in the manner that they are presented to them. While The King of Kong was a documentary, and not a found footage flick, it still applies because how we saw each character was directly shaped. And that is exactly what we're going to be doing with our project; using other's footage to help convey whatever message, feelings or otherwise that we might be striving for. The Yes Men obviously shaped their film in certain ways for their overall desired effect.

I'm not sure what exactly I want to do for the found footage project. I also have another found footage project to do for my intro to editing class. But I welcome the chance to do two very different films, in very different ways for different effects. I currently have two ideas on my mind, but I may have to amend them as I search out more and more footage. I hope to be, obviously, more technically proficient with my intro to editing film, while I'm hoping the 6 x 1 film will give me a chance to be a little looser and more free with ideas, but I'll see as it comes together. Much like The Yes Men, I am a very opinionated person. Now that does not mean that I feel the need to preach my opinions to everyone willing to listen, or even worse, those who don't want to hear. However, at the same time, I think it's kind of impossible not to inject the way you feel about certain things onto your art work. If anyone is a truly open artist, it will be impossible to avoid, nor should they fight it because that's kind of the whole point of art. Especially something like film. The reason you seek out a certain director to make a particular project is because you want their personal take on whatever material may be at hand. That's the whole point of pursuing this crazy thing called filmmaking. And if people don't feel that they have a personal take on things, or that their views are exactly the same as everyone else, then they probably shouldn't be directors.

At any rate, I hope to instill a lot of what I stated above into my found footage projects. I am thinking that whatever I do with one of the films, I will strive for the opposite with the other. If one is pleasant, then the other may be disturbing. If one humorous, then maybe the other comical. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but, as with all of our projects so far, I'm quite looking forward to it. And like those other projects, I'm sure I'll learn a lot throughout the process of making the films.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Ecstasy of Influence and The Molotov Man

The article "The Ecstasy of Influence," by Jonathan Lethem poses an interesting question concerning the rights of art and, in fact, how far they can be extended. Obviously, people are influenced immensely, as well as unavoidably, by everything that they have ever encountered in their lives. Much of that influence will, in turn, be reflected in any art that they may create themselves.

Lethem would also, on a few occasions, mention the fact that Disney continues to take their stories from numerous other sources, yet somehow remains untouched where copyright laws are concerned. Personally, I think the conglomerate of Disney has a "free pass" of sorts when it comes to such things. Without getting overly political, Disney nearly gets always with murder with what they're allowed to do simply because they are Disney. For some reason we just continue to expose our children to the Disney experience as if it is actually the "let's all live in peace" corporation that it pretends to be; despite Walt Disney himself being a confirmed anti-Semite. All in all, they are just a corporation who, like so many others, forces the masses to do what they want them to, and we oblige willingly (so long as we are promised a free pair of Mickey ears).

As far as the copyright issue goes, I'm of two minds on the subject. On the one hand, I feel that it becomes increasingly harder to know where the line should be drawn. Do the producers of an old sci-fi flick that I saw only once as a child have a legal right to either cease my actions or make money off of them because I may eventually direct a flick in which the characters costumes resemble the ones in their movie? It is a slippery slope, and I honestly think it will become more so with the ability to transfer data increasing at such an alarming rate.

The flip side of the coin wants me to be able to protect any and all things that I have ever created in my life. The American dream is not to make a classic work of art and better yourself with each attempt that follows, but instead it is to create a marginally decent exhibition whose artistic integrity is far less than the popularity it finds, thus allowing you to live your entire life off of the profits of one thing that you did a long time ago. I'm not saying that that is what I intend to do, but I will not fight it if that is what happens with my career. The majority of "artists" today are not famous for talent and do not really deserve what they have and continue to gain from that one little thing, be it a song they once recorded, or a flick they happened to star in. So, if that is the future that is in store for me, and I can finagle a life of financial competence by strictly guarding the rights to one little thing that I created, then, I guess, so be it.

As for the other article "On the Rights of the Molotov Man." a similar argument is made concerning rights. Does a woman who found an old picture online have a right to use that as the basis of a painting that she created? In my opinion, she does. Going back to what I stated previously, we are all influenced by what we experience, and it is impossible to strictly control influences.

I was, at first, angry when I read how the original photographer reacted with legal action and her "reasoning" behind why she wanted to protect her work. She felt that the man in the photograph deserved to be protected and not altered because of the emotional weight associated with the situation he went through. I can understand wanting to protect someone, but her excuse holds little weight because her taking the picture did exactly the same thing she claims to be protecting the man from. The painter who adapted the picture in no way sought to exploit the situation of the man, nor make fun of him and his struggle. That's not to say that it did to did not eventually happen as the image was scattered about the world, but the painter, Joy Garnett, is certainly not guilty of it. Also, what made me mad was the fact that the photographer, Susan Meiselas, was using the man's emotion to make her argument. Essentially, once again, exploiting the same thing she claims to be protecting by blocking the use of her picture. Since she, ultimately, did not make Garnett pay her or block her painting by way of legal means, I was eased in my anger concerning the issue. Nonetheless, she should, if anything, be honored that her photograph reached so many and is such a huge influence today in Nicaragua. Also, and I know it's all subjective, but I think the painting of the "Molotov Man" was actually more emotional than the gritty photograph (though I don't mean to dismiss the photo in any way). If I were lucky enough to create something that ultimately spawned such a beautiful painting that only intensified the intention of the original work, I'd be hard pressed to find the motivation to stop it from being seen by as many as possible.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Saturday Shoot Experience

My experience with the shoot on Saturday turned out to be a quite pleasant one. Obviously, I was not ecstatic about having to be on campus on a Saturday, and I am sure that many others in the class felt the same way. However, once we began working on the projects, I became involved with the collaborative work and the time went by quite quickly.

At the start of the day, we were not entirely sure what we wanted to capture on film. We had not had a lot of time together to plan, and we were down a group member due to a obligation he had to fulfill with his job. One group member brought some jackets to the shoot, and I brought a couple of Halloween masks. My first inclination was to shoot something in which characters would be switched with other performers seamlessly in front of the viewer's eyes. Fortunately, Genna took one look at the masks and came up with a solid idea (this was, at first, fortunate because the other groups were also switching characters with other characters in their projects, though in the end, all of the projects were quite unique and very much not similar at all). Her idea consisted of having the main character of our film, wearing the pumpkin mask, be a bit of an outcast who is made fun of by others until he meets the character in the Scream mask and forms a connection. It was a good story to tell within the limitations that we had.

While Josh was in the black box readying the camera, Genna and I were blocking out the scene, and we were able to collaborate quite quickly on how we wanted to do it all. We also came up with the good idea of having the Scream mask character reading something that would block her face and leave a nice reveal of her to the audience once the pumpkin mask character sits on the bench (Genna wisely found a giant Beatles book in the library that worked perfectly for this). We then rehearsed it a few times and shot it quite smoothly. Everyone did a great job with their acting and performing, and I thank everyone who helped out.

The only real problem I had was the fact that it was so hot and, after rehearsing with the camera a few times, I started to have sweat drip into my eye, making it harder to actually see through the small eyepiece of the camera. It was a small problem at most, and one that was easily remedied. In fact, considering all the problems that can, and usually do, go wrong on a film shoot, this was barely even a problem, so one I would welcome in comparison.

I also helped as a performer in another group's film. It was a very interesting concept, and they did a good job of blocking it out and planning, so hopefully it turned out well. It is the only one of the four that I was not able to catch when it screened, but I did see the three others. The two other group's films that I did see were very good. The one showing a person as they go through the many stages of their life worked quite effectively and brought with it a nice emotion that I was not expecting from a one minute film. The other film with the magical tent that transformed people when they went through was very good, as well. It had a nice energy to it, including the performances and depth of field, that really gave it that feel of a silent picture from the 20's.

So, overall, it was a nice experience. I'm pretty happy with what we got on film and pleased with what I saw from the other goups, too. I'm anxious to see how they all look once the editing is complete and the image turned from a negative to a positive.