Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Possible Solution(s)

Instead of finding an Iraqi boy/actor, find found footage and comp it in over a screen that the character is running towards in the snowy desert!!! This could kickass: Found footage. Cut back to reveal screen in desert. Cut to running or if possible, pull-focus. Shoot with pull focus and without! identifiable color other than white. Use black stuff? Get blue paint?

And try to comp in "killing sucks" interview during mirror scene. If not, then at least the audio, sounding all recycled and shit. And get a shot tonight of the tank to take to class tomorrow. Remember to get silence in the space. Remember to get close-up on hand before completely taking down set.

Day 1 Down, 2 to Go

Day One of shooting for my final project this quarter is over--and I'm nowhere near as glad as I'm sure my lead actor, Jan, is. Poor motherfucker has to start his mail route at 7 this morning, but he leaves at 6 for it...and we didn't wrap until 245am.

"Perfectionism" is a curse and a blessing--but if that's true, then why haven't my films gelled so far? I've sure put the effort into them, but there are no A's for effort. It's what's on the screen that matters, not what'snot--unless that's the point, but that's besides the point. One thing I've realized about my sense of "perfectionism" is that I do and do and do and do and it still seems like I never quite get the things I want to get right, right. I think in the moment, I just need to push forward and that if I persevere, I'll make it through the other side. But something I'd like to start teaching myself to do is to realize what it is that isn't working, not just my gut feeling, and taking the time to pause and solve the problem before repeating the take. I could tell Jan was getting testy with me, and I don't blame him. I just hope I don't let him down and the massively unnecessary time committment he put into this thing. I almost don't even care if I let myself down, just as long as I do justice to the effort he put into the thing.

Of course, I hope that by doing justice to his effort, I will do right by my own.

About to be Watching: Apocalypse Now
But still Listening to: The Fountain soundtrack

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

More notes...

1) No bloody rictus? Eyes closed? Surgeon's mask on? Film several different ways. Don't have to do tracking shot repeatedly, just frame it so that his face isn't seen.
2) If the "INVALID" moment is taken out, what is going to be the transition tool? Just transitioning from real-time laughter doesn't strike as being quite as effective. Maybe he doesn't scream into the camera, maybe it's only a whisper, a nearly subliminal whisper.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A few notes...

1) I just remembered last night as I was falling asleep, that it was the summer I turned 20, not the summer I turned 19.
2) My girlfriend really detested the INVALID part--like, literally, detested it. I'll probably end up axing it, since it's not absolutely necessary and it seems to be more alienating than I really wanted it to be. Jarring, not alienating. I don't want to be hated for rubbing peoples noses in filth. I just want to construct a space that conveys my confusion, anger and cynicism at not only being faced with that decision but that I was lead to believe that I had to do something like it to be a "man".
3) I may change the "no man" writing on the mirror to "fuck this" and move that through-the-mirror shot closer to the end, to replace the close-up on the lips of the "fuck this". That'd further link the spaces together I think, establishing that all that was really what went through the character's head as he was faced with the decision. The other bonus is that it may heighten the suspense by stretching out the running segment--it would at least be closer to the motif Noel suggested. On the other hand, it may totally defuse the tension--I don't think it would; it's prolonging the moment, therefore it should be increasing the tension, as tension is derived from a suspension of resolution over time. I think I just paraphrased Hitchcock, but I'm not sure. On the other hand, since I've led the viewer to believe that they may already know the outcome, there may not be any tension at all...I think because I'm flashing back to the event in medias res, before it's happened, there will be more tension because they already know what's going to happen and maybe now they're afraid they're going to see it?
4) The "fuck this" I want to be carthartic. Cathartic with the realization that I didn't actually choose that path. I want it to feel good to hear that line, to realize that I didn't kill the boy. Using the testicle scene might, again, be too alienating to effectively communicate this. But it's a nice goddamn image...I suppose what I could do is use that as a back up if Jan won't be able to make it to the exterior shooting, but if he is able to, I'll film both and see which works better.

Listening to: The Fountain soundtrack

A Script--finally!

I finally finished the script for my final project. Right now its tentatively titled "The Summer I Turned 19 by Erik LeDrew" and is, as I said before, about that moment in Iraq, the summer I turned 19.

I feel like this is the most coherent and, hopefully, meaningful thing I've done so far. The only thing I've written, extracurricular or otherwise, that feels like it could be mentioned in the same sentence is "bruiser". I don't know what else to say about it except that it's ambitious but intimate and I don't think I've set up any obstacles for myself that are impossible to overcome.

The obstacle that I couldn't find a solution for--and at this point, I'm not sure I want to--was properly integrating Noel's suggestion to have a recurring image of kinetic motion placed through the short to give a feeling of gathering momentum, building toward something. I tried to adapt the image of the Soldier running in the desert to his idea of a speeding motorcycle, but it felt too inorganic plunking it down in the middle of the mess. The shot works better as the bookends. And the besides, the two middle segments flow so smoothly into each other, that I didn't want to interrupt that--but maybe that's my recurring problem coming back to haunt me again, being married to the concept--except I can't exactly be married to it, when the solution I came up with to link the interview segment and the operating room segment was not one of my pre-dispositions. I had originally envisioned a post-modern mess of jump-cuts like a Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson music video. I think what I came up with is far more organic (structurally inspired by Eraserhead, appropo) to the narrative and much more elegant.

Any problems I'd venture to guess at are probably not the ones people will hit on, but to try: it's possible the testicle writing is a bit too extraneous. But I'm angry and cynical and I think it's a shock that needs to stay put. The one "shock" that I can see parting with is the doctor yelling "INVALID" into the camera. That is a concept that is revealed aplenty in the operating room sequence and the writing on the mirror. It works for effect, to jarr the audience and hints that the doctor is "punishing" the Soldier, not condoning. But nevertheless, it is the most like the shock editing I'm so afraid of and is the part that I could easily see losing without too much damage being done to the rest of the short.

Filming is Tuesday and Wednesday, with pickups and ADR scheduled for the following Tuesday. And the desert shooting scheduled whenever Jan is available to head east of the mountains--weather, goddammit, permitting.

Listening to: The Departed soundtrack

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Note: If using shock edits, cut out when the actors blink? Sort of like taking Walter Murch's cardinal rule of editing to its extremity...

Alternative History Vol 1 - Shock Editing and Me

So the next project, the final for this quarter, the third of the sequence, is that we have to envision some sort of alternative history of a moment in our lives. It has to be autobiographical and must be between 3 and 5 minutes.

So with that said, I've pretty much narrowed down the kernal of the idea down to the moment that I came closest to shooting somebody in Iraq--and it turned out to be a boy who couldn't be more than 8. The alternative history will be...the obvious. "What if" I had actually pulled the trigger...?

Now, I don't want it to be as emotionally obvious as that premise could be--guilt, self-medication, etc. I'm more cynical than that, and I'd be selling myself out if my next project didn't reflect my cynicism.

I've laid out a few aesthetic no-go's that will hopefully guide my hand through the rest of the ideation and into and through shooting and editing.
1. No jump cuts
2. As few shock edits as possible (ie - abusing Soviet montage)
3. No match-cut reliance
4. Nothing, nothing random (this is actually already a guideline, but I want to remind myself to control completely everything in and out of the frame)
5. If possible, no explicitly Army, Iraq, U.S. imagery

The first problem I'm encountering in my ideation is that I can't imagine this done in any ways other than through jump cuts and shock edits.
challenge #1: Find a way to either a) Construct the filmic imagery without shock editing, or b) Find a more creative/organically evolving way to use shock editing/jump cuts.

The issue with shock editing is that there is no realistic way that that style can carry a whole film, 3 minutes or 90 minutes. It would get stale and tepid very, very quick. Unless, perhaps, the imagery itself can be enough to sustain an audience's attention, even with spastic, rapid-fire editing. The other problem with a barrage of shock edits is that I'm just plain tired of it. Not a single short film I've yet made has been without shock editing.

Am I truly a product of the MTV-generation?

I supposed I just don't grasp narrative storytelling enough to construct a non-invasive scene quite yet. Am I giving in already? I'll see what my compadres have to say about it tomorrow.

Watching: Eraserhead

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

So I've been meaning to blog about this because I think it's pretty indicative in the Freudian sense of how mentally and emotionally overwhelming this video sequence is becoming.

It was last Friday night I think, that I had a nightmare about being in my DXARTS class. All eyes were on me, I especially remember Noel (my instructor) staring with waiting, expectant eyes, as I was being asked why I couldn't finish my project. I don't think it was necessarily the next project, but it definitely wasn't like I was re-imagining a critique of one of my past ones.

Anyhow, as I'm sure you know if you've been reading my past blogs, I've been pretty negatively critiqued for making certain mistakes...and then making them again. And in this critique, I was being criticized because I was unable to follow-through on my project, almost as if I was missing a last act, like I couldn't quite come through on it.

It felt like the class was asking me to finish the film right then and there, and I couldn't, for whatever reason. I was feeling this immense pressure and I had director's block, I simply couldn't preform. I felt frozen in place, as if I had stage fright. They were pressing me, asking, "Why can't you just finish it?" And I didn't know what to tell them. I just couldn't imagine anything. It was a blank slate. And futhermore, I didn't know what to say. I was dumbfounded, unable to perform, unable to respond.

It's pretty obvious that I'm feeling insecure, and probably more than a little infertile (figuratively speaking). I'm surprised I didn't have a truly Freudian nightmare about being unable to perform during sex. But this was close enough, and more situationally specific anyways. There are no answers within this dream, just a more stark evocation of feelings I already feel.

I don't know what this adds to the internal discourse on my abilities and shortcomings, but if nothing else, at least I know I'm emotionally and intellectually invested enough in this class that I can have nightmares about it. Awesome!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My girlfriend left me a very encouraging message on my phone earlier. She seems to think that I need to stop thinking of myself as an artist creating art, and more as a student learning artistry. This could be part of the issue. I don't approach my assignments as learning opportunities but rather as another chance to show up my classmates and teachers--show them that the tens of thousands of hours I've spent watching movies, the essays, the lectures, the books, the DVD hyper-extended features...that I "know" what I'm doing. And I think I'm taking the competition thing way too seriously. My sensibilities are vastly different from the rest of the class, as many of them are from each other. And yet, I endlessly compare my shit to theirs...goddamn comparative literature. My first instinct isn't to work my heart out and push it to mental, emotional, psychological failure, but to find a measuring stick against which to measure myself, and then strive to measure up. And I'm a talker, so if the work itself doesn't actually measure up, I can at least talk part of the way up the stick.

This is not good.
I got railed again today. Not hit as hard as last time though, partially because I'm becoming numb to criticism (which is good, as long as I don't go over the line and just disregard it completely) and partially because I made exactly the same mistakes as I did before and had the same sucesses as before. There's nothing more boring than redundancy. It makes me wonder if I've grown at all as an artist, from the first assignment to this second one. Have I? I don't know. Maybe I have and I'm only insecure now because I can't handle crit very well and I let the criticisms of my work go to my head. But I am my work. I lack progressive work because I don't understand myself well enough to be able to challenge my strengths and nurture my weaknesses...I even wonder if I should be in this class. I was talking with someone after class, and he pointed out to me that he's had a lot of training with all of the different tools that we're bringing to bear on our work in 45x, and he sees this sequence as the capstone to that, where he gets to refine what he's learned. I'm not in that same position. I am learning as I go. I'm not able to take what I already know and bring it a step least, not technically. I suppose, I am bringing what I know...theory and history, criticism, crossed with a writing/photographic background...and am trying to refine it into cinema. I suppose in some ways its working, but I'm still finding myself having to shit out critical thought. I need to train myself to be able to switch effortlessly from intuition to criticism whenever I desire. When I acheive that, maybe I'll be able to recognize a bad idea a helluva lot easier. Like, as-soon-as-I-see-it "easier".


Is being stylistically pure more important than conceptually pure?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A new short is completed. Guidelines: Create 5, 17-second cinematic haikus (note: Haikus are structured in three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively). Check it here