Monday, December 11, 2006

Reasonable Success

My final project, hastily dubbed "Penance", was screened in class today and was received fairly well--that is, with less negativity than my last two. And furthermore, there were a few people who went out of their way to "Congrat" me after class, which was pretty cool even if I didn't know what to say. It was probably for just not sucking as much as they thought I would (modesty or Soderbergian modesty?).

I'm glad it's finally time for a break, although apparently Noel will sending out next quarter's first assignment sometime next week so that we can get a head start on it. Oh well. Couldn't hurt I suppose. And as much as I enjoy a good break, I was left in a unique situation after this last project, one I haven't been in since, well, ever: despite the massive amount of effort I put into Penance, the many, many sleepless nights, the logistical stress, the 5-day shoot, the four hours of rehearsals, the unending etc.'s amidst my other obligations, I completed this project wanting and ready to make the next. Usually when I'm done, I feel like I'm never going to want to make another short again. Not so this time. It was probably a combination of the great experience I had with this one, the feeling of (mostly) satisfaction, and the personal commitment I made to the project, the personal stakes. In the past, I've felt like I've been committed, like staying up all night is "commitment", but now I realize what was really going on was a desire to be committed. I wasn't actually. And that was reflected in my inability to make sound creative decisions and turn over a unified work.

There are a few things I gleaned from the critique:
1) I need to do a cost-benefit analysis of the film's visual quality vs. its story Quality. There has to be a balance between the two. Tip the scales too far in either direction, and you're going to end up with a wildly uneven film. One should not be sacrificed for the other.
2) Everyone's specific behaviors influenced the making/structuring/playing of your films in very specific ways.
3) Seeing the character's face made him human, showed that he wasn't a superman. Allowed audience to relate to him better.
4) "NO" was too much. We were already thinking that in our heads that killing is wrong. I don't need to tell them.
5) Removing the narration was like dodging a massive bullet. It strengthened the film: addition by subtraction.
6) "Balls" not necessary. Be mindful of the highly masculine environment associated with the military: saying "them" would have been enough.
7) Learn how to give us more without giving us more.
8) Because I'm a veteran, my audience trusts my authority on the subject matter, but if I go to far illustratively, I lose their trust in my authority. It's a fine line I have to walk, between talking down to my audience and not giving them enough information to interpret a world they may not be familiar with.

I'm fairly proud of the finished product. I think for the first time this quarter, I made the best possible product I could given the assignment, time constraints, available equipment, and where I am in my emotional/intellectual/creative growth. The two things that really pleased me to hear during crit were Shawn's two remarks about a) Jan's performance, how nuanced and particular every stutter and glance was, and the associated implications (meaning the 4-5 hrs. of rehearsal and 20+ takes paid off--although I'm not sure if anyone else caught on to the subtext); and b) that my film is "deeply disturbing"--the closest thing to a straight-up compliment I think I've yet gotten from Shawn, and possibly anyone, so far this year.

Listening to: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Going to watch later: Deadwood Season 2 eps. 6+


blaccount said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
blaccount said...

The short was nicely done. Having read your script before the piece was shot, I'm impressed at how well you were able to pull it together.

Perhaps the 'balls' wasn't necessary, but I think it added rather than detracted overall.

Out of curiosity, how many times did you shoot that scene? Dan's acting was well restrained. Jan fit the role nicely.

ERIK said...

I'm not sure if you'll notice my response, as I just now noticed your comment, but to answer your question, I'm sure Jan and I rehearsed that scene and re-shot it...probably somewhere between 20 and 30 times. No exaggeration. Probably closer to 20 though. Dan, however, was a one take wonder. He read through it a few times while I lit him, and then we walked through it and blocked it out. We discussed the camera placement, and what his character would do in and out of frame, and then shot it. One take.