Thursday, January 11, 2007

From Addiction to Grief in Approx. One Post

The character is not a drug dealer. Or rather, he could be I suppose, but I've changed the main thrust of his afflication to being an addiction, not enabling others'. I've decided this for the cheif reason that I know nothing of drug dealing, but having been by turns a heavy smoker, a heavy drinker, and an adrenaline junkie, I feel closer to the character if I envision him as suffering not just an afflication of conscience, but a literal one as well. Whatever his addiction is, I won't be explicitly showing it.

I don't want to depict an addiction, I want to sketch an addict.

Addiction has been done plenty of times--Requiem for a Dream most notably, but also Spun and to a lesser extent Drugstore Cowboy. But I think DC was closer to what I want to acheive than the previous two. Less the subjective, "Drug Addiction POV" schitck and more of an objective exploration of who and what an addict is.

I don't want to pity this character, I want to observe: the routines, the habits, the compulsions. In particular, this person has developed a compulsive habit to rip off the labels of all of the "products" in his abode. A listerine bottle without a Listerine label, a tube of toothpaste without the Aquafresh, condiments without their labels, a tie without the manufacturer's label, etc. A half-empty environment.

Half-empty glasses, bottles--a half-empty soul.

His environment will be defined not by what is there, but by what is not--and by who is not.

A queen-mattress, occupied by only he. A second sink cleaned of stuff, but not of dust, skin, soap, hair. A half-empty life.

He will have "Nothing in Excess" tattooed across his chest so that people who look at him can read it, but so that it reads backwards when he looks at himself in the mirror. It was an ideal he lost, along with something else. "Know thyself" is tattooed across his back: for all intents and purposes, he's forgetten it's there.

The environment will be fairly barren. Not the trash-strewn mess of a slob, but the emptiness of someone who is himself empty.

I am visually constrained by the following: 95% of my shots must be longer than 10 seconds; they must all be highly-zoomed shots. Using these constraints, I will try to create an impression of the person and his environment by focusing on details, on parts of objects, creating a fragmented view of a fragmented person.

Shawn suggested inserting a few shock edits for visceral effect. I suppose if the short was without a few jarring moments, it might lack a climax, an emotional payoff, or it might be just fucking boring--who knows.

I think I'll shoot the inserts, and edit the piece with and without them, see how I feel about it, get some feedback from a few others, and see how it plays both ways basically. As far as the inserts themselves, I'll be showing a few different things: him stirring on the empty bed, occupying half of the frame; while cleaning himself at his sink, the empty sink next to him occupies an equal part of the frame; the barren, pathetic breakfast table as he passively eats on one side; two closets, he only opening one. I can't think of any others without going overboard, and I'm not even sure if I'm going to necessarily use all of them, but they all serve the same purpose. I do want to establish this as a motif,

I think I'll be using these moments to objectively illustrate the absence, the half that is missing, hence the empty halves of the frame.

Shock edits begin to bleed over into these moments of objectivity, ultimately dominating them, before he closes the door, the camera tracking past the listerine bottle we see him destroying, past a few more de-labeled objects in the b/g, to the empty sink where a single hair--not his--still sits.

Okay, this sou
nds more like grief than addiction, very true. So now I've got to backpedal and find where the addiction gets illustrated here.

Maybe there is no addiction. Maybe the tattoos are there to show how pervasive a thing grief can be. The addiction can stay outside the frame, just barely there. A hint of a bottle (or whatever), not the whole bottle, as Shawn said. Grief can bullrush even your most strongly felt ideals. Maybe the tattoos could even be a little runny, a little teary--just slightly, but enough to show that their colors are running, and linking to the character's intense internal turmoil.

An interesting issue:
If the listerine bottle is seen OTS without a label while he is brushing his teeth--all of the products are seen without labels--and the shock edits are of him ripping off the label in an intense state of mourning, continuity dictates that those shock edits are then "flashbacks", that they are taking place prior to the present, which is brushing his teeth. But if we pullback from the character as he is getting ready to rush out the door to go to work, and track past the recently shredded listerine bottle, how is it that it was already shredded in the previous scene? This could imply some sort of moebius strip architecture of time, where the events appear to be progressing linearly, but begin to contradict themselves and lead to a re-establishing of the various shots as discontinuous by the short's end. I would want to plant various little continuity mishaps throughout the rest of the short that wouldn't be noticeable upon first viewing, but cue us subconsciously into an undercurrent that isn't quite representing continuity. That way, by the time we arrive at the final dolly/pan/tracking shot, we are prepared for the discontinuity, even if we weren't aware that we were.

All that said, the point is the emotional state; the time-loop, the absence, the label peeling compulsion, the empty half-frame inserts, the shock edits, etc., these are all there only to serve the illustration of a grieving person.

Watched: Sanjuro
Listening to: silence

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