Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How does one perform performance capture?

The plan: shoot an 8 - 15 minute short film on 16mm -- FILM film. It will be three scenes averaging between 2 and 5 minutes each, with an epilogue that returns to the first scene. Yes, this will be a non-linear story. Surprise surprise. But that's okay, because it's part of the point this time around. I'm not sure if I'm using non-linearity as a crutch this time around, but it at least serves a genuine purpose in the story.

The purpose: to both a) engage the viewer by offering a mysterious proposition in the opening scene; and b) to force the viewer to continually recontextualize their perceptions of the characters and their actions based on the information they receive and the order in which they receive it.

Questions I hope to provoke: Is the main character good or bad? Are his actions justified? Does he deserve our sympathy? Does he represent the whole of the human race? If not, are the dinner guests or rioting prisoners any different? How?

The kinds of art I admire in an aspirational sense present situations and characters that compel viewers to ask questions, without providing them with discreet answers. While my short film will draw some sort of conclusion, I think if effectively handled it won't be perceived as an answer, but as more of a concluding question. Food for thought sort of thing.

The problem I have at the moment is that while the broadstrokes of the story and characters, and some of the specifics, have been developed, I feel like it has the possibility of being dead in the water. Leaden under the weight of its own pomposity. It needs to have a certain fleetness, even while not losing any of the serious over- and under-tones.

My teachers believe the best way to attain this sensibility is to "perform your film" -- any way you can. My interpretation of this is to make the film feel as if it were crafted with the kind of craft only human intuition can achieve. The way an experienced stage actor will vary their performance depending upon an audience's reception. The way an experienced camera operator (read this article now) can in Brett Simon's words "breath with an actor". Or the way a camera operator can hand-crank a camera, slowing and speeding up the amount of film exposed, depending upon the moment-to-moment feeling they have of being in the scene. Performance, as I see it, is a way of making a work of any kind feel made by human hands -- esp. in this increasingly automated world we live in. It is a way of avoiding the clinical, the precise. It makes things a little more messy, a little more human -- even if the subject matter is about the end of the human race (see Children of Men). Which, come to think of it, makes the human element all the more imperative. Even a movie as (wonderfully) crass and (delightfully) low-brow as Crank has a feeling of the performed -- manic, depraved, and gleefully carefree as it may be. I think that's why I like the movie so goddamn much, actually. David Lynch with Inland Empire is another fantastic example of how the varying, digressing, fundamentally human touch can elevate even the most grueling of filmic experiences.

Speaking of human digressions...

I want to perform my film. I don't know how.

That's where I am.

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