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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Prude Americans: Nudity in Films

I watched two European films with main characters who had body types way beyond your normal Hollywood model/action star requirements. "The Hairdresser" and "4some" were refreshing in their treatment of nudity, and a sad reminder of how far behind we are in this country in regards to being more accepting of seeing other body types in our media. I have heard some actors I know in this community talk about how much they expect to be paid to be seen nude, especially in sex scenes, and how picky they are with the projects if there is nudity involved, and concerned they are about the result of working nude in film will have on their careers. I find this paranoia just really unwarranted. Why is it a problem to be naked in a film? Why are Americans such prudes about this? Of course, we have plenty of smaller "indie" films that have nudity and odd body types, but I see very few handling it the way it has been handled in films like "Klown," and the two I mention above. And most often, odd body types in American films are there in jest, as a comedic relief rather than being the reality of the main characters. Serious film treatments where nudity is required usually involve seeing the bodies of top model-types. Maybe it's time for a more blunt and realistic use of nudity in films, and not to poke fun at people that aren't body builders or Victoria Secret types.

Being near picture lock for "What's the Use?" has been an interesting trip. I'm ready for it to be over as it has been my only real focus. As is usually the case with my projects, I've had to pick up some of the workload and so have been focusing a lot of the time on animation. All is well, as it was a time for an After Effects refresher. But it reminds me again of the need to simplify the process so I can truly be a director and delegate and manage more of the vision, rather than handle the work all the time myself. It is fine to do this, as the director should always understand the processes involved, but if she or he is the one doing the majority of the work, then how are they accessing the talents of others to serve the larger vision of the film itself? A director should try to keep as fresh a vision as possible of their work, but the more time they spend key framing, or creating assets in Illustrator, or editing too much of the work, then what sort of objectivity remains? Once it is gone, you are at the hands of the hundreds of mismatched opinions on the work once it's ready for review, and unclear of where your true voice has gone for it. You cannot make a work try to please every person that sees it. It is impossible. You can only know what works for you and what is either strengthening or weakening your vision. My learned lesson: simplify, so that I can keep my idea for the work fresh and exciting for myself.

Let me leave you with some work of a great photographer I saw recently here at the Harry Ransom Center. The Magnum Photos collection. These are just a few from the work of photographer Jim Goldberg.  The subjects of these photos wrote on the photo they saw of themselves. I'll let his work speak for itself otherwise. But I encourage a deeper look.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Meet Awesome Lady Elizabeth Gilbert, and Why Labeling Ourselves Might Be a Bad Idea

This last month has been a series of strange creative ups and downs, being hard on my own vision, doubting what I've created, questioning why I even bother, followed by excitement for new works that have been sitting on my backplate, picking up my Copic markers again and drawing in the mornings. Followed by the nagging inner critic: "why do you bother drawing, you'll never be a visual artist, so why waste time?" (Yeah, spitting back: "Well, it's fun, damnit" doesn't work.)

These thoughts which have been with me for certain periods of my adult life (developing more so in my 30s, oddly enough), have caused me to think a lot about the creative process as we've been trudging along the final edits for What's the Use?, forcing me to question why I go through this laborious process of refining a film that I've been working on since the summer of 2011. Why do any of us do this when the chances of our films going down our intended paths for them are extremely slim? Why do we artists spend so much time, money, blood, tears, sweat, and other bodily fluids, on works that rarely do what we want them to do for us?  I cannot answer that question but only say that, well, hope prolongs misery, a theme that was in my first feature.

Editing, which is usually my favorite part of the filmmaking process, and where I think the story really is made, has been taut and tense, and I find myself sometimes stepping away from the computer after only a few minutes of work to do some menial task, like, the dishes in the sink. I do this so I don't have to made decisions, and face the tension that even after all these weeks of crazy pick up scenes this summer, they may not make the film any better. (I don't truly believe this, and have seen enough to know this is not the case, but this tension has existed.)

These random bursts of breaking up my editing to go clean up something has caused me to think about how we define ourselves. Meaning, I spend so much of my waking day making films, and probably during my sleeping hours too, in my subconscious brain repairing and analyzing everything that has happened that day. Yet, I don't call myself and editor, or a filmmaker even, or a cinematographer, a producer, or any other other hats I wear pursuing this masochistic passion. If someone asks, "What do you do?" the expected reply is always what I do to pay bills, which is NOT being an editor, or filmmaker, or any of other other things I mentioned above. I find this strange that when we talk to strangers, we are expected to mention our job as our central identity, not our passions. But arguably, I would say most of us don't really identify our jobs with who we are in our cores. It's sad that even if I did mention I am a filmmaker or writer or whatever else I like to do, it is assumed I make a living at it. Our identities are inherently tied up with income. How American.

I think this hurts our creativity to actually so deeply imbed our identities with what we do for a living. I have been wondering by even saying I am even a filmmaker, I am forcing myself to think/act/create like what my cultural perceptions of a filmmaker are. Meaning, if I did not identify myself as ANYTHING, would I feel more free to create?

So, curious to hear others talk about the process of creativity and identity, I came along this great TED talk by author Elizabeth Gilbert.  If you are a creative type (and I think we all are, some just access it differently than others), please watch this. It truly moved me and has given me renewed energy for paying attention to the little creative energies that I find living around me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The film will talk, if you listen...

As of Tuesday, we've finally wrapped production on our pick up scenes. It's been a tough last month shooting intermittently around our regular work schedules with a tiny crew in the heat that is Austin, TX. But despite the fatigue, I think we all feel a sense of satisfaction for going extra lengths to make "What's the Use?" a better film. It's going to be nothing like what it was in December, when we decided that we weren't completely happy with the way the film was playing out. I am at point in my own creative evolution that I'm just not happy with straight forward storytelling. I am aware I go through cycles between loving gritty realism and visual circuses, but each film will demand the look it wants for itself, if you don't force it, and if you listen to what it wants. It takes time for these films to figure out their look and "voice," but I truly believe, after having made two features now, that you cannot know too much in advance what the look and tone is. You just have to be open to what the film will whisper in your ear while you are sound asleep.

There is now an extra level of narrative complexity, visual interest, and strangeness that did not exist. We shot some footage on the Lomokino 35mm and so integrating that in an interesting way should be truly interesting. I've been posting lots of stills from the scenes, and will be posting more in the future. Now we get to hunker down and shape this footage into it's finished form (Tag Simler and I will be editing), tweak the animations, send this off to the composer (Arles Estes) and color it. My hope is we will be done mid 2014. I'll be working on developing film number three while doing this, still not sure what story this one will be.

So thank you in advance to all the talent involved, and folks opening their doors to us, to allow us to shoot.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Back from Shooting in Las Vegas, and Some Thoughts on "Film Community"

Now that we have returned from Las Vegas and have put our equipment away, (temporarily), I've gone ahead and posted some stills here on our FB page (I'll post a few here too). The Black Magic Cinema Camera performed really well in the heat (107-115 degrees), and attracted quite a few comments, even with a pared down rig. We nicknamed the camera "The Whore" since it got a lot of curious questions and hungry looks: "what kinda camera is that?" "Is that the BMCC?" It's like having a sexy pedigree dog at the hike and bike trail. (Sorry guys. Can't say it's a chick magnet, since mostly guys asked us about the camera.) No one asked what we were shooting, they wanted to know more about the camera! It did not matter where we were shooting. People would come out of their offices to ask us about the BMCC. 

With a crew of two, we shot the ending scenes for "What's the Use?" where Sara leaves Austin and heads to Las Vegas on a whim. We are fortunate to have a supportive group in Vegas (Showgirls Across America, Oogoog, The Cockroach Theater), and a public there that doesn't seem to care much about a camera in their space (obviously more interested in the camera than us). Sometimes, this is why I prefer to live/film in smaller communities. It's just easier to find the support to get your projects off the ground than it is in bigger communities. 

I'm sad to say, but I feel Austin has been growing too quickly for its own britches, and with an expanding waist line (sprawl) and inflating rent prices (and no salary changes to compensate for this), I have a hard time justifying keeping BPFW here any longer. I take the "Top Rated City for Filmmakers" rating by Movie Maker Magazine with a grain, no...a large lump, of salt, but I wonder if Austin will be number one city again next year for filmmakers. Not that it matters. I've often wondered where this so-called film community really is here in Austin, or in any community. Filmmakers are a self-absorbed lot and care only for their own projects. It's the only way to get them done, unfortunately. I sense that as much as filmmakers in Austin and similar-sized film cities might like to brag about "community," I can't help but think there is a sense of the Cut-Throat, and while they might seem supportive, secretly we are all jealous of eachother's progress. But all arts deal with this. It's just seems to be part of human nature.

So yes, I've put my film "nose" in the air to sniff out other places to possibly move shop. Let's see what opportunities may arise.

We have quite a bit more shooting ahead of us this month, in yet more heat, and I am determined to someday shoot something in cold weather. It's not happened, and I am hoping it will!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hotdiggity dog I do love this...

Synching audio to video...seeing the small nuances of the way a set light moves over and through the props and around actors we have brought together for a short amount of time, I am reminded of how much I truly love crafting film stories. There is nothing at all like this. Magic magic magic.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

We will sell no wine before it's time...

As I end a long session of reviewing edits I've made on the second feature, "What's the Use?" I think about where I was mentally (creatively speaking) two years ago, right before we were to jump into this film somewhat blindly, on "the edge of catastophe," if I may quote Mr. Malick, and after only five weeks of script writing and preproduction. Perhaps desperate to be on set again, eager to break from the restraints of mid-to-high range budget chasing and just go "micro," I threw away all caution and shot a feature while working over full-time at two jobs. (Insane, yes, I know.)

The result was a film shot at a completely wrong frame rate, with dodgy audio, and a decent enough story. Good, but not great, as I have already described the "final" cut to Kickstarter backers.  Hopeless? Of course, this feeling wafted through me and probably some of my closer colleagues on this film, from time to time, when we thought we had picture locked, but after reviews of the cut, realized this was not the final cut at all, but just the beginning. Even after having already done a feature, I am constantly surprised by this process of reaching the finish line.

I guess a lot of filmmakers go through this.  But my point is not to belabor too much on these hazards of just jumping into the deep end and trying to stay afloat, but to also give some applause for so blind an approach, because, with the obvious limitations that have come from this method, I have been forced to see this story and this visual style in a way that would never ever have come to me had I shot this film in a more planned way with lots of pre-production work.

To sum it up, this film is demanding its own gestation period.  Having worked on the film for a long time, put it away briefly, come back and printed out frames of scenes, (there are close to 200 frames covering my bedroom/studio walls), worked on it, put it away again, something quite interesting has happened.  It is something that is teaching me about the merits of time, patience, persistence, and to appreciate master filmmakers like Kubrick and Malick who take (or took in the case of the former) time to make their films what they wanted them to be.

The natural limitations and less-than-positive visual aspects of "What's the Use?" have forced me to stretch, to rethink the story, to add elements that were never planned as in animation sequences and motion graphics. To embrace the tools of cinema and make this film into some wild visual entity that frankly, I have not seen very often in film. I am actually becoming excited again to be in this world, watching edits with some crazy sound track from Boris or Sunn O))) tunneling through my mind, or just watching cuts without the sound on. Reaching out for editing tools and techniques like Venetian Wipes and Split Screen effects that are not used much anymore in indie films, (and actually are sometimes laughed at, but who needs the opinion of snobs?). It's about embracing the unusual, not being scared to drift from the restrictions of plot and standard coverage.

Would I have been able to discover this had everything gone as planned two years ago? No. Not at all. Taking the time to sit with this little monster of a film and let it tell me what it wants, when I'm willing to listen, requires a skill most of us modern folk lack: patience. But giving art the time it needs to breathe, to move around inside our brains when we are sleeping or eating or petting the cat, is crucial.  I would love to become a Rainer Werner Fassbinder in many ways, with his crazy productivity, but I am slowly realizing that that is not to be. I have my own cycles, and while I never stop working (except for a Mad Men episode, or to go to any one of my various paying jobs), I have to let my work rest and be challenged. I am not happy with average work at whatever skill level I am at when I make it. The hard part is just accepting that films for me will take longer than I ever want them to, no matter how much I plan to embrace simplicity.  Sigh...if only life, with good health, lasted longer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday Reflections: The Cracked Veneer of Hard Work

So I've recently seen another birthday come and go, and as usually happens for me on birthdays, there is a lot of introspection and reflection on the past, and ultimately the future. I don't go out and get "hammered" as many of my colleagues do. I've never been a party girl, as the first few times I got wasted in my early twenties, the ensuing misery that resulted for a few days reminded me that putting large quantities of spirits into my body in one sitting is a really stupid idea. Now, so much the older and wiser, I just spread my red wine consumption over many evenings, usually with something delicious like cheese or samosas.

Anyhow, as I'm nearing the closing of another decade of life, I'd say these past 10 years have certainly shifted my view on what I feel to be deeply-ingrained American notions of success.  I think we all believe, to a degree, that hard work WILL bring success, and that we all deserve it.  And if we are NOT successful, (meaning, we aren't making a good living on what we do), then it's our fault for not working hard enough.  But I think this idea of hard work as the cure all is a very controlling one, with its roots in the Industrial Revolution, its ulterior motive to "rally up the labor force" so they can make the 1% even more wealthy by being more productive than your average world citizen. After all, your laborer will find little cause to work hard if you tell them the truth (it's to line your pockets), but if you somehow manage to convince them it's for their ultimate good and they will get ahead (all of it mostly bull poop), then, they'll probably buy into it.

Success, as we define it here in the US, is much more than hard work.  Talent? Yeah, kinda, but there are plenty of talented people I know that seem to never have their talents recognized, or turn a penny for them. I turned on the radio today to hear a short blurb about a poet (turned on the radio too late to have gotten his name) who worked for an insurance company for 35 years, but every morning would wake up at 4 a.m., make a pot of coffee, and write poetry, good poetry, for three hours before having to leave for work. Thirty five years!

More and more, having been making films now for nearly a decade, if you include my education, I feel that luck is everything. Being in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people, the economy is in good shape, being born a certain gender in the right country, etc. etc.. Every person who we would consider "successful" is where they are because of decisions that not only they made, but other people made as well, in addition to so many other factors of luck they had no control over.

But to bring it back down to size, luck means nothing if one cannot work hard to sustain it. Doors may open, but if one rests on ones laurels, that greenery is sure to rot. Talent sure helps the mix, but honestly, it's overrated. We can't control our luck, and we can only somewhat control who we know. Sucking up to those whom you think will open doors for you...well, I tend to think they can see right through that shit. It takes a rare bird to truly know how to make others work for them for their benefit (see above on "hard work.)

So, I guess for now, I'll stick with what I know I have going for me. Hard work. Luckily, it's work that I love doing. I look forward to few things in life more than editing my films, working with actors, writers, and creative minds, learning about the new tools I have to capture the stories I adore writing late at night with a few glasses of wine in me.  Although I admit sometimes I wish my boyfriend and I could take a vacation instead of spending our savings on films, and our vacation time shooting them. (Cue sad tiny violin.)

But then...what is "success" really?  Most equate it with money. It's sad, but I guess I do too. I see money from what I do as: Oh, cool, I can chase paychecks less often and spend more time on what I love doing. And having time for what matters is truly truly a gift. As I sit to write this, I'm flabbergasted that 4 hours have just gone while I was running errands and doing chores.  I don't see "success money" as a license for irresponsible spending, posh mansions or luxury cars. I quite like our tiny one bedroom apartment and do not mind using public transportation. 

Anyhow, we are close to finishing editing pre-viz edit of our third film we are calling "Curse of the Bambino" for now. I've also started developing a story based on a comet coming straight towards earth, or so some think. I'm looking at three different love stories around this scenario, with actual little focus on the chaotic aspect of this catastrophic event, and more about the relationships. I'm also revisiting an idea I started when I was 19 and living in NYC, a never-finished short story about a young girl living in remote New Mexico, trying to keep her life together after her mother dies and her rather evil brother comes to take what is his of the land. It's a very visual and dark story, and the more I get into it, the more I feel it should be in a novel format. I've stopped writing scripts that I can't afford to shoot. But this story needs the imaginative world of blizzards, miles of holes dug in the earth, a pet goat, cattle, old cars, and a decrepit trailer in the absolute backwoods of the deserts of New Mexico.

Lucy contributing her two cents (or paws?) to a story outline.

Birthdays. The best gift would be more time. I just want more time. But until I can get a time machine wrapped up in a bow, I'm quite happy with my boyfriend's gifts of my first Moebius and Jodorowsky collaboration, and a Criterion Collection of Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kids Books, Veggies, and Dumb Joggers

1. Children's Illustrations
2. Joggers; Why do I only see dumb ones?
3. Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

Victory! On Sunday, after five months of work, we wrap pre-viz shoot for the third feature, currently titled "Curse of the Bambino." Don't ask me what this film is about. I'm still figuring it out. But this is why we are shooting rehearsals, to develop the story. Let's just say I will never do another film without doing pre-viz this way.

But I have other things on my mind! Childrens' books. I adore them. Not so much for the stories, but for the illustrations. Not that the stories are bad, but of course, what grabs one's eye quicker than an amazing illustration? There was a brief time in my life when I would collect children's books, because I loved looking at the illustrations. I think they are a very under appreciated form of art, primarily because they are associated with kids and education and the "cool factor" doesn't extend into these worlds. Graphic novels for adults do some amazing things, but there is just something about what illustrators for children's books do that adult graphic novels only sometimes achieve. I think text can bog down the graphic novel, in ways that don't happen in children's books.

That being said, let me introduce a new illustrator I've recently learned about.

Meet Pim and Pom.

This is from Dutch artist, Fiep Westendorp, a very famous artist in her time, who died in 2004. There are plenty of animated videos of these cats online, but they first started to appear in Dutch newspapers in the 50s and 60s. They aren't well known in the states, unfortunately. I'll include another image to her other work because I think its fabulous.

I've found other amazing illustrators on places like, but I'll get to that another time.

Joggers. Umff. I don't understand why some of them run on sidewalks and asphalt. When I see them, (and most of them are college aged females in their early 20s, probably trying to lose weight and stop hating their bodies so much), I can hear their joints grinding themselves down into dust. When I lived in NYC when I was in my late teens and early 20s, I too used to wake up at the crack of dawn to jog in Washington Square Park (also just as image obsessed), and now, my knees hate me, my lower back hates me even more. And I attribute part of this early onslaught of joint problems to jogging on hard surfaces so often.  So,...JOGGERS!  You can get your cardio without killing your skeleton! Soft grass, sandy beaches, bicycles, rowing, not to mention the nice little machines at the gym. Save yourselves!

Any by the way, may I kindly request that you also quit being idiots and stop jogging in the bike lane against traffic!? It really sucks for us cyclists to have to move over into traffic we can't see to accommodate your sorry asses that feel you have the right of way in a BIKE LANE. Get on the damn sidewalks. That's what they are there for. 

I can't tell you how many joggers I've bitched at for this crap. And it really ruins my day. Dumb joggers.

On a more serious note, I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," a wonderful gift from Mom.  This work is about Kingsolver's family moving from their desert state, taking a year to alter their diets and lifestyles in a more earth-friendly way. This actually does not sum up the book very well, and sounds rather bland. But "earth-friendly" involves more than just buying organic, but also has a lot to do with "thinking seasonally" and locally.  We rarely think about the amount of gas involved to ship out-of-season produce and goods to us. My boyfriend today drank a "Thumbs-Up!" soda from India, and as I reluctantly placed the beautiful bottle of this soda into the recycle bin (I will not be a pack rat), I thought about how far that soda had come to get to us, how much gas had been used to deliver it to Austin. It made me feel pretty bad actually, especially as there are plenty of locally made delicious sodas here in Austin.  I'm only 70 pages into the book, and as a reader, Kingsolver is preaching to the choir as I firmly believe in organic and local produce. But her research and facts, the focus on the agendas of Big Agriculture, and the general American ignorance of seasons, nature, and what corporations want us to put in our bodies is both shocking and sad. This generation of children have a shorter life span than their parents, and this, according to her book, is the first time in history where life spans have retrograded. Why more people are not concerned about this, and worried about the future of our food, is perhaps even more shocking. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Your Electronic Skin

I don't spend a lot of time on Facebook despite all the "advice" from film promoter types out there who say constantly update every time you do something to your film.   There are fifty things I'd rather be doing than poking around on social media sites, one of them being...working on my films. I have very often contemplated deleting my FB page, but did not because it's really just an address book for me, a way to look up an old high school classmate, or college friend. But on the few times I have been forced, more or less, to spend time on Facebook hunting for some information, I become quickly surprised about what people will reveal on their pages. Things I would never ever tell even my sister when we've been sitting around on a porch drinking wine for hours. It would seem some people care nothing about privacy. This brought me to thinking about the nature of blogging, and how much of it should really be about personal journaling. 

I have boxes of journals in my closet, journals I started writing around the age of 9, where I called my little sister dumb and wrote short stories about my parakeets. I journaled like a mad fiend when I hit the age of 18 and moved to New York City for school. It think the inherent loneliness of that city at such a fresh age forced me to find company in the pages of cheap spiral bound notebooks and cigarettes.

Lately, I haven't been journaling much at all these past few years, and (don't smoke anymore either I might add) and I really must force myself to even blog.  But as much as I might have revealed about myself in the privacy of ink and paper, I would never reveal the details of any of this on Facebook. Blogging can be personal, but I think one has to draw the line. Honesty is safe in certain areas, in your prose, in your films, the the art you CREATE through your characters, but not in the posts you write about yourself and those you know. I can only see it as the cries for people who are truly not content in their own skins, and are dying for some attention.

People's personalities change quite often when they are "behind" the wall of internet, such as when they are on forums, which I've been learning more about lately to my chagrin. Here the forum members can insult others, rip apart someone's ideas, creations, theories, etc., without having any credentials to do so. They act like assholes because in their opinion, it's not only acceptable, but cool. And just because a forum might have moderators, who in theory should be guiding conversations with democratic principles, these people too are not free from sinking to the lowest levels of idiocy and acting like fascists. When you don't have to put your name on what you say, and no one can identify you, you aren't accountable for the crap that comes out of your keyboard. I wonder how things would change if they were forced to sign their real names on what they wrote, or say the things they say on the forums in a public space. Hmm.  Something tells me it would be a different story entirely.

My partner plays a lot of video games and he tells me about the stuff people tell each other when playing with others in the online gaming community.  Blatant sexual crap to women gamers, machismo insults, etc. I just wonder why people suddenly have to act like morons when they get online. Why does it bring out the dumb in some people? Perhaps it's just an indicator of some truth to their true natures. But the nicer side of me wonders if it goes a bit deeper than that, such as, an outplaying of their own sense of place in society, or a frustration against that reality. Such as, a young man working for crap wages for an ass of a manager at some smelly fast food chain. When he gets home and turns on Black Ops, maybe this is where his somewhat unconscious understanding of the situation in which he lives comes out in the form of insults to others in his online community. I mean, it's safe to let it out here, to call people names. No one will beat you up, and you can just leave the game and grab a burger when it's over. And I think that is really what it's all about: hiding what you really are. When you're online, no one will beat you up, know what you look like, or hear how you speak or dress. It's the great equalizer. It's just a shame that it levels people out to the lowest common denominator.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Films as children, and...wind!

1. Films as children
2. Onward ho
3. Riding my bike in the wind

I think I am going to try to blog a bit more, like every two weeks or so. Not that it really matters. I mean, if I had to sum up social media, Twitter, Facebook, all that...basically, everybody's talking and nobody's listening. So does what I have to say in a blog really matter? No. Except maybe I can share some wisdom about whatever I am going through as both a person and a filmmaker. So without much further ado...

1. Films as kids. Yep. Number one is out in the world. "In the Shadow" was released by my producing partner (Jorge Sermini) and I on Distrify. Without a P&A budget, spreading the word is done by two people, in effort to let a small part of the world know the film exists. Facebook, Twitter, the local video store and me contacting reviewers personally to ask for a review.  It's the least fun part of filmmaking, and often the most overlooked by truly indie non-studio filmmakers. We've cared probably too much about this film, having worked on it for the majority of our filmmaking efforts these past five years.  Caring too much about your creative output has its dangers. It's like parents believing blindly that their first born can do no wrong and is the most intelligent creature the world has ever seen. Well, little do they know most everybody does NOT see the child like that. It's been a rough ride of some success and a lot of rejection with this film. It's a good movie, don't get me wrong, and gorgeous. I would suggest you check it out (yes, I'm self-promoting). I won't tell how much was spent on it, or how much money my producer and I would make if we were paid even just $12 an hour.  It would boggle the mind.

I would do so much differently, and I am in a different mental space creatively than I was five years ago (thank to the gods). My point is, I have a different and more distanced attitude to the reality of life for my future films, and expect less of them than I did the first. Which means, they have less pressure to conform into a destiny that is not theirs. It doesn't mean I won't bust ass and work as hard as I can on these future films, but I am more willing to accept their paths, no matter what they might be.
Which brings me to...

2. Onward. Future films. They are actually already here. We have gotten to a near fine cut with the second feature, "What's the Use?" but after screening it to several different people and talking to Jorge and the writer, Jason Tremblay, I started getting a sense that the film was good, but not great.  So, while I was about to announce to our colleagues and friends that we were at picture lock, proceed with the film score (and break out champagne), I had to sit down and take a hard look at the film. I thought about it A LOT. Had lucid dreams about it. Jorge and I printed out about 130 stills from the film representing key moments, and posted them on our wall to give us a big picture view, and allow us to shuffle things around, and add things (new scenes are the white papers).

We started to explore how to deepen this dark comedy about a teenage girl on a manhunt. It has so far involved a lot of creative stretching, and rethinking how narrative is presented in film, and realizing we had only tapped the potential for this project. My return to school to study motion graphics has helped change my thinking about the visual nature of narrative film, and really pushed me cinematically. We are infusing so many different visual elements and animation now that this film should be something of a crazy ride, in a style our composer, Arles Estes, has called,  "Gonzo Filmmaking."

And we are also rehearsing for the third feature and have been rehearsing since December. This is an unnamed piece by Jason Tremblay.  Having learned from the last film I mention above about the hazards of just jumping into your filming (we had 5 weeks of preproduction and story development), we have decided to go the opposite with this one. With our lead actors (Michael Joplin, Michelle Keffer, Gricelda Silva, and Noel Gaulin) we have been filming rehearsals, and Jorge has been editing them. I have been story boarding (and I hate storyboarding. See my crappy storyboards below. I chose the worst ones.)

So, very soon, we will have a "pre-viz" (pre - visualization) edit of the film, mixing storyboards and live action together. Lots of films do this, usually the bigger budget films that can pay to have their actors for months of rehearsal. I've done this for scenes, but not the entire film. However, I'm already seeing the awesome benefit of this. On good rehearsals, I get tons of ideas about coverage, and how to push the scene. We will get to see the possible story problems now and fix them before shooting.  Where I was very scared back in December about not knowing my tone or how to make this story more than a geek culture dark comedy, I am now in March getting a firm grasp on my tone, seeing the visual style I want, and discovering areas that can be pushed further. I am seeing how to make this film deeper and more meaningful, and full of nuances.

I don't think a lot of mico-budget directors will do pre-viz like this. Seems like most people I know jump right into filming. I can understand the impatience. Films take sooo long to get together. "In the Shadow" took five years from inception to release to the public. But although I am getting older and definitely deal with the impatient impulse to keep cranking out work (I have a file cabinet with four drawers stuffed full with creative writing, from poems to prose, from stage plays to screen plays), there can be no harm in spending focused time on your film projects, and really letting them work themselves over in your brain, before committing them to 1s and 0s on harddrives, or, if you are lucky, celluloid.

3. Wind. I hate it. I used to keep a log of how many times, when riding my bike, I would be facing the wind. One would think that if one faces it going in one direction, one would NOT be facing it heading back in the opposite direction and life on earth would balance out. Well, not Austin wind. It hates me as much as I hate it. It likes to make my bike rides more difficult and blow right up in my face no matter what direction I am going. I rarely get a nice backwind caressing my bike along effortlessly until I reach my destination. Ungh. I curse you, wind.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Indie Films: Saying Nothing at All

I am honestly not that excited about most films this country releases. I rarely go to the theaters anymore. I speak not only for the tent pole huge budget films, but also for most "indie" fare too. I just find the majority of North American indie directors to be infatuated with their own "Geek Culture," creating films about disenchanted 20-30 something Caucasians who might seem kinda hip in some aspects of their lives, but are otherwise not much more concerned about the opposite sex and their friends. There is something horribly high school about the majority of North American indie films that says a lot about what kind of life young Americans are experiencing.

Now, this isn't every filmmaker out there. There are always numerous exceptions. And I only really speak about narrative films, not documentaries.  But I find such a lack of perspective on the world, especially this country, on what is going on beneath the shiny surface of things.

I honestly think they are not to blame...well, not entirely. We shield so much from young people in this culture: death, war, corporate greed. I remember when there would be televised memorials for dead soldiers returning home from wars. No longer. News never show photos of the attrocity of war. The "collateral damage." Everything is rather clean and selective when it comes to war. Do we see the faces of those who have died, on all sides? Or do we only hear lives summed up in numbers?

Corporations hide their true psychopathic business practices by making their employees believe they are hip and cool by holding "Casual Fridays," "Weird Wednesdays"; or making rallies where the corporation has hired out some entertainment group to make a show telling everyone what a good job they are doing while handing out a few 75 dollar checks. This never changes the fact that to a corporation, the dollar is more important than a human life, and all of those people cheering at this "employee pep rally" could be without a job tomorrow.

The result: young people with no real sense of the rest of the world, and while they might have a slight sense of disenchantment, it's only a buzz, and easily forgettable with our various social media distractions.  I would love to see indie filmmakers start digging beneath the surface of things, stepping outside of their familiar comfort zones, because there is so much we can talk about in our narrative films. A film can be both entertaining and have some sort of perspective on society.

Please. Lets slow down the amount of shallow comedies about geeks. Push it a bit. What lies beneath and beyond? Can our "minority" cultures pick up a camera and make a film? What about our immigrant populations? How many rich stories can they contribute to the "indie" scene? Feminism is dead in the US, but women are still paid less, and still bombarded with the same bullshit beauty myth message daily.

For a culture so fascinated with youth, we don't have much to say in the films we create.