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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.