Friday, November 21, 2008

The 27 Club? More like the snoresville club.

I can’t remember if we were supposed to write one or two blogs on cucalorus, or just talk about two films. Since I already discussed two in the last blog, I’ll just talk about one more. Sound good? That’s what I thought. Anyways, after seeing two films on friday, I decided to see a third one that night because people just wouldn’t shut up about it. Starting a few weeks before cucalorus up until friday night, the buzz on The 27 Club was noteworthy. I decided to get a ticket, and started to get really pumped on the idea of the film. I had been really sick (bedridden sick) on wednesday and thursday, so after that I kind of loaded up on films for the rest of the festival. So I get my ticket, convince about five other people (all but one who were not film majors) to attend this movie and delay any plans of going out until 11:30 when the film was over. I said, oh I think it’ll be great, I explained how stoked everyone is on Erica Dunton, how the film has been well-received thus far, so I wanted to check out her work. Well let me tell you, I was sorely disappointed.

         I mean, the film was okay, but was nothing to anticipate. I thought the story line was contrived, and flatlined for most of the film. Sure it had its moments, like the story line between the rock star’s driver and the runaway girl, which was cute and fun, but had no real ending. As for the main plot line of the film, I get what she was trying to do, but I think it was a bust. There wasn't even any talk of the 27 club so I thought that was an upsetting title, and I think she just used it to get people into seats. The rock star barely had any dialogue the entire film, didn’t open up to anybody or show any major step towards recovery until the last 10 min of the film when he met some homeless guy and suddenly changed. He explained at that time that he had all these drugs, but hadn’t taken anything for the five days he went on this trip. However, the entire film, there were shots of him sitting in his hotel room staring at the drugs and picking up bottle of pills and coke and what not. The way they shot it made me and everyone else I talked to think he was doing the drugs the whole time, but apparently we find out in the end that he didn’t do anything. He also seemed strung out the entire time, but I guess it was supposed to be him going through withdrawal. I felt like everything to do with the film was like that. It made sense in the end, when it should have been shot differently to show it earlier in the film. There was also no real ending. It was every abrupt and lacked any sort of satisfying conclusion. The guy sings with a choir, goes to his best friend’s funeral (which they don’t show hardly any footage and no dialogue if I recall correctly), flies the choir somewhere (I guess the funeral to sing, but I they were already in new york where I thought his funeral was so I don’t know where they were supposed to be flying to), and that was it. Fin. I just think it was a bit amateur as far as filmmaking goes, and had I been making the movie, I would not have released it the way it was.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Looked for Ms. Locklear and found an awesome movie

By far one of my favorite screenings at Cucalorus, Looking for Ms. Locklear had all of the elements of a fun, light-hearted movie anyone could hope for. The film was about these two filmmakers, Rhett and Link, who met in the first grade. They've been best friends ever since the first day of class when they got in trouble, and Ms. Locklear made them stay in from recess. Rather than looking her up with the internet, the pair chose to make a documentary about finding her using face to face contact only. They start at their old elementary school and use word of mouth to figure out their next step until they eventually find Ms. Locklear. I thought the concept for the film was genius, and as for the content, you couldn't write this stuff. 

         There was one guy in the film who was unbelievable, and I loved loved loved the way in which Rhett and Link edited his footage. This guy, I think his name was Clayton, lives in whatever county in North Carolina that Pembroke can be found. During the Q&A session, the two filmmakers explained that everyone they talked to in the county tried to send them his way, so eventually they went knocking on his door. He had a thick country accent and ridiculous facial expression, not to mention some awesome barefoot tap-dancing moves. At one point he mentions that his dog had a litter of ten puppies, so they should hop in the truck, drive around giving the puppies to people and asking if anyone knows a Ms. Locklear. I mean, you really couldn’t write a character like him, and the way they presented him in the film was outstanding. One minute, he’s saying something ridiculous while the audience laughs at his expense, and then the next Clayton surprises you by saying something so personal and honest, leaving you with this beautiful, heartfelt sentiment. I really felt like the film went beyond the humorous and immersed the audience into a these people’s lives, making you care about them and their stories on a much deeper level.

         This documentary was a complete and utter 180 from the one I watched about two hours before on Friday. I went to see Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which was about the women of Liberia banding together to stop the civil war in their country. As you can guess, the mood of the film was not exactly light, and put me in kind of a strange place afterwards. I definitely got a big dose of reality, realizing just how minuscule my problems are on the grand scale, so being able to watch a film like Looking for Ms. Locklear, was a great turnaround for the day. 

         Pray the Devil Back to Hell was truly an inspiring film, though. It’s a documentary about Christian and Muslim women living in Liberia during their last civil war. They band together to force both the current government and the rebels to attend the international peace talks held by the UN. The film follows the women through years of struggle, showing footage of child soldiers, the women’s meetings, the peace talks, etc. I thought it was so interesting how a lot of the older footage (clearly before the filming of the documentary had begun), was visibly shot with a consumer grade camera, keeping its authenticity. Otherwise I probably would have been wondering what was captured in the moment and what was re-shot as a dramatization.

The testimonials of the women leading the movement were also unforgettable. Their stories had such heartache and they lived in such unbelievable terror from both the rebels and the government that it made their victory that much sweeter in the end for themselves and the audience. I didn’t know anything about this film beside the blurb on cucalorus’ website, so for me it was amazing to walk into a film with no expectations, and walk out with a new sense of determination. These women had no power other than the will to change, and they did what no one else had succeeded in before them. Leaders from around the world couldn’t bring these two groups together, and the rebels and the government didn’t care about the people, they just wanted money and power. Without these women, I don’t know if anything would have changed very much in the past few years. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Yes Men

Watching The Yes Men yesterday was a great way to spend my afternoon. I can’t believe they get away with doing what they do. Impersonating international powerhouses like the Bush administration and the World Trade Organization seems completely illegal, but I’m really glad they found a loophole in the system. It’s both funny and disturbing to see these guys on the news with their messages like the WTO dismantling, being taken seriously. I have to wonder what the people that actually run and represent that organization think when they’re watching this news unfold. After seeing the film, I have to question whether or not representatives of the WTO even questioned the decision, or did they just assume they missed the memo?

            One of my favorite aspects of the film is the fact that the “yes men” get invited to legitimate conferences and events by people who are either too lazy to do proper research or really just don’t give a damn or even notice that these people are not who they think they are. I feel like I could just go out and pretend to be part of a global organization and no one would question me, except for, well, the fact that I’m way to young to actually have an position other than intern in the UN or WTO or what have you. It’s so funny watching these guys get ready to go to these conferences as they go shopping at the thrift store for suits and shoes and buzzing their hair as they’re finishing up speeches. It’s all so ridiculous and I think that’s what they’re trying to make themselves. They work so hard to present these absurd plans of action for businesses around the globe, yet people look at them as though they make perfect sense. Why shouldn’t we use a giant phallus to watch our workers (modern-day slaves) and keep them on track? Why shouldn’t we ruin other people’s lives in order to increase our company’s profits? It truly scares me that the people in the audience didn’t even ask them a single question or bother to point out the lack of morality in the speaker. I mean, come on, how aweful do they have to make their ideas to get any sort of reaction out of these business leaders. It makes me sick to think about it, because I feel like if these people have no heart or maybe they’re just apathetic (either way), the world is in need of some major reform. We’ve known this for a while, but this video was the first time I had personally witnessed how such horrible policies can be approved. People are apathetic to point that it’s going to ruin us all.

            As for the making of the film, I have a lot of respect for this little band of renegades. They put a great deal of effort into their work, and really seem like they want to make a difference in the world. It’s a shame that they haven’t been able to give a wake up call to the ones who make the decisions, but as a person on the other end of the spectrum, I find the yes men’s work very inspiring. Watching them reminds me of one of the more important reasons I wanted to become a filmmaker, and that is to inspire people and promote change, which you can’t do without taking risks and stretching the limits.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On the Rights of the Molotov Man/ The Ecstasy of Influence

            There’s so much to write about for this week so I guess I’ll start with the one-shot. Even though it was raining this Saturday I think the shoot was extremely successful. Everyone’s films turned out great, and because of the rain, we had to be more creative with our filming. In fact, I really don’t think our group would have used any umbrellas had there not been rain, which ended up being a large part of our film. Everyone seemed stoked to be there and ready to help out, so things went a lot faster and smoother than things could have gone.

            As for The Rights on the Molotov Man, it’s hard to choose any one side on the matter. I feel for Susan, who took the photograph herself. She made the effort, went to Nicaragua, put herself in danger, and she deserves to be compensated for her work. Yes, I understand Joy’s query: “Does the author of a documentary photograph—a document whose mission is, in part, to provide the public with a record of events of social and historical value—have the right to control the content of this document for all time?” But a photograph is a photograph and a photographer is a photographer and whether it is a guerilla fighter in South America or a child walking down a street in Oklahoma, that photographer still took that picture and it is their art. That photograph is Susan’s art and she has rights over it’s content. On the other hand, Joy’s painting falls under a sort of “found footage” category. The picture was altered and on the Internet as part of a public domain. In a sense, by releasing the photograph to be altered, I really don’t see how she has any major rights over what happens to it. BUT what if the photograph was an old book? Say Joy comes across its manuscript online, reads it, and bases a screenplay off of it. Susan would have every right to sue, demand royalties, creative control, etc. I realize the question posed is whether or not a person or group of people have the right to control the Molotov man’s struggle, but I think this is a much simpler idea than that. Susan owns the rights to the photograph and how it is used in that context, but Joy isn’t using Susan’s photograph in her art show, she’s presenting a painting depicting a man with a struggle, not a particular person in a specific setting. He was taken out of the original context and put into a new one, creating a new atmosphere with new ideas and representations.

            I thought The Ecstasy of Influence was interesting as well. It’s outstanding the amount of “plagiarism” that is out there. I can’t say I was that surprised to hear that Bob Dylan borrowed from an array of writers before his time. I liked the quote, “Dylan’s art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture.” Lethem goes on to describe that some of Dylan’s lyrics came from poetry written by Henry Timrod during the Civil War. I feel that although this might technically be considered plagiarism, that poetry was written so long ago that I have to pose the question, is Timrod’s claim on it even valid any longer? I also thought Lethem had a good point in comparing his written work, which he can sell to pay his rent, but at the same time can voice the same knowledge and because it’s on the radio or just simply out into the air, it’s free. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Rough Theater

I have to say, I’m a huge fan of the rough theater. So much so that I’m kind of hoping it rains on Saturday just because I think it will make our one-shots that much more interesting. Come to think of it I’ve never actually shot in the rain. As filmmakers, we’re taught that rain is bad, it will ruin your equipment, get on the lens, etc. etc. etc. When I really think about it though, some of my favorite scenes in films, visually at least, occur in the rain. I’m completely digressing though so back to the point of this blog.
My experiences with the rough theater have been in the plenty when I really think about it. I guess one kind of rough theater would be a lot of the shows that I’ve been to. I think most of the great memories I have of seeing bands play don’t include me going to shows in any large auditorium or amphitheater. True, I love going to see Tom Petty and witnessing the 60 year old couple next to me light up a joint, but for the most part music in the rough is usually a lot more rewarding to see. I grew up in the suburbs right outside of Pittsburgh, PA. There’s a really big punk and hardcore scene there, so I definitely had my share of basement shows. Gritty basements with no windows, no ceiling tiles, paint and markings on the cement walls, cement floors and people from wall to wall. That kind of venue it perfect for hardcore though. Its music built out of angst and passion and doesn’t require any special lights or pyrotechnics. It also doesn’t separate people into categories of musician and fan. I spent most of those shows with my friends jamming out in the crowd, then they would hop on “stage,” which was actually just a corner of the room where their equipment was set up, and their band would play the next set.
I also perform a bit of rough theater myself at the ripe age of five. My parents were really big on home movies, and I mean like practically left the camera running all the time. So by the time my sister and I could hold the camera up, we decided to make our own television shows. My sister was two years older and the boss of me for most of my childhood, so I quickly became the star of “Cooking With Katheryn.” We took plastic food from our playhouse and set up shop to make one utterly ridiculous cooking show. I improvised most of it, substituting plastic apples for tomatoes (they’re both red, I thought it worked) and my sister’s toy chest for a kitchen counter (did I mention how short I was as a child?). We even made commercials too, which were some of the best moments. Since we didn’t know how to edit, and could barely work the camera, there were quit a few times you got to see behind the scenes footage. I can remember one part my sister visibly hands the camera off to me, positions herself in front of the camera, improvises a furniture commercial by referencing the stuff in her bedroom, and freezes at the end waiting for me to cut the camera off. The problem was I was only five and had no idea how to actually work the camera, or that my sister freezing meant “cut,” so you can see her eyes get really wide, trying to signal to me, then she explodes and comes stomping over to the camera to come turn it off, yelling at the all the while. It was absurd, but we had so much fun watching it and then screening it for everyone that came over.
I feel like there’s endless examples of theater in the rough, just like the ones I mentioned, and I think it makes being a filmmaker just that much more interesting because of the variety available to us.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Well's response

After reading the essay by Wells I find myself aligning with experimental animation over what he refers to as “orthodox” animation. This isn’t surprising though, given that I am in an experimental film class and that Wells is extremely bias on the subject. I think it also has a lot to do with the fact that I am much more of an abstract thinker, geared towards a creative, artistic mindset. So of course I’m going to favor a kind of animation where a “presence of the artist” is a key factor. Also, I really like that experimental animation redefines aspects of orthodox storytelling and focuses on things like rhythm and movement, not just in a character, but as their own entities. 

Thereare a lot of other points I agree with, but for me reading this, I feel like

it’s stuff I already know and have drilled into my brain pretty well. Yes, experimental film is different from mainstream, narrative filmmaking. This just talked about it in terms of animation. Don’t get me wrong, I found the article interesting and enjoyable to read. I especially found inspiration in the quotes by Leopold Survage and William Moritz. I have an equal passion for both painting and filmmaking, which Survage considers to go hand in hand. I too could probably spend my days painting on film, making moving art filled with rhythm and movement. Corny I know, but it’s true and I’m feeling in a cornball today. I also this Moritz’s words are sentiments that should not be forgotten. If you’re going to make an experimental film then great, but don’t forget to give it some depth along the way. Otherwise, its just another amateur mess that people either derive a single meaning out of or don’t get at all. 

One thing I always notice when someone writes about commercialism and mass

production, it always seems that the mass produced art is barely even

recognized as art. It has no passion, no depth, no originality. Wells even goes so far as to say that it lacks a presence of the artist. How can you have art without an artist?  Now while I do tend to agree with this theory for the most part, I feel like there must be some legitimate art that is thrown to the masses and widely accepted. It just has to be out there somewhere getting looked over because everyone likes it and the artist is making lots of money off of it. I do wish it could be different, that the praise would go to the authentic work rather than the most commercial, but thus is life and I guess then all those hipsters who only like things that no one else has ever heard of would have to like some really crappy stuff.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

a vacation from the norm

Going in to 6x1 I knew we were going to be learning about scratching and painting on film, but other than that, I didn’t really know much past that. I had no idea just how hands on things would be every single class. When I sit back and think about everything we’ve done with film, it’s a little daunting to think about how much I still don’t know about experimental film. We’ve already learned about painting, scratching and drawing on film. Then there are magazine transfers, stop animation, rayograms and bleaching and we’re only a few weeks into the semester.

         I’m completely digging getting into things and using my own two hands to make a film. I think it’s almost more rewarding in a sense than making any other kind of film because of how personal the process is. Normally I would spend all kinds of time and money storyboarding, finding locations for shoots, and looking for actors and so on and so forth. Then, there’s the time shooting, usually with a lot of hoping and praying that I’ve got all the coverage I need and that it looks as good as I envisioned it. Everything is done with a machine as well. I’m using all different kinds of equipment and computer programs to make my film, but what we’ve been doing is so different from that. Taking a strip of film and painting on it is something I can do with my own two hands. The whole experience is very organic and raw. I can do anything I want with it and I only need filmstrip, paint and me. I think I can compare it best to drawing a simple picture in my sketchbook and creating a picture in Photoshop. Sure, I can do amazing things on the computer, but compare it to a hand-drawn portrait. Anything I do with a click of my mouse is never ever going to have the look I can achieve with a pencil and piece of paper. The texture, the details, the imperfections, they’re what makes that not-so-perfect drawing so valuable. It’s one of a kind, and I think I’ll always have a greater appreciation for that.

         Another process I really enjoy is the magazine transfer. It’s amazing to see the amount of material available in a single magazine or newspaper. I could make a feature length film with one issue of national geographic. The best part is, everything looks good with them. I feel like no matter what kind of texture the fibers of the paper have or colors or prints or whatever it’s really cool and exciting to see it up on screen. It’s like using found footage. You take this mainstream, bland product and recycle it into something unique and innovative. I also love that I can do this at home. My bedroom might look like a daycare on crack afterwards, but what fun is it if you can’t get down and dirty a little? Anyways, I’m loving this class and I can’t wait to test my hand at this whole animation business coming up.