On the 3d Shoot

I must confess, the 3d shoot was one of the assignments I was least looking forward to. Not that it would be tedious by any means, but I struggled to find the immediate use that that experience would have on my further film education. Having now completed it with limited success, I believe the primary good it had was to never allow myself to think something is out of reach.

I came to class with my obligatory assortment of random clothing to be used to jump start any story ideas we might have. Even less than other projects, this particular shoot was not looking for an in depth story. In fact, anything more than a few people walking across the screen would distract from the fact that it would (at least hopefully) look 3d. Our group naturally selected a scene that involved prostituting a cross dressing hooker.

After setting up our two cameras (right and left eye) we slated (to be able to sync the tracks in post) and went through our scene. The only difficult aspect of the shoot was trying to stay within the sight of the camera, and making sure we were using plenty of the depth in staging to emphasize the 3d aspect.

The post-production side of things was almost as simple. After importing both tapes into After Effects and syncing them up, our group just put a filter on the top layer. Sit back, get your retro glasses, and enjoy.

Having completed the project with a some success I'm forced to wonder if future 6x1 projects should revisit other retro theater conventions. Is Smell-O-Vision a possibility for next year?...

On 6x1 II

Overall, 6x1 has certainly been one of the most prolific film classes I have taken; and probably the most in this department. The amount of work seems smaller than many classes however because it is spread out from the very first day of class. Working largely in the realm of experimental allows for different films to be created in completely different manners.

What it lacks in lecture time is gained from personal exploration, a facet that would be slightly more difficult to continue in a more advanced course. However, I don't believe simply lecturing further on different experimental techniques would foster the kind of creativity a more advance course would no doubt require. Rather than blog about different articles the students could perhaps be required to do a few in depth studies of particular experimental films they found inspiring. This could lead to their own personal exploration of technique and style, tailored to their own tastes rather than the assumption of a professor.

More student-chosen assignments would be an apt change for a higher level class. All the students could be given broader themes or emotions to display, and allowed to choose their own methods of displaying such requirements. This could allow each student the opportunity to progress further into cameraless filmmaking, intensive found footage editing, or other means of filmmaking.

Although most of my fellow students would probably disagree with me, I thoroughly enjoyed the readings and would be glad, and expect, to see more readings with more in depth topics. If time permitted in class, discussions could be held on the views of the authors and how they might be used to assist the creations of the students.

I believe 6x1 II would be an excellent idea for UNC-W to add, helping not only the students to find their own niche in filmmaking, but adding helping put UNC-W on the map for an innovative curriculum.

p.s. one phrase: Smell-O-Vision

On Cucalorus (2)

Having been familiar with 'Rhett and Link's' website and some of their work I was shocked to hear they were in town showcasing their new documentary. YouTube mini celebrities at Cucalorus? Since when does Cucalorus care about the winners of the SuperNote challenge or music videos about Facebook?

I was pleasantly surprised to witness a wonderful documentary about childhood and curiosity. Obviously not extremely well funded, the documentary's only weak point was its production value. They even admit this, with their own humorous spin when they show an interview whose audio was entirely corrupted by faulty use of a microphone. After narrating essentially what the man had said, they continued their quest to find the grade-school teacher that introduced them.

Indeed, what carries the film isn't even really the quest itself, its the characters in which it entails. Primarily Rhett and Link themselves. They both have extensive experience in 2-5 minute shorts and musical numbers, but after spending over an hour with them they proved their jokes and performance could hold up for a more ambitious project.

This was comforting because as I watched it I was standing right behind both them and their families. Certainly my most interesting theater experience as I watched them laugh at the jokes that were to come, survey the audience for flat spots in the film, or groan at different areas they wished had turned out better.

The ending, like the entire film, was tidy and happy. Ms. Locklear turned out to be not only quite photogenic, but a perfect character for the documentary. She happily allowed them to interview her and follow her around a typical day. A factor I know at least I was quite worried about. The problem with a documentary of that kind is the threat of succeed only to discover that your goal didn't end up making for a good film. In the case of "Searching for Ms. Locklear', this was certainly not the case.

On Cucalorus (1)

My first experience with Cucalorus was a long line for the student screening and an anti-climactic rejection. I had already seen a fair number of the films that were to be screening in the student festival so I counted it as only a minor loss.

Learning from my previous mistake I found my way downtown and parked myself in the black box at Thalian and waited. The Cinderella Shorts were thirty minutes from starting and by the looks of it only a few elderly couples were to be my companions. Much to my chagrin the crowd did fill out but only a few minutes before the show began.

Overall the short films were an excellent batch. Each inspired me in their own rite. A few, for the reminder that as long as you put together some effort to actually create something, someone will appreciate it. Too often I think writers don't allow themselves to write imperfect scripts or stories. Obviously there are benefits to a perfectionist mindset, but if it comes at the cost of having no self confidence, then that person is simply a perfectionist, and never a writer.

That said, I felt like many of the shorts had some weak points in dialogue or plot points. I realize no piece of work will be perfect, and I will always be overly critical of my own work, but the important thing is to at least have created something.

A few of the shorts inspired me in a completely different way. They reminded me of the power of good writing. What a few lines of dialogue and the actions of characters we've only known a few minutes, can do to an audience. This power is both fascinating and dangerous. Fascinating because no audience member will leave the theater the same, and dangerous because it can happen without the realization of anyone present.

The last film, "Glory at Sea" was insane. Extremely poetic, almost nonsensical throughout. the production value was obviously generations beyond any of the other films. What inspired me the most however was the music. It was almost overly sentimental, swelling on cue with the action, and romantically composed with an orchestral feeling. It broke from action with sudden cuts that reminded the audience where they were. Refusing to follow narrative norms and attempt to suspend the audience's perception of time and place, the musical interruptions both annoyed and fascinated me.

On 48 hour Video Race

I've always thought a 48 hour film festival would be extremely fun to participate in. For a class to be doing it sounded very little like a school assignment, however naturally 6x1 would have to change perspective a bit on something normal. This change didn't make the assignment any more like school, just forces the 'student' to think outside of the box.

No device who's primary use is motion capture. My initial reaction was probably the same as the rest of the class. Everyone always says the fact that in 90% of American's pockets lies a camera has changed culture and everything about it. The YouTube generation can be found guilty of almost anything in low-res and viewed for free. Having spent three years in film school makes one more than a little hesitant to even watch something of such poor resolution.

My second thought on capture was the webcam on my laptop. Certainly a higher-resolution, with the added bonus of automatic transfer onto my hard drive. Still seeking for a high-res solution, I thought of my digital camera. I experimenting with taking a series of stills, but after messing with the settings could still only get 3 or 4 pictures before the camera had to compute everything. Certainly an option, but perhaps not on the scale I had hoped.

I came back to the cellphone, imagining the possibilities that are offered at the cost of clarity. The relative weightlessness of it allows for some acrobatics that would be dangerous or impossible with a more standard camera. I've always loved the opening shot of 'Touch of Evil' when the camera cranes through entire sections of town and finds its way to the main character. A rig like that would be easily achievable with a camera-phone, and something I hope to accomplish.

On Yes Men

The 'Yes Men' film was an interesting film to watch in a class room environment.

A rags to riches story for any aspiring student of theater, or anyone simply looking for fame. But [find the names online] aren't in it for the fame. At first glance, making a documentary about yourself (an 'auto-documentary'?) can seem pretentious, but the two don't seem to be wanting their faces plastered on the news. Indeed, doing so would be detrimental to their deeper goal. Social change.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the film, to me, was the origin of the [find names online] From buying hundreds of GI Joes and Barbies simply to return them to the store with traded voiceboxes, to hacking into SimCity's code to give players a few surprises. When the two met and start working together their high profile pranks take a turn. To watch as two pranksters become movie stars with a message makes for a fascinating documentary.

I was continually reminded of the NY based group 'ImprovEverywhere'. They both attempt to use a sort of urban theater to progress their agenda. In the case of 'ImprovEverywhere' that goal is simply to wake people up from their routine patterns and find entertainment in the typical. While the 'Yes Men' certainly succeed in changing people's days, the change is viewpoints and perspectives.

One of the best Improv Everywhere urban sketches:

On Molotov Man

This article fascinated me in the way in which my mindset was changed entirely while reading. Initially I supported the artist in allowing him to create his own rendering of the photograph. A stance I'm sure most people (other than lawyers maybe) would naturally take. Garnett's respectful treatment of the situation solidified my opinion even more. As the concept of 'owning' art becomes more and more developed the trend towards freedom seems to be natural. Technologies allow for copies of music, video, art, ideas, almost anything, to be transferred for free. Of course, those creating these things almost always need to eat and pay rent, and as they would like to be able to concentrate on their particular expertise, the ideal world is one that pays them to do just that. The flip side is that in order for many good artwork to even exist, the artist does need to be able to be full time. No where is this more of an issue than in the film world. If billions weren't spent on consuming movies, the only way we would have any films would be in extremely small circuits, void of any of the benefits expensive technologies and great actors.

After reading the photographer's section of that article I was fascinated at the way in which my perspective entirely changed. To have recontextualized this man's struggle, albeit innocently, had the effect of almost mocking the things that he stood for. I think the ultimate lesson is to realize that there will always be consequences for taking things and placing them in new contexts. More often than not it will not take on as much importance as 'Molotov Man', but the fact remains that everything changes for any piece of artwork when it's context is changed. The photographer says it much better in a quote that I believe sums up the article and my thoughts afterwards.

"Technology allows us to do many things, but that does not mean we must do them. Indeed, it seems to me that if history is working against context, then we, must, as artists, work all the harder to reclaim that context."

Two other little snip-bits I thought too good to ignore:
"The process of framing an object in a lens was often enough to create the change they sought."
"...hidden details of familiar objects..."