Friday April 20, 2012

Three's a crowd.

Quite a lot has happened in a short time and it would have suited different posts and cliffhangers but I'll have to just recap.

Jackie, our producer had advertised on a talent website Starnow for actors for the film. We were quite surprised at the responses we got really, we thought we'd be scraping. We had favourites early on but would audition everyone we could. Only two people answered the ad for the female lead, one dazzled us right from the start so we kind of knew we'd probably go for her. We wanted to audition the other person as well but it became difficult scheduling a time and we had discussions on how best to handle it because we probably wouldn't use her anyway. But this is getting ahead already.

We arranged to met up early in the week (Monday) to visit some locations and shoot them. I felt a little left out of some things and not entirely sure of some of the shot planning. Especially not a good thing to feel when you are cinematographer. Jackie recognised this and asked me if I was okay and just that recognition and concern perked me up a bit really. I decided I had to just plan the shots on a storyboard when I got home. After the day was over we discussed got coffee and discussed aspects of the film and I put forward my idea that the film not start in the first scene but have an actual opening shot with titles looking at a dresser with photos and memorabilia establishing the story (the dresser itself plays a role in the film later on). Jackie agreed so that was great. Our first actor, Rebecca emailed her that evening to say yes, she'd like to audition on Thursday at 12, did we have a script. That was something else we'd discussed, concerned that we hadn't written it and I had a feeling that there was some vibe undertone that we don't really need a script because most of it is visual. So anyway I offered to write it and that's how I spend my Tuesday. It took a few hours but I as quite pleased with the result and so was Jackie save a few small changes, and then so was Joyce and Roslyn so Jackie sent it to Rebecca, who loved it (that could have been actor-speak of course). On the Thursday 3 of us went to the audition and met Rebecca. I wound up having to play opposite her which I guess I should have expected but wasn't quite prepared for. I had to ask her to marry me and then in another scene have a vicious argument that would probably result in a breakup. I also had to play her 10-year-old kid. We filmed this however I'll have to get permission before I can post anything.

We decided we wanted her but played it cool for a day and asked the next day. She accepted and still loved the script.

That night a massive argument in the group ensued of our Facebook discussion group when Joyce had taken offence to a potential male actor's emails. He was just being professional, correcting her on how to contact him - how it's usually done. She took this as rude and got bent out of shape about it. The others took it as rude too, I saw no problem but put it down to an age thing and let it slide. It didn't really matter until Joyce took it on herself to send him a shitty email and basically telling him where to go. It was quite over the top. I hit the roof but explained as nicely as I could (I was with a friend at the time who stopped me a couple of times from posting slightly harsher words) that he was not being rude but she had and she had no right sending that email on our behalf. Jackie wanted to move on and avoid the whole argument but I pulled her up the the rudeness thing and that perhaps she shouldn't support Joyce at all on this. Which then caused a massive argument between us (this is not entirely unusual). However we came to some understanding I think and regardless moved on. Jackie contacted the actor in question, apologised and scheduled an audition for this Sunday which perhaps fortunately in this case, only her and I can attend.

We received an email warning us of a presentation on Tuesday at 10am where we have to hand in the script and production document. It's very fortunate that we have started on this then. We seem on track but this needs to be sorted out well and truly on Sunday when we're holding some more auditions. there is a lot to plan. We'll also be doing storyboarding. By the way, the post tile is the working name of the film. Hopefully not the final name.

    Wednesday April 11, 2012

Cocaine Angel (2006)

This follows a short period of time of a junkie and his junkie friends. I wasn't expecting much because I did look this up (quickly) on IMDB and noticed it had something like 4 stars (out of 10). Certain shots and scenes were a bit amateur-looking. I was looking for flaws like that of course thanks to the rating. However the film grew on me. Some of the actors weren't quite convincing, but the main ones were quite passable. I found the deadbeats in the film plain infuriating. They reminded me of a mashup of people I have unfortunately encountered from time to time, though none of them junkies, but sharing certain traits. It makes me ponder where the line between being some kind of junkie and just being a dick head is. I personally think drug use and addiction gets the blame far too often when the underlying cause is that the person is really just a self-centred idiot. Perhaps- no, I really think- they walk around us all the time. Sure, drug use might push them over to behaving in an unacceptable manner, but the truth is they weren't far from that anyway. Why blame the drugs then?

Even with more legal drugs we see this. Alcohol gets the blame for people who become violet or disruptive in town. I happened to see 3 fights on the street as I was walking home on Saturday night (I live in the city). But when I drink, I don't get violent. I don't get sad and pathetic, I don't get disruptive. If I did any of those things, I'd stop drinking. Not hard is it? No, people who take substances and then do stupid shit are just generally stupid in the first place.

Rant over. The film. It was low budget and ruined in a couple of places by bad actors. The story, I'm not sure how realistic it was, but the low class hopeless people I found entirely believable. I've met people like that. It's depressing. Generally it comes from poverty mixed with... a background of poverty I suppose. The people in this film seemed to be a mix of those people and like the main character, people who just became like that after falling from a great height. After seeing countless examples of the main character just being an annoying jerk, it cuts to home movie footage of him being normal with a wife and kid at the beach in a previous life. Makes you think a little bit.

All up, low budget but not a bad film. Certainly better than a Michael Bay blockbuster.

    Wednesday April 11, 2012

After.Life (2009)

Continuing seeing movies that I know nothing about I put this on not knowing what to expect. It became clear that it might be some kind of horror flick but as I had not looked it up I was still open to the idea that it was just a film, not a genre. This idea makes me realise how constraining the whole idea of genre is. Sure it's useful, but it's a double-edged sword. Why can't a movie have certain elements then just.. not? Perhaps the Directing book will tell me why not.

The film is about a woman who dies in a car accident after a fight with her fiancée. She "wakes up" in the funeral parlour and can talk to the funeral director who appears to have a gift of being able to talk to the dead. However she isn't convinced that she is really dead and nor is her fiancée who tries to get access to the body but can't because he isn't "officially" her fiancée. As the film goes on we're not sure she is either. The uncertainty continues right to the end of the film though it leans heavily towards one side for the observant. I imagine if coming into this film expecting a horror you'd be quite disappointed. In fact the film seems low grade for a couple of reasons, one is it seems to give so much away with dialogue but later it seems that this is all to build up more mystery later on. Another reason is some of the shots just seem a tad too forced to show a naked Christina Ricci rather than help the story.

It wasn't spectacular film but it kept me occupied. It wasn't awful, perhaps a little slow and with flawed execution but still watchable.

    Wednesday April 11, 2012

127 Hours (2010)

I knew nothing about this film on starting it. I think this is actually a pretty neat idea, no concept of what genre it is, what other people think of it, no expectations at all. It could have been a stinker Hollywood formula teenage drama for all I knew. Thankfully it wasn't. If you know nothing about this film, perhaps you should stop reading and come back when you have seen it. My only hint is that it's worthwhile.

Right, the rest of you. It started off with lots of scene setting while I played "guess the genre" And "guess the budget". Loads of interesting split shots that I suppose conveyed high energy and action. I was worried it would turn out to be like some surfer movie except set in the desert (man goes tramping in Grand Canyon) The main character , Aron Ralston, however was played by James Franco. To me this was a good sign as just about everyone who starred in Freaks and Geeks seems to have gone on to half-way decent to very good films. Despite the certain fears of both genre and to be honest, who lent me the film (great guy, just not sure if our tastes will align), it seemed quite engaging. But after the 10-20 minutes of scene setting, it became apparent that something awful or weird might happen. Would it be out of left-field like Quentin Tarantino's From Dusk Till Dawn (I was fortunate to not know what was ahead of me in that film too)? Or would it be suddenly scary? Or was something gruesome or just horrible about to happen?

Well it happened, he fell down a canyon and though he wasn't injured from the fall, a rock came with him and pinned his right hand. The rest of the movie is how he attempts to deal with this and how he gets out. It's a true story too. The cinematography is creative. Certain shots convey so much. The acting is brilliant. James Franco was convincing and emotive.

This was a gem of a film because of the skilful acting, directing and cinematography. The story is interesting (and a little sad) too however lets be honest, it could have gone so wrong. But it didn't. Highly recommended movie.

No Spoilers here.

    Wednesday April 11, 2012

Animation and Moving Images

I'm not even sure if I will update my blog on this subject. It's an elective that I'm doing and so far I'm not happy with it. It's on character development and producing fluid animations of that character. Sounds great but it requires the use of Maya. Which is wonderful but I first have to teach myself the program. We received scant instruction in class. I'd drop this paper if I could, it will just interfere with the other papers at this rate. We'll see.

    Wednesday April 11, 2012

Digital Cinema Studies

I chose this paper simply because film is a once-upon-a-time interest of mine and I wanted to do something that just interested me rather than work towards... whatever I'm working towards.

4 weeks into the year is when it started, and we had an intense week of learning several different aspects of film-making. We had 2 prescribed books, One on Final Cut 7 and the other called Directing:4th Edition. I'm still working my way through Directing.

We had to form groups of 5 however because the class was a mix of BCT students and Digital Design Students who'd all been warned about teaming up 4 weeks previously, we wound up in groups of 4. Long Story. Anyway, our group was 2 and 2. I've teamed up with Jackie, a BCT student and good friend, and 2 Digital Design Students, Joyce and Roslyn. The group seems to be alright and have good dynamics for the most part. Yes that's right I'm mentioning people by name from now on.

We had to come up with a story for a 3-5-minute movie and then shoot it. Properly. Get actors, make a budget, use proper equipment, planning... everything. So we have a treatment and it currently needs work (in my opinion). Right that's the short version.

The week I spent though revived my passion for film and film-making. Of course now it's all digital which is... better actually.

This leads into something I'm planning on doing from now on. Watching a movie a day. And reviewing it. Here. This will just help me remember movies I've watched, gain a critical eye, and gain experience reviewing things. And provide mirth/eye roll material to anyone reading.

    Wednesday April 11, 2012

Year 3

Well year two didn't go so well from the point of view of blogging. It wasn't a requirement and the way things dragged on I wasn't sure how I'd post anyway. Year 2 had ups and downs, mostly downs, so I'm starting fresh with year 3 and I'm doing this for my own learning. I'll revamp the look of the blog at some point but that will be a time-consuming and it's rather low-priority.

In year 2, the 6 papers I did were:

Studio 3: A semester-long project called species recognition. My team was to build a magic box that could identify species roaming the forest floor for the Department of Conservation. We built *something* despite the internal issues we faced (team dynamics, we should probably have split apart early in the piece in hindsight).

Theories and Philosophies of Technology: A series of lectures looking through the ages and how technology and our view of it has evolved. It culminated in an essay of sorts, a discussion between two people about technology.

Smart Systems: Was basically arduino-based with an end project to build a smart system. I teamed up with one other to build a system that monitored so aquaponic plants and adjust lighting, temperature and water pumping based on timers.

Studio 4: I pitched a project of my own, a security system that utilised social networking, creating a virtual neighbourhood watch. We had grand plans but were tripped up by the two other papers taking more than their fair share of time and equipment that didn't work because it was cheap (a knock off android tablet was the worst). Also our team was pushed into delving too deep into the conceptual side when all we really wanted to do was create a working product.

Intellectual Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management: This was sort of a business paper, we learned what an Entrepreneur is and looked into creative innovation. We had 3 projects, one a presentation as a group on a theory of group dynamics, another was a personal 3 minute video selling ourselves as an entrepreneur, and the last in the same groups, come up with a technical innovation, turn it into a product and try to sell the idea to a Dragon's Den. Real funding was up for grabs if the idea was good. However, once again we had group issues, and a couple of us (me included) felt flat and disappointed and didn't believe in what we were selling. A couple others were passengers. It also took WAY more time than it should have and helped kill Studio. I'm still mad about that.

Simulated, Immersive and Interactive Environments: We looked into the idea of using patterns to create a computer game. It seems that's how we'd have probably done it anyway to a large degree but the goal was to explore pattern design as written about by Christopher Alexander, an Architect. At the end we had a mostly working game. This was also a painful paper. We made the game in C++ Visual Studio using the SDL library (an api for sound and graphics). However no one had ever really done much C++ programming. I was fortunate enough to have started teaching myself C earlier in the year but that mostly just made me aware of how little I knew. I have no idea what other class members made of concepts like pointers when they weren't really aware of them.

So... pretty blah year, and I was glad when the holidays started.

This year I'm doing 2 external papers and 2 new internal ones. Studio 5 and 6 are one project but with different milestones. I'll explain it all in upcoming posts, but for reference, my papers are:

  • Digital Cinema Studies (External)
  • Animation and Moving Images
  • Studio 5
  • Digital Audio Production (External)
  • Emerging Practices
  • Studio 6

    Monday March 14, 2011

Species Recognition

So I got into the species recognition group which was very pleasing.

The first meeting involved a general outline of what we'd be attempting to do and homework. The homework was to find out as much as we can about rats, stoats, weasels, Wekas and possums. Just to start with.

    Monday March 14, 2011

Theory & Philosophy of Technology

So I'm going to divide this year or semester at least into the papers. This year the timetable seems to be a bit more like a normal course.

Our tutor for this paper owns a web development company and is therefore more concerned with giving real-world training as opposed to the academic pondering that the name of the paper suggests. While the name sounds fascinating, I quite appreciate the real-world learning.

The first class, we learned about usability. Mainly from a web point of view, but applicable to anything that a person has to pick up and start using. This is one of those subjects I've always been interested in, probably for the same reasons a lot of people get interested in it: they use crap products, identify that it's the awful UI and start critiquing it. Especially when they come across a UI that does things better. Ironic that anyone subjected to MS's way of doing.... anything... will likely wind up being interested in UI design then.

The second class - which was today was about SEO or search engine optimisation. Very useful info, some of it I was aware of, some of it new and some of it a surprise. All of this web stuff is useful to me as I'm about to embark on a couple of personal web projects. Big ones. I'll be learning some complex stuff along the way. But SEO is very important and often overlooked (or rather, done wrong). I also decided to be less vocal from now on. I started pushing the class along by answering questions but I don't want to be that person.

    Sunday March 6, 2011

Orientation week.

I'm not entirely sure that we're supposed to keep our blog, but I think we probably are. The week just been has consisted of two classes every day. In the morning we learn Dreamweaver and HTML/CSS basics. The goal is that by end of semester we have an online portfolio to present as static HTML/CSS. I think it will be marked too. So I've found that class a bit cruisy given that I already do web design. I created a website for my sister over the break, every time I create a website I try to implement a new trick. This time around it was to abandon Flash at all costs and create great HTML with the best CSS I've ever written and some javascript animations. But the neat trick for me was implementing basic AJAX. Clicking on menu links slides down a div and then the page loads more HTML from the server. I could link to the site but the actual design was micromanaged and I think it looks a bit tacky.

In the afternoons, both Year 2 (us) and Year 3 were audience to "Project Pitches". These were studio projects proposed by staff and then by students and we're to choose one to be a part of. We'll have one project per semester and possibly lasting as long as the year depending on what it is.

They were quite broad range, but the one that appealed to me the most was a real-world project for the Department of Conservation. It involves using technology to identify various species roaming around in the forest and perhaps if possible identify individuals in that species. The handout we were given in the beginning of the week outlining the projects didn't sell that one particularly well. The idea of using an ipad to detect paw prints was in the outline and it seemed rather unworkable. But that was only an idea it turned out. The actual project is to come up with methods of detection, which may or may not include some ipad technology.

We were to write down our top 3 projects, what we could bring to the table and why we wanted to do it. A real-world project appealed to me as did one that requires results. Something I've always strived to achieve as a worker.

The other projects I wrote down was a short film for the  web, though I can see that causing me grief and a very open-ended one called the Happiness Machine which is more of an art exhibition and social commentary on consumerism. Well that appeals on several levels and was made even more so when the pitch referred to the Documentary "The Century of the Self" by Adam Curtis. A brilliant Doco.

Anyway that was largely the week. I've moved recently and have more space though it's more expensive to get to class, fortunately I'm employed again in my old profession.

This year I will make a few small changes to the blog, one which comes to mind right now is an idea I was floating late last year: name names. If I refer to people I will name them. It just makes it easier and probably more interesting.