Friday, October 30, 2015

Absurdism as an Artform

I've always felt as though absurdism is the black sheep of the comedy family. People look at something that's purposefully designed to make no logical sense and mark it off immediately as random or ant-intellectual. I feel as though random humor has far too often gotten the short end of the stick when really so many classic comedy films have built their legacy of of scenes featuring logical abstraction.

Take for instance the killer rabbit scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
It's absurd that this rabbit is capable of murder on this scale and that's what makes it funny. It's not random because the joke lays in the fact that rabbits are generally fairly sedentary while this one is anything but. I don't want to come across as come sort of Victorian comedy critic but I think it's important to highlight that one of the most prevalent  forms of visual comedy is on the decline. Now in terms of absurdism the clip above is pretty tame but I feel a though it does a good job in illustrating my point. Now if you wanted an example of extreme absurdism I'd advise checking out the film "The Holy Mountain", that films a trip unlike anything I've ever seen.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

More Test Footage

This week, the crew and I went down to location to figure out just where we were going to place lighting on our set. This visit was one of the most crucial moments of pre-production. The Gaffer, Sound Recordist, Assistant Director, and myself had taken loads of lighting equipment to set during our second visit. This visit definitely gave us some advantages.

The first advantage was that obviously, we were able to figure out how to light each room for every shot in advance. When we go to set on our shooting dates, there will now be no time wasted trying to figure out just how to light our project. We won't be referencing loose diagrams and fixing issues as we go, we will be ready and prepared to set up and get to that first shot in significantly less time.

The second advantage to our visit was that because we have fixed the various issues that come with lighting our particular set space, we will no longer have actors sitting around and waiting to be lit properly. When we can get in the zone and begin grabbing takes sooner, the talent is likely to give a better performance because he or she is not impatient and/or waiting around.

The third advantage to our visit was that we can give our editor something to work with that will get him prepared to handle the actual footage when it comes his way. He can play with various presets to get our footage looking much closer to what we desire when we have finished collecting it.

Finally, because we brought our Sound Recordist, we have some room tone to work with, featuring random creaks in the house, cars passing by, and at some points, rain falling outside and on windows. This will give both her and the editor a sense of what kind of sounds we should prepare to work around in our natural space, since we do not have total control of what's outside the set.

All in all, we came out with some footage that we were happy with, but it is also footage that we can now improve upon when it comes time to actually shoot this thing.

On set experience for Stopover City, pt. 1.

As you know, we did our first shoot for Stopover City this past weekend, and it was an absolute blast. It was incredible to get to see the script I co-wrote come to life with all the components--pretty amazing to think that it all started out as just a random idea between us writers one night. As for on-set experience, it was stressful at times, but I think that overall the work I did was a success so far.

Here's the breakdown of what I thought about how things went in my department:

-set decoration, costumes, and props looked AWESOME :-)
-my art squad was so on point and they are all wonderful humans. There were a lot of things to bake and one of them did all of that for me which was a huge time savor. (I am learning to delegate, it's a process.)
-there were many costumes but I kept it all organized by putting small stickers on them that numbered which scenes they were worn in!!!
-positive relationship with my lovely director, director of photography, and AD. We all understood that each other had a job to do and tried to help the best we could.

-only had ~20 minutes to set up EVERYTHING in the bakery. (holy heck that's not a lot of time)
-was also pressed for time setting up for the bedroom scene...everyone started arriving at my house at 9 AM and the room we were shooting in was rather small so we all had to take turns setting up stuff ha.
-I'm worried about some continuity errors with placement of ash on Hazel's face in one scene, but we have pictures so we can hopefully re-create something similar this Sunday
-someone threw up all in my car saturday after the shoot which wasn't fun at all and kind of threw a wrench in my ability to remain stress-free for sunday's shoot ha ha ha

I am so excited for the last day of filming, and can't wait to see the scenes that our editor has already cut together. Will check in next week with updates on this Sunday's outcome!!

Until then, I'd like to share this precious photo taken on set of the other 2 writers & myself that I love a lot.

Chroma-ing: It's easier than you might think

One facet of movies or shows that can be super important is the use of green screens, or other screens to fulfill the same variety. These can be used to add in background animations or scenery shots to add some variety into whatever is being edited. First, to add the chroma key, select the clip that you want to add the chroma into. In the effects panel in the bottom right, click on the folder that says "video effects", and then in that folder click on "keying". There are a few different options, but the most simple option would be to select "Ultra Key". Drag this onto the clip in your sequence, and you will now be able to edit the chroma in the clip panel in the upper left corner. Make sure that the background chroma is on the lower level than the clip you want to add it to, so have the clip with the green screen on track 2 and the thing you want to chroma in on track 1. Then, take the eye dropper tool and click on the green, or whatever color you want to chroma out, and at this point, you should see the background change. It still may not look perfect yet, though, as shadows and different lighting conditions might not create a clean chroma. Took fix this, in the same panel as the eye dropper, there should be a few options, like "matte cleanup" with different sliders altering shadows and choke. Once fiddling around with these, your overall shot should be done and looking nice. A good chroma can end up improving shots and adding much needed variety.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman

So last night I had to go out and do a fundraiser for the Club Softball team, which I did not want to do. So when I got home at 1 am, and I was tired but didn't want to sleep yet, I wanted to watch a light hearted movie that. As I was scrolling through Netflix, I saw Mr. Peabody & Sherman on my suggested list. I vaguely remembered hearing that the movie was good, so I decided to give it a go.
I was hooked in the first 10 minutes. Not only is the animation beautiful and the color pallet very bright and pleasing, but the character design for Sherman is absolutely adorable. Not only that, but Ty Burrell is an absolute delight, and the story is actually very compelling and witty for a children's movie. 
I am also a huge fan of historical anything in films, so I really liked that while yes fictional and intended to be comical, the history they brought in with the time travel aspect was really interesting to watch, and brings a little humor and goofiness to some very famous points in history. The script is intelligent, cute, and able to bring two generations together to enjoy one movie.

Banging on a Bathtub

I've been doing a lot of research on sound design lately in order to be as ready as possible to record on set, foley, and then do our final mix. Arturo helped me by sending me some links to really cool articles and videos; one of them--that inspired the title of this blogpost--is below.

Foley is all about replacing, repairing, or enhancing the sound for a film. Ben Burtt was one of the first few sound designers to foley by combining sounds produced by real objects instead of using electronic sounds. His work in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope pioneered a new method of sound design in sci-fi films. One of the most well known sounds from the Star Wars films, Darth Vader's breathing, Burtt created by recording himself breathing through a Dacor scuba regulator.

I find this combination and editing of different (and sometime random) sounds so interesting. I don't understand how people even come up with some of this stuff. Even Burtt himself said that a lot of times you discover the best sounds by accident.

Foley artists seem to have developed a skill so unique, the only thing I can kind of compare it to lyrical dancing...but even that's a stretch. Foley artists usually work in pairs and they have to interpret a film completely in sound. Lyrical dancers have to interpret the lyrics of a song in movements. The equipment foley artists use is also very low-tech compared to the equipment other post-production departments use.

Greg Barbanell, a foley artist, at the Warner Brothers' foley stage. 
According to my research, most foleying can be divided into three parts: cloth, feet, and props. Foley artists will then playback every shot of every scene at least hundreds of times to get all the cloth, feet, and props in each one. It is very time consuming, and probably frustrating for a while until you develop the skill.

Foley isn't just used in fictional productions, though. Earth Touch is a global news network for wildlife and nature that focuses on education and preservation--even they foley sound in their films of wild animals. This is especially important for Earth Touch because it's dangerous for crew to get close to some animals. (This is the same reason they use HUGE zoom lenses). It is also necessary because the footage they collect may be from different parts of the day/week/month/year, which causes the ambient sound to change. When editing these shots together, the natural sounds are jumpy and jarring, so they add a different ambient track and then foley the sounds the animals make. This process of repairing and layering foleyed sounds enhances the film so it grabs the audiences attention.

What We Do In The Shadows

One style of cinematic films that particularly interests me is the mockumentary. Essentially, mockumentaries are "mock documentaries" that attempt to realistically document fictional situations. Some popular ones on TV are "The Office", "Park and Recs", and "Modern Family". However, even with the success of this style as TV sit-coms, as motion pictures they don't receive as much critical acclaim. The more well- known and funniest mockumentaries are "This is Spinal Tap" directed by Rob Reiner and "Best in Show" directed by Christopher Guest. These two directors are known to some as the pioneers of mockumentaries. To me, the greatest appeals are the awkward humor and the fact that they try to persuade the audience that the topic is as realistic as it's portrayed. The best ones are the ones where the audience ponders if what they are shown is real.

Anyways, my favorite mockumentary, which is also on my top 10 favorite films is, "What We Do in the Shadows".

A different take from other vampire movies. This movie is about four flatmates who all happen to be vampires living in the modern age. It's kind of like Twilight without the dramatized/cheesy lines, the good looking people, and the ability to walk during the day which still confuses me but funnier and has more relevant conflicts. I definitely recommend this to anyone and am willing to refund the hour and a half worth of time if anyone thinks it was a waste of time. 

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice

Last night when thinking of a "halloween-ish" movie to watch I immediately recommended Beetlejuice. If you have never seen the movie I HIGHLY encourage you to do so. It's directed by Tim Burton, and if that's not a reason enough, I'll give you some more.

The cast is amazing. The main couple are such cuties with such a contrast to the grimey but lovable, Beetlejuice. 

1) Alec Baldwin is one of the leads... look at how young he was!! 
(low key he was really hot too)
2) Only as a teen Winona Ryder rocked her role, Lydia. 

~Such Angst~
I also found out that makeup artists Ve Neill, Steve LaPorte and Robert Short won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Makeup for their work on Beetlejuice. Here's an article I found some other things that are usually unknown about the film:

It heavily involves several characters from "the other side." And following usual Tim Burton style, the movie is packed with creepy, strange, eccentric and whimsical doings. 

If you want a little taste of the cheesy 80's weirdness of the film, here's one of my favorite scenes I loved even when I was a kid. This is one of the ghost couple's (musical) attempts at scaring the family out of their home. It's pure gold. 

YouTube And The Independent Filmmaker

YouTube And The Independent Filmmaker

     Does YouTube have a role to play to the Independent Filmmaker? YouTube is itself perhaps the greatest global distribution platform we have on the internet ; or at least the most widely used. With over a billion viewers, 4 billion views per day, and 300 hours of video uploaded every minute youtube is teeming with creators but what kind of creator? In Independent Filmmaker?
     YouTube has a reputation of cat videos, memes, music, tutorials, poorly shot bits of TV and Movies, and things that keep you distracted from your homework but not cinema that will engage you. Those types of things (short films, web series, ect....) have pushed there way into Vimeo, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and other sites. But why? Why isn't the next House of Cards, or the next great short film being not only uploaded but promoted through YouTube with its vast diversity and range for audience? 
     I  think there are many problems towards when putting your work on YouTube as a main mode of distribution and exposure. One is the sheer mass of content that is being put on youtube. Another is the audience that I think youtube has created and the culture around it. YouTube stars have dominated the marketplace creating a medium of societal commentary through narration rather than a platform to share storytelling ideas. 
     Though it's not as if youTube hasn't tried to cater to the independent filmmakers in the past. In 2013 at SunDance youtube launched "Youtube Shorts @ NEXT WEEKEND," featuring the likes of College Humor, Machinima, and VICE, to show the industry of short films on YouTube. But even then these companies do not represent the individual user that uploads content on YouTube. 
     This all ties into YouTube's recent announcement "YouTube Red" which is adding for a $10 a month subscription fee to those users who want access to things like no ads, more extensive music features, and exclusive videos from YouTube creators (mainly youtube stars). There are many problems with this flawed model, including why people wouldn't just use ad block, and how YouTube creators are going to deliver the quality and quantity videos needed to sustain a "exclusive" club for people who pay the price. 
     This idea of people paying for YouTube content I think is a failure as a  model considering their audience and the nature of their content but maybe it proposes a counterpoint to Vimeo in some way and a better model for the Independent Filmmaker and the web series that are littered the internet. If youtube could tap into the market of short films, web television and convince people to pay for seeing these services I think filmmaking could make it's way to youtube. With it's great distribution and audience and short films great quality and appeal maybe it could hold a future in the world of indie films.  

I Lava You

Over the summer I saw the Disney Pixar film, Inside Out. I've loved this movie ever since and have been waiting anxiously for my next opportunity to see it again. However, the best part of this movie-going experience was the Disney animated short in the beginning, Lava. Disney is known for screening an animated short in the beginning of every movie they release. They are usually extreme clever and sometimes relate to previously released films such as Frozen Fever using context from the movie Frozen. Although I haven't seen a bunch of the Disney shorts, or not ones that I can remember, Lava makes me want to go back and watch all of them. Disney Pixar animation is notorious for giving inanimate or non-human objects life and these depictions go far beyond animals. Lava is so unique because it portrays a love story around two submarine volcanoes.

 I know - sounds weird, but its got to be one of the most touching things I've ever seen. It depicts the idea of serenity and isolation, but the fact that love still exists in these circumstances. From the soft ukelele to its punny lyrics, Lava can't be compared to any other film I've seen. In fact, this isn't even clearly stated in the short, but the volcanoes actually have names reflecting the instrument playing the chords. The male volcano is named Uku and the female is named Lele. Together, their name creates the word Ukelele which further elaborates on the idea that they are meant to be together. I know, Disney can be a little bit cheesy sometimes, but I honestly feel that they think of everything and continue to be innovative. I can't wait to see what they come up with next and what kind of inanimate objects they bring to life.

Inside Out

This week has been a pretty difficult one and while laying around in my grief hasn't gotten me far, I will say that I relied a lot of films to distract me from my sadness. Ironically watching the film Inside Out, was more therapeutic than any phone call or text. Inside out is the perfect animation film describe human emotions and development. There's joy, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear (all of which are characters in the film) and all of which make being a grown up extremely difficult.

Here is the trailer for anyone who hasn't seen the film, there's excellent animation and the story line is probably the best I've seen in any children movie. Plus: The animators and designers really put in an extreme amount of effort and attentiveness in the every aspect of the film, like the 'command center'.

I learned a lot re-watching this film but mostly that sadness is equally as vital to our well-being, as happiness.


Monday, October 26, 2015

Limited Exposition: CAN YOU DIG IT?

This weekend while perusing through the realm of Netlfix I came across Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979). I'm usually not a big fan of movies from the 80's (1979 close enough), I just have a hard time getting past the cheesy, outlandish, synth- filled madness that is known to accompany films of this era. That being said, The Warriors  is a clear exception. I love this movie. 

This stylized film centers around gang life in NYC, but not the rough and tough street gangs that you see on the evening news- this is the 80s, remember. The gangs in The Warriors are more of a protective family, not a lucrative organization specializing in a drug trade or other illegal activities. They are violent, but only to protect their turf and their gang.

Not the most intimidating crew

The thing I like most about this film is the almost nonexistent exposition to help set up the story. We as the viewer are immediately thrust into this world as the Warriors gang is traveling on a subway. We have no idea who they are, what they are doing, or generally what the hell is going on. The opening is just a mash up of trains whizzing by and different groups of people (characterized by their specific matching outfits) traveling to some unknown location. Details slowly get revealed and pieced together- although not very clearly. A quick cutaway of a subway map reveals they are traveling to Manhattan. Through some brief dialogue we get a sense of the huge scale of this meeting, which also reveals that there are many other gang factions in attendance. Talk of a "truce" and some mysterious character Sirus  give us more questions than answers- at least to start. 

Normally movies like this just annoy me and make me feel out of the loop- I like things clear cut and explained. But the ambiguity of The Warriors works very well. It feels like  a fantasy/alternate reality film at first, but everything we see on screen indicates a normal earth in present day (1979). This is mainly due to the various gangs in outlandish costumes (leather vests, painted mime faces, baseball jerseys, roller skates- the list goes on and on). It almost gives off a post apocalyptic, urban Mad Max type of vibe. It is very off-putting, yet oddly satisfying and believable. 

This film makes you focus more (subconsciously) on the minute details we see and hear on screen and piece together the background of the narrative. It is up to the viewer to decide how the film world came to the specific starting point of the movie. The events that unfold throughout the film are dependent on a specific understanding of the narrative universe and how this world works, but those "rules" are never clearly explained.  However, the average viewer doesn't really perceive this or even know it is happening. That is what makes The Warriors so good. They give us so little information, yet we are able to understand everything about this world and instantly relate it the characters and their unfortunate situation (don't worry- no spoilers). 

I really like this alternate-exposition technique; I think it makes the viewer more engaged and immersed in the film as they try to figure out the nuances of the story world, even if they don't realize it. I think this is a problem that our film Dollhouse had initially- we tried to initially tell too much of the story explicitly  instead of implying story details  visually or through brief dialogue. As our script goes through minor changes I hope we are able to incorporate more (less?) of this into our story exposition.

I understand that not everyone is fan of this exposition choice. I'm usually not. But I thought it really worked for The Warriors. Can You Dig It?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Rosemary's Mise-en-scene

In preparation for shooting our film I've been going through my netflix que and watching every old horror movie I can find. Many horror films share similar thematic and cinematic tropes with one another, so it's been an incredible helpful exercise for me when I was writing the script. I've just finished the film "Rosmary's Baby"

One of the biggest hesitations our group has in shooting at 918 Danby is that many of the walls if not all of them are stark white. I've been told this will cause issues with lighting and wardrobe, and for the past few day's I've been really worried that our locations pure white walls would be the end of us. However after watching Rosemarie's Baby (a film shot in an apartment painted entirely mental asylum white) I found that I really like the way the white backgrounds interacted with the characters. 

First off our main characters are young newlyweds and are fairly new to the city of New York. This motif is reflected in many of the shots where we see them talking and interacting with each other.

The light background sort of blends together to highlight the drama surrounding the couples problems communicating to one another. The background also helps to give us an idea of how new their relationship is both to eachother and to their new city. We see evidence of this when the two young lovers go next door to visit their elderly neighbors. 

Herbert's study practically overflows with visual intrigue. Just from this one shot we can tell what kind of man he is and what kind of life he leads.

Rosemarie's baby is certainly a must see if you're interested in production design.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My 10 Favorite Movies: Part One

It is a damn hectic week for me, and so it is time for me to relax my brain a little bit and just share with you, the reader, a list of my 10 favorite movies. I kind of stopped watching television and cinema altogether once I hit middle school, as I became enveloped by video games instead, so I have an unusually strong connection with my thought processes as a kid. In terms of most media, I'm a kid in a young adult's body, and I want to keep it that way. So don't expect any cultured or scholarly cinema on this list. Also, this post is going to be long, so part two will be posted next week.

The first one of my favorites is Christmas Vacation. It is easy to assume why this one is one of my favorites. I sit down with family every year and we watch it together. Of course it is going to be one of my favorites, I've watched it with my family during every christmas for probably 12 years straight!

Another one of my favorites is the Dark Knight. This one came my way around eighth grade for me, and it really captivated me. It was one of the very few superhero movies where I wasn't quite sure whether or not the protagonist would prevail, and it had me rooting for the antagonist to succeed at points. For me, this movie is about as close to perfection as they come.

If there's one animated Disney movie that I feel deserves more attention, it's the Emperor's New Groove. This movie, for some reason, appealed to me more than any other animated Disney film growing up. To me, it's a better version of Disney's Hercules. Also, I would love to see this one as a musical, I think it'd be fantastic.

Then there's Pixar, the computer animation corporation. They've pumped out products that can really woo the masses. Having a Pixar film on my favorites won't surprise many. My personal favorite is The Incredibles. I can't believe it has taken so long to get a sequel going for it, especially because from what I believe, it's the only one of the bunch that leaves off with a "cliffhanger." Rise of the Underminer, lets go!

Next up is the Jimmy Neutron movie. Not much to be said here, except that I loved outer space, I loved 90's pop, and I watched a lot of Nickelodeon growing up. Fun fact, the movie came before the show, nobody seems to know that. It's an ironic chicken vs. egg situation, if you get what I'm saying.

That's it for now, I'll be back next week with the other five. During the busiest weeks of the semester, I wanted to take some time to relax while writing blog posts, so there's not going to be much critical analysis from me until later. I really just wanted to step back and share with others.

Spooky Times

Getting closer and closer to our first shoot date, my head is just constantly going through the script. Which is why im having trouble thinking of a blog post, but since it's 11pm this is what I have.  Something to look forward after the long days of shooting will be dressing up for halloween. Me and my friend cat v will be dressing up as Wayne and Garth from Wayne's World.

(I just ordered my hat.) Anyway, I was thinking how many people have dressed up as these characters before us... it's probably a ridiculous number. Its so interesting how influencial movies can be. So much of pop culture and slang comes from the most popular movies. The classics, the ones that live through many eras. What does it take for a movie to become such an iconic thing that people will reference and even try to replicate. It's kind of weird when you think about it, or maybe it's just me. Sorry for this weird stream of conciousness blog post about how film and culure and holidays relate.

The Intern

Over the weekend I went to the Regal theaters to see The Intern featuring Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. Honestly I found the movie to be very comical and light hearted. The Intern is set at a start-up company: a successful shopping website Jules (Anne Hathaway) founded called About the Fit in Brooklyn. Ben (Robert De Niro) is a retired widower with plenty of time on his hands and a seemingly bottomless reserve of can-do spirit who applies to a senior internship program. Once he’s assigned to Jules, his inexhaustible patience with her mild Type-A personality makes them an unbeatable team as she weathers the bumps of expanding her company and balancing work and her personal life. The film definitely carries the audience along in the friendship that is bonded between Jules and Ben. This may not be De Niro best work, but he does succeed at being sympathetic in the film, and I particularly enjoyed how edgy and independent Anne Hathaway portrayed Jules. If you have a chance this weekend to watch a light heart film over dinner, I suggest The Intern. 


So because I am a sucker for any movie with cool dancing in it, over fall break I watched the second installment of the every growing Step Up movie series; Step Up 2: The Streets. The final scene of the film is a super long and I will admit, super cool dance scene that takes place outside and in the rain. After the heroic team finishes their awesome rain dance, one of the characters, Moose, goes to talk to the girl he likes, Sophia. However it seems like in each cut in the scene of them talking, Moose's hat is turned a different way, even though you are never shown him actually switching his hat.

Okay so here we are in the first part, and Moose's hat is on frontways
Then as soon as we cut to a two shot of the back of him, his hat is backwards

Then we cut to a closer shot of the same exact scene where they are talking and once again, his hat has switched.
And then, as all teen movies go, Sophia kisses Moose in this closeup and yayy!! His hat is still on frontways
Okay, okay awesome, some consistency, lets see if we can cut to a wider shot of this kiss 
Damn! All we did was cut to a little bit wider and once again, his stupid hat is switched again, and I think we all can agree that he did not switch his hat based on that claw grip he has on Sophia's arm.

Anyway, my point is, while you are shooting you may not think that continuity is that important and that you can remember how the actors did each of the scenes, it is an incredibly important part of making a good and consistent film so make sure you get a dope script supervisor.

Another Movie About Sex

Over Fall break, I saw the movie Don Jon, and I have to say, I wasn't too impressed. This movie was written by Joseph Gordon Levitt and depicts a character who is addicted to porn and ultimately prefers pornography over sex. Although there is definitely character development, I found some serious plot holes in this film. For example, Scarlett Johansson's character, Barbara is greatly emphasized in the beginning of the movie and the trailer, but by the end she is somewhat irrelevant to the plot line as a whole. From their initial introduction, Jon feels very attracted to her in the way that he has never been to anyone before. She represents a beautiful, seductive girl that everyone thinks is perfect for him (especially his family). Although he is falling in love with her, he still finds pornography to be more fulfilling. He tries to quit, but can't bring himself to do it. Ultimately, Barbara catches him watching pornography and accuses him of being addicted. They eventually break up, and that's the end of that. Totally independent of his situation with Barbara, Don starts talking to an older women in his night class named Esther (Julianne Moore).

Esther is very different from Barbara, as when she catches Jon watching porn on his phone, she surprises him with a 70s porn DVD during their next class. They start to hit it off and the relationship he forms with her is very different from his relationship with Barbara. After getting to know her and spending more time with her, he learns that Esther lost her son and husband in a car accident. She explains to him that the reason he is so addicted to porn over sex is because it is a one-sided affair. He has to be willing to let go with another person to let it be a two sided street. Therefore, because they are both somewhat disconnected, they form a pretty strong relationship. The other problem I had with this movie however, is that there doesn't really seem to be a conclusion in the end. It is never clarified if Jon gets over his addiction to sex or if he is just okay with it and continues to date Esther. Ultimately, I don't really think this movie has much of a point. The progression is somewhat disoriented and Esther isn't introduced until about halfway through the film. The two girls are completely unrelated and I'm not sure if or how they are supposed to connect. By the end of the film, Jon realizes some things about himself from Esther, but he doesn't really change as a person. I guess that's the biggest point I got out of it, that Esther accepts him for who he is, while Barbara was trying to change him. He says from the very beginning, "there are only a few things I really care about in life: my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls and my porn."

The Revenant: Words from the Set


     The Revenant is a western directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman), it's release date is late December.The movie revolves around the Hugh Glas, and American Frontiersman and his escapades in exploring the West. If you haven't heard of Hugh Glass, wikipedia him immediately, his story is better than most anything and everything Hollywood has produced in the past five years. 
     Leonardo DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass and in a recent interview with the A.V. Club talks about the film process and says, "It's going to be one of the most unique film-going experiences that audiences have seen in modern times." Watch the trailer and you can see why. This film looks extremely ambitious, from it's filming, to it's production design, to the conditions that they were in. DiCaprio confirmed that thought the cast remained crew members left due to the conditions of the film. 
     We all know that a lot of work goes into every film but I have a feeling this film is going has broken our expectations of a hard day on set and I am hopeful in what the fruit of all their labor will be. 

Black Dynamite

Shaft, Undercover Brother, Pootie Tang, Django Unchained. All of these movies have one thing in common: they are all a part of the sub-genre of film known Blaxploitation. This genre has seen many entries over the years, but one of the best, in my opinion, would have to be Black Dynamite. This movie, released in 2009, was made as a spoof of these types of movies, and it is one of the funniest movies I've seen ever.
The film follows the titular Black Dynamite as he uncovers a conspiracy that goes far beyond what you would originally think. Everything is made to look like a film from the 70's, from the costumes to the music, everything thing meshes really well to encapsulate the feeling of the era. One element of humor used throughout the movie is the use of "mistakes" in either production or editing. These instances are done on purpose to give a low budget feel to the film and it's really funny to see them run with mistakes that normal movies avoid like the plague.
For instance, in one scene Black Dynamite stands up and his head hits the boom, which is clearly in the shot and he looks at it confused, or when another character gets slapped in a fight, he breaks character and actually gets pissed which is followed by a quick cut and resuming the scene with a completely different actor. Little things like this go a long way for keen viewers picking up on every little subtle joke. In addition to the movie, an animated show was produced for Adult Swim, featuring the cast of the original movie, and that just takes the over-the top factor, well, over the top. This movie definitely isn't for everyone, and from a technical perspective it isn't really anything spectacular, but it is just such a good time that it's hard not to enjoy while watching it.

Money, money, money...

...must be funny in a rich man's (not art department's) world. I quote this ABBA tune & say a little prayer that a money tree grows in my backyard tonight.

As production designer for our film, I am in charge of all the props, costumes, and set design for each frame, which entails 7 (kind of deadly) stages:
1. picking a color palatte
2. sketches of room designs
3. asking friends/other art people for common prop items
4. buying things online & praying they look like their picture
5. multiple trips to Salvation Army/Walmart
6. improvising....a lot (the prop weed is cotton balls rolled in glue, then rolled around in various spices, but hey it looks pretty realistic so thats ok)
7. crying because you have no money left

Depending on the project, an art department's budget can either be very minimal, or rather large. Because this is part of my independent study I went in with a "i'm going to plan for a lot of stuff and then get paid back later because I want this to look good and be worth it!!!" But right now I'm in that scary place of having spent money on art department and not getting paid back for it yet. Which means my bank account looks like this:
So I'm hoping that by some happy miracle more money is donated to our indiegogo so that I can afford to be paid back :) :) :)
Then again, if the film looks awesome, it's all worth the temporary debt, right???

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Supernatural... Season 10

Sam and Dean are back with a new season of Supernatural on Netflix, and I couldn't be more excited.
Not only has this show kept me going for 10 straight years, but it has also taken up an entire week of my life. Yes thats right and entire week... over 168 hours. This figure amazes me because when it come to TV I can rarely stay interested for more than a season.

Don't get me wrong this is not something that I am necessarily proud of given that the production quality of the show is questionable at point. That being said I have to give them credit where credit is due. They mad a damn good story. It isn't easy to get someone like me to keep coming back for more but the Winchesters have me in a devils trap.

I do find myself asking "why do I watch this show?" at different point, but I do always end up watching the next episode regardless.

At this point however I will say that I believe the story is a little past its due date. I need closure. I feel like I am probably just as tired as Sam and Dean at this point. I love their chapters so much I just want them to succeed.

If you have never watched Supernatural, I would recommend it if you can make the commitment to the show. However if you dont think that you could watch at least the first 3 seasons I would say dont even bother then. It is most defiantly a show that I do hold close to my heart however and it is always good to run into someone else that has enjoyed the show as much as I have.

Color in Mad Max: Fury Road

The toxic storm at the end of act one, and one of my favorite shots of the whole movie.
Over fall break, I flew to California on a United flight. (It wasn't great... The flight, I mean). However, I did have an excuse to watch a movie that I really liked when I saw it this summer, Mad Max: Fury Road. The Mad Max films are set in a post-apocalyptic Australia where a former cop named Max essentially loses every person in his life he cares about and switches into survival mode. Mel Gibson stars as Max in the first three films, Mad Max, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, released from 1979 to 1985. In the Mad Max world, pretty much everything has turned to dust literally, the currency is oil and bullets, and the world is running dangerously low on food and water.

This guy was my favorite. <3
This time around I chose to focus on the colors in the film. I noticed many shots with orange and blue.

Like Cole wrote in his blog, I also used the The Colors of Motion website to look more closely at the colors and sure enough, it wasn't just me, it was a lot of orange and blue.

Part of this was obvious to me. Orange and blue are complementary colors, which means that when placed in close proximity, they contrast. In films, contrasting colors are important because they draw your attention to different things on the screen. You might remember learning about complementary colors when you learned about the color wheel in elementary school art class.

Color grading has been around for a while now, but the Coen brothers are credited for starting the orange and teal trend in their 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? Since then, more and more films have used this complementary color palette when color grading. It's especially common in action movies because explosions are typically bright orange. Since it's become a convention, one theory suggests that it is used to make movies look more like movies. Another theory suggests that digitization in color grading made it easier to apply a uniform color scheme to multiple scenes at once. This then speeds up the process for color graders. A blogger named Todd Miro suggests that we just love seeing the contrast of orange and blue on screen.

Lots and lots of orange and blue in these movie posters.

Once you notice this trend in one film, you see it in a lot of other movies. I presume this trend will eventually become less common and a different color scheme will be used. I have no idea how long this will take, so I guess I'll just have to get used to seeing orange and blue for now.

Monday, October 19, 2015

One Does Not Simply Record Nat Sound

Sound is important. Like really important. I think it is one of the most underrated fields in contemporary cinema, simply because if it is done well you shouldn't even notice it. That's sort of the point; no average viewer walks out of the theater complimenting the foley artist, they are the unsung heroes of a great film. If the sound design is believable and helps immerse the audience in the story world, then it has done its job. Sound design and foley has always really interested me, and after talking about it in class today it made me really excited to have some kick-ass sound in our horror short Dollhouse. But more on that later.

I wanted to focus more on some awesome sound design goodness. The Lord of the Rings trilogy has a really intense and creative sound design Led by David Farmer. The sound design has a lot of one-of-a-kind "original" sounds you would expect from a fantasy epic. Movies like LOTR pose a particular challenge because of the fantasy element in the story; it's hard to foley sounds for fictionalized,mythical creatures. It take a lot of creativity to be able to make these crazy, fantastical sounds from everyday objects and even human voices. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the video that I wanted to share that goes in depth about the sound design of LOTR (damn copyright laws), but here is the next best thing that still gives you an in depth look at the creativity behind the sound design. It also goes into a little bit about ADR and the challenges they faced with changing frame rates throughout the film, but that's all just bonus. It says that about 98% of LOTR Fellowship used ADR. Ouch. 

Here's the video:

 The creativity and skill that goes into the sound design of a film really blows my mind, especially on such an ambitious project like LOTR.  Not only are you responsible for every sound on screen (thats every footstep, every arrow shot, every armor clink), but to also be able to use everyday objects to produce fantasy sounds with limited digital manipulation is no easy task; it requires an in depth understand of the physics of sound as well as the overall "vision" of the sound in the film. For example, the voice for the tree character (specifically an "Ent"-thanks wikipedia) was created by building a resonant chamber with specifically calculated bends and turns to produce a very hollow, echoed sound when spoken into. With relatively little digital manipulation, the sound team was able to create a really cool, unique sound. 

As far as our sound design for Doll House, I see the potential for a lot of cool opportunities. I think when used effectively sound can be one of the scariest elements in a film because it forces the viewer to imagine what is/could be making that sound, resulting in a personalized mental image that hopefully scares the shit out of you. Unlike a visual image, it lets your sub-conscious make decisions, bringing out what each individual finds terrifying and bringing it to life. For most of our "spooky scenes" I think creaks and moans from the hardwood floor will really play well with our location, paired with an intense score to really bring out the tension and helplessness in the scene that will (hopefully) makes the audience squirm in their seats. That being said, I think silence also plays an important role in a horror film, helping to highlight the visual element and making your imagination run wild within the frame. I delicate balance is needed, and I am excited to help Sam with the sound design after we wrap production and my duties as AD are essentially over. 

Its going to be a challenge, but in the end I think sound design will really help set Doll House over the edge.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Grand Designs and Flat Characters

If you're at all interested in horror or thriller movies chances are you're aware of the brimming box office success of director Guillermo Del Toro's (spelled his name right first try) newest film "Crimson Peak". Crimson peaks follows the story of a wealthy american heiress, played by Mia Wasikowska, who finds herself wed to struggling English inventor, played by Tom Hiddleston.

Mia is whisked by her new lover from the comfort of the streets of buffalo New York to a grand and desolate mansion in the heart of  the English countryside. After a few nights it becomes both clear to Mia and the audience that something ghostly is a foot, but for the sake of spoilers I'll spare you all the details of the rest of the plot.

Overall the film is gorgeous, I really found myself being sucked into the frame by the wealth of period details. Perhaps the only fumble on the part of the production design was in layering on too many heavy handed metaphors throughout. Early on in the film is compared to a butterfly and from that point forward there is distinct insect iconography in almost every scene. 

On the topic of butterflies, it's strange to me that Mia's character is compared to one so often despite the fact that she undergoes no character metamorphosis what so ever. Her character lacks any sort of motivation ; even when she's hit over the head with plot details that would leave any other person paralyzed with fear, she doesn't bat so much as an eyelash.

The film as a whole just felt a little bit too fast, like someone cranked up the speed on the haunted mansion ride at disney. There are a few scary parts, but the film jumps to the next scene so fast that you never get to seep yourself in the horror of the protagonists situation. I'd definitely recommend it to those of you looking to go into production design, but if you're looking for a truly gripping thriller you could do a whole lot better than Crimson Peak.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Off the Air

Are you a weird person???

Do you enjoy watching video compilations on Youtube of random shit???

Well have I got a treat for you.....


This show is a cluster fuck of the most obscure and strange videos on the internet. It was put out by Adult Swim a few years ago, and only air at unholy hours of the night. Probably to mess with all those people tripping on LSD at 3:00 in the morning who are the only people watching adult swim at that hour. 

Now, all jokes aside, even though this is a ridiculous show and there is little to no possibility of understanding it there is some interesting things going on within each episode. All the clips that they compile into one show are related in some manner. The themes of each show are the title names of the episodes.


 Some title names are Food, Animals, Liquid, Falling, Color, and Hair. These may not seem like actual themes however if you were to watch one of the episodes to analysis it, you would find that the show actually does do a good job of choosing bits and pieces of different media on the internet to relate to the theme that they put forward.

Here are just a few stills out of some of the different episodes to give an idea of some of the things you can expect to see in the show.