I generally enjoy reading Cinematical, the webzine that covers film in a comprehensive and timely manner. They run thought-provoking articles, interview female directors outside their women in film column, and have made me laugh intentionally on more than one occasion.

However, there is one area in which they fail, and that is the staff's massive crush on overrated New Zealand director Alex Proyas and his shoulda-been-forgotten "epic" Dork Shitty Dark City. I've written about my contempt for this film before, to a smaller audience than those who initially saw this tripe in the theatres. Meanwhile, the writers over at Cinematical -- who are otherwise very intelligent and passionate about cinema -- will invoke its name any time a film they like is getting shafted at the box office. I'm beginning to think that -- as knowledgable as the Cinematical writers are -- they might not know their '90s/'00s cult movies well enough to mention them as extensively as they should be.

Let's help them fill in the gaps in their knowledge, shall we?

Go on Twitter and mention your favorite underrated movies from 1995-2005. Hashtag them #cultmovies9505 and #cinematical. Maybe the Cinematical writers will fill in the blanks in their knowledge if we point the way, yes?
The seemingly-intrinsically feminine/feminist aspect of journal writing has come up a lot since I initiated this project. When I put out a call for participants, all of the people who responded to my call were women. I reiterated my call on Facebook, specifically asking for men. One male friend of mine responded, but we were unable to schedule a time to meet up. When I did the interviews, I asked all the women if they saw journal-writing as an intrinsically feminist act, and in cutting the audio interviews together I found two responses so perfect they seemed to be in conversation with one another.

I've been going back and forth about whether I want to include it or not. When I was making this, I thought a lot about Errol Morris's 1997 documentary Fast Cheap and Out Of Control, which depicts four men from seemingly disparate backgrounds and the common denominators between them. It never once occurred to me that the four subjects were men. However, in making this, I keep asking myself to what extent I want to address the fact that my three protagonists are ladies. It seems so obvious to me, and on some level I fear reiterating the belief that keeping a diary is "women's work". On the other hand, keeping the digression in seems defensive -- as though I felt I had to address this parity.

On the other-other hand...all three of my subjects also appear to be upper-middle class. They're all college-educated and both of the younger girls attended a private school. Though Errol Morris's subjects in Fast, Cheap are all men, he was able to draw from a wider ethnic background than I was, as two of the men he profiled seem to be Latino. Why do I not feel the need to address the homogeneous racial and class backgrounds? Thinking about this makes me think my white privilege is showing.
two_ontheaisle: (Default)
( Oct. 27th, 2009 03:12 pm)
Currently I am in postproduction with "Lock and Key", a three-minute documentary about why people journal. I've conducted interviews with three writers in the greater Boston area, and am in the process of culling the most exemplary parts of their interviews and weaving them together into a three-minute short. Oh, and I have to get it done by a week from today -- in between class and stuff.

Over the weekend I started editing the audio and putting it together. Today I hit the Mac lab at my school to start editing the video. Unfortunately, the only video platform at my disposal is iMovie '08. Just for fun, enter "iMovie 08 sucks" into Google. 31,000+ hits, folks.

On this version of iMovie, there's no timeline, and you can't see and delete the audio. Bear in mind that I conducted most of my interviews on an MP3 recorder and shot complementary footage on a separate video camera. All of the video clips have room noise that I want to get rid of. iMovie will let me mute the clips, but the audio I import either doesn't transfer (so you're looking at clips without hearing any sound) OR the audio is so quiet that you can barely hear it.

Some of my editing problems could be self-inflicted. After cutting together the first minute of audio, I realized that I didn't have quite enough video for the following interview snippet. Having that first forty seconds where I didn't have enough video made it that much harder to edit the following twenty seconds.

I am currently a little incoherent, and will put editing on hold so that I can regain what little of my sanity still stands. Here's hoping I can get a finer cut complete by tomorrow. At least I have a better idea of What To Do.
Way back in the late 1990s, I bought a PXL2000 camera off of eBay. Michael Almeyreda's masterful use of the camera's lo-fi image quality and low frame rate seduced me, and I wanted to use a PXL camera to complement the Super-8 footage I was using.

After I bought it, the camera took up residence on a shelf in my room, and it moved with me to several crappy apartments in the greater Boston area. I had shot some footage with it for my first installment project, "Films About Water", but had no way to digitize and edit it. From time to time I would take the camera off the shelf and gaze longingly at it, but any desire to make something with it was eclipsed by the fact that I had no way to edit or even view the footage. Making things worse, my attempt at wiping off the blue chip resulted in my accidentially dropping the chip down a sinkhole.

I put off doing anything with the camera until "the right project" came along. Over time, ideas for what this right project would be started to come together. While the camera's relative ubiquity during the late 1980s and into the '90s indie film boom made me think the pixillated style was anchored in that era, prolonged exposure to early TV broadcasts and video technology such as kinescopes reminded me of the PXL footage I'd seen.

In the mid-oughties, I started working on what I came to term The Lost Movie. I collaborated extensively with Donna Baden, an older woman playing a dramatic role. Donna's sense of humor, as well as her straightforward, deadpan demeanor and her expressive face, stuck with me over the years -- especially after she appeared in my one-minute photo roman "The Mystery of the Missing Matron".

The idea of a kinescope with Donna didn't fully gel until I started revisiting Buster Keaton's movies as preparation for "A Doorman's Lullaby". Kino's DVD compilation Keaton Plus compiled several commercials he made for products like Alka Seltzer, Kodak, and Simon Pure Beer.

At this point I had to think of a product. I didn't want Donna to advertise anything traditionally feminine, which had the potential to either be lulsy or depressing. Though Donna is older, I didn't want the audience to pity her for being trapped in her home...which is how I feel when I see 1960s TV commercials aimed at women. I'm not sure how the "Street Phone" product came about, but that seemed like the most right product for Donna to hawk.

In my head, the character of Belle Van de Veere was a former silent comedy straight-man who had retired to raise a family and returned to the public eye later in her life -- a narrative that mirrored Donna's own life as a young model who returned to acting as an adult woman.

I managed to write the script quickly, with the hope of completing it in time for LE60 and other autumnal short film festivals. "The Mystery of the Missing Matron" was too dense and plot-heavy for a one-minute short, and making a slapsticky fake TV commercial seemed like the way to go.

I had conceived of the short as a reunion of sorts for myself, Donna, Jeff Landale (who played Wendy's boyfriend Eddie in "The Mystery of the Missing Matron") and Ian Cardoni (who starred alongside Donna in The Lost Movie).

Sadly, Ian was unavailable for this shoot. In his place I cast Paul Kmiec, an up-and-comer whose appearance in the short film "In the Tradition of My Father" reminded me of Bud Cort.

His physical contrast with Jeff and his ability to keep a straight face under the most trying of conditions made him the ideal choice for the role of Pickpocket #1.

Sadly, the day of the first shoot didn't go as well as I'd hoped. We ran into some technical problems, stemming from the unreliable viewfinder on the PXL 2000 that caused me to shoot a lot of cranium and sky. Additionally, before the shoot started I found out that my previous short film, "Stranger than Bearskin Neck" "Portrait of Madison" had gotten rejected from Straight 8 -- a rejection for which I paid $120. Thanks, dudes! I was just a skosh out of sorts.

When I finally sat down to watch the footage and learned it was unusable, I reassembled my cast and reshot it. The reshoot was a little hectic. Because most of my cast was clad in black boiled wool, tweed hats, and nylon stockings, I felt as though I had to rush through the shoot. We had a captive audience in the form of the beauty salon customers in the strip mall near where we shot. A shirtless wino kept threatening to make an unwanted cameo appearance. This was also the first time I worked with a monitor -- mostly to avoid the craniums and sky effect described above -- and I lived in fear of ripping it out of my fearless assistant's hand if I moved too quickly. Never before did I identify with conjoined twins as much as I did on that set.

This afternoon I finally downloaded the footage from the shoot. The footage looks...good. I'm afraid of setting unrealistic expectations by saying it looks great; the camera is too far away and the light too undefined. I shot plenty of medium shots where you can't quite parse out the facial expressions. At the same time, though, looking at the footage is like looking at a bolt of unusual cotton yarn and seeing the great dress you're about to make. This isn't heavy brocade or ermine or something gorgeous, but the raw material has a quality that will make a good, unusual short film.

This week I will start putting together an assembly edit. My initial plan for this involved submitting it to the Disposable Film Festival, but even though I wrapped shooting with enough time to edit, I didn't know if the score or additional sound would be ready in time for submission. I'd like to get a cut of this completed before I fly out to San Francisco, but instead of making something that I rush through making so I can show it to a programmer, I want to make something that makes me proud.

At some point in the future, I'd like to make a ten-minute black-and-white musical on the PXL -- something that recalls early dramatic TV efforts. As much as I need to keep my eyes on the task at hand, it's nice to have an idea in the back of my mind.

Now, to go learn the clusterfuck that surely is iMovie '09...
two_ontheaisle: (Default)
( Jul. 6th, 2009 08:48 pm)
My seventh short subject, “A Doorman’s Lullaby”, will be making its world premiere at the Brooklyn Lyceum on 10 July 2009 as part of the Flicker Super-8 Film Festival. This ranks up there with “Alphabet” as one of my favorite shorts and I’m really excited about its impending premiere.

So excited, in fact, that I’m giving you the chance to see it for free.

See this short film?

I want you to name it.

In “A Doorman’s Lullaby”, the title character watches this short film on a tiny TV set. The story in this short is one of the things that gets him off his ass and into the street to rescue his girlfriend’s cello.

To enter the contest, simply Tweet a title for the film and tag it #namethatfilm. The winning entry will receive two free passes to the 10 July Flicker NYC screening at the Brooklyn Lyceum, a credit in an updated version of the film, and a broadcast-quality download of the film you named for bragging rights. Entries will be judged on creativity and applicability.

All participants must be local to NYC, or able to get to the screening on Friday night. Family and close friends of the filmmakers are disqualified from entering the contest. Contest ends Wednesday, 8 July at 10:30 PM, and a winner will be announced at 8am Thursday morning.

Thanks for participating, and may the best title-writer win!
two_ontheaisle: (Default)
( May. 8th, 2009 07:30 pm)
/ I just realized why I have yet to hear from Mad Cat Film Festival: They announce the final selections in August.

/ On Tuesday, I'll hear back from [censored] about whether or not I made it in. On Thursday, I'll hear likewise from Rooftop Films. I'm at the point where I write the checks with my eyes closed, but it would be nice if "Portrait of Madison" made the cut.

+ I will be sending "A Doorman's Lullaby" to First Night. Wouldn't it be wonderful for my short film to make his Boston-area bow on New Year's Eve?

After this week, five festivals -- HollyShorts, Hollywood Shorts (no relation), San Fransisco Shortsfest, Tucson Music and Film Festival, and Austin Film Festival -- will have a copy of "Doorman" for review. I'm specifically looking for a West Coast festival to premiere it, since I've never been out to California and since one of my dearest friends lives out there and has had some health issues. Between those five, I'd like for someone to say yes. My fondest hope is for HollyShorts, but I'd be happy for any of them to accept it.

If you're on the Twitter, keep up with me over there. I'm microblogging the upcoming shoot for "Bendix Street Phone", which seems appropriate as the film will be a minute long and is about an imaginary cell phone from the 1950s. Search for the hashtag #bendix.
two_ontheaisle: (Default)
( May. 5th, 2009 08:52 am)
A week from today, I learn whether "Portrait of Madison" made the cut for Straight 8 2009. I'm trying to figure out what the odds of my getting in are.

+ This year they had 154 filmmakers, down from 175 last year.
+ They're putting together (at least) four programs.
+ Compared to my previous work, my film is a fairly straightforward narrative.

- I screwed up the exposure on at least one shot.
- I got one mistake shot that lasted about a second.
- Two shots cross the 360-degree "line", which I only realized after I sent it off.
- The narrative, while obvious to me (it's a variation on Rammelzee's scene at the end of Stranger than Paradise), might not be as obvious to others.

/ This will be my first Straight 8.
/ I'm not a member of the British advertising "scene".

I'm not as invested in the outcome of this film's acceptance as I am in other festivals. Mentally, I'll be irritated if I sent it in only to get constructive criticism and no screenings in return. I didn't spent $100 for concrit, for crying out loud. On the other...I've been rejected from so many festivals this year (and the year's not halfway through yet) that I've started to wonder if people want to buy what I have to sell. If I don't get in, I'll be disappointed, but I feel so detatched from the outcome at this point.
two_ontheaisle: (Default)
( May. 4th, 2009 09:06 am)

"I am not greedy. I do not seek to possess the major portion of your days. I am content if, on those rare occasions whose truth can be stated only by poetry, you will, perhaps, recall an image, even only the aura of my films." -- Maya Deren