This is what I sent to New Directors/New Films:
Synopsis: A man carefully irons a shirt before spending the day at the rural Utah dry cleaners once owned by his grandfather.

Utah Ark? It is shot in one day and is about the past, memory, and the links between history and present. It's not one take, ain't the Hermitage, though, and we didn't shoot the nearby Springville Art Museum...

Dogme? Well, it's close. Perhaps fitting for a movie shot in small-town Utah, it adheres quite closely to the Vow of Chastity. But the Dogme filmmakers are fighting auteur-y demons I don't see, I have to confess, we didn't put a record player in the backseat of the driving shots, so our music is verboten. And they don't certify short films anyway Dog-me films, indeed.

The Grandson: No violent deaths, no throbbing neck veins and stifled rage, but from the reviews for The Son and a familiarity with/admiration for the Dardenne brothers' previous work, I have to imagine some of their films' stylistic tendencies and refusal of melodrama have an (indirect) influence on my work. Cf. Souvenir's setting in a loud manual work-place, the handheld camerawork and (near) absence of music. I can only hope I attain some of their film's emotional impact. Read David Edelstein's Slate review .

Gulfstream G500, image: gulfstream.comMy street may have more Gulfstreams than any other in the world; the peer pressure to get one is intense.
Alec Wildenstein has one; he flew Nobu chefs around in it for his Russian girlfriend.
Edgar Bronfman has a G-V, although it's not clear for how much longer.
Donatella Versace refuses to fly anything else.
Ivana Trump doesn't have one. And if Tony Mottola had one at Sony, he doesn't have it now.

Lately, for reasons I will soon explain, Cessna, the makers of the popular Citation business jets, have been wooing me to purchase one of their planes. A stronger man might be able to do it, but I worry; if I bought a Citation, would I have to park it around the corner, so my G-Thang neighbors don't harsh on me? What's a simple filmmaker to do? I want to be independent, take a stand, but it seems like folly to go against the sentiment of "the Manhattan street."

Clocking in at a not-dragging 11'16"; with balanced sound; a few sound effects, even (you'd never notice if I didn't mention it); a dramatically pared down soundtrack (just one song, with LP3 vinyl effects I wrote about Friday); some actually beautiful images; rhythm, edits and transitions I'm quite happy with; titles and credits made simple (through too much time and effort); and narrative and emotional elements I'm not sick of watching, Souvenir (January 2003) is DONE.

Now it's off to the post, before the deadline leniency graciously extended by the Film Society of Lincoln Center runs out.

Stay tuned for stills and a little more discussion when I get back.

January 13, 2003

S(J03) Stills

Finally, some screen grabs from Souvenir (January 2003).

Watching Joe spot a pair of pants, Souvenir (Jan. 03) dir. by Gregory Allen

Want to see more? click here

scintillement at the tour d'eiffel, image: abcparislive.com

This morning on Kurt Andersen's Studio360, Paul Goldberger suggested "the Eiffel tower of 21st century, something that would use the technology of our time with the brilliance that Eiffel used the technology of the 19th century," be built at the WTC site. It's a powerful articulation (7 words, including an 'of' and two 'thes') of a compelling idea. [Listen here.]

Interestingly, Goldberger discussed a similar idea on Studio360 less than a month after the Towers fell. [Listen here.] Keep your eyes peeled for a 3,500-word theoretical exegesis by Goldberger's successor at the Times. An unsung but influential force in the Ground Zero rebuilding debate, Goldberger early on uncovered the political playing field of the LMDC and Port Authority, and was the first to publish the early, architects' conception of the Towers of Light.

Since I once visited Kings Island in Cincinnati as a child, I've never felt the urge to go up the Eiffel Tower. (The Ohio version is 1/3 the French one's height, I was about 1/3 my present height; I get the concept.)

When the French wanted an Eiffel Tower for the 21st century (l'An 2000. Repetez: an deux mille), they got le scintillement: trillions of sparkly lights covering the Tower, which started scintillement-ing on the hour. It was a magical effect that'd stop conversations in Paris...like clockwork.

Get smart: The Eiffel Tower at Wikipedia; Roland Barthes' The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies; fin de siecle idea for Eiffel Tower base jumping [via gmtPlus9].

January 12, 2003

Love Thy Neighbor


Especially when you're in DC (i.e., away from DSL) and there's a new wireless connection pouring in through your window.

The clock radio's out of the script, but music's still going in. In a piece about memory and attempting to connect with the past in a self-aware way, I want to use old-time music, my square-dancing-every-saturday, stack-of-78's-on-the-shelf, singin-cowboy, a-one-and-a-two kind of music (clearances pending, of course). And I want it to sound old.

It seems I'm not alone. Randy Lewis just wrote for the LA Times about artists adding vinyl effects to create "a frame of reference that suddenly orients you toward another time." Hey, that's my idea: music that sounds like my grandparents' hi-fi or the AM country station in their old Buick.

But a couple of the tracks I want aren't readily available on CD (some aren't readily available at all, especially in the Big City), and I don't have pro audio software, so for the moment (i.e., the submission deadline, remember?), I'm left with mp3. If logic, not Google prevailed, an LP-sounding mp3, then, should be an LP3: Here's how to make them, then get them ready to use in Final Cut:

  • Use Izotope's Vinyl Plugin for Winamp, which rocks. (You'll notice, if you switch, that winamp doesn't follow you.)
  • Output at CD-quality using Nullsoft Diskwriter, which generates a big WAV file, complete with vinyl effects.
  • Rip mp3's from the WAV's to ftp them to the Powerbook (I guess if I knew more about my wireless router, I could just network the two laptops and transfer them as WAV's... update: Yes, Australia, I could've used an iPod, but I don't have a Windows adapter for it.)
  • Use Quicktime Pro to convert the lp3.mp3's back into 44.1khz etc MOV files for use in Final Cut (this is needed to eliminate the popping and squelches mp3 introduces. I'm not evoking the Napster era here.)

    Friday night is now officially Audio Editing Dork Night. TGIAEDN!

  • January 10, 2003

    But Some Things Can't Wait

    Obviously, I can't do it now, but I have a list for a second edition of greg.org answers, wherein I provide the information you thought you'd find on this site, but didn't. [In the mean time, check out the first edition of greg.org answers and the in-progress Showgirls Special Edition.]

    Google search to launch a thousand anime episodes: "Tadao Undo, Architect"

    "I had a professor once who said that as Chekhov got older he lopped off the eventful beginnings and twist endings of his early works and that quivering middle was the mature short story." -David Edelstein, Slate
    Here's to you, David Edelstein. Geez, I love you more than you could know. This sentence (the phrase "quivering middle," actually), in a movie discussion I'd already posted about, convinced me to some changes in S(J03). Ch-ch-ch-changes? Well, I lopped off the ending, for starters. And there was that schmaltzy, obviously un-quivering scene with the clock radio. Gone. At first I was afraid, I was petrified. But when I heard Chekhov'd done it, well, ain't no stoppin' me now. [I have stopped the...cheap trick...of making insipid oldies music references, though. Boston, Chicago, you may proceed.]

    Chekov, image:nybooks.com
    So while I must confess to not having read much Chekhov, I have read several articles about Chekhov, and they have alternately inspired/influenced/condemned me. There's John Bayley's NY Review of Books. Review. And those previously untranslated short stories in Harper's, the ones where a friend I'd lost track of turned up in the translated byline. And a few more here and there. Cart, Horse. Horse, Cart, I know, but if I'm going to continue making naturalistic short films, I think I'd better study Chekhov a little more carefully. And I hear he wrote scripts, too. (image: nybooks.com)


    Sound editing tip: Keyframes are your best friend. Actually, The LA Final Cut Pro Users Group website is your best friend.

    Where'd you hear that? 2-pop discussion boards, you know you're my best friend.

    Of course, using keyframes to adjust your audio levels and effects doesn't make you a sound designer, any more than snapping pictures makes you a photographer.

    [Note to self: Last time you had to do this, you linked to freakin' Charlie's Angels. This time, put it on your own damn website so you don't have to ferret around for (seems like) hours trying to find the settings again.]
    FCP settings for a telephone effect filter
    There are two things that characterize a telephone sound: limited frequency range and harmonic distorion.

    For frequency, apply high pass filter (about 300 Hz cutoff, high Q), low pass filter (about 3000 Hz cutoff, high Q), and maybe a notch filter at about 1000 Hz. Play with the cutoff frequencies...

    I don't think FCP has any audio distortion filters. If you're not satisfied with frequency filters alone, apply distortion in a different audio program... Or play a clip and record it with a crappy microphone :-)

    JM (Thanks, JM!)

    Another note: I balanced half the audio levels last night (2AM), and finished this morning (11AM). As I listened to the whole piece through, the first half averaged about 3-4 dB lower than the second. The difference? No traffic or street noise last night. To a New Yorker, that's interesting. To anyone else, annoying. (Which thought did you have?)

    Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

    Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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    find me on twitter: @gregorg

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