I ended up making screening tapes from the DV master, since I have been having the same problems with output that we had before (ie., skipping, frozen frames). The movie may have found the maximum processing capacity of the G4 we're working with. Moral: don't go halfway on the memory or processing power. You'll use it all, so make sure it's enough.


Jean and I drove from DC to NC for the weekend, and talked through the rest of the Souvenir series. I'll post some of those notes after I get them typed up. Some general ideas around which stories may develop: remembering and returning to specific places, the differences between peoples' memories of the same event (more Chuck and Buck than Rashomon, though), remembering as talking vs. remembering as "experiencing," and a few more. Abstract enough for you? After hearing a 1992 interview with John Cage on WNYC yesterday, I'm pretty sure he'll have a role in the movie somehow. (besides the music in Souvenir November 2001, that is) Anyway, everyone goes to bed early in NC, so I'm outta here.

Making screening tapes: Groundhog Day all over again (which may be redundant, I know). I've been working to swap out the shot that annoyed Jonah and me (shooting into the sun=super-blown out exposure), finding one that (except for some coke can/coke bottle discontinuity) is way way better. Now, though, the same popping and frame snagging problem that nearly derailed us last week is back, even worse.


MoMA Benefit: what a laff riot. Spent hours in the afternoon rehearsing with David O. Russell, Lily Tomlin, and a posse of movie and museum people. It was a blast. My co-chair, Muffy, didn't want to do any of the jokes I'd written for us (we were the fifth in a chain of intros and thank yous, and we introduced David and Lily, who interviewed him). Instead of Ben Stiller opening the evening, it was a clip from Flirting with Disaster, the one where Mary Tyler Moore lifts her shirt and shows off her aging-yet-still-firm breasts (let's see what search engines do with THAT description). So after four refined, diplomatic, but slightly uptight intros by other museum dignitaries, my joke about Russell making movies for a TV generation that grew up wanting Mary Tyler Moore to take her shirt off went over fine. As did the line about thanking my lawyers and my manager who got me this job (people were just about thanked out). Ben Stiller's appearance later, via "live" satellite hookup, was hilarious; he acted like he was accepting the award, then got confused and hurt when he was told it wasn't for him. Finally, Will Farrell showed up, as James Lipton, and pulled all the actors onstage to fawn over them strangely. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Then we all ran upstairs for dinner (and, for the LA crowd, an American Spirit) and the party.


Here is a list of my new Hollywood friends (in Hollywood, if you hang out for a night, mentioning your respective projects, you can claim friendship.): Spike and Sofia (very nice. sat next to them.); the Leguizamos, Wes Anderson (very popular with the ladies, btw), Alexander Payne, and Glenn Fitzgerald. The agents were thick as thieves (in a good way), but, true to form, they don't have entries in IMDB, so no linking. Anyway, my friends'll understand if I have to get back to work. Let's get together for breakfast.

Been working on my schtick for tonight, where I am introducing David O. Russell and Lily Tomlin at a MoMA film benefit. MoMA is acquiring Russell's films for its permanent collection, and the fundraising group I co-chair is hosting the program/party. Given the crowd and the committee (almost all of whom are going to be there), I'm (Spike) Jonzin' to work the movie into the intro, no matter how tenuous the connection. Can't see it happening, though. And with Ben Stiller opening for me and the crowd of comedians in the program, I think the best I'll be able to do is not be a complete idiot. Paul Thomas Anderson'll be there, as well as Wes Anderson [a Wes Anderson blog, yet not by Wes Anderson.]; hopefully, we're seated somewhat alphabetically...

Apropos of nothing, (or everything but what this web log is about, to be more precise), this political analysis weblog, Talking Points Memo, is fascinating and engrossing. Fulfills the promise of the web of bringing to the surface news and information that media mega-outlets try to ignore. Living in DC can be exciting, it seems.

Details, details.

  • Worked on the dialogue transcript, which will morph into subtitles, which I assume I'll be able to put on after some book reading.
  • Need to add another screen of credits and acknowledgements. Right now, we just have one screen with the crew and principal cast. But since there are another nine people in the movie, we gots to get them in. AND, there are sponsors and people who helped out to be thanked. I learned how to do that, though.
  • There's one clip from inside the car, during one conversation, one line of dialogue, where the exposure's all whack. We'd shot it early in the morning, and the sun is coming right in the window. The problem is, I'm pretty sure that's the only take with that exact line. I've gotta go through all the tapes again and look for a better shot.
  • The sound needs to be remixed, I think. Basically, it's all there, and pretty good, but levels aren't quite right, there's some noise in places (although most of it's gone)...a real audio expert'll be able to do wonders, I think.


    That said, after rewatching Kieslowski's Dekalog--where there were tons of car interiors with overexposed landscapes and/or harsh shadows from a sun gun spotlight inside the car, and after seeing Y tu Mama Tambien, where the narrator's voiceover cuts abruptly into the ambient audio of the story, I'm a little less hung up about the last two. Our light's better than some of Kieslowski's, and our sound's better than some of Alberto Cuaron's. That's something. Not that I'm not going to fix these things, though, obviously.

  • I'm listening to Studio360 on WNYC, talking about artistic depiction of the Holocaust.


    For some odd reason, this poem by Andrew Marvell came to mind. Or more specifically, the first line: "Had we but world enough, and time." I don't know why, but it was interesting to reread the whole thing. Not what first popped into my groggy head, but quite nice in a different way.

    April 5, 2002

    At times, it seems like

    At times, it seems like this web account should be subtitled, "Against my better judgment." In the application for Director's Fortnight, there's a place make a "statement" or "message." Here's what I whipped out at the Les Halles Cybercafe:


    The fact that I felt compelled to make this film by
    the events in my hometown last year is unsettling. I
    would normally be wary of any film created under such
    personal circumstances of duress; who would want to
    see something like that?
    Well, in New York, where it was just reported that
    tens of thousands of people have exhibited signs of
    depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, we must
    learn to live and deal with things that once seemed so
    remote, foreign, far away, long past. I made a movie
    about people living next to a crater for 80 years
    because *I* now live next to a crater, and I need to
    learn how to do it.
    If this little movie can tune the eyes and ears of
    anyone (especially my fellow residents of the US)
    toward the people who have some experience and
    resilience in the wake of horrible violence? I will
    count it a success.

    New York, Old computer: a nice combo. After dropping by a North Sea-side resort in the Netherlands (love that place, but the whole country smells like cows. Seriously.) for dinner (my wife's there for a European Space Agency conference), I came back via Brussels, probably the single lamest airport in Europe. I'm sure there are worse ones in the US, but Brussels just SUCKS. Somehow they combine assaultive commercialism with an utter lack of any useful/convenient shopping (no music, books, electronics, or travel to speak of. As if people at an airport only want liquor, cigarettes, and perfume...); and you have to go through passport control TWICE; maybe one's Dutch and one's French. And I thought Canada was bi-culturally ghettoized...That reminded me of a 1999 Tony Judt article in the NY Review of Books that examined why Belgium even exists. At least the euro did away with their annoying Belgian Franc.


    I watched Krzysztof Kieslowski's Dekalog for 6/8 of the flight back to NYC [check for the DVD here](mostly subtitled with the sound off, since I couldn't find a ((&(*^*&(* pair of headphones in the airport). It's still brilliant. And remarkably understated, given Kieslowski's lyrical/poetic leanings. Read Kubrick on Kieslowski. Read Ebert on Decalogue.


    At the confluence of the film's title change (adding "November 2001" to the original "Souvenir" after a dialogue edit left us wrestling with how to communicate the date/setting at the beginning of the film), an admiration for Dekalog, and the increasingly frequent question, "What's next?" I've decided this movie will be the first in a series of "Souvenir" films--shorts of varying lengths, according to the stories--dealing with different aspects of memories, remembering, etc. This turned up first in the press kit, but I'm quite happy/excited/engrossed in it. Stay tuned and/or make some suggestions. Proustian Madeleines are already on the list, fyi.

    Paris, lqnd of screzed up typezriters qnd keyboqrds% zell, qfter eight missed/rescheduled flights (including three yesterday, Tuesday), I got here with the < fingers making quote marks>finished< no more quote marks> version of the film, now officially titled, Souvenir November 2001. Dropped the screening copies off at Cannes Festival offices and the Director's Fortnight. Tomorrow morning I'll take the third copy to the Critic's Week competition; Qs you may know, the Cannes Festival is paralleled by two other events/series, Festival de Cannes being the most easily recognized. For a sense of the odds/competition, there are about 900 films in the pool for Cannes, most of which also submit to the other two competitions. (The others have about the same, I guess, but with some longer films as well; "short film" = <15 min. for Cannes, <60 min for the others. Academy Award category is cut off at 40 min.)


    There's a whole story in the final final editing and outputting to video crisis, which will probably only interest someone who gets stuck with the same technical glitches we faced and is trying to overcome them. That tutorial can wait until I get back to a regular keyboard. Suffice it to say, Jonah the editor/DP rocked. rocks. we've still got some audio/music issues to iron out, but those can wait a few days. The last week has been like Groundhog Day, excruciating repetition of the exact same activities until we got it right. And the movie? I think it may not be half bad; there certainly are some really good moments, visually, aurally, or idea/emotionally. Someone else will have to say if it actually succeeds, though. Maybe if there was a big gathering of film experts somewhere, they could tell me...


    I plan on falling asleep somewhere in the 3-hour screening of Atanarjuat, the first Inuit-language film, which is an epic masterpiece, apparently (and which was awarded the Camera d'Or for best first feature at last year's Cannes). I'd downloaded their press kit a couple of weeks ago to use as a model for ours. It doesn't open in the US for another three months, and i (obviously) missed it at last weeks' New Directors/New Films in NYC.

    Editing, Last Day 3: Well, we go on, editing through the Friday 9PM shipping deadline. (There go my 80K miles. And because of the Easter holiday, I have to fly through London to deliver the tape by Tuesday.)
    Thursday night, we called a few friends over to screen the cut with fresh eyes, to see if it made sense, had any unintentionally unclear/unexplained parts. Good thing we did. A couple of key moments didn't come across as I'd hoped. People wanted to see more at the memorial itself, for one thing. While in one sense, the "shortchanging" of experience at the memorial was an intentional contrast with the preceding experience at the crater, it was apparently overdone, an unconscious underestimation of the audience's ability to identify the differences.


    On that note, there were moments and ideas caught by new eyes that I hadn't consciously considered. Dennis liked a physical contrast between the comparably scaled crater and the towering arch (positive/negative, raw/manicured, random/precise). Of course, Dennis is a sculptor, well attuned to such things. Patrick caught the naivete of the character's quest, the "not knowing what he'll find but needing to look anyway". And the emotional ambiguity of the end, being left to feel what you will, not just what you're made to feel. Andrew was the sharpest on spotting continuity & narrative flow issues, even spotting a sequence I'd put in of cutting back and forth from driving in the rain and searching online. "I want to see more rain. I know she's still searching; she just said it." And he was right. All in all, it was an extremely nervewracking but valuable session; if it's this tough to show something to someone I know, what's it going to be like to show something to the world? Or to the world that stumbles into the VFW hall where it screens on a Saturday afternoon?

    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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