Category:souvenir (november 2001)

February 7, 2002

Update: Met with DP two

Update: Met with DP two nights in a row, discussing casting, scheduling, the script (which may go through another revision very soon), and some ideas for adding a shoot day in NYC. We're also going to do some readings/camera tests to help finalize casting. Alice, friend of Jonah's was along tonight; look forward to her joining. She's got some good experience, connections, and her french is excellent. The script's been downloaded far more than I expected (I never download pdf's).


Other: DV audio tips search turned up another film weblog, this one from Dallas-based Bare Ruined Films.
And it turns out the master of the no-budget blockbuster, Robert "El Mariachi" Rodriquez, beat us all to it with his book, Rebel Without a Crew, which includes his daily production journal as well. There's a webring around here somewhere, I can feel it...

YIKES. Within five minutes of posting the script, I see the opening scene of IFC's With the Filmmaker: Martin Scorcese by Albert Maysles, where The Man says:

The worst thing when you're preparing a film, is the endless stream of opinions and suggestions you get; people talking and talking. You can't concentrate and hear the one voice you need to focus on--your own.

My automatic (deadpan) reply: "Are you talkin' to me? Are you talkin' to ME??"

Considerations made in posting the script for this short, called (for the moment) Souvenir:


  • Adequately guarding intellectual property (Joe Eszterhas' Souvenir, rated NC-17, opening May 15")
  • Having to deal with a wave of comments and suggestions ("Loved your script. I've got a few notes...")
  • Having to deal with deafening silence & lack of reaction ("monthly traffic report: 2mb/ monthly allowed: 10000mb")
  • This script under construction (it's currently v1.5.1, sure to change many more times within the two weeks remaining before shooting)
  • FID (the writer's version of FUD, swapping insecurity for uncertainty)
  • Not really knowing what the impact on the viewing experience will be of disseminating the script (at least) months before the film is available.


    Anyway, here is the first complete shooting script in pdf format. [note: I fixed the link; ome people with old skool browsers reported problems. Also, I noticed that the title shows v1.4, not 1.5.1, and the footer is screwed up. OTOH, I converted this .doc to .pdf for free on Adobe's site. Thanks, Adobe.] Do with it what you will (as long as it isn't appropriation, unauthorized publication or use, outright mockery, or plagiarism).

  • Making this film means keeping "artist hours," means watching the Australian Open semis live on ESPN2 while storyboarding.

    Updating the storyboard means ftp'ing on the site, means checking my logs. it's been a while.

    Favorite search engine query bringing me a visitor (from google): "I went to high school with Ben Affleck"

    January 24, 2002

    I've found a DP (director

    I've found a DP (director of photography, or cinematographer, variously), Jonah Freeman, a brilliant artist who works in video and installation. Very excited.

    The last week has been spent rewriting and looking for a lead actor, who'll have to carry the whole thing, basically. The actor I wanted first, Ed Norton, just started shooting a new Hannibal Lecter film two weeks ago, so he's out. Jonah and I are meeting with some people today who he's worked with before. Stay tuned.


    FWIW, I started a storyboard based on the latest version of the reading script. (See a brief discussion of shooting and reading scripts here,) As we start blocking out the scenes and building the shooting schedule, detail will increase. I'm using Google Images Search to approximate the composition of shots I have in mind. Never seen this done before; if you have, please let me know where.

    Details about the short:


    Cast:
    New Yorker, 30, m
    His Wife, 16 (just kidding. 30), f [phone voice only]
    Mechanic, 22, m [french]
    Cafe Owner, 50, f [french]
    Farmer, 85, m [french]


    Locations:
    CDG/Roissy
    Albert, France & surrounding region

    January 13, 2002

    The last two weeks, I

    The last two weeks, I have been consumed by the task of writing a screenplay for a short film that has been percolating/eating at me/distracting me since the late fall. ( You do the math.) I'm thinking of posting either an in-process or a finished version of the script here soon; we'll see. Shooting should take only about three days.


    The format a short film takes--as dictated by various film festival submission requirements and a group called The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences-- is proving to be at once constraining and liberating, maybe like writing a sonnet or something. There's enough structure to give ready shape to the ideas and story I've got in my mind.


    The movie is set in France (thus my last post about rental cars in France), and explores the lives and views of people living in the aftermath of World War I. It specifically looks at the Battle of the Somme, which was one of the most devastating, prolonged, and--in some ways--pointless acts of violence in the century.


    At the time (starting in 1916), it was extremely difficult for people to adequately comprehend the scale of the killing that took place, and it was supposed that nothing could surpass it. Such views were, of course, proven wrong in WWII and since.


    While The Somme lives on in metaphor and has specifically been invoked to describe Ground Zero and the killings of September 11, I think the contemporary view is quite removed from the experiences and perspectives that prevailed "in the wake" of 1916.


    Hellfire Corner is a tremendous source of current and historical information about The Great War, which still seems to resonate in the UK far more than in the US (as far as I've seen, anyway). When I was visiting the UK for some friends' art opening last October, I saw many Londoners wearing the Flanders Poppy on their lapels, a sign of remembrance for those lost in battle that seems to proliferate in the Armistice Day/Veteran's Day season.


    It's odd and unexpected how this writing and pre-prod process is having such a cathartic, mind-clearing effect on my other, "main" project. Like gauging and mapping out a boulder that has been blocking the (clear, I thought) path.

    January 3, 2002

    How NOT to screen video

    How NOT to screen video of farmers baling hay that you shot on your first day of your first location:

    1) Watch Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven, in which nearly every scene looks like a Vermeer, a Hopper, shot at "magic hour."[note: this link's a bit random; a blurb on magic hour from a home entertainment center dealer]

    2)Watch your own. shot on DV.

    You know, I have to say, I started writing this entry before I screened our tape, immediately after being blown away again by Malick's daunting images. I was intimidated, and I expected the stuff we shot to be totally unwatchable by comparison. You know, it's not the case. Our footage is certainly different, very rough in spots, and will probably not win the cinematography prize at Cannes like Nestor Almendros' work did, but it's not bad.

    The first third of the tape were exterior shots of the barn/shed and the fields behind my grandparents' house; their neighbor's corral with its tired old horse; and the lawn, huge evergreen bushes and a willow tree in the backyard. (I remember when these bushes were small enough to see through, if not quite over.) There's no sound, though. At all. I remember that.

    The middle third is of my grandmother driving through Mapleton, discussing the town and their land and farming as we searched for hay being baled. We'd missed most of the harvest by a week or so, as it turns out, due to scheduling exigencies. She's pretty good. Decades of teaching elementary school show themselves in her clear, descriptive manner.

    The last third was new to me. We'd found a crew loading bales of hay onto a trailer, and Jeff got out to shoot them while I went back to get our car. There's an interesting poetry in the footage. Two teenagers with T-shirts and baseball caps and a late 30's guy with a walrus mustache, a paunch, and those glasses that darken automatically when you go outside. It's hot (100+) and it's clearly hard work. Every once in a while, you can see where the guys are hamming for the camera. No way are they gonna be caught on film struggling with a bale of hay. Jeff kept the tape rolling nonstop, so myriad adjustments and setups punctuate the footage. As he jogged towards my approaching car, he said, "that loud sound is the A/C. I could use some water."

    The mountains in the background, the cloud-streaked blue sky, the deep green field, these young guys doing essentially 100-year old work that's not so different from that of Malick's farmers. It's encouraging. (and late. good night.)

    December 23, 2001

    This morning on NPR, there

    This morning on NPR, there was a commentary about the Christmas Truce, a moment in the first year of WWI when British and German troops left their trenches, met in No Man's Land, and exchanged cigarettes and jam, sang Christmas carols, and even played soccer. This ad hoc truce was unofficial and unsanctioned, and it obviously didn't last, but it was a last vestige of a human, individual, moral approach to war that was rendered obsolete by WWI's technological advances. Paul Fussell, a UPenn historian, called it "the last twitch of the 19th century." Read firsthand accounts of the Christmas Truce here.


    This story reminded me of a trip I made in early 2000 with Paul, a former colleague of mine, while we were working in Paris. We set out one cold Saturday to visit WWI memorials to the Battle of the Somme. We set out to visit the British Memorial at the village of Thiepval [note: link is in pdf format], designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. This arch is inscribed with the names of thousands of missing soldiers and was one inspiration for Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial [note: official Park Services websites are currently offline]. In November 2000, Maya Lin discussed Lutyens' influence in an essay she wrote in 1982, right after completing the then-controversial memorial. Read it in the New York Review of Books.


    Merry Christmas.

    September 22, 2001

    The script: Some people have

    The script: Some people have asked if Iíll post the script here, and I feel a little odd to tell them there really isnít one at this point. Itís not really a matter of saying, ìItís a documentary; there IS no script,î because plenty of documentary films are scripted, or staged, or laid out before theyíre shot. When I worked on a documentary for Japanese public television right after graduating from college, I got self-righteously indignant before interviewing an expert when the director told me I needed to get him to say something very specific. ìIsnít that dishonest? Itíd be more ërealí to let him decide what he says, and we'll just capture it,î I protested. Of course, I quickly found out that the reason we were even considering interviewing him was because heíd expressed exactly that view in an article somewhere. Earlier, a researcher had found this expert and scripted him in. (Writing this, Iím reminded of the Simpsons episode were Bart became annoyingly famous for saying, ìI didnít do it.î He's a guest on Conan, who tells him, "Just do the line." Same thing.)


    Anyway, two years ago, when I conceived this project, I had the general idea of telling the stories of my grandfathersí lives. The standard elements of that production were obvious, if critically unexamined: interviews with them, their family members and friends; ìtoursî of important places in their lives, family photos and memorabilia, historical documents and footage, etc. Journal writing and family history are strong principles of the Mormon tradition and teaching where my grandparents live, so it should be easy to pull the raw material together, I automatically thought. In fact, the project itself could be explained rather nicely within that context. The narrative structure was originally, then, chronological biography. Interesting, perhaps, but also understandable when it sat on the back burner for a couple of years. Making an episode of A&E Biography (still) doesnít interest me.

    Not that my grandfathersí lives arenít a great story. Thereís just a difference between the documented life and the examined life. I hadnít been prepared or in the state of mind to examine their lives or to delve into their examinations of their own lives. As many journalsóMormon and otherwiseóand weblogs attest, itís not enough to just make an account of what you did or where you went, what you bought, who you met. At the other end of the spectrum, reflexive analysis of what you think or feel or intend can be just as unsatisfying and specious, especially at the time, and especially if itís done for ìposterityî (a family history [note: that link is a 1976 church mag article.]) or public consumption (Biography).


    So. The project came back to the fore after I had developed some questions I wanted to examine and answer for myself. The most immediate medium for exploring these questions is my family, my grandparentsí lives and experience. Some of these questions have already been referred to in this log; others I plan on NOT posting, because I feel they could potentially obscure the experience of making and watching the movie. And in some cases, I still donít know the questions, much less the answers. Itís an iterative process, which is extremely well suited to digital video and, I hope, to weblogs as well.

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    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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