April 2002 Archives

April 30, 2002

So I finally got at

So I finally got at least one production still off the Mac and onto the web. Here is the first of about 20 or so images from Souvenir November 2001, the one which accompanys all the press kits and festival applications (so far).

It's a scene of the New Yorker and the caretaker of Lochnagar Crater, a site that the film's protagonist stumbles across while searching for the Thiepval Memorial. (None of this makes the remotest sense to you? Welcome to my weblog. Check out the background links, script, and storyboard at the top of the lefthand column.) In this scene, the caretaker and his colleague explain the crater's origin and history. Read about the crater at the Friends of Lochnagar site. And read an account of the 1998 discovery of Private George Nugent's remains at the crater, an incident the caretaker discusses in the movie.

April 29, 2002

It was moving day, or

It was moving day, or moving around day, anyway. Traded weeks of keyboard-based work for overhauling the art in our little NYC house. Out with Roe Ethridge's landscapes (his great show just opened at Andrew Kreps Gallery, so we'll ALL be seeing more of his work for a while.), Anne Chu's watercolor landscapes, and Stephen Hendee's ink/gouache futuristic landscapes (see a theme here?) In with Vern Dawson and Olafur Eliasson (now that winter's over, it's safe to put up pictures of Iceland). And the kicker: a Wade Guyton sculpture that has a table-like object as its base. Looks so much like a table, I'm typing at it right now, in fact, until Wade comes to help set up the mirrored plexiglass column element that sits on top.

Since it's only table-LIKE, I stacked some books and magazines under the leg-LIKE elements to bring it to table height. Here's the list:

Godel, Escher, Bach; The Invisible Man; the last two issues of Vogue; Air Guitar by Dave Hickey; First They Killed My Father : A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers; Bret Easton Ellis' Glamorama; Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell (french version, which is hilarious, btw); Collected Fictions: Jorge Luis Borges; Projects for Prada Part 1 by Rem Koolhaas' publishing elves; an old Wallpaper*, a new Artforum, a Vanity Fair, Departures, an old art/text, and a beat-up New Yorker.

Then I looked at the finished piles, and I was reminded of the stylists at "shelter magazines" who artfully arrange erudite-seeming/trend-driven book spines for photoshoots (Remember that summer when everyone seemed to have Infinite Jest on his/her coffee table?). I couldn't find any articles about it, meaning 1) such magazine machinations may be an urban myth (unlikely), 2) I'm not hip to the right stylist-related search terms, or 3)people in the shelter magazine world don't use the internet for self-critique, just for hookin' up. I did find this excerpt from Marjorie Garber's Sex and Real Estate, which talks about the business of "propping" a for-sale house (using wood fires, apple pies, aromatherapy, flowers, etc.) to hit the prospective buyer's "romantic soft spot."

So what can we glean from our collection of titles? Is it the display window of my soul? I see two breakdowns:

  • Deliberately chosen books and "whatever's left within reach; can I put this table down now?"
  • Very thick books (4), and shims (the rest).

  • April 28, 2002

    Oh, before I forget: Send

    Oh, before I forget:

    Send an email if you're interested in coming to a private evening screening of Souvenir November 2001 in NYC, to be scheduled within the next couple of weeks. If demand warrants, we'll set one up in Washington, DC as well. I'm working on the date and location this week.

    Now that the movie's finally done, I have a little breathing room, so I went to one of the websites we shot really quickly for insert shots in the wife's Google search scene. Of the dozens of sites we shot, we included maybe 5, for a fraction of a second each (with more screen time for Google, because it's integral to the story). The page: "MIT Architecture: 9-11 and its Aftermath," with a lecture/article by Prof. Hlne Lipstadt titled "The Monument does not Remember."

    It was probably this combination of words that appealed to Jonah and caused him to include the shot of the page, but it seemed like a nice, oblique reference to the attacks and NYC's own questions about what comes after the World Trade Center, so we kept it in. The lecture's quite interesting, but even more interesting, is a memorial I'd never heard of, built within 72 hours (!) of the attacks at MIT. Called the Reflecting Wall, it was a full-scale model of a fragment of the WTC's distinctive column/window/column wall, executed in plywood. A remarkably moving and prescient gesture, it predated the emergence of images of the twisted, remaining fragment of the actual wall that became a familiar reference (and which doctrinaire voices rapidly included in any eventual memorial on the site).

    April 27, 2002

    As if nothing had ever

    As if nothing had ever gone wrong... This morning, I managed to get the completed, subtitled, sound-level-relatively-balanced version of Souvenir outputted onto a DV master AND several VHS tapes. What this means:

  • pain-free festival submissions
  • local screenings for family, friends, the crew and any potential partners, backers or distributors
  • I can sell the overpriced, underpowered Powerbook Titanium to which I can attribute some of the output problems.

    A hint to Final Cut Pro users with output problems: < geekspeak> After outputting the audio to a CD-file and the video (only!) to a Final Cut Movie file, I combined these two full-length (15 min) files into an entirely new project and sequence. It doesn't require any render files, etc, so it's entirely self contained in 3-4 files. Because these were sitting on a firewire external drive, they were inherently limited by the transfer speed of the firewire connection. I moved them off the ext. drive and placed the entire project on the laptop hard drive. Then I replayed the project via "Print to Video." It worked fine. Of course, because the G4 only has 10Gb, I had to delete piles of stuff first to make space. And if you have a larger project, you'll need a commensurately larger internal drive. < /geekspeak>

  • April 25, 2002

    First the good news: I

    First the good news: I got my keyboard replaced, and now I have my beloved Trackpoint back. Things are looking up.

    Bad news: Here is the list of picks for International Critics Week at Cannes. One short, The Day I Was Born, by Japanese director Manda Kunitoshi, features a "baby born on September 11 2001," so that may have filled the thematic slot I was targetting. There were no US shorts among the seven selected, though. In fact, there are no US films at all.

    Good news: I got the no-subtitles version dubbed and submitted to the Edinburgh Film Festival, which cut me a week's slack while I tried to get the subtitled version outputted.

    Bad news: I haven't gotten the subtitled version outputted yet. There are memory problems with Final Cut Pro, which doesn't seem to recognize the 30+ available gigabytes on my external drive. At this rate, though, I'll be able to sit next to everyone who watches it and translate the French parts for them.

    Sure enough. Here is the list of short films selected for Cannes. Two US films, including one by Bruce Terris, who was Pete Jones' 1st Assistant Director on Stolen Summer/Project Greenlight. Watching Terris' constant pushing/complaining about the importance of shot lists stuck in my head and proved to be very helpful advice for shooting Souvenir, btw.

    April 24, 2002

    "'We wanted to break the

    "'We wanted to break the rule which has it that the selection of the Cannes film festival should always be tragic and solemn,' Thierry Fremaux, the festival's artistic director, said on Wednesday as he presented the program."

    I haven't been able to find the list of short films selected, but it sounds like Fremaux specifically ruled out my movie. I'd better reconsider my next project: a film about coming to terms with my strict Catholic upbringing.

    April 24, 2002

    The list of feature films

    The list of feature films in the competition at Cannes is here, and the Un Certain Regard selection is here. Alexander Payne's film, About Schmidt got in after all; a couple of weeks ago at MoMA, he said he thought it had been rejected. TF1 reports that there were 2,281 films submitted this year. Whether that includes the 900 or so shorts isn't clear.

    April 23, 2002

    Just when I imagine that

    Just when I imagine that this might be the most problem-plagued, nerve-wracking production ever, Sundance Channel comes through in the pinch, with a timely screening of Les Blank's Burden of Dreams, the 1982 documentary on the making of Werner Herzog's folly, Fitzcarraldo. It tells the ridiculous story of Herzog losing his two stars, Jason Robards and Mick Jagger, after 40% of the movie had been shot; of delays that mean shooting in the dry season, when the river is too low for his boats; of the border war that erupts, necessitating them to move the location 1,500 miles; and of course, of his hate-love-hate relationship with replacement lead Klaus Kinski. I got it easy.

    Oh, by the way, they're announcing the films selected for Cannes tomorrow (24 April).

    So tonight, Les Glaneurs et La Glaneuse is on Sundance Channel as I come home from the gym. It's the first time I've seen it on television, not in the theater, and the image difference is quite noticeable between video-to-film transfer and video-on-television (Agns Varda shot the movie herself in DV). It's a relief/heartening to see that it does look like video on TV, since Souvenir November 2001 looks like video on TV, too. It'll be nice to see it on film. Hell, it'll be nice to see it.

    What I can't understand, but what I've been aware of since at least Hoop Dreams, is how the Academy can NOT give even a nomination to a movie like The Gleaners, i.e., a successful, critically acclaimed, popular film. Here is an article about the lamenesses of the 2001 Oscars. Anyone know of the seemingly ineffectual changes to the way films are nominated for the documentary Oscar?

    Back from Albuquerque, ready (I think) to face a full day of non-stop debugging and (hopefully) output on the movie. Right now, though, I'm somewhat hectically getting caught up on the rest of my life, such as it is. One Albuquerque anecdote: Saturday night, after a day spent at The American Physical Society/High Energy Astrophysics Division (aka APS/HEAD) conference, we dropped on by the Break Loose 4 Breakdancing Contest and Skate Demo being held in the adjacent hall. We were the only crossovers, as far as I could tell. 200 +/- NM teens hanging out somewhat laconically, watching small crews take turns spinning on their shoulders on the unpadded concrete floor.

    This confluence/juxtaposition reminded me of perhaps the best This American Life episode in my memory, partly because at the time (1994-7) I was acquainted with the guy telling the story, John Perry Barlow, partly because, listening to it, it seems that Ira Glass was actually caught off guard, unscripted, by the interview. In the Episode titled, Conventions John talks about "when worlds collide," a fascinating story of two people at two conventions from two different worlds meeting. Here's the Real Audio (go about 37 minutes in).

    In Albuquerque for the weekend. My wife is attending an astrophysics conference here. Lots of dust and wind. And lots of murals, too, for some reason. There must be a "1% for murals" ordinance in force, because practically every building in town has an uplifting, figurative mural. Sure enough, here's a site with a collection of Albuquerque's murals, and here is info about the City's Mural Program. I guess it could be painted cows, so they should be grateful.

    If ONLY this moviemaking experience was as annoying as Groundhog Day... Final Cut Pro seems to be disintegrating before my eyes, and taking the project with it. EVERY time I open the master sequence, the same dozen or so clips show up as missing. The infuriating thing: it's supposedly because the audio (not the video) file isn't being recognized (even though they're both clearly present), and almost all the *&#$'ed up clips don't even use audio. They're insert shots where we use only the video and lay another audio track over it. [While I've posted this plea/rant to the 2-pop.com discussion board, I haven't gotten any responses yet.]

    Right now, I'm recapturing the offending clips in video only, hopefully avoiding the missing audio syndrome. Considering I currently have no movie to submit to any festivals, I can't even say what festivals I'm missing (except for the ones like the IFP Market in NYC where I already applied but haven't sent in the tape (obviously).

    Editing: Final tweaks over the weekend to get a distortion-free output version has now deteriorated into a major structural problem with Final Cut Pro. If I didn't have so much other stuff to occupy my mind, I'd be worried sick. The program shows that a dozen+ audio files are missing AND that they're required to play the finished sequence, even though they're not in the sequence. IDGI. Anyway, I've started going through every file, recapturing those that are in the movie, and deleting those that aren't. It's going to be a long week. And the submissions clocks are still ticking.

    Submissions: Got a dear auteur fax from Quinzaine Realisateurs. Maybe I don't want people who don't know me to see it after all...

    As I'm sitting here working, Rushmore is just ending on Comedy Central. Freakin' amazing. What IS that movie? I'm glad I didn't see it right before meeting Wes Anderson last week; id've been a blubbering idiot fan. As it is, I'm no more likely to EVER make a movie like that (at one end of the spectrum) than I am to make Weekend at Bernie's II (at the other). No prob.

    Issue of 2002-04-22 and 2002-04-29
    Posted 2002-04-15

    COMMENT/ TWO STATES/ Nicholas Lemann looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of post (US)-Civil War reconstruction.
    STRING SECTION/ SLAVA AT SEVENTY-FIVE/ Charles Michener basks in the effusive presence of Maestro Mstislav Rostropovich.
    INK/ THE TIMES, V.O./ Adam Gopnik lets us know that, even though Le Monde began publishing an English-language insert from the NYT, he buys it for the French articles.
    THE BOARDS/ MAN IN TIGHTS/ Eric Konigsberg previews right-wing muscle daddy/blogger Andrew Sullivan's Shakespeare debut.
    THE FINANCIAL PAGE/ TAX CHEAT, INC./ James Surowiecki explains why offshore tax dodging is illegal for you, but fine for Ingersoll-Rand.

    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.

    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.

    comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
    greg [at] greg [dot ] org

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from April 2002, in reverse chronological order

    Older: March 2002

    Newer May 2002

    recent projects, &c.

    Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
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    Social Medium:
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    Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
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    buy, $28

    Madoff Provenance Project in
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    CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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    "Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
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    about, brochure | installation shots

    HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
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    Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
    background | making of
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    about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99