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

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

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).

  • 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.

    Saturation Blogging: While I’ve liked

    Saturation Blogging:

    While I’ve liked Tim Cavanaugh’s [note: courtesy link] work for years, I can’t believe I dare link to his article, “Let Slip the Blogs of War,” an insightful-and-meticulously-linked-up-yet-looong article about the weblogworld’s echo chamber. It’s a cogent examination of how easy-to-use weblog technology has creates a “million cable news war pundits on a million typewriters” effect on reporting.

    Written in devastatingly accurate blogstyle, it (inadvertently?) shows the pressing need for easy-to-use tools for blog editing.

    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.

    A sign that 2002 is

    A sign that 2002 is starting out to be a great year: I was looking for rental cars in France (more about that to come), and I found the site for Voditi, a specialty car rental company near Paris. Through their partnership with Europcar, their cars are available at other major French destinations as well. So what? They rent Citroen 2CV’s, the world’s greatest car. Here is a link to a usenet discussion thread in 1996, which was a fruitless search for 2CV’s for rent. Ahh, I remember it well. (PS I finally bought my 2CV in 1996 on Minitel.)

    Janet Cardiff at P.S. 1

    Janet Cardiff at P.S. 1 MoMA: It’s rare when a work of art has the power to transform, transport so completely. Forty-part motet is such a work. 40 speakers are arranged in an ellipse in the gallery, each playing an individually recorded member of a choir. The unaccompanied choir sings a work in Latin by Thomas Tallis, a 16th century English composer. [see this National Gallery of Canada link for a more detailed description.]

    You move among the speakers, pausing in front of one, trying to hear two or three at once, then move into the center to hear them all. The wall text describes the artist’s interest in the role of the individual, the impression of the collective, and the individual’s ability to succeed as part of a whole.

    Does this adequately explain why every person who entered the gallery became transfixed, practically held captive once they figured out how the piece worked? Or why nearly every single person there looked like their thoughts were a million miles away? Or why almost everyone was caught wiping tears away? I don’t think so.

    Cardiff’s work creates a simultaneous, visceral feeling of both presence and absence. The members of the choir are right in front of us; we hear them, sense them, move among them. But they’re not. They’re gone. And the work, by its nature, lets us know that they’re not there. In this city, at this time (the show opened on October 14), a work that aspired to one level of impact has achieved something almost unimaginably transcendent.

    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.)

    When my grandfather was still

    When my grandfather was still farming, the shed behind their house was where he parked his tractor and combine. It’s still where spare parts and empty grain bags hang at the ready and where tools fill the old kitchen cabinets.

    This NYTimes article by Becky Gaylord talks about mens’ sheds in Australia. There’s apparently a book, Blokes & Sheds, by Mark Thomson, who’s quoted in the article. Some ideas I liked:

    What looks like chaos to outsiders is easily deciphered by the master of the shed. A man can put down a wrench in his shed and know it will stay in the same spot until he moves it weeks, or even years, later…
    Men speak of shed coal: layers of things that build up on the floor, shelves and workbench, reflecting the depth of their lives.

    So we have bought one

    So we have bought one car on ebaymotors, which I wrote about before. This morning, I surfed across the ad below while looking for our next vehicle, a Ford F-150 truck. My grandparents have gotten a new Ford truck every year or two for as long as I’ve been alive, and probably longer. We used my grandmother’s truck during our first location in August.

    FOR SALE: 2000 Harley F-150
    Sweet Truck, moving to dirt road, must sell. Asking payoff around $25,000 call or e-mail for current price. 22k miles, in storage.

    It’s located in Michigan. Tempting, but unfortunately, even though the 2000 Harley edition has the desirable extended cab (vs. the 2001 Super cab, which is too big), the flareside short bed seems a bit too small, and–most importantly–it’s only 2wd. Did I mention I live on the upper east side?

    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.