Since I made the decision to actually go forward and shoot this film project (rather than just ruminate over it and periodically outline it), I’ve been watching films in slightly changed light. Now, I’m much more conscious of really parsing out:
what a director’s intentions were,
when something was executed (i.e., writing, acting, directing, setting, editing, etc.)
how he/she did it (i.e., technical processes, decisionmaking process).
I basically have gotten into full “influence/tool/idea absorption mode. The result so far is a list of films I’ve seen or re-seen recently that have an impact on me and this project in some way (all links are to imdb and/or amazon):
Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners – a simple, powerful movie–shot on DV–that basically pushed me over the edge to make this film.
Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – Bizarre if you get right down to it, but an essentially unique film that I’ve fixated on. I’m not making a bittersweet, technicolor french musical, though. [DVD]
Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After Life – unassuming, thought-provoking, frankly touching, and carefully made (Kore-eda interviewed over 500 people for the film and included some of these non-actors in the production). [DVD]
Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge – What is it about me and unconventional musicals? I was heartened that such a singular vision of a film could be realized, even if it’s not completely successful. It blew me away in some ways, though. [soundtrack]
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (Redux) – We saw it last night, first time on the big screen. Yow. Overwhelming. Whether it was just me, or the re-edit, or the big screen, it was definitely better than I remembered it. But basically, it’s the diametric opposite of what I’m trying to do with this film. In so many ways. [DVD]
Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line – I can’t seem to stop watching this movie, whose release got so overshadowed by Saving Private Ryan (it seems silly to put them side by side for anything now…). It makes me want to shoot quavering fields of sun-dappled grass, though. [DVD]
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Decalogue – a 10-part made-for-Polish TV masterpiece of subtle, yet extremely deliberate storytelling based (somewhat thematically) on the Ten Commandments. Kieslowski’s sense of narrative and of portraying the inter-related nature of individuals’ lives and actions is an inspiration. [DVD]
It’s two days before leaving for location shooting, and I’ve been wrapped up in myriad other responsibilities and projects that won’t resolve. The takeaway: I’ve been ten minutes late all day, and it’s made all the difference. (This phenomenon was portrayed in the Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle, Sliding Doors, which I didn’t see.)
Waiting in line for some free theater tickets from 6:10AM until 1:30, They handed out the last tickets 55 people in front of me, and the last cancellation vouchers 5 people in front. Basically, ten minutes late. Whatever, I had plenty of time to work through shot lists, which I can assemble into a full schedule for our 4.5-day shoot.
From Central Park, it was off to B&H Video, an institution in the professional video/audio world. The store is run by a phalanx of orthodox Jews, so it’s important to plan on NOT going there Saturday, when it’s obviously closed. That they also close early on Friday (to be home well before the sundown start of the Sabbath) isn’t news to customers, either. But who’d think they’d close at 2? Not me. I got there at 1:55, and five minutes into inputting my order of filters, polarizers, tapes, tape, and cables into the computer, the young guy helping me took off, leaving me hanging. So, back I go on Sunday…
PS Thanks for the encouraging response to the “launch” of this log. I hope it’ll be interesting for you. By far the most common question from readers is, “What’s the film about?” I’ve pointedly not put too much description of the “plot,” because right now there isn’t one. The subject, themes and ideas of the film should become more apparent (to you and me) as things move forward, but for now I can say that I’m planning to tell the stories of my grandparents, who are from the neighboring towns mentioned in my last post. Stay tuned, I guess, to see how that might be at all interesting as a movie.
First week of shooting is scheduled. We (the crew = Jeff and me, with another guy joining up on location) leave NYC for Salt Lake City next Monday and drive down to Mapleton. (The town has the rockin’ URL, Mapleton.org. It’s some Novell millionaires interspersed (or overlooking) the original farmers who built the town. Part of the Springville metropolitan area. Springville.org. These people were really on top of the domain registration thing…)
We’ll shoot through Sunday in and around Mapleton and Springville. There’s an art museum in Springville, thus, the nickname, Art City. Number of business listings with “Art City” in Springville: 21. [source: Anywho.com]
Adapted from Victor Khong’s site, DV Cinematography
A reasonable checklist of equipment and accessories for shooting using a Sony VX-1000. It makes fairly clear the difference between hiring a PM and a crew (the old/OPM* model) and prepping a shoot yourself, essentially from scratch (the new/MM** model)
wide angle adaptor
3 f-stop neutral density filter
Ultra-violet (UV) filter
Diffusion filter – Cokin Warm Sun #694, Tiffen Pro Black Mist, Tiffen Pro White Mist, Tiffen Hollywood F/X filters
Warming filters – 81a, 81b, 85
Graduated grey filter
XLR Adapter from Beachtek
 Lav wireless mike kits and  pin mike
Shotgun mic – Sennheiser MKE 300, 416, ME66 (not gonna do it)
Boom pole, extendible painter’s rod or aluminium shower curtain (same here)
Manfrotto 055 tripod with the Manfrotto 136 fluid head (Victor’s choice)
Headphones with mini jack
Softcase camera bag
Reflectors – white/silver reflector, bounce card
white balance card
lens cleaner cloth (photoco)
 camera batteries
 AC Rapid battery chargers,  DC Rapid charger (Sony AC/DC-v700)
1, 2, 3 closeup diopter filters for macro shots
light kit (detail pending)
Indie Films Online has an interesting article and tips for lighting DV from Cinematography World
* Other People’s Money
** My Own Money
I killed most of the afternoon looking for our tickets to a sold-out concert tonight at Madison Square Garden, turning our apartment inside out (and feeling compelled to return it to more-organized-than-before condition) in the process. Why? because American Express doesn’t provide purchase protection for tickets purchased on ebay [note: perishable link].
The desire to post this otherwise evaporating anecdote doesn’t bode well for my ability to keep this weblog on topic, though (see 28.07.2001 entry)…
Some links I’ve found as I familiarize myself with to-date research and thought on how culture, worldview, personality, and behavior patterns develop or are transmitted:
Faces of Culture [via PBS.org]
this appears to be an introductory anthropology course comprising a series of films/tv shows. Interesting-sounding episodes include 204 Language and Communication, 205 Psychological Anthropology, and 206 Alejandro Mamani: A Case Study in Psychological Anthropology.
Developmental Theories of Crime and Delinquency: Advances in Criminological Theory
A dense but intruiging-looking essay on the theorized difference between people who demonstrate temporary/situational and repeated/persistent antisocial behavior. It showed up in a google search for cumulative continuity.
Resource list of Margaret Mead’s work [from the Institute for Intercultural Studies]
Syllabus for Margaret Mead and Cultural Relativism [from Swarthmore.edu]
The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead : A Historical Analysis of Her Samoan Research, by Derek Freeman, is a refutation of Mead’s highly influential study of adolescence in Samoa, Coming of Age in Samoa. Both her theories and the controversy that emerged only after her death are interesting. (Of course, if these weren’t interesting to me, I guess I wouldn’t spent the time logging them.)
Whether you are Greg, looking for some other Greg or looking for what this Greg is doing, welcome. I hope this site will be useful and interesting.
I am about to go to P.S. 1 to do a little representing for a group I’m affiliated with, hang out with some friends, and listen to some music.
Rather than a window into my soul or my daily existence, I was initially spurred to create this weblog as a tool for a personal documentary film project. I expect to use it to lay out and manage the elements and themes of the film; to log the progress of it during preproduction, location, and editing; and to enable interested parties (including some of the project’s participants) to follow along. For now, others beyond this small group can follow along, too.