Thursday, December 11, 2008

3x1: Film Manipulation....Wouldn't That Be Nice

What would I do if I were to design a 6x1: Part 2? That question is so very open ended that it makes my brain hurt. The topics we covered in class could each be expanded on so much that I feel like you could essentially take one of them and make it an entire semester course. I think that you could easily design an entire course around Film manipulation, multi-plane animation, Bolex One-shot’s, or Rhythmic editing by themselves. The more I think about it, that is probably what I would do on some level. Many film students have room in their schedule for general film electives as they get closer to graduation and to know that every semester there would be a new class devoted to a particular aspect of one minute filmmaking would be exciting for those who were interested in experimental film. Imagine if you will an entire semester course on film manipulation. I believe that if students could spend all semester learning and perfecting all the various aspects of manipulating film they could really begin to create some very interesting films. Techniques like rayograms are complex in their nature and steep in their learning curve. Therefore, having only a week or so to experiment with them only allows so much creative freedom. If you had an entire month to spend on, say, painting on film, you could then really experiment with various techniques and paints to fully realize the possibilities of that type of filmmaking.
The same goes with multi-plane animation. The time-consuming nature of this type of filmmaking makes it a very good candidate for expanding into an entire semester course. You could then spend a month or more on an individual project, instead of only a few hours. This would most definitely lead to more interesting and creative results. The time spent could be greater, and therefore, the ideas and results could be greater. Even the Bolex camera project could be expanded to at least a month or so of class time. This would allow the groups to devise more complex set ups, and potentially combining multiple one-shot’s together to create a longer experimental film.
I do not mean to say that this is the only way to approach 6x1: Part 2. I believe that what I have laid out would be more of an advanced 6x1 class. Students, once they had taken 6x1, could then take whatever advanced 6x1 class was being offered in that particular semester. Fall semester might be 3x1: Film Manipulation while Spring semester would offer 3x1: Multi-Plane Animation. Students could then decide on which techniques they would want to spend more time on and take the appropriate class when it was offered. However, one pitfall to this would be that if you rotated which ones were offered each semester and a student couldn’t take the class because of a time conflict, then they would most likely be out of luck for their entire college career, if that makes sense. However, I feel like everything we studied this semester was interesting enough to warrant its own semester long course. I would gladly take a semester course on any one of the aspects of experimental filmmaking that we covered. It would allow me to experiment even more, and well, isn’t that the point.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sitting On Your Ass All Day Is Hard Work

I was on the phone with a friend from D.C. the other night after a long day of watching films at Cucalorus and at one point mentioned that I was exhausted. After her laughter subsided, I asked her why that was so funny. She said "Yeah. Watching movies all day is sooooo hard." I had to explain to her that watching movies is much different for me than it ever used to be. I used to be able to relax, immerse myself in the story, and enjoy myself, and forget what I was doing. However, although it is still just as enjoyable, now I find myself constantly analyzing what I'm watching; deciphering shot compositions, looking for underlying themes, observing actor/actress nuances, etc. After 3 or 4 movies in one day, this begins to take a toll on you mentally. But...I'm pretty sure complaining about being tired after watching movies all day is still somewhat out of line. Anyway, that being said, Cucalorus was great. I was able to see many films that I had either known about and wanted to see for awhile, or new ones that I discovered simply by being there. My favorite thing abut Cucalorus was the diversity of the films available to go see. There were amazing documentaries, inventive experimental shorts, and narrative films that pushed the boundaries of how we see and tell stories in the world of cinema. There were two films that I saw that stood out more than the rest in terms of quality and uniqueness.
The first film that really stood out to me was Shotgun Stories. It was a simple “southern revenge” story with a fairly basic plot. One man dies and leaves behind two immensely different families. The sons from each family have an intense rivalry that seems to escalate with each passing event. The story was at times predictable, but the way the director shot the surrounding landscape, letting it bear the weight of the tension that enveloped the brothers really made the difference in how the story played out in my perception. Having seen the ghost towns that dot the southern landscape, I can attest to the fact that this film conveyed the idea of that place extremely well. It was amazing to see how well the story was told using beautiful still shots alongside ethereal music. It reminded me somewhat of the upcoming 48 hour video race. Overall, the film was a fresh new way of cinema storytelling that helped me generate new ideas about how I can possibly utilize my skills when I embark on my own film endeavors.
The other film that I really enjoyed was Wendy and Lucy. This was one of the more accessible films in the festival in terms of classical Hollywood cinema. Don’t get me wrong, however. It was still VERY much an independent film. The acting of Michelle Williams was unbelievably authentic and pure. It felt her struggle in my own muscles throughout the film. Her ability to convey a calm confidence while simultaneously showing subtle weakness was amazing. Kelly Reichardt, the director, did a great job of letting Williams use her talents to move the story forward and not over-complicating things with complex camera movements helped give the story a more genuine feel. I really felt as is I was a passive observer on this girl’s life as she struggled with her car breaking down and losing her dog. The slow, passing shots of Wendy as she hums a tune and walks the streets of the town really convey a sense of peaceful tension that is extremely difficult to achieve unless the acting and cinematography isn’t exactly right. Its films like this that make me excited to see where the art of cinema is going in the coming years. We, as a generation, are part of a movement towards change; change in government, change in art, and a change in our collective consciousness. Films like these help to advance that movement forward, and give me hope for a more creative future for all of us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Looking back on the semester, I have to wonder where the time has gone. It seems like we were watching The Scratch Junkies just yesterday. I’ve been very happy with 6x1 as a class which has helped open my eyes to other outlets of cinema and filmmaking that I would not otherwise have known about. It is has been a very enjoyable experience thus far to just let my imagination run wild and embrace the unknown that is experimental film. I’ve always had an interest in experimental films but never took the time to explore the methodology behind them. This class has been one that I look forward to each week because of the artistic, hands-on approach that we take to each project or workshop. I’ve said it before, but it is nice to have a time when I can go back to my 3rd grade roots and play with paint, glue, beads, and dirt all in the name of experimental filmmaking.

Even though this class has been very interesting and engaging thus far, I do feel some sort of regret that I have not been able to devote more time and energy to the class and the projects. When the semester first began, I had not yet moved into my apartment after getting back from Wyoming this summer. I ended up living on a friends couch for about a month and a half. This, along with the fact I was mostly living out of my car, severely limited my time, energy, and resources. I didn’t really have a space to work on my projects at home, and getting to any resources or belongings that I wanted out of my storage unit proved quite difficult as well. All things considered, it frustrated me that I wasn’t able to do everything to the extent that I wanted to. If I had more space to work in, or if I had more of my belongings at my disposal, I could have produced some better films throughout the semester.

I don’t mean to make excuses for anything, and do feel that I was able to make the best of what I had and ended up actually producing some decent projects. In the future, if I set out to make an experimental film I will make sure that I have plenty of resources at my disposal along with a proper workspace in which to manipulate film without fear of losing something or messing it up. I do hope to continue making experimental films of any kind, whether it be film manipulation, found footage, or some other technique.

As the semester comes to a close, I am excited about the projects that we have remaining, as I have moved into my apartment and do have more time and energy to devote to the projects. I am really looking forward to the video race, and hope to be able to come up with a finished product that I can really be proud of, something that will showcase exactly what I’ve learned this semester in 6x1. We all take away different things from each experience, and I am sure what some people may have taken away from 6x1 is completely different than what I have taken away. What will stick with me is the move towards less control and more spontaneity when I set out to make an experimental film. I’ll also take away the feeling of responsibility to keep the rough theatre alive, to keep the artists and the dreamers doing their thing, and to keep using my talents and abilities to keep those in charge on their toes. Mainly, I’ll take away that if we don’t keep experimental film alive and keep it moving forward, it will never gain the respect it deserves.

48 Hours

So, we’re going to do a 48 hour video race…without cameras. I would be worried about this project if we couldn’t use still cameras. My background in still photography will hopefully come in handy during the video race. How I will use my camera to tell a story is still up in the air, but I do think that I can come up with some inventive ways to utilize my skills with a still camera to produce a unique and interesting video. The hardest aspect for me will be making the best use of the limited time we have to both shoot and edit the project all together. Even having a week or two to finish a project sometimes seems strained on time, but 48 is very quick. Given this limited time, I’ll have to work quicker overall, filming and editing in a manner that strives for completion as much as it does quality. I will have a tough time keeping my tendency to try to make everything perfect at bay in order to let my more creative, spontaneous ideas play out. I hope to be surprised by, and possibly happy with, my finished product. It may not be exactly like I will want it, but it will be, in some ways, much more pure in style. I do think things lose that sense of purity and realism when you over-analyze or over-edit something to the point that it is so exact, it has no soul anymore. It reminds me of the rough theatre article we read, discussing the lack of tonality in the notes reproduced electronically. Even though I strive to make things perfect and right all the time, I do practice just easing up a bit and letting things fall where they may.
I must say that, considering my artistic history, many of my best photos or writings have largely been spontaneous or quickly produced, or both. I have began to think about various places that I could shoot at, not limiting myself to one particular place or scene. I have a feeling that something great will come out of a more hastily decided plan, rather than try to plan it out to the last detail. I am trying to keep my brainstorming and ideas general for the moment, for fear of getting latched on to one particular idea and not wanting to back off it even when it proves to be not useful with the mystery prop. Keeping ideas flowing without zeroing in on one will hopefully help me in finishing a project that will have some sense of realism and adventure. Having everything but the prop planned out is tempting, but quite frankly I’m hoping to have fun with this project and would rather think quick on my feet and see where my imagination takes me instead of being constrained by a plan. After all, that has sort of been the theme of this class: Experimentation and Rough Theater. I would feel like I had really put what I’ve learned in this class to the test if I make an adventure out of the 48 hour video race.

Monday, November 3, 2008


While watching TYM, I couldn’t help but ponder the “legality” of what they were doing. I thought that in some, way, shape, or form, it must be illegal. Now, don’t get me wrong. I loved the movie and loved how they really put forth all the effort to become these characters and really attempt to convey a message in a very unique way. If I were one to make loose metaphors, or to draw comparisons where there might not be any, I would say that TYM is similar to experimental film in that they are essentially attempting to get the general public to be more attentive to a particular issue that is affecting their world. I would say that TYM falls right in line with the “culture jamming” genre of experimental film in that its primary goal as both a film and as a group is to reveal the absurdity of one particular aspect of our culture, albeit government, business, or societal. I do find it very humorous that in the case of TYM, they set out to reveal the absurdity of the WTO and its operations by taking that absurdity even farther, seeing how ridiculous they can be while impersonating the WTO.
TYM did, as a film, seem long and tedious. I enjoyed the raw documentary feel of it all, as it served to complement the actions of the men themselves very well, however there were moments and details that I feel like could have been left out. I felt as if the purpose of the men and the purpose of the film at times coincided but largely the two remained separate entities. All that being said, I feel that the overall purpose of the film; to showcase the actions of TYM and allow the viewer to learn more about what they do, was successfully achieved.
The methods employed by TYM are in line with what seems to be a prevailing them in both this class and in my blog this semester. That is, the theme of satire being a critical component in keeping our society and government honest. If we lose that ability to poke fun at those above us or those who make the rules, we lose the ability to keep our integrity intact. The more we stand by idly and let those above us govern without accountability, the more we are at risk for losing our freedom.
I’m glad there are people out there like TYM that are willing to put themselves on the line, not just in artistic fashion, but in the flesh. It gives me the courage to put myself on the line, whether it be in my artistic devices or in real life.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Own Molotov Man

While I read 'On the rights of the Molotov Man', I continually thought about the various issues that have arisen in my experiences as a photographer. I understand both people's positions and feel that in many ways, they are both correct in their beliefs about the rights of artistic expression. As a photographer myself, I know how it feels to wonder if someone else is going to use one of my images without my permission. There are many, many different forums where you can discuss with other photographers or artists about the legality of certain aspects of using images without artists permission. I often struggle with posting my photos on the internet without any restrictions, and so I usually post only small file sizes or I put right-click restrictions on them, which is only a minor deterrent.
There was one thing that the photographer of the Molotov man said that resonated with me. She mentioned that she was a photographer in part because she wanted to contextualize things, make them a visible representation of a struggle or issue that was plaguing a certain people. She expressed discontent that the artist had taken her image and copied it, and copied it in a way that de-contextualized it. This is for certain one thing that I put a high value on when dealing with my own photographs. I may be okay with someone copying my image or images and using them for something personally, as long as the context of the photograph remains. If a photo that I took was ever used in a manner that severely disagreed with my original intent for that photograph, I would be upset. However, if I felt that the person had in fact used to my photo to further a cause I believed in, even if my photo was out of context, I may be more hesitant to seek legal action. In the case of the Molotov Man, as the photographer said, she was upset that her photo, which she took to represent struggle and the lengths people will go to free themselves, was painted and used in a collection that was depicting riots, which is something entirely different than a person struggling for their freedom. I’m okay with someone printing my photo out to put on their wall at home. I would not be okay with someone printing out many copies and using them as a background for an oil company commercial.
All that being said, as a filmmaker and a conscientious objector to mass media and the overwhelming nature of our capitalist society, I feel that there must be rules that govern or allow the use of other people’s media when it used in a satirical manner. I have mentioned this idea before, but I truly believe that it is up to the artists and dreamers of the world to keep us constantly looking at ourselves in the mirror and adjusting our attitudes and actions accordingly. When given the opportunity, we as a society can stray very far of course. That course being the one that propels us forward, as a society, towards a universally open and accepting environment; an environment where people’s ideas are heard without resignation or condemnation, an environment where evil actions are brought to light for everyone to see and not swept under the rug or given a free pass because they are of high importance.
Our current administration is a perfect example. If there were laws against using popular media for satirical or documentary purposes, how many people would know about all the misgivings of our president and those around him? We must, MUST, retain the ability to use other people’s property to turn that moral mirror on ourselves and investigate what we are, in fact, doing to the world around us-including ourselves.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Rough Theatre Response

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances, and yet they do not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which appear to give one piece of mind. Yet nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.”----Christopher McCandless

When I think of Rough Theater, I initially think about Shakespeare and The Globe. If I remember correctly from high school English classes, The Globe was actually a pretty “rough” place to be during a performance. I remember reading about the commoners being thrown bread and standing in the mud near the stage, sometimes even relieving themselves right there on the spot, or yelling and throwing things at the actors when they were unhappy with the performance being given. Although that was my first thought, I don’t believe that is exactly what the article was talking about.
The next thing that comes to mind when thinking about rough theatre is music. Music is a passion of mine and I often find myself scouring the internet looking for new singers or bands in which I can enjoy. Many times, these bands tend to make music that is lo-fi, or not studio polished. There are often cracks and noises and background sounds all included in the music itself. While many would think that these things detract from the music itself, I find that it makes it all the more authentic, all the more true. When I hear lo-fi music, I hear life being translated through musical instruments, not just musical notes being played.
Our world is dirty. It is not crystal clear, polished, or shiny. We try to make it that way but it inevitably tries to return to its more natural, rugged form. Lo-fi music is only one example of rough theater. In my experiences, some of the best art or entertainment comes from sources which accept and work with the rough-ness of our world instead of trying to clear it all away. In the world of film, this comes into play often, especially when dealing with on location shooting. Many directors love to shoot in the studio because they can be in complete control of the many aspects of filming. However, in doing so, they sacrifice much of the authenticity that is there when you are filming in the real-world environment. I’ve found that if you embrace this unpredictability, you will often be rewarded.
In my years doing still photography, either personally or professionally, I have rarely done studio work. By that, I mean that most of the photography I do is out in the physical world, even if it is portrait work. Much of the photography that I’ve done in the last several years is that of the natural world, and I’ve found that if I try to control or even hope for certain conditions, I will be severely disappointed. Many of the best photos that I’ve taken have been spur of the moment, go-with-the-flow snapshots of ‘rough’ moments in time. Moments where I could never have predicted what happened or the composition that was created by unseen forces. Those are always my favorite moments in time.
All that being said, I agree with the author that Rough Theater is always the one that saves the day. I firmly believe that the common people, the artists, and the dreamers are the ones that will have to rise to the occasion to bring us up out of the man-made muck and mire that our world gets itself into by attempting to remove itself from the natural muck and mire of the world around us. It’s the artists and dreamers job to continually remind us that it is this “roughness” that gives us our humanity and our creativity. If all filmmakers wanted to be like Michael Bay, we’d be in trouble. Luckily there are those of us out there that are willing to continue to take the medium to new levels of exploration, never fearing to get out of our clean and polished worlds and visit those places, both physically and mentally, that push us to reach for bigger and better things.