Monday, October 31, 2005

Casablanca: finally, the story comes to life

I can now certify that Casablanca is far and away the most fun film I have ever shot. Those familiar with previous student films I've shot may think this a small feat: When one thinks of [Let go], one doesn't think of a carefree tale of adventure and excitement. One thinks of a guy sitting in a car in the cold talking to a dead girl. Woo.

But we had loads of fun shooting [Let go], despite the cold, and the harsh subject matter, and the fact I burned most of Becca's face off by accident. Same with Leaves. Subject matter doesn't affect how much fun you have - we got to take a baseball bat to my car for [Let Go], we clambered around moving trains for Leaves, we threw metal chairs around a restaurant for A Great and Terrible Beauty - not to mention how much fun I had getting beat up by Trevor for Justin Ladd's final DFP project, or kicking sand in people's faces in one of Queue's, or clambering up a cliff face (okay, steep incline) with a couple 12 year olds and a camera on my back (no, the kids climbed for themselves. I just had the camera) for an amazing cityscape shot during one of Laura's, or when I hit Johnny Roggio in the face with a suitcase for one of Matt Burgos's.

The truth of it is that I always have fun shooting films, regardless of how they turn out. Which is important because a) no matter how proud I am of a film when I finish it, a couple months later I will look back and flinch - hard - if I watch it again, as I slowly realize how incredibly flawed each project is, and b) because if you aren't willing to have fun when things aren't going your way, things aren't ever going to get better. In my mind, the more fun you have, the more creative you get, and the better your final product. Of course, I've been in projects where it was all about having fun, and we made projects that looked like we had a lot of fun shooting them. And not much else.

Which honestly might be the case with Casablanca. But who cares? I've never had more fun shooting anything, this was truly filmmaker heaven. It gave me a chance to do all the sort of things I'd always wanted to do - all at once. I shot a Star Trek sequence on an alien planet, had a long dolly shot with an extravagant dance sequence in it, a huge mobster shootout, lightsaber fighting, kung fu fighting, and several bar scenes - plus I referenced/ridiculed at least 30 films (in addition to the already-ridiculous script, we added Sin City, Boondock Saints, and Miami Vice as references during filming), and I used more than 20 people in period costuming spanning several decades. I shot a sequence where I play two characters, arguing with each other, in the same shot. I put people in alien costumes several times. I utterly destroyed someone else's apartment. I don't care how it comes out, at this point. It was so much fun to shoot I'll always love it, no matter how bad it might (and probably will) end up being.

Okay, that's not true. I'll be absolutely heartbroken if it ends up failing. But it really was fun.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Not-Just-Another-Update Update

I suppose it's the best example of how far this blog has fallen off the map that whenever I do post, it's a hurried "don't-have-time-for-a-real-entry, but-here's-some-boring-bullet-points-of-how-I'm-doing-sorry, I'll-write-more-later-when-things-settle-down" post. Blech. How the middling have fallen.

I've come to an understanding: things will never settle down. By the time leave in December, I will have gone non-stop for several months in a row. So I might as well stop fooling myself that leisure time will abruptly appear in front of me, and just try to make the blog at least a minor priority. Peracchio, my constant inspiration, continues to update RNF constantly, and he's not exactly lazing around these days. So there's no excuse.

Well, since I haven't really updated since before I shot "A Great and Terrible Beauty," and I'm shooting "Casablanca" tomorrow, I should probably hunker down a little and get something down.

Reasons For Not Writing: The main reason that there've been no updates is that whenever I've been around a computer, I've felt obliged to work on one of my scripts. Either I've been researching for my "Casablanca" script (the quantity of research I've had to do for this film is unbelievable) or touching up the boxing script (
still unnamed) or outlining my directed study (more updates on that later).

But it's time to change all that. Let's start with the finished films.

Coffeehouse Film: I finally completed "A Great and Terrible Beauty" a few weeks ago, despite massive computer problems that almost completely destroyed the film and actually did destroy my spirit. I premiered the film to absolutely no critical acclaim whatsoever, due to audio problems and a complete lack of adept storytelling. I'll give you a full review on this and "Lights" later, rather than expanding this one out.

Dark Rejected Lover Film: "Lights" was my grand experiment. I wrote a highly visual story, envisioned something even bigger, and went and shot something outrageously complicated. It sort of worked. I'm lucky it even worked as well as it did. I made every shot a moving shot, using a homemade steadicam. When the steadicam broke an hour into shooting, I shot the rest handheld. I scored the film through Garageband, which I'm pretty sure is not how Hans Zimmer goes about it. And almost every transition is wiped away by an object crossing the screen (you have no idea how much work it can take, sometimes, to create this crappy effect. I wish I'd known). When I screened the film, I got a lot of good reaction: people loved the visual style, they loved the direction I took, they loved the score, they loved the wipes. They barely understood my story and they never really got into it. And I'm not surprised. It doesn't even feel like a film, it feels like a music video. Still, I'm glad I did it. I learned a lot.

Trouble Brewing: But there's trouble brewing: Dr. Walker e-mailed me to tell me that the film festival this year is only accepting 5-minute films. Which is a tremendous disappointment to me, because it means my directed study film can't be in the film festival. And that's sad because my directed study film is all about Asbury, and I want to show it to as many people I possibly can. Also, the Theatre and Cinema department has claimed the Sony HDV camera for their film. Which is expected, they should have first dibs, we bought the camera for them to use it. Here's the kicker, though: the spring semester film shoots over spring break - 5 or 6 long days, and the film's completely done. But no one else is allowed to touch the camera whatsoever until two weeks after the film has finished shooting. From the beginning of the semester until April 3rd, the camera on which I have the most experience is off limits. I'm baffled. I'm disappointed. But I do have good news.

Romantic Comedy: Not only was my directed study application approved, but I've also joined up with a co-director for the project: Mary Lashbrook. There are several reasons this is a good thing:

Reasons Mary Joining the Film is a good thing:
a) Mary is extremely cool
b) Mary is a fantastic screenwriter - she's working on a full-length right now, a middle school version of
The Godfather. Nickelodeon is actually having her pitch it to the executives.
c) Which shows how much Mary is the perfect person to co-write this project with, because she writes in the exact right style for the film
c) There's a lot of pressure taken off my shoulders, because I really struggle at producing, and...
d) Mary is a producer. She's producing a short film this semester in the same class that I'm making the boxing film, Hollywood Production (Vanessa Roggio is directing). It's set, interestingly enough, in the Middle Ages,
and she's already found a castle to shoot in. In California. For free. You have no idea how unheard of that is. We were pumped to get a boxing gym for only $300 a day.

Boxing Film: Speaking of the boxing film, let me just say that I'm thrilled to death that I have two hard-working producers on this film with me. I would be a terrible producer. They're all working out the details of insurance, and scheduling auditions, and figuring out what scenes we're shooting which days, and all I have to do is show up and be creative. It's awesome.

Casablanca: And finally, I finished the screenplay for "Casablanca," which I'm shooting tomorrow and Sunday. It's gonna be simply fantastic. I don't mean in terms of how good the film is actually going to turn out to be, because the film is actually going to be terrible. Instead, I mean that it's gonna be simply fantastic to shoot: I've written in dance sequences and fight sequences and science-fiction sequences and comedy sequences and a lot of lightsaber action. It's going to be one of the craziest days in the history of filmmaking. And at the end it's going to be awful.

Because, you see, the script is entirely too smart. I don't mean "smart" as in "intelligent," I mean "smart" as in "you need to know loads of useless trivia to understand this film." I references all sorts of obscure films: Robert Altman's
3 Women, Oliver Stone's JFK and Alexander, Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi, and Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain, which hasn't even been released yet. In fact, I've never actually seen any of those movies. I'm telling jokes that even I don't understand. It's ridiculous. It even references things like the films of John Woo, William Shatner's short-lived directing career, and every Michael Bay movie ever made. It's wildly over the top. No one is gonna understand a word.

I'm looking forward to it. I hope you are, too.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Freeze Frame

Directed by Jeremy White and Jim Wilder, and shot by cinematographer Ben Wyman, "Freeze Frame" is a film on life, death, and control. It follows a mysterious young man (Jeremy White), determined to change his past.

troubles? watch it on vMix.