Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What 's an instructor's most deadly weapon?

Answer -- Utter these words: "For this project I want you to work in groups."


Argotnaut and I have discussed why we react to these words in the same way we might react to stepping in a big, juicy pile of dog poop. It comes down to the fact that we usually end up leading the group, not because we're smarter than other group members (although in Argonaut's case, that's probably true) but because we both tend to have strong ideas about how things should be done. Perhaps that's what leadership is, in essence. Like "W," it's more important to be confident than to be right.

I must admit I had my usual "Aw Crap!" reaction when our instructor in the "Art of Filmmaking" class said that we would work in pairs for our second film. But it's turned out okay. We screened some of the raw footage we took in class last week, and last Sunday, we put together a rough cut of the second film, "Valentine's Day." The only real problem was that my partner didn't know how to use the camera correctly when we shot our first roll of film, so that roll is slightly underexposed. It's definitely usable, and I might be able to improve on it with some of the video-editing software I have at home. This week, we add sound, if desired (music, voice-overs, sound effects). The final cut is due on March 8, and I'll be sure to post the results here.

In the meantime, I've managed to create a Windows-friendly version of "Buddy Quest," which you can find here. The Windows version (6.3 MB)is almost twice as big as the QuickTime version (3.4 MB), so those of you who wish to view the Windows version may want to start the download and then go make a cup of coffee or something.

If you don't have QuickTime, you can download it here. It's worth the trouble because I believe it's far easier to use than Media Player. That's only my opinion though...don't sue me, Bill!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Buddy Quest movie

I'm about to run out for an editing session on film two. But here's a link to "Buddy Quest," which is in ".mov" format. It should play on Apple Quicktime, but I'm not sure about Windows Media Player. If you don't have Quicktime, you can download it...somewhere. More later!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Chilly Buns My Ass!

Oh how quickly we forget!

Yes, not that long ago, I was a hardy Chicagoan who could look at the forecast below (culled from today's Chicago Tribune) and say, "Bring it on!"

... Wind Chill Advisory remains in effect from midnight tonight to
9 am CST Saturday...

Temperatures north of the Interstate 80 corridor are expected to
fall to between zero and 10 below zero overnight. The combination
of these cold overnight temperatures and northwest winds of 15 to
20 mph... will produce dangerous wind chills of between 20 below
and 30 below zero late tonight and early Saturday morning. Wind
chills will rise above dangerous thresholds by late Saturday
morning as winds diminish and daytime warming occurs.

A Wind Chill Advisory means that very cold air and strong winds
will combine to generate dangerously low wind chills. This will
result in frost bite and lead to hypothermia if precautions are
not taken. If you must venture outdoors... make sure you wear a hat
and gloves.

I love that last bit. "No shit, wear a hat and gloves!" Makes the 30 mph winds and near zero windchills we're currently experiencing in Portland seem downright puny in comparison. As Argotnaut told me after coming back from class today through the howling winds that blast over the 15-foot-deep Cascades snowpack and roar out of the Columbia River Gorge like some sort of face-peeling arctic hurricane, "I'd forgotten how much I hate this shit!" Ah, it almost made me nostalgic for "The Hawk."

Luckily, it was nothing like "this shit" when we filmed the outside sequences for my second student film, "Valentine's Day," last weekend. It was a bit chilly, but not "exposed flesh freezes in less than 60 seconds" chilly. The indoor sequences were shot in a cool coffee shop near our house. My fellow student and co-director, Rachel, here sets up a shot with the character known in my screenplay only as "geeky guy."

We will get the video from both our first and second films this Wednesday. Then we start editing, using, as it turns out iMovie. (Final Cut Pro is apparently a very "deep" program used by highly evolved professionals, and using it to edit Super 8 films would be like using a Formula One race car to drive to the end of the block.)

Final edit, with music, of the second film is due March 8.

I'm hoping to edit the first film, "Buddy Quest," on my home computers. I have both a little Mac laptop (with iMovie) and a big PC laptop (with Vegas Video 4.0), and I might edit the film once with each application to see which I like better.

Interestingly (to me at least) is that I also use Vegas as a multi-track music recording system and it works great. I plan to add music to both projects. I don't know yet if I'll actually write anything specifically for them or just drop in some music from a CD. Rachel believes that the "Valentine's Day" story is strong enough to submit the film to short film festivals. (That is, if we didn't make a complete hash of the footage, a big "IF" at this stage). If so, I'll have to do some original music for it anyway.

Wow! I'm feeling all Spielbergy! (Okay, actually more like "Senor Spielbergo" from the Simpsons.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Oh Baby Matinee

Since the end of the pro football season (RIP), I've been in movie mode -- that is, seeing them, renting them, and making them.

My first student film, "Buddy Quest," was screened in class last week. It turned out reasonably well, but mostly it did what it was supposed to do -- i.e., show you everything you can do wrong. For instance, Robert Rodriguez may say that you should throw away your tripod, and just use your hands, but if you do that, your film will look like it's been shot by a palsied hunchback. Not that I'm gainsaying Mr. Rodriguez. Far from it. I'm only saying that in most situations a tripod is a good idea if you don't want your movie to resemble those newsreels made by Vietnam combat filmmakers who kept filming whilst running for their lives when Charlie suddenly appeared out of the jungle. Although in Mr. Rodriguez's defense, he also says to "get a wheelchair and push yourself around in it," which is exactly the suggestion our film instructor made. Maybe I shoulda hung on to mine.

I will get "Buddy Quest" transferred to video along with my second student film, which my co-director and I will shoot tomorrow and Saturday. Then we get the video files for both films back at the same time, and we begin editing the films digitally, I believe using Apple "Final Cut."

The most interesting viewing experience I've had recently was at the Kennedy School, a refurbished grade school nearby that has been converted to a hotel/theater/brewpub. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they have a "Mommy Matinee" ("Babies Welcome!") that allows hapless new parents to actually crawl out of their caves and go see a movie. Last week they showed "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" ,which I'd been interested in seeing. Due to the theater showing the film at 1 pm and being an easy walk from my house, I was willing to risk the potential "squall line," because I didn't think it would be that overrun with little bundles of joy.

Boy was I wrong!

There must've been about 30 of the little darlins in the place! It was actually quite amazing to see. It also kind of made me grateful that the calamity took away most of my sense of smell.

I'd do the "Mommy Matinee" again, but "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" was not a good choice for it -- too much fast talking and muttered, though clever, dialogue, which was drowned out frequently by occasional crying, squeaking, fidgeting and spit-up-ing from all quarters of the room. I'm not saying the concept of a Mommy Matinee is a bad idea. Clearly, a need exists. But a better choice of film would be a brainless superhero movie. Maybe Fantastic Four. No need to catch all the witty repartee there -- just a 50-foot screen upon which to show Jessica Alba. Plus, I'm not sure how much language babies retain when they are less than a year old, but if they retain a fair amount, then the first word out of these babies mouths will be "fuck." A character in the movie actually apologizes "to the folks in the Midwest" for using the word so often in the film.

I'd like to be around to film that magical moment when little angelic Brandon or Caitlin utter their first intelligible words: "Blblbllbl hmmmmm flibble fuck! FUUUUUCK! frabja..."

"Oh honey! Isn't that darling! She's channeling Denis Leary!"