Sunday, March 23, 2008

Word to the Wise(if any)

This blog is dead, inactive, not updated anymore, etc. but if you've happen to stumble upon this blog from links of past 6x1 students' blogs, I have but one simple message for you. Enjoy 6x1 as much as you physically, mentally, and spiritually can. It is easily the most creative, innovative, and productive film[please note the actual use of real live film] course you will take while at the UNC of W. Some classes to come may just plain suck and ruin your final semester of your undergraduate career as well as your overall views and opinions of filmmaking in general.
But what do I know, right?

And be sure to check out:
The Elf Wax Times

Sunday, December 9, 2007

49 hour race

Who knew 48ish hours could fly by so fast? Overall, my favorite project, the 49-hr film race proved to be the most fun and spawned some really cool videos. Going into this project last Monday, I was very anxious to find out what the mystery prop would be. I knew it would’ve had to be small and cheap because all of us were receiving one(or three in the end) but I also was thinking that it could’ve been a line of dialogue.
Before the race officially began, I was pretty set on using my digital still cam on video mode because I knew that it took pretty good quality when it was stabilized by tripod. I started thinking of ideas that could be good to use and came across some old PSAs on youtube. That’s when I decided that I wanted to go with an anti-drug PSA angle, but I also knew that the mystery prop could ruin all of that.
Then came 4pm last Monday, the big unveiling day, where I was surprised (and pleased) to see the alphabet blocks and not a line of dialogue. After that, I went home and wrote up a short script and shot list of what I needed to shoot. I was trying to think of cheesy, cliché PSA shots and dialogue, but figured I’d just improvise while shooting anyways.
Tuesday came along and I called around to see who might want to be a shady blockdealer in an alley. Jamie was available and pretty much in costume and character went we met up. We found the first shady alley and 40 minutes of improve later, I had the footage. Knowing I could make some trippy effects by plugging my camera into the TV and recording, I fooled around some and got some colorful shots to use for the block trip. The other shots were made by shining a laser pointer into an upside-down “caution wet floor” cone.
Editing was pretty simple. I already had the sound effects planned out and on a disc and I just inserted them with the videos. The hardest part of the edit was learning how to freeze frame and make titles appear separately. Other than that, it was pretty simple yet fun and I plan on making some more shorts using only a still cam on video mode.
Here’s the final product if you need a recap.

rhythm + editing

Going into the rhythmic edit, I didn’t really know what to expect. After viewing some of last year’s projects, I had a better idea but still had no idea what to film and how I was going to edit it all. Luckily, Colin is quite the skateboarder and mentioned that he wanted me to film him skating at various locations around town. What/where to film was not a problem anymore. We were able to meet up twice and get enough footage to edit and not be bored with using the same shots.
Editing this monstrosity was a completely different experience. I had never really broke clips down frame by frame, but, believe me, I got my share with this project. Using the footage I’d filmed along with some Super8 Colin already had, I broke down basically all the good movement shots into bins of 5, 10, and 15 frames(this was the most tedious part of the assignment). From there, I looked at the frame shots and tried to get some sort of pattern out of them. I ended up going with an old-to-new theme and used the Super8 shots first then the newer footage kinda creeped in. When the cycles started rolling, I realized that I should maybe repeat every cycle twice so people could soak in the images a little better without getting too bored. Once I had about a 30 sec. sequence, I realized that the shots got old with the repeats, so I applied some filters and speed effects to select shots, just to change it up.
When the sequence was finalized, I started thinking soundwise. I had made a song that had a mellow, skate-video feel to it and tried it out. With the fast editing pace though, it did not work so I tried another one that was more repetitive and masked the edits a little.
All in all, this was one of my favorite projects and I’m completely satisfied with the final product and hope Colin is too. Skate on, bro.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Yes to the Yes Men

After finally screening the Yes Men, in class of all places, I was ashamed that I hadn’t seen it or really even heard about it other than a poster in the library. It was under my radar and usually I know all about these types of films before they even get released. But in my defense, the film came out before I was in film school or even thinking about college majors.
The film (or what we viewed in class) was awesome, plain and simple. Much like Borat, the film is a documentary following two pranksters, as well as their friends whom help out, as they pose as the WTO. The premise itself is brilliant and reminds me of similar stuff I did in high school (mock speeches, etc.) but with more guts and cameras rolling the whole time. I really was into the actual speech performances and the lead-up to them as it added suspense, rather than the after-thoughts of what they had just done. The elaborate work put into the pranks is certainly commendable as they were able to pull off their pranks without people calling them out. The speech in Plattsburg(I believe?) in front of college students was especially awesome with their response. I notice in most classes, its tough to get a rise out of college-aged people, but the Yes Men executed their starvation speech(complete with McDonald’s for all!) perfectly to get kids throwing inflatable globes at them and walking out.
This film really gave me hope that hidden camera pranks can be more than TV, or Youtube nowadays, humor and actually be a great premise for a successful documentary. If I wouldn’t have seen Borat before this, I think I would’ve appreciated it more knowing that there was really no predecessor to this other than TV shows basically. In the future or even now, I want to see more films like these being made. Reality TV is only reality because the characters are actual people, when their goals/situations are not. (7 strangers living in a house with cameras, when does this happen in real life?) With cameras hidden, the viewer gets a better sense of reality and how people actually react when they don’t know that cameras are on them. Either way, The Yes Men was a sweet film and I’ve already recommended it to friends.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cucalorus response 2: Nobody

For my second viewing, I checked out the film Nobody, another documentary though this one following around Jerry Bell, a drifter whom received an inflatable raft from smoking 20,000 cigarettes and rafted down the Mississippi to Memphis where he met up with 2 documentary filmmakers. Jerry became tired of his regular home-life after his wife left him and his mother died so he decided to convert to a life on the river, living off whatever he could find. The filmmakers, Lance Murphey and Alan Spearman, were originally newspaper photographers and just happened to find Jerry and decided to make their first film about his journey. Not knowing where they were going with the doc, they followed him around until one fateful day Jerry called home to find out that his son had committed suicide leaving Jerry in shambles, deciding to stay around Memphis for awhile.
I really dug the way the doc was shot, black-and-white and every shot seemed like a portrait (I guess the photographer thing came in handy). Meeting Jerry, Lance, and Alan also at Jengo’s one night made me interested in seeing the doc because I thought it’d be interesting but comical. When I saw it, I was surprised at the somber tone and the overall message it sends about life; you don’t need a home or car to be free. I was really surprised to see how professionally shot and narrated (by Jerry of course) the film was.
Afterwards, there was a Q&A with the three guys, who were happy to answer questions about how following Jerry around was. They also informed the audience (they had told me a few nights before) that Jerry was featured on Dr. Phil, where his daughter confronted him to tell him how much of a failure he was. This really shocked me because Jerry seemed so kind-hearted to me that I could never see him being a dead-beat dad. Almost every night, I ran into him and the filmmakers and we ended up talking for awhile about almost anything. It was actually refreshing to meet such an original person here in Wilmington and I was sad to see them all head back to Memphis.

Cucalorus response 1: Monster Camp

For my first Cucalorus screening, I attended Monster Camp, a documentary about the lives of Seattle NERO players, a real life version of Dungeons and Dragons basically. The whole community documented was a brand new deal for me as I really didn’t know (or want to know) that things like this actually exist, but it was very interesting to say the least. In a nutshell, the filmmaker, Cullen Hoback, followed around a few enthusiasts as they prepared themselves and their costumes for the big showdown of the real-life D&D’ers. The doc was very funny because of how serious the people took the game and how it had basically engulfed their lives. As a filmmaker, I really dug how professional the doc was made and how he let the players do the narration and not himself (see Michael Moore). I also liked the equal coverage of everyone and the balance of their real selves and game selves. The only thing I didn’t like was the fact that the guys seemed to get so much into the game that it had taken over their lives. It was almost sad, but I guess its good to have a hobby that one cares so much about.
There was a Q&A afterwards with Cullen, whom I had met a few nights before at Jengo’s, and he was glad to explain how he got the idea and also how the players were in their real lives. A question was asked about whether or not he was trying to exploit or poke fun at the players since the documentary was of a humorous nature. He explained that he was indeed not and it just turned out that way because it was a ridiculous concept to begin with. He also explained that the guys actually were pretty successful in their jobs (although one was a stay-at-home all-day gamer) and social lives and that one of the main guys was actually engaged. I had met Cullen at Jengo’s and somehow he got on an anti-film school rant (could’ve been the free alcohol) about how no one needs film school and that it actually hinders one’s chances in the film world due to the ego that comes out of a film degree. I was split on my feelings because I’ve learned a lot through this 6x1 class and in my other hands-on courses. But I do get what he’s saying because some of my more critical (i.e. paper-writing) courses haven’t taught me much other than the fact that I’d rather make movies than study and write about them. But who am I to judge, right?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Feeling Loopy

Happy Cucalorus week, blogland. Hope everyone has fun.

Last week’s class brought the first ever Make-the-Biggest-Film-Loop contest to Leutze Hall and sadly, the Ambitious Chinchillas(a kickass name BTW) lost to the other guys. It was definitely a contest of creativity as well as logistics. Our team started out with a good amount of film to kick it off with a bang, and we begin looking for things that could be used to loop it on the ceiling, walls, and even the floor, though not too close. I forget who it was but one intelligent member of the ACs discovered that using the key clips (whatever they are called) worked extremely well for moving film through, so we gathered the three or four our group had and went to work. We set up these clips in a triangle shape over the ceiling and walls and they seemed to work a little too good. I could see the look of jealous on that rival group’s faces as one of our first huge loops went through without problems, not to brag or anything. Finally, our key clips ran out and our loop tragically touched the ground, leaving us in defeat as well as shock. The experiment as a whole was a lot of fun and interesting. Congrats to the other team.

On another note, the works-in-progress looked and sounded cool. It’s really neat to see how much sound adds to the rayograms that are pretty much seemingly random. I really dug the speed techniques used, as in slowing down or speeding up the footage. Originally, they seemed almost too quick when we first viewed them after processing. But with the works-in-progress, they seemed to make a lot more sense and the sound added immensely. Can’t wait to see the final products and the one-shots.