December, 2002

Resolution 2003

December 24th, 2002 December 24th, 2002
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2003 will be about art, love and the pursuit of knowledge.

Reflections On 2002

December 24th, 2002 December 24th, 2002
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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Just going through some of the piles (and piles) of old paperwork which mainly needs trashing. The filing cabinet is now full and the drawers (steel) are literally bulging. Distributing films from a one-bedroom apartment proves to have drawbacks in terms of the mess it creates. But then, the creative process is often messy.

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Eastern Screen wrote to me a week ago to say Strawberries won’t be getting a grant (boo) but they like the visual style (good) and would I like to go along for a meeting with their development people (excellent). Of course. Arranged for late January. Please to send them anything else I’m working on in the meantime.

I call Lionel (writer) to let him know about this and does he have anything he’d like me to pitch at them for possible funding? Yes, he says, he does. He and Simon have a feature script that’s nearly ready. I need a synopsis and sample scene, although there’s no guarantee Simon and Lionel would want to make it with me anyway. However, I figure it can’t hurt to see what Eastern Screen says.

We go on to discuss generally the three shorts Simon, Lionel and I have made so far–two of them Lionel’s co-written and The Car he did a lot of the design. We think we’re doing well and pat ourselves on the back.

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Reflection on 2002 #1: among other things, two very concrete goals I set out to achieve this year have been accomplished. Firstly, I finished Fate & Fortune on 35mm. Secondly, I got it shown in the States. Bonus: I shot another short on celluloid, The Car.

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Christmas, the Winter Solstice, is a time to pause. To look back. To project forward. To be One with the Now.

Maybe I’ll post some more reflections as I think of them. Maybe I’ll just keep them to myself, turning them over in my mind as I look at the lights of the Christmas tree. Lights sparkling on the baubles–each one a memory of years gone by. Reflections in the tinsel spreading the silent magic of the lights. And those rich green pine needles–a reminder of the earth where we live.

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Reflection on 2002 #2: somehow, no matter what happens, one can still learn all the words to I Was A Teenage Dirtbag well enough to be able to scream them from the back of a pub while the world’s worst cover band plays on Christmas Eve. Okay, the real reflection: rock music. That kind of rock music. That’s part of who I am.

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Reflection #3: 2002 was the year we coined a phrase for the nineties. It takes three years to coin a phrase for the previous decade. To sum it all up in one neat little “I understood it because I could label it” package. And this year, we got it. We summarized it down to three words. Wooh.

The Slacker Generation.

As usual, we understood very little.

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Reflection #4: Letting go of someone you love is the hardest thing in the world. When they love you too. It doesn’t mean you don’t care. That’s a big part of what makes it so hard. But sometimes, it’s just not meant to be. Life isn’t like books or movies or anything else anyone has tried to use to package it. Nor is love.

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Reflection #5: Hanging on to a way of life that doesn’t work for you but satisfies some basic human needs is the easiest thing in the world. Work means nothing. This is your life. But we still forget it. Most days.

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Reflection #6: Love can come again. Even when you don’t expect it. Even when you’ve just let it go. The universe is a good place. Even when it hurts you, it can love you at the same time. And you can never know where it’s taking you. Home is a feeling, not a place.

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Reflection #7: When you’re doing what you enjoy, it isn’t work.

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Reflection #8: Herbie Wise’s inspirational directing masterclass with the Directors’ Guild. This was kind of a turning point this year because it gave me an affirmation that I can direct. If I’m thrown in the deep end, I won’t sink. I’ll get very good results–and excellent results if I’m working with high calibre people.

On the day, we worked with a group of professional actors all of whom had major TV credits and some film work under their belts. Each of us went off to breakdown, rehearse and then perform a scene with two of them. They were excellent. The feedback I got was excellent. The day was great.

I found that what works for me is that directing is about confidence, nurturing a creative, collaborative atmosphere and letting things evolve while keeping a vision in mind. Directing, as far as I’m concerned, is nearly all in the pre-production. On set, it’s about keeping things moving while maintaining the freedom to change the plan.

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Reflection #9: my first taste of medical treatment in the USA–having my ears syringed. Seems to be similar to UK treatment except they charge more and I’m guessing that’s because they have to carry huge amounts of insurance against being sued. Being able to hear clearly was superb and totally underrated.

Routine checks showed my blood pressure is higher than normal, presumably due to my cake eating, beer drinking slothful existence. Also a lack of karate (oops) and almost complete lack of dancing in 2002 (double oops). Plus there was the whole thing with travelling to work, where it became considerably cheaper to drive than use the train.

Up until this year, I’ve regularly walked twenty to thirty minutes a day to the railway station. However, Thameslink (our rail operator) changed the terms of their discount tickets pushing the price up from 6 to 9 to get into London. Driving costs me less than 5 in diesel so it’s not a difficult choice.

[Sidenote to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who I know is an avid reader of this board: Ken, you’ve got two hopes of easing the capital’s traffic congestion at these prices. And one of them’s Bob.]

I should have resolved to do something about all of the above in 2003, I suppose, particularly with the reminder of the final bill from the hospital ($209 for ear cleaning!?). However, there’s a stack of candy, cakes, wine and other Christmas goodies to be worked through before then. Still, at least I had my hair cut short.

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Reflection 10: Something on the radio this morning (January 3rd; I’ve kept adding to this particular blog entry) reminded me of this. Dr Richard Wiseman a doctor at the University of Hertfordshire has spent eight years studying the common characteristics of lucky people–ie. those whose luck is statistically greater than average.

And here’s the four defining things which lucky people do:

1. expect good fortune
2. create, notice and act on opportunities, no matter how small they initially appear
3. listen to gut feelings and act on hunches about people or situations
4. turn negatives into positives by seeing these as a chance to do something better.

That last one reminded me of Jack Wood dropping out from The Car at the last minute. I was so fortunate to get rid of his dead weight and take on a professional in his place. It not only made the whole shoot so much more enjoyable, it also improved the end result immeasurably. The attitude of ‘the show must go on’ actually made it happen.

In the words of Captain Picard, “Make it so!” And it so it is.

The Car – Update

December 7th, 2002 December 7th, 2002
Posted in Film making
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Pictures and sound have now been sync’d up. I call Simon again to find out what DV format he wants tapes in for acquisition to his laptop edit suite, Final Cut Pro. He isn’t sure. He’ll call me back. I call Stanley Productions to get a price for transferring rushes to DV. It’s 105 plus VAT. Will this include timecode? Opinions differ.

Frustrated, I speak to a friend named Richard who has been building edit suites in his spare room in St Albans for the past few years. Richard tells me timecode on DV is hit and miss. MiniDV, he is pretty certain, doesn’t include it. DVCAM, on the other hand (Panasonic’s rival tape format), *does* include this necessary digital editing component.

DVCAM it is then. I call Simon back with this news and chat to his answerphone for a while. This happens a few times. I buy a computer magazine and consider buying my own edit suite. The dream machine seems to be a top of the range Apple PowerBook with a DVD-R and Final Cut Pro installed. However, PC’s are considerably cheaper. I read around the subject and immerse myself in the conflicting opinions.

Somewhere along the line, I call up Perry Mitchell, a video consulted who posts regularly to the Shooting People filmmakers forum and the Guild Of Television Cameramen mailing list. Perry has set himself up with solutions for people just like me. He can transfer my rushes from DigiBeta on to a portable hard drive for editing. He’ll then rent this out on a daily basis while the edit takes place.

Nice. Even nicer is that, a few days later, once the ten minute film is complete, you dump it down on to Perry’s portable drive, take it back to him and he uses it to conform the DigiBeta in what’s known as an online edit. Conforming means he creates a new DigiBeta from the master, matching each edit, cut for cut, as produced by Final Cut Pro (FCP).

Simon, meanwhile appears to have vanished. I hum. I hah. I talk about my usual editing delay frustrations to a few friends. I go and look at Richard’s Adobe Premiere suite and see what it can do. It’s easy-peasy lemon squeezy. Just drag and drop clips on to the timeline, trim them up and play them in sequence, in real time. Hard to believe this kind of functioning was restricted solely to high end system like Avid only a few years ago.

Like a word processor, desktop editing makes cutting video possible for anyone. Also just as a WP package doesn’t automatically make someone a writer–they replace the painfully tedious processes of hot metal and offset litho paste-up–FCP or Premiere replace the tedium of physical splicing on a Steenbeck but won’t make someone an editor on their own. Nevertheless, I’m fairly confident in my editing skills and know I can polish them. Hey, if Markux can get into desktop editing, I really should bite the bullet. So I do.

Chomp.

My new one gig PowerMac should be in my hands early January, complete with FCP, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Dreamweaver, Shockwave Flash, MS Office and various other goodies. My mortgage will probably go up by a few thousand in the next few weeks accordingly but this is a serious investment in my future. So, if anyone wants any showreels cutting or DVD authoring done early next year, please get in touch. Reasonable rates.

Actually, thinking aloud, I can even use it as back up to run some training in sound and lighting craft for the BBC Film Club next year. Mmmm. Nice.