April, 2003

Meanwhile…

April 25th, 2003 April 25th, 2003
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Meanwhile, I wonder if/when Simon will get in touch…

Today, as it turns out, three days after I wrote the above, a VHS arrives from Simon. I’m tempted to call him and say it’s too late, I’ve gone with my edit. Be interesting to see the tape first, though, wouldn’t it? I play it. It’s superb. Real Quality. Drat. Simon has captured little nuances of performance in the shots he’s chosen. His cutting is much quicker than mine. Little things work seamlessly.

I *have* to go with it. Swear swear swear. I thought The Car was all ready for the sound mix but I *can’t* compromise quality on the altar of speed. If I do, then what’s the point? Okay, there will come a point where it absolutely has to be, must be finished. But that’s a few months off. I’m thinking more in terms of a couple of weeks on the timescale here.

I call Simon and he starts another editing job as an assistant on a new feature in a couple of weeks which means he’ll be able to get me an EDL from Avid then. I can use the EDL to conform my version on the PowerBook in Final Cut Pro. Two weeks is doable. I call Peter Hodges to put the brakes on the sound edit and Paul the composer to warn him a completely new version is on the way.

Back to the Emporer and Death meanwhile…

Fade Away And Radiate

April 22nd, 2003 April 22nd, 2003
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Simon the editor hasn’t been in touch for three weeks. No VHS has appeared in the post from him, despite being promised at the end of February. But who cares? I’ve finished editing The Car on Final Cut Pro and I’m satisfied that it’s good. So today I took the PowerBook down to London to meet up with Peter Hodges, the sound editor/rerecording mixer, and we spent the afternoon getting material on to his system.

Long story short, getting the audio info from an OSX to an OS9 Mac took us three hours (partly because neither of us understood the other’s computer fully) and eventually turned out to be as simple as burning a CD then doing a dub via firewire on to DVCAM tape. Peter now has everything he needs except music and I’m corresponding with a composer who seems to have done a lot of interesting work. I burned a DVD this afternoon and can make him a VHS from that.

It would have been cool to work with a composer in the US on this project but what with Simon keeping me hanging on for months, I don’t feel like I want to spend loads more time. No more of these two year film editing projects, ack. However (and with no trace of irony), I’ve transferred rushes on to the Mac for another short film, The Emporer And Death, which was shot about six years ago on BetaSP and I intend to start working on that next.

TEAD has lots of scope for using wacky visual effects as it’s an experimental dance/drama so I should get to use After Effects on it and learn about that too. The opportunity to learn something new is always a bonus. I just hope the very ‘proper’ British accent of the actress (in best received pronunciation) won’t put people off it. Meanwhile, I wonder if/when Simon will get in touch. Okay, I only wonder in an abstract way.

Oo, baby/Watchful lines/Vibrate soft/In brainwave time

Wir Sind Das Helden

April 17th, 2003 April 17th, 2003
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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I, I will be king

I joined the Directors Guild a while back, hoping to network, share some experiences, maybe find out things–things like how do you get an agent. Ah, yes. Despite the short films, I still have no agent. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent too much energy producing and not enough creativity directing. I don’t feel like I’m at my peak. Clearly, the prospective agents don’t either. We must push harder. That’s the royal ‘we’.

Anyway, I was also hoping to be part of a network sharing the same problems and learning some answers. Like “Is the DP always a sod who won’t do what you tell him?” and “How do you motivate your editor to finish your project without paying them?” Heh.

And you, you be queen

This evening I went along to what will be my fourth Directors Guild activity. Informal dinner at an Italian restaurant in the West End. I dressed in my usual informal black jeans, black T-shirt summer/winter collection combo. There were two others there when I arrived. They weren’t wearing the backstage luvvie combo, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they were luvvies. Oh, no. No doubt at all. The numbers swelled to, ooh, seven at the evening’s peak.

For nothing can drive them away

We started talking about the DV technology demonstrated at the meeting last week. Final Cut Pro. Shake. Avid. Hey, I have the first of these. I’m ahead. But it’s only a tool. Anyway, I didn’t quite feel like part of the ‘we’. More like an independent, eavesdropping. Chris, one of the first two there, talked a lot and with confidence which made me feel like I’m not achieving. He’s one of those people I want to compete against. He’s highly successful. Directs EastEnders, writes for The Bill. Hmmm.

Hmmm. Okay, so he’s working on soaps. But it’s a real job, directing and writing drama. I kept thinking he looked familiar. By the end of the evening, I’d figured it out… He was in Lovejoy (Eric Catchpole for those who’ve ever seen it). Ha! Sussed. I felt less competitive, although not a huge amount because Lovejoy was one of the best dramas on UK television when it was going. Except he was Eric. Haha! Okay, well, Eric was a good character. Oh, I don’t know.

We can beat them, just for one day

The conversation turned to stories of actors and celebrities misbehaving. Keith Moon challenging Oliver Reed to a drinking contest while one of the other directors was still an AD on features and had to sort out the chaos. The same Keith Moon decorating an actor’s room with takeout curries in a hotel and the crew leaving their lodgings at 3am somewhere else because the production hadn’t got the money to pay for accommodation. Various actors shagging various other actors and famous people who shall remain nameless. All very amusing. I just kept quiet and listened.

We can be heroes, just for one day

Afterwards, I felt a bit like I’d sat in on some kind of Richard measuring contest. (Think about it.) We hadn’t really talked about directing or film making so much as anecdotes about debauched episodes. Is this really why I joined the Directors Guild? I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just an introduction to networking, but where’s the passion for moving pictures? We did have a good chat about films for part of the evening, but it was more “Wasn’t that good?” rather than any analysis. We also talked a while about how most us spend more time online than watching television…

I don’t know. These guys are okay. I just would have really loved to have got some insights from them into the actual process of directing and how they analyse a scene or whatever. There was discussion about executive producers and managers all have word processors and therefore consider themselves writers. Which means they all edit the script. Which I think is crap and so does everyone else. But it doesn’t help. Nor does the discovery of the ‘magic toothbrush’–two for �1–which you chew to clean your teeth after a meal.

I have a feeling next week’s meeting at the New Producers’ Alliance will be more productive. Until then, I only have 50 pages left to study in the Final Cut Pro training manual until I’ve completed it and I should be meeting up with Peter, the sound editor/re-recording mixer next week to look at The Car. More water falls on the impenetrable rock…

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Actually, I think I know what’s hacking me off. It’s the idea that the highest thing I can aspire to at the BBC is directing TV soaps. And that’s so incredibly hard to get into, I might as well forget it. They manage to include the word drama in the department and somehow it becomes some kind of holy grail.

Well, to my mind, TV is the ultimate throw away medium. I have no desire to direct soaps, or most other kinds of television. It’s crap. It’s getting worse with hundreds of channels and very little content. Why do I want to do that? What’s it achieving? Unless it’s high quality and reaches, truly reaches, an audience–rather than diverting them from their lives for half an hour–what is the point?

It’s gotta be meaningful, or what’s the point? Except as a stepping stone. This is all arrogant bs of course. Do I really think I can change the world? I don’t even know how I’d want to change it. I just want to be heard over all the noise. And there sure is a lot of noise. But mostly I’m not even sure I have anything to say.

Ha!

Maybe it’s the quality of the audience is what matters. Like you, dear readers. Yes. Hmmmm. Interesting thought. Must think more on this…

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Other things I’ve been to at the Director’s Guild were Herbie Wise’s directing masterclass, which was a wonderful opportunity and gave me tons of confidence, and the AGM, which was okay but not much of a networking opportunity for me in particular. This week’s networking activity will be my first with the New Producers’ Alliance (NPA).

From what I hear, the NPA ranges from pretty poor to very good. Their workshop tomorrow night covers the responsibilities of the assistant director and various other film pre-production goodies. The important thing, as far as I’m concerned however, is that talking to producers is far more useful to me as a director than talking to other directors.

And at the end of the day, I’d rather be talking about the creative possibilities than the personalities involved.

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Actually, not everything on TV is crap. A programme I’m really into at the moment is Witchblade on the Sci-Fi channel. Lots of imaginative camerawork and some nice effects have gone into transforming Sara Pezzini from Top Cow’s comic books to the screen. Okay, so the witchblade doesn’t rip all her clothes off when it manifests like it does in the books (shame) but the acting is solid, the stories don’t try to resolve every episode and the overall story has a strong magical realism quality, which is something that really appeals to me and I tried getting into with Fate & Fortune.

If I could direct episodes (or even the whole series) of something like that, I’d be happy.

The Wellspring Of Creativity

April 13th, 2003 April 13th, 2003
Posted in Fire and Light
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In Bowling for Columbine, Marilyn Manson observed that america’s economy is driven by fear. Fear promotes consumerism and consumerism drives continued wealth. Advertising targets people’s weaknesses rather than their strength. Often it’s “If you buy this thing–yes, this one, right here!–these good things will follow…” This leads to the impression that non-ownership will mean an absence of those other good things. Yet often the thing is bought and never used to its full potential. Sometimes it’s not used at all or used for an evil purpose. Surely any good outcome is outweighed by this? Not necessarily…

The old saw says that necessity is the mother of invention, which would seem to make the observation about fear no more than an axiom. If only a need can drive an act of creation, then fear may be the only way to bring out the muse. Struggle, strive, build, create; overcome the obstacles. But in life there are no absolutes. Creative work is more truly borne of desire and love. A warmth of being alive and in the moment. A feeling of being outside time which comes with that warmth. An empathic connection and joy in being with fellow humans can be just as motivating as fear and the desire to control.

Lately I realise that as we get old we are inclined to take fewer risks. Risk, nevertheless, is absolutely necessary for growth, I believe. It’s an extrapolation of Piaget’s cognitive disonnance theory–if our perception of the world differs far enough from our internal model of reality then we have disonnance and we must somehow reconcile the mismatch. This is the way learning takes place. Risk is a way of forcing our perception beyond our safe, predictable inner world and to make the self-changing leap between internal and external. Risk also pumps the system with adrenaline and boosts our metabolism into an accelerated state.

What form does the muse take then? Is the muse fear? Or love? Or risk? Or do risk, fear and love encourage the muse to dance and sing, to inspire us? Face the fear, run the risk and feel inspired enough to become confident about embracing the love.

Fear, anger, lust, envy and greed will produce numerous goods and services, clearly. The evidence is all around us. Some of these things will even be good, useful and maybe even beautiful. Keep producing stuff and some of it is bound to be quality. It’s the infinite monkeys on infinite typewriters syndrome–“To be or not to bibbleix ;yayaya.” Not every monkey is the Bard. To paraphrase David Sedaris observed, giving everyone a computer results in a lot of writers but that doesn’t mean any of them are worth reading.

Love, desire and caring may not produce as much as the fear-driven, guilt-driven, control-freak economy but the end result could be a happier, more fulfilled world. Isn’t it better for all us monkeys to be happy instead of sifting around for that fleck of gold in the barnfull of straw? Maybe. But striving is not necessarily a bad thing and don’t forget the learning which comes from risk-taking. Whenever one monkey comes up with a gold fleck, it’s a reason to celebrate. And that desire to celebrate the triumph of quality over quantity while constantly learning is the true wellspring of creative hope. Which makes me happy.

I Sold Some Shares Today

April 8th, 2003 April 8th, 2003
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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And made 75. Not bad on an investment (okay, speculative punt) of 300, methinks. In fact, it’s 24% in six months. Powderject (PJP.L). Every year they make flu vaccine and every winter their shares seem to go up. I won’t say I can predict this accurately, but so far it’s worked every time.

Now I’ve put some of the proceeds plus some savings into some stocks on the NYSE. My first investment in the US markets. American Express Sharepeople, my current brokers, charged me just over 40 commission for buying 300-worth of US shares. I thought they were only charging me 15 (still high but cheap for Britain) but 15 is only for UK shares.

Is this worth it? Rhetorical question, of course.

I want to buy into the UK cable industry but Telewest (TWT.L) have more debt than a third world country and the biggest company, NTL, is–bizarrely–only listed on the Nasdaq.

Why list a UK company only in the USA? It’s just wrong, isn’t it? It stinks of fish. I can only think it’s because they are great (somethings)* who don’t want the UK authorities looking over their shoulders. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t make money. Homeworking is the future here and high speed cable is the key to that, among other things.

I really don’t want to be paying such an extortionate commission charge for the privilege of buying into it, though.

Gonna buy me some new spectacles with the rest of my “profits”.**

*this word has been ommitted on legal advice.
**gambling win, let’s face it.

Continuity Lesson

April 5th, 2003 April 5th, 2003
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And now it’s on the Mac…

And now it’s cut up into bite (but not byte) sized chunks and logged and checked and… And, no, it wasn’t a very bright idea to replace Lionel’s original poster featuring The Scream with one featuring a picture of Lionel because he’d lost it. Because it looks very different.

It especially doesn’t have a rich red background at the top. And it’s the only thing in the shot apart from the actor in close-up. And I listened to Andy Martin when he said, “Let’s frame it so the whole thing’s in the frame rather than chopped off like you had it before.” So it’s even more of a blatant continuity error than it might have been.

Maybe no one will notice, except you, now that I’ve told you. Everyone should be watching the actor, shouldn’t they? And maybe I can cut out the other shots which feature the other poster so it all matches up.

You live and learn.

The rest of it cuts together pretty well, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.

It’s In The Can

April 1st, 2003 April 1st, 2003
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And now it’s on the Mac. Just two days later, it’s on the computer and ready for me to edit. Unbelievable. And it all looks perfect too. The shots I thought were overexposed have a beautiful range of colour saturation, contrast and depth. I think they must have graded them a bit when they did the trasfer to videotape. Plus the sound is good and that’s from my previously inexperienced sound recordists. Okay, they had television and editing experience, but not ‘sound recording on a DAT’ experience. And Michael, the actor, is superb.

Je suis un auteur.

Okay, okay–so there is such a thing as too much smugness. One shot at the end with an extreme wideangle lens (the equivalent of a 16mm if this was 35mm photography) has lost the corners (vignetting). And the titles are a little bit soft in the focus department, but they can be redone on a clockwork camera (which I can borrow for free). Now, let’s just hope it all cuts together.

Oh, and Simon is making inquiries into getting a licence to use “Gone, Daddy Gone” for festival screenings, which would be uber cool.

Chikka Chikkaaa, Oh, Yeaaaaaahhhh!