March, 2004

Critic’s Choice

March 22nd, 2004 March 22nd, 2004
Posted in Film making
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I said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think I’ve ever been this busy in my entire life. We’re just back from the East Lansing Film Festival where we discovered The Car had gotten a great write up in the local paper and was selected as “Critic’s Pick”. That’s almost like another award, I’m thinking. To say the least, I was completely blown away.

I can’t find the laurels to make cool award-style graphics with but I can say it was a great weekend and adds up to two film festivals in one week (one of which–Ann Arbor–I wasn’t in, but hey). And coming up fast is Cinema Slam tomorrow night, which seems to be gathering momentum and getting increasingly popular.

Today’s been spent shooting a commercial for John’s sister and doing a recce for Artrain USA while Laura’s been hard at work with more painting at the new house, plus graphic design for tomorrow’s slam and the Ann Arbor Women in Computing group. Oh, and she’s helped me with some subtle redesign of the Ascalon Films logo in preparation for getting some crew T-shirts made.

Cinema Slam looks like it’s going to be really popular tomorrow. I met one of the filmmakers up in East Lansing and he’s bringing a whole group of people with him.

Among other great movies, we also have a very cool film titled Death Star Repairmen which I found on the internet and contacted the filmmaker to ask if we could include it. Nice guy named Darryl from Canada. He said, “Yes!”. For those of you miles away, I’ll post a link on the site after the event. Oh, and we got Bananaman which was made by a student at the U of M. The guy who made that is going places!

Plus, of course, there’s my own first venture into shooting in the USA: American Short Film which has a great script and should make people laugh.

Tomorrow’s another house painting day plus the electric guy is coming round to wire up all the rooms for cable and ethernet. Wednesday is fingerprinting at the immigration services in Detroit. Yes, they fingerprint residents who aren’t citizens here. Civil liberties. Bwahahaha! Kind of pointless, though, as it’s so cold you have to wear gloves all the time in Michigan.

Later, on Wednesday afternoon, there’s more filming with the first day of shooting at Artrain USA. Thursday: even more filming. Friday: even more painting. Saturday: furniture moving. Sunday: filming again. There’s also at least two parties in there. Okay, three.

I’d love to write up some more about the A2 Film Fest and the East Lansing Film Fest. We watched tons of films. Great people. Great movies. We danced and partied to 1.30am on Saturday then stayed in a motel. I was horribly hung over from Black Cutter whisky but got invited to join a panel of visiting directors on Sunday morning to answer questions. I think I was outspoken and possibly coherent. Who knows.

I’m worn out. Laura’s out at a meeting and I’m letting the boys stay up late to watch TV. Does this make me a good step dad or a bad influence? Possibly both. Life is good. Busy. But good. And, hey, it’s stopped snowing!

Welcome Wagon

March 18th, 2004 March 18th, 2004
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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In a few minutes, the local welcoming committee will be turning up in the shape of a person appointed by businesses to market Ann Arbor. The house is looking fairly spruced and there was even tea in the pot. PG Tips. But I’ve drunk it.

The idea of a city marketing person welcoming newcomers to the area is novel to say the least. Apparently they scan the local property register–a public record, accessable by anyone–and find who’s new in town. She has a whole heap of vouchers, coupons and freebies to give me.

Meanwhile, Nancy and Russ at the Michigan Theater have started introducing me to people as the theater’s “resident filmmaker” which is, yes, pleasing. We got in for free to the opening night of the Ann Arbor Film Festival and consumed large quantities of free vodka before settling in to watch the offerings of the evening.

I have to say, the opening night’s films were pretty good. The experimental nature of this festival throws up some really interesting ideas, although there’s a tendancy to spurn structure which often makes things overlong. You can hold an audience with an idea for only so long and then you’ve got to give them something else. Narrative, for example.

We left before the 80 minute epic of the evening, as did a large swathe of the audience. Like I say, there’s only so much experimental film one can digest at a sitting. We’ll be going back tonight for more, though, and probably Friday as well. I’m also planning on attending the free Avid seminar today (including free lunch–there is such a thing) at 1pm.

At the weekend, we’re off to Lansing, a two hour drive north, because The Car is in the East Lansing Film Festival on Sunday. Yes, two major festivals in Michigan and they’re both happening on exactly the same week.

Thank God for Cinema Slam, I hear you cry. And you’re right. An alternative night of short films coming up hot on the heals of the A2 Film Festival.

After fighting with various DVD authoring software–Roxio Toast and iDVD–for two days, I finally got all this month’s films on to two disks ready for projection next Tuesday. Laura’s made a funky flyer, 200 copies are in the Michigan lobby. We’re all set.

And Today…

March 10th, 2004 March 10th, 2004
Posted in Film making
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Today I have a lighting kit. Three Mole Richardson lamps. A 350W and a 600W Fresnel plus a flourescent called a Biax which is based on color-corrected, full-spectrum Kinoflo lamps. There’s also a lightweight Lowell DP lamp, stands, clamps and a large flight case. It weighs 68lbs fully laden. It’s a good job I’ve got work coming up.

Yes, there is more work. In April, I’m off to Arizona to film part of a short film for a national charity. Laura is coming along to assist so we’re going to include a mini-holiday while we’re there. This is really exciting. I’ve never been to Arizona before. I’m expecting it will be hot. Maybe even dusty. I can barely lift the case of lights up (it has wheels), so I figure I’ll just take the DP light.

Tonight is a meeting of the Ann Arbor Screenwriters Group. I need to go along because I keep missing meetings and they’ll eventually forget what I look like. Fortunately there’s no homework assignment for tonight’s get together (there’s usually a script to read). I say fortunately as we’ve been so busy doing house stuff (ie. decorating) that homework would have been impossible.

And after that? This weekend I’m helping John film some commercials. Then I’ve got to get all the Cinema Slam films compiled on to a DVD. I’m trying to learn some more After Effects so I can include a cool animation to go with that.

In short: busy.

Award Winning Filmmaker

March 9th, 2004 March 9th, 2004
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The Car has won Best Short Film at the Texas Film Festival. Yay!! A big envelope arrived yesterday which I thought contained a copy of my DVD and a festival guide or something. It turned out to be a plaque. I am really really pleased. Really.

Almost as amazing as that is a story about the local cable company, Comcast. They had an offer on at the local mall to install digital TV at a reduced rate for six months if you have a satellite dish, which they’ll take away. By chance, our new house has a big dish stuck on the side. So we signed up.

Come the day of the install, Joe Honest turned up to provide us with service. Honest Joe called his boss and then refused to take the dish away or give us the discount. “You don’t have a contract with a satellite provider, so my boss says to leave it,” Joe said. So we downgraded to basic cable and off he went with the digital box.

This was kind of irritating so I phoned up Comcast and spoke to the lady who sold us the package. “I’ll look into it,” she said. And she went away. She called back later to say she was going to speak to her supervisor. Then we heard no more. Thursday went past, and Friday went past, and then the weekend. Until today.

Today, she called back. “I’m really sorry to take so long getting back to you,” she said. “My supervisor was away. Anyway, she’s very apologetic and has said you can have digital at a reduced rate for 12 months.” Wow! We were absolutely stunned. And pleased. Comcast’s sales staff went the extra mile for us, I have to say, just to keep a new customer (me) happy.

Can you say “awesome”?

Happy Birthday To Me

March 3rd, 2004 March 3rd, 2004
Posted in It's life, Jim...
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We went to the spa for an hour to relax in a hot tub today. A Valentine’s gift from my beloved. Eschewing the promised delights of the traditional English patio–okay, “British Isles Garden”–we opted instead for the Aleutian Cabin, which had a fireplace. And a roof. As it turned out, we required neither. Hot tub–it’s not just a clever name. Ho, no.

Twice I’ve been in a hot tub before. First time was in Whistler where Lucy and I went skiing many years ago. Then there was snow on the ground and the hot water soothed out the kinks after a morning on the slopes. There was beer and whisky involved.

Second time was in California, staying at Kate’s. The same week I met Joseph in fact. This time was in a spa complex and beer is probited by some State code. Not to worry. There’s Canadian beer in the fridge here. There was more but now… Well, now it’s in me, of course.

Laura bought me a set of Black Adder DVD’s–no doubt as I keep saying how this is the best BBC TV series ever made and quoting it all the time. Very pleasing. And my sister sent a wedding gift which arrived this morning. A beautifully carved oak writing case. Very lovely. I must send her a thank you.

Other stuff:

Next Cinema Slam is well in hand. I have nearly all the films. Still waiting to hear if I’ve got a commission for a second documentary project. This one would be educational too and looks like great fun. No sign of the lights today, or the Sennheiser mic I bought off ebay. We noticed that the boards are down off the local Dairy Queen now, though, and they’re open for business. Must be summer. Kind of.

Right, we’re off to the Common Grill over in Chelsea now (yes, they’ve got a Chelsea here which, no, is not like the one in London). See ya! I’ll try to write up the experience of Michigan Women’s Basketball in the next day or two. For now, I’ll just note that it’s a very different game from watching men’s basketball. Like it’s played in a different gear or something.