Sunday, May 4, 2008

The End

The final project/final screening for 6x1 was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the entire semester. Getting to see the films outside of the room in Kennan Hall was a great experience because it really brought meaning to the rough theater article we had read earlier in the semester. The screen was made from a shower curtain, and we were all just hanging out in Andre’s back yard while watching the films that we had created in just forty-eight hours with no video or film cameras. It was definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my film studies education so far.

Seeing what everybody came up with for their video race videos was really entertaining. There were so many great stories that came out of the mystery prop of the sidewalk chalk Easter eggs that I had not even thought of before viewing the films that night. Seeing all of the different mediums used was also very enlightening because they seemed to match up with the different film concepts really well.

The fact that this project had to be done individually and without the aid of a partner was challenging and rewarding at the same time. It made the forty-eight hour time limit that much more constraining and it forced me to think under pressure with a lot of other deadlines looming around the corner. At the same time, these constraints forced me to be creative and come up with some kind of concept that could be created within the time frame while still being entertaining and thought provoking. However, there was no need for the video to make sense or be driven by any kind of narrative, so that was one element that actually allowed for me to be slightly at ease and just try to think outside of the box, which is not something that I am usually good at.

So, in order to come up with a concept, I came up with a list of ideas for what the egg could represent or what it could be doing within the span of this short film that I had to make. This was a lot easier said than done, since my creativity seemed to be stifled by lack of sleep and energy. However, as the lack of sleep and thinking forged on, I came up with a list and started to film the egg in different scenarios throughout my apartment before sitting down to edit. When I did the first cut, I hated it, so I decided to scrap that entire idea and come up with something else.

It was during that time that I spotted a toy chicken that had come with a pack of bubble gum eggs that I had purchased during the Easter holiday season at Wal-Mart. What I wanted to do was create a terrorizing character out of the toy chicken while making the egg almost look like a victim without any actual attack or violence taking place. It would just be cut together in a way with a sound loop to make it appear as though the plastic chicken was a threatening figure.

Seeing it on screen gave me ideas for how I could improve on that concept, but for a film made in forty-eight hours with the video mode on my digital camera, it turned out pretty well, as far as I was concerned. Everybody’s turned out really well, actually. I think this was a great way to end the semester for 6x1 because it really allowed for all of our creativity to be wrapped up in one final film while giving us a place to vent our frustrations about upcoming finals and just giving us a place to escape to while trying to avoid any upcoming finals that we might not be prepared for.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Week Fourteen: One Minute Film Concepts

So many projects and one minute film concepts have been covered in class so far that it is difficult to think up other projects that could be done. One suggestion I have is to just draw out other projects.

For instance, the found footage projects that we did for our last project could be broken down into two separate projects. One could be a culture jamming piece, either with specific subjects or subjects that the students have to come up with, and the other could be a recontextualization of having to pull two or more different things together to make a commentary on something else, sort of like myself and others did with cutting old movies/cartoons to old public service announcements. I think breaking it up into two separate projects would not only allow for more emphasis on found footage films and provide more time to look at said films, but I think it could also explain the ideas and differences between the two types more clearly than they were explained in our semester of class.

Another idea could be to have a random product/business/something of the sort be the subject of a one minute commercial. Many commercials on television today are really thirty second to one minute long stories about something going on that ends up involving the product in some way, shape, or form. You could come up with the story for the product to follow, or you could have students come up with the idea after you assign them the products, but I think it would be really interesting to see what students come up with, since so many of the commercials today are pretty “out there” ideas.

Even though animation was touched on in the first project of the semester, I think more emphasis on it would make the course a little more interesting. The only drawing on film that we did was for the first project, and the only animation we did was for one hundred frames within that project, so I think it would be interesting to maybe animate an entire one minute film over the course of the semester and have them air at the final screenings, kind of an accumulation of feelings, ideas, or something of the sort over the span of the entire course.

One idea that I think would be really interesting would be to have some sort of stock script, kind of like 201 used to have the stock storyline with the pie stealing. This could either be one minute of action, one minute of dialogue, or just a page description of something and they have to act it out within a minute, either within a one shot, continuous take like we did with the Bolex cameras, or they have to edit down what they have to one minute to make a coherent story within a one minute time period. Obviously, the story would have to be fairly concise, or each group could be given a page of a four to five page script, depending on how large the class is, and they have to film one minute of the film, and then all of the parts can be added together on screening day, and they can see how their entire five minute film turned out. That could be a really interesting way to make a 6x1 short film.

Overall, I think a lot of the projects that we have done this semester are kind of crucial to the idea of the class as a whole. We really touched all of the experimental film bases, in a way, with brief glimpses into all of the different categories that each project dealt with, and our range was so extensive that I am not really sure what else could be done.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Week Thirteen: Making Films Without a Video Camera

Making a film without the use of a film or video camera seems like one of those tasks that can be filed under the category of things that cannot be done. However, upon further inspection and with more creative thought and ingenuity, one can come up with many ways to make a film that do not require the use of a film camera.

One way could be by using a digital still camera. Not only do they have the ability to take still images, but most have a video setting. Secondly, a cell phone camera could be used much like a digital still camera could be, but the quality between the two would be slightly different. Third, a web cam could be used. Another way to make a film without the use of a camera would be to scan images with a scanner and edit the images into a film timeline with a computer and editing software, much like a still image film would be. One could even draw animations by hand or with the help of a computer and create an animated film that would not require a camera at all. Printing on film with the use of a computer printer is another way to go about filmmaking. A film could even be made by pulling pieces of other films together and editing them in such a way to tell a narrative story or to make a statement, such as culture jamming or doing found footage films like our next project will be.

Using different mediums would clearly result in different results:

· A digital still camera would be useful if a low visual quality would help the film creatively and the ability of the film to communicate the intended story. The video taken on a digital still camera would be short segments, or at least it is on my digital camera, so it would not allow for long takes. Therefore, the cuts would be very abrupt and jarring, depending on how they were edited together and that could allow for effective use in action movies or low quality horror movies where quick shifts in narrative would be helpful. Using the digital still feature of the camera would create a dreamlike world, almost fantasy like, and could create a world of a drug addict as seen through his/her eyes while under the effects of drugs, with all of the choppy movements and whatnot.

· Cellular phone image quality, both still and video, can vary drastically depending on the quality of the cell phone itself and what the phone was meant to do. Some phones are meant to be media phones while others are intended to just be used for calls and maybe for checking e-mails. However, most cell phones with digital cameras built in have video cameras and onboard microphones built in as well. I think a cell phone would be very effective in filming some kind of mockumentary/scripted documentary such as Cloverfield or something similar where a character or group of characters must go on a journey and are left to use what resources they have for communication.

· Webcam video quality has come a long way from when it first began. Some webcams have such great quality that they look like inexpensive video camera quality, as far as visuals go. Using a webcam would be most effective in a setting where the story allows for the use of cameras. Maybe a kidnapping where the two parties involved, the kidnappers and the cops/family waiting to pay ransom/etc. communicate through computers. Either that, or it could be a situation where a film is done as a serial type of deal where segments are posted online and eventually the full story is revealed, much like old stories used to be when they were printed in newspapers or told on radios.

· Scanning images onto a computer and editing them together to make a movie would really only be effective if the filmmaker is trying to create some kind of fantasy world or is just trying to make an experimental film that does not necessarily require a clear narrative storyline, simply because the variations in how the images look, whether distorted or out of focus or completely clear, when scanned into the computer could vary so greatly.

· Making an animated film by drawing on paper and scanning the images in or just drawing in a computer program that allows for it would probably only be the most effective for a story that could be told in the manner of a cartoon, either adult or childlike. Some kind of fantasy world or just a story where the characters did not need to resemble perfect human beings but could allow for a stretch of the imagination.

· Printing on film would really only be a technique used in an experimental film setting because so much is left to chance as the film runs through the printer that it would be difficult to try to control the dots of ink enough to actual create a real story.

· Lastly, a found footage film would be best for communicating some kind of commentary on some aspect of society, whether it be a positive or a negative commentary. The quality would probably be better than most other methods, depending on where the footage is captured or taken from, but it would limit the type of story that could be told based on the availability of clips and film segments.

So, clearly, it is not impossible to make a film without a film or video camera, but it really is only effective depending on the type of film being made.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Week Twelve: Rough Filmmaking, the "Rough Theater" of the Next Generation

Though I had already read, analyzed, and commented on Brooks’ article about the “rough theater,” I had not actually applied it to the class as a whole. This class, 6x1, has been experimental in many ways, just as “rough theater” would be. When I first read the article, I did not connect it to the class, but after the discussion in class on Monday, it clearly does apply to the class in very important ways. For one, just like “rough theater” would insert jokes depending on the audience or the location where the play is being performed, films made on campus at UNCW would have inside jokes that only students at UNCW or in Wilmington in general would understand. In 6x1, doing one minute films can sometimes limit the narrative ability of a film to tell a story, but the idea behind the class is that the experience of making the film creates the story, and like the rough theater, it is more of a personal connection to the film and being able to laugh at things that happened behind the scenes rather than what is actually taking place on screen. It is more of an interactive experience with the film.

In the same way that shows deemed “rough theater” shows would use flour to whiten faces to show emotions such as fear, we have to use the props that we have available to us, as well. Not many of us can afford to go out and spend hundreds of dollars on props, so we use what we have on hand. For instance, in the one shot that my group did, we bought books from our apartments/homes to choose from, we used a cell phone that we had, a portable radio/mp3 player that we had, and just wore street clothes. Not only did it save us money and time, but it allowed us to establish the characters in the one minute films by what they were doing instead of creating distinguishable looks for them. In the forty eight hour movie race, we are going to have to create a one minute film without using a standard video camera while still having to incorporate a mystery prop that we will not find out the identity of until right before the race begins.

Though it may be deemed “rough” filmmaking, it is no less worthy of being called filmmaking than a Hollywood production would be. It is simply a way of being creative and using the medium in an almost more organic way. It is simply more gritty and hands on, not less worthy of being called a film. At the same time, it is getting back to the basics of film before there were big budgets and super high tech equipment, which is similar to how “rough theater” got back to the basics of theater by simply engaging the audience and adapting the story to fit wherever they might be performing instead of making the performance all about spectacle. It is just truer to the art form.

At the same time, people sometimes forget that films do not have to be created for a general audience. Really, they do not have to be created for any audience at all. Films can be created simply for the entertainment of the filmmakers involved with the film or simply for the entertainment of filmmakers in general. Films made during one’s childhood with a simple camera and little to know editing might not be entertaining to anyone outside of the family, but that does not take away the fact that it is a form of movie making.

It really goes back to the simple saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Filmmaking, or appreciating film, is really left up to the eyes that are viewing a film. There does not always have to be a set audience, the film does not always have to be pretty, polished, and completely professional looking to be appreciated, and it is not always about “getting it right.” Sometimes experimenting and just having fun with the medium can bring about the best results, just as “rough theater,” as it was adapted for individual audiences, brought about the best results in a given venue.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Week Eleven: "On the Rights of the Molotov Man"

“On the Rights of the Molotov Man,” an article by Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas is a very interesting article in that it takes a look at how contextualizing and decontextualizing images can have an effect on their meaning and their representation of the subject included in the photo or image itself. However, I found the copyright infringement aspect of the article to be kind of ridiculous. While I understand that it had been Susan Meiselas original image, taken for a specific reason and with a specific purpose in mind, it was clear to me, from reading Joy Garnett’s portion of the article, that she had not created her painting with any intention of infringing upon Susan’s copyright. Getting the lawyer involved seemed to be going a little far. While I understand that it is important for an artist to protect their work and their creations, I also think the whole idea of copyright has been taken to the point of extremes in the art world, and in other areas of art more so than in the actual graphic arts, and it has gotten to the point where the phrase copyright infringement does not even carry as much weight as it used to.

However, the one part of the article that I found to be incredibly interesting was how artists online around the world stood up and fought for Joy Garnett’s right to use the image in her painting, since she had clearly not intended to infringe on anyone’s copyright by using it. She had simply found it in an internet search and felt inspired. Seeing that kind of backing from an online community is not all that surprising from me, since I, myself, take part in some online discussion communities for the arts and various things, but it was interesting to see how the story got twisted as it was translated from language to language. I think that is one thing that is universally understood… that language barriers can sometimes make things worse without intending to. For instance, the Chinese thought that Pepsi was suing Joy Garnett by the time the news got to them, and eventually, the whole thing was blown way out of proportion.

Though the whole situation did become blown out of proportion, I think that the online support that Garnett received for her painting had a lot to do with Meiselas having her lawyers back off and not going after the licensing fees. There would have been so many backlashes, that at the time, it probably didn’t seem worth pursuing. Even though she did give up on the legal pursuit, I’m glad that this article gave her the opportunity to voice her opinion and give the real background of the “Molotov Man.” His story is fascinating, and it was crazy to see how many different groups had used his image. Pablo Arauz, better known as the “Molotov Man,” had his image spread on flyers for various political parties, had his image put on match books, had his image painted on walls, and all the while, he was raising a family and taking care of the lumber company that he owned. It was not until 1990 that Susan Meiselas even knew the name of the man in the picture she had taken that had caused so much uproar… such a riot, in fact.

I think the most important question raised by this article was brought up by one of the online posters in response to the controversy and battle over copyright and rights in general between Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas. “Who owns the rights to this man’s struggle?” Neither Garnett or Meiselas knew this man personally, other than Meiselas having witnessed him throwing the Molotov cocktail long enough to snap the photo that would bring her into the spotlight, but nowhere in the article did it mention asking Pablo Arauz’s permission to reproduce images of his likeness. It just seemed like such a trivial matter to me. It wasn’t a battle over art for art’s sake. It was a battle over rights, and ultimately over money for Susan Meiselas, and that kind of goes against everything that the image itself represented, as Arauz fought for political beliefs and freedom from a regime he didn’t believe in. Overall, I just felt like the article raised a lot of interesting questions about art and copyright as it relates to both 2-D and 3-D art.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Week Ten: Brook, "The Rough Theater"

Though the excerpt from the Brook article, “The Rough Theater,” was fairly brief, it contained a lot of interesting information. I had never really thought about the architecture of theater before the article brought up many very interesting points. For instance, a rough theater can be more engaging than a clean cut, incredibly stylized theater performance/showing. While this seems like common sense after thinking about it, I had never really considered that to be true. Raw performances just seem to have more character overall. There is more of a chance for audience interaction with the performers because there is no expectation or uncomfortable urge to sit still and just “enjoy the show” in silence because of clean, seemingly perfect surroundings. In posh, sophisticated settings, audience-performer interaction during a show would be seen as inappropriate and rude, at least in most settings, but if a show is designed to be rather crude and simple, as far as style goes, and the theater itself is more homey and inviting, then a whole new atmosphere opens up and allows for an entirely different viewing experience. Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder in this sense, since all of it is merely based on opinions rather than fact.

Brook also brings up an interesting point in the article when there is a reference to prisoners in San Quentin being able to appreciate something as sophisticated as Waiting for Godot from their confinements in prison simply because it is constructed in a more simplified form. If those same prisoners were to go to a fancy, upper class theater in London, England, to see that show or a show of a similar style, then they would be completely lost because it would not be spoken in a language that they could understand, even if it was actually spoken in English. There are so many different levels of the English language that even people who speak the same language can come face to face with a language barrier of sorts.

One of the most interesting aspects of the article is how Brook discusses ways of simplifying stories to get the same effect. In a time where spectacle is more important to the Hollywood blockbuster than story is, for the most part, it was nice to see an analytical mind thinking about ways to simplify theater and get back to basics, in a way. Using flour to show someone white with fear is almost ingenious these days, since it is not even thought about with the use of makeup or even color alteration in post production with computers and other technologies.

Lastly, Brook discusses the idea of viewing shows outside of normal viewing areas as being more enriching than going to the theater or something of the sort. Though Brook is talking more about live theater than movie going, I can relate to what is being said. Outdoor theater allows for more interaction, and incorporating local jokes or slang phrases that more people would relate to is a great way of connecting with the audience. Personally, I think that going to film viewings that take place outdoors or in a setting other than a movie theater, such as a film screening with a projector and a white sheet in some guy’s garage, are more enjoyable at times than just going to see the run of the mill Hollywood blockbuster in a seat with a cup holder in the armrest and sticky candy on the floors. It allows for a nice break from reality in a visual sense, and it’s just a way to get outside of the realm of normalcy for a little while. Overall, it just creates an entirely new viewing experience all together, and I think that was the point that Brook tried to make in “The Rough Theater.”

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Week Seven: Double Time

Week seven of class brought about a double dose of 6x1 action. Not only did we meet in class on Monday morning, but we had a film shoot on Saturday that was fairly educational as well. The focus of the week was the one shot that we would be filming on Saturday using the Bolex film cameras provided for us by the school. With only one complete wind worth of film at our disposal, the class was broken up into groups and instructed to come up with a complete idea or action that could take place in front of the lens for one minute while the camera filmed at twelve frames per second before the film was developed, projected and recorded onto a mini DV, and then taken into Final Cut to be slowed down and have a soundtrack added.

While trying to come up with an action to take place in one minute in front of a camera when no dialogue is required sounds like an easy enough task, it actually proved to be quite difficult. Half of Monday’s class was devoted to our groups having time to get together to come up with a concept that would give us some kind of starting point when we showed up to film on Saturday afternoon. My group came up with an initial idea fairly quickly: we would follow one object around as it is passed amongst a group of random people. The next task was coming up with an object and a group of people doing distinct actions that would show up on film without the use of dialogue or actual sound recorded from the shoot.

Our object turned out to be a book. On shooting day, we decided to use On the Road by Jack Kerouac, which seemed oddly appropriate given the journey that the book itself was about to embark upon. Shooting day turned out to be the most interesting day, though. No amount of planning can completely prepare you for what lies ahead. Even though we were broken up into groups, we were teamed with one other group so that we could act as production assistants and actors during their shoots.

It was probably the first and only time that I will have to help remove and replace a balloon head on an actor in the middle of the film, but it was definitely a lot of fun and incredibly creative. After about forty minutes of trying to get the choreography down, since this was to be one seamless take in one shot, we finally got the shot done and it ended up looking really great when it was projected on screen. The balloon head popping was probably my favorite part, and I cannot wait to see what it looks like when it is actually slowed down.

The shoot for my group went by without many problems. It turned out to be a fairly simple concept, once we found the perfect spot to shoot in beneath the clock tower in front of Randall Library. With a path blocked out from one bench to another, then to a picnic table, and back to the original bench, we wound the crank on the Bolex camera and started filming… only to have the camera stop filming at fifty seconds when we needed fifty-six seconds of footage to work with. So, we re-cranked the camera and filmed the last shot over again. When our one shot was projected onto the screen, I was really pleased with the final result, even in the negative form it looked great. I cannot wait to see it edited with a soundtrack, as well as everyone else’s. They should be very entertaining.