Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sean McAllister - Japan: A Story of Love and Hate

I haven't seen this film yet, but I met Sean Mccalister last week, sat in on a lecture, and saw his film "The Minders" which I found surprisingly tender, sincere, heartwarming and funny (all at the SHADOW film festival). Having seen him talk, I expected the humor but not the tenderness. Very impressed.

Sean McAllister - Japan: A Story of Love and Hate

How to make a film using Sean McAllister’s tried and perfected method:

1. Head to a hostile environment to report on an important political issue
2. Brutally collide camera lens with your topic head on
3. Realise your subject is a victim sprawled open for examination, like a bug in a petri dish, divorced from the context of its being and devoid of individual detail
4. Become depressed and think you’re losing your way with no human narrative to grasp onto, as you drink and talk your frustrations through at night with a bar fixture
5. Leave, and almost give up on the facade of making a film, until you understand the one who propped you up with their near-immunity to the surrounding scenario is the one you must return to
6. Stake down your claim on this surviving social misfit whose eyes dance above a slouching spine, and attach yourself fast for the next 6 months
7. Question the basics until they laugh and reveal their seams
8. Spot the potential drama of their destiny, and divine it

Again, Sean McAllister has cast the most charismatic of characters, in another free-spirited hero, at odds with his society and expected role. Welcome to Naoki and the class of working poor in Japan.

On His 100th Birthday, the Anthropologist L�vi-Strauss Captivates Paris -

On His 100th Birthday, the Anthropologist L�vi-Strauss Captivates Paris -

Mr. Lévi-Strauss shot to prominence early, but with his 1955 book, “Tristes Tropiques,” a sort of anthropological meditation based on his travels in Brazil and elsewhere in the 1930s, he became a national treasure of a specially French kind. The jury of the Prix Goncourt, France’s most famous literary award, said that it would have given the prize to “Tristes Tropiques” had it been fiction.

... Mr. Lévi-Strauss “is very important to me,” Mr. Clément said, adding: “He represents an extremely subversive vision with his interest in populations that were disdained. He paid careful attention, not touristically but profoundly, to the human beings on the earth who think differently from us. It’s a respect for others, which is very strong and very moving. He knew that cultural diversity is necessary for cultural creativity, for the future.”

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You Say Synecdoche: Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York | GreenCine

You Say Synecdoche: Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York | GreenCine

[I have.] With the writing process featured heavily as an element in Adaptation and SNY, what is your particular process? [You suspect he doesn't but ask anyway.] Do you use notecards...

I don't. I have an idea of where it's starting and I have an idea of things I'm interested in exploring. By "things" I mean "themes" or "life issues" or a particular character trait and then I write. By "writing" I mean that I take notes and I think about the script for a very long time but, by the time I'm writing the script, I'm writing it without an outline. I try to let it become expansive. In the process of writing, I am open to the process of discovery. If I'm thinking about death and I come up with a concept on page 30 that intrigues me, I want the movie to be open to going there. I don't want to say, "Well, I have an outline and it has to go here." I'll let it be what it wants to be and then I'll go back to the beginning and put in what needs to be put in to allow what happens on page 30 to exist properly in this continuum. In that sense, it takes me quite a while to write but it also makes it about something for me. It's about an exploration. I wouldn't want to go in writing anything knowing what it was going to end up being. What I know at the beginning of a process is very different from what I know at the end of a process.

Specifically, I find the act of writing or creating another world intriguing and I try to analyze why. To a certain extent, it's part of the process of being alive in the world. We do that constantly. It's not just for writers or filmmakers or theater directors. We constantly take this information and organize it. We constantly tell stories about ourselves. We put our lives in the context of a story, which it really isn't. It's really a subjective, human thing to do - to tell stories about the people that we meet and how we fit in with them. To me, it's a larger thing than a thing about writing or about directing or about the artistic process. It's more about what the interior process of being a human being is, for me.

... I'm really interested in chaos. You're often told by writing teachers that you should write from a distance. You're told that you should write about something that happened ten years ago because that's the only way that you can really understand it.

To give it perspective.

But I think that "perspective" is storytelling. It's a lie! The reality, when you're in it, is a very interesting moment. That moment involves confusion. I try to be in the moment when I'm writing rather than at a distance. I think that's the truth. It's life. It always where we are. The other stuff is never where we are. When I'm going through something really serious - some sort of depression or some kind of serious problem - there's always a pre-verbal kind of reaction that I have to it. The way that I know that it's over is when I can start talking about it. I want to be in that moment as a writer. As a film writer, it's especially important. Obviously there is a talking element to movies but there are other elements as well. Things that you can explore that don't involve dialogue - lighting and sets and movement and all of that stuff that can enter into that realm of the non-verbal.

... Now, at this point, I'm trying to start on a new project because I'm done with this. It was my only job for the last five years and I need to have a job! I need to pay my mortgage and the economy is falling apart! What's the world going to be like in two years when I'm done with my next script? Is anyone going to want it? Is anyone going to buy it? Do I even want to put it out there because people have been so mean? A million stupid things are paralyzing me from writing. But it's what I like to do! I like to put something in the world that I feel is honest from my vantage point. That's the kind of decent thing to do in the world. To give people what you think is honest because, otherwise, you might as well be selling soap. In fact, you are selling soap! I don't want to do that. I'm not in that business. I've got to just jump into something and make it about what I'm interested in again. But there's pause. There's always pause at this point.

...I use voice-over a lot and, in this movie, I decided that I wasn't going to use it from the character's perspective. I decided to take his internal existence and put it outside, which is why the movie moves the way it does. It's why there is kind of a dream-like quality to it. How do you do an interior story in a movie without voice-over? I feel like the voice-over in this movie, because it's coming externally - and, in some cases, it's almost pretending to be his voice-over but it isn't - I find that really fascinating. I like that contradiction. It's a different way of using voice-over. I felt like I wasn't going back to the well!

Facebook | Salamishah Tillet's Notes

Facebook | Salamishah Tillet's Notes

It's not just that SNL does not give a back story to the Obamas or that a non-African-American actor plays Barack Obama; it is that these skits miss the complexities, contradictions and the interior features of African-Americans lives. On SNL and other mainstream political comedy shows like "Real Time" and to a lesser extent "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," the cast and writing staffs lack diversity, and it shows in the racial parochialism of the humor itself.

Perhaps Bill Maher was right when he said that Barack Obama leads to bad comedy because he is "too perfect" as a presidential candidate and that "liberals" and "comedians" (both of whom in Maher's calculations all appear to be white) are "afraid of laughing at anything with a black person in it." But, I think it goes deeper than that.

For such comics to consider Barack or Michelle funny, one of two things now has to happen: Either the Obamas must begin to feed into prevailing racial stereotypes (and therefore be seen as unfit for the presidency), or mainstream satirists will have to learn the cultural nuances of black America.

This would include not simply making fun of how white CNN pundits developed a media crush on Obama, but lampooning, as one YouTube skit shows, how Obama preps his swagger before each debate. SNL focuses on Obama's intellect and verbal pauses but does not satirize his performance of the "cool" black man. Understanding both his swagger and cool requires an understanding of black bourgeois respectability, not just in opposition to caricatures of working-class blacks but as a source of potential contradictions and comedy.

There is a great debate about whether CNN's "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News" and David Allen Grier's variety show "Chocolate News" on Comedy Central are funny or offensive. The verdict is still out. I can't help but wonder what kind of cathartic laughter Dave Chappelle would have been able to provide for us this year.

Imagine what he would have done with Jeremiah Wright or Barack's unannounced visits to the home of white undecided voters in Ohio. It's not that Barack and Michelle aren't funny; it's just that those who have been able to thrive in a predominantly white comedic universe will now have to hire more writers and actors (and hopefully producers and directors) who know how to work with the material that Barack and Michelle will serve up. If they are going to stay on top of their games over the next four years, white comedians and comic writers will have to acknowledge black interior lives and class and ethnic diversity. Then we'll all have something to laugh about.

Rīgas Mākslas Telpa

Rīgas Mākslas Telpa

Disobedience is an archive and a video station about the relationship between artistic practice and civil and social disobedience. Founded in 2005, the project curated by Marco Scotini is a guide to geography of recent protest, from the social struggles in Italy in 1977 to anti-globalisation actions before and after Seattle. In particular, Disobedience is an investigation into the practices of art activism emerging from the fall of the Soviet block and the events of the 9/11 that today are developing on a global scale. A new and different kind of political and artistic collaboration characterises the current phase of post-Fordism. With regard to the relationship between art and politics, a radical shift away from modernism is evident; the forms of art activism are determined by a common recognition that traditional democratic politics is largely bankrupt. Contemporary dissent manifests itself less as theoretical criticism or protest than as defection, exodus and exit. Abandonment rather than confrontation, the search for new participatory spaces, constituent practices, micro-actions on a local scale, forms of self-organization and empowerment are the main strategies of the new movements. In the end Disobedience is an atlas of the plurality of resistance tactics such as direct action, counter information, parallel planning process, self-managed architecture, media activism and other tactical strategies.

The goal of the archive is to create a common space for artistic output and for political action, understanding that society itself is changing and with it the language it produces as a political subject and as a media object. Disobedience is designed as a long-term work-in-progress and is presented as non-comprehensive and provisional, intended to expand over time. The archive contains ten sections of which six are presented here – Reclaim the Streets, Protesting Capitalist Globalization, Disobedience and Society of Control, Disobedience East and Argentina Social Factory. There is also a section dedicated to the Italian 1977 "workerist" movement (operaismo) as a form of introduction to the configuration of contemporary Multitude.

Since 2005 the archive has been exhibited in Berlin, Mexico D. F., St. Petersburg, Eindhoven, Karlsruhe, Nottingham and Zagreb.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Art Films From Cellphones and Web Cams - City Room Blog -

Art Films From Cellphones and Web Cams - City Room Blog -

Last year, Carlton M. Evans and Eric Slatkin solicited films made with Flip cams, Web cams, cellphone cameras and still cameras.

The result was the Disposable Film Fest, a selection of short videos first shown in San Francisco in January, which will be shown at the Anthology Film Archives on Thursday, Nov 6. (The shorts can also be seen on Vimeo.)

Paired with those selections is a movie, “Buttons” by Red Bucket Films, a collection of docu-vignettes, which the producers say is the first feature-length film shot using casual digital video.

...The exercise started just as practice for larger projects by Red Buckets, like “The Pleasure of Being Robbed,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. The original perspective on the vignettes was that it “could be our kind of sketchbook for filmmaking.”

Apple - Final Cut Studio 2 - In Action - MediaStorm

Apple - Final Cut Studio 2 - In Action - MediaStorm

“We look at every single picture the photographer shot,” says Storm. “For most projects, we’re looking at 5,000 to 10,000 images. We bring all those images into Aperture for organization and editing. We’re looking for cinematic sequences of photographs, and Aperture allows us to organize them in a way that’s cohesive with the final project.”

Cinematic sequences of still pictures need to have a consistent look and feel. To get it, producers use Aperture’s Lift and Stamp tool. “Because we’re doing these big sequences, we can use the Lift and Stamp tool to enhance one image of a sequence perfectly, and we’ll replicate that across a sequence of stills,” says Storm. “It really cuts production time.”

Producers start by cutting audio, creating a “radio edit” of the story. Then they work with the journalist to craft a working narrative. A cohesive story emerges, and then it’s time to pair the images with the audio. For that, they use Final Cut Studio.

A MediaStorm story can be like a flipbook, a series of stills strung together in sequence that animate an idea. But some are also sprinkled with storytelling video. “We work hard to make the seamless transition between the power of a still image and the immediacy of video,” says Storm. “Final Cut is a great tool for those transitions. It allows us to do a lot of experimentation. And with ProRes, it can handle all the different video formats we get from photographers.”

It’s a formula that works extremely well. “Winning an Emmy for the ‘Kingsley’s Crossing’ piece was pretty important for us,” says Storm. “Essentially, the broadcast industry validated the power of still photography, and acknowledged that our technique can be a moving approach to storytelling.”


Apple - Final Cut Studio 2 - In Action - Ballast

In Production

Working against the grain of typical studio production methods, Hammer shot his movie with handheld 35mm cameras on location in the Mississippi Delta, with non-actors playing every part. “I’ve always responded to real human beings more than to movie stars, who bring the baggage of every other role they’ve played. I know it’s a difficult idea to sell in the United States, but I respond to non-actors more profoundly than anything else.”

To enhance the authenticity of the film, Hammer showed his cast only a page of the script at a time, talking them through the scenarios on location for several months of rehearsal as they worked up to the shoot. He then gave them the freedom to react as naturally as possible within the parameters of the scene.

“I was interested in obtaining the language of each individual, their idiom, their choice of words. So if the scenario wasn’t ringing true to somebody, they were free to say ‘I’d do something more like this.’ During rehearsal, scenes would just transform from the ones I wrote. I would record all of this with a video camera and keep it in Final Cut Pro. Each night after rehearsals I’d look at all the different options we’d explored. And I would choose one or two that we would then photograph in the next week, basically rewriting in real-time. It was actually all stored on my MacBook Pro.”