Hellooo in here

Well, I have neglected this little corner of the web that is mine. Been both busy and lazy, in the past couple of weeks I have

Visited my family in the states.
Finished a screenplay for a short film.
Spent two days with my friend Petra in New Mexico for a workshop on Arts and Faith. (I should have gone the whole week, I just didn’t know how to make that all work out. But when I did go I was able to attend a lecture by Scott Derrickson the filmmaker.)
Had my phone and computer crash.
I also moved into a new apartment with a friend, one with a monthly lease. After visiting my parents back home I think they need me, I think I should seriously consider going back home. With the experience I’ve had here at VFS I really think I could continue on in this field and do well. The training here has been most helpful, I really feel like it’s prepared me for a lot. And I am ready to look into other things. Going back home to continue school wouldn’t be so bad. But all of that’s still up in the air. We’ll see.

Well I gotta grab a coffee and bum a ride with friends. We’re shooting a little piece down at Jericho Beach.

Later, Dan

Above All Else…

Film is a visual medium, an excellent vehicle for the communication of ideas through images. Really, it’s a tool and I’d like to suggest there is a tremendous amount of responsibility given to anyone who wields that tool.

Take for instance a knife, (a pocketknife, a machete, a sword) it’s a tool, it can help construct/provide shelter, obtain and prepare goods for a meal, provide activities for pastime, for sport, and even self-defense . If you intend to carry this tool you have to know, what uses you can and are okay with using it for. Also you have to be prepared for your response to whichever of those circumstances may arise.

I think filmmakers have a certain responsibility to their audience in a similar way. It makes me consider what I want to do, what I should do with my training at VFS. Film can inspire, uplift, comfort, discomfort, frighten, and educate, and even more . I am struck with the intense sense of responsibility that I have in wielding this tool.

I never want to abuse my audience, but sometimes it may be necessary to discomfort them to make a point.  I am not sure where that line is. There have been films, even some I’ve seen this year, that I felt abused it’s audience. There were others that discomforted me greatly, and provoked me to consider what and why they were so discomforting. What is the filmmaker’s point? What should I come away from this with? How does it change my understanding and perspective as a person?

What brings this on?

I’ve recently seen a film that I can’t get out of my head, and I am not sure if it’s abuse or discomfort I’ve been trying to sort through.

We Need To Talk About Kevin by filmmaker Lynne Ramsay is not something to take flippantly. In fact, I highly suggest careful consideration, and research about the film before you decide to watch it. And whatever you do, make sure you watch it with someone, someone you trust who will give you time to talk it over afterwards. If you don’t have that, I’d recommend a pass on this one.

Kevin is a well made film. It is something to watch if you want to get started talking about important things and what our response to them should be. A wide range of topics for discussion could be drawn from the film. Parenting, postpartum depression, ambition, sacrifice, discipline, grief and community, abuse, sex, the educational system, gun control, disability, responsibility, manipulation, I could go on here, but I won’t.

This film is well cast. Tilda Swinton, as always is beautiful, driven and precise. Ezra Miller and younger Kevins are disturbingly good. John C. Riley is warm, and loving.

What I am stuck with is the imagery in this film, the tiresome use of the color red in everything, crushed tomatoes, teddy bear, a ball, stop sign, paint, jam, blood (of course) and on and on. Also the use of the sprinklers a couple of  times, viewpoints, expressions,  and so much more. This film is beautifully shot, it really is. But I think it’s too much. It’s like a wonderful traditional American Thanksgiving dinner with all the stuff, it’s all wonderful, too wonderful, I’ve feasted and it’s made me sick.

A set of scenes that mirror each other has really got me reeling. In once scene when Eva visits Kevin in prison, Kevin pulls his fingernail clippings out from between his teeth and lines them up on the table in a neat row. In another scene Eva, after she has been bullied (I don’t what else to call it ) in the grocery store where a distressed woman, affected by Kevin’s actions breaks the eggs in Eva’s shopping basket (poetic) while she is hiding behind a shelf of tomato soup (back to reds here, and the tomato soup festival that we keep flashing back to) picks the white shells cooked with her eggs from her between teeth and lines them up on her plate in a neat row.

I don’t know what to do with this, maybe you do… help me out here.

The beautiful and poetic imagery keeps bringing me back to the tough stuff, and I don’t know how to reconcile all of it. I’ve thought about this film every day since seeing it. I am not sure what to do with it. I am glad to have a friend who watched it with me and to talk about it with. Without that, I think I’d be crazy.

I really just want to say to all my friends and filmmakers, this is a sharp and dangerous tool, let’s use it with discernment, always for good, even if it does inflict a little pain. Like a physician taking the Hippocratic oath, “Above all else do no harm”….

Later,

Dan

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGjjK5SMbJA&w=560&h=315]

Beautiful Art in Home Movies?

Let’s be honest, Grandma blowing out her 75 candles isn’t really art, and that bit where your dog runs off with Pop’s shoe isn’t either, and that Christmas morning video where you trip all the way down the stairs because your footed, onesie style PJ’s had the slippery grips on the bottoms of the feet is funny too, but not it’s art. Can art really come from a few moments of home video footage?

If you’d asked me this a week ago I might have said something like “in the right hands,…that of any real artist, the most simple mediums can help create art.”
That would have been a narrow-minded, shallow, and self-centered…and WRONG.

Recently I watched the incredible piece called Life In A Day, and it’s about just that, life in a day. All the incredible things that can happen in the span of just 24 hours. All over the world, those who are paying attention, are witnessing little moments of beauty.

In this incredible undertaking, National Geographic, asked everyday people, that is -you and me, to submit a bit of video via YouTube from July 24, 2010. They teamed up with Producer Ridley Scott and Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald to edit and compile the submitted video clips. Amazingly,they managed to create a fluid and beautiful presentation and is to say at the very least- inspiring.

With the incredible 95 minutes they give us, I don’t know how they managed to take the 4,500 hours and to boil it down to and hour and half. I wonder about all that stuff that didn’t make it.

For the many countries, languages, people, and lifestyles represented incredibly, it never feels disjointed. I think the editors/producers deserve a lot of credit in this, but I also think the wonderful way it is scored has a lot to do with that fluid/connected feeling too.

I see art more in everyday life since seeing this movie. Little moments from the film that are still with me-  an infant sleeping, dreaming perhaps, with REM under his thin, precious lids, a little paper boat bobbing in the water, a father and son’s intimate greeting to their wife and mother who has passed on, tens of tens of lanterns lifted into that night sky that look like God has stirred a galaxy or a jar of fireflies shaken,  a couple’s honest and hilarious re-commitment ceremony, confessions of hopes and dreams, fresh cheese that’s “almost as good as Danish cheese”, a father who cares for his many children in a hut in a cemetery, a free-falling skydiver who is so comfortable you know she’s done this many times before, I could go on for pages but I won’t spoil it for you.

I felt two ways about this film 1- gosh! I can’t believe I’m missing stuff like that around me, and 2- WOW! that thing I saw last week really was beautiful.

Please do yourself a favor and watch it as soon as you can get your hands on it. It has inspired more from my everyday.

I would say I was moved to tears watching it, but maybe my eyes were dry from trying to stay open and absorb everything that flashed before me, and teared to hydrate themselves…….but maybe not.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT_UmBHMYzg&w=560&h=315]

 

 

Lars And The Real Girl

From the outside this just looks like the story about a lonely man, living in the family garage who buys a sex doll from the internet. But it’s not. This story is far from that, it’s not creepy, dirty, or grotesque.

In fact, this movie is funny, warm, and loving. This story is about Lars, a quiet, kind and compassionate sort of guy who’s yet not dealt with some emotions from family life events. Lars, as the good doctor, played by the beautiful and talented Patricia Clarkson says has “been decomposing for sometime.” And we can see why. If anyone has any reason to be reeling in pain, Lars does.

Lars’ mother died when he was a baby, his father, bitter and angry over her death was distant, his older brother hurting from the same circumstances left home as soon as he could. Without any loving or nurturing influences in the home Lars pulled into himself. Then when his father died, his brother and his wife moved into the family home sending Lars to the garage.

You could give Lars room to be bitter, angry, short, or curt, but he’s not any of these things. He’s quiet, kind, compassionate and responsible. When he senses an upcoming shift in family dynamics with the birth of his brother and sister-in-law’s new baby, a visitor show up to help. She comes in a coffin-sized box, delivered by UPS and weighs 125 lbs.

Our visitor is a life-size anatomically correct doll, named Bianca. Lars introduces her as his girlfriend, a missionary of Brazilian and Danish descent. She moves into the family home, is introduced to the suspicious and reluctant community. Bianca is taken to church meets, knitting groups, and parties. She shares a part of Lars’ life that he is currently unable to share with anyone else.

What’s most beautiful about the arrival of this new visitor is it seems it’s a cry for help from Lars, when really she’s a life preserver tossed into the ocean, a rope cast down into a dark pit.  Lars is to Bianca the loving, supportive friend he always needed, and in turn the community comes to love Lars through Bianca and are the loving and supportive community he needs.

I don’t want to give away too much. But some of my favorite exchanges are with Lars and Dagmar, Lars and a teddy bear, and the conversations with the townspeople.

The pacing of this story is exquisite, the characters real and tangible, the camera shots make it feel intimate, and this film respects it’s audience all the way through. It’s the kind of movie you want to see with your girlfriend and hold her hand the whole way through.

See it, you won’t regret it.

Later,

Dan

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1XxILVnt1w&w=560&h=315]

 

 

Rian Johnson’s BRICK

Brick, such a small, short word for the title of writer/ director Rian
Johnson’s 2005 film. But don’t be fooled, there’s nothing small or
short about this one.

Instead, what we have is the slow burn of a dark mystery unraveling.
Written with words so rhythmic you want to hear them again, and again.
The words in Johnson’s screenplay were written to be read aloud.
You might even find yourself repeating some of the lines just to see how
they feel rolling around in your mouth from one syllable to the next.
You may have to repeat some of the lines to yourself to let them
fully sink in.

Johnson has a real masterpiece here in his story of a high school boy
in search of answers as to the circumstances of his girlfriend’s
death. Just two days before, she called Brendan in a panic. In some
trouble she said, but not what or why. All she gave were four words, each of them foreign in their meaning to him. Brick. Tug. Frisco. Pin. What do they
mean? Who will help him? What will this cost him?

We journey with Brendan as he retraces his girlfriend’s footsteps, as
gets inside the relationships that led to her demise, and as he tries to put
the puzzle together one piece at a time. We learn as Brendan does, we
are with him, we’re in this together.
This is anything but an ‘ah-ha gotcha!’ cheap trick of a thriller.

If you haven’t seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt since Angels In The Outfield,
treat yourself tonight. It’s a praiseworthy performance that’s far
from the family-feel-good-movie you saw before. And when you
see that other guy and ask yourself “Who the heck IS THAT?!” Just
think little Amish boy and that’ll point you in the right direction.
If you still can’t figure it out there are always film databases to jog your
memory. But I’m not giving it away here.

For a highschool/crime/drug/thriller it’s not what you’d think, it’s
an utter surprise, and a delicious treat. Don’t go to sleep, don’t
even blink, you’ll miss out. Netflix it now. Seriously, RIGHT NOW, it’s available on instant.

A Girl, The Shared Wonder Of Film, And Why I Want To Make Movies

I was going through an inbox full of emails when I came across this incredible clip from TED talks. TED “ideas worth spreading” has an incredible collection of talks from leaders in many different fields.

These leaders come to share their perspectives, their lessons learned, their beauty, wonder, and even heartache. Speakers address topics from economics, to art, from advanced math and sciences to faith. You may not always agree with the speaker, but you’re probably a better person for seeing/hearing their story and remembering to consider their perspective in your own life.

A friend of mine, one who lives her life with great passion, she runs hot and cold, but she’s always true, honest, and authentic brought my attention to this clip. My friend “Petra” grew up in a very abusive environment. She claims film and story were her escape. She frequently says “movies saved my life” and this girl really means it. I only met her after she grew up and got married, but I’ve heard the horror stories of what she lived through at home growing up. Some of these stories are so difficult to hear her own husband can’t sit for them. In his great love and compassion for her, a man who is known for his patience, grace and calm spirit is provoked to violence. He wants to protect her from what he cannot…that which has already happened.

I met these friends about 3 years ago while I was still in school. It was a random thing. A friend of a friend knew of “Petra” and of her passion for film. While she has no formal training, never went to college, the film group she hosts on a monthly basis is like a course in a university. Her passion for story, character, set dressing, lighting, production, etc is inspiring. She knows the value and importance of a good character and a well told story. After all, it saved her very life.

 

an excerpt from her email –

“….seriously Dan, I was so happy when I came across this clip, it’s like AH HA! someone else got it. How important that is, how it can shape and change a person. How it has a place on our lives and culture. How it should and could be introduced. ……I never got the family I wanted or needed growing up. But I could create the family I needed from the characters in film. I could live a whole two hours in another person’s skin, learn their lessons, feel their pain, feel their joy all by watching a VHS I got from walking 2 miles to the library on a hot day in Mississippi. I feel like this lady ‘got it’…I don’t know that you’ll have the same connection that I did when I saw it….I wanted to share it with you just the same. Happy times, break a leg up there!”

– “Petra”

She’s right. I can’t share that came connection. I didn’t live the life she did. But I do see the beauty and the value in this talk. I encourage you to watch it. It reminds me of why I want to learn film, the kinds of stories I want to tell and how to tell them…..after all, my friend’s life was saved by them…that’s the only reason I need.

 

Take a look – visit TED and watch the clip here

Let me know what you think!

Later,
Dan

Work with me here

I want to give the audience a hint of a scene. No more than that. Give them too much and they won’t contribute anything themselves. Give them just a suggestion and you get them working with you. That’s what gives the theater meaning: when it becomes a social act. -Orson Welles
I’m stuck again on my current creative project. So frustrated. How much paper do you have to wad up before the right words come out?

Just a question, and I really want your perspective here, where is that line where you give someone just enough to dream, imagine, run with an idea, to work with you- and that point where you are spelling everything out, leaving no creative room?

I think I tend to give too much… I want to be understood, so I give too many words just to be sure…and I end up robbing my audience.

 

Dear Mr. Welles,

  I’m needing a little advice on weeding out the superfluous. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,

Dan

 

 

Readers, feel free to respond in the voice of O. Welles.

 

Later,

Dan

I Dreamed A Dream

I dreamed a dream, and it seems like this one is coming true.

I won’t lie, I’ve got a soft spot for musicals. Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Moulin Rouge,  Sweeney Todd,  dark, light, new, old, whatever… I love them.

I also love Victor Hugo’s story Les Misérables. The book, the play, some film and TV versions. The 1998 film version directed by Bille August, starring Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, Hans Matheson, and Claire Danes is a very good non-musical version. But I like the music.

I’ve long wanted to see a new version on the big screen with music that inspires me the same way the stage play does. But there’s something that’s turned me off almost every time I’ve seen this story preformed. That is, the too girly, too light, too airy, too dreamy “I Dreamed A Dream” performance. To me, and this is just my opinion here, they seem too naive, too pretty, and too safe.

Fantine is a dying prostitute. She knows what hard times look like, she knows what it’s like to be desperate, to be at the end of her rope and still want just a little more to get by. But when I saw the new trailer for Les Misérables, and heard “I Dreamed A Dream” I felt like my dream was coming true.

Anne Hathaway gives a raw performance. It feels natural, real, honest, and I believe her. I’ve already seen the purest Les Misérables fans and critics tearing it apart on film websites. They’ve used words like, weak, wobbly, shaky, uninspired. And frankly I am saddened by their careless criticism.

Of course it’s weak and wobbly. It’s supposed to be. She’s dying. She’s at the end of her rope, she doesn’t have a whole lot of inspiration to propel her forward. It’s believable, sensitive, vulnerable, and despite what others say, I find it to be inspiring.
I like the way Anne Hathaway plays this one. Far from the awkward girl turned princess in Princess Diaries. The only thing I think will be disappointing  is that her part is such a small one. However large or small, I’m sure it’s going to be a treat I savor.

See for yourself. You tell me.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnLSG5t_dc8]

Symbolism

sym·bol·ism [sim-buh-liz-uhm]
NOUN

the practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character.

Frequently metaphors and symbolism are used to illustrate a point in film.

The feather in Forrest Gump.
The hedge maze in The Shining.
The framing of the windowpanes in Dead Poets Society in the latter part of the film.
The pudding in Punch Drunk Love.
In The Wizard Of Oz, it’s not so much the ruby slippers, as it is the yellow brick road.
The end scene in Gran Torino.

I really could go on and on. And yes, I know, I’ve left out more of the obvious ones. Feel free to share your favorites.

Today as I was on the local bus going to pick up a few things for a project, I saw a young woman sitting in her car. She rolled down her window, stuck her hand out, the tips of her fingers were painted with pink, glittery polish. She danced her fingers in the air. loosing stray hairs that had presumably come loose when she’d been stroking her hair. The bits of pink glitter caught the sun and shone light back at me, her long auburn hairs took flight in the breeze, and left. Then she rolled up her window. I wondered all day What did it mean?

Maybe you can tell me. We’re taught to tell stories in pictures, explore the meanings of them, and I am stuck. I’m sure it could mean something. But what….. I’m unsure.

Well, I gotta go, I’m helping a friend post flyers. We’re looking for volunteers for his project, big VFS surprise right? Hah.

Later, Dan

Rocket, the movie

Rocket is the story of a young man caught in the tangles of hate and unsatisfaction for the way his own life is going, and being driven into a path that risks his own life and others around him.

Rocket’s real name we learn from flashbacks of happier days, is Phillip. Phillip means lover of horses and I really do get the idea he really wants to ride a horse right on outta there. Rocket is weighted down by the life that was, the life that could have been, the life that could be, and reality- the life that is.

His father William, known as Brick, a mildly abusive man, is saddened by the loss of his wife to cancer, the realization that the only person he has left is distant due to missed opportunities early on, and he’s frustrated by the sacrifice he’s made in his career for his morals.

Brick explodes one night after things fall apart at work. He finds pot in his teenage son’s room and is really set off. Tempers flare, harsh words are spoken, actions that can’t be undone are taken, and before you can take a second sip of your soda, Rocket has left the house is running into the dark night, frightened by what he’s almost done.

With a few bad choices made, Rocket is really looking for direction. He’s not really sure of what he’s running from, even less what he’s running to.

He meets a cast of dark characters, one of them, Theo. Theo, like a father takes him under his wing and shows him a few things. We later learn that Theo’s lost someone dear to him too, his own son. In a deal gone bad, his son’s life was taken. This character has a reason to take Rocket in, and he knows the cost of living this life, and how precious life is.

In a Hollywood-style twist Rocket’s father’s life is the one that’s up for big money…by the guys who fired him from his job, and while I don’t want to give anything away I will say there is some light in the darkness of these characters we’ve just spent two hours with. I encourage you to find that light. It may be small like a match in a dark, dark cave, bit it will guide you home.

This film is a melodramatic classic story of a guy with a sad past wanting to be a bad boy. Drugs and drinks being his closest friends, running off to fight the demons within himself, only to learn that the place he really belongs is back at home.

BUT, I don’t really fault the actors here. I can’t say that I really fault the director either. I think with the material they were given they did a good job. I really do think that Trent Yves gives a fantastic performance here. I really hope to see him grow into some other more demanding roles.

I guess only time will tell what else Trent can bring to the table…… as far as this one goes- give it a chance, there is more below the surface.