Archive for August, 2008

Day 12–

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2008 by thenexman

I apologize for my lethargic post last night.  Directing 1 didn’t get out until 10:35 and I was WIPED.  Everyone was.  I appreciate everyones’ enthusiasm for this forum, I’m having a lot of fun writing it.  I did get a very funny comment posted on yesterday’s topic by someone anonymously.  You can read it.  They seemed angry, but sarcastic.  I apologize, who ever you are.  I will try and stop the “losing of my audience one person at a time.”

Let’s see, let’s see.  Ok, so, yesterday with another class in the editing lab.  This time, instead of learning the dreadful art of script supervision, we opened up Final Cut and began to learn the proper way, or at least for school, to organize a project in the program.  We also briefly opened up DVD Studio Pro and learned the basic way to burn a dvd.  Not gonna lie, this took ALL 3 1/2 hours…PLUS like 15 minutes extra.  I pretty much know my way around FC, so this was long… long long.  I certainly don’t fault anyone for having questions, though.  At the pace we are moving, I could not imagine coming into this not knowing anything about how a non-linear editing system works.  Our teacher, Sandro (very cool Dude), said that our class seems to be doing well with it.  That’s good they think that, because between he and our post-production supervisor, Duane, they were talking NON-STOP for 4 hours.  That would be the most arduous process ever, trying to teach people a computer program like this… especially people who weren’t already doing it on their own.  Their patience was Guiness record worthy.  

All week, Matt and I had been wanting to go try this magical dining hall that is supposedly just around the corner from the film school behind the stadium.  A fellow MFA, Marie-Suzie, said she had eaten there on Monday.  A fairly large group of about 8 of us went to go check into it.  Turns out, it’s in the brand spanking new Athletic building.  Walking down the halls, I realized we might be on hallowed ground, but we ventured forth.  Akil and Dade were leading us and we walked up to the main entrance.  The Dude didn’t really pay us any attention, and me, like the scared Whiteboy I was, just kinda stood in the back.  Akil looked up and was like, “Come on, what are you guys doing?”  So, we paid our $7.50 and walked on in.  The place was fairly small, but chock full of football players, coaches, and other athletes.  I still felt a little out of place.  I could have sworn we were getting looks.  But, I mean, no one stopped us.  PLUS, the BFA’s were already in there eating, laughing, pontificating, all with full stomachs.  Those crafty BFA’s, always one step ahead.  This place is all you can eat too.  I mean, it’s a solid deal, for sure.  I wanted to check in to their maybe being some sort of one-meal a day plan for it, but who knows.  Even if not, $7.50 is about what you’d pay anywhere.  Shoot, I pay that at Taco Bell.  We’ll see about this.

After lunch came our little camera demonstration for the weekend projects we’re going to be filming.  Just for these first six weeks, we’re shooting little minute long exercises on the trusty Canon XL-1, a camera I have used before.  They’re old… like, old.  But they serve their purpose and the lenses always look nice.  Some kids had never even touched a camera before, especially this camera.  Our cine (cinematography) teach, Keith, just did like a 30 minute overview.  The exercise we have to shoot is actually for our Directing class that I’ll talk about in a second.  It involves using the “photo” feature on the cameras to snap a sequence of shots that will be edited together to tell a story.  All that is required is for someone to see something, create a desire, and then motivate the person to fulfill that desire.  It can’t be longer that 2 minutes.  We were randomly assigned into groups.  I’m with two people whom I haven’t mentioned on here, Smitha and Sum.  Both of them are really nice.  I think the key to any of these assignments is shear simplicity. Filmmaking in general is a very egotistical medium.  Everyone thinks they have a an awesome shot in mind, or a mind blowing script, or just basically think they’re the shit.  Well, you’re not the shit.  You’re in film school.

The workshop ended way early, like, 4:15, which was a blessing.  For the first time this week, I had a second to breathe.  I didn’t really even know what to do.  I eventually drove home and hung out in my room, not even sure why.  I had already done my reading for the Directing class later that night.  I decided to go back to school about an hour before class.  Directing is another on the of the classes we have with Track 1, so that’s always fun.  We had it on the big sound stage, sound stage A, with folding chairs, two cameras hooked up to TV’s, and a giant 50″ Samsung plasma.  Reb Braddock, our associate Dean, is the teacher.  Reb is quite an interesting guy.  He’s been in the industry for quite some time and doesn’t beat around the bush with things.  I like his philosophy on telling a story first, but through the language of film.  I also like how makes sure you know that you’re not the shit and will be constantly reminded that you’re not the shit. We do exercises just because he knows we’re no where near able to shoot anything worthwhile right now.  I like that attitude.  it’s funny to me, but it also rings true and makes sure they keep everyone hungry for it.  It also goes to show that FSU actually cares about their students as opposed to other schools that just leave you to deal with filmmaking and the curriculum on your own.

In Directing, we basically got into the language of film and what shots can help you convey as a story teller.  We also discussed the “180 Rule,” which for those of you who don’t know, deals with the concept of “eye line matching.”  This means that if two characters are talking to one another, an imaginary line is drawn from one face to the other.  When setting up shots, you can never go BEHIND the line during a scene, because then it won’ make sense visually, they’ll start to look like the same direction.  For instance, if you’re filming my profile on my left side and I’m talking to, say, my wife Adriana Lima, and she is facing me so that her incredibly ridiculously Brazlian hottie right side of her face is facing the camera, you would never want to suddenly film me from my right profile, because in the editing it would look like we’re facing the same direction (and the right side of my face is no match for hers).  Reb had Akil and I stand facing each other while he illustrated this point with the cameras and the TV monitors.  It was very effective.

We also watched some clips from a few movies that broke the rule and some that obeyed it.  One of the movies was that In Good Company movie with Topher Grace and Scar-Jo…man, she just doesn’t do it for me anymore.  

After that, I cam DIRECTLY home and went to bed.  I was pretty tired.  6:30AM came about the time it always does and I woke up fairly easily this morning.  For some reason I was extra early today.  I left my hour around 7:10am and went to pick up a Vitamin Water at the ole gas station.  For those of you who don’t know, I am a gas station food junkie.  An embarrassing habit, yes, but one that offers me the convenience of having a consistent menu, no matter where I am.  I have actually cut out a lot of junk food recently, and that is a very good thing.  I got to school at 7:30am and knocked out a huge chunk of reading.  My first class was Sound.  I LOVE sound.  I always have.  The teacher was awesome too, exactly like what you would think.  He had been in live music and recording for years and made the switch to film about 20 years ago.  (Doesn’t it seem like everything happened as a result of “the 80’s” in like everyone’s life story?)

This guy had a story for everything.  I was able to talk shop with him about Pro Tools, mics, compression, etc because of my experience with recording and being in a band during my Better Luck Next Time days (R.I.P. 2002-2003).  To me, sound is what differentiates anything you shoot from seeming amateur or being well done.  Think about it, how many times have you been watching your friends crappy video he cut together and every time a scene changes, you hear the hum of the florescent lights at a different volume, or people’s voices are too low, or he decided to throw his favorite Linkin Park song on there to make it “cool?”  Sound is something that moves you unconsciously.  One of the articles we had to read for the class was by Walter Murch, a man who is wildly talented.  He edits and does sound depending on the movie.  He spoke of the good ole days when movies were recorded live and the sound guy sat waaaaaaay up behind a glass window at the top of the sound stage and called the shots, even more so than the director.  Everyone cowered in fear.  The other article discussed how, as fetuses, sound is our first sense to develop.  We hear our mother’s body and hear the outside world to some degree.  

Good sound isn’t about how loud the movie is, it’s about bringing you into a world that you feel is real.  The images are totally worthless without sound.  Otherwise, it’s a music video.  Sound makes you believe that it’s real.   SO MUCH goes into sound for movies, but a lot of times, the director and producers have no time to think about it.  It usually gets crammed at the back of the schedule and takes a frantic ant bed of engineers and artists to work around the clock to get the soundtrack done.  What you want to do with sound is take time to plan the environment.  What would this place sound like?  What would the sounds do to the character?  How can you bring something completely artificial to life?  For instance, when George Lucas was working on the first three Star Wars, there wasn’t a go-to bank for light saber or laser gun sounds… at least, not ones that wouldn’t be completely lame.  The sound designers went out into the desert and hit the anchor cables for telephone poles with rocks and wrenches.  The rock made that crashing sound for the light sabers hitting, the wrench sent a metallic “chooooooo” for the lasers coming from the AT-AT walkers on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.  

We watched the rough tracks from that crappy Adam Sandler movie Bulletproof because our teacher had the master sound tapes.  It was amazing to see just how many tracks went into making a movie come alive.  It’s hard to explain, but EVERY SINGLE THING  you hear in a movie has been put there.  Even something as simple as a beer bottle being set on a coaster.  

For lunch I had to make a phone call and then I sat in my car and listened to the radio while I ate.  Writing was my next class.  This was the class I had to do all my HW assignments for this summer.  The movies I was required to watch were Fargo, Leaving Las Vegas, Se7en, and THE ROCK.  Pretty sweet selection.  Our teacher has been writing screenplays and reading them for years.  We learned about writing “coverage” for a script.  Basically, producers get inundated with hundred, if not thousands, of screenplays a year.  Interns are hired to read through the scripts and write coverage on them.  That is, to write a 2 page synopsis and an analytical page on what the strong and weak points were.  If it gets past these gate keepers, then the producer will genuinely take a look.  I know what you’re thinking, cause I was thinking it: “You mean some LA douchebag wanna be is thumbing through my script and deciding whether or not it’s good enough?!”  The truth is, yes, that’s exactly what’s happening, but if your script is so “awesome” like you think it is, it won’t be long before someone notices.  One brosef named Fade skimming your script between organic sushi shots isn’t going to stall your career forever.  If you have real talent, get an agent.  

We discussed the forms of narrative and why characters need to have they have in order to drive the story.  We compared the blatantly obvious motivations in something like The Rock (Must stop Ed Harris from launching VX gas warheads on San Fran because my pregnant girlfriend is in town) to the more subtle, beneath the surface themes of Fargo (William H. Macy’s character spiraling deeper and deeper into bad decision making).  

… Then came the homework.  FIVE ASSIGNMENTS.  All due Tuesday, the same day that Track 1’s are due, but they’ve had a 2 day head start.  In actuality, they aren’t awful.  I’m pretty much done with three of them.  1) Name 10 of your favorite movies that your would hope to write a screenplay like one day. 2) Read 5 short articles on http://www.wordplayer.com and review what you got out of them (these articles were awesome, btw, I highly recommend you check that website out).  3) Write a 3 page script about someone trying to get their dog outside, but with no dialogue. 4) Watch an assigned movie (Empire of the Sun) write down the character motivations and such like we talked about in class.  5) Read thru this GIANT ASS screenplay and write coverage for it.  It’s like 110 pages, normal length, but geez.  We already have like 2 other projects this weekend.  WELCOME TO FILM SCHOOL!  

He let us go really early, so I stayed on campus and busted almost 3 of them out.  I’m pretty pleased with my script about the person trying to get their dog outside.  I’ll tell you about it after I get my grade.  I enjoyed staying the school and working by myself, even though we get better internet in the effing parking lot.  Somehow, the film school doesn’t have a wireless router anywhere.  Ridiculous.  I brought a CAT5 and just plugged into a jack.  Always have to be nerdily prepared for these situations (Mac). As everyone came back in for Genres, two of the Asians, Ryan and Cindy, came into the class where I was and started a seemingly intense conversation in Mandarin. I for them to slow down because I couldn’t understand them.  They got the joke and thought it was funny.  They are extremely nice, and very funny.  

Genres was cool.  The BFA’s announced that they were having a party and wanted all the MFA’s to come, you know, to sort of close the gap.  The thing is, it started at 11:00 tonight.  To an undergrad, that’s pre-gaming.  But to a grad, that’s bed time.  Man, we’re so old.  Oh yeah, and we also have THIRTEEN HOURS OF CLASS A DAY, GUYS.  Sorry.  I would have gone… truthfully… no really… everyone in my class kept giving me that same look too.  WHAT? I’m not being sarcastic.  

We watched a movie called Thieves’ Highway.  It was WAYYYYYYYYYYYY better than the movie we watched on Tuesday.  It was by a French director named Jules Dessin.  It was quite well done for its time.  We all genuinely laughed had some good conversation sparked.  Our teacher let us go early early so we could go home to watch the Obama speech if we wanted to…. … … yep.

Otherwise, I’ve been writing this for a while now.  You a-holes kept me up past midnight.  I don’t have time to proofread, so sift through the mistakes.  Thanks again for all the support!  I really love writing this and getting feedback from everyone.  Let’s hope this hurricane in the gulf turns around.  We can’t afford that right now.  IT’S FRIDAY! THANKS GOD.  

Man, my hand it cramping.

Y’all behave.

Day 11

Posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2008 by thenexman

No blog, too tired… battery is dying.  

Definitely will have a big update tomorrow.  

Y’all behave.

Day Tennnnnn HUT!!!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2008 by thenexman

I feel like I’ve entered football training camp, just without the football or gatorade or physical benefits of sport… a decent amount of ass slapping, though.

My day started early, I made my lunch, made breakfast, and headed out.  Getting to film school early is nice.  I actually get a decent amount of reading done and am able to refresh myself on the sections I highlighted beforehand (Who am I, a student?).  Emily had a funny quote and mentioned that film school is the only place where she can be 45 minutes early and still not be the first one.  That’s very true.  I’m usually the first one to school.  I just prefer leaving early.

Today’s first class was Producing.  Very interesting stuff, especially finding out what exactly goes into starting a movie project and seeing it through.  We had to form an artificial production company and sift through about 30 of previous student scripts written for Directing 1 projects.  That was fun.  You really find yourself turning into an a-hole producer even just by skimming through and picking out what you like and what you think would make a good movie.  You could ask anyone in the room if they were looking for a script you were passing on.  So, I was like, “Anybody want a dancing script?”  “Anyone want a script about cannibals?”  “Anybody want some teen drama about guys?”  It was fun.  I settled on a very clever one about a kid at a punk rock club begging the bouncer to let him back stage to meet his favorite band.  It turns out, a douchebag radio personality accidentally gave a contest winner drugs and now needs a new kid to stand in, so he picks the kid who is begging to get in.  The kid meets his idols, but under a different name.  It turns out the real kid had won a songwriting contest and was to perform the song on stage.  The kid makes a big speech about what music and art is supposed to be and then goes on stage, but he can’t play.  He makes a pseudo-statement by smashing his guitar and the crowd goes crazy.  It was very subversive and funny.

Lunch was rushed because we had to drive out to the satellite center (The “Torch Light”) where our cinematography class was being held.  We did get some of the other people in our group to eat with us, though.  Beth from Indiana and David from New Mexico.  They’re both really awesome.  By the time the evning rolled around, we were like all sitting together.

  Cine class is in that building I mentioned earlier that looked like it was the Power Ranger’s command center.  Turns out, this place was built by the Allman Bros as a recording studio.  They had hopes of making Tallahassee into a new Nashville or something.  Apparently, Stevie Ray Vaughn tried recording there and called it the “worst place to record,” so that put the nail in that coffin.  FSU has owned it since the mid to late 90’s.  It’s in decent shape, it smells like an old basement.  The sound booths and controls rooms are still there with glass and everything.  There was the little creepy troll door hidden amongst some sound paneling.  I was sitting right in front of it during class, half expected a leprechaun to grab me.  We opened it up, nothing special, but a drain grate was in there and that’s probably where the Allman Bros stuck people they didn’t like.

Cinematography is NO JOKE.  The first half was lecture, the second half was lab.  This is a whole new world to me, because it’s not about cameras, it’s about lighting… of which I know NOTHING about.  We talked for HOURS about lighting and we’ve only scratched the surface.  No, we’ve just taken the plastic coating off the surface.  That will be one of the more challenging classes, for sure.  Maybe no challenging, but labor intensive.  

That class was cram packed, so we got out a tad late, like 6:15, and our third class, “Genres,” started at 7:00pm.  The Torch Light is about 20 minutes away too.  No time to eat.  Genres started at 7:00, and this is the only class that combines tracks 1 and 2.  That was exciting to see the other guys for once.  It also combines us with the BFA kids.  For some reason, there is this growing rift between us and the BFA’s.  I think a few of the MFA’s, myself included, think the BFA’s are a bit mouthy.  The BFA’s have totally picked up on it.  We’re discussing Film Noir and will be watching a movie twice a week.  I don’t like this divide.  Those kids will probably be helping out on our projects, so I don’t want to make them enemies, even if we do laugh about some things.  I’m going to try and extend an olive branch to make sure nothing gets taken to heart.  

We watched the film Act of Violence, a lesser known of the film noirs and probably for good reason.  It was kinda lame, kinda boring, and kinda stupid.  It did spark some serious debate though.  We somehow delved deeply into womens’ issues and the culture of the time.  It was spiraling out of control until, right before class ended, and Clay  dropped en effing knowledge BOMB on everyone about how the appearance of a gun represented a new post-war ideal where violence is everywhere and it can even invade the home with women and children.  It was such a good point that everyone in the room clapped.  Clay gets the game ball today.  That was awesome, Clay.  You drops those truth bombs on us, Clay, drop away.

I got home and, wow, time to go to bed again.  Figured I’d stamp out a blog for the loyal readers.  I’m eating strawberry Frosted Mini Wheats and Kool Aid for dinner.  It’s already 11:30, much later than I’d like my new bedtime to be.  Allison from track 1 told us about the assignments we’d betting in our writing class Thursday.  YEESH.  5 separate things to write.  Kate also told me that the teacher got us to watch The Rock simply so he can rail on it for how bad it is, and apparently so he can rail on Michael Bay in general.  I have a feeling I’ll have to politely “disagree.”  Let’s cut the chit chat, A HOLE!

That does it for me.  I’m not even proofreading this like I usually do, so deal with it.  Have fun with Fay, Atlanta.  Heard she’s been letting it all out on you.  We’ll see what tomorrow brings… besides sleep deprivation.

Day 9- Yowzers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2008 by thenexman

Film has officially started.  I began my day at around 6:00AM because yet another thunderstorm woke me up.  I went with it and decided to get an early start to my day.  Some major roads around Tallahassee were closed and another little thunder cell was on its way, so I left my house at 7:18AM just in case it was absolute madness on the roads.  It wasn’t.  It was crowded, but mostly because of torrential rain.  Lots of us got there early, they had scared us shitless about being late.  Like, seriously said that you got maybe one tardy and then they would have grounds to DISMISS you from the program.  Yeah, so, we were all there early.

My first film class was “Directing Actors,” which actually is more of an exercise in acting, so you know where the actors are coming from.  We did normal actor warm-ups and made a circle.  One exercise was to go around the circle with each person saying one word based on what the person before you said, and somehow try and for a coherent story.  That had its ups and downs.  The teacher was really nice and quirky, just how you’d like an acting teacher to be.  She started off one of the circle sessions by using the word “Saint.”  The next Dude, Daniel, said “Bernard.”  I don’t think that’s what she was going for, but it was really funny.  Like, I seriously had a hard time not laughing because that, plus the awkwardness of what we were doing was just too funny to me.  Between Matt, me, and another writer we have, David, we laughed and tried to hold it in.  Thankfully, I don’t think our teacher noticed as we were going around the room and the mood was light anyway.  Well, she did notice Matt and kept watching him and acting like his responses weren’t up to snuff, but that was probably in Matt’s head.  Anything that makes him uncomfortable, I’m cool with.  Another exercise was really fun.  It consisted of using a phrase (ours was “Jack ran fast,” for instance) and saying it in whatever connotation an action verb required you to.  So like, “accuse,” “startle,” “provoke,” or “plead.”  We also took movie lines we thought of and fit them into the scenario.  I used the line from the Truman Show and said, “In case I don’t see you- Good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight.”  But I said it very threateningly.  It was fun.  

We get roughly 1 1/2-2 hours for lunch, so that was nice.  We decided to do a little first day get together and a handful of us went out to eat.  It sucks that we’re divided into two tracks, though, because we will only see those people in class once a week.  Oh well.  Because of that, we didn’t see Bobby or any of the other kids we normally hang out with.  

Editing was my afternoon class and, man, was it tough.  Today we didn’t necessarily deal with much physical editing.  It was almost entirely devoted to script supervising, which, if any of you know what that is, you know how much is SUCKS.  Not that people aren’t good at it, but if  you like me and you’re not detail oriented, it seems nearly impossible.  In short, a “Script Supervisor” is on set on behalf of the film’s editor.  The sit near the director with two copies of the script.  They have a marked one for reference and a clean in case an actor needs to see something.  Before they even walk on set, they have marked out the latest version of the script (which could mean they have done it 14 times depending on how many drafts got rewritten) with scene headings, character actions, dialogue, and have divided it up into sections on a page.  Typically, you have multiple “set-ups” in a day, meaning you might be working on one scene, but each time the crew changes lenses, positions, lighting, focus, etc., that’s considered another set up.  A film is highly regimented according to schedule.  On the call sheet, you might have 15 set ups planned for one day.  Within each on of those set ups, you might run the scene for 4, 5, 19, 30 takes or more.  Then, when the field technicians, cinematographers, and ultimately the director are happy, they move on to the next set up. As a script supervisor, your job is to record the scene number, take number, lens used, filter used, whether sound was rolling, use a stopwatch, time the takes, make notes in the script about who is on camera, who isn’t, what lines were altered, whether continuity was observed, and then keep a log of what each take consisted of on another form called the “left hand sheet.”  It’s unreal how much information you’re trying to record at once.  At the end of the day you fill out another more general log about when the day started, what time things got rolling after lunch and when the day ended.  You also write down what day of shooting it is (15 of 32) and how many takes are done, what was done today, and how many are left, based on the script and the theoretical estimation of “minutes.”  Of course, people in the industry are pros at it. I however, am not.    

We had to watch brief scenes of student projects filmed over the summer and follow along in the script.  It was TOUGH.  But, everyone has to learn it and every person will have this as their job at some point during the program.  Yaaaaaaaay.

That ended my day.  A rather short one, actually.  Tomorrow we’ll have 3 classes and go from 9am-10pm.  YIKES.  Our cinematography class is tomorrow at the satellite location.  That should be cool, I’m hoping.  I honestly didn’t dislike anything I did today.  I didn’t really space out, I asked questions, I was interested in the whole process, regardless of how technical it was.  I think this is going to be soooo different of an experience than normal school it.  Yes, it will be busy, but the whole fear of getting things done is subsiding.  It will be fine.  And I feel that I’ve made good enough friends that I’ll never be going at this alone.  That element of isolation and fear is beginning to be taken out of it.  

I am very happy about just how kickass my class is.  It’s almost like they had a different criteria for picking us than what I would expect a film school to have.  Everyone is super smart, and a bit nerdy at the same time.  I think that’s a great combo.  And truthfully, everyone is really nice.  No one seems to be puffing up a big ego or trying to rule the group.  I hope it stays that way.  I mean, I can only think of one person that smokes, and THAT IS UNHEARD OF.  It’s just a completely different experience than what I was expecting and I’m glad.  I had days this past summer where I was really freaking out and dreading what was to come.  SO FAR, everything has been great.  We’ll see.  I think it had great potential and I know our class will produce some seriously awesome things.  

Other than that, that’s all I have for today.  The time will start flying by now.  Strap in.

Day 9- Pre-flight check

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 25, 2008 by thenexman

Looks like all the final preparations have been made.  Tomorrow, it starts.  This time tomorrow, I’ll be done with class… but only cause it’s Monday.  I’ve done my reading, got some highlighters, and started an MFA Google Group at the suggestion of Matt.  We’re ready to roll here.  This waiting is the worst part.

The rain finally stopped. FINALLY.  It’s still cloudy and stormy, but it’s not incessant rain for hours and hours.  Lightning struck about 1/4 mile away while I was filling up my car at the gas station.  Fay has made her point, loud and clear.  She needs to go away now.

Bobby, Matt, Kate, and I decided to drive to find our satellite location for our cinematography class today.  It’s really far away, like a solid 20 minutes.  This access road along the main road looks like a drug deal waiting to happen.  The building is unmarked and could possibly have served as a museum, office building, or even Zordon’s lair in Power Rangers.  For those of you who forgot what Zordon’s lair looked like, here is a helpful link  http://sirstack.db-destiny.net/prsw/prlg/pics/ccexterior.jpg

After that, we stopped by the Asians’ house to see if they wanted to get some Mexican.  That was funny.  I explained that everyone who lived there was Taiwanese, how it looked like an embassy.  Mu-Ming said he’d need to see my passport next time I walked in his living room.  He also said that he had Sex in the City dubbed in Mandarin if I ever got the itch for a girls’ night.  That Mu-Ming, what a kidder.

Mexican was decent.  The little activity pond down the road, Lake Ella, completely flooded and was getting close to the street.  This rain was crazy.  Mu-Ming and Cindy followed us in Cindy’s car.  She just got her license in JULY.  This rain was crazy too.  She handled it like a champ, though.  Mu-Ming and Cindy asked whether they should use their hands to eat a burrito or just stir it all up with the fork.  Matt said it was up to their discretion.  They used a fork.

Other than that, I did some reading, talked to my Mom and pretty much am winding down here.  It’s about 8:30pm right now.  Apparently traffic is NUTS on the first day of class so I’m planning on leaving at 8am for my 9am class.  That’s going to be a change.  I don’t dread that as much as I used to.  Time to start this thing.  The real update will come tomorrow night.

***Editor’s note***  I have no idea what kind of shape I’m going to be in time-wise from here on out.  Hopefully, I’ll still be able to crank out an entry at night.  If not, I’ll definitely try and get to it every other day.  Let’s hope I have time to do it every night.  That will make this a much more communal effort.

Day 8– Hey, what time is it?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2008 by thenexman

I wish it would STOP RAINING.  Typically, the weather is the absolute last thing I ever think about.  But tonight, amidst hour 36 of Typhoon Fay, I really grew tired of the rain.  I feel stuffy, sticky, damp, and unhealthy.  I picture myself to be this slimy, pale reptilian version of grey, which I feel like I’m going to have to adapt and become if this storm system does not go away.  We have gotten like 10-12 inches in a little over a day.  The storm is just sitting on top of like a giant toilet bowl.  It’s moving at 7 miles per hour. SEVEN.  They literally closed down the mall because the weather sucked so much.  I drove by a Firehouse Subs and the employees had turned off the lights and shut the doors and were playing outside on the sidewalk.  Yeah, it’s been raining THAT MUCH.

Aside from that, not much happened today.  I decided to dive into the gym clipped, 1 1/2 inch thick reading they gave us for this week.  Many of my more studious colleagues have been reading on it for 2 days or so.  Acting will be my first class in film school, bright and early at 9AM on Monday, so I read that stuff first.  It dealt with the concept of an actor having to find what the goal and motivation of the character would be.  How you just can’t rehearse lines and recite them take after take when making a movie, because nothing in the performance will come across as spontaneous or genuine.  They had a very useful analogy to a baseball player waiting for the approaching pitch.  The batter has practices his swing to be second nature, so he never thinks about it when he hits.  Each pitch is different, though, and that’s where the spontaneity lies.  If, as an actor, you focus on the goal of the character in the scene as opposed to simply regurgitating lines, then you will always have a fresh performance, regardless of how many takes you have to perform.  

I know that probably just lost half my readers, and I completely sympathize with you.  In undergrad, some of the theory and assessments I had to read about film were mind-numbing.  But this time, I was completely at ease reading this material.  I had a totally different attitude about it.  By God, I was even enjoying it.  I had a little moment where I realized that maybe I had actually done some maturing between undergrad and now.  My mot recent undergrad experience was 3 years ago.  A lot can change in three years.  This time, I’m paying for my school.  This time, I chose what I wanted to do.  I chose the major and even the school I wanted to go to.  School takes on a whole new dynamic when you understand that you’re here because  you want to be, not because the state or Mom and Dad said so.   I’m here to learn and engage my brain as hard as I possibly can.  So, the prospect of staying up late and reading, writing, or working on a project doesn’t seem so daunting anymore.  

I also figured out just how awesome iChat is.  Jonathan, our resident MFA Mac expert, logged on and we video conferenced over iChat for a few minutes.  Then we tested out how to display a document so that anyone involved in the chat could see it.  It’s so AWESOME.  The document enlarges and the the user can scroll through so that everyone can see.  This is the most useful thing I have come across in years.  I know it’s probably old news in some respects, but it was just mind-blowingly simple.  But this is coming from a guy who is still befuddled as to how a fax machine works.  

Two of our fellow MFA’s, Daniel and Kate, have birthdays this weekend, so they planned a little joint party at Kate and Jaye’s townhouse.  Our normal crowd was there, plus a few others, which was great.  And three of the Asians came!  THREE ASIANS!  Ryan (female), Cindy, and Mu-Ming.  They were awesome.  Jonathan and I talked to Ryan and Mu-Ming for nearly an hour about what school, culture, politics, and life were like in Taiwan.  That is always so much fun to me.  They were very gracious and funny about what they thought of American.  Mu-Ming was saying that everyone over there bases their opinions of the U.S. on teen comedies.  He thought that going to FSU was going to be like American Pie.  Keggers, topless chicks, and crazy shenanigans.  What were we doing?  Eating sherbet ice cream and cake.  What a PG let down.  

I was so glad they came out.  As the evening went on, Matt, Bobby and I decided to fire up the beer pong table.  I pretty much hate beer, so Matt was in charge of drinking all the cups on our side.  We got Mu-Ming and Ryan out there to try their hand at an American party game.  Ryan was on my team, Mu-Ming was with Matt.  The game was close, quite close, but Mu-Ming, the Asian Sensation, sunk some serious ping pong balls and won the game.  Within ten minutes, he and Matt had invented the dorkiest film school kids “light saber high-five.”  Ryan and I preferred to cock a shotgun and explode it with a handshake.  There we are, playing beer pong with the Taiwanese students.  Matt and Mu-Ming decided to defend their “dynasty (buffet)” and played against Jacob and Jaye.  By the end of that game, the high five had graduated into Mu-Ming firing a machine gun while Matt leaned back in bullet-time to dodge the bullets and finished it with, “Whoa.”  Whatever this scenario looks like in your head, just go with it.

When we concluded Dorkfest 2008, everyone sat around and talked about movies, school, and any other random assortment of topics.  It was nice.  We’ve only been here a week and all of us are extremely comfortable with each other.  This really takes the weight off of the whole “collaborative” element to our program, at least for me.  Getting people to work on a project of mine doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me now.  I’m really optimistic about how well our class gels thus far.  Since we’ve been sitting around for a week, everyone is antsy to get in there and start the film school thing for real.  

The night waned and the people trickled out.  Discovered that Clay has been working on a dynamite Christopher Walken impression.  It will certainly get him out of a vicious cock fight one day.  Matt was put on the hot seat for a while and we grilled him about Texas, not sure why.  But he was uncomfortable and that’s all that matters.  Daniel described his stint in the Air Force being stationed in Afghanistan. That was extremely interesting to me.  Mu-Ming told us what McDonald’s was like in Taiwan.  Bobby asked him if they ever sit around and say, “Anyone feel like American tonight?”  He said they do!  We asked him if they ever did Mexican food and he didn’t act like they did “Mexican” food much over there.  This prompted a visceral reaction from Matt and Bobby and now we’re going out tomorrow night for some real Mexican with Mu-Ming.  Thought about it… IN.

Around 2AM, four of us remained.  Jaye and Kate, cause, well, they live there, Daniel, and me.  I think I enjoy late nights like this most. I just like listening to people.  For some reason, I don’t really get tired of it.  I thought everyone else was on the same page until Jaye interrupts me and says, “Hey Kate, what time is it?”  Subtle, Jaye, subtle.  On that note, I decided that 3 in the morning was probably a good stopping point.  That, plus Jaye was like coughing really sarcastically and yawning.  Yeah, WE GOT IT, we’re leaving.  Awkwardtown, Population: ME.

Geez, never going to party at their house again.  I don’t care how much delicious OREO cake they throw at me.

Day 7- Chips Ahoy

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 23, 2008 by thenexman

I’ve officially been here a week.  This time last Friday, I was tired and stressed out about moving in after my 7 1/2 hour drive down here.  Now, the remnants of a hurricane have been sitting on top of me all day.  Tallahassee seems like it’s going to wash away… seriously.  There are rivers of water on every street.  My shirt came out of my closet crisp and ironed this morning.  All day, I was assaulted by Fay.  Now it’s a wrinkled, wilted mess.  

I’m starting to find my surroundings less disorienting than they have been.  I actually know which of the three ways off my street to take based on where I want to go.  The film Death Race came out today, and well, yeah, I went to see it.  Matt Sanders came and saw it with me.  I like Matt’s reactions to things.  Like how in the middle of conversation on G Chat I say, “Death Race is playing at 4:30.”  To which Matt says, “Well, snap.”  Boom, there we go.

I showed up during the trailers, which I never do, but for some reason I always get held up getting to the theater in time down here.  The lights here, BTW, are awful. AWFUL. I’m getting pissed just thinking about it.  They don’t have ground sensors, just these reflective, water gun looking things on the top of the post.  I seriously yelled out loud today because they took so long.  It was an unhindered moment of anger.

So I’ll talk about Death Race for a sec.  Just by the title, I’m sure some of you are already skipping to the next paragraph.  Let’s see, it’s post-2012 some time, after the “U.S. economy collapses and the prison system is run by corporations for profit.”  Terminal Prison is located on an island one mile out into a harbor somewhere off a smoldering metropolis.  One long bridge is the only way out (Awesome, I know). Joan Allen is the prison warden who started Death Race as a PPV series and has been massively successful.  Jason Statham gets framed for his wife’s murder.  He is sent to the Terminal Prison, and oh guess what, he’s a former race car driver (CONSPIRACY!).  The deal is whatever prisoner wins 5 races will earn their freedom.  The races are broadcast in three stages over three nights.  Anything goes, anyone can die.  Tyrese plays the “arch nemesis” of Statham.  The cool part was that the track is rigged with little sewer caps that activate various weapons on the prisoners cars, first come, first serve.  JUST LIKE MARIO KART!!!  

I won’t give away the plot.  The races are cool for sure, though they’re edited in that schizophrenic, frantic pace like most action movies today.  You can’t ever see what the H is going on in any of these movies.  To me, it’s sloppy filmmaking, because it’s obvious they’re just shaking the camera to create a bigger fudge factor for when they decide to cut this thing together in the editing room.  The movie is loud too, really really loud.  I was holding my ears, which isn’t saying much because I always hold me ears.  It takes on the cheeky-ness Starship Troopers  by treating you as the viewer and enticing you to subscribe to the “Death Race” PPV package.  Pretty funny.  Of course, a bus load of hot chicks from the “womens’ facility” are brought in to be the “navigators” for each of the drivers, but come one… come on.  Why are the dudes wearing jumpsuits and the chicks are wearing tank tops with hot pants?! 

89 minutes later, I came home and made some Jambalaya.  Yes, Jambalaya.  Right out of the Zataran’s box.  Browned some sausage, brought to a boil, and we have dinner.  Clay Hassler, a fellow MFA here with me, and his wife, Tiffany, invited us over to have cookies and coffee at their place.  The weather here has been getting progressively worse, so only a hand full of us showed up.  Matt Sanders had like 5 trees down in his apt complex and his power was out.  Clay and Tiffany’s place was really nice. We hung out, talked about our film school interviews, and then watched two different thesis movies.  One was good, one was pretty corny.  

Monday quickly approaches.  They finally emailed us our schedules and assigned us to one of two tracks.  The class is split in half and you take classes with whatever track you’re assigned.  I’m track 2, which I feel like is a strong one, I know a good many people in it.  I don’t think it’s really going to matter, but it’s nice that some of the people I know a little better are in mine.  The class schedule isn’t as intimidating as I had thought it would be.  It’s class and it’s definitely all day.  9AM-10PM… EVERYDAY.  Here we go.  

I do like the sound of a “cinematography” or ” acting” class more so than a Biology or Statistics.  College really did always scare me.  Academically, I’ve never been that strong.  I remember the lonely feeling I had junior year of undergrad when I took statistics by myself, or this math class that I took and didn’t do so well in.  I actually STILL have a dream once a semester or so, even when I wasn’t in school, about a random math class.  It’s always a class that I have been enrolled in all semester and, for some reason, I have never been there.  I find myself walking into class or trying to prepare for the final and realizing that it’s hopeless, that it’s inevitable that I’m going to fail.  For those of you still in undergrad who have this dream, it never goes away… trust me.

I don’t plan on film school being anything like statistics, though… oh gosh, I hope not.