Days 13-15

Ok, so I’ve let the blog sit for a few days.  Projects and HW have occupied most of my time the past two nights, and I didn’t feel there was anything incredibly interesting happening.  Turns out, though, we got our classes cancelled tomorrow (Monday), which is apparently UNHEARD OF.  They didn’t explain why they were cancelled, just that it happened out of necessity.  I’m sort of wincing, though, because I feel like we’re going to GET IT on the back end of this in terms of schedule make-ups and such.  It did offer me a nice 3-day weekend to get my bearings and chill out.  

This past week was arduous, no doubt, but it was also entirely manageable.  The whole “film school” experience has begun to set in.  It will undoubtedly get harder from here, but the playing field in front of me isn’t the dark, terrifying jungle as I used to see it.  The classes are fun and interesting, the people are cool, the teachers are really helpful, and the project genuinely teach you something.  This weekend, we were assigned a project in groups of 3 to go out and shoot a series of stills on the XL-1 cameras.  We couldn’t use dialogue, exaggerated facial expressions, animals, or weapons.  It was simply an exercise to show the Eisensteinian theory of montage, letting the cuts tell the story because your mind fills in the blanks.  For instance, we don’t even think about it, but if I set up a shot of a diner, then a person sitting drinking coffee, and a juke box playing, those 3 shots are completely unrelated.  But we as the audience bridge them together to make a coherent scene in our heads.  

Sum and Smitha were in my group, like I mentioned a few days ago.  We met at the film school today around 1:30.  Sum and I started while we waited for Smitha.  I won’t reveal his story in case he cares.  My story consisted of Sum waiting next the big fountain we have in front of our school.  He checks his watch.  Smitha walks up and hands him a note.  Sum reads it.  We cut in to a close-up of the note. It reads, “Dear Sum, It’s over! I need change! Goodbye, Smitha.”  He seems despondent, but then gets an idea.  He reaches into the fountain with both hands (Mind you, this is a series of pictures).  Smitha is then seen walking on a sidewalk with Sum crossing the street behind her.  He has his hands cupped.  He catches up to her and gets down on knee.  She holds out her hands and he gives her the “change” he found in the fountain.  Smitha looks at the coins and has a slight smile.  The last shot is Smitha and Sum holding hands under a big oak tree.  The end.  Credits.  YAY!

It can’t be longer than about a minute or two and we’ll have ambient noise to superimpose behind the images.  I think mine will come across well.  It’s not meant to be a flashy type of project, they just want you to try and make a coherent scene, an exercise.  

Friday night my writing group got together to watch our assigned movie, Empire of the Sun.  I’ll be honest, it was LONG.  Way longer than I was expecting.  It’s one of Spielberg’s lesser-praised films.  I think a lot of people were a little confused and turned off by it.  It’s shot beautifully, of course, all his stuff is, but the story arc is just strange.  It sort of meanders its way around 4 years of this British child’s life.  He lives in Shanghai as a British settler in the early 1940’s, just as Japan attacks in WWII.  Christian Bale is the main kid, he was about 12 in the film.  It was his first major role.  Gosh, he must have been in every single scene.  That was a MASSIVE undertaking for a kid that age.  It’s a testament to just how strong of an actor Christian Bale is.  I remember Newsies as one of my favorite films.  I was about 8 when it came out and that was the first time I had ever seen Christian Bale.  He seemed to disappear in the 90’s and then, of course, has made an explosive comeback in the past 5 years.  

That got me in a mood to see more Christian Bale movies and I watched The Prestige on Blu-Ray last night.  I hadn’t watched it in about a year or so.  Man, I really love that movie.  A lot of people, and critics, called it gimmicky, but you could say that about all of Christopher Nolan’s films.  He’s a master at withholding things from the audience.  He really puts you at the mercy of the camera.  Wally Pfister is his Director of Photography on every one of his movies.  I particularly think that The Prestige is gorgeous.  Regardless of whether or not you think his films are gimmicky, he is a fantastic storyteller.  I’m always engaged from start to finish.  His pacing in The Prestige makes you aware that you’re building toward discovering something, like the show is about to begin.  David Julyan’s score doesn’t have sweeping string sections, but rather this ominous fog of mystery around them.  Some parts are so dissonant that you find your face tightening up and you don’t know why.  The whole things sounds like an orchestra warming up before a show.  Anyway,  that’s my two cents.  If you haven’t seen it, check it.  Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Michael Caine are all rock solid in it.

We also had a BTL or “Below the Line” lab on Friday at the Allman Brothers satellite location.  We basically ran down through the hierarchy of a set and explained what everyone’s job was.  This was very insightful because, well, I’ve never been on a real set.  Our lab consisted of loading 16mm film magazines.  That was fun and easy.  I think I’m more mechanically minded that I give myself credit for because some kids in our class were having serious trouble trying to figure out how it works.  The funny thing was, you have to get so good at it that you can do it in a dark tent on set so you don’t expose the film when you put it in, just like a 35mm camera.  That is going to be a serious skill to develop.  It was my first time touching 16mm too.  I can’t wait to shoot our D1’s on film.  Just to have something you shot that looks like a real movie will be exciting enough for me.  

Yesterday (Saturday), I did some more writing on the 3 page script I have to complete for my writing class.  I’m really happy with the result.  Like, I said, I’ll tell you about it when I get back my grade.  I also found some time in the afternoon to go see Babylon AD, that new Vin Diesel movie.  Yikes.  I know, I know.  Mattieu Kassovitz, the guy who did Gothika, did this one.  I thought it was the Dude who did Nightwatch, but I was wrong.  It was hokey, like I thought it would be.  It’s in the not-to-distant future of 2019.  The world is in turmoil, yada yada.  Vin Diesel lives in some shithole in Eastern Russia.  He’s a mercenary.  He gets hired to transport this “special” girl across the Bering Strait and into the U.S., where he’s a wanted fugitive, btw.  Michelle Yeoh is her guardian.  She’s actually a really solid actress.  Since being in school, I start watching for more performances out of movies, and she was compelling even in a silly movie like this.  The movie seemed to be juggling too many things at once and it cycled out of cliche lines like, “You think this is a joke?” or whatever.  Things hit the fan when they reach “future” NYC and two separate gangs of Prada models are out to get the girl.  Lots of special effects, lots of shooting, lots of Vin Diesel doing whatever it is he does.  I give it a C.  

Randall, being my personal entertainment widget that he is, happened to email me an article today about the disastrous production that resulted in Babylon AD.  Apparently Fox made the director cut at least 15 minutes out of the film and had lawyers on set every day to change things and make sure they did things by the book.  They apparently wanted to ensure a PG-13 rating.  In the interview, the director is FURIOUS.  The cast, the crew, the directors, and the producers at Fox all hate this movie now.  This goes to show that when Hollywood office-coke-monkeys try and micromanage everything, all they do is choke the movie to death.  Fox is notorious for pulling this stuff too.  I don’t ever want to deal with them.  But listen to me, who am I.  Talking like I’m going to start calling the shots with a major studio.  Don’t listen to me, anyone.

Last night, About 9 of us met up for dinner at Mellow Mushroom.  It was nice to relax and not think about school.  The two tracks compared opinions about how the week went, who asks questions, who doesn’t, who thinks this is hard, who doesn’t, etc.  We split up after that and Matt, Bobby, Stephen, Jacob, and David Spence all went to this bar in Tallahassee to hang out.  Now get this, it was 9 o’clock on a Saturday and we walked up to the dude checking ID’s on the sidewalk in front of the patio.  He charges us $5 to get in and says that things get bumping and that it’s “the place to go” for sure.  We get in there, literally, NO ONE IS IN THERE.  NO ONE.  NOT ONE PERSON.  What in the H did we just pay $5 for?  And who pays a cover in a college town?!  The 6 of us sat outside and hung out for about 2 hours.  It was really fun, we had an awesome time.  Some band was getting ready to go on and play for nobody but the bartender.  We all were making pretty low-brow jokes and laughed about anything and everything.  I found some serious common ground with Bobby and Stephen (whom I hadn’t really spoken to at all since we’ve been here) when we talked about 90’s music and how much we loved 90’s music videos and Blink-182.  Solid.  I like those guys a lot.  It was cool to meet Stephen.  Somehow there are still people I haven’t really spoken to.

After that, I went home and watched The Prestige.  My roommates were both out of town again, so I set up the ole Blu-Ray player in the den and watched it.  Other than that, this was my weekend.  Tomorrow we might head to the Final Cut lab to throw our little projects together, though I’m not even sure when they’re due since we don’t have school.  Who knows.  We have to watch a 90 minutes interview with Paul Haggis about Million Dollar Baby and Crash.  I actually just saw Crash for the first time a few weeks ago in Marietta with Jamie and Kit.  It was good, I like it.  Seems like anything Paul Haggis touches turns to gold.  

Ohhhhh yeah!  I watched The Hills for the first time ever and I had some very interesting thoughts on it.  I hate reality TV, but Bobby and I got started on The Hills last night at the bar.  His girlfriend was/is a big fan, like most girls are.  I have a pretty big list of thoughts on it which I might write out in a later blog.  So yeah, look forward to The Hills article.  

I’ve had a sore throat all day.  I decided to stay in tonight.  There was a party that the second year MFA’s were throwing to get to know all of us a little better, but I do not want to be sick this week at all.  This would be the hardest schedule to keep if you didn’t feel well.  I think I’m just going to go to bed.  I have to read a 110 page script and write the coverage on it by Tuesday.  Looks like I’ll be enjoying Labor Day in the most appropriate way possible.  Thanks for reading.  I’ll be updating tomorrow.

Y’all behave.

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2 Responses to “Days 13-15”

  1. Crash….say it ain’t so?

  2. I think gimmicky is a bad word for Nolan (granted I am biased), but there’s always a reason, big or small, for his restriction of info (Leonard’s true nature or Gordon ‘protecting’ his family). It’s not all for the sake of “hey, gotcha!” I actually got into it with my writing teacher about the Prestige because he thought the journal was a gimmick and lame.

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