wilsonhester

First Impressions

After being at Sundance for one day I feel energized. 

This morning the class went together to see the movie Whiplash, a film about balancing passion.

I was impressed with the caliber of professionalism that the movie exuded. It was an interesting movie to view at Sundance because it makes me think about the audience for the film. The film is borderline wide-release, but it also has a niche feel to it that might not appeal to everyone. The movie was picked up by Sony distributers. I am looking forward to seeing the future of this movie.

It was a great movie to start of my Sundance experience. It makes me want to continue striving for more challenging work. 

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Reflection

The major thing that I can take from this class is the knowledge that I like to work with people who share a similar passion for creating something that I do. I really enjoyed working on some of the group projects because I was able to work with friends and enjoy creating videos for this class.

One of the things I was glad I got the chance to do was work alongside Sam. I didn’t know how much thought and work could be put into sound design until I worked alongside him. It was really pretty awesome getting to watch someone who knew what they were doing in a realm that I knew very little about.

One discovery I made this semester was when I learned that I enjoy working on documentaries. I learned that the subject should be something that I care about and am interested in. It also needs to be something malleable enough to where I am able to make it my own. Working on ‘Pete Eats’ was a blast because we decided to make it in a style that was interesting to us.

I think that I have improved as a filmmaker through my choices in lighting and lens use this year. I am learning when I need to have a longer shot with a deeper separation between foregrounds and backgrounds. I am also learning how certain films get certain shots that I have seen before. The opening shot in Coukoch is a shot that I have been trying to replicate. I have seen these long shots before, but have never fully understood how they were captured until now.

I appreciated the opportunities that the projects offered to enhance my growth as a filmmaker.

This is the final short narrative I made for this class:

Coukoch 2

Coukoch

I had a great time working on this short film. My teammates were all very enthusiastic and dedicated to making something great.

One of the most enjoyable parts about making this short was working with the actors. Liam Hall and Brandon Williams are my friends and I have worked with them in other capacities in the past. I decided to ask them to act in the piece because I knew they were talented, but also because I couldn’t think of any two people that would do a more fitting job of portraying the two characters. 

The important thing about casting these two actors was that on set they saw me as a friend and also as a director. We knew how to communicate with each other before the camera started rolling. There wasn’t a process of having to figure out how we communicated our thoughts and ideas. 

Liam has acted in videos before; however, he is not currently pursuing a career in acting. I knew that he could bring what we needed from him for his part. It was a blast working with Liam because he has the impulses that are very true. He doesn’t have the “showyness” that some actors can bring to a shoot. There were a couple long takes in the short that required him to be very meticulous in his decision making. I couldn’t have asked for anything better from him.

Brandon is really just kinda awesome because he is up for anything. I have worked with Brandon multiple times in the past and I knew that he would bring something to his character that I just didn’t see on the pages. I purposefully left his character rather ambiguous when describing it to him. We decided to develop his scene by not giving him any lines, but by giving him goals. He killed it. 

The team for the film was really quite phenomenal. Everyone was actually irreplaceable. Everyone brought there own forte to the piece and I think it really shows. 

I love my team. 

Here is the link

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBVk6qwVbY8&feature=youtu.be

The Apartment

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The Apartment is a film that I had heard about when I was in high school.

In high school I took three classes on film. In one of the classes we watched the film The Apartment. I was not in class the day that we watched this movie. I learned later from my classmates that the movie ‘wasn’t bad.’ I kinda shrugged it off and said I might watch it at a later time. Then I started seeing this movie pop up over more and more time. I decided that the film gods and goddesses were trying to tell me to watch this movie. I watched this movie.

The Apartment is a pretty awesome film. It definitely holds up to this day. The Apartment was shot in 1960. The movie is directed by Billy Wilder and photographed by Joseph LaShelle. I include the Director of photography in describing this movie because it is really very beautiful. 

The movie is shot in black and white and I am envious of how successful the shots in this film are. Generally the older films leave something to be desired from in their photography. This film is framed by an expert. There are moments in the film I smiled not only because of how funny it can be, but because of how perfect the shots were. I am also impressed at how strong the camera movements were in this film. It is easy for films to use camera movement in a lazy fashion; however, this film uses camera work in a subtle and necessary way. Action is enhanced by the work, it is not detracted by it. 

Jack Lemmon, the star of this film is truly quite fantastic at his role as C.C. Baxter. C.C. Baxter is a man who works at an insurance corporation. Baxter, a hardworking man, lets executives in the company use the apartment for their own exploits. As the plot progresses Baxter’s own interests in a woman get in the way of his climbing of the corporate ladder. Baxter must decide between love and his career. 

The film uses non-diagetic music throughout. I think that the score works really well. It has a classic musical feel that is in many older films; however, when it is paired with the sophisticated filmmaking it hits really well. There are scenes throughout the film that use diagetic music as well (piano playing in a restaurant).

I think that The Apartment is a film that everyone should watch. It is a good example of a film that is approachable by all audiences, yet is sophisticated in its delivery. 

Pete Eats

Working on the documentary was a pretty fun experience. 

In the beginning I was worried we weren’t going to have something entertaining. We had a couple of different topics lined up (paper hand puppets, day with dinosaurs, frozen yogurt). As the deadline for the documentary got closer we were running out of time and needed a subject. 

I was grocery shopping one evening when I walked by the baby food aisle. I immediately thought of buying some weird awful food to make my roommate Peter eat (Pete Eats). That’s when we came up with the idea. My group members were in.

When we went into this documentary we didn’t want to make something boring. We decided that documentaries, especially the ones without budgets, can fall into ruts where they are stagnant and expected. We decided to plan out an approach that would capture the topic of the documentary; however, remain faithful to our initial thought of not making the documentary boring.

The most successful aspect about our piece would be that we accomplished our goal: make a documentary that presents a factual report, while entertaining. Werener Herzog once said “Facts do not interest me much. Facts are for accountants. Truth creates illumination,” (esquire). I’m not 100% on what this statement means, but I don’t believe that I am supposed to understand it 100%. I gather that documentaries should value truth. Truth and fact are synonymous; however, fact is something that is never evolving. Truth is a state of being. 

Working with Michael and Tyler was great. They are my friends. Through the process we became better friends and created something we are really proud of. One of our biggest strengths was that we communicated well with each other. Everyone’s voice was heard and everyone had a creative input into the final work. This piece would not be the same without one of the members of the group.

This is the link to the documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHpWzgj4dog

Gravity

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I recently watched the movie Gravity, written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. 

Gravity is one of the best movies I have seen recently and easily one of the best science fiction movies I have seen. 

Cuarón did some really great things in this movie that not only better the future of science fiction films, but also films in general.

Gravity is a beautiful mix of “hollywood” and “independent” filmmaking. 

Cuarón is by no stretch of the imagination a “hollywood” filmmaker, but more simply a filmmaker that can walk between any world he likes. He has directed films like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but he has also directed films like Y Tu Mamá También. These films are rather different in more ways than one. 

Gravity sticks out as a film among all of the other films currently in the box office right now because it is hugely successful and yet it doesn’t share a lot of characteristics of other “blockbusters”. 

The film’s lead character is Dr. Ryan Stone, portrayed by Sandra Bullock. This is an immediate outlier in blockbuster movies. There are rare exceptions; however, most blockbuster movies have lead actors that are predominantly white males. 

The next aspect about this film which is great is that it is better because of the 3D. For many films 3D is a crutch. It is a draw that movie goers are interested in because it is something new (however broad and untrue that statement is). This film uses 3D to immerse the viewer. I think that this film “gets away” with the use of 3D is because of the new ground it is exploring. It is a film that charters new territory in setting and realism.

Something I enjoyed about the film is the editing. The first shot of the film is ridiculously long and it is amazing. It truly is unrelentingly appropriate. The shot is minutes long and gets the audience immersed into the film. 

The camera work in the film is pretty phenomenal. The camera is voyeuristic and a beautiful paintbrush at the same time. It invites us to be lens that the action is being viewed from, but also reminds us as to how beautiful the world is and lets us enjoy it.  

The sound design in the film is also great. Cuarón did his research for this film. He understood that there is no sound in space. This created a problem, but with this problem came an incredible solution. The sound that is heard in the film is recorded from transducer recording. Transducer recording are recorded through vibrations. The difference between transducer recordings and regular audio is that regular audio is recorded through the air, which is not in space.  

I think that everyone should watch Gravity because of how refreshing it is. It is not a normal film. It is something very new and crisp. I hope that this will inspire a new kind of non-restricted form of filmmaking from other filmmakers. 

Here is a link to the sound behind Gravity http://vimeo.com/76123849

Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death A Tale of Life

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I watched the documentary Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death A Tale of Life, directed by Werner Herzog. 

Into the Abyss focuses on the convicted criminal Michael Perry for murdering Sandra Stotler. Michael Perry is the subject for this film because he was a death row inmate.

This film follows a narrative – the effects that the death sentence have on individuals and societies, but the film also looks at the themes of morals within the justice system and morals among human beings. 

The documentary is successful because Herzog separates his opinion from the piece. It is easy for the documentary filmmaker to make an opinion about the subject of the film. It isn’t as obvious while watching a documentary because it is the only view being expressed, and generally it is expressed well. Herzog merely lays out the facts of the subject matter and doesn’t hit the viewer over the head with his opinion (The death sentence is not something that should exist). He allows the other opinion (permitting the death sentence) to be represented equally throughout the piece by inviting the viewer into the world of the family effected by the murder of Sandra Stotler. 

I wouldn’t say Into the Abyss is Herzog’s work that has affected me as a viewer the most, but I would say that it is probably one of his more professional and objective works. It is informative and to the point. 

Herzog is a master of creating a mood in his documentaries. The moods he creates in his documentaries stem from two different fields. 

1) Rolling the camera. In Herzog’s documentaries he generally has his cameras rolling before the interviewee is even miked. This is a choice that can be really strong. The choice works because it is a more raw capture of the subject being interviewed. Seeing a person before they are miked and even after they think the interview is over can be a really powerful moment. There are two moments in this documentary when the audience can see how this works. In the beginning of the documentary Herzog is interviewing a minister about the last moments of death row inmate’s lives. There is one clip used where the minister isn’t saying anything, but is recomposing himself after the interview. This moment speaks volume. A man stands in a cemetery of nameless death row inmates as he looks around and wipes tears from his face. The second moment is when we are first introduced to Michael Perry. Herzog sits on one side of the glass in the visiting room (unseen) as Perry is escorted to the other side of the glass. Perry is handcuffed behind his back, let through one gate, that gate is locked behind him, he sticks his hands through an opening in the gate and while his handcuffs are taken off. This is all done while Perry is smiling. 

2) The second successful thing that Herzog does in his documentaries is his questioning. Herzog is really good at asking his subjects questions. He makes the choice to let his voice be heard in his documentaries; therefore, he is allowed to gain deeper answers from his subjects. If he asks a question that has the beginning of a good answer he will always dive deeper into conversation with his subject until he gets the heart of the answer.

I think this is a good documentary to watch if you want to see an honest documentary that opens a discussion about the death penalty. 

Experimental

In cinema production we were tasked with creating an experimental film. Experimental films are not my favorite form of video production; however, I ended up having a lot of fun with this one. It was freeing to be able to just focus on what visuals mean to a viewer. For this piece I had to choose a poem to be inspired by. I ended up choosing the poem “The Art of Poetry” written by Latin American poet Jorge Luis Borges. 

To gaze at a river made of time and water
and remember Time is another river.
To know we stray like a river
and our faces vanish like water.

To feel that waking is another dream
that dreams of not dreaming and that the death
we fear in our bones is the death
that every night we call a dream.

To see in every day and year a symbol
of all the days of man and his years,
and convert the outrage of the years
into a music, a sound, and a symbol.

To see in death a dream, in the sunset
a golden sadness–such is poetry,
humble and immortal, poetry,
returning, like dawn and the sunset.

Sometimes at evening there’s a face
that sees us from the deeps of a mirror.
Art must be that sort of mirror,
disclosing to each of us his face.

They say Ulysses, wearied of wonders,
wept with love on seeing Ithaca,
humble and green. Art is that Ithaca,
a green eternity, not wonders.

Art is endless like a river flowing,
passing, yet remaining, a mirror to the same
inconstant Heraclitus, who is the same
and yet another, like the river flowing.

 

I chose this poem because of the visual cues it gave me. There is a lot of words throughout the poem that inspired certain images in my mind (river, flowing, mirror, face, time). 

The poem speaks about what a poem can do for it’s reader. I tried to capture what Borges was saying in his piece. He describes art as an endless river that flows alongside other rivers. 

I believe that Borges is trying to communicate that there are multiple facets of art that can be explored by artists and the people that view their work – there is no single identity to a work of art. 

The viewer should see this piece as an extension of Borges poem or merely a visual aid to the poem.

Here is a link to the work

No-Nadoes

The sound design for ‘No-nadoes’ was a fun endeavor. 

I used a track called ‘Country Rebels’ from firstcom.com. I picked this track because it fit the mood of the piece. It was upbeat and had a southern/country vibe to it, but it was mainly just kind of silly.

The best part of the sound design was recording the voices for the animals. I asked two of my friends to record the voices of the cow and chicken; I did the voice of the pig. I already had the stop motion edited in final cut so I just recorded their animal noises as the video played. I directed them until I got the right ‘feel’ for each animal and then I moved on to modulating the voices. I used a pitching tool and other voice modifiers until I got a more realistic animal noise from the actors. 

After I had gotten the tracks of the animals lined up I then gathered the other sound effects I needed like the wind and thunder. I couldn’t find a wind sound effect (not tornado) that I was happy with so I ended up creating the wind noise myself. It turned out pretty campy which worked well. I was able to find multiple tornado sound effects that worked, so I layered them over each other until I got the sounds I wanted. 

I did the voice over for the advertisement before I did any of the visual design. Once I had a good take of the voice over I went back and created the visuals for the piece. I highlighted words and symbols that I thought went well with the voice over. 

I used multiple sounds to emphasize visuals in the advertisement. When the numbers flew to the center of the screen I added an effect that made it sound like the numbers and symbols were moving through space rapidly. When the numbers for the phone number flew into view I also added a phone dial tone phone button sound effect. 

Once all of the sound tracks were laid I went back through it and did some mixing with the levels.

Here is a link to the video

Plastic Bag (Experimental)

Ok, so this was a pleasant surprise. I had heard about this short experimental piece in the past, but had never seen it and only thought of it as myth.

When I was searching for a video I clicked on a link entitled ‘Plastic Bag’. The video started and something was eerily familiar; I felt like I had seen it before. The short opens on a shot of a plastic bag on the beach with waves crashing in front of it… then I heard the voice – Werner Herzog.

This short film is told from the perspective of a plastic bag. Herzog narrates the film as the voice of the plastic bag. It deals with themes of identity, religion, love, and meaning. The plastic bag recounts its travels that lead it to where it is at the beginning of the short. The bag is trying to find its way back to its maker until it decides to move on and discover a life that he previously did not know existed.

Within the first lines the viewer should be able to tell that this short will not have a familiar narrative arc. The plastic bag immediately breaks the fourth wall by pointing out that there is an audience watching this short and that they are generating opinions about what is happening in it. 

One of the more interesting decisions about this piece that makes it standout as an experimental work is the framing of the shots. The audience sees the life of the plastic bag from ‘birth’ to its last moment in the short. The shots in the film help express the way that the plastic bag views the world. In the beginning of the piece most every shot is very concise and limited. As a viewer I felt claustrophobic and confused (feelings that are shared with the plastic bag). By the end of the piece the shots are not all wide; however, the world begins to open up as the plastic bag begins to understand it better. He discovers that he probably won’t ever see his ‘maker’ again and he is beginning to be ok with that. He finds out that the world is massive and that there are other people like him. In these shots we see more and more as he begins to adapt and change.

The use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound works really well in this piece. All of the dialogue in this piece is narration. All of the dialogue is voice over (non-diegetic) of the thoughts of the plastic bag. The only other non-diegetic sound is the music that is used in the piece. The diegetic sound in this short comes the great natural sound.

I would recommend this piece to another viewer. Production-wise this isn’t the best video. There is some mediocre camera work, but some real great creativity in bringing life to a plastic bag. It is a really great narrative piece with an approachable experimental twist. The narration is chilling and beautiful at the same time. There is something to be desired about how unforgivably original this piece is. 

Here is a link to the video