(noun); a store that sells shirts, hats, gloves, ties and other related items.
also, it's my favourite word.
I attended the St Kilda Film Festival opening night on Tuesday and it was a great deal of fun. I must admit, I didn’t exactly have high expectations for the short films, but I was gladly proven wrong and to my surprise found I enjoyed every single film. I particularly liked Bear (of course), Suburbia and A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation.
Bear was directed by Nash Edgerton and was this brilliant little film that had the whole audience laughing. With a short overall length and a sweet storyline and pay off, this great Aussie short is a must-see and is apparently doing well at Cannes.
Suburbia was a slightly longer film, set in an indistinct Australian city. It is apparently based on a true event that happened in Burleigh Heads, NSW. The long steady-cam shot keeps you mesmerised as an average Australian suburban scene turns sinister.
A Lost and Found Box of Human Sensation is a short animation from Germany that details the life of a young man after his father’s death. It was narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, which only added to the coolness. It’s a great film that uses symbolism and metaphor superbly within the animation to really hit home the idea’s being presented visually.
Overall, the entries screened were incredible short films and I really liked what I saw. Quick thank you to local legend Paul Harris for the free tix!
Do androids dream of electric sheep?
Good question. So poses Philip K. Dick, author of the book that the film Blade Runner is (loosely) based on. Directed by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner (1982) is set in an advanced, futuristic 2019 and humanoids that are called ‘replicants’ have been outlawed due to their ability to overpower their makers. Harrison Ford plays Rick Deckard, a retired Blade Runner, which is a section of the police force that is designed to hunt down and kill rogue replicants. He is pulled reluctantly back in to the business when a group of replicants gain the attention of the police after executing a massacre during an escape from a slave colony on another planet and arrive on Earth illegally.
The brilliant extreme close-up cut between establishing shots at the start shows a blue eye reflecting the bright lights of hovercrafts and skyscraper’s as we are introduced to the wasteland city that is Earth. I noticed a few times the director chose to use a reflection instead of straight up shot of action in this film, like when Deckard shoots and kills the first replicant, Zhora. The audience watches Zhora die in the reflection of a glass window. This might have been used as visual symbol of the idea that the replicants are a reflection of a human and poses the question, what gives humans the right to create something and destroy it? It’s all very Frankenstein.
The film’s smoky atmosphere leads to a distinct visual style. The dirty, neon city and each dark, shadowy street paints an ugly picture of the future, which I thought was an interesting choice production design-wise. It certainly makes each set more interesting visually as opposed to a more sparse and modern 2019. I particularly liked the weird amalgamation of new meets old, specifically in the Aztec-style architecture and vintage costume choices.
In the spirit of this week’s class I decided to seek out a film by an auteur female director. We watched most of The Piano directed and written by Jane Campion in class which I’d seen before, but I was interested in seeing Sweetie, another film by Campion of which we only saw a clip of. Alas, a copy of Sweetie is rather hard to find, so the film I ended up watching was The Virgin Suicides (1999), written and directed by Sofia Coppola and based on the novel by Jeffery Eugenides.
The first shot of the film is of Kirsten Dunst’s character Lux smoking a cigarette and smiling at the camera, it was one of those images that you somehow know is going to haunt you, and it does. The Virgin Suicides is beautiful film that stays with you long after watching it, that is driven by Coppola’s distinct style of film making.
I love the way Sofia Coppola has captured the rose-tinted world of 1970’s suburban America in a realistic yet non-judgmental way. There’s something that is so eternally sad about the overall atmosphere, in the lighting, sound, set, story and performances, there is an overbearing feeling of despair infiltrating every element of this film. The warm colour palate that is seen at the start of the film is made up of bright reds and greens that colour the suburban world of the Lisbon sister’s. By the end, all the colours are almost completely faded and all the lights are tinged blue. The sound design is also effected, starting with some upbeat Heart tracks during Lux’s first love, before the sombre chords of Air echo through the scenes where the girl’s are all but imprisoned in their suffocating house. Silence is utilised brilliantly, the very disquiet of the quiet creates a tone of suspense and is a constant source of unease.
“No, no you don’t understand me, I’m a teenager, I’ve got problems,” jokes a random drunk toward the end of the film. The one question everyone wants to know the answer too - why? My curiosity was roused of course, and I suppose dissatisfaction could come from the story’s unwillingness to blatantly disclose that information, but I felt the mystery was what the film was about and ultimately, suicide is a mystery.
I just want to make movies
I’m not really sure why females are scarce in the film industry. In other arts there are just as many females as men. I just don’t think it’s okay that I, an impressionable youth =D, looked up the history of Oscar winning director’s to find to my dismay that there has been one female winner. One. Since 1929. Wow. If you were curious, the director was Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker” in 2010. (Yes that’s right, just last year) Four female directors have been nominated in total, compared with more than 400 male director nominations.
Okay, so maybe we don’t win awards, that’s fine. I don’t really care about awards anyway.
Then I read something like this article - “Only, 8% of directors, 13.6% of writers, and 19.1% of producers are female” and working in the film industry. Those stats are from America but I imagine the Australian film industry isn’t any better.
Okay, so we don’t get fair job opportunities either, that’s…kind of shit.
I just googled ‘females in film industry’ and the fourth article was the Wikipedia page for ‘Pornographic Actor.’ Long sigh. Needless to say, I clicked the article called ‘”Why are there so few female filmmakers?”
Good question. Why is that?
“The problems facing female directors are structural and systemic, a tangled mix of sexism, cultural differences between men and women, and maternity issues…”
I don’t think that’s really good enough. There is no reason not to utilise women in the film industry, especially seeing as how half the market is female. I don’t know why this has caught my attention recently, I usually ignore statistics, figures and other things that would distract me or convince me not to do what I want to do, but for some reason this is bugging me.
Martha Coolidge (director) - “My agent sent another woman director in for an interview, and afterwards the guy called up and said, ‘Never send anyone again who I wouldn’t want to fuck.’” Yikes.
But even after reading all this, I still want to get in to the industry, it’s kind of motivating actually, even if I wind up jobless/homeless.
I’m hoping I can be one of those people raising the stats, so in a few years some other girl googling similar info will have something more optimistic to read.
No elephants were harmed in the making of this blog
“Exit Through The Gift Shop”
Director: Banksy (identity unknown)
Scale of 1-10 of Awesomeness: 10
That’s a pretty high score, but be aware – I give most films a 10. Hey, I like movies, what can I say. BUT that being said, this actually is a brilliant flick. I have found myself rather taken by documentaries lately (I also recently saw “Catfish” which is excellent.) Unfortunately, documentaries generally fall under the stigma of being ‘mind-numbingly boring’ to many, particularly the largest cinema-going demographic - the adolescent market. I think this stereotype has changed as documentaries have taken on more narrative conventions. Modern documentaries often have a main “character” that the audience can build a relationship with, and they are edited in a way that is coherent, with structure (beginning/middle/end), climaxes, over-arching story line, sub-plots and sub-characters frequently utilised. These all ring true to narrative form, which may be why popularity for documentaries has also increased. I think this is because of Michael Moore. You may hate him for his ‘grey area’ journalistic morals, or love him for his moving films, but you must admit he revived the dying world of documentaries. His blockbuster documentaries (two words you don’t see next to each other very often) “Bowling for Columbine” and “Fahrenheit 9/11” were massive hits world-wide, and earned him an Oscar and truck loads of scrutiny due to the questionable ways the filmmaker goes about putting together his films. Other films such as “Supersize Me” and “An Inconvenient Truth” also became very popular, which may also be because of the media attention garnered by their respective controversial topics. I think it’s interesting that documentaries are considered a work of fact, when they are as much a construct as a feature film, but persuading a person to a certain point of view is what art is, so I think it’s difficult to define exactly what a documentary is and what rules it has to adhere too.
Anyway, my point is, docos are cool now and so is street art. Wait, what?
In “Exit Through The Gift Shop”, nothing is quite what it seems, and this air of mystery is what kept me so enthralled by the seemingly simple storyline, containing few complications. The main character is the French amateur-filmmaker “Thierry Guetta” who I thought was the film’s director for at least half the movie. Interviews, archival footage, narration and news stories all added an air of importance to the content which is, on the surface, about the emerging underworld of street art, but has underlying statements about consumerism, art and modern day society. It was interesting, new and took a whole different approach to documentary filmmaking, and just like Banksy’s mysterious identity, his film keeps you guessing.
Here is bit from a documentary I really want to see called ‘Jesus Camp’ that was screened during the blog presentations. It’s about the bible camps in America that kids are sent to in the summer and it just looks fascinating.
Oh and cos you’ve got some spare time seeing as you read this whole blog =) check out this AMAAZZZINGGG documentary called “The Bridge.” A documentary crew filmed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for a year, it is a beautiful architectural wonder and the most popular place to commit suicide in the entire world.
Obervations of light
This week in class we discussed how mise-en-scèneand shot composition are a series of careful choices that determine a film or filmmaker’s ‘style.’ I re-watched “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” recently, which is a fairly slow-paced film, and I found myself noticing the mise-en-scène, in particular the lighting choices made by director David Fincher. We have been focusing on lighting in Production Techniques recently and you know what it’s like when your perceptual vigilance of one thing is heightened - you see it everywhere.
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is about a boy named Benjamin Button who was ‘born under unusual circumstances’ and begins life as an 80-year-old man and grows younger rather than older. The main plot of this film is about the relationship between Benjamin and the love of his life Daisy Fuller, and the problems they encounter due to his strange condition. Fincher uses lighting to symbolically show the stages of love the couple encounter. In one scene where Benjamin and Daisy are still young, in the figurative sense, they sneak out from their beds and hide under a table during the night to tell stories. The subdued spark of lighting from a candle gives the scene a shadowed, magical atmosphere, the beginning of a friendship.
When Benjamin and Daisy’s age and love progress, they move in together. Their duplex glows orange with mellow lighting that really conveys a homely atmosphere. The lighting is brighter than the shadowed, darker lighting of previous settings, and represents Benjamin’s growing love for Daisy. The frames are composed at this stage in the story with both characters always visible in every shot, which to me seems cinematographically symbolic of the characters need to always be together.
As Benjamin’s condition deteriorates toward the end of the film, the lighting becomes very bright and heavenly. In the last scene in which Benjamin is alive, soft, bright light shines through a window onto Daisy, making her luminescent. In the future scenes when Daisy is in the hospital, the lighting is cold, harsh and tinged blue, which appears to convey that Daisy had lost the love and light of Benjamin in her life.
I don’t know if I’m over-analysing the lighting here, but David Fincher had a whole team of people dedicated to lighting this film so imagine a good deal of thought went into it.
…although I am easily distracted by shiny things.
A few thoughts
I volunteered to work on a music video this weekend and each day was about 12 hours long, so lets just say this blog shall be short (Update: Blog is not short.) It was great though, I liked being on set and watching everything happen/come together and thinking ‘yes, this is just exactly where I want to be.’ There’s something lovely about a busy film set… and I got to shoot confetti cannons! That was fun and painful.
I thought I’d take this opportunity to quickly discuss my 90-second film because I haven’t yet and I think it might be part of the brief requirements anyway. I’m planning to film in 2 weeks and I’m panicking slightly. I have a lot of work ahead of me (actor applications, police uniform hire, crew recruitment and shot lists) but I thought I’d use this blog as an opportunity to analyse my script, not only because I’ve been discussing/drafting it with my Scriptwriting & Directing teacher Greg, but also because I really need to have a think about it myself.
My short film is called “The Outlaw.”
I’m particularly concerned with the portrayal of the naïve 16-year-old protagonist Robbie (this name is for production only and won’t be mentioned in the film, I don’t want to shove Robin Hood references down the audience’s throat.)
Currently, the script seems to portray Robbie as this fairytale character who couldn’t possibly be real, as he doesn’t have any bad character traits. Aside from thievery, the audience is not introduced to a side of Robbie that makes him realistic. He steals from the “rich” at his local train station, to give to the poor – the homeless guys he knows from around the neighbourhood. He then finds photographs of children in a purse he had stolen from a woman, and risks police arrest by returning them too her. I’d like to make Robbie a more complicated character, I’d like to show that he struggles with guilt/regret more and show he’s selfish somehow to begin with, so he can overcome that but I just don’t think I can in 90 seconds. I had an idea that maybe if I can visually show Robbie’s low socio-economic background, and put him on the same level as the homeless people, the audience could see he is apart of their environment. If the homeless guys recognise him like he does this sort of thing every day and that his thievery was born out of necessity (i.e. food), then maybe that will show a strong motivation because without flaws he doesn’t seem three-dimensional.
Currently, this is scene 3:
3. EXT. ALLEY WAY/STREET DAY
Robbie walks in to a nearby alleyway where Homeless Person 1 is sitting on the ground. He passes him a bottle of water and a meal. He waves goodbye and walks away.
And I’m planning on changing it to something like this:
3. EXT. ALLEY WAY/STREET DAY
Robbie walks in to a nearby alleyway where Homeless Person 1 is sitting on the ground.
HOMELESS PERSON 1
Hey there kiddo.
Robbie passes him a bottle of water and a meal, then sits down to eat with him before leaving.
1. Robbie and this homeless man know each other.
2. Robbie isn’t “above” him in fact he’s in the same boat.
3. Robbie is also eating a meal, which means he’s not only stealing for others but also himself.
I want the audience to like Robbie and I’m trying my best to do that in 90 seconds but it’s damn hard and I don’t know how short filmmakers do it!
I have tried to limit dialogue because the story is told quicker and more effectively visually. I don’t want it to feel like a lecture for the audience, I just want to depict a different perspective on the complicated idea of morality.
Oh and I found the best song for this short, it’s “Danse Macabre” composed by Camille Saint-Saëns (a.k.a genius). If you’ve heard it before, you probably think this piece would be weird for a Robin Hood-esque soundtrack, but you’d be wrong! I always felt ‘Danse Macabre” had a gothic/ghostly kind of sound until I heard it while thinking about my shots. If I cut it up right, it will be kind of perfect as an epic/heroic type of soundtrack…and it’s royalty free! Hurrah!
Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyknBTm_YyM
Listen from 5.47 to 7.10. Can you imagine a Robin Hood chase scene through a train station? Well… I can :)
A blog about Australia and its films
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the Australian film industry, for two reasons:
1. It’s been in the media.
2. I study film and it’s kind of relevant.
The Age article “Australian film disaster at the box office” seemed to highlight a lot of problems with the film industry today, and to be honest, I agreed with what the journalist (Jim Schembri) was saying. I also read through the angry comments from the public at the end of the article, which was entertaining but for some reason I got defensive, I know I’m not apart of the Australian film industry yet, but many of the comments were directed toward future filmmakers from people basically spelling out their expectations. It got me thinking about what film is and who it’s for.
When you break it down to its most cynically simplistic state, film is a product. ‘How dare you! Film is an art form! It’s celebrated for it’s power to sway nations, bring down injustice and -’ Yeah, yeah I know. If you knew me, you would know I’d be right there with you demanding respect for film, but it is what it is. You love it, adore it, it makes you cry, laugh, it changes you and you could devote your whole life to it, but film is a product. Its sold and bought via movie tickets, DVD’s and downloads because film is for everyone. So when I read that Australia fails to deliver “audience-friendly, genre driven films,” which people seem to want, I think – well, why isn’t that happening? I don’t understand how there can be so many talented people in the Australian film industry, yet so little to show for it.
So I decided to construct a dot-pointed list outlining problems I believe the film industry needs to solve:
· It all boils down to good, well-developed scripts. A script needs to be unique (containing a ‘wow’ factor), creative, and interesting, that connects to its audience and has a third act (closure!). Bad script = bad film, simple right?
There’s no point copying the same old stories because they worked in the past. (A.k.a If your screenplay is about; any Australian crime including but not limited too druggie couples, gangster families, or a serial killer, contains any trace of a crocodile or is set in a “typical, suburban family home,” then please start again and try something new.) I went to Steven Cleary’s lecture at VCA and he spoke about the importance of the development process, which he said will expand in the future. More importance will be placed on the film’s visual elements and the creation of a screenplay would become less time-consuming and more of a collaborative effort. Interesting thought.
· In America, if a film crashes at the box office, there are repercussions. The film company can bankrupt and filmmaker’s reputations are damaged. In Australia, funding is given to filmmaker’s through grants like other arts. This means, you can make whatever you like, and even if it’s terrible and nobody goes to see it, there are no consequences financially. I think this might have put Australian filmmaker’s in a bad mindset, for one, it completely takes the audience out of the equation. Sure, the American way isn’t perfect, it leads to a lot of commercialised shit that is void of any meaning, but at least people are seeing their movies. Australian filmmakers should be mindful of their audience!
And it’s good to note: “A Heartbeat Away” received $7 million in funding from Screen Australia and was a DISASTOR at the box office because, well, it’s an awful movie. The government can’t keep throwing precious taxpayer’s money away on films no one wants to see, and if things don’t change, there won’t be an Australian film industry at all.
· Bad acting seems to be a frequent complaint of Australian films. Now, I know for a fact that there are brilliant Australian actors out there, so why isn’t this translating on screen? I think this may be a case of poor development of characters and lack of universal appeal. Subtlety is the language of cinema, and trying to connect with audiences by drawing attention to the fact that a character is Australian with dialogue such as ‘G’day’ or ‘Bugger’ only makes everyone want to vomit.
· And finally…MARKETING MARKETING MARKETING!!! Thought I’d emphasise with repetition for the sake of the future of Australian film. Wanna know why no one’s seeing your movie? It’s cos they don’t know it exists. Every filmmaker should save at least a third of their budget and get their film on trailers at cinemas, television ads, billboards, posters, t-shirts, public transport, internet, Facebook, iPhone apps, small children, ANYTHING. There are so many platforms available for advertising, all you have to do is be smart and creative about it in order to compete with the international market.
Okay, so that was messy and written in very train-of-thought style, but I think I’ll leave it like that. I’ve written this for myself more than anything, something to refer back too, because I think these ideas are important and need to be remembered.
I just quickly want to say – I don’t hate Australian films! In fact, I watch lots of them in the constant effort to find films I like. There is so much potential (I saw “Miracle Fish” and “The Lost Thing” recently, two incredible short films) and my ideal future Australian film industry is one where films are consistently of excellent quality and interesting content, and improve so much so audiences demand them! (Wouldn’t it be nice…)
“And that, I suppose, is the true story?”
Point of view, subjectivity and objectivity; I find these ideas incredibly interesting and film is the perfect medium in which to explore them. After all, what is film but capturing the point of view of someone else? It’s why everyone goes to see movies, to escape our own minds for a couple of hours and enter someone else’s. But then there are film’s that actually explore the idea of perception, because when you break it down, it’s almost impossible to find any truth. Akira Kurosawa wrote and directed “Rashomon” (1950) which is considered to be his masterpiece, a story with four characters, four perspectives and four different versions of a crime. I believe this was the first time the idea of differing perspectives was on screen, many film’s have been created since then, including “Atonement,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Pulp Fiction” and pretty much anything by Tarantino.
The four main characters in “Rashomon”
After watching “Rashomon” I found it hard not to look at the people around me and think “Hey- you’re probably seeing this in a completely different way from me, isn’t that odd?” Everyone has their own worlds, with their own opinions, thoughts and intentions. Kurosawa took this idea, then applied some mystery, suspense and a little murder to ramp up the stakes, threw four characters in and the story goes from there. He deliberately sets the film up for audience participation, by evoking questions like “What would I do in this situation?” A common woodcutter comes across the body of a man in the woods and alerts the authorities. Each character recounts the events of that day in the woods, the woodcutter, the famous bandit, the weeping wife who was raped and the dead samurai who speaks through a clairvoyant. “It’s only human to lie,” said the man listening to the story at the gates of Rashomon, his word’s echo through out the film. The audience acts as the judge, character’s speak, cry and shout to the camera, confessing their point of view and culpability. By the end, you don’t know who to believe. The sheer simplicity of the story is what makes it totally engrossing.
Music is critical in this film, and in some scenes is used in place of dialogue. Kurosawa said, “Cinematic sound…does not merely add to the images, it multiplies it.” It sets the film’s mysterious tone and garners suspense, as well as expressing some of the characters inner thoughts. When Tajomaru the Bandit see’s the wife’s face, the tinkling of a xylophone gives sound to the light breeze which opens the wife’s veil and the low trombone and eerie clarinet track gives the audience a clear understanding of the bandit’s sinister thoughts without a word being uttered. The lighting and camera use are significant as well, like the famous fast cut close up shots of the three characters looking at each other, emphasising their triangular relationship and the importance of perspective. The shots of the tree canopy and the sunlight streaming through are seen multiple times and are almost Kurosawa’s way of telling the audience that the characters see the same trees and sky, how can they say they see things so differently? The dappled light seems symbolic of the truth becoming obscured.
At the end of the film you finally see the woodcutter’s objective point of view of the crime, which, like modern day film equivalents, should be the final perspective. But alas, the woodcutter’s own intentions are uncovered, which leads the audience to suspect even he is an unreliable source for truth. Goodbye closure. The ending is actually rather unusual, I interpreted it as the sun coming out after the storm, because the woodcutter takes in an abandoned baby as his own and then the rain finally stops. Afterwards I read that apparently Kurosawa was waiting for a cloud to block the sun for the final shot, so that it appeared bleak and cynical, but it was too sunny that day to create the atmosphere of an overcast sky. That changed the ending for me, I kept recalling what the priest said about half way through the film, “Life, without trust, is hell,” because it has now been about 60 years since the film was made and it seems like finding the truth has only become more difficult. But hey, that’s just my perspective.