Making

In a few weeks, I’m making a short film again.

My last short was made in 2011, and I feel like I’ve learnt a ton since then, but have struggled to find time to put it into practice.

It’s something of an irony, given that since my last film, I’ve taught around 350-400 students how to conceive, develop, shoot, and edit their own media projects.

The script is short, simple; a single location. I’ve been obsessed with single-location drama for some time. In part, because it’s close to theatre, but also because it’s a challenge for the writer, the director, and the cinematographer.

A lot of ideas are converging on this little film of mine, and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

GoPros and unintentional beauty

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No one ever consciously thinks of GoPro footage, ‘I will make this beautiful.’ I think the whole understanding around GoPros is that if you point it at nice things (nature/landmarks/out the front of a car), your footage won’t be half bad.

I mourned a little when the new GoPros featured phone connectivity. Part of the joy of the early GoPro experience was not really knowing what you’d got until you were back in front of your computer.

You just sort of arranged the GoPro, or held it, or strapped it to yourself or something, and hoped for the best.

I GoPro’d old school last week. I and my GoPro floated down the Yarra River in order to try and record the sense of being swept along by the tide. The results were mixed. Depths varied from about six inches to eight feet; there were rocks, sand, weeds, scrapes, cuts, and the constant underlying fear of being taken under and devoured by some as-yet-undiscovered Victorian crocodile species.

Mostly it was fun, if slightly stressful; the sense of accomplishment at the end was overwhelming. Only now am I looking over my footage. The set-up stuff I took on the bank is of course nice and composed, and properly exposed. But in the odd frame of the GoPro stuff: that’s where I find real gold. Where else could you see the sky through a thin veneer of water? Specks of dust hover in the frame as they float by the lens. A duck, up close, floats past, more bemused than startled. An unexpectedly violent splash of white water as I lose my footing: the perfectly sunlit day plunged into murky brown depths.

Get your GoPros out. Make some random beauty.

Compass points

I’ve done some nature this week. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it.

Nature the first was a walk in an inner-city park on Tuesday. Nowhere to be, nothing really in mind to see: just walking, looking, feeling.

Nature the second was some experimental filming done as part of a research day in north-east Melbourne. The hastily-cut-together results of this experimentation are included below. More to follow in the coming weeks. Nice to get something in the can, no matter how out-there.

Rules

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Taking my first steps in the world of programming, I’ve been intrigued to see that many of the overarching rules for ‘best practice’ and the more philosophical protocols for program design/code structure, are nearly the same as in screenwriting.

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Show, don’t tell.
  3. Don’t repeat yourself.
  4. Only do one thing at a time.
  5. Write for your audience.

These aren’t rules in the traditional sense. They aren’t dictums passed down from on high that every programmer/screenwriter must adhere to. Occasionally you simply can’t keep it simple. You may well have to tell, rather than show. And sometimes, because it’s necessary (or because it’s something of an artistic flourish), you may have to repeat yourself.

Rather, these are popular rules, finely honed over the 120 years that people have written for the screen, and the 200+ years that programs have been written for machines.

It’s not just rules that translate between programming and cinema, though. There are quite a number of connections between the art of creating computer programs and the prevailing analytic approaches to film; but that’s for another time.

DOMs away

75% of the way through an Essentials course in JS, and I can’t wrap my head around the DOM. I get the concept, but the logistics of actually manipulating it are eluding me.

Yes, I realise there are simple syntax solutions to most problems. Variables, functions, arrays, etc, have well and truly sunken in, but the DOM is a wall in which I can’t seem to find a doorway.

Bah.

Entering the matrix

I’ve found myself frustrated in the last twelve months or so with a few mundane computer tasks that I have to undertake regularly, both for life admin and for work. Things like sorting out variable savings budgets, typing the same sentences over and over again in emails and other correspondence… I have also found myself wanting to play with websites in interesting ways, and am looking forward perhaps to looking at some of the intersections between cinema and code for research. All this — along with an institutional subscription to Lynda — has led me to undertake something of a crash course in programming. My initial efforts are the usual (Hello world, guess my number etc), but it’s enlightening to see how much work goes into the simplest of applications.

Stay tuned…