That’s a wrap!

That’s a wrap!

Words that I’ve not had the utter, utter privilege and luck to utter in what is rapidly approaching six years.

We have shot our little short film, and it was such a joy to see it come together. The crew were superb, and professional, and I look forward to working with them again very soon.

My cast were absolute professionals, and lovely, lovely people to boot. This shoot, I was able to just focus on them, and their wellbeing; not to mention the emergence of their characters, that they fleshed out and to which they gave life from my pitiful typed text.

I am incredibly happy, and satisfied, and humbled. Dear film-gods, let’s not leave it this long until next time.

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.

Stoker (2013)

I’ve frequently maintained that the best films stay with you. I don’t mean ‘best’ in terms of quality, necessarily — though that helps — but the best films in terms of those that actually meaningfully contribute to what we call cinema. The best films keep projecting into our temporal lobes long after the credits have rolled; they haunt us, they taunt us, they call to us to watch again, to peel back the layers of their meaning, to look beneath their skin just as they have weaved their way under ours.

A few years ago I taught a course at the University of Sydney that examined the transition from celluloid to digital. It was a wonderful course, and inspired me in many ways for the studio teaching and research I’m currently undertaking. One of the films we watched was Park Chan-wook’s Night Fishing. What a weird little film. Shot entirely on an iPhone 4, the film combines night-vision, fishing, camping, mythology, ghost stories, grief — it’s a masterful little thing. It was perfect for that course, too, because it reiterated that it doesn’t matter what tool you use to create cinema; cinema can be created with anything.

I’d been meaning to catch more of Park’s work, particularly Oldboy and the Vengeance trilogy, but they remain on the Shelf of Shame. After seeing a screengrab from Stoker in a talk on Friday though, I was immediately inspired to get the bluray. This film deserves the highest quality, as it is stunningly beautiful. Also, with this kind of movie, you need your blacks to be really black.

Briefly, and trying not to spoil anything, Stoker is a bottled drama starring Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker, Nicole Kidman as her mother Evelyn, and Matthew Goode as India’s Uncle Charlie. India and Evelyn are recovering from the death of India’s father, Richard, as Uncle Charlie moves back into their lives after a long absence. Long story short, some stuff happens.

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The Hitchcockian overtones and influences are readily apparent — the Uncle Charlie/India relationship is pilfered from Shadow of a Doubt, and the tension that slowly builds throughout the film is reminiscent of [insert name of any Hitchcock film here]. But what’s neat about this film is how that tension is woven in with the beautiful imagery. Further, their are even hints of the mobile image (as in mobile phone) that I remember from Night Fishing. In one scene, India and Charlie are playing a duet on the piano. This is a weird moment for a lot of reasons, but the weirdness is reinforced by this tracking shot, about shin-height, that snakes its way between the furniture right up behind them. The tracking shot recalls The Shining, but the movement isn’t entirely smooth. Much like the visual composition of the rest of the film, this shot is not entirely stable. You wouldn’t say its unstable, but there’s definitely something not right. Take any shot of Uncle Charlie, for example. We’re never given the full picture, something is always in the way. It doesn’t hurt, too, that Goode’s performance oozes Anthony Perkins in Psycho.

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Stoker is one of those perfect examples of a film where everything congeals into one single vision. Camera, editing, music, performance, narrative all just happen; there’s really no separating them. There is no distinction to be made here between the analogue and the digital (for what it’s worth, it was shot on 35mm). This is a stream of information, a torrent of meaning, that brings the audience wholly into the narrative in an effortless way. This may not be a quality film (it is), but it certainly is one of the best.