Come sail away

It’s been over a year since I worked on the weekend. Since some pretty severe burnout I’ve had to make sure that weekends and most weeknights are kept free, though sometimes the latter is unavoidable.

But this weekend, between a full and crazy week last week, and an equally insane three days from tomorrow (Monday), I literally ran out of time to get everything done.

I would now never advocate for weekend work, but occasionally – very occasionally – the grind can have its satisfactions. Particularly if it’s a typically grey and awful Melbourne day outside.

The task I ran out of time to complete was a paper I’m delivering at a symposium tomorrow. To be fair, I think I’d be forgiven for running out of time, given I organised the symposium, but I really did want something semi-decent to present.

I’ve basically kicked off conference season myself; after this talk, I have another 2-3 to prepare for late November/early December. But I think I’m being strategic here: with 4ish papers done, I can then work to convert one or two into full articles/chapters next year.

The RMS Publish or Perish sails on…

Inhuman Screens

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I am thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to present at the inaugural Inhuman Screens conference, convened in conjunction with Sydney Underground Film Festival.

I’ll be presenting my research on drones and cinematography. This work considers the embodied experience of flying a drone, and some of the philosophical/existential questions that experience raises, as well as how drone shots might be brought into the language of film distinctly from other aerial footage.

All speakers, keynotes and primary stream, comprise many of my film theory faves, so I look forward mostly to getting my presentation over and done with, and simply basking in the awesome to follow.

Tickets available at the Inhuman Screens website.

the daily DAN

 

A week ago, I posted this on Twitter. Must’ve been something of a shock to my Twitter followers, as I haven’t really used that social platform in quite some time.

The push to take up this challenge came partly from current research — I’m looking into Casey Neistat’s vlog practice for an article — but also partly from a need to kickstart my own creative practice. The short film we shot in July last year has sat pretty well dormant in post-production for over a year, and I’d barely touched any kind of creative software during that time.

I needed to get back into shooting, back into editing, back into writing, to get myself back up to speed with both the gear, the software, and with my own creativity.

The video-a-day thing hasn’t worked: I don’t think it trucks too well with a full-time job, relationships, family and such, but I’ve done five thus far, and fully intend to keep going, shooting and cutting whenever I can, until I reach the promised fourteen videos.

It’s been enormous fun: sometimes shooting new stuff, sometimes delving into the archives, always cutting something new, something fresh. Recording voiceover and featuring myself in the videos is not easy: as much as the challenge emerged from analysing vloggers, I don’t really want to be the main focus. That said, I received some feedback that the voiceover would lend itself well to a video essay, which may well be one of the videos to come.

Creativity begets creativity

On Monday, a few days into the challenge, I opened Final Draft for the first time in a year and smashed out the first draft of a short film I’ve been thinking about for a long time. And I think a few colleagues and I are going to shoot it — quick’n’dirty style — late next week, so expect an upcoming video to be something of a behind the scenes.

The producer of last year’s film and I are also spending three hours in an edit suite tomorrow, to finish off this damn short. Nothing like time pressure.

Don’t sweat it

Perfection is overrated. I think this is a lesson from Casey. But I’m learning to not kill myself over the edits, over colour correction, over getting the timing or the music just right. Do it quick, get it done — the satisfaction of a completed video far outweighs the hours you may have spent to get things perfect.

More reflections, hopefully to follow, but for now, here’s the playlist…

The Adrian Miles Reading List

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I and many others in the RMIT community are struggling to find ways to deal with the loss of our dear colleague and friend Adrian Miles. Adrian had a profound impact on me in a very short space of time. My current book project has a foundation in many of the challenging ideas he threw at me; so much so that picking up work on it again will be tough.

Finding words is something Adrian never struggled with. I thought I’d collate some of the hundreds upon thousands he foisted on colleagues, students, and friends. Suggestions welcome in the comments: I’ll update the post with any additions.

If you’re wondering how best to remember Adrian, maybe pick up one of the following, or take 25 minutes’ silence, with a 5-minute break.

 


 

Bogost, Ian. (2012). Alien Phenomenology, or What it’s Like to be a Thing. University of Minnesota Press.

Ingold, Tim. (2011). “Rethinking the Animate, Reanimating Thought.” Being Alive: Essays on Movement, Knowledge and Description. Routledge.

Latour, Bruno. (1987). Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society. Harvard University Press.

Pickering, Andrew. (1995). The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science. University Of Chicago Press.

Stewart, Kathleen. “Atmospheric Attunements.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29 (2011): 445–453.

Vannini, Phillip. (2015). Non-Representational Methodologies: Re-Envisioning Research. Routledge.

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.

Spectres of the frame; shifting perceptions

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Film theory is at a crossroads. The more I think about it, it’s more like the crazy Los Angeles freeway over/underpasses.

Is the right way intertextual/intermedial/transmedial/psychological?

Is there a right way at all?

I’ve been running a studio this semester which looks at the role of the frame in the age of digital cinema. It’s based on a conference paper I delivered in New Zealand earlier in the year, and what I’m starting to discover (in the most wonderful organic way, alongside my students) is that I barely scratched the surface of this question.

It’s not just the frame; and never really was. The frame’s intrinsic links to movement mean you have to examine the practice of cinematography as a whole; and you can’t look at cinematography without interrogating the relationship of shot to shot.

The rabbit hole I’m presently falling down is pointing to a psychological theory of cinema more akin to Bakhtin or Lacan than Bazin or Bordwell. Cinema is about perception rather than watching. We don’t just watch a film: we perceive and infer, interpreting according to our own psychological constitution.

In class last week, my students — a mix of first- and second-years — independently started discussing Deleuze’s concept of the ‘out-of-field’ and how it might relate to movement in cinema. Cinema is everything I’ve discussed: the frame, movement, editing, psychology.

Ack. The rabbit hole may not have a bottom.

Yes we POPCAANZ

Lambton Harbour and Oriental Bay as seen from the summit of Mount Victoria (pic by me).
Lambton Harbour and Oriental Bay as seen from the summit of Mount Victoria (pic by me).

I’m sitting in an apartment, outside which the manic Wellington weather swirls and swishes. After a glorious week, with crisp, sunny days (see above), the clouds have rolled in, and it’s bucketing down.

However, today’s disposition is not dampening mine, with the memories of a second, successful POPCAANZ fresh in my mind. My paper on the cinematic frame was received well, with lots of excitement that I’m developing more research and teaching on the same topic. But that was out of the way early on, and I was able to settle in and see a bunch of other, vastly more intelligent people talk about their passions.

There was a Baudrillardian deconstruction of Wes Anderson which was so thorough that by the end he did not exist. Another highlight was a refiguring of the narrative of Toy Story according to an object-oriented ontology, and a materiality of trash. Not to mention a textual analysis of Agony Aunt columns in the New Zealand Women’s Weekly. And then an introduction to the Leathermen culture of rural New Zealand.

And that’s barely scratching the surface (and I only mentioned two papers in a very strong film stream). Food was great, the location (Massey University) very cosy and accommodating, and the company a lively combination of old friends and new contacts.

There was very exciting news, too, that POPCAANZ will now be opening up to our Asian neighbours, and revamping the associated journal accordingly.

Bring on Sydney next year!

Speed and politics

Need for Speed (d. Scott Waugh, 2015).
Need for Speed (d. Scott Waugh, 2015).

Cinema is movement. Movement is change. Change is politics — politics regulates change.

Movement in the frame is thus political.

The addition of speed amplifies the political impetus of cinema. Movement is cinema.

* * *

[It’s okay, I haven’t lost it. These are perfunctory scribblings for upcoming research, that I thought were strangely poetic. Rough thoughts on the disappointingly not-that-disappointing Need for Speed here.]