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…

Vale Anthony Bourdain

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This city is the self-proclaimed centre of democracy, science, and culture. Unlike many other self-proclaimed centres, though, this one’s claims tend to be borne out by history.

I landed yesterday, blinked and nodded politely as my lovely driver gave me the rundown on the city he’s doubtless done a million times before. Got to the apartment, dumped my everything, found a cold beer in the fridge and toasted my own arrival.

As I took my first few tentative steps out into the streets, an all-caps message arrived from my partner: Anthony Bourdain was dead.

Before we get into this, it must be said that I never met the man. But it’s testament to his talent as a presenter, as a writer, as a storyteller, as a presence, that the news of his passing felt like a punch to the fucking gut.

Between a full-time job each, my partner and I struggle to find time to sit down and smash TV shows — particularly those of the intellectual variety. But during a prolonged fortnight of illness some two or three years ago, The Layover popped up on Netflix, and we destroyed it. Since then we’ve watched nearly all of No Reservations and every episode of Parts Unknown, and between us we’ve read most of the words he wrote. Tony was a source of wisdom on many things, most recently how to prepare garlic: a quick Google that settled a light-hearted argument at work.

Every episode of his series was meticulously planned and shot, playful and experimental, and always accompanied by the most beautifully constructed narration. His crew were seemingly eternally devoted, and clearly thinking above and beyond the necessities of the job; Zach Zamboni’s extended philosophical essays on cinematography have turned up more than once in my reading lists for class.

I was desperately looking forward to seeing the episode Tony shot in Hong Kong that was directed by his girlfriend Asia Argento and shot by the inimitable Christopher Doyle. Now I’m not sure I can bring myself to see it, knowing what we all now do.

In how many fathoms of darkness must a soul be swimming in order for this to be sweet release? Surrounded by those who would take a bullet for you, in how much pain does one need to be to take this action? It must have been insufferable, insurmountable.

I’m just stunned. I’m still getting over this, and will be for some time. In many ways I’m glad to be travelling, at the moment. Anthony Bourdain brought travel down to earth, to the people and their stories, and to the food that locals don’t think twice about scoffing — Tony saw cities not as tourist traps, but as living, breathing places where people do indeed pass through, but people also live, work, and die.

There’s not much to say. Just: thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for your words, your wit, and your way of seeing the world.

Romance and reflection

There is a mode of writing about film that I really enjoy reading — I’m cautiously calling it romantic-reflexive. Practitioners of this style include Murray Pomerance, Geoff Dyer, Raul Ruiz. It’s a style I enjoy because it feels immediate, almost as if the thought had just occurred to the writer. It’s an informed style, but rather than be peppered with footnotes or citations at every turn, the reader is just aware that they’re being spoken to by someone who’s done a lot of reading.

It’s a style that permits idiosyncrasies, but one that does not allow laziness. It allows for a nuanced discussion of film, but a discussion that is not hyper-critical. The analysis is not over-wrought, such that the film loses all magic, all its moments. I sense that this is a difficult style to master, but I’ve sketched out a few projects in the coming months that will hopefully allow me to give it a try.

For now, though, here, on this blog, I’m going to run the style past whatever I’m watching in the next few weeks, months. I’m currently halfway through Paris, Texas, so maybe that’ll be first.

Pomodoro ramblings

In my first classes this week, I introduced first-year students to the Pomodoro technique. I’ve had a mixed relationship with the technique, but sometimes find it useful in terms of getting my head fully into a project during its opening stages. In solidarity, I too typed non-stop for 15 minutes (a reduced pomodoro — usually they run for 25). The results were… well, they were a glimpse into the chaos of my brain. I’ve edited them slightly (ditched typos and some of the more bizarre tangents), added links and some editorial notes, and re-posted here. The unit is a foundational media subject, and is a blend of theory and practice.


 

Prompt: What would you like to get out of the class?

I would like to hone my pedagogy — in particular getting students engaged during workshop and lecture time. I am actively working to fill the lecture time not only with content, clips, and relevant examples, but also with activities that break the monotonous delivery.

I have already run out of ideas but I’m going to keep typing because this is what the Pomodoro technique is all about. Look if I’m honest I think the introduction of the Pomodoro technique into the classroom situation is an interesting thing for me and the students. It gets them thinking about writing as a practice and as a discipline, not this far-off thing that’s unobtainable and difficult. The Pomodoro technique is all about quantity rather than quality — which explains quite a bit about this piece I’m writing at the moment. Continue reading “Pomodoro ramblings”

Writing

I haven’t written for a very long time.

That seems a strange thing to say, given that I bill myself as a ‘writer, producer, and researcher’. But it’s true. In terms of actually setting mind to page without the baggage of scholarly rigour, it’s been an age.

Given I now work for an institution that lauds, encourages, creative practice as research, I’m wondering if there’s an element of writing that needs a punch in the face. Or — maybe I just need to write, and figure the rest out afterwards.

I surround myself with people who I know have outstanding skills in their respective fields, whether living or dead. But I’ve not opened a screenwriting program in some three or four years. There’s something there.

There’s always something there.

I just have to go find it, capture it, and ensure I can type it out in Courier New 12pt.

Today I wrote a letter

Writing
Photo by me.

For the longest time – certainly longer than any of us have been alive – writing letters was a necessity. Putting pen to paper was as frequent an act as a keystroke or a mouse-click is to most of us today. The glide of a nib across the surface of the paper was a crucial part of conducting business, of negotiating local and international politics, of creative expression, and of interpersonal communication.

It’s been a very long time since I sat down to write a letter. On paper. Without the aid of a spell-check, or the need to select a font, or to find and insert an email, or remember to attach an attachment. But today, I did. In fact, I wrote two. And I’m about to carry them to the post office and send them away. The reason? The Strangers podcast. Strangers is part of the Radiotopia network, who, last year, ran a Kickstarter to keep running, and to expand on their current line-up of shows. If you’re not listening to, in particular, Strangers and 99% Invisible, you need to do yourself a favour.

I threw a couple of dollars their way, not really thinking much of it, and in fact forgetting about one of the perks, which was being assigned a penpal by the Strangers team. Rather than being assigned in pairs, each backer gets one name and address, while their name and address is forwarded to – perhaps appropriately – a total stranger. I’d forgotten about it until I received a modest envelope in today’s post, containing a handwritten note from my new penpal in the US. I had also received my assigned recipient, so I sat down today and wrote them both.

As I explained to one of them, I’ve not had a penpal since I was about ten, and from memory they were in India. I’m sure with my living in Australia they think I’m equally exotic, despite living in the comfort of the uniquely non-threatening suburbs of Melbourne (yes, the letter I received today made a crack about Aussie wildlife). There is something very refreshing about writing again, like, properly writing. Though after writing about five pages of correspondence my hand is aching — a sign of the times, anyone?

The point of this post was to make some grand observation about how writing has gone from a necessary part of everyday life, to a hobby reserved usually only for older generations, to some quirk or quaint pastime that’s very rare. But such an observation is not forthcoming. Nevertheless, pick up a pen, and write someone a letter. It’s good fun.

New things

A big couple of months, hence the lack of updates. I’ve taken up a new position as Lecturer in Media at RMIT University. Yes, RMIT in Melbourne. I’m now, once more, a Victorian. The move has been tough, but it’s great to be back down here surrounded by family and friends and much decent coffee.

The new job is shaping up well, and is sucking most of my hours, particularly in terms of catching up on research. I’m still in the process of editing the PhD for publication, and will have finished another two publications by the time I start teaching proper in early March.

Things bode well, and I’ll keep this updated as often as possible, particularly with notes on research, more war films, games, and so on.