Monday, September 17, 2007

My Shortest Apposition, Part 2

This is a continuation of Friday's post, My Shortest Apposition, Part 1.

The film we'll be shooting is called My Shortest Apposition, a delightfully unmarketable title—were I shooting something with more mass appeal, like a feature where I had to guarantee my investor would make back his money, my title would be a little more accessible, not something that makes you go, huh?

An apposition is an interjected dependent phrase qualifying a larger statement, e.g., my car's engine, newly replaced, is sounding odd; or, Ross Pruden, a blogger who often pops up on Google searches, also directs movies.

SPOILER ALERT—this paragraph is in white text to protect those who'd rather wait until the project is finished; select it to read. In the case of this film, the title is a play on words—the entire film is one really long run-on sentence, a never-ending apposition; it is fact, my longest apposition... But the film leads up to my 6 month old daughter, who is actually my shortest apposition, an interjected dependent who qualifies everything in my life. (See "Inspirations" below to understand where this idea originated.)

Back to my problem. How do I integrate 16mm film format with miniDV?

The solution came from looking at the script, which is simply me listing things I'm certain of, things that make me cry, and thinks I love. So why not shoot all the MOS insert shots in film? My narration, then, would be entirely in miniDV and all the inserts would be 16mm. The leaves us with no problems with miniDV & synch sound, and we can shoot all the 16mm we want without worrying about the 16mm camera's noise. Grafting some of the new Digital Intermediate techniques, we'd telecine all the 16mm footage into miniDV and edit the movie on Final Cut Pro... with no intention of ever burning a copy back onto film as a true DI workflow dictates. We would be turning our weakness into a strength by integrating our format differences into a cool narrative motif... and learning a lot about both formats along the way.

Another reason I like shooting a short film is to become fluent in every aspect of filmmaking. I shot my 3 minute miniDV Metronome this way and learned about 1,001 lessons in the process. Consequently, whenever I produce/direct a film, no matter its length, budget, or number of crew, I like to produce it as if I have a million dollars in the bank. That means doing rehearsals, scouting locations, hammering down schedules for cast & crew, drawing up a detailed budget, negotiating the scheduling of shots (typically done with physical production strips, but also now done with Movie Magic Scheduling or Gorilla, or even Excel if you need to go on the cheap), creating and issuing call sheets (including directions), working out shot lists, doing storyboards, deciding costumes, preparing make-up... essentially, I like to treat a short film as if it were a Hollywood production. There are several advantages to this approach, but two big ones stand out:

  1. You learn each aspect of filmmaking when working with the small toys so that you're ready and confident when you're working with the bigger toys.

  2. How you present yourself to others says a lot about you. If you dress like a student, people treat you like a student, but if you dress like a pro, people treat you like a pro. (Furthermore, if you dress like a pro, your mind switches gears and you also start to think and act like a pro.) This is as true about filmmakers as it is for screenwriters. As John August says, "screenplays are read by people, not cameras." Don't write with grammar and spelling mistakes. And don't make films without call sheets!

Hans is flying in Saturday morning and back to L.A. on Sunday evening. Currently, we're firming up the shot list and storyboards and troubleshooting the really technical shots all this week. As they say in the biz, preparation prevents piss poor performance. With any luck, we'll have a film we're proud enough to submit to festivals.

The inspiration for this short comes from a bunch of places. I've put stuff that would spoil the film in white text; select it to read.

First, this brilliant short film from the makers of Delicatessen:

Another inspiration was a French short film called Routine. While I've never been able to find it on DVD, it's true genius: the entire film consists of lighting fast closeups of things we do every day: alarm gets turned off, peeing in the toilet, toilet is flushed, coffee gets ground, shower is started, soap is lathered, body is dried, coffee is poured, door locked, engine starts, etc. The whole day is covered and each day of the week follows it, except that the cuts are quicker for each day until Friday's cuts are a blur. Saturday slows down, and ends with a romantic visit from someone out of town. When Sunday's alarm clock goes off, the female visitor lazily turns it off and the film ends. Great film.

And then my dad read this quote to me years ago and I transcribed it because I loved it so much:
Haldeman-Julius, a man of Rabelaisian appetites, once replied to a priest when asked what he got out of life: "I told him I found life worth living because I enjoyed good music, fine pictures, great books, beautiful thoughts of truth and freedom, sane living, warm showers each morning, pleasant home life, charming people, lively talk, exchange of ideas, plays of sharp wit and worldly humor, beautiful women, tall glasses of orange juice, fresh trout, black bread smeared with home-made butter, crisp bacon, roast duck, thick steaks, lofty poetry, plays, magnificent orchestras, letters dictated by my grandchild, newly plowed land, dogs that eat well and then sleep quietly near the fireplace, oak and walnut logs that burn for hours and make the house smell sweet, milk that was grass five hours before, the long yawn that says it's time to turn in."
The World of Haldeman Julius, Selected Writings of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. Compiled by Albert Mordell. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1960.

Finally, a throw-away comment from Tom Clancy's Patriot Games. Jack Ryan is being pressed to make a judgement call that could result in an American covert action to neutralize terrorists. Admiral Greer asks him, "Tell me one thing you're certain of, Jack." And Ryan responds: "My daughter's love."

Later this week, I'll post a few pages of the script, its budget, call sheets, shooting location map, shot list, and storyboards. I always find it entertaining to follow an active case study, so hopefully others are out there just like me... like Stefano, Tyler, Ray, Meaghan, Rob, Susan -- you guys are the reason I keep writing!

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