Tuesday, 21 March 2006

What not to rehearse with actors

A picture I did (of an artist) in Tuesday morning's art class. The best stress relief ever! Drawing is like meditation. Not like Saturday. The kids I teach Saturday are in 2 groups.
  1. The 9-12 year olds
  2. The 15+ y.o. teenagers
The differences in behaviour between these two groups is vast. There is no professional approach to acting at all for the younger, immature kids. It's completely a game. The director is merely a part of that.

Things not to rehearse with 10 year olds

When I say not rehearse, what I mean is - just roll the camera and go for a take. Rehearsing is never taken as seriously as a camera shot. On tape, with a tiny crew (ie. me on Saturdays) and with kids as my subject, I shoot all "rehearsals". Young kids get bored and soon wander off to the toilet - or to Mum - or to get a drink.

Instead of rehearsing, just shoot whenever a child has to:
  • hold hands, touch or hug another (unfamiliar) child
  • do a fake fall or punch
  • cry
  • do anything that is going to require concentration

Things not to rehearse with teenagers

  • Kissing
  • Fighting
  • Hugging or getting close in any way to an (unfamilar) teenager
<>Teenagers will only kiss each other if they like each other. It's an uphil battle if they have to do a first kiss scene. Adults will grin and bear it. But, as I found out on Saturday, just saying stuff like "That didn't look real. She's in tears and needs you. You two weren't close enough," resulted In one of the most touching teenage performances I've ever seen.

Erica and Kelly (male) were laughing after the first take. Erica's character was in tears because of the daily feeding ritual she had to go through (because she was living with cancer). Kelly came in and gave her a blokey pat on the back. We all knew the scene didn't work. It was then simply a matter of gettnig them to solve the problem.

And I'm glad we didn't rehearse it. I, as director, gave them permission (my job) to get as close to each other as possible. On the first take, Kelly was really nervous about going up to Erica and hugging her. And, because I was recording the rehearsal, that nervousness came right through the lens. The scene was perfect. Two teenagers huggin each other for the first time.

It was real because it was really happening. That's why you don't rehearse some things.

Things not to rehearse with adults
  • Sex . . . basically.
Good adult performances are the ones that come from within. Directors needn't know why or how or what the actors are chanelling. In fact, it's none of our business what the actor is thinking of / emotionally remembering.

We need to respect actors and record sensitive rehearsals as often as possible. With new digi/tape technology, such an approach is becoming increasingly possible.

Sunday, 19 March 2006

Giant CRX 1 Flat-bar Road Bike - A Metaphor

I've been working my guts out doing websites all week (day and night) and now I have to mark 50+ online student usability exercises. Ugh!

I got a glimpse of my girlfriend this week. She lives really far away and - as I ride a CRX 1 Flat bar road bike - it takes me a good 2 hours to get there. Especially after riding from Como to teaching Saturday acting classes in Hammersley.

I got to her place late and then had to leave at 5am to get to Freo on time - where my parents were celebrating their 4oth wedding anniversary.

Hi Ma & Da. Congratulations!

Now for the meat of this post. Read carefully:

It's a nice ride. For every difficult hill, there's a downward slope. I top around 50kmh (peak at 60kmh) but try to cruise along at around 30kmh to conserve energy. You never know when you might need to sprint. I'm mostly on bike tracks - I don't like to ride on sand.

My bike has no shocks, so my energy isn't wasted. I get to feel the ground. Whatever power I have goes straight to the road via my hard Shimano wheels. Just bought a couple of bullbars for handling. I was getting into a physical rut. Now I can fidget as I ride. Move my hands around the bullbars so I don't stress any body parts. Now I can really ride hard, but with a bit of contrast so I don't lose perspective. Don't seize up inside.

I don't ride fast - just cruise.

On a nice, solid foundation.

You never really know when you're going to run out of energy. It's hard to tell which direction the wind will come from. You have to be on guard. Look for the signs. Gauge your ride. Be clear about your goal - and why you are riding, not driving in the first place.

Right, filmmakers?

Saturday, 18 March 2006

Marx & Venus SBS TV series

I just added a link to Taylor Media's website for Marx and Venus (I did the site). The SBS script deadline is March 31st, but, as I did her website and Sue Taylor is exec-producing the show (with Natalie Bell, Ian Booth and Francesca Strano line producing the 25 episodes) I felt it my duty to let everyone know that TM is looking for directors, DoPs and editors.

My CV is in. Phew! But I'm thinking of submitting a cover letter. Or hopefully, explaining my particular during interview - and without trying to sound like I'm gonna break house-style.

Writing with other people . . . Ooooh

I've written two episodes of M&V so far - one with local writer, Richard Hyde and one all by myself. I want to write one with Phil Jeng Kane, but I want it to be his idea. I'm second credit on Richard's and I want the same credit on Phil's. Three scripts sounds reasonable and not too greedy - especially if I'm working with other people.

"What? What kind of filmmaker are you? Get an ego man. This is a competition, not a kabutz. 'I want it to be his idea!' What's all this second credit stuff? Don't you want all the glory? There's hardly any cash. What do you get? Two grand? You gonna split that two ways?"

Well, Angry Filmmaker - my reason is simple. A second writer's credit (to me) - means that I'm working on someone else's idea. Or, at least, that person instigated the screenplay (ideas are free). Working with another writer is different to script editing. As co-writer (I hate the term because often co-writers do as much - sometimes most of the work) I have permission to change (or in my case hack into and delete - sorry about that, Richard) the other writer's words and dialogue.

As a script editor (and by the way writers, I will script edit your work for a very reasonable fee. Click here to find out about that) I have no such write - er - I mean "right". I see my job as being the writer's spiritual guide and mentor. Script Editors should guide the writer towards what it is he/she wants to say. It's a bit different in TV tho - ;) - but that's how I reckon it should work in a perfect world. And we're all heading for that. Right, Aristotle?

As co-writer, you don't get final say on the screenplay. Whic is good because tehre'd be too much to-ing and fro-ing over little stuff.

But as local producer, Carmello Musca put it to me one day (this is why Phil and I have a script with him) . . . "The writing doesn't finish until the execs have left the editing room." That's someone who knows the business. The best producers share a similar POV in my experience. Beware those who don't!

"Ahh, shut up! You talk a lot of crap. What have you done? A few shorts? The odd TV show? Who cares about your Pee Oh Vee, man? Im going to Hollywood. I don't need ScreenWest's money. I know a couple of guys . . . Anyway. Just wait 'til you see me strut my stuff man. I have talent."

The door is to your left, Angry. Talent is never enough.

Yeah. He's gone now. If you're going to work with other people, you have to respect what it is they do. And listen to what they have to say. There are a lot of frustrated and angry filmmakers out there. I pity that guy.

Friday, 17 March 2006

Fine Art and Filmmaking

I'm tandem teaching an art class at Curtin Uni. Well, teaching probably isn't the right word. Experiencing might be better. Each mini lesson I get to do what the students are doing. It's
called Multimedia design 175 - Theory and Practice. A loosening up class designed for people who think they can't draw.

Each week we do a different, really cool thing. Like the objects above. I drew these by feeling what was in a brown paper bag without actually seeing. Which was the point. I was quite surprised at how the drawings came out. In retrospect, it kind of confused me. We can see things without using our eyes.

Filmmaking - The infamous and oft-ignored Axis of Action

I was ranting the other day - as usual. There was an old movie on Channel 31 which was really bugging me. The camera kept flipping around the room. One moment we were high angle POV (point of view) the next low. It was jarring.

But I noticed that it was still irritating even if the camera was only a few inches below eye-level - or just a few inches above. For one thing, the eyelines were totally stuffed on shot / reverse shots.

We have this thing in filmmaking called the axis of action. Not many people seem to know about it. If you're shooting a football team, then you expect the blue players and the red players to be heading screen right and screen left respectively. It gives us a sense of where the goal is. Shoot over the axis line and suddenly, reds are heading for an own goal.

Well, what I noticed with the 30s film is that the axis of action also works in 3D space. If you shoot 6 inches above your main character's eyeline and then alter the height of the tripod, you get the same jarring effect.

In other words, readers, getting your eyelines wrong could jerk your viewers out of your story.

"Yeah, yeah - but what if I want to jar people. I mean they used dutch tilts in East of Eden, didn't they? I'm a really cool filmmaker and I want to break every rule, Maan!"

All I can say to that argument is . . . Shut up and have alook at the Rorschach blots we did in class.
Gingerbread Men? Or should I say people.

Timid rabbits approaching each other?
Not sure . . . Plus 2 koala bears. Ahhh!

Monday, 13 March 2006

Marx and Venus and Bicycle Philosophy

I ride a bicycle and this is what I see. When you ride a bicycle (as opposed to driving a car) the world changes. Your approach to life changes. My approach to filmmaking changes. The body becomes a metaphor, the road - life - each hill an obstacle.

You are using your own power. You are thousands of years of human technology. You are losing fat, strengthening your muscles, heart, lungs, entire physical wellbeing.Problems dissolve. You de-stress.

Coffee at Just Espresso, Como

Coffee on the other hand freaks me out! It makes me anxious and very often I return home and do everything but work.

I was having coffee with a friend (Rob) this morning and we were talking about our work lives. Comparatively, we are extremely lucky. We work when we want and do what we want. We're not answerable to anyone because we have clients - not bosses.

Most people my age are paying mortgages and raising children - in jobs they don't particularly love. I don't feel the urge to do that and I'm not sure why. It seems . . . like a waste of time.

Why do you have children? Please. I'm not being facetious. Someone . . . leave a comment. Why did you choose to have kids? Was it a maternal drive? Is there such thing as a paternal drive? Is it the desire for immortality?

I'm doing frivolous stuff. Making short films, animations, websites and, hopefully, long films very soon. Doing whatever it is I love and making a living out of it.

Most people find their sense of self in the pursuit of the dollar. No money = insecurity for most people, it seems. Maybe you want what you have. Maybe you are happy.

Are you the happiest you could possibly be at this precise moment in time?

Please. Answer. Be anonymous.

I know that I am very happy - and free - to be able to ride - in any direction I want and with the choice of doing what I love. Make films, animation, write, construct websites. Most of that freedom is probably because I don't have kids. My will is my own.

As I rode my bike home the other day, I became excited. I was really keen to get back to my computer and code up the Bollinger website (nothing there, yet). It's a challenge - a new kind of code. I have to fit in with a highly customised template. It's nothing but a techno-nerd computer gig to most people. But I'm very keen to make my new template work.

Marx and Venus

When I get time, I write. I'm angling for a gig on Marx & Venus (SBS TV series) and I'm writing stuff with other writers. If our script is chosen, writers get $2,000. I suspect that there will also be about 2,000 entries.

Another filmmaker Lotto.

I'll let you know how things go.

In the meantime, try riding your bicycle to work. See how it affects your perception. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, 2 March 2006

Mumbai Podcast & AST Controversy

Finally put up the podcast interview I did with Phil Jeng Kane (from the FTI) a week or so ago on the 9th Mumbai International Film Festival. The sound is a bit thin because I had to remove a slight buzz.

Today I'm teaching 3 classes of students internet studies. I wanted to get these podcasts ready for them so they could see some of the technology working. I was surprised to find that a few friends of mine had no idea what a podcast is and fewer knew the meaning of BLOG!!!

Well, guys, this is about all there is to a BLOG. You're reading it. It's an online, public diary.

In response to Phil's comment . . .

Yes, I know filmmaking is a team sport. 100 people worked on A Stone Throw (AST). Without them, or yourself, there would be nothing. Obviously. The writer, producer and sound designer overpowered me with an idea and I went with it. It's possible that 50 people may have approached me after the film with, "What were they saying in that long shot?"

My last post came over as a bit of an I told youse all so and I apologise for that.

What I might insist on the next time we make a film is some kind of test screening. Very few people were allowed to see that film as it was getting made and I don't like to work that way. I like to involve everyone in the final stages because my eyes are so polluted by familiar images durnig picture editing.

A huge test screening will probably iron out any future problems. And a day of pick ups!

Three days to shoot 11 minutes with relocation moves of (sometimes) 30kms and such a huge crew was nuts!

AST is only 70% there as far as I'm concerned.

We got 96% of the script right and I achieved about 70% of my intended direction.

The AST shoot was more rushed than when I did an episode of Streetsmartz!

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

Bedtime thoughts about a short film

Yawn. It's 6am. Maggies are warbling. Crows are cawing.

There was one thing that came back to me from several people. It's been bugging me all night. The same critique. And it has to do with thinking that the audience are dumb.

For those of you who know the film, I'm talking about the scene where Cassidy confesses his crime to his Mum. Several people at the premiere, including one twelve year old boy, asked me why we got to hear the dialogue between Cassidy and Tess as he confesses his crime. They felt it interrupted the story and hindered their connection with the film (my interpretation).

On the shoot day, Joshua Beechey was a bit nervous about Anna Brockway playing Tess - his mum. So I went with that. I got Joshua (Cassidy) to retell most of the story to her and finally confess based on what he remembered of the script. She would hug him and it would look awkward. It did. To actually hear this bit of dialogue was always going to be a bit iffy for me - but more importantly - we already know all this story information, and so the dialogue is completely unecessary. Jonathan Mustard's music is enough to take us through that one minute scene.

So, for those who came back with that thought. You are right. It was my original plan, but the producer, writer and sound designer were nervous about that choice. They thought the story needed wrapping up. I guess I couldn't convince them (or they convinced me).

In heinsight, I'll really fight for such choices - instead of making my films for a supposedly dumb audience. Instincts are never wrong.