Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Fantasists and Bull Artists



Hi, this is Phil Jeng Kane,
I asked Mr Trivia (now M. Le Trivia for some reason) for a bit of space on this blog to provide a lightning sketch of Edwin Lynch.

Yes, true to his last posting, Edwin is indeed a jock-wearing, shut-in weirdo who constantly peers through peepholes looking for a Godot-like postie. But he’s also a writer-director who studies performance and screenwriting; he networks with actors and filmmakers and has always kept up with filmmaking technology; he has a strong grasp on filmmaking skills, like how to break down and choreograph a scene.

Why the resume? Because it occurred to me that his self-portrait was an ATOMISED version of Edwin Lynch the writer and director. I probably wouldn’t work with Underpants Man and yet, in reality, I have worked with Ed for more than a decade.

Filmmakers are great storytellers. I realised recently that I’ve learnt to take most of what film people say, with a grain of salt. Not because they have lax moral or ethical standards, but because they see reality through an imaginative lens. They’re fantasists, embroiderers, hyperbolists, analysers, searchers-for-truth, attention-seekers, spin-doctors, entertainers and sometimes complete bull artists.

Filmmakers spend their lives looking to create a world, through writing, performance, directing, editing and post-production. After this process is complete, they might have a behind-the-scenes story to tell and this becomes part of the creation myth that they then use to publicise the film.

So there’s before-the-film, behind-the-film, during-the-film and after-the-film. Filmmakers will use all of it to persuade you to see that film and this will help them to make their next one. They love to tell a story.

There’s a line in the 1987 movie OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (not to be confused with the very funny New Zealand soap on Network Nine that SPAA protested against.) The 1987 film is an odd-couple pairing between Bette Midler and Shelly Long. Long plays a pretentious actor and to get under her skin, Midler’s character says “Actors are just bullshitters who get paid.”

All filmmakers need a bit of the bullshitter in them. And with any luck one will get paid. It's not considered an adult occupation because it calls on all the skills and imagination you used in order to play when you were a child. And therefore its not fully respectable until you get paid. But who wants to be respectable anyway?

Phil Jeng Kane
C/- Mr Trivia

P.S. Of course, I’m an unreliable narrator, myself. I often use a pseudonym and don’t even reveal as much in print about myself as Edwin does. But one day I just might.

Until then I have ventriloquism and my addiction to prescription painkillers to sustain me.

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Making Movies In Your Underpants

Throughout my life, when I'm lucky enough to get a film into a festival, a certificate like this arrives in the mail. A participation certificate, an award or receipt of in-competition selection into this or that international film festival.

I'm usually indoors when it comes - working on a screenplay. Sometimes it's arrives in a quiet email. Sometimes it's a letter which comes with great pizza deals and white good sales. Other times it's registered mail and I don't hear the knock (I check my peep-hole regularly but always seem to miss the knock).

This particular certificate is from Germany. It's nice. Maybe it's worth a frame. It arrived with a well-produced booklet, stills from A Stone Throw and a short synopsis. I always have to haul out myWorld Atlas to see where the city is. Sometimes I get the country wrong. It's always interesting to read how other cultures summarise a film you've been working on for years. I'm probably in bed - or writing - or web-designing or having a coffee with friends when my films screen.

I work from home - so I'm usually here.

I'm about to shoot Yellow, a no-budget feature film - right here in my house. I'm writing this BLOG on my non-linear editing machine and the finished film will be streamed online to a distribution server in HD quality. I've had my eye on several online distributors and I'm watching Telstra (yes, the phone company). By the time Yellow is cut, scored and mixed, I will probably YouTube the film for international festival pre-selection, do a few podcasts for publicity and then walk around the corner to post my Blu-Ray disc for big screen viewing.

Most of this time, I might as well be wearing underpants.

In the Can
Short Film Screenings
Saturday 13th, 8pm Bar 138, 138 Barrack Street Perth

The In-the-Can people offered to donate teh door sales at a local film night. Come along if you've nothing to do this Saturday night and you're in Perth. We'll probably make enough at the door to pay for batteries, sandwich bread and tape for the Yellow shoot.

I'm really keen to make a no-budget film before I do the budget one. I want a fun, creative, happy experience before I embark on another Kafka-esque procedural nightmare.

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

The Bluecat Screenplay Competition

Just uploaded a podcast with Gordy Hoffman - director of the Bluecat Screenplay Competition. Rather than putting my efforts into this BLOG this weekend, his talk was so inspiring, that I've decided to write my screenplay. I hope you don't mind.

Also, I put up a rough site for our feature film, Beware the Stingray. Not quite sure what to do with it yet, but I guess I'll use it as a repository for all things related to the movie. It's a good year away from being shot, so I'm taking my queue from Richard E. Grant's Wah Wah Diaries : the making of a film, and I'm self-publishing the diary before the film is made.

Had technical difficulties You-Tubing Indy Nile Investigates the other day. So stay tuned for that fun, 7 minute cartoon pilot (which screened on ABC TV in 2004).

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Chennai International Film Festival

This week, A Stone Throw was awarded Best Short Film at the Chennai International Film Festival in India.

Chennai is home to the international headquarters of The Theosophical Society.

The Theosophical Society (emblem pictured), founded in 1875, is a worldwide body whose primary object is Universal Brotherhood based on the realization that life, and all its diverse forms, human and non-human, is indivisibly One. The Society imposes no belief on its members, who are united by a common search for Truth and desire to learn the meaning and purpose of existence by engaging themselves in study, reflection, purity of life and loving service.

While my stuff has sold and been shortlisted internationally, I have never actually won an award (other than encouragement awards and special mentions) outside of Australia.

I'm very pleased about this particular win for two reasons:
  1. After making films since I was but a wee child, I can finally replace "has sold and screend his short films internationally" with "international award-winning director" on my CV - without resorting to semantic sleight.
  2. If the Theosophy Society is anything to go by, then Chennai sounds like my kind of city.
As the world is becoming more and more fundamentalist in nature, I find myself sliding from Atheist to Agnostic. I think our spiritual bent is ultimately the difference between hopelessness and hopefulness. It has to do with my survival and the way I see myself continuing on into my 40s (I turn 40 in December). I could get grumpier (like most pessimistic atheists) or I could become more hopeful (as an Agnostic).

The way I see it is that we're all completely and utterly condemned to nuclear inferno - especially with a whole bunch idiots in charge of Australia and the US presently.

I don't want to feel this way. It affects everything I do. So I'm trying to find god (my definition of it) in a whole bunch of reading and scientific literature. To this end, I've just ordered Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion - which I can't wait to read.

Tomorrow, I will be replacing the 16mm short film, Bertolt with the flash animated ABC short, Indy Nile Investigates which I wrote for my buddy Roberto Palmonari.

Then on Thursday, Phil Jeng Kane and I will interview Gordy Hoffman - director of the world's largest growing screenplay competition, The Bluecat Screenplay Competition for our podcast. Gordy wrote the feature film, Love Liza, starring his brother Philip Seymour Hoffman and since then he has tried his hand at directing a digital feature of his own.

So it looks like 2007 is about to go off with a bang.

New Years' resolutions: stop biting nails, become lean, make films. What are yours?