Archive for the ‘Distribution & Screenings’ Category

SXSW

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

I’ll be speaking on the Blogging About Film panel at South by Southwest on Tuesday, March 13th at 11:30 am.

The other panelists are:

Agnes Varnum
Mark Rabinowitz
Lance Weiler
Joel Heller

Leading up this fine group of folks is Alison Willmore of the IFC Blog.

Review: 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Call Box’s 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100 is a new instructional DVD that features Noah Kadner, one of the early adopters of the DVX100, talking about different workflows and best practices when using those two eponymous (and ubiquitous) tools of independent filmmaking.

The DVD runs 90 minutes, and it’s divided into several small episodes in which Kadner discusses lots of basics (e.g., what’s a slate and how to use it, recommended tape stock) and some intermediate techniques (e.g., why and how to use CinemaTools, exporting projects for Color Correction at a post house, etc.). While some of the topics that Kadner covers seem pretty basic for anyone familiar with the DVXUser.com discussion boards, my suspicion is that this DVD grew out issues that Kadner has seen over and over in his consulting gigs. Sometimes the biggest problems that consultants solve stem from very simple things that were overlooked at the beginning of a project.

The video is well-shot on a bare-bones set, which puts the focus on Kadner, who is an engaging teacher. The DVD presentation is professional; it can be watched in one sitting, or chapter-by-chapter, which is useful if there’s one topic you particularly want to revisit. I do wish that it was a DVD-Rom, perhaps to include some quicktime files to practice with, but I suppose Kadner assumes we wouldn’t be watching if we didn’t already have these tools ourselves.

Do note that this DVD focuses almost entirely on circumventing workflow problems using the DVX100 and FCP. This is NOT a “how-to-edit” in Final Cut Pro DVD, nor is it a manual on how to get the most of the DVX100’s sophisticated imaging settings. (For an instructional guide on how to use FCP, I recommend Larry Jordan’s Final Cur Pro 5 Essential Editing, Beyond the Basics, and Essential Effects DVDs. For a guide on making the most of the DVX100’s image options, check out Barry Green’s The DVX Book, which sometimes ships with new DVX100s.)

If you’ve shot and completed a few projects without any hitches using 24pAdvanced footage, 24P Digital Post Production with Final Cut Pro and the DVX100 probably isn’t for you. But beginning to intermediate users venturing into 24p production would do well to spend 90 minutes with this disc before racing into production. Some might hesitate at the $75 pricetag but, as Kadner points out on the DVD, he gets paid $75 an hour to solve other filmmakers’ problems. I guess you could think of this as preventive medicine (at 2/3 of the cost).

More information can be found at Call Box.

A Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking at William & Mary: Pt. 2

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Saturday morning at William & Mary began with Troy Davis giving Ashley and me a tour around the William & Mary’s Swem Library Media Center. The Director of the Media Center, Troy was my host for the weekend and one of the primary organizers of the Media Center’s Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking.

The Media Center is several things in one — an equipment training center, an equipment check-out center, a recording studio for music and podcasts. It’s anything and everything that students want and Troy makes himself, and his assistants, available to students to teach them anything from iMovie to Logic Pro.

Troy has been the Director of the Media Center for a year and a half, and it’s impressive what he’s accomplished. On a technical level, he’s helped secure some superb editing facilities (several Mac tower stations with Final Cut, Logic Pro, and the rest of the works, each in its own sound controlled environment). For a guy who describes himself as a “dabbler” when it comes to film, I was impressed with all the smart technology purchases he has been making, not to mention his ability to talk in depth about the subtle differences between various pieces of equipment they own.

Since there are, no doubt, places like this at universities across the country, the biggest accomplishment isn’t the equipment and stations he’s amassed — it’s the sense of community generates out from this media hub. A lot of that, no doubt, is due to Troy’s vision for the Media Center as a place that is accessible and inviting (as opposed to exclusive and intimidating). The Media Center, in fact, is littered with Troy’s self-desribed “propaganda” — humorous, well-designed posters — that invite students into the space and use the equipment.

After the tour, Troy and I recorded a podcast that covered making and teaching film. He had thought a lot about my work and had some great questions, which is really flattering. (The podcast will be posted at some point on Media Center site. I’ll link to it when it’s available.)

The podcast led into a “self-reliant filmmaking” workshop that I conducted with some of William & Mary’s film students and faculty.

I began by discussing the work I do on this blog, including my reasons for starting it, and how it’s transformed my own film practice. I then opened things up for discussion, which led to a wide-ranging conversation that covered everything from what video camera to purchase to some simple strategies for first-time documentarians. Ashley threw in some good advice during the conversation, to boot; I was happy she had joined me.

Our workshop group talked for nearly two hours, so Ashley and I had a quick break for lunch before I ran off to a screening of some of my own short films at the historic Kimball Theatre. The films looked good in this classy venue, I was happy with the turnout, and the questions the audience asked were, again, really good. (I even received some email from audience members after the screening thanking me for sharing my work.) There was a little reception in the theater lobby afterwards, and I enjoyed talking with some of the William & Mary faculty members that had come to the screening. That conversation led to a coffeehouse where Sharon Zuber, who teaches W&M’s production courses, and I compared notes about how to teach film production.

We closed out the day by stopping by the premiere of the Cans Film Festival (pun intended), a student-organized screening of films produced at a variety of Virginia universities. (There weren’t any entries from Virginia Tech — maybe next year?) Ashley and I weren’t able to stay for long — I was beat and we had a long drive back in the morning. We did manage to catch one zombie flick before we left.

Before we left on Sunday morning, Troy treated us to breakfast at one of Williamsburg’s many pancake houses. Ashley and I had seen a number of pancake houses on our drive in, and I suppose they reflect the fact that Williamsburg is a haven for retirees and a magnet for tourists (motto: “Where History Lives”). The three of us had one last movie-saturated conversation, and Troy told us about his next dream for the Media Center — restoring an unused auditorium in the William & Mary library and making into a screening facility/microcinema.

As we drove out of town, past a few more pancake houses, I thought about a place like Wiliamsburg. Even with the occasional major production (like Malick’s The New World) coming to town, it would still be surprising to see Williamsburg develop into the next Austin. Williamsburg’s a town of 12,000 people, and a lot of the people are transient (whether they’re tourists, college students, or retirees). That’s a tough place to build a film culture. Of course these things don’t only apply to Williamsburg. If this sounds like your town, too, well, so be it. It sounds like mine.

The thing is, something is happening in Williamsburg. Things like the Kimball Theatre, and the William & Mary Media Center are part of the puzzle. The “corner pieces” of that puzzle, though, are a dedicated group of people with vision, passion, and resourcefulness. That’s the real lifeblood of regional filmmaking and film culture. Some places don’t have this, or have enough of it. Luckily, for Williamsburg, it has Troy Davis, Sharon Zuber, Arthur Knight (coordinator of Film Studies at W&M), and a host of student filmmakers. Something tells me that their numbers will only continue to grow.

A Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking at William & Mary: Pt. 1

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

The College of William & Mary brought me to Williamsburg, Virginia this weekend to participate in a “long weekend of short filmmaking.” It’s been a busy, and rewarding, weekend.

Friday, after arriving to town, I was a judge at 24Speed, William & Mary’s variation on those twenty-four hour filmmaking contests that have grown in popularity throughout the country.

In this case, eight teams of six filmmakers each were provided the same line of dialogue (a line from one of last year’s videos: “I’m not taking you out, I’m taking you down”) and a 1920s yearbook from the college’s archives, which they had to use as a prop. After a drawing in which they received two film genres at random each team had to choose one genre in which to work. They then had 24 hours to produce a three-to-five minute video.

By the time of the screening the place was packed. Each of the eight videos had their charms and their share of cleverness. Of course, all of them had their rough spots, too — what video produced in 24 hours wouldn’t? It’s funny, though, how those “rough spots” (some out of sync dialogue, say, or let’s-roll-with-the-first-and-only-take-performances) become charming in and of themselves when you consider the context of how quickly these things were produced.

After watching all the videos, the two other judges and I had a healthy debate about the merits of the eight videos. Every video, to its credit, managed to produce at least a handful of laughs, jolts, or cringes.

Speaking only for myself, as a judge I was looking for videos that had adequate craft, for starters. Beyond that, though, I wasn’t necessarily looking for the best shot or best edited video. I was looking for videos that gave me a fresh take on the genre instead of merely rehashing it. That might sound like a tall order, but there were more than a couple that did this.

Ultimately, after forty-five minutes, the other two judges and I had settled on the prize winners. The winner was a mockumentary that used consistently smart deep-focus cinematography to execute its jokes with a lot of subtlety; an honorable mention was awarded to some ambitious students that came this close to nailing their chosen genre, the musical. That’s right, in 24 hours they wrote, scored, shot and edited a musical. It was rough around the edges, sure, but it definitely had me eager to see what these guys could accomplish in 48 hours, and that’s worth something.

***

That night, after the screening was over, I realized that I had experienced a change of heart about competitions like 24Speed. In the past, to be perfectly frank, I’ve had some reservations about the benefits of such competitions. I guess I feared that the 24 hour time constraint reinforced bad habits (mainly, thinking that making a film is something you can rush through) and emphasized competition over collaboration. I see, now, that I’ve been wrong.

First, the competitive nature (at least at this one) was entirely overshadowed by the fun everyone was having. That was great to see. Competition can push people to do better work, even (especially?) with art. You just can’t take it too seriously.

Secondly, and even more importantly, I see now that what these competitions can do is remind us that there are times when it’s better to make something as quickly as possible just to do it.

More than anything else, watching these videos (and meeting the students that produced them so quickly) I was reminded of the collaborations I have undertaken in the past with friends on videos for Termite TV. To an outsider, such projects might seem “insignificant,” but I always learned something by making them, even if the final product sometimes ended up being kinda rough.

This afternoon, browsing Termite TV’s website, I ran across a quote from Manny Farber‘s “White Elephant Art vs Termite Art” essay, which reads as a kind of found poem for what I saw at 24Speed:

a peculiar fact about termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art
is that it moves always forward,
eating its own boundaries, and
likely as not, leaves nothing in its path
but evidence of eager, industrious, unkempt activities

***

Part 2 of W&M’s Long Weekend of Short Filmmaking coming soon…

ADDENDUM:All of the entries for the contest are now online for viewing by the general public.

Software Update: Final Cut Pro 5.1.4

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Apple has just released an update to Final Cut Pro 5.1.3 a full seven days after that version’s release. I had some odd issues with 5.1.3, so it’s not surprising. Read my post regarding 5.1.3 for my general cautions about upgrading FCP. This Apple document has details on the update.