Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

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.

Cool Tool: Gage-It

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

While at Home Depot the other day I ran across a nifty little all-in-one measurement tool called Gage-It. It allows you to measure screws and bolts; nuts; steel, brass & PVC pipe; wire size; and nails. It also has a couple of rulers (metric and standard) and a conversions table for weights and measurements. I feel like I’m always going to the hardware store trying to find a screw that’s the right size for this or that thing around my house, plus it seemed like a useful thing to have with you on a film set, so I picked one up. The thing cost something like $1.99.

Gage-It

I can’t even seem to find the manufacturer (“Armour Technologies, Inc.”) online, much less the item itself. The only other mention I could find was at Toolmonger, from whom I grabbed the pic above. But if you’re looking for one, try Home Depot. I ran across mine in the screws/nails aisle.

Finally, as an aside, writing this post made me realize that I’ve become so conditioned to finding products on the internet (and the internet has become so synonymous with shopping) that, when I run across something that can’t be found for sale anywhere online, it seems… well, it seems weird. And by “weird” I mean conspiratorially weird, even creepy. It’s like the thing doesn’t exist, even though I have one right in my hands. Am I alone on this one?

Spilled guts: DIY gore

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

Generally, I’m of the opinion that most movies could use less gore. I’m not a snob that dislikes horror movies; I simply think the power of suggestion is stronger than the power of spectacle.

Still, there are times that filmmakers have just gotta “go gross” to do a story justice. (Exhibits A through C: David Cronenberg, Paul Verhoeven, and George A. Romero.)

So, without further ado, here are the latest installments in my continuing effort to present crafty DIY resources.


Blood!

Lacerations!

Entire bodies!

Lost in Light Launches

Friday, January 5th, 2007

Jennifer Proctor and Aaron Valdez’s Lost in Light project website has officially launched. If you missed my post about it in October, the project is “devoted to preserving, archiving, and making available 8mm and Super 8 films that are otherwise being lost to time.”

Now that the project has begun, Jennifer and Aaron are ready to start accepting Super 8 and 8mm films for free transfer to video and inclusion on their videoblog. They are also accepting creative works made in Super 8 and 8mm for posting to the site.

Click here to find out more about having your Super-8 and “regular” 8mm movies transferred to video for free. The transfers they’re offering are flickerless, and they look good. Check out their first post to see a sample.

If you’re interested in submitting creative work, click here.

Lost in Light

Friday, October 27th, 2006

A few weeks ago, in an effort to show my students some of the more interesting film and video work being created for the web I discovered Have Money Will Vlog. It’s an ingenious site that helps media artists raise funds to produce their web-distributed videos and films. The project budgets are in the $2000 – $3000 range, and the donations are usually small — $10, $20, and so on. Of course, that money adds up when you consider all the people online.

You get what you pay for, too. The work you’ll find on HMWV is about, oh, a zillion times better than anything you’ll see on YouTube or Google Video. (Unless, of course, you have some predilection for watching pre-teens doing karaoke in front of their webcams.)

Anyway, if you’ve not yet run across Have Money Will Vlog, now is a particularly good time to check out the site (and to dig in your pocket for some loose change) because funds are currently being raised for a project by Jennifer Proctor and Aaron Valdez, two Iowa City filmmakers. The project is called Lost in Light and, in Jennifer’s words (via email) the project is “devoted to preserving, archiving, and making available 8mm and Super 8 films that are otherwise being lost to time.”

In fact, as they state on the Lost in Light websites (HMWV site, official site), “we will provide free Super 8 and 8mm to video transfers to anyone who asks, in exchange for posting their video to the Lost in Light site and on the Internet Archive with their choice of Creative Commons licenses. In addition, Lost in Light will include articles and features by members of the filmmaking and film preservation communities, video tutorials for making 8mm films, as well as creative work, all with the goal of preserving and championing this important film format.”

So, send them your Super-8 and 8mm films. And send them some $ while you’re at it.