Archive for the ‘Misc.’ Category

Open Thread: Superstitions

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

I’m back from Knoxville, where I just spent the last month prepping and then shooting a new project. I’m way too close to things to say much about it — what it is, how it went, and so on — right now. As it gets closer to completion I will talk more about it, no doubt.

Aside from not having any distance on the thing, the fact is that I’m just generally reluctant to talk about works-in-progress. This probably seems like an odd trait for a “film blogger” to have. If so, hey, guilty as charged. That fact remains that the only thing I like less than talking about a film I’ve just shot (but not edited) is a film I’m in the process of writing. I don’t have a problem talking about the project with collaborators — that would be counter-productive (and very frustrating for others, I’m sure). Mainly, it’s just a reluctance for me to attempt to define a creative project for others before it has defined itself to me.

The reluctance is also based in superstition. It seems like every time I say something semi-definitively about a film I’m making (especially during production) I’m eating my words within minutes. (A recent example: “I’m glad we’ve now decided which camera we’re renting and we can move onto other things!”)

On the flip side, I have certain rituals that I need to do before writing a project. And there are lucky objects: a brand of pens, old t-shirts, baseball caps.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of artists (filmmakers, writers, choreographers, etc.) that I’ve known are superstitious people — practically as superstitious as baseball players. The cinematographer of a couple of films I made always wore the same t-shirt on the first day of filming. It was a promotional film from a successfuly 90s indie comedy (which shall remain nameless). He loathed the film, actually, but he wore the t-shirt because he figured it would remind him that no matter what, we could make something better.

But enough about me. What about you? Drop a comment if you have superstitions when writing, prepping, filming, or finishing a project — or if you know a good story about someone that does.

We Now Resume Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

This is, I think, the longest delay between posts at Self-Reliant Film. Between the events at Virgina Tech and the preparation for a project of mine, well, what can I say? My attention has been elsewhere. Anyway, it’s good to get back to the blog. Thanks, again, to all of you that privately emailed or publicly commented with words of support.

On an unrelated(?) note, I just remembered that today marks the 15th anniversary of the “premiere” of my first film, a film called “Pure”, which I made with a Super-8 film camera graciously loaned by Chris Cagle. The film screened for about twenty people in the living room of my friend Wade Guyton, who lived in the house next door to Chris.

I remember that the evening ended with various people singing along to the Xanadu soundtrack. Yesterday, my friend Alan sent me a link to this. Plus ça change, plus c’est la méme chose.

Tragedy at Virginia Tech: What You Can Do, How You Can Help

Saturday, April 21st, 2007

A number of you have emailed me privately to ask how, if at all, you can be of help regarding the tragic events of the past week. Thanks for asking.

Here are some ideas:

* If you are as concerned and offended as I am about decision of the various news outlets to share the killer’s self-taped images and/or manifesto, let them know your thoughts about it.

* If you have no connection whatsoever to the events of the past week I request that you pause, for at least 24 hours, reading any news stories on the event, especially from news outlets that have featured the killer’s vanity kit. Instead, use that time — even if it’s 5 minutes — to do something positive in the world.

* If you feel compelled to read the news, I encourage you to visit The Roanoke Times, whose in-depth and respectful coverage has been a source of pride for many of us in the area.

* If you are able to do so, I encourage you to donate to one of the many memorial funds set up to honor the victims.

* Finally, if you are a film professional, in the coming weeks I will be looking for internships and summer work for my 26 filmmaking students. It’s vital, to me, to help them find meaningful summer activity, which will move them forward in their career goals and get their minds off of the terrible recent events.

Please contact me directly if you can offer an internship or, even better, paid summer work: pharrill AT selfreliantfilm DOT com

Last Word on the Subject

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Last night, I was disgusted that the various media outlets were giving airtime, ink, and webspace to the videotape and writings of the person behind the massacre here at Virginia Tech.

Amidst the images I saw on the New York Times website, one that stuck out as odd — an image of the young man brandishing a hammer. To me, the image called to mind a still from a movie — at first, I thought, something from a Gasper Noe film. Then, later, I remembered it was the revenge movie, OldBoy.

For others, the image might have suggested something else, but I am a filmmaker and I suppose I am inclined to make comparisons between images of cinematic texts, if one can use such coolly academic terminology for a killer’s self-taped imagery. Both images feature people looking into a camera’s eye brandishing a hammer and, importantly for me, both images are “revenge texts.” The fact that both images are of Asian males was largely inconsequential to me; if either person had been of a difference race, nationality, etc. I would have, I feel, made the same connection. As I said, at first I thought the image came from a French film.

Certainly, I thought, some readers and viewers would be perplexed by such an image, and I wanted to suggest a possible reference. Mainly, though, I wanted to use this opportunity of having the Times’ attention to tell them how I would prefer that they did not show such images in the first place. This message was included in my email to them though, perhaps not surprisingly, they chose not to acknowledge that comment. I believe that giving airtime to a killer’s ramblings does a disservice to those of us here in Blacksburg who are deeply, actively grieving; I also believe that it likely gives the killer the attention he so desperately desired. For me, sharing these images publicly goes beyond pornography.

How misguided and naive can a person be, particularly in light of the comments in my last post? I should have said nothing, done nothing, and ignored it all. I made the mistake of attempting to make sense of the nonsensical, assuming that my comment could be a simple footnote to a single still image, and above all, presuming that a person can have any control over any comment he feeds to the Media Machine.

This morning I awoke to several emails and blog comments accusing me of everything from racism against South Koreans to blaming cinema for the carnage on Monday. And all day I have been courted by several major media outlets salivating for an interview with me, as if I could somehow explain the events of Monday to them by way of a movie. How sad. How absurd. The answer to all of these individuals has been “No.”

Let me be clear: My comparison of these two images was not meant to suggest in ANY way that movies, any movie, “made him do it.” Likewise, my comparison of these two images is IN NO WAY an attempt to make ANY generalizations based on racial, nationalistic, or any other sorts of lines.

The fact that the comparison of these two images has been co-opted in various ways is extraordinarily painful to me, particularly the accusations of racism. Anyone who knows me knows that this truly, truly breaks my heart. As if it weren’t already broken.

To everyone outside of Blacksburg, the events of the past few days are a circus, an opportunity to use others’ tragedy for their own ends. It is not a circus for me. There is only the event, the profound sadness of its aftermath, and the utter confusion about what has happened.

I am mourning the loss of my colleagues, friends, family, and students. Here in Blacksburg we are all grieving. Deeply. The headline writers for many news outlets have determined that today “The Healing Begins.” It has not.

If what was intended to be my tiny footnote on a minor point has stirred up passions in you, I truly regret that. If you have taken my comment to be implicitly or explicitly racist, I hope you can believe me when I write with utter sincerity that this was never the intention.

And if you are with the media, do not bother contacting me. I have learned my lesson.

Finally, to reiterate: My point in all of this, however misguided the effort, was to initiate a conversation about what Jill Godmilow calls “the pornography of the real” — in this case, news outlets using a mass murderer’s fantasies as sick spectacle and — let us never forget — as a source of revenue.

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007