Archive for the ‘Production’ Category

James Longley: SRF Interview

Monday, December 4th, 2006

‘You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,’ he told the president. ‘You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.’ Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.

— from Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward

While the title of James Longley’s mesmerizing new documentary, Iraq in Fragments, literally conjures images of the now-infamous “Pottery Barn rule”, the connection runs much deeper than the title. Like Colin Powell’s admonition to the president, James Longley’s film actually considers the situation of the Iraqis. I say “actually” because, though it may seem like an obvious consideration, Iraq in Fragments is, to the best of my knowledge, the only American documentary about Iraq — and this year has seen several of those — that focuses solely on the citizens of that fractured nation

Divided into three discrete segments (hence the title’s double-meaning), Iraq in Fragments first follows a fatherless 11 year old working in a Baghdad garage. The second section chronicles the growth of the militant followers of Muqtada al-Sadr. The film closes with a portrait of a family of Kurdish farmers. It’s an illuminating approach, one that prevents it or us from making generalizations about how Iraq’s citizens, have, and haven’t, been transformed by the war. I imagine it will also help American audiences understand, at least a little, how American forces are viewed — as occupiers by some, as liberators by others. Certainly, the time Longley spent with his subjects (well over a year, and 300+ hours shot) helps provide a perspective that’s been absent from what we see on the nightly news.

While Iraq in Fragments would be noteworthy for its content, the film also happens to feature striking cinema verite cinematography and edgy editing, which gives the film a quality that is more poetry than prose. The style creates an impressionistic sketch of what it might feel like to be in Iraq, without (in my opinion) grossly aestheticizing the pain, rage, and hope he finds there.

The combination of style and substance has been met with critical praise. At Sundance, where it premiered, Longley took home honors for directing, editing, and cinematography — a first for a single film. Since then its laurels include Best Documentary awards at major film festivals (Full Frame, Thessaloniki, and Chicago, among others), as well as a Gotham Award.

That Longley did most of the work (e.g., cinematography, editing, music, etc) single-handedly will make the film’s achievement that much more impressive for some. Longley, though, suggests that working this way was precisely how he was able to achieve things.

We emailed back and forth last week, soon after Iraq in Fragments was short-listed for the Best Documentary Oscar.


A Swarm of Angels

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006

Matt over at FresHDV had an interesting post the other day about A Swarm of Angels, which is a self-described attempt to create “cult cinema for the Internet era.”

On one level, this isn’t that different than what I wrote about in my last post: Filmmakers using the internet to raise funds for a project that harnesses the collaborative nature and spirit of the internet. Still, some key differences make me skeptical about its potential for success, at least compared with a project like Lost in Light on Have Money Will Vlog:

First, instead of trying to raise $1500, they’re trying to raise a little over half a million dollars. I have no doubt that it is possible to raise that kind of money over the internet, but this project is essentially asking people to pay about $18 to participate. Maybe that’s reasonable? Personally, I would rather give money to a more personal project like Lost in Light

Secondly, the project is trying to enlist 1000 people to help create it. Again, I think you can find this many people to collaborate on a project. Firefox, Wikipedia… these are great examples of internet, open-source collaboration. But are 1000 heads better than one (or even 20) when it comes to feature filmmaking? Snakes on a Plane, as one previous example, isn’t exactly Exhibit A for the so-called “wisdom of crowds.”

Reservations aside, I’ll be interested to see the project evolve and I wish the best of luck to the participants. All one thousand of you.

Storyboard Template

Sunday, October 22nd, 2006

While testing a trial version Apple’s Pages application I ran across a storyboard template. Pretty cool.

I modified the original file a little and made a couple of templates that I like. Enjoy:

1.78:1 Storyboard Template

1.33:1 Storyboard Template

Here’s more info on aspect ratios, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Super-8 Labs and Stocks

Monday, September 11th, 2006

Following up on a few of the small-format posts I made in August, OnSuper8 has recently compiled two useful PDF’s: One files lists labs around the world that process Super-8; the other file lists all of the stocks available. I was surprised at how many stocks are available these days! You can find the files HERE.

Hello, Dolly

Saturday, August 5th, 2006

Yeah, yeah, even I groaned at the title to this post. But hey, it’s no worse than the title of the article I’m linking to, is it? Studio Daily’s, ahem, “Roll With It” article covers all the means of moving your camera that were announced at NAB this year. If you can move past the puns (sorry, another one!) you’ll find some interesting stuff.

From what I can tell by the photos, my favorite is the Scooter Shooter. It’s an equipment cart that doubles as a dolly once you’ve unloaded it. Great for small crew shoots. The $2600 price tag seems a little much, but it’s about $2000 less than what a Matthews doorway dolly willl set you back. The concept is a 10, though, and I’m sure enterprising DIYers out there could build this thing for about $200. If you do, let me know and I’ll post (or link to) your findings.

In the meantime, if you want to move your camera like Murnau or Resnais, check out the dollies.

[Via DV Guru]