Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lazy Summer Day

Yesterday was a very busy day. I did all the laundry in the house, cooked a big dinner, cleaned, took a long hot walk, and a wrote a long post. Very draining. So today we are takin' it easy. I think we'll take our walk later in the day when the heat index hopefully drops a little bit.

Meanwhile, I'll enjoy watching my daughter dance to her favorite songs: this and this. Very different. Hope you can have a lazy summer day this week as well.

By the way is there any way to make Basil stop flowering (as in the second picture)? Is it ok if it flowers? And why do squirrels like to dig up basil? Any ideas?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday Film Class: It's Complicated

Alright so this is more like a year in review post and won't necessarily include films you have to add to your must watch list, though I would recommend it. Last year was a really good year for women filmmakers not even including the obvious. Almost all of the top women film directors released a film: Kathryn Bigelow (Hurt Locker), Jane Campion (Bright Star), Nora Ephron (Julie and Julia), Mira Nair (Amelia), and Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated). Even though there are more and more women directors cropping up these five have been around for awhile and are trailblazers. It's almost overwhelming that they all had films come out last year.
Kathryn Bigelow {Source}
Jane Campion {source}

This weekend I finally watched It's Complicated, and now the only one I haven't seen is Amelia. I'm dragging my feet because I am not a huge Hilary Swank fan something about her really rubs me the wrong way for some reason and more than likely she will be in every scene of the film.

My favorite of all the films is, hands down, Bright Star, it is a beautiful and breathtaking film. It even has Paul Schneider in it who is one of my favorite actors and is also from Asheville, NC, where my husband grew up. It is shocking to me that both Campion and Bigelow were not nominated for best director at the Oscars last year, they both deserved the nominations. I guess film's biggest night is not quite ready enough to give up two seats to women behind the camera. While I can appreciate Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow tends toward films that are a little too intense for me. I also really like a film with a female lead particularly a female who bucks tradition.
 Nancy Meyers {Source}
Thus, bringing me to It's Complicated, which I finally watched this weekend. Since the arrival of the little baby girl into our lives we are not able to make it to the movies as often as we used to go. We're starting to get better about this arranging for a babysitter thing (i.e. my sister or my grandmother), but we're still a little limited. Thank goodness for Netflix. Nothing really substitutes for watching in a theater with the film projected on film (with digital projection I might as well stay at home). Yet, Netflix is a good, yet, distant second. For some reason I don't seem to want to talk about the movie...

Perhaps, because I didn't love it, and I really wanted to love it. My husband really wanted to love it as well, no luck there either. To begin with it felt too long. All the pieces were there they just needed to be rearranged. Meryl Streep was wonderful, but really, when is she not? Notice that she was in two of the above mentioned films, hmmm. Though the scenes with all "the girlfriends" did not ring true to me; they just laughed a lot and were giddy or something. Those scenes were really hard for me to watch. I think that Streep could have done more with the character she was a little one dimensional. She is used to being perfect and gets stomped on and then she breaks the rules and does the stomping. Streep could easily handle more complexity in a character so go ahead and give it to her. There was not enough of Steve Martin he wasn't allowed to really shine. His character was too perfect, too easy. He should have come up earlier it let's Streep off the hook because she ends it with Baldwin before she really starts dating him. The characters need to be allowed to have flaws (besides Baldwin, though somehow his flaw seems not to be a flaw because he is eschewing his young skinny wife for the older ex wife, how noble of him).

Actually, Meyers' last film The Holiday was a little long to me as well, but had a lot of heart and some really wonderful moments.  Some fell flat like Cameron Diaz crying at the end, a little over the top if you ask me. I love when Kate Winslet experiences the Santa Ana winds I almost feel them myself every time I watch the film.

Of course, there is always the chance that my expectations were to high and when I see it again with low expectations I'll appreciate it more. I hate it when I have to say that about a movie with a good movie hopefully expectations wouldn't matter. Though you should still watch it and tell me what you think. Plus, I do love the trailer.

Alright, so next week, Last Year at Marienbad, I promise. Hopefully, I'll be a little more positive. Though, I wasn't all that impressed with the film when I was in undergrad, but now that I've aged a little I thought I'd give it a another go. It just may have been the first French film I ever watched (other than The Red Balloon when I was young).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Visiting Mayberry a.k.a. Mount Airy NC

Last week my husband had the day off and we went for a day trip to Mount Airy. For some reason we thought it was about 45 minutes away, but it ended up being more like an hour and 15 minutes. It was a very nice place, as we walked up to the main street we immediately started hearing this. Most of the stores and restaurants had Mayberry themes. Even though the town is saturated with the Andy Griffith Show it didn't feel commercialized; mom and pop shops playing up the most famous angle of the town.

By the time we got there we were all very hungry, but had a hard time finding food for a vegetarian like me. If I was vegan I think I would have starved. I ended up having a grilled cheese. It was so-so.  After eating we went to the Andy Griffith museum, which was a little bit of a disappointment because it was only one room. They did have one of Matlock's suits, which impressed my husband because he didn't realize Matlock wore seersucker. We had been wanting to visit Mt. Airy for a long time because we constantly meet or hear of people that are from there. Also my mom is country singer and Mt. Airy native Donna Fargo's editor and we wanted to see her museum display, unfortunately we went to the wrong place. Once we figured out where we needed to go it was too late and we were ready to go home. Even though it was a nice visit we probably won't go back. Unless, of course, they get a good vegetarian restaurant.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Flip'n Friday: Rain

Wednesday was the hottest day of the year so far. I have not heard yet if we beat that yesterday, but I know it gave the record a run for its money. Who knows what we are in for today. I'm sure we're all wishing it could rain like this again. Working on this film has me thinking about my beginning filmmaking class, which focused entirely on experimental filmmaking before I really had any inkling of what experimental meant or had been introduced to the avant garde cinema. More on that later. For today I hope you enjoy this installment of Flip'n Friday. I am still going strong with the Flip Camera. The music in this piece is by Moby and I was given permission to use it by mobygratis.com.

Rain from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Post Script

Dear Blog Reader,

Recently I have been thinking about how to tell friends and family that I don't speak to on a regular basis about my blog. I'm not the kind of person that can send out those mass emails telling everyone what I've been doing. So, I've been attaching a p.s. to many emails. In a "by the way check out my blog" type manner. That's more my style.

It has gotten me thinking about p.s. and if it will slowly be used less and less. Perhaps, I will have to explain to my daughter, "well back in the day when we hand wrote letters..." When I was young I thought that the p.s. was fairly ubiquitous and I always included it when I wrote a letter regardless of whether or not I had forgotten to include something or not. I planned out the p.s. In junior high school (yes, I'm of the age I went to junior high instead of middle school) we used to pass notes throughout the school day (do students still do that? Is note passing a lost art?). A good friend of mine, Christie, had German class (I think) during an early morning period and my French class was in the same room in the afternoon, or vice-versa; this was a long time ago. We would leave notes for each other in the cardboard cut out of the Eiffel Tower. Christie would often write hilarious stories in her notes. Somewhere at my parents house I have a box of these intricately folded notes because you would always have to fold them in some origami type fashion. Who knows what I wrote, but I always had a p.s. and sometimes I went farther with a p.p.s or even a p.p.p.s.! I loved to line up all the letters and make a right triangle type shape.

p.s. Let's lunch by the tennis courts.
p.p.s. Did you see what Madam wore today? Ugh.
p.p.p.s I think maybe your necklace is not a snowflake.

The thing is with computers there really is no need for the p.s., if you forget something you can just insert it into your text and no one is the wiser. Back in the day (how'd I get this old?) you would have to start your note all over again if it weren't for the p.s. So I wonder does it still get used? Will it fade away? Be neglected and discontinued like Kodachrome? As I was adding my p.s. to my emails it felt odd like I could find a place in the body of the email. But I didn't want to, I think I miss the p.s.


p.s. Don't you hate it when you use parenthesis properly and they look like emoticons? I do.
p.p.s. Why did jr. high schools get changed to middle schools anyway?
p.p.p.s. This is pretty fun, huh?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Thoughts on Summer

This weekend we had to cut our time outside short because it was so unbearably hot. It seems as though summer started about two weeks ago instead of just yesterday. On Sunday they had a summer solstice celebration in the afternoon at the arboretum. We usually love going there and all of the above pictures were taken during walks at the arboretum, but it was way to hot to join in the celebration, for us at least. My husband remembered the event from last year and said there would be fairies running all around since I didn't believe him we did a drive by to see the fairies and check out the festivities (on the off chance it was worth leaving the air conditioning). It just looked hot to us. There was no shade and I saw no fairies. Later that night the local news confirmed the fairies, but with no good footage so I am still slightly skeptical. I think it was too hot for fairies as well.

Lately, may days are starting to follow a routine. It relies a lot on my daughter keeping her nap schedule, but for the most part I have been able to write and/or edit video in the mornings and late afternoons. She is currently napping though I am hearing some noise on the monitor so we will see how long this lasts. This week I am a little nervous because one of my students is waiting to hear back from graduate school. She and I have been working together a lot this summer to make her application really stand out. This weekend she had a phone interview and it sounded like it went really well and now we are just waiting on pins and needles. Hopefully, she will hear this week. If she doesn't get in to this school at least we have finished all her materials and she can apply to others. She is a very talented student and I believe whichever school she decides to attend will be lucky to have her. It is amazing how invested you get in your students and how proud you are of them as they venture out into the world. Ironically, I have another student who just finished her first year of graduate school and sent me her first year film project and it is strikingly similar to my first graduate film (sort of the first film, but that's a whole other post). She has never seen my film, which makes the parallel that much more striking. I know that I am not as proud of them as their parents are, but I consider myself to be next in line!

My daughter will be waking soon and wanting me to read the same book over and over again to her and I'm hoping to unload the dishwasher before she rises. So I am off. Hopefully, it will cool down enough today to take a late afternoon walk.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Monday Film Class: What Remains

To truly be a great filmmaker or even a decent one I believe you really need to know other filmmakers particularly, but not limited to, those that came before you. To amend that perhaps to be an artist you need to study the world that exists beyond you. There are filmmakers that can pick up a book, learn the rules and make a decent film, but those are rarely artists. Now, seeing as this is my mantra, I have been a very bad artist/filmmaker because I am not watching enough films. Yes, Last Year at Marienbad is still in the Netflix sleeve sitting in the same spot. To be fair I did watch another film (it was even French), but I didn't really like it and (gasp) couldn't finish it. I would have forced myself, but my husband wants some new Netflix and we sent it back.

So this Monday I'm not quite sure what to write about, but all week I have been thinking about the documentary What Remains. Now, Courtney and Tashia the students who inspired me to hold this somewhat abbreviated unfocused psuedo-class have already seen this film, but I think they may need to be reminded of its brilliance.

What Remains has been on my mind because of the documentary proposal I am currently writing. More often than not it seems viewers (or what at times seems more relevant, festivals) want documentaries to be social issue based. They love when a documentary inspires change and a viewer says, "I watched this documentary and it made me want to go out and change the world." Often social issue documentaries are not always well crafted pieces of filmmaking because just getting the shot is more important than getting a well composed beautiful shot; and rightly so. Also, more often than not the filmmakers are not filmmakers and have not studied the craft in a meaningful way before diving in. But, why do these films have to be the dominant form in the documentary field? Sometimes it feels that all other films are subcategories and that documentaries somehow have to change the world or they are a lesser form.

For the moment let's look at films involving musicians. Not the ones that are looking back at a legend's lifetime of work, but those that document the artist in their prime, often performing. More often than not these are given the subcategory: concert film. To me this implies I am just watching an artist perform a concert usually at just one locale. I have no problem with these, I think they are great and are particularly great to play at parties because the television becomes more than a box in the corner and visitors who need to rest or a break from the action have a place to chill out and still be entertained. My issue with this category is that often any film about a musician (that is not historical) becomes a concert film simply because they often (as is needed) include scenes of an artist performing.

A film that gets placed into this subcategory at times is D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back. I consider this film (and it was presented to me in this manner in film school) to be a cornerstone of cinema verite filmmaking. When I show it to my students it shouldn't matter whether or not they like Dylan, more often than not they don't even know who he is, but that they need to pay attention to the form. The ones who can get passed the "ancient, boring, music" (and even some that don't) take a lot away from the film. Even the students interested in narrative filmmaking will reference this film in their pitches and proposals. So often now Don't Look Back seems to be relegated to a concert film (though there is not a full concert or even the appearance of one) or a music documentary. By categorizing it in this way it seems to be less of a documentary, less important, because it is about music.

Though it seems that I have digressed somewhat let's look at how this all ties back to Sally Mann and What Remains. Sally Mann first rose to prominence with a series of photographs documenting her children when they were young. The children were often naked and this caused a stir. Child pornography is obviously a big social issue and so this documentary, on the surface could be sold as such, as is Sally Mann's work. Mann's art is much more than simply a controversy; it is beautiful, poignant, and thought provoking. What Remains is a documentary about an artist, Mann is a part of every scene, every moment. She has moved away from the portraits of her children, they have grown up.

The documentary is beautifully photographed and thoughtfully edited. It ends where it starts with Mann alone in her studio photographing herself. We look in to her eyes as she stares into the lens of her own camera. This documentary will not make you want to change the world, but it is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It often has a profound effect on the students who view it and always for different reasons. The same goes for me, depending on what I am doing this film will inspire me for different reasons. Now I am thinking about it because the documentary I want to make is also about artists (dancers, specifically ballerinas) and it feels as though no one will be interested in it because it is not in regards to some awful travesty. Nowadays that seems to be what documentary has become. Case in point; What Remains. Before Stephen Cantor, the film's director, made What Remains he made a short documentary about Sally Mann focused entirely on the child pornography accusations. The short film, Blood Ties, was nominated for an Oscar, and What Remains was not. I think What Remains is brilliant, but Blood Ties not so much. It is a very basic documentary with classic interview set-ups, b-roll, and expert opinion. Sally Mann is a little guarded in it, whereas she is very open and honest in the latter film. If you look at the Oscars in general it always seems to be the topic that is nominated and not the film. A very interesting subject holds up a not so interesting or well done film. I think this has its place in the documentary form, but why must it dominate the documentary form? Why must all other documentaries play second fiddle to a social interest.

No offense, but just because some knucklehead lived next door to a serial killer and he happened to pick up a DV camera and shoot a bunch of shaky DV footage, throws in some fairly well shot interviews with experts, gives that to a professional editor (most often the case) or edits it on the cheapest most common video editing software (selling point for the software company) a great film is very rarely made. This is an example of not a film but an amazing story to print in a festival program. This would never fly in the narrative filmmaking world. Alright, alright, my bitter filmmaker side is revealing itself. A little venting is what a blog is for though (just maybe not film class; that's why this is a pseudo film class).

I just wish there was something controversial about ballerinas, other than eating disorders; I need a Gelsey Kirkland. I don't want the controversy to be the film, I just know the controversial will make people watch it.  Any ideas?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cooking Dinner

Now that I am home more often I am trying to cook and bake more. My husband made dinner more often than not while I was teaching and now I'm giving it a go. Mind you I won't be doing all the cooking just significantly more than normal. The issue is not my cooking abilities: I know my way around the kitchen fairly well and can follow a recipe. The issue is my motivation. The first week that I was officially adjusted to being at home, and not still helping students with their post-graduation needs, I planned a full week of meals and cooked often. It was nice. I felt accomplished. This week, I didn't do so hot. My main problem is that I really don't like going to the grocery store. I'd prefer if my kitchen was just always stocked. As I am sure most do.

Anyway, one of our favorite recipes is from Honest Fare: Green Tomato and Corn Tacodillas. They are scrumptious.  The main change that I made to the recipe (though I am sure it is excellent as written) is using roasted tomatillos instead of green tomatoes. All you do is cut the tomatillos in half and place them under the burner until they look like the above picture. I love tomatillos, thus, the substitution. We had them again today, along with some mojitos...

Friday, June 18, 2010

Flip'n Friday: Dorian and Pancake

I finished my film for today early and won't be posting late into the night this Friday. Hopefully, this will happen more often than not as I adjust to shooting and editing every week. This piece showcases my sister, Cassidy's, good friend Dorian. She is confiding to us a short story from her life. I hope to have similar pieces featured every few weeks on Flip'n Friday. I was worried about the sound because the Flip Camera does not have a way to monitor sound. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised and had no major sound problems.

Dorian and Pancake from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Herb Grower

Alright, I'm only actually growing two herbs and the basil looks really pathetic, thus, no pictures. Technically, I have two types of mint: spearmint and chocolate mint. They are doing very well.

My main reason for growing mint is so I can make mojitos and if I was better about brewing iced tea I would put some in that as well. I had mojitos at my bachelorette party at The Mediterranean in Boulder, CO. They use fresh mint and were excellent. I highly recommend visiting if you are ever in the area; you'll have to suffer a long wait, but it is worth it. Previous to my bachelorette party I had maybe had a mojito once or twice, though they were more than likely made with mint syrup or some other faux mint and they were not as impressive.

My good friend, Lindsey, who was in my wedding, and I go to the The Med when ever I visit Boulder and we partake in mojito. The other day I finally (after three years of talking about it) made them myself after watching this cheesy, but informative and regrettably enjoyable video. They were delicious.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

One Long Post

Recently, I have been taking many pictures of flowers. The Greensboro Arboretum is near our house and we like to take walks there. They have an amazing variety of flowers that constantly draw me to them. Though, my husband did take the first photo with the bee. I had two frames left and he saw the bee circling the flower. I told him he could have one frame and he was able to get the shot without using my last frame!

On another note, I was very excited Sunday night when I was up late working on this blog I discovered Lost repeats are on the CW at midnight. Many would roll their eyes at me and say, "Oh, Chelsea just get the DVDs!" I would like to argue for watching television as broadcast and not DVD or DVR or Hulu. Not because I am a luddite, though I am often accused of that because I don't have a cell phone.  I don't have expanded cable so if a show is on a cable station like Party Down (which we have been watching this week) or Mad Men then I have no choice to get the DVD. I'm not going to get cable for a couple of television shows. Plus, a good friend of mine gave me a DVD collection of Law and Order (another fave), but I rarely watch it. While it was a wonderful gift I miss the thrill of discovering that Law and Order is on and trying to remember if I've see the episode or not as I watch.

Here is my argument for broadcast shows; to begin with if a show starts at 8:00 pm then I need to be there at 8:00 to watch it. If I miss it, oh well, my life is not over. Maybe, I'll catch it in repeats over the summer. Commercials give me a chance to get a drink, use the bathroom, check my email and actually having commercials makes the commercial break cliffhangers that much more exciting. This is extremely pertinent when watching Lost. Again, if I miss the first minute or so because I stepped away for too long, it's ok, it's television, I'll still understand what's going on. Or, in the case of Lost, maybe not understand what is going on, but enjoying that which I don't understand and languishing that which I believe I do understand. People argue that broadcast television rules your life because you have to be there at 8:00, while I think that DVDs, DVR, and Hulu control you in a more meaningful manner. With these outlets you have to watch the show in its entirety, if someone calls you pause it, and you have to watch every show that even remotely interests you. If at 8:00 ABC, NBC, and CBS have good shows on, I have to pick one to watch, but others will record all three shows and watch them all! That's crazy to me.

So here is the end of my late night rant. I know that television is changing, but I think it is unfortunate. It makes me think of the changes that happened in the movie theater after television established itself in the 1950s. Before television movie theaters played short films, news reels, and b-films along with the featured film. People could pay their nickel and walk into the theater as they pleased. There wasn't really a starting time. Films had to make sense even if a customer walked into it in the middle. Alfred Hitchcock worked hard to change people's mindset with Psycho in 1960. If viewers missed the beginning they would miss the star, Janet Leigh, so there was an advertising campaign telling the public that they had to, "see it from the beginning."  Theatre workers were told not to let anyone into the movie late. It was an entirely new way of thinking about going to the movies. While I think it is important to watch a film in its entirety I also think it would be nice to just sit in a theatre as long as I want watching shorts, newsreels, and all that jazz. Sort of like when you sit down to veg in front of the television in the middle of the night and realize there is a repeat on of a show you really like.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Film Class: Buster and Charlie, Charlie and Buster

I full intended to re-watch and subsequently discuss Last Year at Marienbad, but unfortunately it is still sitting on the television. This week I haven't watched any movies though I have watched almost the entire second season of Party Down with my husband. Hopefully I will be back on track next weekend.

My recommendations for this week go back to the silent era. By watching silent films you can really learn everything you need to know about filmmaking. All of our visual cinematic language was truly created from about 1895-1927. It's often said, and I agree, that sound stunted the growth of cinema as an art form and if silent films extended their heydays by a decade the visual language of film would be exceedingly strong. Silent films are often even harder for students than foreign films. I can attest to this, when I was in college my film history class was a two semester sequence and the entire first semester was 1895-1927. We watched all the films on silent speed with no musical accompaniment. In reality silent films where not silent at all they always had at least a piano player and at times an orchestra. During the semester I thought it was torturous, but once you become accustomed to viewing silent films they are easier to digest and are very enjoyable.

The best place to start to ease your way into the silents is with the comics. Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin are not only funny, but also superior filmmakers. They are also both extremely different. Buster Keaton does almost unbelievable stunts particularly considering this was before any safety measures. He also uses a lot of trick photography and symmetrical composition. His films are well planned out. Keaton is the master of the deadpan and relies more on the structure of his films than an emotional punch. Often Keaton is challenged by seemingly unbeatable odds; it's not one cop, but hundreds.

Chaplin, on the other hand, packs on emotional wallop. I don't think there is any film made before or after that matches the emotion at the end of The Kid. A while back there was a Bank of America Commercial (or some similar company) that used just the end of the film when Chaplin is racing across the city roofs to rescue his adopted child and I was tearing up. I didn't even have to see little Jackie Coogan. In his work Chaplin relies heavily on his supporting actors and would burn through magazines of film allowing for improvisation. He did not really script out his stories at length. He is most famous for developing the character of the "little tramp." The sweet, lovable, down on his luck clown has become iconic.

Pretty much any film you can pick up directed by one of these masters will be an experience. Be sure that they directed the film and are not simply featured. For Keaton I highly recommend Cops, Sherlock Jr., The General, and Steamboat Bill, Jr. For Chaplin: The Immigrant, The Kid, The Gold Rush, Modern Times and City Lights.  These are not exhaustive lists by any means, but I don't want to overwhelm anyone with silents. In my experience most students are wary of the silents, but Chaplin and Keaton helps to reduce their fears. Often students prefer one or the other and become very defensive of their chosen director. It is always a good class for me when a student who was vehemently opposed to watching silent films at the beginning of the semester sits in class arguing for Buster Keaton's composition and visual impact with another student who prefers the emotion of Chaplin.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Parisian Promenade

Last weekend we attended the Parisian Promenade at the Bicentennial Gardens. It was a very sweet event. French Opera was being sung live and cute booths with food and artwork lined the sidewalks. It really transformed the gardens. I'm not sure how French it was, but the touches were cute. The best part was a balloon woman who was creating balloon objects and animals for the children. My daughter is too young, but I told my husband that next year he'll be standing in that very long balloon line. Not only was he aware of this, he was also very excited about it.

Of course, being summer in North Carolina, it was HOT. There was a misting tent and surprisingly it was not very busy. It was in a very awkward area, which could have contributed to the short line. My daughter was very curious about the mist and went through twice with her Papa and then almost once by herself. All and all it was a very fun family day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Flip'n Friday: With the Wind

This week I was able to do a video shoot with my sister, who has  been featured in my films since she was young. Actresses can bow out, but a sister is in it for the long haul. We can work fairly fast because I can direct her in shorthand. We shot at Guilford Courthouse Battlefield Park where a key battle of the Revolutionary War was fought. When we were there it was very hot and they were laying asphalt, which was noisy and may have even made it even hotter. At one point bicyclists were very curious as to why my sister was wandering the battlefield sulking in a long white dress. I am very happy with the results and it came out as I visioned. It is very pretty and dreamlike; hopefully it will bring calmness to your day.

With the Wind from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I am trying very hard to sit down and write. The ideas are floating around in my head, but I am finding too many distractions to focus. Earlier my daughter was playing outside and kept trying to eat bird poop while I was trying to write my documentary proposal. I always hand-write my work first, which makes it fairly easy to follow her around with a notepad and sit where ever she decides to play. I think I am procrastinating because the proposal is not very fun to write. Pre-production on a documentary is very tedious to me. Unlike a narrative (fiction) film a documentary really comes together when editing, so I am excited for that stage even though it is far, far, away.

Speaking of narratives my other distraction is that I have a fiction script that I want to start writing and am much more excited about. I'm refusing to let myself work on it until the doc proposal is done. There is a very good chance the documentary will get made and not such a good chance for a narrative feature, which is why I need to focus primarily on the doc. You'd think that would light a fire under me, but so far it is not working.

I won't get anything else done today because my sister is coming over in a couple hours so that we can shoot something for a video to post tomorrow. I think this one will be good. I'm very excited and this time there is a real actress and not just my husband!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Bog Garden

Amazingly this garden is in the middle of the city. There is a shopping center right next it, but you would never know. This weekend family was visiting from Atlanta and we took them here for a walk. It's such a beautiful place that it is always a hit. When my father was a little boy he used to catch frogs with his buddies at this lake and he delivered newspapers to the houses near it.

While we were visiting there was a wedding going on. We never found the site of the ceremony, but saw all of the guests and even a bridesmaid walking the paths. There were also rose petals scattered all around and floating in the stream. It was a wonderful time to visit the bog garden. The next day my husband, daughter and I went to the bicentennial gardens right next to the bog garden where they were having a Parisian Promenade. I'll have pictures once I get them to the lab. I love when big cities have places like this to relax.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Monday Film Class

 The thing about leaving a college is that when you leave there are still three years worth of students who know who you are and want you to stay. We are a small school, which makes it even worse. Those having the toughest time seem to be the juniors, particularly the ones that were my advisees. Two in particular, Courtney and Tashia, are talented filmmakers and want to keep taking classes. Courtney constantly asks me for a list of films for her to watch so that she can continue her studies. So here is a better solution (I hope) than just a list.

Every Monday I will discuss a film that I am currently watching, is a favorite of mine, or one that I believe is a need to watch. At times I may discuss a director instead of a film or maybe even a year (1939 was a particularly good one). There are so many films out there that are worthwhile both historically, artistically, and as legends. I have not even seen everything that I "should" see and, trust me, I've seen a lot of films.

After over a decade of a study in the field I have come to realize that there are two films that if you have not seen them and were to delve into a conversation with a serious cinephile you would be at a lost. Now these two films need to be watched alongside plenty of other films that cover all the decades; keeping in mind that the first film screened in 1895, not 1985. The films from the 1890s are very important and luckily they are short and sweet! But, on to the films for today, this first one should be obvious...

Citizen Kane (Welles 1941)

Surprise! Yes, you need to watch Citizen Kane. In a way it is like telling an art student they should really see the Sistine Chapel. You don't need to be told. Regardless, I'm starting at the beginning here. This is also an unranked look at two films. I am in no way saying I think Citizen Kane is the best film ever (for the record I don't believe that), I'm just saying you need to watch it to understand the scope of cinema. Kane is important for any number of reasons the big one that you will hear over and over again is: deep focus. Welles and his cinematographer, Gregg Toland, were very innovative in using the whole frame to visually tell the story even the background. Watch for the scene when a young Charles plays outside in the snow while his mother makes a deal regarding his life inside their house.

When first watching films it can be hard to understand how a story is told visually and when a story is not being told visually because film is a visual medium. This film should help you to see what can be done visually and why your favorite film last year may not have been nominated for an Oscar. Welles uses every shot in the film to say something about a character or to move the story.

On the Waterfront (Kazan 1954)

I watched On the Waterfront in more classes in college than Citizen Kane and I have undoubtedly shown it more often in classes that I have taught. It couldn't be more different, at least when looking at Hollywood movies, than Citizen Kane. While Kane is an epic visual powerhouse Waterfront is more personal with extensive location shooting. The acting plays the pivotal role in this film and the camera work often plays second fiddle. For instance in the famous white glove sequence where Marlon Brando improvised his actions after Eva Marie Saint dropped her glove. Kazan allowed the camera to continue to roll as Brando began to fiddle with the glove and put it on his hand. The symbolism is strong due to her innocent white glove and the action of him putting it on his hand. His guilt in the involvement of her brother's murder is in question and by taking her glove it can be seen to foreshadow his later actions.

Even though Kazan allowed his actors the freedom to improvise his film still has plenty of visual interest for instance when we see Charlie is revealed in the alley. Another interesting aspect of this film is that it can be read as Elia Kazan's explanation for his testimony at the HUAC trials where he named names. He had held out naming names for awhile and he never gave a clear explanation as to why he suddenly changed his mind and named names. All of the characters in the film can be substituted for various players in the HUAC trials notably with the Brando character representing Kazan.

Notice that both films are in black and white. It's important to not be scared of black and white; it's beautiful. Particularly in films before 1970 when the cinematographers really knew what they were doing when creating images with light and shadows. During my Introduction to Film class at the University of Colorado I overheard two girls planning on skipping out on the film because they couldn't handle all the black and white films they were being forced to watch. They did not understand why they couldn't watch recent movies. Of course, me being the film student snob I was, rolled my eyes and thought to myself, "Why are you even taking this class?" Counting films out just because they are not in color is a huge mistake some of the most amazing films were filmed in black and white. In fact if I were to add a third film to this list it would also be in black and white: Casablanca. Ironically, I believe the film they skipped out on was Last Year at Marienbad, which I just received from Netflix last week.