Friday, July 30, 2010

Flip'n Friday: When I Grow Up

When I Grow Up from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.


This weeks Flip'n Friday was shot during a barbecue last weekend. There was a wide range of ages at the event and it was interesting to compare the career goals that we all have as children. As I have been thinking about and editing this piece I have been singing this song by Kasey Chambers. It is very appropriate for the topic this week.

For those of you that are new to this blog every Friday I post a video for the week. Normally, I shoot the pieces with a simple Flip Camera, but every now and then I will use my Canon or edit footage from one of my films into a trailer or whatnot. It just depends on the week. You can see all the Flip'n Friday here (or just check out this and this, two of my favorites).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Final Products

I know that I have been writing too much about my cupcakes, but they were really fun to make and took about a fair amount of my time. I still have a few more pictures on my next roll of film though these photos should at least give you an idea. There were three different types of cupcakes: Coconut Lime, Rosewater Pistachio, and Chocolate Almond with Ganache and Marzipan Flowers. Ironically, I didn't notice the kids at the barbecue eating the cupcakes as I thought they would (of course they could have just been sneaking bites of all the desserts); it seemed the adults were the most intrigued.

Tomorrow we are going to Wilmington for a little weekend vacation. I've checked the weather and it should be a little cooler there, thank goodness. Being so close to the coast I would also expect to pick up a little breeze every once and awhile. I will be sure to take as many pictures as possible to escape all these baking photos with which I have been bombarding this blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Gumball Dilemma

This afternoon we had a very impressive thunderstorm accompanied by sheets and sheets of rain. While it was needed it put a damper on my afternoon. After such a heavy storm I know that many gumballs will have been knocked loose from our neighbors tree and into our yard. I am not sure what the official name of this tree is, but around here we all call it simply a gumball tree. We have so many of the pesky little seed pods (like the one pictured above) that my daughter plays with them like they're toys when she goes outside. They are very spiky and hurt when you step on them.

Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be anything we can do about it other sneak into our neighbors yard to give the tree expensive injections that may stop it from forming pods or we could move. Not much of a choice.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Film Class: The Great Cinema Myth

The first films ever projected were a collection of shorts by the Lumiere Brothers. Edison and the Lumiere's have a long running feud over who actually made the first film. I've heard arguments for both sides and personally I don't think it really matters. I call it a tie; though I do like to give the Lumiere's a slight edge just because it seems as though Edison tended to steal many ideas and inventions.

The Lumiere Brothers camera was amazing in that it was not only the camera, but also the projector. The simplicity of early cameras is amazing to me because you realize that all of the equipment that we burden ourselves with as filmmakers sometimes can get in the way of the idea. All you really need is a box, a lense, the sun, and a strip of celluloid (well, maybe an actor too). 

Legend goes that The Train Arriving at the Station was one of the first films shown the night of the Lumiere's screening and that the audience ran out of the theater screaming. Apparently, they thought the train was coming at them and would run them over. If you watch the film below, the train is not coming right at you, but steaming off at an angle. Audiences back in 1895 would have been extremely dumb to have run out of the theater after watching this film, do you not agree?

Research has shown that the audience did not run out screaming and if they did it was  a stunt to drum up publicity. I think as students it is important to consider this legend because its endurance relies on contemporary audiences looking at audiences of the past as somehow inferior. Simply because a film is old does not make it less important, less artistic, or less worthwhile. Perhaps it makes us feel better to look back at past audiences and think we are so much more intelligent. When in fact we are just interested in different things at different times.

When watching a Lumiere film it is important to still think about all the same elements as with other films. Why did they put the camera where they put it? How does it influence our viewing of the film? Why did they choose this subject? Early films are incredibly short so you can get in a significant amount of viewing in a fairly short time. All the films are in the public domain due to their age and are fairly easy to find on youtube.

Ironically, The Train Arriving at the Station was probably not even played on that first film screening back in 1895.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Week of Dancing (I hope)

Last week I was very focused on making cupcakes for the family get together this weekend. I think they were a success and folks seemed to like them. They looked very pretty and I was proud of them. It was actually very fun to make them and I enjoyed it. I will post pictures soon.

This week I wan to focus as much as possible on my documentary proposal regarding dancers. I also am interested in making a dance film as well, but am having problems finding dancers. Finding talent is always harder than you think. We'll see how it goes. Perhaps I will finish reading my Maria Tallchief autobiography as inspiration.

Tonight we watched The Third Man and I am having the urge to watch more Film Noir. I was going to write about Noir tomorrow, but I think I may wait until I have watched some of the films I just added to my Netflix.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Flip'n Friday: Searching

Searching from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.

This weeks video was shot at an old junk store on Elm Street in Greensboro. I have been looking for a chair for my desk for a long time and my sister and I thought we'd check this place out. I don't even know if it has a name. My sister had been there before and suggested that I shoot some footage there. It's an insane place. When they took down the chair that I was interested in the entire pile of junk almost fell on top of my sister. Luckily, we got out unscathed with a chair and interesting footage to boot.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Life Out of Focus

It seems as though when the week begins I have all the time in the world. I make all these grandiose plans for the week and feel rushed by the end to accomplish everything. This week I am making cupcakes for a family get together this weekend.

Of course, these aren't your everyday cupcakes they are from a cookbook I recently bought, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. It's pretty fun once you get into making them, but there are a lot of supplies to get. My daughter and I have been all over town today. She was very good while we were out, but now she doesn't want to go to sleep. Everything catches up with you. Now, I need to get her to sleep and start editing my video for tomorrow. It's funny how the week begins slow and rushes to a close. It seems to happen every time.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Photos from the Past: Wilmington, NC

I recently found the above photos that were taken in Wilmington, NC. I was thinking about them today because we are hoping to go visit soon. The great thing about living there was being so close to the downtown. We took beautiful walks all the time down to the river and among all the old historic houses. While I love visiting all the gardens here in Greensboro I wish I didn't have to drive to them.

It's funny that I don't have any pictures of the beach to post. When most people think of Wilmington they think of the beach (though technically there is no beach in Wilmington; the beaches are located in Carolina Beach, Kure, Wrightsville Beach, etc), whereas I think of downtown and the river. Don't worry I will be sure to get some beach pictures on my next visit.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Film Class: Nicole Holofcener

Last Thursday my sister watched my daughter so that my husband and I could go see the new Nicole Holofcener film, Please Give. After watching the trailer we had considered seeing the film for our anniversary last month, but decided against it because it was only playing in Winston-Salem and I preferred to stay in Greensboro. This week I though I would write about Holofcener both to recommend seeing the film in theater, projected on film of course, and to introduce a filmmaker that you may not be familiar.
Holofcener is a writer/director whom often makes films revolving around females and the issues facing them. She is does this in a very honest manner without overtly glamorizing women akin to Sex and the City type fare.

Interestingly, Catherine Keener has played a major role in all four of Holofcener’s feature length films. It makes one wonder if the characters Keener plays are surrogates for Holofcener. When a director writes characters that are similar to themselves I often refer to them as the director’s Antoinel Doinel. Doinel is the main character in a series of films by Francois Truffaut that begins with the 400 Blows, which is a semi-autobiographical film about Truffaut’s childhood. As the series progresses and Doinel ages the character becomes more of an amalgamation of the Jean-Pierre Leaud (the actor portraying Doinel) and Truffaut himself. Of course Truffaut is not the only one to have done this nor the first, but it is very successful pairing that extended over many films. Now, I don’t know for sure that Holofcener uses herself as the blueprint for Keener’s characters, but it is something I have always wondered. Though Keener’s characters are not carbon copies of each other they all have a similar make up involving a somewhat neurotic and needy nature.

Today I have had a hard time sitting down at the computer to a write this post and am now in the eleventh hour. All day I have been trying to think about why Holofcener is a relevant director. It is not often that films portray women in the central roles in a film and it is even rarer that films with lead female characters are not romantic comedies (where the women are usually portrayed as searching for or needing a man in their lives).  Holofcener is one of the rare directors making films about women without relying on stereotypes or using female characters to sell designer shoes. She does this by creating very personal films that are far from the normal high concept big budget Hollywood fare. She allows the women to have real flaws and dimension.

Upon leaving the theater I thought Please Give was good, but not as well executed as some of Holofcener’s other films, but now I am not sure, the more I think about the film the more I appreciate it. That’s the thing with her films there is never a pat, easy ending, nothing is force fed. The character’s were all incredibly well written. My husband really loves the grandmother and thought she was a particular stand out. I agree with him, but I was also impressed with Amanda Peet, she plays a bitch very well.

I show Holofcener’s Lovely and Amazing in my Women and Film class and students are often very divided on the film. Often they want a concrete conclusion and feel as though the film just ends. This semester, due to some films being misplaced during a move to a new building, I showed the film much earlier than normal. At first the film had some of the same complaints, but as the semester moved along it became the film that everyone referenced and compared subsequent films.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lazy, Rainy Weekend

We had a very lazy weekend. On Saturday it rained heavily starting at about 10:00 am. I was a little bummed because we were out garage sale-ing and everything got rained out. I had been hoping to find an old chair that I could paint and reupholster, but we only made it to three sales. Once we got home we spent the rest of the day watching movies and being lazy.

Today the rained cleared and we went to see the Warhol exhibit currently showing at the Weatherspoon Museum at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Though Polaroids have gotten a lot of press with the Impossible Project and Lady GaGa, seeing Warhol's Polaroids made me more interested in instant photography. It was also fun watching my daughter at the museum both her interacting with people and looking at the photographs/paintings. Of course, she wanted to touch the paintings, but beyond that she was really good and the security guard wanted us to bring her back.

Since we had spent all day Saturday inside we wanted to go out to eat, but everything (other than the chain restaurants) were closed. We were bummed. I'm not sure why so many restaurants close on Sundays. For some reason on Sundays we are ready to eat out and the only restaurants open are places we don't want to eat. Oh well.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Flip'n Friday: Conchetta Davis

 Conchetta Davis, Blind Photographer from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.

This week my student (though she did graduate in May) was featured in her very first art show. She wants to be a photographer/filmmaker and was inspired by the classes she took with me. It was very exciting to be at her very first show.

For this installment of Flip'n Friday I decided to make a portrait of Conchetta. Unfortunately I did not have my tripod with me and I had to hold my daughter while shooting (otherwise she would have demonstrated her newly learned skill: running). Regardless, I think I kept a fairly steady hand, as long as we weren't laughing!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our Garden (a little on the late side)

This past week we decided to start our garden. We have been planning on it for awhile, but have been dragging our feet.

My husband has been devouring a book about gardening and fashioned this lovely raised bed. We have both seeds and seedlings; just yesterday I noticed some radishes have already begun to root down. I am excited to grow strawberries in the fall. When I was a kid we had a huge strawberry patch and I loved it so much.

Building the garden was fairly easy to do (though my husband really did the grunt work). It's pretty exciting even if a little pass due.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Cool Down

We have finally had some rain, which cooled down our high 90s weather. Thank goodness. Today I am hoping to make it downtown to visit one of my students art exhibits. My daughter is fast asleep so we will leave whenever she wakes up.

It gives me the time to listen to some of Tift Merritt's radio show The Spark (check out the archive, pretty impressive roster). She has a great interview with Darren Jessee, whom is a wonderful musician and person. He has great comments on the creative process. I met him once, years ago, when I was working at a coffee shop in Chapel Hill. He came in a lot and I never saw him only heard about from the other barista. It was a hot day when he came in and I had the door open and I had my back to the door. I turned around and he was just standing there, at the register, and I almost lost my balance and sputtered out, "Darren Jessee..." He smiled and I gave him his coffee. I was so embarrassed, but he was nice about it.

My film Drowning Slowly is named after a Ben Folds Five Song and it closes with a Hotel Lights song. Darren Jessee was the most famous person we approached about using a song and he was the most awesome about it and didn't try to fleece us for money (that we did not have, we made the movie for $3000). So check out the interview and his two albums: Hotel Lights and Firecracker People.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday Film Class: Last Year at Marienbad

I finally watched (or rewatched, the first viewing being in 1996) Last Year at Marienbad. Before I discuss the film itself let me give some background. The director, Alain Resnais, is associated with the French New Wave movement or La Nouvelle Vague. Of course the most prominent members of this movement are Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut. For those making a list of important films to watch you must include The 400 Blows (Truffaut) and Breathless (Godard). They are the truly defining films of this movement and The 400 Blows in particular is one of my favorite films. The French New Wave is truly independent filmmaking at its finest. Beyond that, though, the filmmakers were attempting to wake up cinema audiences. They were not concerned with allowing an audience suspend their disbelief and forget that they were watching a movie. Instead, they wanted the audience to always be aware that they are watching a constructed reality, a piece of art. 

        {Godard, Source}                                  {Truffaut, Source}

For instance they often use tracking shots that are way too long and make an audience uncomfortable or using a freeze frame at the end of the film so that all movement ceases and often the main character captured in a defining moment (of course now this technique is often used in a rather banal manner making it rather cliche). This was first used in The 400 Blows as a means to trap the main character and reflect on how he is caged and has nowhere left to go, thus using a cinematic technique to comment directly on a character. Godard used jump cuts (when a piece of the action is missing from a continuous shot making the image appear to jerk or jump) as a way to shorten his film, but it was also a means to constantly remind viewers that they were watching a film and had not been carried away to some other world. They are not a fly on someones wall, but instead a patron sitting in a theater.

The French New Wave is such a wonderful and influential period of filmmaking and I can only begin to touch on it here. Even though now  many of the techniques that they used in their films can be considered somewhat mainstream, the thought behind the technique has often been lost. When you go back and watch these films you can see what they were trying to accomplish more clearly. At times it can be uncomfortable to watch (not violent or sexual, but more 'what in the world is going on?'), but stick with the films and you will be rewarded. 

Now onto Last Year at Marienbad. Resnais is considered to be in a subset of the French New Wave often referred to as the Left Bank. These filmmakers, which also includes Chris Marker (La Jetee) and Agnes Varda (Cleo From 5 to 7), were the more artsy fringe of the movement. Though the French New Wave as a whole was interested in challenging tradition in cinema the left bank really pushed the envelope. While Godard and Truffaut were film critics taking the leap into filmmaking somewhat as a way to test their theories, the Left Bank contingency was made up more of artists. Their films sometimes even veered into experimental filmmaking.

To use a contemporary comparison trying to make sense of the plot or structure of Last Year at Marienbad is like trying to make sense of the television series Lost; when it comes down to it structural clarity is not necessarily the point. And believe me Lost is a cakewalk compared to Marienbad. Resnais is particularly interested in memory and his most famous films (Night and Fog, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Marienbad) explore the manner in which we store our most heinous memories be they personal or collective. For instance Night and Fog tackles The Holocaust and if land can maintain memory. Resnais brings his camera to concentration camps a decade after they were liberated and juxtaposes the modern footage with archival footage of the camps, thus taking leaps from the present to the past and back again. I first watched this film in 8th grade and the images, the sound of the narrator, were burned into my own memory. The two images that stayed with me most vibrantly was one of bodies being bulldozed (a painful image, but necessary)  and one of the modern grown over fence cutting through a green landscape.
Last Year at Marienbad looks at tragedy on a more personal level. The main character is trying to either rationalize his role in a rape and possible murder or his complicity in the murder of a woman with which he was/is in love. Depending on your interpretation perhaps there was not even a murder, perhaps the woman escaped with the love of her life at her side. Perhaps everyone is dead, portrayed only as a memory. Often Resnais jumps from one location to another, one moment in time to another during what appears to be one simultaneous conversation/thought. So the past and the present become blurred.

It is easy to write off Marienbad as weird and unfocused because it demands so much from its viewers. This is not an easy, popcorn film. All of the characters walk through the film in a daze, with little emotion to guide the viewer. Plot points and characters, who are never even named, are vague and barely developed. When watching the film you shouldn't try to make sense of it all, but experience it. Whatever you think is happening, is happening in some way,  allow your mind to fill in the spaces. There is not a right or wrong in this film.

This may be a hard film to watch, but it will stay with you as you ponder what it all means. You will benefit from multiple viewings, don't be scared to watch it twice. Sometimes when I watch films like this I get put into this dreamy, half asleep state that allows me to follow the film even better (and sometimes I fall asleep). If you have never watched a French New Wave film (or an experimental film) before I would advise watching some of the more accessible ones first before Last Year at Marienbad. 

If you give the film a chance you can really begin to think about memory and how we alter it to fit our perceptions of ourselves, our lives. Often if our memories were exact interpretations of what really happened perhaps we would not be able to exist in the world. Our actions would be to hard for us to bear. 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Visiting Asheville

For the Fourth of July holiday we visited my husband's family in Asheville, NC. It is a very fun, hip, city. It's funny to me that both of our sets of parents live in much hipper cities than we do (my parents are in Boulder, CO). Ironically, we live in the same city where three out of our four parents grew up, hmmmm. Most of these pictures are from downtown because on July 5th we realized that we hadn't visited that area, so we went for a walk.

When I got home I accidentally opened the camera before it was rewound. For some reason I was getting 26 pictures on a roll of 24 and I flashed the end of the roll. I really love flares and light leaks so I thought the end result as a very happy accident.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Flip'n Friday: City on Fire

City on Fire from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.

I have had a very busy week what with being in Asheville for the Fourth and setting up the Super 8 transfer yesterday. Somehow I was able to to also prepare a video for this week's Flip'n Friday. I am back to using the Flip Camera and was very surprised with how well it handled low light situations. This piece was a little hard to edit because I had not visualized it in my head as clearly as previous videos though I am pleased with the final version.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Super 8 on the Eighth: Test

Super8 Test from Chelsea Wayant on Vimeo.

This is the first time that I have used my Super 8 video transfer system. Knowing this first project would be more of a test I shot old barns and fields in and around Guilford County, NC. There is no story, but instead images that I felt would benefit the Super 8 format. The reel is presented as shot with no editing. I also included the projector sound and some leader and tail to give the feeling of watching footage projected on the wall.

The main issue with the transfer system is that it is overexposing the footage. As is always the case the reel looks better projected than digitized, but I'm hoping to get more detail in the bright areas in my next attempt.  Even with the less than ideal transfer I believe this test still captures some the warmth and inviting nature of Super 8 film.

Polaroids and Super 8 Transfers

I have really grand plans of posting Super 8 footage on the eighth of every month. Today is supposed to be the first day, but I am having a little transferring problem. I shot some footage almost three weeks ago and it looks really good when projected on the living room wall. Of course now I just need to work on getting the footage digitized, which inevitably loses some of the wonderful quality of a projected image.

Awhile back I was able to find a fairly new (considering it is from the 1980s) Super 8 transfer system at the Goodwill for five dollars. When I first opened it I found the above cat Polaroid (isn't it sweet?). Thought I would share that with you now and hopefully will have some Super 8 footage for you shortly. It may be a little overexposed, but maybe that will only add to its charm?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mojitos for a Hot Day

Today the thermometer is threatening triple digits. It's making me want to make these mojitos again to help cool down.

Yesterday, I found out today that one of my students, who graduated in May, was accepted into graduate film school. Check out some of her work here, here and here. I make a cameo in the latter, Bills, Bills, Bills video; see if you can pick me out. It is also my daughter's all time favorite music video and it really is an excellent, fun to watch piece.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Photos from the Past: Drowning Slowly

I have been trying to organize all of my photos and negatives into some cohesive storage system. In the past photo albums have not been successful; mostly because they don't have a place for negatives, but also the labeling that they require makes the task seem monumental.

My organizing turns into more of an opportunity to peruse photographs. Recently, I found these publicity photos for Drowning Slowly a narrative feature that I finished about a year ago. Though it didn't show it a lot of festivals it did win Best Narrative Feature at the Ava Gardner Film Festival last November. These stills were never used so I thought I would share some of them here.

The actors shown here are Akasha Fielding (top) and Kendel Colbie Scott (bottom).