I pump it out like an artery

Hello all. I haven’t posted in a minute but I thought I’d share a project I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a while and the problems I’ve had so far.

I have been planning a music video for an amount fo time I am too ashamed to disclose but let’s just say it shouldn’t have taken me that long.

Today was the first of two shoot days and It did not go well. The park I had checked out weeks prior was now a victim of a horrendous crime – mudding. The ground was torn apart and mud was everywhere I planned to shoot. The flat areas I had originally planned for walking were unusable, and that was supposed to be the bulk of the video. When I got there I really had to improvise to be able to film anything. So far the footage doesn’t look too bad but I definitely think I could have done better. On top of that I got a major headache mid shoot that I just had to muscle through.

I spoke to the 3 artists twice about the song and then I planned from home. I got hold of the lyrics and wrote down what I saw when I listened to the song a total of 348 times. Like I said above, it took me way to long to plan this and I think part of it was Rona making it difficult to focus on any projects. I had this weird feeling in me that I wouldn’t finish but it all went a way when filming started.

Really I think this showed me what steps to take in order to plan a video better, and the simple answer is often the right one. I may have gotten ahead of myself when planning this but let’s see how it goes.

“I pump it out like an artery” is a lyric from the song that I brought up during our meeting. I assumed it meant that rapping to him was like his lifeblood, and it was a part of him.

Expectations of the Protagonist Part 3

Hello 4381 Productions,

Most love stories always end the same way. The main characters fall in love, their love is tested, something bad happens, and they somehow end up together in the end. Perfect. Well we all know life doesn’t always work out like that. Over the last two blog posts, I have explored the common ideas and expectations associated with the role of the protagonist in storytelling. This post will further explore that idea and how it relates to the human experience by analyzing the evolution of Sebastian and Mia’s relationship in La La Land (2016).

The film is about the all of the glamourous (and much less glamourous) aspects of Hollywood. In a lot of ways, it’s a love letter to Los Angeles and classic musicals, like Singing in the Rain (1952). The film centers around the two main characters, Sebastian and Mia, crossing paths several times in the city while trying to achieve their own personal dreams, until they get to know each other, and begin to build a relationship. Mia wants to become a famous actress and Sebastian wants to own his favorite jazz club to reinvigorate it. Their relationship is full of wonderful song and dance numbers, montages of dates and intimate moments, and them both working towards their dreams. Mia encourages Seb to join a jazz band to make money, while he encourages her to put on a play about her life. As they work towards their goals, they start to see each other less and less until they’re eventually brought to a point where they have to choose what is more important, their relationship or their dreams. Spoiler alert: They choose their dreams.

Although the movie is centered around the characters building up their relationship, that is not their end goal. The main characters experience a numerous amount of trials and tribulations to finally achieve their dreams, but choose to sacrifice their relationship in favor of personal gain. A lot of people I’ve talked to don’t like this movie because of the ending. Claiming it’s “Bullshit” or “Not a happy ending”, which it’s not, but life isn’t like The Notebook (2004) or any sappy unrealistic love story where everything works out in the end. Life is full of tough choices and I appreciate this movie for the decisions the characters make. It’s not what the general audience member would expect from of movie of this type, but I think it’s more relatable and carries a better message than most fake romantic comedies/musicals.

In conclusion, failure is a natural part of life. In cinema, we expect our protagonists to succeed and everything to have a happy ending, which is fine, but I find that movies benefit when expectations are subverted in favor of being more relatable to the human experience. The Dark Knight (2008), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and La La Land (2016) are exemplary examples of films set in semi-fictional settings where characters fail, deal with consequence, learn from their mistakes, and grow past their limitations. That’s all apart of life and cinema is like life, but with all of the boring stuff cut out isn’t it?

 

Close to the End

It has certainly been one crazy Fall season here at 4381 Productions. Somethings out of our control, somethings completely within our control, but overall, things were crazy. But crazy doesn’t necessarily mean failure.

Most people usually have a New Year’s Resolution, some specific task or goal in mind. This year, for 2020, I decided to go with a broad theme to follow rather than a specific goal. Themes can be as simple as “Year of Reading”, “Year of Health”, just vague ideas that you can follow, instead of a goal that ultimately is broken by February. For this year, I came up with the “Year of Creating”. Simply put, I dedicated this year to create more, whether it be film, writing, art, whatever. And despite the crazy, I feel like I have made this year a success.

While some projects that I am proud of, like Distillation and Door, were created before the pandemic, a large portion of my proudest work comes from right here at 4381 Productions. On the Bayou, Nightmare, Hitting the Gridiron, and now Beautiful Corpse, all of these are projects I could never dream of accomplishing a year ago. So while many things were canceled and some ideas were scrapped, I feel extremely proud of my personal growth. I hope this feeling is shared with my peers at 4381 Productions because I feel every one of us should be proud of what we made. With that being said, I am excited to see what 2021 brings, but more importantly, I’m excited to continue to create.

All that, for what?

After a brief discussion with KRH about Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and an essay I wrote about Rear Window, I think I figured out why I didn’t really love the film.

Here’s an excerpt from my essay (WARNING: highly unpopular opinion & SPOILERS ahead).

I did not, however, think it was one of Hitchcock’s best works. Although I really enjoy watching the films that he created to challenge himself (like this one), and I find it interesting to see how he handled the parameters he set forth, I didn’t think there was enough of a reward at the end. The suspense that he creates throughout the film seems to be for nothing. We were wondering, along with Jeff, if the man across the courtyard was a murderer for nearly the entire movie, and then he was. What’s the fun in that? Although it would be a completely different movie (boring) if Thorwald ended up being the innocent man in the equation, it would at least provide some sort of twist.

I realize that saying this mimics a lot of what I had to say about Suspicion’s ending (and how I didn’t mind that the husband didn’t end up being a killer), but at least my reasoning is consistent. The ending I thought was sufficient in Suspicion, many view as a rip-off, while the ending many enjoy for Rear Window, is one I’m rather unexcited about.

For me, Shadow of a Doubt is very similar to Rear Window in this aspect. Just like Suspicion, we are nervous about the intentions of a potentially murderous character. Of course each of these three films has a different purpose, but Suspicion is the only one that ends with an answer you weren’t thinking of. The other two films create a lot of build-up about something that ends up being true. It feels like something is missing, and like I was cheated out of a climax. So, although Suspicion’s ending is highly contested and not how the film was meant to end, I prefer it over Rear Window’s. My favorite Hitchcock films are ones that show me something I didn’t see coming. The whole point of suspense is to make me feel like I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I feel that knowing who the killer is for most of the movie is a strange strategy for the master of suspense. In the end, however, I cannot deny that Alfred Hitchcock is in many ways a master of his craft, and Rear Window is one of those masterpieces.

Like Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt has a lot of brilliant aspects to it that make it a well conceived film with much attention to detail and development. I still don’t think it’s his best work, though.

A few things to share from my time spent online

Having a focus problem and taking classes remotely from the comfort of the dining room table, the couch, and more recently my bed, has led to some pretty unproductive days this semester. With a wandering mind and so much of the world’s knowledge literally at my fingertips, I’ve ended up with a pretty eclectic browser history. This week’s topics include: the largest living flight birds, 3D models of human anatomy via Healthline, Vedic/sidereal astrology (because western astrology hasn’t been astronomically accurate in years), and random crash course videos (I just found out they have a film production series, but haven’t checked it out yet).

Between all the scrolling, browsing, and random topics that I get sucked into during my time spent online, I found a few things I’d like to share with 4381 Productions.

Composition References

After so many Pins, my Pinterest algorithm started showing me composition tips. A lot of the content I see on Pinterest is specific to illustration but some translates nicely to film and photography. While I have learned some composition rules in class, it’s convenient to have screenshotable cheat sheets. I find these tips really helpful when I’m having trouble translating a script to the storyboard.

Here are some of the Pins I’ve found. Their original sources are linked in the attachment pages.

 

A YouTube Video 

In the aforementioned Pinterest composition references, the golden ratio (also called phi or fibonacci’s spiral) is frequently included. While the golden ratio gets a lot of hype, it’s reference grid kind of looks like the rule of thirds grid. Curious how much of a difference either rule made, I came across this YouTube video that puts it to the test and applies it directly to cinematography. If you’re interested but don’t want to watch all 14 minutes of the video, the description conveniently includes timestamp links to key points. 

This Film and Interior Design Blog

Film and Furniture is a UK design blog dedicated to furniture in film. Buried in the promotional tab of my gmail, I found one of their newsletters and was reminded of the site. As someone who enjoys both interior design and movies, this website is a fun place for me. 

Their content includes anything that can combine the topics of film and interior design, such as David Lynch’s furniture, references to the carpet in The Shining, and even these Polly Pockets based off of film and TV sets. Links to buy the ridiculously priced items seen in popular films are also included.

After reflecting on all the time I spend (and waste) online, I’m left with a question. What’s it called when you make one Google search but browsing leads you very far from the original topic? Is there a word for it?

Blending Realism in Fellini’s 8 1/2

Hey, 4381 since I am working on my next film essay for Intro to Motion Pictures taught by some unknown professor, Keith R. Houk. I don’t know I don’t think any of us have had his class before. I want to show you all the film essay I made for my nonlinear editing class. I am really proud of this especially since I had the opportunity to use the book written by Alessandro Carrera who I consider a mentor to me.

Film Essay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nzvQZ0U4LII

Escape

If you read my last post, I recently wrote a short creative manifesto about my work as a screenwriter, filmmaker, and overall cinematic storyteller. This was created for a performance course project, but this idea is something I want to continue studying in my future endeavors as a filmmaker. Along with the manifesto, we also were required to make a creative project that acted as a manifestation of our manifesto. So the overachiever in me decided to create a short film. This film, entitled Escape, is a psychological, experimental film that focuses more on the character’s psyche, desires, and fears rather than their identity as a person. With the help of my girlfriend, who assisted in checking the focus, I created this short film this past weekend. I decided I wanted to make this a passion project, so I wrote, directed, acted, edited, and performed the music for this piece.

While I already presented the project for the performance class, I wanted to share it with my peers at 4381 Productions. Any constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated. While the video quality is not how I expected it to turn out, I am still proud of this film and had a fun time creating this.

Enjoy Escape.

 

Winging it

I’ve said it several times, but I’ll say it again for good measure: there’s still so much I have yet to learn.

As I stumble throughout my life I realize there’s so much of it that I’m winging. From becoming the president of my high school theatre troupe after being there for only two years to becoming a bank teller with only barista experience, I feel like I’ve been able to figure many things out from just doing (often without knowing exactly what it is I’m “doing”).

I don’t want to admit that’s what happened when I got the job as CoogTV’s Life and Arts Producer, but I’d never been a producer before, so it’s certainly been quite an interesting experience. As a student-run organization at the University of Houston, CoogTV collaborates with all kinds of students to produce content for online distribution (and the TV’s on campus).

I take care of a branch that is focused on lifestyle content, documentary films, and other popular online media. Recently, CoogTV had the opportunity to visit the Texas Renaissance Festival with Media Passes to film episodes for two of our Life and Arts shows. We split up production crews upon arrival. CoogsTry (a show where Coogs…try things) was directed by CoogTV’s Executive Producer, while Shasta Docs (our documentary show) was led by myself and the Shasta Docs showrunner.

One of the festival employees guided us through the grounds to several interview sites where we spoke to a shop owner, an artist, a performer, and a media employee. Many of the individuals have been returning to the festival for several years, some even decades. It was an incredible experience to get this personal tour and hear the testimonies of such passionate individuals.

I had no idea what I was doing.

Still image from our interview with King Henry VIII

I remember returning home, my feet aching, thinking about how much we walked (gear in hand), how terrified we were with each interview, and how drained we were by the end of the day.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat, though.

Although it was miserable being in front of these wonderful participants with sweaty palms, clumsily setting up our camera, we were lucky enough to be interacting with such patient and warm employees. Each one of them gave us more thank-you’s than we gave them, and I was once again lucky to have winged such a unique experience.

Here’s what I learned from the CoogTV Ren Fest documentary:

1) Sound is hard. We didn’t want to put lavs on our strangers and didn’t think it’d be wise to carry boom equipment throughout the acres of land, so we mounted a shotgun mic on our camera… Although I can see (now) why this wasn’t the most effective method of recording responses from festival employees (outdoors… with thousands of people passing by and numerous nearby events taking place in every direction), I’m not sure what the right thing to do would have been.

2) Wear better shoes.

3) Be earlier. We thought we had a pretty solid plan going on, but we didn’t account for the amount of delays and difficulties that arose that morning.

4) Be thorough when preparing equipment. Although we checked our equipment several times before arriving on location, there were still some issues when gathering and setting up our gear.

5) Shot-list. I figured I knew the festival enough to be able to gather b-roll on the fly, but it was far to gigantic for us to figure it out when we were there, and we were far too inexperienced for that. We underestimated how long it would take us to get through interviews and gather the specific b-roll for each interview, that by the time we walked the remainder of the grounds to get extra footage, the sun was setting and it was time for us to go.

7) BTS. Because I was constantly occupied, nervous, or attempting to remain as professional as possible, I didn’t have the chance to get any behind the scenes footage, or even photos from the day.

6) Breathe. I may not have known what I was doing while filming this short documentary, but the moments I was able to calm down, I really enjoyed the experience. I feel like it would’ve been okay for me to be a little bit more confident in my abilities to pull it off and trust that the Shasta Docs showrunner and I would be okay.

I’ve said it several times, but I’ll say it again for good measure: there’s still so much I have yet to learn.