Thursday, May 6, 2010

Finals Week...

This was by far the most stressful week of the class. We ran into every obstacle you could think of trying to get this film finished. Preparing for finals and studying for tests did not help either. The first problem we ran into was that not all our footage had been given to Brian. He had a very narrow selection of shots to work with to try to edit the movie. Moreover, the shots were not all complete and not every transition shot was included in this set of files. Therefore, the first edit of our movie was filed with narrative gaps that would have made it hard for an audience that was not involved in the shooting to understand the premise of the movie. After contacting and conversing (via text message) with Eric, we were able to get all of our files. However, Brian used Windows Movie Maker to edit the film and the files that Eric gave on a DVD were not supported by Windows Movie Maker, only AVS Video Editor. Moreover, Brian could not get AVS on his computer. We tried using my computer, but none of the files would work in either Windows or AVS. We tried editing on Jordan’s computer, then Jo Beth’s computer, but Jo Beth needed her computer to finish her work. By this time, we were all frustrated with the editing process and how much trouble it was for us. Jordan stepped up and edited the movie on her computer. This also provided more problems than solutions because her computer kept freezing as she tried to edit the film; she had to restart multiple times before she could get a project started. And the bad news did not stop. I got a message this morning saying that the file was not opening. Jenny tried to open the film and edit on her computer, but it the file was not supported by her computer either. This entire process has been incredibly frustrating for all of us. We started with so much promise for this film, and it’s very disappointing not to see it come to fruition in a final edit that we are all proud of.

Despite the problems we faced in editing the movie, I think we all learned a lot about the film making process, and how demanding it can be. Making a 5 minute movie took time, energy, and dedication on everyone’s part, so I have more respect and empathy for people who can organize and complete larger, more extensive movie productions…

Now, I’m just ready to see how far we go with our film and enjoy the movies of my classmates…


(The Week of April 22, 2010)In class today, we got our film digitized. It took forever, but it got done. We were all excited to finally get started with the editing/production process of film making. Thus far, most of the work had be done by Jenny and myself, and Jordan and Bryan were eager to work on the film. We reviewed our all of our shots and narrowed down the ones we thought would be good for the movie as well as the effect we thought would enhance the movie. We wanted to utilize slow motion for the fight scene (1. Because it was very quick and 2. To stress the conflict) and the shot with Justin jumping over the bench in front of Irby. We also wanted to slow down the final running scene as well as add sounds of heart beating, heavy panting, and his footsteps to slow down the scene, draw the audience attention, and have the on their edge. I was very excited about the ideas we had for the movie. We also decided to add a bloopers section to the credits or after the credits of our movie. We had plenty of shots where Justin fell or slipped, Brain getting dressed and preparing for his role s the professor, me dancing, etc. Other than those specific edits and ideas, we left the ultimate editing process up to Brain and Jordan.

The only trouble we had this week was trying to figure out the name of the movie. We still haven’t figured that out. I bet a good idea will hit one of us soon. As of now, our main concern is getting the movie edited in time for Jordan to incorporate the appropriate sound effects and music to the movie.

No Digitized Footage Part II...

(The week of April 1th, 2010) This week’s class was even shorter than the last. All my group members were gone. Jordan could not make it and Jenny and Bryan were out of town. I came to class with the intention of digitizing our tape so that we could begin the tedious editing process. However, the camera was checked out to another group, so we could not do anything new with our movie this week. We had to go a second consecutive week without digitizing.

In class, Eric explained how the digitizer on the camera works. Basically, one can digitize while filming if they sync the digitizer with the camera. This sends the video from the tape straight to a hard drive. The alternative is to digitize the footage after one has finished shooting. This takes much more time and energy that the previous digitizing method. Our group did not digitize while we shot because we were shooting an action film. This required a lot of movement of the camera and having the digitizer protruding from the top of the camera made it very inconvenient for the camerawoman, Jenny.

No Digitized Footage...

(The Week of April 8th, 2010)The group meeting was short this week. We could not digitize because the camera was checked out to one of the groups and they were behind on their shooting. This put our group behind schedule. We had hoped since we had to organize and shoot earlier than the other groups, we would have more time to edit and perfect the finished film. Despite this set back, we still discussed how we would like to edit certain shots and what kind of music we felt would fit best in the movie throughout the week. Other than that, we there was not too much communication about the film; we were just ready to start editing and seeing the fruits of our shooting labor.


The Adaptation is a movie about a screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman, who has to create a screenplay out of a novel. Kaufman is very impressed by the simplicity and honesty of this book about a rare orchid, and he wants to preserve the integrity of the novel. He does not want to use ridiculous hooks, ambiguous metaphors, or cliché endings in his script to entice people into watching his movies.

Kaufman’s struggle to stay true to the novel directly exemplifies the message the director, Spike Jonze, wants to convey. Jonze believes, like Kaufman, that movies too often rely on hooks and twist endings to draw an audience rather than telling a story that is original, simple, and true to real life. What makes the movie interesting is how Jonze uses characters and events that purposely contradict Kaufman’s and, ultimately, Jonze’s ideas on good script writing. Charlie’s twin brother, Donald, is one example of this. Charlie believes writing is an art form and should be approached with forethought and purpose. However, Donald finds success in using the methods that Charlie is annoyed by and Jonze is warning against. He writes a script for a story that does not make sense, he throws in metaphors that loosely relate to the movie, and he writes an ending to his script that is not consistent with the rest of the story. Charlie represents writers that do their job for the passion and enjoyment of the art while Donald represents the mainstream writers that do so simply for the money and acclaim.

The main problem that frustrates Charlie is how to end the film. The novel ends with no real concrete resolution; it is in no way flashy or exciting. Charlie is against recurring endings. He wrestles with the idea that a movie does not have to have a familiar or overly exciting ending for it to be good. Movies should reflect real life, and Charlie feels that life stories can be simple in the way they develop and end. I feel like Jonze shares the same view and wants the audience to feel the same way and notice when writers are using cheesy endings. Jonze does this by using those exact tactics to end this movie. Adaptation ends with a sex scene, violence and killing, and Charlie’s attitude and personality changing for the better. After hours of being told to stay away from such cliché methods, Jonze abruptly and awkwardly ends the movie with these scenes to show just how unrealistic movies are nowadays. He purposely wants the audience to feel insulted by the ending so we can recognize similar endings in other movies.

I noticed the shift in the movie from trying to keep away from falling into the stereotypical plot scheme and ending to purposely following that stereotype. And I admit I was very turned off once the movie started ending because I was sort of expecting an ending that would end differently. I wanted Charlie to find a conclusion that made him happy rather than him changing to follow the stereotype then becoming happy. The love affair between the autor, Susan Orleans, and the novel’s subject, John LaRoche, the fact that the orchids were really used as a drug, and the swamp death scene all seemed very fantastic and unrealistic. After discussing the movie in class I was less angry about the ending, but I would have enjoyed the movie better if the ending had been consistent with the rest of the movie.


(The Week of March 18th, 2010) This has been a busy and stressful week for our group. We spent a lot of time last week trying to figure out good times to get together to shoot our movie. Also, it took multiple attempts to get a cast for our movie. We simply needed a main character that was fit to play our action star. We wanted someone that looked like a normal student, but we didn’t want to cast anyone that was in honors to keep the audience (the class) to have preconceived notions, ideas about the actor. We tried three or four people that agreed to do the movie then had conflicts with shooting. We got lucky when we stumbled onto Justin Philips. He seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of shooting a movie and the role. As it turns out, Justin was easy to work with, took direction well, and enthusiastic about the film. The second role we had to cast was that of the antagonist professor. We had Doug Corbit as our first choice but due to time and our limited access to the camera before spring break, we used Brian, who settled into the role with ease. Finally, we were able to cast Stefani for the girlfriend role. If you’ve ever seen Stefani act, then you know she is very talented, so we were all excited to start shooting and see how the shooting process would turn out.
We shot practice shots Tuesday evening to get a feel for type of shots we would like and to get a better feel for the actual shooting process. Our first day of shooting was rough, but everything smoothed out quickly. Throughout the week, we got together whenever possible (8 am on Monday, X Period on Tuesday and Thursday, and Friday afternoon before spring break) to get all the shots we planned for. What I wanted for the movie was to have plenty of varying shots of the same sequence, and to have quick, coherent cutting of the shots to invoke the feeling of stress that Justin was feeling. The shooting was tough on everyone throughout the week; however, when we met to shoot, we were very productive. Moreover, fun wasn’t sacrificed to get the movie done; we had a lot of laughs and blooper while filming. I enjoyed every part of this process.

We finally finished filming Friday afternoon. The group was productive, easy to work with, and enthused about the project which made things immensely easier. Group 2 is the best!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"So noir..."

Honestly, if it wasn’t for this class, I don’t think I would like or appreciate this movie as much as a do. I have a feeling that I would have watched the movie, judged it on the fact that it was made in the early 1990s, hated the ending, and called it a terrible movie. However, knowing what kind of movie it is (film noir) and discussing some of the themes and messages the director was trying to convey helped open my eyes to some of the other aspects of movie making and looking a little bit past the plot, effects, and ending for a good movie.

In summary, The Player is about a movie executive – very close to losing his job - that starts receiving threatening and blackmailing postcards and messages. In his anger and anxiousness to end this harassment, he accidentally murders a writer whom he thought the messages were coming from only to find that he killed the wrong man. He starts becoming a darker, soul-less person as the movie progresses and he tries to cover up his murder. Finally, he ends up keeping his job, marrying the widow of the person he killed, and getting away with the murder that everyone knows he committed.

We talked about a lot of the different cinematic aspects of this movie which makes it good. First of all, this was a film noir movie. It’s a dark depiction of the movie industry. It shows the evil, conniving, and, often, selfish motives of the writers, directors, and executives that make movies we all enjoy. The movie plot was very dark and the ending elicits an uneasy feeling. Some of the icons that let me know this was a suspenseful film noir were the dark, shady bar that leads to the murder scene and the alley way where the murder was committed. I did not automatically think film noir, but it started to click as the movie continued. Also, The Player is a good satire of the movie industry; it shows the lack of creativity and substance in Hollywood and the selfishness of many of the people involved in making movies. I thought it was funny that almost every movie pitch was either a sequel to another movie or a blend of two completely different movies. I also liked how every writer wanted to use either Bruce Willis or Julia Roberts as their leads because they knew the audience loved those actors. Moreover, I thought the cinematography was pretty creative. There were two things that struck me as creative in this movie. First, the use of the famous movie posters to allude to the plot of the movie and give the viewer an idea of how to feel about the movie was interesting. It was blatant and bold and the first time I’ve noticed anything like that in a movie (now I’m curious to see how often directors do this). Second, there are a few scenes where the sound and focus shift from something in the foreground to something in the background, vice versa. I liked that a lot. It was very striking, especially in the opening scene (which was an amazing single shot).

Overall, I liked this movie. Like the ones before, it was very eye-opening for me.