Friday, July 30, 2010

Student Films

As promised, here are some of my college film projects.  Please keep in mind that they were made 20+ years ago, on real, actual FILM.  Time and environment have contributed to a certain level of degradation (but that happens to us all eventually).

First up, Like Cockatoos.  Inspired by the song by The Cure, this was my second-year animation final at Mission College.  The first year, my short film The Big Surprise earned an A+ as it was the only film in the class to use synced audio.  For the second year, I expanded my scope and drew hundreds of 11x14" "cels" in the incredibly messy medium of charcoal.  Shot on 16mm, the project ran late, so I was forced to turn in a backup project for my final.  Said backup project used some of the footage from Like Cockatoos, but was a weaker piece in general, despite earning an A-.

Next, Ding Dong's Day Off.  When fellow filmmaker David Beach and I enrolled in the Film/TV program at DeAnza College, we found old Aptos High School friend Mark Cordell Holmes in our class.  Mark and his creative partner Rob Wison and I teamed up on a couple shorts.  This is the first.  Mark directed the film segment (on good old Super-8 film, transferred to pro VHS for editing) of me as the victim, freaking out when confronted by Ding Dong the homicidal clown (played by Rob).  What are you gonna do with that pie, Ding Dong?  Mark, Rob and I all appear in the video PSA segment (Mark is the Robert Stack-esque spokesclown, as well as the guy under the car).  This is by far Raechelle's most favorite thing I've ever done. /sarcasm

Last but not least, Rob's Dream.  I decided on the title after we'd turned in the project with a slightly different name.  Okay, a very different name.  Leather Biker Chicks in Bondage.  We wanted to get the attention of the class.   Shot on Super-8 in black & white for the dream sequences and color for the waking sequences, the three of us co-wrote, co-directed and co-performed in it.  We shot all over the San Jose foothills and Palo Alto, including my alma mater, Palo Alto High School, and the once-famous graffiti-covered back alley of the New Varsity Theatre, which is now a Borders Books.  In the running shot starting at about 4:06, Rob actually sat on the hood of Mark's car as I shot hanging out of the passenger side window.  Now THAT'S guerrilla filmmaking!

While in the edit bay working on Rob's Dream, I was approached by David Beach to put together some video footage to portray the television making love to its human admirer in his short film Tube.  Using nothing but soap operas, game shows and commercials, I think I managed to come up with a pretty sexual sequence of images.

In other news, while searching through the archives of mostly fire-damaged materials to put on YouTube, I ran across the raw footage of Samantha's San Francisco State film final, Kings.  I think it's all there, pending the actual tape being intact.  Sigh.  There's a long-term project if I've ever seen one.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Birthday to Mucha

I just wanted to post a quick message to observe the 150th birthday of the man who is certainly my favorite Art Nouveau painter and possibly one of my favorite artists in any movement.  Alphonse Mucha.  Wikipedia has a pretty thorough biography, so I won't go into historical detail.  What I will say is that Mucha was arguably at the center of a movement which successfully combined commercial art and fine art for the first time in history.  Some art historians criticize the movement as a "youth" trend or for "lowering" fine art to mere advertising design. I prefer to think the Nouveau movement elevated advertising design to the realm of fine art (and don't think fine art lost anything in the bargain).

Like Mike Myers, I tend to think art is art, either good or bad.  But to draw an artificial line between "high art" and "low art" is both disingenuous and counterproductive.

Here's to you, Mr. Mucha.  Your art continues to inspire many, and will always hang on my wall in some capacity.

Mmmm. Sacrilicious!

Warning: While I absolutely respect the individual right to worship as he or she sees fit, I also believe equally in the necessity to balance faith with a certain amount of levity.  If you are someone who takes his or her religion extremely seriously and can't appreciate some poking of fun, you'd probably better skip this post.

This morning started with a breakfast across the street at our neighbors' house: orange-pineapple mimosas, blueberry pancakes, fresh fruit, cream, and a quichey thing with an Italian name that I forget.  It was fan-friggin'-tastic.  The sun was out and it was a gorgeous day (and still is, as I write this) - perfect for wandering half a block to set up our camp chairs and watch the West Seattle Hi-Yu Parade.  And among all the usual suspects (police motorcycle formation teams, marching bands, drill teams, floats, clowns and pirates) were a handful of the local churches.  In our neighborhood, the Catholics and Lutherans are predominant, evidenced by a bajillion churches and parochial schools within a 10-block radius.

This in itself is not unusual, nor do I have any problem with a person's personal display of faith (so long as it's not infringing another person's rights).  I was raised Presbyterian, follow a Judeo-Christian moral code, have many Christian friends, and am a pretty open guy when it comes to that stuff.  But it creeped me the heck out when the Lutheran church started handing out lollipops.  Not just any lollipops.  These were large confections in the shape of various-colored crosses... on a stick.


Here's where the history geek meets the marketing guy in me and they have a brainstorm.  First of all, early Christians, is the logo you want - your brand, if you will - really the device used to execute your dude?  What happened to the fish?  When the Romans converted, were they just that much more literal?  What if Jesus had been beheaded?  Would His followers wear little guillotines?  What if He was drawn & quartered? Shot? GarrotedBurned at the stake?  Under different circumstances, modern Christians might well be adorning their churches with a dunking chair or wearing miniature stretching racks as signs of their faith.  Point being, the Roman crucifix was an instrument of terror, torture and slow execution.  Using it as a holy symbol has always seemed more than a little morbid to me.  Not exactly the kind of symbol you want to use to attract people.  The fish is a good one, and I've seen some churches use the butterfly as a symbol of the Resurrection.  Those not only make sense, but are far more attractive to the layperson.

But that's just one (unaffiliated) person's opinion, and those of you who like the whole crucifix deal, knock yourselves out.  I am just giving my readers some background so that they can understand how bizarre I found passing out crosses made of candy to promote a religion.  Using the guillotine again, for example: "Look, kids!  They'd put someone's head through this hole and drop a heavy blade down the middle, severing it from the body!  And it's made of candy!"

Of course, the jokes started flying immediately.  Rae said her salvation tasted kind of like Pledge.  Amy found it challenging to reach hers through the tight plastic packaging.  I told her she really had to work at attaining her salvation, but when she did I assured her it would be delicious.  Someone said Jesus tasted funny.  There was no way I was gonna stick a Roman execution device in my mouth, no matter how delicious, so I took mine home to share with my readers.  Tyler was brave and volunteered to try his salvation-on-a-stick (and he finished it), but complained that salvation left a strange aftertaste.

I guess this kind of falls within the realm of "odd marketing tools".  No matter what, it made the day much more festive.

*    *    *

Work continues apace.  Editing the On And On BTS reel, and finishing layout for Arrowflight 2nd Edition.  Rae is taking me out for a dinner date tonight.  It's been awhile since we've done that.  And it's a gorgeous day to do it.  Heck, it's a gorgeous day to be alive.

And that's my mode of worship.  ;-)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Back Into the Swing

And we're not talking about a big band jazz movement or an apparatus of childish amusement.  As Raechelle posted, we recently spent a week in West Virginia with her folks.  Although the actual travel was awful (my daughter apparently thought the sight of me crammed into a tiny Midwestern Airlines seat was both "pitiful" and "comical", but I assure you my back, neck and shoulders were not laughing one little bit), the visit was great.  I love my in-laws and I loved a week full of having zero requirements after the past month of kicking ass and taking names on the On And On video.

Just the same, I missed my boy and I missed my cats, and I missed not having to strain to breathe normally (temps in WV were in the 90s with high humidity).  The trip back was a bit easier on the back, whether from taller seat-backs or slightly more legroom. 

But from the moment we touched down in Seattle to the time of this writing, I kind of feel there's something amiss.  I can't put my finger on it, but I've had a "grrr" in my head since we arrived, and I'm working on pinpointing it.  It could be merely the shock of going from stressful to stress-free and back to stressful.  Dunno.

Things on the professional front are good, and even more promising now.  The video got over 5,000 hits in 5 days, and has been getting near universally good response.  Dan and Trish and I have partnered with a fourth collaborator on the Ordinary Angels series, to help hone our pitch and get our collective foot in the door.

I've also been capturing old college (and earlier) films to digital for archival purposes.  I might share some links here and on Facebook.  And of course there is the yard to tame.  Raechelle and I got to mowing this week, and today I replaced the trimmer line, edged the entire yard (front and back) and pruned a tree in the back which has been scraping the side of the house (and sounds downright creepy whenever there's a breeze).

So although my head is still not back to normal, life is... at least somewhat.  And I'll adapt and persevere, as always...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Howdy, Stranger.

While I'm not back from vacation in the hot & humid hills of West By God Virginia, the music video for Kirby Krackle's single "On And On" just went live on the interwebs yesterday and I wanted to share it.  This is the project we were breaking our asses to get done before this last weekend so we could have a vacation with a clear conscience.  For those of you who aren't Wolverine or X-Men fans, the song is about the character Logan (aka Wolverine), who is one of the most overworked comic book characters ever.  It deals with the exhaustion and monotony of being a nearly immortal character whose sole existence is either preparing for or recovering from a fight.

It was shot over four days (two weekends) using two Canon DSLRs (a T2i and a 7D) and an awesome cast and crew of professionals working on tiny stipends and coffee.  I'm really proud of my cast and crew, even prouder of my producing partner Dan Heinrich, and extremely grateful to Kirby Krackle for the opportunity to do this project.  I'd been joking with JD Green for ten years that I wanted to do a Wolverine fan film once he was age-appropriate (because as much as we all love Hugh Jackman, he's sure not an authentic physical representation of the character, whereas JD exudes Logan-ness from his every pore).

Anyway, we finally did it, and it's a piece we're proud of.  Feel free to re-post and forward to your comic book geek friends.

I'll be back in a few days with more regular posts.  For now, I'm enjoying the slow pace of a hillbilly vacation.  Where's my banjo??