Making Revisions Update (13/2/16)

I’ve decided to only shoot one sequence this weekend as I want to focus on making snow for the another battle sequence. Still that’s for tomorrow. Today I have set-up a far better using the frontier town. I had to make it look different to the one in the now reclaimed town which is already established. I wish I added the rock faces to that one.

Putting that regret to one side I go onto lighting, adding a big splash of orange today, I’m starting to really make use of my lighting filters. I am also back up to four lights which meant the lighting is stronger. After the midweek crit and watching a part of La Jetee (1962) I have been rethinking the look of the piece, even to the point of reworking parts. I still want animation as I don’t think that an audience can watching a succession of still images. Admittedly La Jetee is 27 minutes long. I want to mix both animation and stills. I’m thinking of removing the Ken-burns completely now.

So with this in mind I intentionally wanted to animate at the beginning and have a series of stills that progress the action. This turned out pretty well, the shoot ended sooner than I thought though. I’m not happy with some of the images which I will hopefully resolve in the first edit.

Leaving me to turn my attention to the Native American’s once more I want a sequence where the “Yellow and Red American’s” meet in hopes of getting them to camp together after the Buffalo shooting. I’ve come to a point where I need to re-visit and rewrite the first treatment of the plot to take in what’s happened and what is now happening in my head. I need to get it on paper once more.

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) Revisited

Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)The sixth film in my revisit to the Ranown cycle of films, and the fourth film Buchanan Rides Alone (1958) that Randolph Scott and Budd Boetticher made together. One that is practically confined to studio back lot, one used in a number of 1950’s Westerns, mostly B-movies too. There are the odd classic which I’m reminded off. I’ve probably said this before when I look at a Randolph Scott Western they are generally B-Movies as he moved to the end of his career. However all that he brings to them, his presence, charm and down to earth being makes them stand the test of time. You could say today his contribution to cinema and the genre is something that can’t be overlooked, which has helped ensure that position. When it came to this 7 film collaboration Scott is taking a creative chance here, with a director who has been confined to B-Movies. Yet these films don’t feel like that, maybe in the supporting cast that you won’t see with A-list stars.

Anyway I’m spending too much time mumbling on when I should focusing on another tight film. I’ve already established the emphasis of the Frontier town back-lot, I feel that the best of the Ranown films are set out in the country where anything can happen, open to the elements and the evil of man lurking behind the next mountain or large rocks that populate Boetticher’s cold westerns. I decided to watch the trailer last night, a very misleading thing to do, as I thought that Scott’s character Tom Buchanan robs a bank with an accomplice. How very wrong I was, it just shows how manipulative a trailer could be in the late 1950’s. Instead he was another honest man who stands by his words, even his past as murky as it maybe, he could explain his position and past decisions, he owns his past as fictional as it really is, it becomes real.

I mentioned the evils of man out there in nature, the untamed landscape, that is not really in the Agry family who run the town of the same name. We’ve seen men in earlier Westerns, where rich cattle men owned the sheriff, who gangs who employed others to carry out their jobs lawfully. There’s no guise of the powerful figure pulling the strings from behind the scenes, instead its in your face, the face of the townspeople who are in-fact free to question the power but don’t really test its boundaries. It’s only when Buchanan rides into the border town, laid down with belts of bullets, it’s not an easy image to see the hero of the film weighed down by so much ammunition. He is joking with Sheriff Lew Agry (Barry Kelley) who we first don’t suspect of his dreams of power. It’s a light first scene, we’re being introduced to the Buchanan who just wants to pass through, easy-going and amiable. It’s not until Roy Agry’s (William Leslie) shot by Juan de la Vega (Manuel Rojas) for reasons we don’t really learn, it’s just an inevitability for the Agry’s black sheep who caused nothing but problems. Still a death in the family has to be avenged.

As it’s a Mexican who killed him it’s supposed to be easy to just go out and hang him, until they the Agry’s realise that Judge Simon Agry (Tol Avery) is running for Senator, he cant have an illegal hanging against him. So for the sake of image..and justice a quick trial that has Buchanan caught up in it as the supposed accomplice. Our hero is found innocent as he was, whilst Vega pleads guilty and happy to do so. The trial is merely for show, if justice is seen to be done then the town can move forward, a hanging and the town will still live in fear and want to be protected.

What follows is the breakdown of a male dominated family that conspire against each other. When a deal’s done to secure the release of Vega for payment of $50,000, probably a lot more today. Reflecting even then how those in power can be so underhand to ensure they stay in power. The deal doesn’t stay secret for long thanks to bumbling brother and hotel owner Amos (Peter Whitney) who is the real black-sheep of the family, or could you say the honest one of the family who has no real respect. He has only has a position thanks to his family name, without that he would be left outside and probably dead in the reality. You can’t help but empathise with him though, wanting to deliver change but forever locked out.

As in the other entries of the Ranown Cycle Scott is the stand up, hero who fights against the odds. Even though he just falls into these horrible situations that push him to test his own morals, he, doing what he has to survive and fight for the wronged man or woman. So where does it fit in with the other films, it is a strong entry, but for me its always going to be about Lone Pine that hides the danger and the drama, a wider stage to set the film upon. The cast is larger than the stronger films that have more tension, this is probably sitting in the middle in terms of strength of drama. This is however the dream of a better life, that ranch with a few thousand head of cattle, the dream of a ideal or a better life, a strong theme that runs throughout the cycle.

Crit Group Thoughts (10/2/16)

Tonight I showed a few sequences of my current work during the monthly crit-group. I’ve definitely got food for thought. All good and worth exploring. The group’s glad I have kept my passion, something which drives me in all I do, and need in something that’s taken so long to make.

I first showed the black and white sequence, which got mixed responses as it washed out all the colour. My intention is to focus on the action not the colour much. It was though that there was a removal of violence, which I feel is unfair to a point as the piece is unfinished. I will be adding audio and will be re-editing sequence. It does need to be present in the piece for it to work in places.

There is however a texture to the black and white images, However being a battle sequence without the context or build up didn’t help. The “Cowboy and Indian” toys used need to be emphasised. I will be inserting a sequence where the “Red Indians” are riding in before switching to black and white. The danger of showing raw work that is still disjointed is naturally open to more criticism (all good). It also had the aesthetic of being a crime reconstruction, which I hadn’t considered, and still don’t see myself, I guess being on the other side and still locked into production its hard to see.

The ken-burns (panning of the stills) doesn’t have the same impact as the stills, they are softer, I think I will be reducing them or at least re-timing them, even for violent effect.

The piece is a re-imagining of the Western genre in my passionate image of it. It is not about the myth of conquest of the White man, instead the Red Man (in the blunt terms). It’s also anti-capitalist, something I hadn’t considered but a compliment all the same. its not about the acquistion of land, but the reclamation of it.

I later showed a colour sequence which works far better, maybe I should have started the crit with that one? The work should showcase the models more, something that will naturally happen over the course of the film. I want to show the models, whilst telling the narrative.

To bring the piece together and fill in narrative. I was already thinking of text, the addition of my own voice is something I an unsure about, I would have to put on a voice possibly as narrator. The idea of having it as a silent film was mentioned, with text in between, matching the fast action that was shown tonight. I could even put on a John Wayne impression which would be fun and another layer to the piece. Its just an idea.

The use of the toys is playful and should be kept in mind. The animation does bear that in mind, using the limitations of the figures. I can’t ignore the playfulness of the toys which are traditionally used by children. Built around a culture where the Native American is the enemy by default of all the films, the dime novels and ultimately the politics of the history it all comes from.

The idea of having a script is both an interesting and scary prospect. I like the idea of being loose with the plot I have written out a few months ago. A script would bring structure to the work, but would that still be playful. The toys are the tool to tell the story though, should they be given more structure, should I tighten up what I have already into script form?

It was also mentioned about doing a piece overseas, which could inform this one. Maybe a future project to which would inform my practice and deepen my understanding of the subject matter I am deep within. Which leads me to a great positive, my growing as an artist as I am interrogating a deeper and political subject. I am leaving the surface to tackle more. I still hopefully being a fun element to my work. However that is all part of learning and growing, you have to give somethings, fun, isn’t one of them. I’ve found something in the genre and I can’t shake it loose. Much like another studio member who showed tonight, compelled by a subject he has been exploring a with a friend.

Moving forward, I know I am doing the right things, needing to bear these ideas in mind. It needs to be tightened, consider the violence, whilst also the structure important in order to hold onto the core ideas as they take shape.

Making Revisions Update (8/2/16)

A quick update, I’ve spent tonight pulling together the 4th sequence, a shorter one that shows the transition from Frontier town to its reclaimed form with the “Red Indians”. For my first transitions sequence I’m OK with the outcome. It takes a lot of observation to make sure each image marries the next so you get a smooth transition. The next time I carry out the technique It should be easier for me. I won’t use all of the transitions as I want to move around the town without it feeling too formal. Aiming for a circular tour of the town as it’s reclaimed.

Next up is an animation heavy sequence that involves Fort Smith which I would like to start before crit-group on Wednesday. It should be a quicker process as most of the stills will be reduced to less than a second. I’d like to get to the stage where I complete a sequence or two, before working on them in the editing process. Then turning to make more, its more so I don’t have work building up for me, then I can move onto the audio aspect at the same time for all of the sequences as they are refined, rejigged and tightened up.

Making Revisions Update (7/2/16)

I’ve now completed the shoot for the 7th sequence, moving into new territory both in terms of visuals and almost continuous animation, taking around 300 shots today, most of them were frames of movement. So the plot of this action orientated sequence focuses on the “Yellow Indian” and the Buffalo hunt. There are only a few left – 9 in this scene that they’re wanted by the white men (blue red and green) who begin by shooting one, then sending them wild. It’s an action focused scene. Looking at the raw images as I run through them they is something exciting going on here. It’s also not pleasant watch either as some of the Buffalo run into the camp. I was worried about the pacing of that scene, hoping it wouldn’t be jarring as the figures are moving faster than usual. I think when I come to pulling the sequence together I will know what is going on for sure.

Next time I will be returning to more familiar territory with my yellow friend as he goes to the nearest town for help to combat the “Red Indians”. I will then take a break to look at making snow when I return to the “Red Indian” Frontier town.

Love & Mercy (2014)

Love & Mercy (2014)My last review – Now You See Me (2013) was very much a rant at a shallow and for me pointless film that had to be expressed. I feel much more positive when it comes to Love & Mercy (2014) an obscurely structured bio-pic of the musical genius Brian Wilson, yes a genius. I wish I caught this at the time of release, it’s very much a film that has to be seen projected not on the small-screen if you can help it. If I’m honest with all the controversy surrounding Brian Wilson I thought something like this could never happen. Instead it was quite the opposite, he was very supportive of the production, on set at times for guidance, no wonder it has a unique visual and audio style that can only be linked to him.

My first thoughts as the film began were that it was fragmented, opening with the younger Wilson (Paul Dano) at the piano before darkness and re-made home-videos giving us a brief history up to the point of the film in the mid 1960’s before Pet Sounds was being recorded and the start of Smile. It bounces back and forth between The Beach Boys heyday and Brian Wilson (John Cusack) in the 1980’s under the care of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Dano is visually a better fit to Wilson in comparison to Cusack the weathered and suffering Wilson 20 years later. I think the casting here was more about the acting ability than the visual comparison. It takes a while for me to accept Cusack’s Wilson is more about the effects of the past. He’s very much a troubled man when we meet him wanting to buy a car from Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) who is for once not side-dressing, a very important part of this side of the film. Dano very much absorbs the part of Wilson, it’s like he’s been talking to Wilson, listened to the back-catalogue and has become the young Wilson, even putting on a belly for good measure.

Visually we are seeing this film from Wilson’s mind, not just his point of view, bright and full of hope when we meet him in the 1960’s, it’s all bleak in the 1980’s. Darting back and forth as if we are having a conversation with him, being delivered these fragments that energize his music which feels richer when you hear it being recorded even just for film. There’s definitely an attempt to make a fresh stamp on this story by re-enacting performances, which is both more immersive for the film, and distracting, having to think is that the actors or the archive footage. You can see a lot of love and attention to detail has gone into this film, a labour of love.

Wilson definitely had his demons in both times that are holding him back. In the 1960’s we have his abusive, controlling father Murry (Bill Camp) who is already left out in the cold, still has an influence over Brian and the band. The band themselves are fighting him over this new sound. Being both radical and innovative, meeting resistance from writing partner Mike Love (Jake Abel) who wants to return to tried and tested, knowing what works and sells. Not as instinctive as Wilson who begins to fall into what we later learn is a combination of drug use and paranoia that will trouble him more in the form of Cusack.

This is not your ordinary linear music-biopic, which I saw also in Get on Up (2014) which used a similar approach to telling the life story of James Brown however I felt it was just messed up. Here’s very much in the tone of Wilson’s mind, messed-up, broken and incredibly creative. We get an insight to his thought processes, not that we didn’t with James Brown, however that was more linear, when it wasn’t flashing back to his child-hood. There’s more structure is the fragments, a reason for their being. Obviously made in two parts and juggled together. Love & Mercy was definitely worth the wait, tonally spot on, brought alive by Dano’s performance, which I was more interested. Whilst you still need Cusack for the film to work, you can’t have the effects of his early life and not have the consequences.

Making Revisions Update (6/2/16)

The last few weeks have flown by and I am now in the middle of the 7th sequence for the piece. I’ve moved faster today as I wanted to establish normality in the now Native American  Frontier town. I wanted to capture some animated sequences in there to say that they are just living their lives happily just getting on with things. I started the sequence by having a number of shots around the town before finding opportunities to animate. I find with this work, I’m more spontaneous, playing with what is there, letting the imagination run wild. I captured about 4-5 sequence of animation in that set-up. They ended with three of the “Red Indians knocking down the fencing letting the horse run free, not restricted by them. It also show that they are here to stay, adapting the town, you could say they are reclaiming it.

The next sequence took me a while to get going as I was considering whether to have more than nine buffalo in the shot. I have moved onto look at other nations now, the yellow Indians way of life is under threat by the over-hunted Buffalo. I was thinking about photo-shopping more into an establishing shot, which I would have to them use as a multi-layered shot where animation would play out in front. Which the more I thought about it went against the idea of the Buffalo being hunted to almost extinction, to have a few left would be more effective. If I was to have more than 9 multiple times, I would have to animate them all as well. Working with just a stills camera that is going to be hard too. Maybe for a single shot or two it would work.

I finished the day with the start of another animated sequence where a hunting party is riding in to take out the rest of the Buffalo, or at least scare them off. It could be a long sequence from multiple sides. I’ll be picking up where I stopped today, hoping to complete the sequence which ever direction my loose idea leads me.

Now You See Me (2013)

Now You See Me (2013)I just remembered an interview for the promotion for Now You See Me (2013) where Morgan Freeman had fallen asleep. Now was that because of his age getting the better of him or had he lost faith in the film he was contracted to promote. Sat along with Michael Caine who just laughed it off. I decided at the time to pass on the film, feeling it was style over substance. I think just recently I had a soft moment and gave into to the terrestrial premiere of the film. I guess part of me was curious as to what I would be seeing behind the smoke and mirrors of this magicians meets bank robbers film.

Now that I have less time to write my reviews I have to feel more driven to actually take the time out to do this for one reason or another. I felt that this was one of those films that I had to…rant about. There is little I can really praise about this film. The mark of a good film is if at least you are entertained by the story, swept away to a place of wonder, not thinking about your own life. I felt my feet were firmly on the ground. Well my back-side to the chair if I’m honest. There was a moment at the start where these four separate magicians are all lone artists of their trade, as we learn what their style and signature is. None of them are likeable at all. From the sarcastic J.Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) who is about to get his leg over when we discover he’s all about the next gig. The one dimensional psychic hypnotist con-artist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) who proving to one couple how he can ruin their lives..or not. Actually they are all one-dimensionally really, Played by actors who mostly are worth more than this style over substance smoke and mirrors.

Yes I know films are based on the ideas of smoke and mirrors, we are left wondering how the makers pulled it all off. I for one turned away when I saw a post that revealed how the bear in The Revenant (2015) was achieved. Somethings are better off left alone. Now there are films where you invest in the characters, get to know them and want to know how they pulled off the heist. Those sort are called Oceans Eleven (2001), which comes down to some clever writing and direction. The editing of the flashbacks and cutaways works, so intricate and precise, stylish and sophisticated. I felt that Now You See Me was playing off that style, trying to pay homage but failing. The fun of magic is that you are left wondering how they hell they pulled it off. Yes there are shows that reveal it all, killing it really.

Returning to the older characters Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) and Arthur Tressler (Caine) who we follow. Tressler for a while looks like the guy who is funding the heists, before he is made a fool of in-front of a live audience whose fortunes are improved at Tressler’s expense. Whilst throughout the film Bradley seems to be switching sides, being a failed magician he knows a thing or to about the tricks that are leading the FBI around in circles. There’s a time when Bradley and Tressler team up but that only goes so far before we loose track of it completely. It just fizzles out and not mentioned.

Going back to the FBI we have one decent casting or typecasting in Agent Fuller (Michael Kelly) who is just playing himself in another character role of the hard-nosed agent. The other two that we follow lead investigator Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and interpol officer Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) who just don’t agree on anything even which way the investigation should go in. They say opposites attract, but should they here? That moment comes too late on in the film to really feel natural, tacked on for a reason that is beyond me.

As they finally home in on the Four Horsemen (not of the apocalypse) begin their final show, which has seen them steal money and give to the poor, the down trodden. A more perfectly timed film if it was released just after the recession this would be more relevant. It feels too greedy and at the same time completely pointless. Its a lot of show that really does nothing with characters you can’t invest in because they are always messing around. I know its supposed to be light and fun but your can’t enjoy it when your heads in a constant spin. The big reveal just makes no sense like the rest of the film so I felt I had wasted my time overall. I’m just scratching my head now as to why there is a second one being released in the summer…oh yeah the money.

Making Revisions Update (2/2/16)

A quick update really tonight, thinking about The Shag screening the last week. I screened the first segment of the short film, which I have now accepted could be quite, at least an hour. Also due to the overall size of the film (memory) I will release the piece in multiple parts. All of equal quality, ensuring the audio and content across all the parts is to the same standard. I have been slowly working on the first battle sequence this week and its taking good shape. So far it’s up to 4mins, I have more to do before its complete and minus audio still.

I think once I have all the sequence in some form or another I can start to plan a release schedule of the work. It’s exciting to see how things are going at this stage. I know that if the work was to be exhibited it would be in its complete form whatever weight that maybe. When I return to the studio I will be moving onto create snow for a later battle sequence – inspired by Little Big Man (1970). I have other pieces that I can capture in the meantime. Bring on studio time!!

London Trip (28-30/1/16) – Part 3

A shorter day than I expected but nonetheless I saw two great shows. The first in Bermondsey at the Drawing Room for Mick Peter:Pyramid SellingOn reflection I didn’t feel the show had a pyramid scale/presence about it. Reading the text (which I choose rarely to do) its about the shady Pyramid selling where you do all work work in a business model to benefit the few. What drew me to this work was to see drawings blown up, that had the style like Quentin Blake which we tend to find in Roald Dahl’s work. Set against these concrete structures that I find these characters hiding around. These are the fooled workers making all the money for the boss raised high above them. Then we have these blown up zips of all varieties around the show. I was reminded how they could only be drawing together by the zip pulley, not even at this scale could they be manipulated into closing. These are the products that are making, that then in-turn are over looking at their productivity. A bleak image really, But I didn’t feel that at the time. I felt like I was transported to another world, like an old Paddington Bear cartoon, with these zip beings that represent the work they have completed, yet never pulled to the end, something is stopping them. I wonder what that could be. I am also reminded about the power of seeing objects at different scales. When I photograph my work I can change the scale just from the position of the camera.

The last show of the trip was over in what is becoming a regular destination for me Parasol Unit for Julian Charrierriere: For They that Sow the Wind. I was drawn to the first room, a series of salt rock structures that have been arranged like buildings from a distance. Closer up they are more symbolic, carefully composed, you could go as far as pieces from a futuristic structure. Being composed from salt a very brittle and soluble substance it wouldn’t last long outside in the elements showing his lifespan is quite limited. The piece would return to the Earth.

There’s a strong environmental theme to the show, but it’s not preaching to you at any time. The work makes you think, look and wonder at the possibilities of nature. It was a strong end to a very productive trip to the capital. I’ve taken in more work than I have before in one trip to the capital which I know will inspire me for future works.


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