Iron Horse of the Studio (25/4/15)

Even though I put in some hours during the week I feel in retrospect they could have been better spent as I felt worse during the week for it. With that said I have finally completed the first cut, which I am now editing down so things flow. I’ve accepted that the track sequences will be jumpy which adds to the fabric of the piece.

Now its all about cutting it down slightly from 12 mins plus whilst maintaining the content. I am also checking that all the cuts/crops of the footage which is becoming a style of mine now, which I hope to continue as it works for me. I will also be looking at extra audio to fill those silent moments. Even after extending audio from the footage over the track footage works to a point before I start to make it into something else. As you move away from a scene the audio should be drowned out sound of the steam engine, so there could be a complete change around.

Also I will be altering the transitions from all straight cuts to a mix of dissolves for reasons of flow, this is a finishing touch once I have a finished video. Looking at what I have to right now this video could be released as early as next week or mid May, I’m not rushing the piece now, as much as I want to move on to other project it does give me the time to think about where I can take them.

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (19/4/15)

I’ve only added a further 90 seconds to the initial running time of the video, after believe it was 8 mins last time I came back to see it was nearer 8.30mins. Now it’s pushing closer to 10which is great to see. I think it will come in around the 12 minute mark even when I have begin to polish the piece. I can see parts that can be shaved off for reasons of flow, extending parts in places too.

The footage has now entered the extension of the studio, so it’s coming to an end now, sequence by sequence, which I believe is now around 4 to go before I can start to edit and add audio. I also improved the last sequence from yesterday, filters in tact, this is one of those rare times where it may actually add to the work and not bring it down. I have in a way been editing what I have with audio being overlapped into other sequences. This can be out of continuity and allowing the edited scene to draw to some kind of conclusion without being too abrupt.

I feel I can do more on other nights during the week as it has been a long project which I want to wrap up to, of course not to the detriment of the work itself, instead to allow other ideas to take shape this year.

The Salvation (2014)

The Salvation (2014)I first dismissed The Salvation (2014) as a foreign western, which is very unfair really. Then I saw the trailer, showing all the “best bits” to me, I was hooked, needing to see it as soon as possible. The nearest that you can get to a standard western today, if you ignore Django Unchained (2012), The Lone Ranger (2013) which are all variations on the classic genre. Here is the closet we are going to get to a dramatic tale in the West today, having more in common with a spaghetti western in terms of the violence minus the humour.

More in the Fordian vein of an immigrant rich country, focusing the in a Danish lead Jon (Mads Mikkelsen) who meets his estranged wife and child arrive after being apart for seven years. Its all happy families, being reunited once more, ok a little awkward but they are happy to be together once more. Taking a stagecoach that would have wished he hadn’t. Ending in the death and rape of his family at the hands of a gang leaders brother. All this takes the ex-soldier back to a life he gave up once he came to America. After tracking down and killing his families killers he wants to just get on with his life. It all happens so fast too.

Tonally we are seeing the best of the classic genre all rolled into one, the 1950’s and spaghetti westerns all mashed together to give us this steely determination we find with Clint Eastwood as finds the men on his list. When news of the killings reach Jon’s town Delarue’s  (Jeffrey Dean Morgangang arrive leaving with an ultimatum for the town that I have never come across before, things get Biblical for a while is all I’ll say. Giving into his gangs demands too easily the town is indeed living in fear, paying them for their own security it’s understandable.

I’m reminded of a much older western Riding Shotgun (1954) which has its roots in the communist witch-hunt era. A town living in fear, ready to give up to easily to that emotion instead of listening to reason. More religious in morality however there is still plenty of immorality going around in the form of mayor, land officer and undertaker Keane (Jonathan Pryce). Things get brutal for Jon and his brother Peter (Mikael Persbrandt) who take on the gang themselves when the town give-up of them. Theres a bit of an anti immigrant feeling as they are happy to have their money but not their presence when things get bloody. Could this be mirroring political tensions today in Denmark or America? You could say The Salvation is more representative of young America in the 1800’s trouble around every corner. The weak being taken advantage of by the strong.

All this going on against the classic back-drop of Monument Valley out of the usual season which we recognise the landscape, it’s not the hot summer with the deep orange-red buttes that are as far as the eye can see. They sit within the yellow grass, we aren’t supposed to be overwhelmed by the landscape, more to acknowledge its presence as we see the nightmare unfold for a lone man as he fights for justice.

Whilst fighting for her own freedom is new widow Madelaine (Eva Green) a woman forever silenced after Native American’s brutally attacked her, cutting out her tongue, a supporting actress who has not a single line of dialogue, fighting her own battle amongst all gang men, mostly Delarue and Corsican (Eric Cantona) who want their way with her. Mostly taking it all only able to use gestures to allow the audience to convey her emotions which is quite as task to pull off. Whilst Cantona really does surprises me, the second in command who has taken on another form as a part-time actor. It’s a European cast in an all American genre and it works, its more rooted in fact to allow this drama to take-place.

The classic shoot-out rounds up this sweet and swift film that has packed in a lot of gunfire. It’s cleverly constructed to pit two against a whole gang without falling too much into cliche. Making the build up to this moment worthwhile, having seen one man going through a lot in a short space of time. Jon really does take a beating from all sides, those who were once his allies to his enemies who want their own justice. Ultimately no-one is right or wrong which is an interesting twist on the genre, reflecting how complex and hard life in that era must have been. There’s no hero here really making this film all the more darker which I have not before. It does however lack any lighter moments which would have allowed for character development, instead going head first into revenge and justice, seeking what is right, finding his own path.

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (18/4/15)

Even with a full day in the studio I’ve only progressed the work a further two minutes which is disappointing. I think that’s because the longer the video becomes, now running at 8 minutes it will take longer to process and for the software to keep up with it. Also I found I was repeating segments to get them right as things weren’t going how I had hoped at first.

I am however leaving the main studio and over into the extension, onto the final stage, a few more sequences and its ready to be polished off with audio and tweaking. I have been thinking about some close-up engine shots of wheels in motion overlapping the track as I move from scene to scene. I have reworked a sequence, trimmed it down and hopefully achieved something special, a night-shot of a train going through a dark door-way. Having to use a filter to help pull it off, something I usually try and avoid. I want it to look like the train is passing through the doorway, at the same time still have that atmosphere. Hopefully I can find some time tomorrow to get some more completed before the next working week begins.

The Hanging Tree (1959)

The Hanging Tree (1959)

Noted as Gary Cooper‘s last starring western I knew  he had something special in The Man of the West (1958) could the same darkness be replicated? The answer is complicated really. One you don’t have Anthony Mann behind the camera, Man of the West was really his last great film before his death. What we have in The Hanging Tree (1959) is a film about our primitive urges as human beings, not exploring all of them in real depth but at least scratching under the surface of the idea to reveal just how easily lead we can be as a group, a society when pushed, and not even that hard.

When Dr. Joseph ‘Doc’ Frail (Cooper) rides into yet another boom town, gold is being found and spent. A good ol’ fashioned  hanging is taking place over a a crime that is never made clear. The whole town i is there, driven by revenge and a sense of justice, a law and order that they all get behind, you break the law and you break your neck. The Doc looks on saying little, is he different from these average townspeople who are hungry for gold, living on a shoe-string at times until their luck comes in. In this opening sequence you can see no expense is spared as the surrounding landscape is built upon to bring this gold-mining community alive of only for a few month as filming got under way in Washington-state, a landscape straight out of the classics which we identify as the old west, a perfect setting for a forgotten way of life.

We don’t have to wait long to discover what the Doc is like as he treats his first patient Rune (Ben Piazza) for a gunshot wound after stealing gold from another mans (Frenchy Plante (Karl Malden) mine. With no money to pay him for his services another method is needed, becoming his man-servant, a slave almost to the doctor, a public figure who the community should look-up to. A private arrangement based on blackmail brings these two men together, one of slave and master, both white so invisible to those around them. The Doc’s reputation is one that precedes him, one of dark acts that they cannot forget. Having both friends and enemies in the town.

A hard man who is tough to break until a stagecoach hold-up leaving one survivor who suffers badly under the sun. Its set-up like a car crash hit and run, rolling down the hill, minus the explosion. The Doc takes his time to visit his latest patient a foreign girl Elizabeth Mahler (Maria Schell) who is to become his most important patient after taking all kinds of payment for his work. From a simple kiss from a child on the cheek, to receiving horses. He’s more like the traditional image of Doc Holiday than your average frontier doctor wanting to treat the sick and heal the wounded after gun0fight. He does have compassion and drive to do his job, sometimes his motives can be questioned. 

Once he has comet the aid of Elizabeth he hardly leaves it until she is on the road to recover, when we see another side to Cooper’s character, something I didn’t find as Link Jones in Man of the West whose violent past came back to haunt him. Here we have a man driven by his urges, unable to shake them off, something bathing in them as he lashes out, especially opposite Frenchy who at least admits that he’s only human. You could say he’s a pervert by todays standard, washed down for the 1950’s. He can much like Rune can see through the doctors image to find a possessive figure who won’t let Elizabeth go once better.

When the three (Elizabeth, Rune and Frenchy) of them team up and stake a claim which is propped up by Doc behind the scenes. Never far away from the trio, pulling the strings, supporting Elizabeth, a confident woman who won’t take any messing about. When the success comes the trio’s away, striking gold, mayhem ensues in the town. Giving into basic urges following the few leading to destruction and eventually death in the town, bringing us back full circles, that little seen or spoken of tree of justice is brought back, Showing just how human and flawed we are, following the crowd, our greed and desire for safety are out of control, no measure of fairness, witness and crime and prosecute.

For Coopers last western, not quite his last leading role but certainly in the American frontier he has come full circle from being the all round hero who saves the day to being a flawed and complicated man. The male figure is not so straight forward in reality, not even in the west are things that simple, finding ways to survive, making mistakes in their past and trying to live with them. All in the midst of all the progress in the gold rush and the drive for law and order. What I can take away from this film is the landscapes and complicated characters who try to look into the darker side of life.

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Kelvin Ferguson – Westerns Compressed

Last night I was taken aback by a post shared on Facebook, which in-turn I had to share. It was so breath-taking at the time when I saw fifty montages of fifty westerns. Comprised of every frame at 10 second intervals. An investigation to discover the overall colour palette and look of the film. All with incredible results when each of these frames from the respective films are placed upon each other to create a ghostly blur of an image. It doesn’t sound much when you think about it. A methodical task to understand the make-up of the film. A process better explained by Kelvin Ferguson in this post which had me at westerns.

It’s Ferguson’s thoroughness of the work that really drew me to the work, taking a huge number of films and analysing them. The genre is far from dead, it’s breathing summing up the aesthetic of the genre in 50 images, well quite a few more (you get the idea). They are so intricate, drawing you into take a closer look at these films. Admittedly the black and white film aren’t so successful, there are some interesting surprises which do pop-out at you which brings out the essence of the individual film.

Each time I look at these I see something different, It’s like looking into the clouds or into TV static creating new images out of noise.

The Rover (2014)

The Rover (2014)The Rover (2014) was first brought to my attention as a post-apocalyptic western, the western part really stick in my mind, which is not surprising really, making the viewing of this film all the richer. A cross between the Mad Max trilogy and the west. Set after a global economic collapse which again like most past events in these films are never really explained, the mere mentioned is a mystery to us, only the characters have any idea what went on, in this case 10 years previous.

In a sense The Rover is a very simple story with plenty of action thrown in the middle to make it worth your while, which is hardly fair. When Eric’s (Guy Pearce) car is stolen whilst he is having a quiet drink. His only means of transportation in the Australian desert taken from him, by a group of men who crashed their own car due to a fight. Like taking another man’s horse, an extension of himself. A means of movement and freedom is stolen. The gang of men, made up of American’s, South Africans and Australians didn’t count on the persistence of this lone man who is able to make his way on the road. Meaning business as he scares the hells out of these wandering men. Everyone is out for themselves in the harsh reality where all men carry a gun for protection.

They didn’t count on one of the men; Henry’s (Scoot McNairy) brother Rey (Robert Pattinson) who they left for dead to being found by Eric. It’s not the start of a beautiful friendship, more a bargaining chip in ensuring he gets his car back. He doesn’t care about the mentally disabled Rey who grows to need the cold killer who takes what he wants when he needs it. Driving along the open dusty road that seems to go on forever. Nowhere is safe, always having on the edge of your seat, not knowing who to trust.

It’s nice to see Pattinson growing out his teenage fan base of the Twilight series to become a half-decent actor who knows a good part when he reads one. Able to assume the part of a disabled person, taking on mannerism without being comical, coming almost naturally. Whilst Pearce is chewing the scenery, the angry older man who has seen it all, not caring what life throws at him.

The world that director David Michôd creates is dark and dangerous is not without fault. The presence of the army is left lingering. Are they the last resort in this chaotic world? The governments only way of controlling the country, are they the government? In George Miller‘s world the police are non-existent by the end of the first film. The breakdown of society is being held in place by the army here, whilst it’s not that strong as we find out. All that aside it’s a decent thriller once again from Michod who gave us the far darker Animal Kingdom (2010) which was far grittier as a criminal family slowly turned in on itself. All that said I think Australia does the post-apocalyptic genera far better, with the landscapes to play with it, you can really believe the barrenness of a future world where little or no-one is left alive. The Rover is a continuation of that genre, as we pursue a car not really knowing the reasons that drive that, it goes on forever…it feels to reveal a very human need at the end which you don’t see a coming.

Iron Horse of the Studio Update (12/4/15)

Even spending a day away from the studio hasn’t stopped my making some progress on the video. I have progressed to almost 7 minutes now. Last night I had 4 mins. I have also stayed working with footage I shot on day two, closing in on day three. Things are moving faster, it also varies on the track footage that breaks up the clips, which have to be edited, and sped up to suggest movement at train-speeds. There are a few more fun moments in there now. I’m even seeing the track being laid out in front of me as its progresses which is what I wanted, its both fun and adds context as track allowed a whole country to be connected, it allows me to progress through the studio. It really is coming together.

I won’t be picking it up until next weekend now, when I should have the majority of it completed by then, leaving me to polish it off, and found some train audio to add on top to be more authentic.

Festen/The Celebration (1998)

Festen:The Celebration (1998)Another film I noticed when I watched documentary series The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011), mentioning Festen/The Celebration (1998) in the last episode as film progresses from celluloid to digital. Noted as the first film recorded on domestic home video cameras. At the time a radical move to make, part of a movement of film-making known as Dogme which stripped back film-making to the essentials, the plot which is what I got most out of the film myself.

Of course by todays standard of slick films it visually it comes across as amateur, there’s no lighting, relying entirely on the natural illuminations of the rooms/sets they are in. Yet at the same time we have all made videos on our phones or cameras with little thought, just in the moment. Capturing moments in our lives. This is about capturing whats in front of the camera a little else. Which is a family coming together for a 60th birthday part at a hotel they own, where all hell breaks loose.

From the opening scenes we see two brothers, one Christian (Ulrich Thomsenwalking down the road, passed by his brother Michael (Thomas Bo Larsen) in his car with his family. Deciding to throw his wife and kids out in favour of his brother, we can tell already where loyalties lie in the very fractured family who come together, fighting from the moment all three siblings meet at the hotel. We can see what their family is life, just by looking at these three including sister Helene (Paprika Steen). The importance of appearances is very important as they meet all the extend family and friends, keeping the host face on as long as possible.

Sounds like your average family drama with all the big revelations that come out over the next 24 hours. Its intensity is built up in the intimacy of the hand-held camera that can get into angles and places that a hunky standard film camera had no chance. Today we can achieve the angles with ease on a daily basis on our smartphones without even thinking about the meaning of the angle, the emotion, the thought behind it, they are throw away in comparison to this carefully constructed film, just like any other, which threw out all the gloss to leave the camera and the actor. Who themselves had to be the camera-man to get the shots.

It has opened off the possibility of film, who can make film has becoming a universal act. Pick up a camera and shoot, If you’re lucky enough you can get paid for it which is always a bonus. But is that a good thing, when everyone can make a film? I mean are they all worth watching, would they reach a wide audience or just a handful. Some are just home-movies, not open for mass consumption. It has allowed for new forms of film and documentary to be made, how we see the world, when big events happen, we see YouTube/phone camera footage on the news within hours of the story breaking. How we view film has in that context has changed, the speed of production can be a quick as adding a filter to being a two minute film made in one shot. Creativity has blossomed. Yet there is still something in a film that as intimate as Festen that really pushed the boundaries of how we view and shoot a film. It would really be something to see this film projected, how would the quality of the image be affected, would it matter after all when you have such engaging characters all of whom we can relate to?

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Iron Horse of the Studio Update (11/4/15)

I’ve had a full day editing my video together today, something I’ve been waiting to do all week. It’s really coming together. I know I say that a lot, if I were to show you a raw cut of the film you would see why. I’m holding back sharing any material with you until its ready now, not even a screen-shot until the big reveal.

So how far have I got? In term of piecing it together I have just gone into second day of filming so I’m moving as fast as the complexity of the scene I am piecing together. Having to make more decisions as it all comes together. It’s looking fun in places and looking to be the longest duration for a video I have made to date, which it needs to be to take in all of the studio, weaving from bay to bay. I am also very aware that the steam coming out of the train has to be included in the clips that I have found, making sure they are included as edit the piece. I’m hoping to do more tomorrow and can share more with you them.


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