Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Weather

Very proud of this little music vid flick thingo for Canberra band Kempsey... You might dig it. If you do, let me know what you think. All made over a few nights with a crew of two, 50mm lenses and some hellraising. A million thanks to everyone involved for all your time and patience.

If you're having trouble viewing, you can also see the clip here -

The band are doing some new tracks and demos and there should be a proper single release and video release in a month or two. Until then, I'll just hide it here in the wilds of the blogworld.

Process #1

I love this blog. It's by American photographer Zoe Strauss, who takes searing and beautiful images from the margins of US society. The blog is a kind of open-for-business-creative-process-in-construction blog that lays bare the process of selection, exclusion, refinement that forms such a vital part of an exhibiting photographer's work.

I'm always obsessed with process: With the banal mechanics involved in trying to create something material. Blogs like the one above are, to me, one of the great joys of freaking procrastinatory interwebness, as they make immediate what we used to have to glean from post-production, post-humous interviews by which time the true horrors and boredoms and frustrations and levities and joys of process are long forgotten.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Old Fitzroy #1

We began shooting last week for Dan Sultan's clip 'Old Fitzroy' which has become a great excuse to go and film with a number of folks we've crossed paths with, places we know well and things we've wanted to capture visually after many years haunting the streets of the new and old Fitzroy. You can still see the traces of Old Fitzroy and you will still meet up with or collide with some of the fixtures who aren't going anywhere no matter who moves in next door or what new changes go on around them. So, here are a few images from the first day or two of shooting. Many more to come...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Cinema Life, Cinema Death

This interview, between David Walsh and Bahman Ghobadi, was conducted in 2006 when Ghobadi screened Half Moon - one of the incredible series of films made for the New Crowned Hope festival - at Toronto Film Festival. The original article can be found here.
David Walsh: It seems to me the presence of death is everywhere in this new film.

Bahman Ghobadi: I never live in the present. I’m always thinking about the next 10 years or 20 years of my life. I’m just afraid. But the only time I’m not scared is when I make films. In my life so far, I’ve experienced so many different kinds of death. Private death, and death as the result of political events, of repression. The deaths of my family members. Death in our culture has a magical concept. And at the moment I can see the strength of the Middle Eastern culture. Every day I’m waiting for death and I’m very anxious.

DW: I wonder if artists are especially afraid of death, and art is a way of freezing time, of keeping something alive?

BG: I agree with that. As an independent filmmaker, I also want to look at it in a different light. As an independent filmmaker, I want my film to be seen in the right way. But also when I come to a big festival like Toronto and Cannes and other festivals, I can see the death of independent filmmaking at these festivals. And I’m quite afraid of that. I usually think and ask myself, what should we do? But I also make a lot of points to the audience and try to draw them in. There is a type of death for the audience, if independent cinema dies, that I’m afraid of. And I think if this film does not get the right distribution, the film will be worse than death, for me.
I live cinema, I breathe cinema, all my life is about cinema. And I haven’t really enjoyed my life. And I don’t even enjoy filmmaking. Now I feel that I’m an addict of filmmaking. Maybe that is why I’m afraid of death. Maybe I torture myself and have a lot of hardship.

DW: With the increased aggressivity of the United States, is the internal situation of Iran changing? Does the government impose more censorship as the US threatens war?

BG: Obviously, the problems are related to one another. Since the election of the new president [Ahmadinejad], everything is changing and they have started to seize all the satellite dishes in Iran. It’s in this situation that three days ago my film was banned. I never expected that. And now they are accusing me of being a Kurdish separatist.

DW: Is it because of the scenes of the brutal Iranian police?

BG: The police, because females are singing in my film, but mostly because of the map that’s seen [with “Kurdistan” on it].

DW: The woman in your film is hiding because presumably she could not sing in public.

BG: In Iran, women are not allowed to sing in public. My film is about that. I censored myself and I cut a lot of scenes that I thought the ministry would not have liked. But now that they banned the film, I’m disappointed with myself. I live in a country where we are not allowed to show musical instruments on television.
I made this film for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. And I live in a society in which women are not allowed to sing publicly. And I could not even show one-third of what I wanted to show. Just because I’m afraid of censorship. And now I’m saying: Why didn’t I do it? I should have shown everything.

DW: The scene of the banned women is an extraordinary moment. The film refers in passing to the fall of Saddam Hussein, there is a reference to the Americans “shooting at anything that moves.” And of course there’s a reference to the Turkish military, there’s the Iranian police. All these forces are shown to be brutal and oppressive. It’s a sensitive question. There is also the presence of the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq, which in my opinion is a puppet of the US.

BG: I don’t want to talk about this because of the situation the Kurdish people are in right now.

DW: What’s the relationship between art and music and a very difficult political situation?

BG: Everything is related to everything else. All aspects of our lives. From daily living to the instruments that the artists get. And to the trauma that I have in my head. I have never been so afraid of going back to Iran as I am right now. And I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. If they are going to bomb Iran or not.
Instead of thinking about my next film, I’m thinking about how I can get enough food for my mother. We are all waiting for something to happen. The Iran-Iraq war went on for eight years. In those eight years we fell behind more than 80 years. And we can easily envision a more disastrous time. I’m thinking about these things and how I can save my family.

DW: You realize today is five years since 9/11?

BG: That was the worst day of my life. The day that I saw that on the news, I was in the capital of Kurdistan in Iran. I was waiting for the United States to nuke Iran and Iraq at the time. I was afraid for almost two weeks.

DW: Obviously, the US has launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and both have been disasters. But precisely because they’ve been disasters, they’re planning some kind of new attack on Iran. What do think would be the consequences if the US dropped bombs on Iran?

BG: It’s too awful. I can’t think about it.

DW: Why is there a ban on your film, and is there any way to get it reversed?

BG: I called the Minister of Culture personally last week and asked him please not to seize or ban the film. Just take out what you want, I said. But then he said, even if you take out 20 minutes of it, it won’t be helpful because it’s the “soul” of your film that is about Kurdish separatism. But I said, it’s my baby. It’s not about separatism. I’m Iranian. I don’t want even this much separatism from the motherland. But do I have the right to talk about the problems that face our society?
If I only want to say what the government wants me to, then I have to be a government employee, not a filmmaker. We are filmmakers. It’s my job to film everywhere I want to. The government is not a filmmaker. Our job is to ask difficult questions, the most difficult.

DW: And that’s what I think is the strength of your filmmaking, it consistently asks the most difficult and painful questions. The heart of the film is neither separatism nor anti-separatism. The heart of the film is a feel for humanity and a hostility to oppression in all forms.

BG: I cannot stop. I have to make my next film in Tehran. Even if it is made underground. Because I am afraid of death, I have six projects in mind. Before I die I want to have 20 films under my belt.
I’ll be in Toronto every year from now on, not every two years.
We have to fight for the rights of female artists. This is the truth of our life. This is reality. It’s about self-expression, it’s about soul. People in Iran are suffocating. There is little freedom.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Suspense and Silence

"Suspense is trying to build but the stillness and silence outlive it."

Words: Don DeLillo
Image: Zoe Strauss

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Time The Place

A while back, we made a feature concert film for Motor Ace, the well adored band of a friend and collaborator of ours, Patch Robertson. Patch composed the music for our flicks 'Love This Time', 'Muscle' and a few other bits and pieces along the way. The film, picked up for distribution some time back by Liberation, has finally been released on DVD. Now, Motor Ace fans can stop emailing me, demanding and pleading for copies. We're happy the little fella has finally been released into the wilds. You can buy it here if that's your bag.

This is the trailer:

The Edit Room #3

"I think the image of the eyes facing forward and the ears facing sideways is metaphorically indicative of how we confront visual reality as opposed to aural reality. The visual seems to be direct and confrontational: You look at what's in front of you, and what's in front is seen and apprehended with a measure of intellect and emotion. And it's seen all at once, in a single grasp--let's call that the front door. The visual material knocks on the front door, and when somebody knocks on the front door, you sort of adjust your clothing, go to the door, take a deep breath, say, "Who's there?" and open the door. Whatever meeting occurs will have an element of formality to it, because it's somebody who came to the front door.
Sound tends to come in the back door, or sometimes even sneak in through the windows or through the floorboards. Remember, the ears point out the side of your head and take in a 360-degree spherical field. And while you're busy answering the front door, sound is sneaking in the back door. It's in the house as much as anyone who came in through the front door, but you're not as aware of it, and so its presence is more of a conditional presence--it tends to condition the things you are consciously aware of. The strange thing is that you take the emotional treatment that sound is giving, and you allow that to actually change how you see the image: You see a different image when it has been emotionally conditioned by the sound. So sometimes you will swear that you actually saw something that never, ever happened on the screen or in the soundtrack, but is the unique combination of the two inside your head.
Also, for some reason that I don't fully understand, I am very emotionally moved by the space around a sound. I almost think that sometimes I am recording space with a sound in it, rather than sound in a space."
Walter Murch in conversation with Tom Kenny

The Edit Room #2

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Edit Room #1

Deep, deep, deep inside the edit room.

It only has four white washed walls and an old timber floor, a couple of monitors and some buzzing boxes made of polished steel, but there is a whole lot of swirling chaos, strange improvised thought processes and figurative pens strung out of chicken wire disguised as narrative structures, all contained within that small cosy space.

Editing: What is it like when you're dealing with 160 odd hours of observational footage, multiple characters all deserving of their own feature length film, historical insights, musical numbers and profound emotional peaks. A maths equation. A cypher. A prose-poem. A tangle of blackberry bushes at the back of my uncle's farm with their sting and their cursed sweet fruit.

What does Murch say:
It's a fractal situation. How long do you hold this shot? Is that look redundant given the fact that the character gave a similar look just before? You don't see all these things immediately. They reveal themselves over time. Looking at a first assembly is kind of like looking at an overgrown garden. You can't just wade in with a weed whacker; you don't yet know where the stems of the flowers are. So you have to gently go through and discover, "OK, that's a weed, that's a weed, there's a flower." Then you start to see the outlines of the garden, and you discover that it might look better if these flowers were over on the left side where they'll get more sun. Then you start transposing, and things start to get interesting.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Fistful of Trouble

This is one of the pearls of the internet. 1930s Pulp writer Lester Dent's strict guidelines for writing a 6000 word genre story. Screenwriters can use the guidelines like the Tao Te Ching. Meditate on rules like: 

"First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble" 


"Second 1500 words - Shovel more grief onto the hero"

I like the thought of Erick Zonca writing a 6000 word treatment for The Little Thief with these rules in front of him. Or Jean-Pol Fargeau and Claire Denis discussing the rules while writing their 6000 word treatment (neatly broken into 1500 word elements) for Beau Travail. James Gray is an adherent I'm sure. Jacques Audiard, too. Hell, probably Judd Apatow. Everyone should be.

Lester Dent came up in an extensive article published by the Guardian in which a group of writers were asked their ten rules for writing fiction. I've got an ascetic love for restrictions and rules, even as I refuse completely to adhere to any of them. So, here are some of my favourite rules.

Geoff Dyer. Rule #6

Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.

Will Self. Rule #10

Regard yourself as a small corporation of one. Take yourself off on team-building exercises (long walks). Hold a Christmas party every year at which you stand in the corner of your writing room, shouting very loudly to yourself while drinking a bottle of white wine. Then masturbate under the desk. The following day you will feel a deep and cohering sense of embarrassment.

Margaret Atwood. Rules #1-#3 and #7

Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there's no free lunch. Writing is work. It's also gambling. You don't get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you're on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don't whine.

Zadie Smith. Rule #3 & #4

Don't romanticise your "vocation". You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no "writer's lifestyle". All that matters is what you leave on the page.

Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can't do aren't worth doing. Don't mask self-doubt with contempt.

Elmore Leonard. Rule #1

Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

Colm Toibin. Rule #3, #4, #5 and #7

Stay in your mental pyjamas all day.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

No alcohol, sex or drugs while you are working.

 If you have to read, to cheer yourself up read biographies of writers who went insane.

Jeanette Winterson. Rule #1

Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.

Andrew Motion. Rule #4

Lock different characters/elements in a room and tell them to get on.

AL Kennedy. Rules #1, #7 & #9

Have humility. Older/more ­experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ­Consider what they say. However, don't automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.

Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ­irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won't need to take notes.

Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

Roddy Doyle. Rule #1-#3

Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­–

Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it's the job.