Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Yr2 Week 2 (Wed 16 Oct - Producing and Directing seminar & Film and Innovation)

Continuing off from yesterday's lecture, the first seminar of the day actually began to go over what had gone wrong on Gilliam's film. Some of the points raised included:
  • Insufficient funds for a project of this type and scale (a fantasy film with an ensemble cast)
  • The weather constantly turning on the cast & crew (and messing with insurance, since these events are classified as 'Acts Of God)
  • Actors not on set or even in the same country as the film was prepping, thus great increasing the difficulty in preparing adequately (a humorous example being a horse that was supposed to push Johnny Depp forward, but because he wasn't there, on the day of the shoot, the horse did squat)
  • Shambolic hierarchy (throughout the film, the team are disorganized and pointing fingers at each other over the various problems afflicting the production)
  • Lack of faith among the crew, many commenting multiple times on the challenges, some absurd, on making a film like this with what they had.
And from that, we asked ourselves 'Who was to Blame?' - The main people at fault here were the various levels of producers, whether it was raising inadequate finances, selecting horrible locations (like an echoey soundstage) or simply in it for the prestige of having a big name like Gilliam under your belt.

Leaving that behind, we moved to main point of today's seminar - what film were we going analyze for the essay, and why? My choice is Michael Cimino's infamous epic western Heaven's Gate (1980), which has very much become a nightmare scenario for film producers, with notorious stories of overspend, waste of film and constant retakes, animal abuse during the battle scenes and above all else, loss of control by the producers, who were unable to stand up to Cimino's rampant perfectionism and swelling ego. The advantage of having this type of film to analyze if primarily its age (30 years) and as a by-product, the sheer wealth of material available that talks about the film and its many problems (including a documentary available on Youtube called Final Cut: The Making & Unmaking of Heaven's Gate).

Later, we had the seminar for Film & Innovation, where we showed off our shorts to each other, and got feedback: my team's, however, couldn't be shown due to some technical bugs, but it was later posted to the MDX Film Facebook page for all to see, and it seemed to have gone done well. The short is available here on my Vimeo page:

Afterwards, we watched some other art shorts from professionals on UBU.com, in order to help generate some ideas for our own pieces (A 2 projector piece for exhibition). Some of the shorts shown included:
  • Me/We, Okay, Gray by Eija-Liisa Ahtila - a 3 screen work, which loop and show different parts of the film
  • If 6 was 9 by Eija - Another three screen piece, where the narrative jumps between the screens, with occasional continuity between them
  • Twenty Six (Drawing & Falling things) - unlike the other two, this one is more humorous, a sort of artistic Looney Tunes where two men interact with objects and/or each other, often leading to playing with perspective.
  • Sthory by Michael Snow -  a two screen piece where the images overlay, creating a sense of depth
  • The Sandman by Stan Douglas, another two screen work, notable for its one continuous shot panning across a room as a man narrates
With that, we were asked to go off, in groups, and come up with a proposal for next week. To evaluate today, we covered some more interesting ground in both fields, especially in the latter, since we now know what standards we have to live up to when we make our own work. Furthermore, in the former, I chose Heaven's Gate in order to ensure I could write something really meaty, given how documented the whole production was, and would give me a lot of material to write a solid piece (further bolstered by David's claim that last year's group delivered poorly) and I very much look forward to the challenge ahead.

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