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Inakamichi: Visions - Official Movie Website

Production Journal, Page 7

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13 May 2006-
 Well, that was some night.
...and quite a bit of tensions arising before the program started. As I anticipated, they weren't going to show "Visions"... which wouldn't have pissed me off half as much if they notified me by e-mail.
Apparently, they confused "Visions" with "Leviathan", thinking they were both the same- they opted to show "Leviathan". Either they thought Aniket directed them both, or I did (apparently, my name was listed on the entry form for "Leviathan"- it's amazing how far being merely the cinematographer will get you). In a way, I could somewhat understand the confusion:
Both films have the same three leading actors- Aniket, Richie, and Jessica, with Aniket being the main character. In addition, "Visions" (intentionally) had no opening or ending credits (anybody trying to read the credits at the beginning of the film, those are fake names for the video our main character was watching).
What I wanted was an "Apocalypse Now" effect, where you start the film slowly beginning to hear what's going on, then finally see- similarly, the film ending with a fade-out. While I would, in no way, compare my film with a masterpiece of cinematic literature like Coppola's film (aside: I thought "Apocalypse Now" was far better than "The Godfather"), I liked the idea of having absolutely no credits into the film- what you get is simply the movie itself, and when it says the film runs 23-and-a-half minutes... it runs 23-and-a-half minutes!
Unfortunately, no credits means that- no credit.
After some debate, including me demanding a refund, they finally decided to show it. Good. I'd rather people see the film that me and the rest of my cast and crew worked so hard on for so long, than be $5 richer. They were actually quite nice about it, and we both apologized to each other during the intermission and after the festival itself ended.
Now, after a few plotless movies (except the pirate one- short, but fun), "Leviathan" recieved its share of laughter (especially during the violent scenes- this crowd has probably not seen "Kill Bill: Vol. 1", as they would have most certainly died of heart failure watching that), as well as thunderous applause at the end. Its director, Aniket, thinks it's because the audience was glad it was over. I think it's because the audience enjoyed it- even if it was because they were laughing at the movie, and not because they were intrigued.
As for "Visions", which was announced actually as the second-to-last feature, there was plenty of applause and laughter from one row- our row. Other than the in-jokes, the audience did seem to laugh in the appropriate places (the ad-libs worked the best (this would be the filming sessions and the interviews- except for the last one, the rest of the interviews were improvised)), and I did think it was pretty funny how some of the audience was going "awwww...." at the end.
The film recieved moderate applause, in comparison to the reaction given to some of the other films. Understandable. While I did make attempts to have "Visions" be more accessible, ultimately, it was just a 23-and-a-half minute-long in-joke. Don't get me wrong, I did like my work on the film, and it was a great learning experience- it just could have been better. Less self-referential, more audience accessibility is basically the moral.
A person whose name I do not know, but I once knew as "the guy who tried to eat Kristi" (don't ask) has an extensive knowledge of French and sophisticated art films, and was tossing out recommendations left-and-right. I guess I have an obligation to see Fellini's "8 1/2", since "Visions" was essentially my "1 1/2". He did hand out criticisms of my movie- particularly, how the second half seemed like an entirely different movie. I need to emphasize the relationship between the actors and the director.
All of these criticisms were accepted. Through the screenwriting process, aside from writing the scripts for two of the three movies the character Terrence films, the script called for the filming sessions to be improvised (that's right. All three of those movies were authentically filmed, and if I ever get to releasing it in the future, they will be included as extras on the DVD set). While I did like plenty of the results, there was little effort on my part- I really didn't do much directing in there, as much as I did film people shooting a movie, with direction being up to "get gradually pissed off" and "be a royal pain in the ass". What the result was, was something I did not intend-
I did not want to make these actors look like people some director just pulled off the street, which is what probably happened.
Personally, I think the film heads towards a downward slope midway, then picks itself up after the "two months later..." title card, though the person giving the critique thought otherwise. The rest of the audience were probably tougher critics than him.
Despite these flaws, I submitted this movie for a reason: to be shown. The audience's reaction, I would take note of, but most of all, I just wanted it to be seen.
Some people praised us quite a bit- for some odd reason, I think they were being a little too nice, but that was just me. One person commented on how he liked "all the funny lines [I] inserted". I did insert some sarcastic humor through the course of the script so it wouldn't dwindle to "emo poetry" (I also didn't want to give the audience the impression that I took this 100% seriously), but plenty of it, at least from what I saw, was thanks to the ad-libs. While I do want to put a little bit more effort into them on my part (as a director), the improvisational aspect was something I enjoyed, and that is something I want to do more often.
What you probably won't see me doing anytime soon, though, is making another movie about filmmakers- or artists, for that matter. I'm going to stray away from the "aspiring artist" subject matter for a while (too often it can fall to the fires of self-indulgence; and I will admit that I was a little bit self-indulgent with "Visions")- John Hsu's music video has encouraged me further to get workin' on that musical project I've had cooking in my head for a year ("Broadway Syndrome, or: The No-Lip-Synch Musical").
One positive aspect of this MV Film Festival was that I think our group just got a couple more recruits- some of them who submitted a film, some who are aspiring filmmakers (JP Films- they don't have a lot of films? Just you wait- soon, they'll be brimming with 'em!).
Overall, "Visions" was perhaps my greatest learning experience as a filmmaker- there's plenty I learned about, not just what doesn't work, but what does work in a film. Some of my fellow crew members have gone so far as to calling this my best film (even some saying the best our group has made), but I still consider last year's submission, "another walk in the park", to be my masterpiece thus far (and yes, I'm still planning to create an anime version of it). While awitp was what I consider a *** (out of four) film, "Visions", due to its inaccessibility to the audience and hints of self-indulgence, I would give a **1/2.
While I do not want to criticize some of the other entries extensively (just like anyone else, I had problems with some of the films shown), my personal favorites from this year's film festival:
-My New Neighbor (***1/2)- Very amusing throughout, with some obvious jabs at the traditional MV stereotype (those got massive amounts of laughter and applause), but still with enough accessibility that any outside to MV will enjoy it. Call it a "culture clash" film if you will, but without the sentimentality or slapstick. The director behind this, apparently a freshman, has a very promising filmmaking career ahead of her- the only improvements need made are in technical areas such as camerawork and lighting.
-Perspectives (***)- While the film itself never lives up to its interesting scenario (four girls pulled in to be interrogated about who tagged the school), it does come with a nice twist. The film is very fun to watch, and though the writers overdid it on the quirkiness, it's a good part of the amusement generated from it.
-The Zoneus Project (***1/2)- Ambitious and perhaps a little bit too showy-offy of the cool stuff these people can do with LEGOs, this is another Torin Carroll masterpiece- whether you like it or not. The last film shown, and that decision was wise- it was, by far, the most entertaining entry. With some deliberately-inserted satire of school society inserted into a science fiction plot of "rebels vs. the empire" (except it's slackers vs. overachievers), there's plenty to laugh at. Seeing how it was titled "Part 1" at the beginning, you've already been revealed the film's only disappointment- that it ended. "To be continued" is what it ends with, and telling us Part 2 will come "Winter". Can't wait.

23 May 2006-
Shortly after the Monta Vista Film Festival, I created a credits reel, exclusively for DVD release. I do not intend to release it online- the credits are already in the "summary" section and within the Google Video page it's on. The reel runs like the "Fight Movie Series Encore" once tagged to the end of "Fight Movie 3"- if there's gonna be credits, might as well give something of an incentive for the audience to watch.
The reason why I created it so shortly after was because I wanted it on MVFF's DVD of this year's selection of films. I prefer "Visions" to be shown without opening or end credits, but since there is no program or webpage to refer to in their DVD release, there has to be something to tell people who was involved in what.
My next project, "Broadway Syndrome", is still in its early writing stages- 65% of the plot is complete, but there's plenty of blanks I'd like to fill in, as well as even things out. I want the plot to be able to stand on its own, but be enhanced by the musical numbers.
As well, since "The Last Fight Movie in the Universe" has been released, there's no longer anything to be embarrased about with releasing the "Productivity" trailer, so here it is.
Now, since I'm so hyped up about my new project "Broadway Syndrome", why haven't I created a new site for it?
...well, that's because I'm not sure if it's set in stone. Last summer, I was also so certain it would happen, but it didn't. I want a complete plot with musical numbers and be absolutely sure that it'll be made and completed before I create a new site, and, in effect, move the production journal to over there.

13 June 2006-
I should expect this Production Journal to be very much active now, since filming has resumed.
Specifically, for "Mutants"- which was dropped, and ironically enough, the very first thing I wrote about in this journal, 11 months ago. At a group meeting we had on Friday, better organization and planning was demanded- I will continue to say "No 11th-hour decisions" until they stop happening, because they still very much are. I get the usual "I know" and "We know" response, but I'm not convinced. So you know- I don't just want "know". I want "do".
So, yes, filming has resumed for "Mutants", since too much of it had been filmed to drop it entirely (that's Richie and I talking). An ahead-of-time warning: this is more to get something done, than to get top-quality results. Especially since it's a B-movie, if anything.
After "Mutants", we expect to film Kevin's project, "Productivity"- I like the script, even if it is the Dead Moose, Inc. equivalent of a Michael Bay movie (first half has a good story, second half is a nonstop action sequence). The problem there is not enough backup strategies, with plenty of impossible-to-film stuff (not just in the action he's demanding, but the locations).
My own project, "Broadway Syndrome", is still in pre-production, and I'm still trying to rewrite the film's second act. What I've written as an alternative isn't much better (borders on preachy, if you ask me), and I just might keep what was originally written. As soon as the project is determined as definitive (instead of dropped due to determining that we'll be unable to do it- it is very ambitious and looks very difficult), I'll start a new Production Journal there.
Here's to a summer of well-organized and productive filming sessions, with good results!

14 June 2006-
Filming for "Mutants" is delayed until the weekend, when Evan is available. The scenes we have left both involve him (though I could have sworn there was one that just had me and several other minor characters).
Other than some hectic last-minute planning relating to locations, filming otherwise went well. 2:03 of useable footage is more than we've gotten in past filming sessions. As well, I've found another function on my Optura60:
While I can configure F-Stops, I can also control the exposure- which was necessary in order to show there was something on that map Aniket was reading. The downside is, the brightness continuity was off- I'm not sure how much the brightness (and contrast) adjustment fixed it, but I'll leave it to these comparison photos.

The preceding shot
My guide to adjusting the next shot

This is the original shot, with exposure turned way down

Brightness adjusted for tonal continuity with last shot. Contrast adjusted to turn down lightness.

Obviously, exposure control doesn't come without its problems- that paper, while its contents were now clearly visible (while before it was still smothered in white, even at the smallest aperture setting or highest shutter speed), now has this weird edge-enhancement artifact all around it. While I've had edge-enhancement from video on this camera before, it had never been visible on the monitor itself. It was almost like shooting on the old DCR-TRV315 (but without the color and sharpness problems).
Still, it's better than nothing, I suppose. Yesterday's shooting also came with a new reminder:
I DO need to get a wide-angle lens; shooting in the gazebo, it was really hard to get shots that fit all the actors due to the cramped space (and as this is 16:9, you kind of expect something to be done with that width). It never got as bad as to having to shoot from outside (where audio pickup would be terrible), but it was close.
Since "Productivity" and "Broadway Syndrome" are both going to be shot for 2.40:1 scope, I am going to need that wide-angle lens (I would much prefer to shoot in real scope, though, and get an anamorphic lens- however, I don't have that kind of money). Otherwise, that camera's gonna have to go far distances, and plenty of re-dubbing will have to be done (I plan to use plenty of wide angles on "Broadway Syndrome", as opposed to the amount of close-ups and medium-shots I had in the less-wide (1.66:1) "Visions"). Perhaps I should get a boom mic with that? That would, of course, come with the trouble of having to get a boom operator, and of course, the trouble of keeping it out of the frame while I'm moving the camera.
Decisions, decisions.
I should seriously buy a wide-angle lens, at the least; we're gonna need it.

23 June 2006-
Sorry I haven't been back with updates as frequently as I thought. The truth is, we didn't film anything after the last entry- schedules got mixed up and everything. "Productivity" is still in the script revisions phase (the goal is to come up with something filmable- I loved the last draft before the rewrite, but some of the stuff called for in the script just wasn't within our capabilities (relating to locations and the violent script sprinkled with profanities we would be shooting in those places with)), and who-knows-what happened to "Mutants". Scheduling conflicts are too much.
On Sunday, Richie and I did proceed with more editing on "SCHEDULE". The finished product should be around 7 minutes. We only stopped the editing because we realized there was footage we hadn't shot for certain parts (most of it towards the end). In terms of Dead Moose, Inc. films as a whole, "SCHEDULE" is probably our most experimental- it's the kind of film that's made in the editing room, and robotic voiceovers are the narrative.
"Broadway Syndrome" was going pretty good with storyboarding- however, what Richie said about the lead character hit me.
"He's not really likeable." ...and I agreed with him! We're not gonna be able to access to most of our female audience members if all our main character seems to do with his girlfriends is ignore them. There are some instances where films with unlikeable characters worked (Robert de Niro commits some of the most atrocious acts in protagonist history during "Once Upon a Time in America", I personally wanted to strangle that vain, selfish, manipulative little bitch Roxie Hart during "Chicago", Neil LaBute has crafted an entire career out of "all my characters are villains"), but those are exceptions.
My personal solution was to rewrite the plot. Well, I did- I found a plot that I was satisfied with... but for another movie (that's not a musical). In fact, I think I'll make that one sometime later.
Aniket asked me to send what I have completed of the script. Everything up to the faux intermission.
His personal solution- "The dialogue sounds artificial", for one. "...and write in more."
My first draft of "Visions" had the problem of too much dialogue- especially at the second-to-last scene. But there's always the magic of revision. What I apply to "make a tune to the lyrics, then make new lyrics for it" just might work for dialogue.
This is going to be one very interesting summer.
...also, according to Aniket, many people are calling him up on how much they liked "Visions"- thinking it was his film. 'Tis my punishment for not putting credits in my movie. As I have said before, I liked the "no credits" format and thought it suited the film. For "Broadway Syndrome", there will be an overture at the most, but no opening credits. My problem with end credits is that nobody watches them, so I like to put something visual (or something plot-related, like in "Fight Ultimatum"- which probably should have had a less confusing black screen during that part) if I have to use them (as I did with the MV Film Festival DVD edition). Hopefully, what I end up using for "Broadway" will keep people watching until the film does actually end.
...another thing I notice, which probably isn't as much "notice" as much as it is "re-remembering":
I have been in the filmmaking field for four years now. During that time, I learned that film is a director's medium- the director is, technically, the author of the film. Most people outside filmmaking tend to attribute the film to the writer... or its star. Probably why there was such confusion. No, I'm not infuriated about the confusion- as I said, it's pretty much my fault. It's just amusing.

5 July 2006-
A couple of weeks later, and still no filming. "SCHEDULE" has almost finished post-production- just needs a little bit more clock footage, and an overdue credits sequence that someone promised to do in Flash.
I'm pretty sick and tired of spending all this time sitting around and doing nothing, especially when we were going to film something this summer- and I don't mean "just one segment of Mutants". People are already having scheduling conflicts, which should be a wake-up call, but it isn't. Instead, the usual "I know". Well, we know you know, and it doesn't do any of us any good if you know, if you won't do. Stop talking the talk, and start walking the walk.
Basically, all we have is "SCHEDULE" and an upcoming Podcast serial "TIMA"- not that bad, if you don't take in how ambitious some of us were, planning to finish "Mutants", "Productivity" and "Broadway Syndrome", so we could make way for prequels to "Code of 'Con'duct".
Ambition cannot come without dedication.
"Broadway Syndrome" is still undergoing rewrites. I've deleted one song, and overall would like to decrease the song density- what part of the script is written, there's more singing than dialogue, and I want this to be a musical, not an opera. The dialogue modifications I've made, according to some of my fellow script checkers, have made the main character more likeable, but the dialogue itself is still far-fetched and unbelievable. While I do want it to have some slight degree of far-fetchedness, I'll agree with the notion that it is still too much.
This refusal to do any filming is almost making me think of going entirely to animation, where I can just record voices ahead of time, then plan out the scenes as I will. Don't have to worry about anyone showing up for filming, I've got the voices right here (provided people show up for voice recording, that is). Of course, my attempts at jumping to animation have been real smooth.
That summer boredom has come again, and thanks to Audacity, a range of new restoration projects has come along. Using the Noise Removal tools, I've started to clean up the audio on "Visions"- which will be my first audio cleanup project until I get the source files for "Leviathan" (Aniket has allowed me to send it to Google Video and YouTube, but the audio is currently unacceptable, even for online viewing).
The key is, being careful with the intensity of the reduction. If I reduce too much, it adds a "cyborg" quality to the voices. It's still slightly there, even at the minimum level of reduction, leading me to believe that's the way it sounded all along thanks to the built-in mic we've been using. It does sound clearer without the noise, though the "hum" of the clubhouse air conditioner being gone does make it feel like something is missing. If I find I miss it too much, I'll record just the hum and add it in.
...on an unrelated note, entering in this journal is even harder, thanks to the rampant pop-ups I'm getting now. I thought that age was over. Apparently not.

11 July 2006-
Yesterday, I got an assortment of attachments for my Optura60, all of which are related to each other:
Wide-angle lens- while it's not the anamorphic lens I was looking for, it will make shooting easier. Because I'm using a shotgun mic, it will need to be closer to the actors for better pickup. Especially because 1. I'm shooting in widescreen (specifically, easier 2.40:1 scope shooting, though even 1.78:1 was problematic during our last shooting for "Mutants") and 2. Hate close-ups. Hate 'em hate 'em hate 'em (they look too big even on a TV screen). I prefer wider angles.
34mm-to-37mm Step-up Ring- My camera's lens is smaller than most, and the wide-angle lens is too big to connect to it. Hence, the adapter ring, which is pretty much self-explanatory.
Protective Filter- Won't really do anything to the picture itself, it's essentially a plain ol' piece of glass (but probably clearer than most). Why? Well, if a mishap happens with connecting something, like if it scratched the lens area, it would only ruin the filter- not the lens in the camera itself! (regardless, though, I still want this filter to be taken care of like the actual camera would be. We're shooting a movie, not writing a testimonial)

I set up a "Broadway Syndrome" scripting session, and tossed around new ideas for the script. Pretty much, it was when I sat down a few days before, and wrote everything in the then-current half-completed draft of the script into a summary, that I discovered...
"What the hell kind of plot is this? I WROTE this crap?"
Tossing out tons of plot ideas that look good on paper but just won't work on film, there was one that finally looked like it could have a fighting chance. It still takes elements from the old script, but Scene 1 in the old script would be the finale in this new one.
Well, got the first five minutes in mind, just need to write up the songs. Everything that goes in-between... uh... well... we'll see.
The other thing I was thinking about was:

This time without getting a cast for the film could be useful, in doing other things. Specifically, tests- we haven't ever done them. Reshoots are very costly, even if there's no money involved, they're still very costly. We haven't even seen if this method of pre-recording a song, then playing back segments during filming to lip-synch to while filming is going to work.
What this could also mean is writing a very short musical, a mini-movie... a pilot, if you will (might as well show what you can do if you're trying to recruit people), just to test out if it'll even work. Even the heavily-experimental and risk-taking filmmaker Lars von Trier created a short pilot film for "Dogville", just to see if that whole "all the set is imaginary, save a few walls. The rest is chalk lines on the ground (including the dog)" would work. (thankfully, it did, and we got a great film as a result, but we're talking about "Broadway syndrome" here)

Kevin, unable to film "Productivity" because of suddenly finding out his lead actor was, in fact, gone, is tossing around a new script: "The Watchers". If it's filmable, we just might do it.

I'm also tossing around the concept of an animation "cliffhanger" serial. I tried out "Customer", which was, experimentally, a failure. This time, though, I'd like to try out something different (and it would be a Podcast this time). Won't reveal much, though; don't know if it'll go past the drawing board (I don't want this to be competition against "TIMA"; what I'm planning is not a comedy, and is set to end after a certain number of episodes).

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