A well told story might give the impression that anything we encounter along the way might have a use to solve a problem down the line. Watching a lot of Hollywood movies, this is especially reinforced. Ideally, nothing is wasted and anything can have a through-line. Back to the Future has layers of that in its construction. What if your life is all about movies, even for decades, and that information either culminates in a future making movies or it does not? What if you are spinning wheels as a know-it-all and there is no reward for that?
What can go through your mind are motivated frame, when to use selective focus, when to cut on an active frame (leaving a blurred piece of the person running through), and why story boarding is more satisfying that leaving the images to the cinematographer. But another aspect of movie immersion is that while empathy extends to the characters (fictional or otherwise) on screen, the heightened emotion and stakes can overwhelm our identification and as they say in Fight Club “turn the volume way down” on the everyday issues of reality.
What comes to mind is the Delroy Lindo musician character at his piano and ignoring his family in Spike Lee’s Crooklyn. Or the depressed and neglectful father Mel Gibson plays in Jodie Foster’s The Beaver. Time accelerates and I can be grateful if anyone has a fond impression of me despite my preoccupied disposition. When I had some luck with grants a couple of times in the early 2000’s, I could justify being in that head space. I may be a better writer now and have more resources, but I have to get over being fed up with people and their own goals which may not mesh with my own. I can prepare something for a year and see it fall apart because I have been doing “producer” work for which I have no particular knack instead of simply writing and directing. But a lot of people are in that boat, including big directors from the Eighties who find themselves having to do what a producer might do – and as a result not generating many movies of late.
I may not like green screen, but I may use that where I did not expect to, just to simplify the logistics of projects. I am eager to get actors on camera bringing to life certain scenes, even if I have to comp them into scale models. That might be where more of my focus goes in the months ahead. It also allows for having as few people around as possible in the post-Covid world. And in an industry where people skills and connections will trump a knack for choosing the best shot for each beat of a scene, or the most appropriate transition between scenes, it will be more tempting to let the movie in my head overwhelm the conversations around me. It will be vital to prepare people for that aspect of my psyche. So people know they are not being ignored or under valued if I am in a daydream state or concentrating on something not yet there.
The biggest hitch to the #CormanChallenge is to shoot a short on a cell phone. I have a cheap Samsung Galaxy J3 which I would replace in a minute if I could just walk into the store instead of trying to order on the phone itself through the website and get caught in the loop of the store in my area I want to pick it up and the site attempting to steer me to have it mailed, which is too risky. Packages can end up left in the hall if I am at work (essential) or I can get a notice to walk over to the mall post office, right beside the store I would have preferred to just pick up the parcel.
Maybe that itself could have been (or could be) a short. I don’t know. But I had to use packing tape and a selfie stick propped here and there to get the simple but functional shots I needed for my short entry, “Alarm Rest.” I have no idea whether it will be seen by Mr. Roger Corman or other directors reportedly screening entries, like Ron Howard, just because I post a link or allow others to share a link to the video with @RogerCorman and #CormanChallenge on “any social media.”
When Sean Baker and his DP Radium Cheung shot Tangerine “on a cell phone” it was an iphone with apps that allowed them to set the frame rate at 24 frames per second and lock the iris and focus, and they usually had a housing for the cell that kept movement smooth. I ran into a couple of shots that were so handheld and shaky I tried slowing them in post. I also discovered that even though everything was framed landscape to look like a movie and it played back on my PC and even on my Mac as landscape those shots required me to shoot downward or at such an angle that something might have been confused because in the editing program they came out as portrait. Those I had to just re-shoot the following day.
Meanwhile, I have gotten a renewed taste for the process of shooting and I know I have to get back into it as a routine. I have looked back at drafts of the screenplay I meant to shoot in 2017 and have had a recent burst of inspiration about how to merge those drafts and what I have learned from novelizing that project and maybe generate a script that leads the audience in more smoothly to the world it creates. I don’t want to drop people right into strangeness, but rather have them not realize they have entered it until they are already somewhat invested in it. There is a temptation to spend the day watching old Colombo episodes, puttering around, and eating too much during the time of the pandemic. But I still want to follow through on my projects, especially those I have been pushing up the mountain for more than ten years.
Writing, drawing shots, reading…. but this short project just had such a simple premise that it couldn’t choke under its own weight. If I were to do it over I would not use a cell at all. I wasn’t even 100% sure that was a stipulation or whether it was just a suggestion that everyone has the minimum resources to make some kind of short. At least the contest got me up early one day and had me solving little problems and causing them. At least we were not required to type the script on a Smith-Corona.
I got a message from an actor who had featured in a number of my shorts and videos asking what happened to the youtube channel associated with it. Almost all of the shorts and monologues were on it. I checked and it was gone. The channel itself had been up since 2009. A couple of the shorts were older, the original from 2007 and a simpler one from 2008. I hadn’t logged in to it for a long time, and had only used it to get the links for sharing the shorts wherever appropriate. I checked the associated e-mail account and sure enough that same day I had received a notice that the account had been suspended for reports of “violating community standards.” I followed the link to their form to post an appeal, and apparently got an automated acknowledgement of the appeal’s receipt with an “as soon as possible” reassurance of processing it.
No doubt that having more people sit at home during the Covid-19 lockdown has attracted more busybodies false flagging anything that doesn’t suit their own tastes ostensibly as volunteers helping youtube improve the site. It gives the lie to the concept of community standards. Is youtube a resource of a community? Like Twitter, the comment sections can be a cesspool. But ideally if it were a community that might mean that your neighbor two doors down could be watching content that is not to your taste and that should be okay. The one gray area in this is that having not logged in to the account for a few years I did not get the alert and link to click “not intended for children” which has been a recent addition to youtube because they got fined for hosting a video that drew complaints from the usual busybodies. If the channel is restored I will see to clicking that, although the problem would not exist if the DEFAULT were “not intended for children” so that in the rare case that something is meant to be kid-friendly the content creator posting it can designate it as such.
I’m still crossing my fingers at the time of this blog entry. We will see. Maybe faith will be restored in reason and comprehension. Content creators should be protected from busybodies and also perhaps from our personal enemies and rivals. We sometimes hear about self-styled pundits on youtube getting false flagged by each other. When a channel is “reviewed” we, the users, content creators, or community, don’t know by whom and what that review entailed. Was an individual or team playing back each of the sorts and monologues on my channel? Because if they did, and they were all adults, they would have recognized that even though the channel centers around Porno the Clown (played by Jay Ould) and is called pornotheclownDOTcom it does not contain porn. They would see that it is all satirical and motivated by a sense of whimsical mischief that is becoming more and more rare in hyper-sensitive times. The channel has been up for 11 years, even beyond 2013 when colleges began to takes seriously the quirks and the demands of the lunatic fringe and pander to them and when that began to seep into pop culture in general. Dexter and Breaking Bad ended in 2013. Robin Williams and Harold Ramis died in 2014, as did Bill Cosby’s public persona. So it becomes a different world every few years.
One person’s food is another person’s poison. As I have said before, since we are likely not sharing the same screen or monitor I can enjoy Dave Chappelle’s latest video and you can enjoy RuPaul’s Drag Race and neither of us has to interfere with the other. There is so much content out there it is almost impossible to catch up. We all usually want to reinforce or validate our own views, even if we pay lip service to the importance of exposure to conflicting opinions to “sharpen the blade.” You can agree with someone on most every issue and get unfriended (as recently happened to me) by someone you have been supportive to and stood up for….. and the transgression in my case was telling someone there is no reason to blame Bernie Sanders if the DNC chooses a mediocre nominee to support and Agent Orange gets a second term. People have to vote FOR something more than AGAINST something to be engaged and committed.
My initial plan was that the shorts and monologues would continue and the channel would have been used to help increase awareness of the character Porno the Clown in anticipation of the feature length movie I had written and story boarded. My impulse is to double down and still do it. That may still happen. But something has to be adjusted on the “community standards” end of things. A cycle of content being created and unceremoniously deleted is unworkable. It was bad enough during the Stephen Harper years of Canada that Canadian production companies got spooked by a pending bill that could see TV shows or movies denied a tax credit if the resulting project was deemed to not fit the community standards of the time. Content can not be one size fits all. Too many cooks do spoil the soup. There is something to offend everybody. Unless the reactionary trend snaps under its own weight even the most low budget and independent content will be suffocated.