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A (Gutai) Film + Production Analysis

Production Book for “A (Gutai) Film” –final film

Objective

This film had no objective. If I have to state an objective, it would be to surpass a mental annihilation in the failure of my other attempts at a final film. It would be, quite simply, to give something to present on the last class that wasn’t horrendously dull. It’s just, in contrast to my other films, where I had a drive to present a certain type of films, I think I was undone by the lack of prompt or exercise and simply could not find a means to care. I took the camera, called Charlie, and I told him, “anything that comes to mind, we shoot it. The point of this is to have no story or filmic ideas. Just think of stuff to do. Anything.” I wanted an anti-film, almost. Mostly, I had spent so much time being anxious and depressed and near paranoid about impressing people with these films and making strong films, that I did not care anymore and really just wanted to have an absurd amount of fun. And we did. It was a bizarre creative process, because it was devoid of intentionality. Nothing was made, except the introductory scene, with the thought of being something in particular that was cohesive.

Somehow, the film took that shape and became a film about not being a film. It became despite itself. It became about the process of making THIS film, as opposed to a film that discusses other films. Hence, why I called it, when all was said and done “Gutai”, because it mirrored the Japanese art movement of Gutai, of the “splendid playground”, that interested itself in the interaction of the artist and the art object far more than the piece itself. It was about play and this film was just us two playing. But this thought is very retro-analytical, because I wasn’t thinking about a statement or an ideal. I was far more interested in shooting the camera at anything that would be in the slightest bit interesting and hopefully we, Charlie and I, could make it interesting as real people. I didn’t want acting. I didn’t want staging. I wanted verite. But I didn’t to make a cinema verite film. I didn’t want to make a narrative film. It just happened. It could’ve been boring. But it wasn’t.

Synopsis
The film is introduced with me awkwardly talking about how this isn’t my final film. We then go to me baking a cake. There are several different takes of me at different portions of the cooking process. After baking the cake, Charlie and I go out into China town to get chinese food. We go to the restaurant, lie that we’re making a documentary, get our food and return to the dorm to eat it. We finish the cake, it came out horribly, but we eat it anyways. I wake up the next day, go get Charlie. We get Gator. We head out to Dominique Ansell’s. There’s an interview between Gator and me with a phony britsh accent at the end and that’s it. That’s the movie.

Evaluation

Long story made short: I had an original script. It was a dark psychological narrative with character development and a soundtrack ready and locations and all I needed was some approval of some things and it was ready to go. I was discussing it with Letícia as Art Director. It was looking to be in good shape. Then my locations started backing out. Then emotional hindrances throughout the semester kept me from pursuing doggedly on these things and kept me from approaching Risk Management to get cleared for the action sequences. Slowly, but surely, my film was falling apart. With a week to salvage it, I was in class and inspiration struck me and I formed a new idea. I wrote the script to it two days later (Wednesday) and began location hunting that day. I realized how difficult location scouting really was when I got rejected from around 20 different locations for a basic proscenium theater stage. Eventually, I settled- I could have paid $140 for one in Brooklyn, but opted not to- on the black box theater in Rubin.

The shoot was riddled with disaster from the moment I woke up. Rain became horrendous that day, so the transportation of materials was very problematic. We lost our tripod in a taxi snafu. We had to push the shoot back by three hours because I neglected to actually reserve the space and someone else did and I had to wait on them to finish. My costume design was compromised from running around all day and getting sweaty and that one of my crew forgot to bring a vest I requested. All in all, given these shortcomings, I tried to get the film shot anyways. Principal photography was a mess, but I wasn’t aware of this yet, and I was emotionally distant in the acting and couldn’t feel the energy I wanted for myself. I reviewed the footage at 8pm that night, after helping another crew on their shoot, and realized that none of it was even useable. I was at my end. I believe I felt the neuron pathways in my mind crumble as I sat there, staring at 1 hour of technically poor footage. Lighting was bad. The angles I decided on were bad. Acting wasn’t great. It was just a travesty, and I felt my last chance to make something powerful had evaporated in that room. So I stopped caring.

As I said earlier. I didn’t care anymore whether anyone liked the film I made, because all in all this is a class for me and my development as a filmmaker and I thought no test would prove more trying to my ability than to make a film out of thin air, of an unorthodox nature, in less than 36 hours. But I didn’t want to make a film. I didn’t want to make a story or anything. I just wanted to get the camera and make something of any nature. It’s difficult to describe my mindset so far detached in time, because I felt at a point of near delirium. When I walked up to the front of the class and stated that I had finally “lost my mind”, I was not exaggerating so much. And, because my default setting lies outside conventionality, my gut reaction wasn’t to make a story. I wanted to be stupid. I wanted to avoid avant-garde. I wanted to avoid everything filmic and just, sort of, play, and present that as a piece of work, despite what my peers thought of it.

Everything in the film was part of the principal photography, pre-production, and post-production process. Anything that occurred was not scripted. Radar Love blaring over the cream cheese frosting being whipped was because Charlie was singing Radar Love for no reason. I forgot the cake was in the oven when we went out for Chinese food. I made an accidental racist remark (not in the class version) because I almost stepped on a dead rat. We didn’t expect people to answer us in the elevator. We expected to be kicked out of the restaurants we attended. Everything happened and we were so fortunate that we had the common sense to leave the camera on and just let life happen that 12 hour time frame. Now, there is a discussion on simulacra and performativity here about people and their behavior on and off camera, but nonetheless, none of it was intended.

Editing took me a lot of time, but only because I became obsessed with watching the 80 minutes of footage we had in its entirety more than once and because I used iMovie (if I was going to reject professionalism, I wanted to do it at the most basic sense) which crashed every hour. Also, I edited my fourth film on Sunday and THEN went to edit my fifth, and so I spent all night editing, but I had three different 5 min. takes with 3 different “stories” and just chose the one I felt best comprised the entire event.

I feel weird saying I’m immensely proud of this film, but I am and I want to keep doing films like this in different places. I want to test how environments react to this direct cinema approach and I how react to said environments. I am curious that the class enjoyed it, but immensely glad that they appreciated my editing and person, because I wasn’t acting in the film. All those threats I made to Charlie and absent stares and awkward exchanges and enthusiasm for stupid things are truly myself. For a film I cared nothing about, it’s my favorite film. It’s so stupid. I love it.

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A (Frisco) Film Log: Day 1-An Epilogue to Sentiments and Resentments

The concept behind this journal is to provide some sense of a daily writing exercise for myself and as well a production booklet (or pseudo-so) for this film. I do not imagine that anyone is necessarily excited for this film as of yet, or that is being made or that anyone is remotely aware of what Frisco is. That will all be made clear in the writing of this journal.

Day 1 of Principal Photography. I originally wanted to start shooting on Saturday, but because of the unavailability and the tear-jerking lack of foresight of every supermarket in my vicinity, I could not get the bargain deal for the cheaper version of the Go Pro camera. So Sunday I convinced myself to purchase the available, more expensive version (The GoPro 3 Plus Silver), but could not film STILL because of the lack of a microSD card. So Saturday and Sunday, two prime shooting days, had come and gone.

All the while, I was trying to figure out the vision of what I wanted this film to be. This film is hardwired into my feelings for my hometown and the resentment I’ve come to grow for it and the contention of what this place represents for me and how I’ve developed in opposition to it. That is not to say my entire evolution is a reaction to Frisco, but that the parts that are reactionary are indeed complicated. There’s no need to get into all of that now, but they are present and may be discussed. Do I take a very serious and unflinching look at what this place can do to people in a cinema verite style? Is this feasible? Do I make a film about its affects on me? Would that be watchable? Or do I continue this spirit that I developed late into my last semester where I created a film that was pure mockumentary absurdism and wholly an anti-film? Would the schtick still work?

These are questions that I’m still fumbling through. I want this to be good. I want it to act as some sort of armistice and consolidation and wake, all together, for me and my feelings entombed in this city and its people. People I’ve grown up with. I want this to be watchable, but simultaneously something that speaks. I feel I will find my answer as I become proactive in my activities and my conversations and my ennui fed decisions. The more I film, the more I’ll capture and the more I’ll realize through the Kino-eye of the GoPro. Dziga Vertov, a very influential soviet filmmaker, waxed philosophical about the capabilities of the cinematic eye, of the camera, and its ability to capture reality in a scope for more infinite than that of the human eye. We are taking butterfly nets to Truth, my associates and I. Filmmaking, to me, is an exploration of the soul as we see it manifest in the view screen, never quite knowing what we’ll happen upon and whether that thing is the reality that we seek or the one we suppress. You know, fiction or not, we see things that we normally would never notice, even if it’s just in the stories we tell, and we let it converse with us. I want that to happen here and it needs to happen for this to be a good film. I don’t want a commercial or critical film. I just want a good film and I need to become the camera to do that.

Today, first day of principal photography, I spent a good amount of time holding the camera in a god-awful worm’s eye view until I purchased a head strap. Glory be to this head strap. Once figuring out the mechanics, I took it to the local supermarket, Target where Brandon works, and I walked in, GoPro recklessly blaring on my head. Here’s a trick I did, though. I taped the entire outer case where the camera rests with black tape. I did this so no one could really know if I was filming or not. This helps me ease in and out of situations and cajoles those around me. So, I walked through Target, found Brandon, noticed I embarrassed him (I will be visiting him more now) and left by the employee lounge, to see if anyone would stop me. They didn’t. I went to another store to test this out again. Same conclusion. No one would really eject me from their store. This will be tested as I push my boundaries.

Then, I rode back home on my bike, taking the long way. Later on, I went to a Whataburger, a southern fast food chain, with GPA’s own Drew Schackmann, filming the conversation we had until the battery died.

Today was uneventful. Tomorrow I have a soccer game. I will try to film that. Tomorrow I have lunch with an old enemy and tormentor. That will be interesting. Tomorrow is promising. I will also place more effort into these entries as this one was just a spontaneous afterthought to the day.

Thank you for reading. We will keep you posted. Please follow for more updates on the film, our upcoming podcast, more short stories, and other media contents.