Monday, 31 December 2007

The final blog of 2007...dun-dun-duuuuun...

The first of 2008 still to come, nyah!

So being that it's New Year's Eve, I figured I'd blog up some blog juice for the day, but don't have that much to say...except I've started reading "Roadside Picnic", not sure if I've already said, but regardless I'm getting into it now and it's a good read.

I also just got the "Spider-Man 3" DVD and it's got one of those bloody cardboard sleeves!!! ARGH!!! But what's more, the cardboard sleeve is on the outside of the normal plastic box which is sealed in plastic wrap...so indeed, the normal plastic case is sealed in plastic wrap - on top of which is a cardboard sleeve.

What the fudge is up with that?

It's been a pretty good year, aside from the twice-sprained/twisted ankle and putting my back out for several months and the allergic reaction, but no it has been a good year. The progression into "the industry" continues on the up-and-up, so here's hoping 2008 will continue as such - but even more.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

The "making of" a rant...

I recently nabbed myself a copy of "28 Weeks Later" on sale and went over the extra features (which were admittedly not copious) and something sprung to mind for me to rant about, and what may that be?

DVD "making of" documentaries on films such as this, and many others for that fact. Now a good 'making of' will be something along the lines of those you often find on George A. Romero movies, usually for his older films. While retrospectives, they actually provide you with knowledge about how the movie was made and what it was like to be there during the making of it.

For more recent films, "30 Days In Hell" on the excellent 2-disc DVD for "The Devil's Rejects" is utterly superb. Two and a half hours of true making of behind the scenes footage. In-movie clips are kept to a minimum. Interviews are plentiful, but what's more we actually almost overdose on behind-the-scenes footage, as documented by some lucky bugger who got to hang out and watch an awesome movie get filmed.

"The Devil's Rejects" is a prime example of a quality making of documentary...admittedly it's the sort of movie in the sort of genre with the sort of fans who'd want such an in-depth examination, but two and and half hours or not, it is truly deserving of the name "making of".

This brings me back (about time) to "28 Weeks Later". The 'making of' is actually titled as such, and so you'd expect to really find out about the making of the movie...but like many similar documentaries to cover popular cinema, it's mainly interview footage of people either saying how great everybody else is, or people saying who their characters are, or the filmmakers telling us the story - OF THE FILM WE HAVE JUST FUCKING WATCHED!!!

After all, who watches the extra features before seeing the film? Exactly, nobody but numpties - so why do we need to know the story? We don't. Why do we need to know what everybody's character is like and what they're there for? We don't. What we do need/want to know is how they made the film, what went into the actual making of the film, how did they decimate a field of infected with a helicopter? ... and so on.

True behind-the-scenes footage is kept to a minimum (which must be annoying to the lucky bugger who got to document the making of a kick-ass movie and no doubt worked hard - I know I would have, if I had been in the same shoes). The interview footage is mainly kept to telling us information we already know - all of the 'how & why' we don't know is kept to a minimum.

What is most annoying however, despite the lack of true 'making of' information, is the sheer volume of in-movie clips (in 28WL's case, annoyingly sliced up to look 'funkier' that just a normal clip). Fuck off, I want off-camera moments, people falling over and laughing, I want alternate takes from behind-the-camera-people-behind-the-camera. I want a tour of the locations as they're prepped, I want to feel as if I was there for the filmmaking process - that is a 'making of'.

I've seen countless 'making of' docs such as these on many different films. They're near-pointless (and sometimes completely pointless) and go against their description, their purpose. Once again I come back to the excellent long-feature-length effort on "The Devil's Rejects" double disc DVD. A superb piece of filmmaking documentation. It doesn't have to be that long all the time, but at least we were afforded useful and interesting insights - both from interview-given information, but from seeing ... vicariously through the eye of the on-set flaneur.

Friday, 28 December 2007

The soundtrack to script writing...

This was originally a reply to one of Danny's comments on a previous blog post of mine, but I wrote so much I decided to make it into its own thing.

There's not really much music that gets me going on this script, but there are certain tracks that fit certain scenes.

Such as "You Look So Fine" by Garbage, or on a script I wrote in 2006 I listened to certain tracks by M83 that would fit certain scenes to inspire me in writing them. There was also "Adagio for Strings" (from "Platoon"), that inspired me in that script from last year (a practice script really) in which there was a paint balling sequence.

Also on that script from 2006 I found that "Can't Even Tell" by Soul Asylum (end credits of "Clerks") inspired me, which also does a little on this script...but not much.

I just generally listen to my music in general to get a vibe going. What helps me most of all is getting into a routine, because it keeps me plugging away at it, but it also gets me into the necessary mindset.

Recently when fiddling around with "IAZM3" prep, I was listening to the "Day of the Dead" soundtrack to get me going...and with that there were certain tracks that fitted certain scenes. The "Rocky" best-of soundtrack was also a big inspiration for writing "IAZM3"...so I guess that script had more in the way of a soundtrack-to-the-writing, certainly more-so than this current feature script I'm doing.

...

As an aside, I've just had the shittiest wake-up call ever - massive indigestion/heart burn. Seriously, I felt like John Hurt in "Alien" just before he explodes all over the dinner table...absolute agony would be a good description. But after a good half hour of sitting/standing up (whilst wincing an awful lot), sipping milk and then taking a chewable Gaviscon I'm sitting pretty again.

...

I should have the Richard Hammond book finished today, it's been a bloody good read, just a mere 60 pages left. Also, "The A-Team" is still awesome as I progress into Season 4 with gusto, and "PGR4" is proper good fun.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Merry December the 27th people...

Hope you lot had a groovy Christmas, mine was a good one, got a good haul and have been taking pictures like there's no tomorrow with my new digital photo camera. I've also been getting stuck into some A-Team: Season 4 as well as Richard Hammonds book "On The Edge", which is absolutely bloody brilliant and I'm steaming my way through it. A superb read, especially for "Top Gear" fans such as myself.

Anyway, I'm taking a well deserved rest from the comedy feature script at the moment being that it's Xmas and all, but I'll soon be back to it to fine tune the second act before heading onto the third act - after which, one of two horror scripts I have in mind.

I've also done the dialogue recording/editing for "IAZM3", although I might want to re-record one character's lines again.

Anyway, just stopping by to throw some blog in your faces, boshty.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

The muse continues to work her magic...

As previously blogged about, I've been going great guns on my feature comedy script I'm currently hammering keys on. Last night I completed the second act, and now stand at 77 pages.

I will go over the second act again, maybe twice, and polish it up - at which point I'll print off a hard copy and then continue into the third act and hopefully get it completed in the not-too-distant-near-future.

But I think, having had a good run of it, that it's time I took a short break from writing and fiddled around with more "IAZM3" prep (filming of it has been pushed back for now, hopefully not for long, but just because there's not the time at the moment - but hopefully sometime very soon). So aye, onwards to editing those dialogue clips methinks...a sizable chore considering I have to find the perfect take (or assembly of takes) within several minutes for each chunk of dialogue, and then filter it all to create Zombie Man's sardonic drawl...still, once that's done I'll have another dose of that wonderful drug called "sense of achievement".

Breaking the habit of a lifetime (minus 5 years)...

As mentioned in a previous blog, I recently went to the doc's for the first time in (a correction here) 18 years. Indeed, I was a bit on the anxious side and sitting in the waiting room I looked thoroughly out-of-place amidst my elders. To be honest, what with all the chaos and bureaurocracy surrounding the NHS here in the UK (a huge issue completely skipped over by Michael Moore who insisted on painting the NHS as glory-in-a-can...it's better than the American's have, but we've had it better in the past - much better - and that's the problem), I was expecting a hassle.

Fortunately it was all rather quick & easy, even had my blood pressure taken - which was fine by the way (so I can be proud of that fact). Of course, that and asking "do you smoke" appear to be government-set targets, ticking & dealing if you will. Get some statistics out, it's what this government love after all...sheesh.

Anyway, my doc - whom I was meeting for the first time - was a nice chap, so even though a trainee doc was there as well, it helped allay my own anxiety about being in a building full of sick people, and what my obsessive-compulsive side would consider to be a building covered in germs and airborne snot of all types. So yes, a quick in-and-out and some pills to hopefully get shot of an allergic reaction I gained a while ago from a pair of jeans - is it just me, or any dye that could cause trouble for the sensitive-of-skinned, be gotten rid of in favour of a less cheap-ass substitute.

I mean, this dye must have been cheap-as-chips, because never before have I ever had a problem with wearing brand new clothes without washing them first. It's odd really, the effects of that dye I mean, the doc described it as coming 'from within'...I started thinking about "Alien" and "Shivers" and other such films ... perhaps I'll work it into a script at some point.

As for the NHS, I still maintain - it's the current system that's the problem and not the men & women on the front line. Although I will point out that my local NHS facility had a significant chunk of it paid for by private fund raising, rather than coming from Darth Bastard Gordon Brown's footloose-and-fancy-free idea of public spending. It's not about how much you spend, but what worth you get from what you do spend - YOU GIGANTIC FUCKING PRAT!

*sigh*

Anyway - Labour hatred aside - strong recognition should go out to those who fought hard to raise the cash to help bring Ross Vegas its own proper medical facility, something we're lucky to have - and wouldn't have - if it wasn't for said fund raising that helped bring it to fruition.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Doin' well...prefaced by angry swearing...

First of all, let's let out some aggro, *ahem*:

Fuck Gordon Brown, fuck the Labour Party and fucking the EU Treaty. That sniveling rat bastard bully-boy self-aggrandising shit-bag sold us up the swanny after outright promising an EU referendum, one of many promises he and his piece-of-shit 'government' did a 180 on. Fuck them all.

*ahem*

Normal service has resumed, and onto a cheerier note.

I've chuntered out the raw dialogue recordings for "IAZM3", and have certainly made good inroads on the second act of my comedy feature script. It currently stands at 51 pages of a projected 100 (who knows what it'll end up being, considering a practice script I wrote in 2006 clocked in at 5 drafts and 140-odd pages). Anyway, progress there is good and that in itself is good.

What's also good is that "Aliens: Definitive Edition" on DVD arrived just now, so I can enjoy my day by pouring over that.

Penultimately, I broke the habit of a lifetime (or somewhere around 17 years) and made an appointment to go see the Doc next week. Nothing to worry about, but a nuisance nonetheless. Being of sensitive skin I recently acquired an allergy caused by a textile dye...so hopefully he can prescribe a magic pill that'll get shot of it for good...but needless to say, after a 17 year absence from the Doc's room, there's a hint of apprehension. The only times I've been inside a hospital in the intervening years was either to get an arm poked at by someone who said "it's only sprained, have some tubigrip" or to visit someone.

Anyway, that's something not to look forward to, but then again who does look forward to going to the doctor's? I'll probably catch a cold or flu or bird-flu, or rabies or some soul-melting-super-virus or...*thinks of puppies playing*

On a new lighter note, I was helping out my mate Ben ("Trapped"/"IAZM2"/"VHS") yesterday to film a couple of physics-related videos for YouTube. One was about siphoning, which is simple enough to film but surprisingly tricky to explain quickly. The main one however was regarding non-fiction friction (in which I cameo, lol).

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=yPUaroviuow&feature=user

Have a gander and enjoy.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The new (now old) flesh...

Admittedly there has been a nigh-on two week lull since I said I had recaptured the muse (regarding my feature comedy script)...although that time has been filled with a couple of filming/editing gigs as well as various bits of IAZM3 prep so it's not all bad. However to celebrate my return to said script, and now onto the second act no less (I'd previously found myself going over the first act again and again to get the tone and vibe right intentionally for the benefit of the rest of the script), I will regail you all with a tale from my formative years regarding VHS culture...something dear to my heart.

Now as great as DVD is - admittedly my ambivalence/anger towards the format after its release was really towards the people who were ditching VHS in a heartbeat and dissing it in the process (this leaded to a short film I made called "VHS") - VHS just has something extra, that I feel has been lost in the oft-promoted clarity of Digital Versatile Discs.

From a very young age I was using a VCR to record films (which I obsessively watched repeatedly with a spell-bound fascination), and so VHS tapes were part of my life from very early on. Around about the time I was crossing into the teenage threshold I had started to purchase official VHS tapes (my first was "Critters 2", closely followed by my then New Year's Resolution (to acquire) "Terminator 2").

At this time I was also heavily getting into the horror genre, something which grasped my imagination and never let go - the genre that has ultimately brought me to the chosen career path of filmmaking. This time was also important because the British Board of Film Classification changed leadership in 1999, which resulted in a sequel of sorts to the 1980s 'Video Nasties' era. Previously banned horror movies and other 'nasties' came pouring into the UK, many completely uncut (others which were not, now are).

This meant that these films were new to the video rental shop in town, and at this time I was a keen VHS renter (well, technically it was my parents). Either first-hand through the video rental shop, or via the second generation dubs from school friends (which I then made my third generation copies for further viewing), I was gradually experiencing the horrors & violence of two decades of cinema all within a couple of years. A baptism of fire if you will.

Where does the VHS culture really fit into this memory lane session? Well, as I'd said, I was watching these newly unleashed horrors - such as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" (banned for 25 years in the UK) on VHS tapes - more specifically second or third generation dubs. Finally being allowed to see such films (with an edge of taboo-breaking within my household) was a key experience in my formative years. There was something illicit about it all, these taboo films spooling through my VCR...the sound was degraded, the picture was gritty and rough...and it was all encased within this black plastic case - an item rendered so brilliantly sinister in David Cronenberg's "Videodrome" (methinks "DVDrome" just wouldn't work).

The VHS tape became a symbol of my formative years, of my ascension into my teenage years. A symbol of self-discovery (ultimately guiding my career choice). While I am gradually more accepting of DVD discs as a tangible item, VHS tapes just feel like a movie to me. There's something to grab hold of (rather than delicately transfer from disc drawer to disc case).

A film on a VHS tape was just that - the film - the primary, powerful focus of all your attention. There's something mini-monolithic to the appearance of a VHS tape, and a VCR itself. There is an essence of simplistic brutality there, rather than the high-browed, slim-line elegance and diet-thin presence of DVDs. Videotapes had no special features, no commentaries, no menus, no deleted scenes, no unfunny gag reels - and no fucking warning screens you can't skip through.

I feel that with DVD, the film is no longer the prime focus. I mean, yes it's what is selling the package, but - and I myself am one such person now - you find people disappointed, rabidly so, by 'vanilla' DVD releases. You feel cheated, you expect a myriad of information to drown the main feature itself. You expect multiple discs and fancier packaging (although same-artwork cardboard sleeves can fuck right off). DVDs have pitch-perfect audio, they have clean and crisp images that never falter, never warp and degrade or bleed.

Of course, a clean picture that retains its quality is superb, but with that superiority comes a lack of soul. I will point out that one problem with the picture quality of VHS tapes was the abominable Pan & Scan, which zoomed in on images (dreadfully so from 2.35:1 original ratios) and thus degraded the quality (as well as chopped the image maliciously). With videotapes there was a hint of danger, a hint of a transitory mystique - you got a sense that the more you watched this tape, the closer it approached it's final play...perhaps a home-bound version of film prints, one might say.

This image degradation of course, was one of the driving forces of the inherent power of such films as "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre". It made them scarier, more taboo ... but watching the same film on a digitally remastered DVD with a host of special features that answer every possible question you once had, removes some of the scares...the taboo is gone, it becomes acceptable. There's a soul that videotapes had that DVDs do not possess...a sense of character, a sense that everything didn't have to be perfect and intensely pin-sharp.

My exploration of the horror genre, and the effect it had on me, has just as much to do with the videotape as it does with the films themselves. If I was at the same stage, but 10 years on (by which I mean the present day) and viewing these films on DVD, a large chunk of the power would be lost...the rich texture of the culture which surrounded that time in my life (thanks to the videotape) would be absent.

While I'm a big fan of DVDs (my own collection totals well over 300, including all the films that made such a splash with me during my formative years), the VHS tape will always hold a special place in my heart ... perhaps it's odd to get so deep over a media format, but unless you shared this experience...you just don't get it.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Bus-surfing to nowhere else but Oxford...

Why the title? All in due course, but here I am to blog up my December 8th 2007. A return to "Contempt of Conscience", this time to cover a double screening/fund raiser in Oxford.

After about 5-and-a-bit hours of kip I dragged my carcass out of bed and immediately went for the Pro Plus - not being a tea or coffee drinker, this is my caffeine hit for such days. Downstairs and the first hit of Special K for the day, no not the drug as dealt in that text-only game we all used to play during the Sixth Form about drug dealing, but the cereal of course. A stint of random TV later and I was picked up at 8am to head off to Oxford.

It was a day for at least one first - my first time using Park & Ride - and only the second time I've been on a bus since before I graduated in 2005. This of course meant I could re-apply my 'bus surfing' skills (while have a memory lane session). What is bus surfing? Standing on a moving bus, to really stay upright and not crash into people (helpful when you've got a fairly weighty tripod over one shoulder and a shedload of camera gear over the other) you have to anticipate the motions of the bus and counteract them with your legs, thus keeping you steady, level and upright.

Mind you, when surrounded by people it is wise to hold onto a pole...but if you find yourself alone on a bus, by all means have some fun and literally surf the bus' movements...something I did on the way back from the Hereford Art College during a taster week there when I was 15.

We ended up getting there early, so sought shelter from the rain and wind - at first in the entranceway to some really famous library I've never heard of - in a book store's coffee shop, and this is where I thought to myself "this could be nowhere but Oxford". It's Saturday and it's early, we've already seen one student-sort wearing the local colours on his scarf (which was tucked into a fairly swish overcoat) and here we are in a book store filled with coffee drinkers waxing lyrical about poncy subjects.

It's at times like these I would leap into a loud discussion about the merits of the demise of Captain Rhodes from "Day of the Dead" just to ruffle some feathers, if I wasn't so British.

Anyway, a shot of Coke (the beverage!) and an Oxford-poncy 'gluten free, organic' brownie later and we gathered in the now-unlocked music hall where the event was happening. Now, not being clued-up on city universities (I went to UEA, a campus university), I think this music hall was part of the university...and I overhead, I think, that the building is famed for it's acoustics in the main hall...although again, all news to me.

We set up the gear for the screening in the main hall - which had a ludicrously slippery wood floor - and soon had the first of two screenings of the most recent version of "Contempt of Conscience". Afterwards it was time for some new interviews/pieces to camera from some of the Peace Tax Seven members who were in attendance...then another screening. After the second screening (and 2 of 3 Special K energy bars later) it was time for more pieces to camera/interviews...oh and I forgot, after each screening there was a Q&A.

By the end of the day I'd shot around 100 minutes, all for a segment which will probably clock in somewhere up to five minutes (although I've suggested the Q&A could make a DVD extra feature). Early evening and it was time to go, while the event was still continuing into the evening with the fund raiser-proper, myself and Joe (the director) had to get back to Hereford.

So after twelve hours since leaving in the morning, I was back and digging into a Curry (that happened to be Weight Watchers) ... and it was fucking disgusting. 'Meh' chicken, horrid 'sauce' with a rank taste...thank heaven's for the Naan breads! Then some Omid Djlili...or however you spell it...and then bed a while later after turning in a respectable 18 hour day...then I had a slothful 12 hour kip! ... Hey, I'm the sort who really needs their kip, I was catching up from the day before...bah, screw the naysayers, ha!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Pan & Scan my arse...

The other day I decided to re-watch "Die Hard 3" for the umpteenth time, but I still only have my original copy on VHS that I bought years ago (it's really hard to find the full cut on a decent package DVD, the search continues)...and it got me thinking again about the horror that was Pan & Scan.

For some reason back in the day some moron thought - hey, let's pander to idiots who don't understand that a widescreen film will leave black bars on their square televisions, so let's horribly molest the original image by chopping off vast quantities of the edges and zoom in so the image quality is grainy.

No wonder the "amazing picture" sales line of DVD was so easy to pimp, of course they looked loads better, because VHS tapes were being fucked over essentially, by having inferior copies of films transferred onto them which made them grainy and make the cinematography look like it was done by a drunk monkey.

Now, zooming in from a 1.85:1 image isn't intensely atrocious - well, some of the time anyway - but zooming in from 2.35:1 (which I assume is what "Die Hard 3" was, but haven't bothered checking) is just insanity. A myriad of scenes go by with additional camera pans that never existed before. Towards the end when our protagonists are strapped to a bomb, they literally have a conversation between the backs of their necks for a really long time, it's beyond retardation of the highest order...and maddening to me now.

I didn't notice such things as much, or at all even, when I was a kid or in my early teens...I'd often see films for the first time on video - so the images were zoomed in on already, but now when I re-watch one of my videotapes it just pains me to see the molestation that Pan & Scan caused - who on earth thought it was a good idea?!

Hey, instead of pandering to idiots - just fucking tell them what's up, and that with Pan & Scan they actually ARE losing parts of the image, which is what they thought they were losing with widescreen films on square televisions...you know, it's that kind of pandering that will doom mankind back to the oceans.

And this brings me on to what I call 'nu-pan-and-scan'. With the standard aspect ratio now being 16x9/1.85:1, the old standard of 4:3 poses a problem. While I don't mind stretching the full 4:3 image to fill a 16x9 display (you easily get used to it), I do mind a 4:3 film being butchered to now appear in 16x9 when it was never filmed in such an aspect ratio. I can't think of an example of the top of my head right now, admittedly, but I have seen it happen...not to the high-regarded classics like "The Maltese Falcon" (and rightly so), but to 'lesser' films/genres it has - and it's just further retardation. Either put up with black bars on the edges of your screen, or just widen the image out, it's really not bad - and you're not losing any image, importantly.

This does ultimately bring me on to the general public not understanding aspect ratios, it really isn't a hard thing to understand, at least the main thrust of it anyway. I remember at uni on many occasions coming down to find my house-mates watching a 4:3 broadcast on 16x9 zoom mode and baulked at how they didn't notice the difference whatsoever prior to me correcting their mistake.

But I must force myself to end this rant here...and discuss one of the very positive sides of VHS culture that was very important in my teenage years, something which is sadly no longer the case - at least nowhere near as much as in my day. But that will follow in another post.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Great Malvern Christmas Lantern Parade 2007...

Following on from an earlier blog, and with several days in between to reflect more realistically, the sense of post-filming blues vanished by the morning after (as I've already said). That day I uploaded the footage, and save for a few audio problems in the first few minutes (didn't matter as I wasn't using the audio anyway) and a few blown shots (in a swarm of people it's sometimes hard to avoid kid's faces getting in the shot - so said shots have to be ditched) it was actually all good.

Come Sunday, two days after the actually event which was on the Friday, I set about editing the footage into the final 5 minute piece that was required. The actual filming session was a challenge - poor weather, limited different things to film (icons of the evening, if you will) and it being a 'last minute' job that I'd accepted - so it made the editing process tougher than any filmmaker would prefer. However, I was still able to cut together a solid five minutes (obviously, there's things you'd change or would have liked to do better, but that's the power of hindsight...something which doesn't take into account the 'then & there' of the situation).

Anyway, afterwards I decided to punch up the visuals a bit, so I turned to the trusty Magic Bullet - a superb software plug-in you simply must have if you're an editor. Notice in the credits of shows/documentaries where it says "colourist" - that's where Magic Bullet (or similar softwares) come in...a prime example of it's use would be a personal favourite of mine - "Top Gear".

So yes, I used one of my own presets that I'd created, and now all the colours were stronger. The blacks were deeper and the array of multicoloured lights on display now all kicked out a nice shimmer of white diffusion. While DVX100B footage looks great, if you add Magic Bullet to the mix, it looks even better.

Magic Bullet - once you use if, you wonder how on earth you managed without it! If only they made glasses so you could see the world through the eyes of Magic Bullet...ahhhh...one day maybe.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Stuck in the old noggin...

Kind of following on from my thoughts regarding the post-filming blues...I'm not sure if it's just me or others experience a similar vibe, but I often find after a day's filming I can't get the images and experience out of my head. I mean it's lodged in there, burned onto my brain. I hear audio clips, if you will, of the day.

It's odd, but then again I have a tendency to get things stuck in my head - annoyingly so - they get stuck in there so fast they go around in a seemingly never-ending loop, which is why I can't stand it when people whistle jingles from adverts. Not only have I had to put up with seeing the advert a million times, now I've got somebody whistling it to me - and even a mere couple of notes will inject it into my brain and I'm stuck with it for at least several hours...unless I replace it with something else.

I often find this to be the case when I wake up in the middle of the night when nature calls. In that semi-conscious state, my brain is functioning enough that I know what's going on, but I couldn't solve a riddle or something more complex than simple movement - muscle memory functions I've done countless times I mean. It's at this time that all of a sudden, random chunks of songs will come flooding into my head, or snippets of something someone said days ago, or events that happened days ago...like someone hit "random" on my own brain's WinAmp list and is only playing 10 seconds of each item.

So back to the point, I get a day's filming stuck in my head. Even specific moments will be forever etched into my brain and come back to replay in my mind at seemingly completely random times, like somebody up there in brain-land is constantly knocking over my mental file cabinet and random crap just keeps spilling out. It's actually very annoying, because it hinders the ability to decompress from a day's filming. You can't properly assess what footage you've got - and I guess in turn, this leads me personally towards the aforementioned 'post-filming blues' zone. Normally not to great depths, but once in a while - like the other night - for some reason all those swirling crystal clear new memories and snippets just cause such an ever-spiraling mind-clutter that leads to the inevitable harsh come down (to use a drug analogy) where, for a few hours anyway, everything is kinda crappy.

But then, to continue the analogy, you sleep it off and you're right as rain again - ready to do it all over again.

Anyway, just thought I'd have a ramble as I'd neglected to mention this particular aspect in the earlier post.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip...

There's a mere couple of episodes left to run on the series here in the UK, but I couldn't resist the gripping lure of the K&R storyline and had to see the final episodes before they aired here, and might I say they were bloody brilliant. It's a real shame that the show was cancelled, a genuine shame. By the sounds of it one of the main problems with the show's original airing in America was the schedule - gaps that lasted weeks, changing times and so on - something which often means death to a show, and obviously dwindling numbers as nobody knows when it's on or if it's on.

I still maintain that the Americans are absolute idiots when it comes to scheduling their shows - take season 3 of "Lost" for instance. They rush it out before Christmas and show a mere 6 episodes, at which grippingly exciting point they piss off for a break - a THREE MONTH LONG break.

It destroys continuity, it pisses the audience off, and it's just not cricket...to put it in a very English way. But seriously, it's just idiotic and it appears that "Studio 60" suffered typically American scheduling cock ups where 'a week off here, two weeks there, a month over there' is perfectly fine - shock/horror, it fucking isn't whoever you dimwits are that decide such schedules!

Apparently "Studio 60" was highly rated for 'record for later' audiences (and if it's getting shown late on a work night, of course people are going to record it for a more convenient time, another shock/horror but the audience are not slaves to a network's every whim and ultimately wield the most power when it comes down to it - the power to switch off, the power to record and watch later. And of course the power to fast foward through adverts, turn the sound off during them, switch to another channel during them, or heaven's forbid use the time constructively by taking a piss or getting more munchies.

To be honest, 'sponsored by' advertising works a lot better in this day and age where the public mass and increasingly seeking to do their viewing how they want...but still, even sponsoring a show doesn't guarantee somebody will drink your booze or drive your car.

Back to "Studio 60" and while it sagged a bit mid-season (but then again, many shows do, such as "Lost" which routinely does so), the first and last thirds of the season were intriguing, entertaining, enjoyable and in the latter third's case, absolutely gripping - genuinely quality television. The acting is top notch, the dialogue and the scripts are top notch - and yet it was still cancelled.

An absolute travesty when the likes of "Nip/Tuck" - arguably one of the weakest of the current spate of 'quality dramas' (a show which I've watched since the beginning) doesn't even have half the tension, intelligence, quality or interest that "Studio 60" had. "Nip/Tuck", while a nice enough distraction, is generally as shallow as it's profession-of-focus, lunging from one lecherous plot line to another. The protagonists make one retarded decision after another - the fifth season's meth-head storyline makes barely any sense and is nestled in as subtly as a rabid badger in a flopsy-the-bunny sanctuary.

Seriously, the characterisation feels blunt and unwieldy - tabloid-like, or soap-opera-like - meanwhile the absolutely excellent "Dexter" (thankfully renewed for a third season recently) has deep and troubled characters. You can at one point hate someone and then 40 thoughtful minutes later you pity/like/love them instead...such as LaGuerta in season one.

So with "Nip/Tuck" being generally 'meh', why on earth was the intelligence and genuine wit of "Studio 60" cancelled after merely one season?! Was the routine attack at back-stage corporate TV politics too close-to-the-bone? Was it too smart? Or were those in charge of the big red "yes" and "no" buttons just too stupid to get the show. Then again in a world where "Futurama" was cancelled, then anything superb can be cancelled...but then again, at the very least "Futurama" has finally made a return with the first-of-four DVD movies recently.

It's an absolute shame that "Studio 60" was shit-canned. For another solid reason for it's greatness, Matthew Perry had found a character who wasn't Chandler. He had successfully moved on with a new persona who was complex and intriguing. The entire show was filled with such protagonists.

May a thousand angry red-arsed baboons descend on those who made the decision to shaft such a quality slice of television.

The Post-Filming Blues...

Perhaps not as melodramatic as the title suggests, but I just wanted to wax lyrical for a moment regarding what I'd call a very real phenomenon amongst filmmakers. Think of it as the filmmaking specific rendition of 'the artist is never happy with their own work' - and while that sentiment is still true of filmmakers (each case to varying degrees, so it's far from an exact science), I think filmmaking has it's own slightly different addition.

By which I mean the 'come down', if you will, from the act of filmmaking itself. I've discussed this with a few people I've worked with and they themselves testified to the same experience on occasion. Sometimes you can feel elated and really pleased after a day's filming, like you really achieved something and you just know it's going to work - that's usually on a day when everything has gone according to plan.

More often than not though, the opposite feeling occurs when things haven't gone according to plan - but are not exclusive to such a troubled day however.

The reason I'm having this mini-rant about it, is because I got a call (inconveniently when I was still in the shower) and it was a collegue of mine passing on some last minute work in nearby Great Malvern. The task - to film a lantern procession which preceded the Christmas lights being turned on (thankfully note, no sign of "festive lights" in the remit, ha!)

After getting the basics - which was all I ended up acquiring (my whole involvement was last minute, and as seems to be the case with these sort of events the behind-the-scenes appeared to be hectic), I got a post-code (little did I know that it was for the entirety of Great Malvern - and neither did Multi-Map, which pointed me directly to Landsdowne Crescent) and headed off on my way. Now, I haven't been to Great Malvern in over a year at this point, and I didn't drive - in fact it was when I picked up my sexy new DVX100B from H Preston's who are situated there.

Now, my navigational skills are about as keen as that of James "Captain Slow" May from "Top Gear", so I immediately went to Preston's as it was the only place I knew in Great Malvern. This of course, as I later found out, was beyond Church Street - where the parade was happening. After heading into what must have been Little Malvern (seriously, there must be about 100 'Something' Malverns in the same area) at which point I admitted male defeat and asked for directions - at which point not one single bastard would let me exit onto the main road. I felt I was poking out onto the main road and didn't want to get clipped by a truck, and when I tried to reverse I just got a rude horn blare from the idiot behind me who had dicided to drive right up my exhaust and half way into the backseat...at which point swearing was bellowed by me, but who wouldn't?

Eventually I got much nearer Church Street, but thanks to an absolute legend in a High Visibility Jacket, I was pointed in the specific direction I wanted to go - Lansdowne Crescent. Of course, once I got there I found out (after several failed phone calls ... signal troubles or something) that this wasn't supposed to be where I was heading - although no meeting point had been arranged anyway, I might add. So while cursing Multi-Map (which annoyingly refuses to load empty gray areas - which are always where you want to actually look - when zooming in), I saddled up and headed up Church Street to the location of the parade.

I will mention that it was raining, it was cold and it was dark - so it was pretty much November, put simply. I will also mention that true to my generation's occasional failing for being procrastinators, I didn't have a rain cover. But in true A-Team style, I fashioned one to cover the important guts of the DVX100B - which also thankfully is built like a fucking tank. A drippy lens case and eye piece isn't so bad. Of course, if was lens-wiping-a-go-go throughout but eventually you must admit defeat (which came after the whole parade/lights-on-thing had been done). The rain was too obtrusive and I had to halt filming...fortunately I had enough footage for a 5 minute film - which I'm still to edit at this 'day after' stage, at the time of writing.

As if rain wasn't enough, there was a foam machine firing foam snow into the air, so I got doused with that and was forced to retreat into the nearest building - the local Tourist Information - where a very kind woman gave me some paper towels to dry off my gear and myself - before I headed out again for the final shots before retreating to my car.

At this point I'll say I proudly made it back to the car without injuring myself. On my last filming session I'd re-sprained my left ankle, but I didn't slip, twist or fall - which considering the wet surfaces (some covered in foam snow) deserved saluting I say. Of course, the weather wouldn't let me off lightly, so no sooner had I removed my drenched waterproof jacket, than the rain became torrential. So in the mere seconds from closing the boot, to getting inside the car, I was drenched anyway.

I headed homewards, which was better than the journey down - this time I didn't need to read the signs, which was an impossible task on the initial journey. It was dark, it was raining, blaring headlights were in my eyes constantly, and there was always somebody seemingly bearing down on my rear bumper at all times. Although I will say, I was behind - at two different times - the slowest white vans I've ever come across. Evidently 'white van man' was cautious that night.

But back to the initial point about post-filming blues, after the challenge that was that evening's filming, I was tired, damp and obviously grumpy. More to do with the circumstances surrounding the event rather than the event itself - although getting absolutely stuck in a huge crowd, which made for nigh-on-impossible filming at one stage wasn't great either.

So indeed, the post-filming blues struck last night - you just feel crap in general, you reckon the footage is going to suck and not cut together, you doubt your skills and end up non-plussed with almost anything. This happened to me last night, something which hasn't happened in a long time - nor struck as hard.

However, the saving grace of post-filming blues is that the morning after is always so much better. Once you've slept on it, and then actually looked at the footage - everything isn't a disaster anymore. You feel more confident, and you're confident you can get a film out of it after all, so in other words - it's all good once again.

Perhaps a round-about way of getting to the point, but I guess this post was also just to relay a challenging night's filming...now onwards to actually edit the thing, which should hopefully not be clouded by rain, foam snow and road rage, ha!