Paris, Texas (1984)

“For five days he ran like this until every sign of man had disappeared.”

I finally watched Wim Wender’s masterpiece, Paris, Texas. It is, in every way, beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough.

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“RUST”

The below is a draft of the short story I eventually submitted for my VCA application. The final draft was unfortunately lost when my computer crashed, but the draft is still pretty close. The theme the story had to follow was that of “TIME”.

“This here boy…” the old man grizzled in a weary breath. “…This here’s the ticket.”

Jessop was staring out the cabin window at the cold night sky. He looked over at the old man lying still in bed – the man that once resembled his father. The old man had begun unraveling the crumpled brown package from under his bed.

“…Your mother wouldn’t want me giving you this.”

A worn, rusted Navy revolver sat in his father’s lap, cold and motionless.

“It’s a bit worn down these days. There’s oil in the second drawer, behind ya. Fetch it, and pour some firewater for your old man while you’re at it.”

“Yessir.”

Jessop walked over to the wardrobe, grabbed the can of oil and some steel wool, and passed his father the remains of the whiskey bottle.

“Listen…… don’t let yourself turn into an old bastard like me,” the old man huffed. “Time only makes you bitter. If I even had half the pair that you have, I would’ve ended it when your mother died.”

The boy stopped cleaning the gun. He looked his father dead in the eyes. The candle on the bedside table was casting a large shadow on the old man’s face.

“What do you want from me?”

The old man paused to look at his son. He licked his gums and took a generous swig from the bottle.

“Ahhh………. Look here boy. You ain’t a child no more. It’s time you took responsibility in doin’ what’s right.”

Jessop continued to stare down the old man.

“Eight years… Eight years, we been without your mother.”

There was a silence that filled the cabin. The only sounds were from the crickets outside. Jessop took a deep breath, and returned to cleaning his father’s revolver. The old man, beginning to turn crimson, shifted in his sheets to get comfortable.

“…Murderers, thieves, goddamn chickenshits;” the old man muttered to himself with a quiet hostility. “These are the kinds of people that stole her from me, you hear? From both of us. The kind that deserve nothin’ but a shallow grave.”

“It was a long time ago, pop-“

“Boy, I don’t give a damn if it was a hundred years ago. It still wasn’t her time.”

The old man was clenching tightly onto the whiskey bottle, his breath fogging the glass with each word.

“Didn’t deserve what happened to her… I know you don’t remember her like you should, but she loved you. She loved you more than me, that’s for damn sure… …Always said you’d make the most of your time on this world. People come and go, but you was gon’ make her proud.”

The crickets outside began to mute. Only the flickering of the candle remained, the wax slowly melting to a harsh stub.

“Boy…” the old man said with a whiskey-soaked grimness.

“…You deserve revenge.”

Jessop eyes widened.

“Wh…what do you mean? ….Revenge?”

His father remained still – he was drunk as a mop, but his eyes were suddenly communicating a message so cold it ran a sharp chill down Jessop’s spine.

“Nuh uh, no way!” Jessop spluttered, jumping out of his chair.

“No way what?”

“I ain’t killin’ no one! No way!”

“And why’s that, boy?”

“I-I’m too young to kill! I don’t got it in me!”

“Bullshit!” the old man spat. “Aint a single person in this world who aint capable of takin’ a life. Now sit down and calm yourself boy. I didn’t raise no Miss Nancy.”

Jessop began to breathe heavily, but obeyed his father and took his seat.

“Now…” The old man stopped to cough. “I aint never teach you how to kill a man. But see, that ain’t my job. That’s somethin’ only you can learn yerself.”

“Why me!?” Jessop wailed. “Why can’t you do it? If you can hold a glass, you can hold a gun!”

“Haven’t squeezed a trigger in thirteen years, boy. Heck, alcohol was a hard enough habit to kick.” The old man smirked wryly as he emptied the bottle, swirling the whiskey around like mouthwash.

“Anyway, I got the ammo just here. Hey – look at me!”

Jessop had tears in his eyes. He wiped them away with his sleeve, as the old man’s voice deepened.

“…You gotta do it boy. The man who took her away aint but a dime’s worth of dog meat, we both know that. There’s a difference between murder and justice.”

Jessop began to feel nauseous. As his father handed him the bullets, a lump in his throat began to surface.

“Time aint kind to most folk. Can’t polish the rust off a man quite as easy as you can the barrel of a pistol.”

Jessop steadily loaded the gun, the click of the cylinder ringing in his ears. He took several deep breaths to calm down, looking into the eyes of the old man once more.

“Life is short son. That’s how it is….. That’s how it should be. Pain’s what makes every single day that much longer… And in my case, every day’s lasted a fuckin’ year.”

And with that, Jessop took a final deep breath, pointed the gun at his father and pulled the trigger.

Reality Check.

So last night I had one of those sporadic thoughts run in and out of my brain that left quite an unsettling mark on it’s way out.

It was something along the lines of: “Why am I so deeply obsessed by cinema, something that by definition, isn’t real?

Now I know that the term “real” itself is incredibly broad by definition, but you still get what I mean.

Why, instead of stopping in a park to smell the fresh grass, might I prefer staring into a perfectly-framed grassy landscape of a Miyazaki film?

Am I not comfortable with my own “reality”? Is it a deep-set internal malfunction with my own perceived consciousness I might not be aware of? Am I in the Truman Show?

In times of these strange existential crises, it can be relatively common to find a form of consolation in very close proximity. This happened when later that night I was playing around with my camera and realised I could pull focus on my bedroom mirror. Being shot on my iPhone, these images hopefully can get the point across:

The idea of it just being the camera’s sensor still focusing on the real object, just bouncing light off the mirror sits perfectly fine with me, but I still felt compelled in the beautiful act of finding depth inside a reflection.

Neither of the two images above are technically “real”, but they are still just as prone to teaching us as much about life as their physical counterparts.

Just like when you develop feelings for another person, or find beauty and awe in glorious natural landscapes: in the split-second moment of first contact, you are only purely experiencing it. It’s only afterwards when you can make sense of your emotions that you can come to the conclusive reasoning that the experience was deeply significant to you in some way.

Only in reflection.

Space-Time: Frame-by-Frame.

“Our entire experience of time is constantly in the present: and all we ever grasp is that instant moment.”

“What we all experience as the flow of time, really may be nothing more than an illusion.”

motion picture
n

“A sequence of images of moving objects photographed by a camera and providing the optical illusion of continuous movement when projected onto a screen.”

Maybe not an exact tautology, but the closest I’d like to think we’d get. Looking forward to travelling into the fourth dimension.

2014

Over the last four years, I’ve kept a film journal on my Facebook. I’ve come a long way in those four years, and I’ve decided my thoughts might finally be civil enough for public exposure.

Just maybe.

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2014 marks the fifth consecutive year of my film journal. My initial fascination with film has turned into a deep and matured obsession. On my journey to becoming a filmmaker, it’s become imperative that I absorb as much as I can to discover the vast possibilities of the constantly evolving medium.

So what is it about film and cinema that simply overwhelms me?

When you watch a great film, you enter another sort of consciousness. You become enraptured by beauty, wonder, characters: an entirely different world from your own. Great cinema employs two senses to stimulate all five simultaneously through nostalgic synesthesia. In the words of John Ruskin, “art is to be the praise of something you love.” When you’re watching a film, you’re looking back at a glimpse in time that you feel like you personally lived through, seeing it in the most cinematic way as possible.

Every now and then there comes along a film that, for one reason or another, you can identify with. There’ll be a moment in which your entire mind goes blank and you reach a beautiful, wordless catharsis. Cinema has the power to significantly shape and influence people. For a brief moment in time, you experience another reality which has the potential to change you forever.

It’s these films that I set myself the task to discover and experience. With each new and original film I watch, I allow myself to grow not only as a storyteller, but as a thinker. We gain insight into different perspectives – seeing a world through someone else’s eyes. It’s the closest thing we have to reading minds. It’s the most visceral education of the human condition one can wish for.

Of course this is just my opinion. For many, cinema might just be a brainless Friday night time-waster, or a back-up small-talk conversation topic.

Regardless, I’ve worked out a ratings system and will be posting short reviews on all the films I watch in cinemas this year. It’s an exciting new year. New Richard Linklater. Goodness.

RATINGS SYSTEM

A – Here’s a filmmaker with a strong, clear vision. He or she has created something inherently unique and special, which deserves to be preserved in cinema history forever.
B – A film which you could watch and find something to recommend to your friends and they won’t think you’re weird.
C – Pretty generic film, I’d probably watch it again if it was on TV, but I’d also probably be on Facebook at the same time.
D – This film irked me. The first thing I mention about it to people would probably be a complaint.
E – Just kill yourself.

The writer’s struggle.

ImageWhat is the main obstacle preventing an idea from becoming a reality?

It varies from person to person I’m sure. Laziness. Self-doubt. Lack of reliable stationery.

In many cases, it’s all of the above.

For me, it’s usually the first two. But mostly, it’s the second.

There’s the excuse of “Oh, like I totally would get it off the ground, but I just don’t have the money or the time” etc.

That may be the case, but both of those things are still connected to the first bracket of obstacles. In this relatively selfish, stream-of-consciousness blog post, I can admit that what usually stops me from really pushing myself forward with a single idea is that annoying pest most people refer to as fear.

Specifically, it’s the fear of rejection. Putting yourself out there creatively only to get it thrown back in your face. No one wants to hear that another person didn’t like what they made. It’s like getting dumped. It stings. Even the smallest comment like “The editing was a bit choppy”, “I was a bit confused by the ending” or “Alex, you’re too needy, stop texting me” can utterly destroy the soul from inside. And that’s people being specific. In the film industry, it can be as simple as a “Yeah it was good” or just a half-enthused “…Eh“.

This fear can cause many side-effects: anxiety, self-doubt, laziness, and in my case, crying hysterically under the bed-sheets whilst listening to Adele. The fear of rejection will keep me from writing a sentence, since as soon as I write it, I’ll think “Will people like this?”/”Does this make sense?”/”Is this funny?”/”Do I even know what I’m writing about?“/”I’ll never become successful anyway“, and then I’ll immediately delete it and stare blankly into my computer screen for about five minutes before watching another episode of Arrested Development and calling it “study”.

I feel like when someone judges my own piece of work, they’re judging me as a person. Especially with the more personal pieces of work, if someone shuts you down it just becomes game over.

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Arrested Development reference. Couldn’t help it.

I don’t see writer’s block as a physical block per say. More of a writer’s mirror.

The only way to motivate yourself out of nothingness is to stop deflecting your own projections and push through it. You need to stop hating on the bits that you don’t like, and instead, work to improve on them. Trim the fat, as they say. No comparisons either. Its silly to think that your current work will never be as sexy or have as much chest hair as it did in the past.

Even if it’s not perfect, in the early stages of trying to craft a skill, it never hurts to just keep practicing. Like riding a bike. You won’t go far if you’re too worried about crashing before you push off.

I have great envy for those with the confidence to always go 100% with an idea, a project, or whatever it is that they do. If this is you, I congratulate you for being super-human, and I hope you never give up.

Maybe what’s ironic about this whole thing is that I’m writing this blog post instead of actually doing something about my next short film.

….I’m sure I’ll do it tomorrow.

into the wild…

large into the wild blu-ray2It’s been a great semester. Looking back, it’s almost terrifying how quickly it’s gone by. I’ve learned so much and it’s been a whirlwind of a time.

The last few months have birthed a treasure trove of precious experiences, which I’ve come to take away many lessons from.

First of all, I still have so much to learn in terms of the gear and their functions. This is mostly me being a bit apprehensive, never before working with such foreign objects. Hopefully I’ll be able to work on this, and get the most out them for my major shoot. Can never go wrong with a masterful tracking shot. Spike Lee, watch out.

Secondly, I know that having the right people in your crew can make or break your production. I’ve been blessed with having the perfect crew on both of my shoots, and I find it so comfortable working with them. I’m anxious about sourcing outside help on the next shoot, but I know that it’s a necessary next step. Hopefully I can pitch myself so well that actors, musicians and art directors alike will be clawing to work on my shoot.

This semester has also taught me something very special: I know for a damn fact that directing is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I have so much more to learn, but I want to dive in head first, and I can’t wait.

It’s only the beginning.

Trouble will find me.

Trouble will find me.

I love finding new music.
Sometimes it’s on purpose, most of the time completely by accident.

It’s like discovering a new colour.

New textures. New feelings. New ways of seeing. It can hit you like a brick.
I found myself reading reviews for the new album by The National, ‘Trouble Will Find Me’. I’ve never been a huge die-hard fan. Until now.
Something deep inside just clicks when I press play. There’s a sense of exploration. Bittersweet loss and longing. AMBIVALENCE (my new favourite word).
I feel like listening to this album almost matures me as a human being.

Music to me, goes hand in hand with film. Not to say that a film requires music to work: but a perfect album is filled with different tonalities, colours, emotions, rhythms, crescendos… Just like a perfect film should. It should make you move to a beat. Surprise you. Like this album surprised me.

A great short film should be in essence, a great pop song.

I should write that down.

PARANORMAN

PARANORMAN

I’m in the editing room, thinking about soundscapes for my second exercise. What better example of sound added in post-production is there than an animated film?
I decide to watch’ Paranorman’. I’ve been holding it off for far too long.
Five minutes in and I’ve already forgotten why I’m watching it in the first place. It is amazing. There is a beauty and warmth in this stunning stop-motion animation, and I can’t believe the lengths the animators went into crafting this wonderful world and its characters. The lighting. The way the fibres of the clothes move. The craziness of it all! The humour and beautiful ambivalence of the story.
This is the best animated feature I’ve seen probably since 2010 (How To Train Your Dragon/Toy Story 3).

I’m going to make a stop-motion film one day goddammit. Just try and stop me, universe.