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Idea IS the format

The occasional downtime of Daniel W. E. Light
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Saturday, 29 December 2007

Hackney Garden - An Introduction

Shot and cut this today. It's hardly Gardener's World, but it's nice to have a record of the starting point for project Hackney Garden.



I had particular fun with the subtitling. Started by downloading some freeware called DivXLand Media Subtitler, then I had to go off in search of a couple of codecs to give me the finished product. I can see myself having some fun with the subtitling from here on in, but for now this is probably (hopefully) the clumsiest and most humourless installment in this growing series.

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Friday, 28 December 2007

Chicks joke at me. Apparently.

This just dropped into my Gmail account from one 'Dr Spencer Moreno'.

* * *

You Dont please with your male organ size.

Chicks joke at you.

It is time to solve this trouble.

Try our machine enla;rgement and Girls will love you promptly.

I changed my sexual life. Today it is your turn.

http://floparfold.com


* * *

Stepping back slightly, I can't quite believe that the web has arrived at a place whereby I receive an email, bang in the middle of a perfectly nice day, from a man claiming to have achieved the highest level of academic qualification available, criticising me for being satisfied with the size of my penis. Adding insult to injury, he's actually got me wondering.

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Hackney Garden - Boxing Day '07

This was all shot on Boxing Day, as the title suggests. It's a bit flabby, the sound isn't great, and I'm not sure how much interest there will be in submerged walls and Pyrus Katsura, but I like the idea of documenting the work we're doing on the garden in this way. It's giving me some nice material to play around with in Movie Maker, and making me more comfortable operating a camera.



That's not me in the cover image by the way. That's my Dad. He always has at least one 'project' on the go, typically involving boats or gardens. One day I daresay he'll try and combine the two into some sort of boat-garden. Rest assured reader, when he does, I'll be there, and the camera will be rolling.

UPDATE:

Googled 'boat garden' and found this.

I LOVE the internet.

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Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Homework

A while back I posted an opening sequence for a short film idea I'm playing around with, with a view to getting some feedback from a few friends of mine.

I was particularly interested in the question of whether short films need to follow a scaled down version of the Basic Film Paradigm, a model advocated by Syd Field in his book Screenplay as being the essential basis of any film script. The feedback tended towards the affirmative, in accordance with my own natural inclination.

As such, I've since spent what little time I've had to focus on the project remodelling my script to bring it into line with the paradigm. Before I go into that, I'm going to define what I understand as being the key tenets of Field's model.

PAGECOUNT
A standard length for a feature length screenplay is 128 pages. This equates to roughly two hours and eight minutes, since a page - of dialogue or action - should equate to a single minute of film.

SET-UP, CONFRONTATION & RESOLUTION
A screenplay breaks down into three main phases - the SET-UP, lasting approximately 30 minutes; the CONFRONTATION, lasting approximately 60 pages; and the RESOLUTION, lasting a further 30 pages.

PLOT POINTS
These parts are delineated by two plot points, marking the transition from one phase to another. The first plot point is the point at which a dramatic need of one or more protagonists becomes clearly discernible. The second plot point is the point at a major corner is turned in the fulfilment of that need.

THE ENDING
The ending is the first thing you need to know before you start writing. Your storyline must have direction, following a path of development along which the ending lies. Furthermore, the ending comes out of the beginning; someone, or something, initiates an action, and how that action is resolved becomes the storyline of the film.

TWO INCIDENTS
The inciting incident is that which sets the story in motion. The key incident is a dramatic visualisation of what the story is about (and is often plot point one). These two incidents provide the foundation of the storyline.

SCENES VS SEQUENCES
A SCENE is where something specific happens. It is a particular unit of dramatic action - the place in which you tell your story action. A scene must move the story forward and/or reveal more information about a character. A SEQUENCE is a series of scenes connected by one single idea with a definite beginning, middle and end. It is a unit of dramatic action unified by one single idea.


These are the main elements Field establishes before he starts to write about how to build your storyline. He richly illustrates each point with examples, but I guess the real value for me has been taking on board the extent to which screenwriting is a literary and creative discipline of its own.

With reference to my script, it has helped me in the following ways;
I'm now using a technique Field described to work with the storyline, before I try and write again. This involves writing my ideas for each scene or sequence, along with a few brief words of description, on a series of 3 x 5 cards - by his reckoning fourteen cards equates to about thirty minutes of screenplay.

By arranging and rearranging the cards, you can use them to play around with your storyline, and view it from different angles. I was doing precisely that this morning whilst lying in a lovely hot bath, and switched two of the cards into a deliberately unintelligible configuration. A couple of possibilities occurred to me, and rippled through the rest of the cards, until I found myself looking at a significantly new arrangement. I feel certain I'm going to follow the new structure.

I guess I can see where Field is coming from with this. A basic framework exists for any workable screenplay, but within that, you are master of all you survey. Invent problems, then find solutions. Conjure up the unintelligible, then redraw reality to make sense of it. Doing so causes you to examine the questions of 'why?' and 'how?' - questions that need to be addressed before you can even begin to embroider your story with language and imagery.

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Sunday, 23 December 2007

Fairy Elf Lola

Presenting the second of our festive features:

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Saturday, 22 December 2007

Chocolates & Tangerines

Woke up this morning and decided to can my plans to buy myself a PS3, in favour of a Mini DV cam two thirds of the price. Lola and I went up to Angel first thing, and eighteen hours later here we have our first production, cut using Windows Movie Maker, and posted to a cool little video hosting site called Vimeo.

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Thursday, 20 December 2007

In Rainbows



This is pretty cool. Been listening to this for a while, on Mr McMaster's recommendation. Blogging the widget for further examination.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Birthday treats

Ems' birthday. Lovely trip to our favourite cinema - the Genesis, on Mile End Road - to watch THE DARJEELING LIMITED. We make it out to the cinema so rarely these days, it was a real treat to watch such a delicate and entertaining movie.


I took this photo at Mile End tube waiting for the train down to Stepney Green. I used to take mobile phone pics on the tube every day, when we first set up Ploggle, sometimes just to check that it was working properly - you'll find a hundreds of them at underground.ploggle.com.

Ems took the picture below on Saturday before the baby shower. Lola was having a spot of lunch with her cousin Amelie at 'Lola's table'. I'm posting it in the hope that I'll look at it a bit more often. When you see kids this happy, all your troubles turn to dust.

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Saturday, 15 December 2007

WHY SO SERIOUS?

So there I am, minding my own business on a friday morning, trying to get everything pointed in the right direction, then somebody says something about DARK KNIGHT teaser posters, and my ears prick up. That's the thing about this whole fanboy malarkey. There's no shortage of stuff to get excited about.


This could so easily be a comic book cover, especially close-up. Batman looks very lonely and forlorn, his back turned, his head slightly cowed.




The parellels between this and the first poster are pretty obvious, although it's anybody's guess what's on the Joker's mind, and exactly what it is he's planning to do with that brutally prosaic switchblade.



This is a great treatment, blurring the lines between the two characters. Anyone else noticing a crucifixion pose in the lips? Please tell me it's not just me.



I couldn't find this as a straight one-sheet, but I have Dark Horizons and whoever that is you can just make out reflected in the glass to thank for this pic of a fourth teaser. For me, this is the closest anyone's come to showing me my Joker. The crude and unnatural positioning of the head and body, all detail concealed by the mists of moral ambiguity, left to our virulent imaginations.

And the punchline. That's no 'crazy-looking' typeface, created by some font technician in Seattle who turned up to work in a funny mood. That's real blood, sweat and tears, scrawled across the page with a child's paintbrush, resolving into a deranged smile.

"Why so serious?" Good question. But quit looking at me funny.

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Friday, 14 December 2007

CLOVERFIELD & JUMPER widgets

These aren't two of ours - want to get that clear straight up, so that nobody thinks I'm claiming them. Not too proud to admit that there are other people out there producing visionary grabbable goodness :)



The CLOVERFIELD widget is nice and simple, and, crucially, offers a really juicy five minute excerpt from the movie, along with a simple, clearly communicated incentive for people to spread the word.

It's just a shame for the rest of us that the chance to host an advance screening of the movie in your hometown is only available to "legal residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding the province of Quebec)". Damn those guys in Domestic have it easy.



The JUMPER widget also looks like part of the domestic campaign, although these things always spill over into international regardless. It's much simpler, but the point is it's out there early and grabbing eyeballs. Who knows what's to come as we get closer to the February release?

I'm pretty excited about both movies. CLOVERFIELD has always been pitched as a working title, but given how much buzz there is already around the movie I think they'd be crazy to change it. As for JUMPER, I'm really looking forward to seeing Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell and Samuel L. Jackson under the direction of Doug Liman (THE BOURNE IDENTITY).

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Friday, 7 December 2007

What doesn't kill you makes you... stranger

Not many people can claim to have written 10,000 word dissertations based primarily on Batman. I am one of relatively few. Frank Miller's THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and Grant Morrison's ARKHAM ASYLUM were alongside Alan Moore's WATCHMEN and Neil Gaiman's BOOKS OF MAGIC as the subjects of the long essay I submitted as part of my English Literature degree. I can't remember the exact title - only that it was a contrived but sincere attempt to understand the peculiar social, political and cultural context that gave rise to a rash of quite brilliant graphic novels through the 80s and 90s, of which these are only four.

The dissertation as a whole is lost now. By the time I'd scanned in my quite glorious selection of full colour appendices, harnessing the extent of the Edinburgh University Library computing facilities, the document as a whole was immovably large. The cost of printing a single copy was so substantial I had to ask a girlfriend of the time to send me money in the post. I submitted the one hard copy to my faculty, and the one soft copy was customarily deleted from the library file system a month later. Ask me today and I'd happily see my degree severely downgraded in exchange for a copy, but that's academic.

I saw the 7-minute opening sequence of the new Batman movie, THE DARK KNIGHT, at the London IMAX this afternoon. Warner Bros screened it seven months ahead of release for an agency of journalists and marketers, followed by a Q&A with one of the producers. On account of my excessive fondness for cheese and wine my colleague and I left an opulent Christmas lunch in Soho with 15 minutes to get to the Imax on the South Bank. We ended up running the length of Waterloo Bridge dragging our laptops and arguing over who was Batman and who was Robin. We eventually collapsed into our seats at the top of the ludicrously precipitous auditorium just in time to see the first few frames beginning to roll.

It starts with a slick bank heist, organised by some guy who thinks he can take a share without turning up. "No wonder they call him The Joker" quips one of the gang. No prizes for guessing who has the last laugh.

Straight away you know you're a long way from Jack Nicholson and some hare-brained henchmen clowning around in an art gallery. A LONG way. This is more Michael Mann than Michael Keaton, a polished set-piece reminiscent of the rhythmic and precisely orchestrated bank job in HEAT. I'm also reminded of Roger Avary's KILLING ZOE - the robbers' masks serve to disguise them, but also expose the grotesquely amoral creatures hidden within. Here each of the gang falls principle to the old adage that there's no honour amongst thieves until only the Joker remains. Heath Ledger's Joker is the clown you have nightmares about, scruffier than Nicholson's, more viscerally scarred inside and out.

A flurry of further glimpses of the new movie follows, culminating with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) on a Gotham rooftop destroying the Bat Light with a fire-axe. Then it's over. I haven't calmed down. I'm breathing heavier than I was when I sat down.

The Q&A starts. Pretty soon I hear this word. Hyperrealism. I heard it a while back, from our Second Life architect, describing the style he used on the Die Hard builds. Wikipedia tells me that "Hyperrealism has its roots in the philosophy of Jean Baudrillard, the simulation of something which never really existed. As such, Hyperrealists create a false reality that is a convincing illusion; one based upon a simulation of reality.”

This is Nolan's Batman. If he hinted at it in BATMAN BEGINS, it looks like he's got it figured now. Gotham is not some accentuated gothic fantasy shrowded in perpetual darkness - it's a real city, in a real world, one in which 'convincing illusions' can be all the more compelling for being framed within a familiar context. This is a world in which Batman and The Joker are not agents of the simple binary of good and evil, but complex individuals operating outside the law, connected by fate, driven by torment and alienation.

The comic world is all the richer for an established tradition of reinvention and reinterpretation, and few series have lent themselves so readily to such radical re-envisioning as Batman, not just for his own depth and complexity, but for that of his nemesis. Bryan Singer's Lex Luthor wants real estate. Nolan's Joker wants to sit back and watch a city burn. He might be robbing banks now, but something tells me he's not just in it for the money.

Disclosure: My employer Picture Production Company works for Warner Bros Pictures International marketing their theatrical film releases. However, if you honestly think anything I've said here is coloured by this fact, you don't know me from Adam West.

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Monday, 3 December 2007

High water marks

My time at PPC - 6 years and counting - has tossed up a few projects I've managed to get pretty excited about. I wasn't much of a Wes Anderson fan when I first heard of THE LIFE AQUATIC, but by the time we were done creating PIRATE PANIC! and I'd had a chance to feast on the movie's beautiful audio-visual aesthetics he'd become one of my instant heroes of cinema.

PIRATE PANIC! was very much the inspiration behind the considerably more successful CHAINSAW MANIAC! This was definitely a better fit for the audience in question, a beautiful nostalgia piece paying hommage (i.e. ripping off) Nintendo's single-game consoles of yesteryear, supporting the main RESIDENT EVIL 4 microsite (dubbed an 'iTrailer' by yours truly, on account of its ground-breaking focus on video-rich interaction).

As an aside, Resident Evil 4 is the first computer game I've played to a finish since completing The Legend of Zelda on the first-generation 8-bit Nintendo. Resi 4 coincided with the arrival of my daughter Lola, as a result of which many of her formative first nights were spent asleep in my lap, blissfully oblivious to the bloody path I was carving through the rich and deadly landscape of a truly great game.

When I first became aware that SIN CITY was in production, and that it would be distributed by (what was then) Buena Vista International, I was resolutely determined to ensure that we worked on it. Off the back of the RESIDENT EVIL 4 iTrailer we were commissioned to develop a SIN CITY equivalent. It's hard to be objective about how well it turned out, but it was undoubtedly one of my favourite projects to be involved with, and meeting Frank Miller himself at the UK premiere after-party was the icing on the cake.

With SIN CITY under my belt I probably ought to have taken the view that I'd been there and done that with Frank Miller. I didn't. Earlier this year we pitched very aggressively to create a presence for the movie 300, directed by the inspiring Zach Snyder, within the 3D online community Second Life. This included a virtual press conference and movie expo, the inner workings of which need to be read to be believed. This was the single most demanding and rewarding project of my working life. A Second Life junket for Transformers followed. My inner ten-year old would never forgive me if I didn't rate that as another highpoint of my career.

All of which might seem like a rather self-indulgent trip down memory lane, if it wasn't for the fact that the next 48 hours is going dictate my chances of working on another project with a very special place in my heart. I can't spill the beans quite yet, but this is a must-have from where I'm sitting. I'll keep you posted.

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