Friday, December 23, 2005

My first Film..Farewell to Anne

There is so much more that I could say about Amanda but mostly it is the in jokes the camaraderie and even some loss. Regardless somewhere in this period I made my very first film.. Farewell to Anne.
My wife HATES this movie and I don’t blame her. Anne was an old girlfriend who was leaving town to go to acting school in Berkeley. As a parting gift I made film of all her friends and family here in Seattle saying goodbye and good luck. It was icky gooey lovey Dovey. And when my wife and I were first dating I stupidly made her sit through it. She was a trooper and I was just being ignorant but years later she made it clear that she never wanted to see it again. I watch it on occasion and it is amusing to see me at 26 getting all mooshey. We Shot it pretty much interview style on a CP 16 with color reversal and the audio was on a Nagra. It was really an exercise in ‘Can I do it?’ and it actually turned out OK. Not great but OK. Cutting on a sync block with a guillotine splicer and 16 mm mag film and adding music and voice over was really rather fun.
Mark Schapiro was the camera guy and we had a lot of fun with her friends shooting the sync stuff. I used a Bolex to get exteriors and establishing shots and we used it on an animation stand to shoot titles. Little trick for shooting titles on an animation stand. Light a bounce card to 2.8 beneath the stand and have the titles printed in plastic. Black with clear lettering, sans serif. Then set your focus to the bounce card not the plastic and viola. Also when using a Bolex there is a variable shutter and if you have it set incorrectly the shutter will be closed. Lost a lot of footage and potential sale to the City of Bellevue that some guy asked me to shoot since I was there. Oh well. Also a good lesson in what you say and do on camera today will haunt you in 20 years.

Actually the first was some super 8 my friend and I shot in 9th grade animating each other up and down stairs. I still have that around somewhere.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jeff Meyer and Amanda

As previously noted I worked with Karl off and on for a number of years. The last project being a music video for a band Called Boom Boom GI. We shot it in downtown Seattle while the streets were all Torn up for the original Bus Tunnel project. The front woman, Laura Love went on to create the Laura
Love band that was had a remarkably different Celtic folk sound than the Indie Rockin sound of Boom Boom GI. I had coffee with here a few years later about doing some music for a low budget flick called Baked Apple but Ill save that one for another time. Suffice it to say that she was very nice and gave a copy of their recored on both Vinyl and Cassette. I still listen to the record and I really like it. Especially the Celtic stuff. Karl had some marriage issues and went off to discover his painter side and last I heard he was hosting a Public access show on Cable. I'll never forget what he taught me. It was a fun time though he was kind of the kiss of death on a resume. I now realize that it was more the problem of those reading the resumes rather than that of Karl. Karl introduced me to Jeff Meyer early on.Jeff was a longtime film maker here in Seattle who had written and produced a Cult classic (at least around here) called Gas City. This was a story about a drifter in a really fast old police car who would drag race up and down the Aurora Strip and his angst and relationships. Jeff was one of the original people around the Seattle International Film Festival. There was a screening last summer of Gas City at NWFF. I wish I would have known.I got involved with Jeff as his Sound Guy for his Feature 'Amanda'. I have a lot to say about Amanda.
This was a film that was shot on weekends and holidays over about 5 years. We did it all with an Eclair 16mm camera, A Roller skate dolly a high hat and this really cool suction cup camera mount called a 'Super Grip'. You could stick it to the side of a car or on the hood and all sorst of neat stuff. For lighting we had a Lowel DP kit (4 1k Tungstens open face but focusable) A Lowel Softlight kit one 1K and one 2K and a little Lowel Grip kit for simple rigging. The sound was on a 4 track where we added a sync pulse on the 4th track and used the others as needed. Mics were all wireless Lavs and we had a Cardoid and boom but rarely used it. All this stuff packed into the back of an old ambulance just like the one from Ghost Busters.The story involved a young photographer who meets a VERY rich woman who turns his life around. We used borrowed locations and cars. We used a mansion out in richmond beach that was built by a Boeing Exec many years ago but is now a convent. ABC used it as their location for the Jackie Kennedly show and had built the Sisters a pool. We had a Mercedes Limo an alpha Romeo and even a Delorean for one exterior. I mean the production values we got for next to nothing were astounding.Amanda starred Gail Rosella in the title role and Jeff as the hapless photographer, Jason Mason.
Other actors came and went during the course of the shooting but all were committed to completing the show so none dropped out. Over five years this is quite an accomplishment but these people were professionals for the most part. I even had a couple of roles mostly as BG extras but I also played a bit role as a Scuba diver in one of the gag scenes. IE "Eric, would you be willing to put on a wet suit and jump into lake Union"? "Uh..sure" SPLASH!!
This film is where I met my long time friend and mentor Mark Shapiro. I cannot say enough great things about Mark. He was the DP and we worked very closely during the production of Amanda.
Actually aside from Talent, the crew was basically Jeff, Mark and myself with
an occasional helper. Althought I do have to give snaps to Pat Plyley who was a pretty consistant crew member. The point is there were basically us 3 or 4. Every day we would shoot a seperate scene and any pickup shots we needed to add to the mix. Aside from Rosary Hights we were at the KIRO TV main entrance, the Design Center, Out as St Michelle and a lot of car exteriors on the roads around there, Down town streets and some shops, in the market etc and on and on.But back to Mark. From the first moment I appeared on the set he treated me with respect and as an equal and always took the time to teach me. This was invaluable in my growth as a filmmaker. As the years progressed we both asked each other to help out on differing projects. He gave me my first gig as Camera operator. He eventually went on to be a Fellow in Cinematography at the AFI and when he returned he was and is even more of a resource. Though AFI changed him he has never let it get in the way of mentoring and his critique is even better. The sad thing is that he does not shoot much anymore. Mathew and I are trying to change that.At any Rate we plugged away at Amanda over the years and evenually principal photography was complete and my role in the show was done.Jeff and Gail edited it and did all the post production tweaking that needed doing and eventually it screend at the SIF in the late 80s. But the bastards gave him a 5:00 PM time slot and that was the last major screening of this mans life work. Jeff and Gail had a falling apart over release issues and Gail eventually passed away in the late 90s due to early onset of Alsheimers. Very sad but all the old team was there so we had an amanda reunion party.If we can ever convince Jeff to screen the show again I recommend seeing it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mon Couer Screening Part Deux

Last night we returned to 911 to screen Dylan's Mon Couer. this time with a -R dvd that played just fine on their equipment. There were five people showing 8 films. the first two were by a woman who morphed computer painting with music to great effect and the kids seemed to enjoy it. Teh nice thing was she made both films the right length. Not too long. A lot of times whe artists do this sort of media piece, they get self indulgent and think all we want to do is watch 20 minutes of thier vision. Which can grow rather tiresom. or They make an ambient video piece that runs for 30 minutes in a loop and expect people to sit through it. It is ambient video for a reason. something mindless in the background. This woman got it right.The second two were trailers for a kids film fest inJanuary at the Nortwest Film Forum and one for the Asian American Film Festival. Then an very clever Stop Motion Animation about a robot and a bear theat the kids also seemed to Enjoy.We then screened Mon Couer. It was well received and people laughed in all the right places and the woman who did the art piece even sang along with Edith Piaf in the opening credits.Matthew Showed Merlot which again confused people but not in a negative way. It inspired a great deal of discussion mostley positive. Teh only negative really being some conversation on the microphones in the nastier audio segments.Then this guy who came in late showed his "Production companies" Reel. Mostly a series of mediocre commercials. he then pontificated a bit, read talked down tothe rest of us and shot out the door without giving anyone a chance to converse. Typical Seattle "professional" behavior.Furthermore, I was greatly dissapointed that the 3 people who came to show the second 3 film showed their stuff and promptly left. This is just rude and I do not care what your excuse is. We sat though your bits and were polite. You had better sit though ours. The whole point here is about support and providing a forum for film makers who would otherwise not have any place to screen their work other then at home. Shame on you and doubly to the guy who showed up during the screening of the final piece only to show his commercial reel. How arrogent is that.