Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Less Up-and-Downy

Going a little bit crazy.  I had to deal with a bout of "what on Earth was I thinking" today.  I really am pretty green.  I probably wouldn't have attempted this project if I'd grokked how huge a challenge it would be.  I'm glad I didn't grok it until I was past the point of no return.

That said, I think the script is still getting better.  I honestly have no idea where it's going, but what's there seems more and more credible.  I'm sure it's still dreadful, but as long as we're trending upwards, I've got no cause to complain.

When I was first imagining the film, I started putting together a playlist of songs that I thought would go well with the action.  That first playlist is pretty energetic -- lots of slightly Britpoppy and technoey stuff.  Jiyoung and I have been watching a lot of 80's movies lately (my fault), and I've realized that very few of them weather well.  That seems mostly attributable to two factors: first, the pacing is slow (Starman, for example, spends a good ten minutes on helicopters landing and taking off).  Second, the music is distractingly old.

With that in mind, I've started listening to classical and OST music while I write, with a view to using similar music in the final film.  It's definitely changing the tone of the writing, and for the better.  I started out with Aaron Copland and Steve Reich.  Today, I listened to the soundtrack for The Thin Red Line on repeat -- shades of Steve Reich again, but with more ass on it.  Sometimes a long, single tone can generate more tension than a bunch of up-and-downy stuff (can you tell I'm a trained musician?).  I'm definitely leaning away from lyrics-based pop music at the moment.

Certain images are really beginning to crystallize in my mind, to the point that it's getting hard to resist jumping into storyboarding (must resist!).  I'm especially excited about a scene in which a space elevator is severed and comes flopping down on top of the surrounding city like a giant, beheaded serpent.  If it's handled right, I think it'll be a pretty unique moment.  

I'm also excited about finding ways for camera and character movement to feel non-CGey.  Camera movement, especially, is what kills most CG for me.   I almost want the entire thing to feel hand-held, like they did in Children of Men.  Meh.  I have no idea what I'm talking about.  I'm nearly done with Story, and Shot by Shot is next.  So I'll get back to you on all this.


  1. I'm not a film major or anything, but shouldn't the style of cinematography emerge from the narrative? Is this a story about a confusing situation where a shakier cam might represent this? Is it supposed to feel very "real," which is why you go for a documentary feel?

    (Wall-E has a "shaky cam" scene when Wall-E is in the grocery store and triggers a bunch of karts. Pixar actually consulted with the great Roger Deakins for the movie.)

    Or here's another one. Have you seen Slumdog Millionaire? It's largely shot with Dutch angles, which produces interesting results and may be more appropriate for something animated. It also has a lot of long shots, extreme close ups... it's just a terrific bit of filmmaking.

    I wish fewer people would do shaky cam, since it's too easy to have it go bad. Compare most movies to, say, the stuff Paul Greengrass does. No comparison.

    If your movie has great visuals, it might be more interesting to look at old Hollywood, like Lawrence of Arabia. Or more current movies like No Country for Old Men or The Assassination of Jesse James. Lots of long shots, long takes.

  2. I take your point. I think it's worth making a distinction between "hand-held" and "shaky." When I say hand-held, I mean something on the spectrum of Children of Men and Black Hawk Down. Not so much Cloverfield or Blair Witch (though I do like those movies quite a bit). I especially like the documentary feel of Children of Men. There's a kind of credibility that comes from having the camera behave as though it is affected by the laws of inertia and gravity, rather than being this weightless, massless entity that can travel at any speed along any axis.

    I haven't seen Slumdog yet, but it's high on the to-see list.

    Are you working on a movie these days?

  3. I'm working on that movie SUPREME COMMANDER 2, AKA Giant Robots in Love. I'm much, much too lazy to work on anything in my free time.

  4. Nate, I read a great quote once in regard to writing. I don't remember who said it, but it was, "I can edit a bad page. I can't edit a blank page."

    It's kind of pithy, I know, but I think of that any time I do any writing and it really does help to motivate.