A day in the life of an Emily Carr Film student…

September 15, 2008

Here are my notes from Friday’s Reading for the Screen course at Emily Carr – I will be uploading my daily class notes to the blog to allow readers to follow along with me and my studies here at ECIAD – Enjoy!

Off-Topic
The following video clip was shown within the context of the class itself, but I found it while searching for clips for the films we discusses in class, The Player, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Touch of Evil.

“This short segment from Orson Welles’ cinematic essay, F for Fake, may be the profoundest moment in cinema history. It is both uniquely moving, as well as stunningly deep philosophically—a truly rare cinematic combination. This clip should be required viewing, not only for every student of cinema, but for everyone who seeks an antidote to the world’s increasing descent into cruelty and darkness. Here, Welles achieves the miraculous with amazingly simple means (note the lack of music as an emotional “guide”, for example). God created Orson Welles…then broke the mold. Introduced by media psychologist, Dr. James N. Herndon.” (www.orsonwelles.tv)

In-class notes/general comments from Wednesday’s screening:
– author was talking about big budget film productions
– unless you are in the union, you can’t pickup anything
– back in the day, production board / production manager = THE BIBLE
– strip of cardboard/posterboard in different colours
– day/night/interior/exterior shots
– find most expedient production time wise/budget wise
– shoot scenes at the same time to streamline production
– having things in front of you = air traffic controller (new york times article)
– each aircraft is on a strip of paper = visual representation / better memory and recognition
– you will still see the production board today, even in a digital world
– Frank Capra – very egotistical, yet talented – as a director, you need to know your vision, because you are asked thousands of questions everyday
– “The Fastest Runner” – group decision film production process
– get the audience “sutured” into the film story

Film, Film, Film – Patterns
– people joining the elevator
– keep going through all of the door, so many steps/people to get approval from
– hurry up and wait analogy with moments of pure action to long pauses with nothing to do
– different colours for different scenes (ie: Traffic having different colours for different locations)
– opening montage with stars and glitz, yet the reality of making moveis is so far from the glamour
– the screenwriter’s muse’s wings were incorporated into the logo of the studio
– cast and crew waited with baited breath for the audience reaction
– labeling – letting the average viewer know exactly who is who, what departments are involved and the steps needed to complete the project
– emotes were used instead of actual dialog – even though it is Russian, it is universally recognizable
– Film, Film, Film = same in Russian and English

Chicken Run
– Aardman – successful British studio run by Nick Park and Peter Lord = Wallace and Gromit
– animation style = portrait emotions very effectively with a plump of eplasticine
– “The Wrong Trousers” – remember the penguin (the eyes = evil bird!!!)
– they had a fixation on machines/gadgets = putting contraptions together to create a great machine
– mechanization can be a threat to people and society or a help to it
– Tweedy montage = building pie machine / genocide
– chickens montage = building plane / freedom
– obsessive compulsive disorder = Babs always knitting
– always like using feathered creatures through their previous work

How “Chicken Run” got made:
– contacted Jake Eberts (Pathe) – his kids loved Wallace and Gromit
– he set them up with a NAPKIN deal = had lunch meeting and worked out details on a napkin
– Michael Rose = Producer
– Sundance 1996 – Nick and Peter pitched the idea of a “Chicken Escape Film”
– Jake called Dreamworks which had just formed (SKG)
– Dreamworks flew their jet to Sundance to bring the 4 of them to LA
– Katzenberg says the chicken is the best at the restaurant they met at
– pitch = The Great Escape…with CHICKENS
– talented independent animators who were confident enough to make their pitch work!!!
– also based on Stalag 17

FILM CONVENTIONS
– western = shoot out at the end /  good guy and bad icon
– icon = cowboy hat = western genre
THE PLAN / building montage / blueprints / secret compartments / promise of positive change = the dream / teamwork / guard dogs / Ginger kept getting put in solitary confinement (Cool Hand Luke / Steve McQueen) / military context to a chicken farm with the soundtrack / morning roll call / always a party (Bridge on the River Kwai)

Great Britain vs. America
– swing dancing / there was no reason to have a love story between rocky and ginger / cliche of almost kissing, then finally kissing
– the only shot Katzenberg wanted to change was on the roof with Ginger and Rocky – he wanted to spend more time on her face to accentuate that she is falling in love with Rocky (Nick said uh uh, we Brits don’t do that)
– the escape scene from the pie machine was so Indianna Jones (Spielberg’s influence no doubt)
– homage to Hogan’s Heroes as well
– Brits don’t show emotion, americans do
– tough thing having Ginger being the leading lady (she wasn’t as funny or charismatic as normal leading characters)
– history period American GIs = The Yanks – British women were charmed by them, British men were jealous, British parents were resentful
– influence for Rocky = Burt Lancaster (The Rainmaker), The Fonz (Heyyyyyyyyy!), John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever)
– Mel Gibson was too busy to do his voice overs alone in LA while the others did it together in London
– Mel took the role because his kids loved Wallace and Gromit
– slow mo shot when Rocky flies over the fence on the trike
– Mrs. Tweedy on the rope with a knife then hitting the billboard with her face
– always gotta have an explosion at the end

– puppets are articulated steel frames, heads are plasticine
– dancing sequence was choreographed from actual dancers
– they had to put rubber hip contraptions because the dancers were too skinny
– Talisman – object that has tremendous emotional value = Mac’s RAF pin

Shadow of a Doubt – Alfred Hitcock (1943)
– Hitchcock loved to storyboard his films in detail – constructed the film meticulously step by step
– look at complacent America before WWII – took place in Santa Rosa, CA and also filmed there
– Uncle Charlie and Little Charlie – little charlie’s mom absolutely adores him and little charlie idolizes him = kindred spirits
– Uncle Charlie however, is a serial killer who preys on elderly women and then steals their money/jewelry
– group of elderly women dancing to a waltz named, “The Merry Widow” = further pattern to tie in to the rest of the film

– little charlie’s father’s favorite past-time is to theorize the perfect murder mysteries with his friend, yet little does he realize that he has a murderer under his own roof

– Shadow of a Doubt trailer

– Shadow of a Doubt – part 1/11 – you can continue watching the rest of the film on youtube

CONVENTIONS
– shadows of the railing banisters against the wall, Little Charlie is trapped between telling the truth about her uncle or letting things lie as they are
– Uncle Charlie walks very forcefully towards Little Charlie when she brings out the paper – then the close up show when he grabs her wrist to show his anger and power
– he is also the dominant persona in the family, sets the tone of conversations, yet can also force conversation to end when he knocks over the glass to stop Little Charlie from saying the name of the waltz
– he offers to give $40,000 to his brother-in-law to show that he is very important and powerful

*****Down and Dirty Pictures – book about Miramax – recommended by fellow student in class*****

The Player – Robert Altman (1992)
– made some successful Hollywood movies and then some not so successful movies
– this film is an incredible satire of the whole Hollywood scene as a whole
– opening shot is an homage to, “Touch of Evil” – Orson Wells and “Rope” – Alfred Hitchcock
– old painting on the wall showing the golden age of Hollywood – turns into business of it all
– MTV, cut cut cut – Touch of Evil
– The Graduate, Part II (25 years later lol) – spooky house in northern California, dark and weird and funny and with a stroke!
– couldnt make out the picture on the ground when boy got hit by cart but it is a postcard for Griffin which tells him he is going to die
– japanese tourists with Ari from Entourage – SONY PRODUCTS
– the hens are all talking about heads rolling
– replace Griffin?!?!? with Larry Levy
– I’m right in the middle of a pitch – I’ll call you later…Goldie Goes to Africa = Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman

– politely political scary but funny with Bruce Willis with a heart in the right spot!

– “The Player” Opening shot

– “The Player” trailer

– “Touch of Evil” opening shot

– “Touch of Evil” trailer

– “Rope” opening scene

– “Rope” trailer

Asparagus – Suzanne Pitt
– In the beginning there was animation and it was overrun by Disney
– he setup a production machine that was the monopoly of innovation certainly within North America – Mickey Mouse still is pervasive
– Mrs. Frances Brewer – letter to her back in 1939 – women do not do any of the original work in the process – as a result, girls are not considered to join animation studies – they were only allowed to trace work already created
– it was believed that women were better at tracing then men because they already knew how to apply makeup and do their nails – they could stay within the lines!!!
– this animation was created in 1979 – shown on art circuit/festivals
– combination of cell and clay animation

Questions:
What would tell you as a spectator that this is an independent film?

What patterns do you see?

My notes:
– woman’s bare leg, with a snake rolling around it = men vs. women
– harsh saxophone music = sex
– flowers remind me of Gerald Scarfe’s work in Pink Floyd The Wall
– red nail polish on her fingers
– dual lights = breasts?
– takes a dump in the toilet – see asparagus come out of her ass
– which then magically rises up and spells out “ASPARAGUS”
– dead man’s head as a bust on the railing
– red curtain opening up to scenes of flowers scrolling by the window
– flower buds look like vaginas – asparagus look like penises – she starts stroking one of them
– wall ornaments look like vaginas as well
– keeps repeating shot of turning the dial on the lamp
– miniature version of herself within the doll house?
– eerie looking Santa head on the shelf – she grabs a different mask though – kabuki mask with red cheeks
– we see the snake again slither by as objects fall into her hand bag
– she goes outside with her mask on to hide her true identity from the public
– passes a dildo store, then a gun store – while we hear muttered whispers/voices of people around her
– claymation sequence – curtain opens up to reveal another curtain and then another and another
– finally swaying wave like pieces – with what looks like mountains and a waterfall
– she is still hand drawn, yet the other characters are claymation
– horizon perspective black hole on the stage now
– she gets into a cab and pulls down the mask slightly to reveal that her face is actually blank except for her mouth
– now she deep throats an asparagus, regurgitating water and then the penis disgorges inside her mouth (back and forth different susbtances)
– scene ends with the asparagus reappearing as she raises her mouth one final times – END SCENE

In-Class discussion:
– soundtrack was uncomfortable and discordant
– the entire film sequence made the audience uncomfortable
– sounds in the theatre assaulted the senses and attacked you
– Why Asparagus?!?!?!
– source of creative power comes from the phallus
– dream state to just let go and not psychoanalyze everything – just experience the moment

Gravity – Frank Rofuze (1981)
– Hungarian animator who had to work in government studios or else he wouldn’t work at all
– “The Fly” nominated for academy award in 1981 – but he couldn’t leave Hungary to attend the ceremony
– Gravity was made in 1984
– you are working for the state, paid by the state and commenting on the state – all at the same time

Questions:
How does gravity convey the complexities of living in a totalitarian state?

My notes:
– scene opens with a beautiful tree in an open meadow
– you hear rustling in the bushes
– camera zooms in and then shifts left and right when we hear mumbling/crying
– sounds like a guy taking a shit
– apples are human faces
– main apple is trying to jump up and down to release himself from the tree
– slow motion sequence is hilarious
– everyone else is static and complacent
– FINALLY he is released and enjoys the joy of freefall/FREEDOM
– only to smash into pieces as he hits the ground
– everyone is oblivious to it
– butterfly lands on one of the other people
– one tree in one field = one system