Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Too Afraid of Failure to Progress

I have come upon the exact same problem again. I research, take notes, procrastinate, become lazy... I do all of this to avoid the risky business of doing the work. To do the work, whether it be writing or drawing, is to make my statement and send it out into the cruel world, where it is vulnerable to criticism, discouragement, failure...

It comes with life. Why do I constantly have to go in a circle and suddenly re-realize this? No matter what I do, the answer is the same: do the damn work!

Put your art out there, reveal yourself, fail, get criticized, and then do better next time. I keep researching techniques and keep off working in order to gain "life experience." What I've been forgetting is that "experience" is not just (for lack of a better word) limited to life. In fact, for an artist of any sort, a crucial bit of experience needed is the experience of having created.

Here are a few rough sketches for two separate projects that I'll be putting more effort into each tomorrow. The procrastinating, though, must stop today...

This is a rough building sketch for an Avatar fan project I'm working on with another artist.

This is for a punk rock band manga project I'm working on with a friend at school.

Thank you, John Kricfalusi for inspiring this [recurring] epiphany. Your blog is much appreciated.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tara Strong's "Drawn Together" Interviews

Research is going slowly, but I at least want you to see where this whole obsession came from. Drawn Together is probably the worst show of this decade, a complete exercise in shock and repulsion. After watching these sickening interviews, you'll have second thoughts about Tara Strong's artistic and intellectual credibility. Now, for the most part, I'd say it's unfair to blame voice actors/actresses for their lack of artistic credibility. I mean, it does start with the writing, and most of these people just work with what's given to them. In Strong's case, though, its just pure ignorance and idiocy.

I'll save the actual writing for the essay, but these interviews will serve as source reference, so here they are for you to say:

Drawn Together: Voice Actor Interviews - Tara Strong (Princess Clara)

Drawn Together: Voice Actor Interviews - Tara Strong (Toot)

...how can she stand Toot's voice?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Tara Strong, My Sexy Sadie

"Sexy Sadie, she's the latest and the greatest of them all."

For a long, long time, I always thought I was an extremely jealous boy. And while, in fact, there was a time when that was exclusively true, my recent streams of jealousy have been concentrated to a specific category of people: those with wasted potential. This definitely explains my Avatar: the Last Airbender opposition (which still goes on), because that show could have been the greatest thing on television, but poor execution turned it sour.

And thus, here I am, hypercritical now of voice actress Tara Strong. I used to love her so much for her amazing ability to alter her voice. What child wouldn't? Now, I find her career to have been an almost completely shallow dry run.

On a side note I'll admit I was furious when I hit puberty and my vocal stretched, forever limiting my vocal range. I am not so sour now--in fact, I am even more grateful for the angelic voices of such greats as Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, even Bob Dylan. But with Strong, my anger burns because, unlike the previously listed names, she doesn't channel her amazing abilities into any worthwhile project.

Anyway, I'll save the full critique for the actual essay, but I'll say one last thing:

My respect for Tara Strong vanished after Drawn Together; this former idol of mine is the official "Sexy Sadie" on my life. I'm actually lucky, too, because, unlike John Lennon with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, I don't new Mrs. Strong personally.

"Sexy Sadie" - The Beatles

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Technical Definition of Art

I guess when you really, really look at it, art is essentially the unique presentation of one or more ideas by means of a particular medium (e.g. paintings).

And if that is so, then the creative process is the process in which the artist finds unique ways to present his/her ideas through the strengths and limitations of the chosen medium; the strongest ideas (in the artist's eyes) make it all the way to the final product. As a filmmaker/animator, what I badly need, as Michael Barrier stated was missing in the post-Fritz the Cat projects of Ralph Bakshi's career, is "the artistic discipline required to bring those ideas to the screen in coherent form."

Inevitably, in most cases, personality plays a large part in which ideas are chosen in the first place, let alone how they are presented. In my case, for my new project I'm working on with a friend, my own struggles between living out existentialism or nihilism greatly informs the bulk of the story, in which two characters have actually become perfect manifestations of the two opposing philosophies.

This definition largely derives from Richard Boleslavsky's analogy, in his book Acting: the First Six Lessons, of dramatic action as a tree:

"Look at that tree. It is the protagonist of all arts; it is an ideal structure of action. Upward movement and sideway resistance, balance and growth...

"...Look at the trunk straight, proportioned, harmonious with the rest of the tree, supporting every part of it. It is the leading strain; "Leitmotif" in music; a director's idea of action in a play; the architect's foundation; the poet's thought in a sonnet...

"...[A director expresses that action in a play] Through interpretation of the play, and through
ingenious combinations of smaller, secondary, or complementary
actions that will secure that interpretation...

"...[I would expect an actor] To comply with nature's law of action, the threefold law you can see expressed in that tree. First, the main trunk, the idea, the reason. On the stage it comes from the director. Second, the branches, elements of the idea, particles of reason. That comes from the actor. Third, the foliage, the result of the previous two, the brilliant presentation of idea, the bright conclusion of reasoning...

"...[The author] is the sap that flows and feeds the whole" (Boleslavsky 56-57).

I highly recommend anyone interested in any aspect of theatre, film, or animation read Boleslavsky's book. It's downloadable for free at achives.org.

Barrier, Michael. "Funnyworld Revisited: A Bakshi Glance." michaelbarrier.com. April 4, 2004, revised May 9, 2004.

Boleslavsky, Richard. Acting: the First Six Lessons. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1993. Print.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick Interview

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick founded and continues to lead the acid jazz band Incognito, one of the best bands of its kind and one of my personal favorite groups. The band, created in 1979, is probably best known for the tracks "Deep Waters," "Still a Friend of Mine," and "Always There," though I think my all-time favorites are "Positivity," "Yesterday's Dreams," "True to Myself," and "Chase the Clouds Away" among many, many others.

It pretty inspiring to me that Maunick composes the bulk of Incognito's music considering he plays only a small amount of the guitar featured (when there is guitar, anyway). He pretty much writes the songs as showcases for everyone else's talents, not in the least bits great singers like Maysa Leak and Imaani. His love for music always shines through in his groovy beats and smooth melodies.

But enough silly commercial talk. Grab an Incognito CD and listen for yourself.

Here are the parts to the interview:

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick - Part One

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick - Part Two

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick - Part Three

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick - Part Four

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick - Part Five

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick - Part Six

Jean-Paul "Bluey" Maunick - Part Seven

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Posts for the Future

This is kind of a cop-out post, but I suppose it's better than nothing. Basically, these are some entries I definitely plan to post in the future:

A Tribute to the Nostalgia Critic - Doug Walker as the Nostalgia Critic has become one of my new top comedy acts in recent times, and I'd like to formally review and thank him.

What's Wrong with Tara Strong? - An examination of Tara Strong, a voice actress I once idolized, and her career, which I believe has, artistically, gotten nowhere, reaching an all-time low with the horrid Drawn Together.

Pixar's Nihilism, or When Random Equals Entertainment - Really just a response to Prof. Thomas Hibbs' writing on nihilism and pop culture, and how it just may apply to Pixar's latest films, among other movies.

Artistic Progress as Demonstrated by the Beatles - There's no way around the fact that the Beatles were the greatest band in the world, and rightly so. Their career is the perfect role model for the development and experimentation of true artists.

Of course, I still intend to post at least once a day, and obviously I can't produce a solid, in-depth entry like any of those I proposed in just a day. The interim will be filled with hopefully useful or entertaining things. Here's looking to the future once again!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Back from School Retreat; Feeling Great

I just got back from one of the best experiences of my life. Our school retreat is something I can't talk about much here (it's between us brothers), but I can say that my mind has cleared and become enlightened. I certainly want to make new changes. For example, I have recognized my porn addiction and am taken the steps to control it. Also, I may have ADD, and will take special measures to assure that I don't lose track of everything as I did before. Now my grandmother, a professional nurse, is sure I do not have ADD, because she's dealt with much worse cases. Fair enough, and I trust her, and these special measures can aid my general forgetfulness anyway.

There's too much I need to write about, and I will never find time to write unless I'm writing constantly. That's fine by me.

As for life and everything else, it's all about getting closer to God and to others, whether it be through art or real life interaction. Let's hope it's more of the latter, and let's hope I find a better name for it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Being the Old Man, Appreciating What I Have

I am not as grateful as I should be. I am alive, I have millions of opportunities ahead of me that others would kill to have had. I am going to use them. I am going to get out of this nihilistic and apathetic funk and still caring about things. I shouldn't be despairing over the gloominess of my past, I should be out smiling at the bright sun in the sky. I should be out meeting girls, and so what I don't marry them, they are gifts from God, and I should cherish their presence and stop trying so hard to be a "spouse." I need to start drawing everything, learning everything, doing many more things, seeing many new sights, going to many new places, because this won't all be here forever, and there's no guarantee that I'll even be around tomorrow to live another day. I need to start loving things for their own sake and not just for how they benefit me personally--don't be like Walt Disney in that respect (thanks, Michael Barrier!).

I fancy that older people have a greater appreciation for life because their time is almost over. The little things matter to them. And if I should truly take in anything from the old timers, it's to live life to the fullest. At seventeen, I have already wasted enough time being introverted and defensive for fear of the pain and suffering life brings. For if I can't take suffering, joy and happiness are meaningless.

Thanks to the Rauch Bros. Animation for inspiring this epiphany.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Finally found this song - "Photograph" by Ringo Starr

I never knew who sang it or what the lyrics were, let alone that it was written by two former Beatles. But I loved the vocals and the melody. Finally, thanks to a lucky random find on Grooveshark's radio system, I found it, and it's a beautiful song! In fact, it's an almost perfect tribute to the two Quarrymen who have gone on. Thanks, Richard Starkey.

"Photograph" - Ringo Starr

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finally getting animated!

Yesterday, I performed my first successful animation test with the Toon Boom Studio program at school.

It is a ball bouncing--that was the idea at least--and with nine actual drawings and sixteen total "cels" at 24 fps, it looks OK. It's a start. When I return to school, I'll import it onto my Youtube account--why not?--to save my progress as I do more tests. Hopefully each one is more sophisticated than the next.

In the mean time, under the indirect influence of Michael Barrier, I freely downloaded and read through Acting: the First Six Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky, the book utilized by the great Disney animator Bill Tytla. Now on a second read, I find the book absolutely fascinating, its lessons and advice building within me a much more performance-conscious mind as far as acting and writing goes. A particularly brilliant analogy of how art is like a tree has made the writing/filmmaking process a lot clearer. I can't wait to go through the book again, anymore than I can wait to start training, learning, and applying that knowledge to future animations. I've already gotten a first marginal success--though to be honest, the ball doesn't look like it's bouncing so much as being dragged up and down by some invisible force--now I need to busy if I want to make some kind of career out of animation when I leave college. In addition to many personal problems being resolved (I should really write about them), I am much more hopeful for the future.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Starting to Learn Animation

My school finally got the Toon Boom Studios program, so I now I can seriously start working on animating. I remember asking the technology head to order the program for the Art Department, and thank God he remembered to order. I can't wait to use the program so I can get a head start before college.

Obviously, like any skill, it won't come easily. The technology skills will gradually arise, but more importantly, my personality needs to improve. I need to be more observant and extroverted so I can experience life more fully. When I do this, I'll be more well-rounded and can actually contribute my own output to humanity. A problem I have now is that I can sit down to draw, but more often than not, my mind will be blank. I'll have nothing to say. That's a problem I need to fix.

According to Hayao Miyazaki and artist Moebius (as he calls himself) believe that world perception and technique are interconnected. My perception must be very weak, for I can only draw lone human figures, and not very well. I need to branch out into other areas...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Being the Child, Doing What I Love

I realize today the key difference between the attitude of the adult and that of the child. The adult will sacrifice all superfluous action and thought in order to survive. Food must be on the table, the bills must be paid, the need of the job, etc. That's all part of going up, survival is. It's inevitable. If there's time for play, that time will be used for play. The child does what he/she needs to do and makes time for play. If he loves ride his bike, that kid will do everything in his/her power to finish the chores and homework to ride that bike. That's where the passion lies.

If I am ever to progress as an artist, I must be the child.

I'm going to have to stay up late to do stuff, but I'd rather spend sleepless nights paving my future than looking at porn. That would be (and has been) a tragic waste of time. I'm a slow person, and I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life, but that won't stop me now. Luckily, my schedule is so that I can finish most of it in school, leaving me with only Math and English to do at home.

So now I will get started. Good night to all else.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Learning to Respect Women, and The Best Day of School I've Ever Had

Life is good, and if I continue it in the spirit that enraptured me today, I will be well on my way to getting and being better.

I see of excellent events that occurred today, I have only enough energy left to tell of: 1) one highlight of the day, and 2) the results of this venture.

The circumstances were perfect. We finished running through the play on Thursday, and I didn't tell my parents, which meant I had to stay at school until five o'clock. My English teacher, upon hearing this, immediately invited me to my school's JustPeace Coffeehouse Meeting. There, the workshop presentations revolve around social issues such as Urban Agriculture, Christianity and War, Women and Advertising, etc. Why not?

Interestingly enough, one of my friends tried to persuade not to go because (not sure if he was joking anymore) they were a bunch of liberals who were blinded to how the world really operates. Seeing as I have no real political standings (and I don't see how a sane person could), I wanted to check it out regardless. Admission was five dollars, but another friend and teacher allowed me in for free because they knew I'd take a genuine interest and wasn't just there for all the sweets. And there were a lot of sweets.

So I went to the Objectification of Women in Advertising workshop. What a rush of discussion, presentation, and interpretation! I've never participated more actively in a meeting like this. The advertisements ranged from humorous to subtly misogynistic to flat out humiliating to abstractly satirical (without the company knowing, of course). The whole experience made my stomach and head hurt, but I'm glad I went through it. Giving the horribly feelings I've had about my instinctive reactions to girls recently (this week, I apologized to three girls in the play for no reason at all, advising them to read James Joyce's "Araby" for clarification), this workshop was exactly what I needed to get put back on the right stream-of-consciousness. I've even been invited to join the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, which I will be joining.

How incredible I felt because of the day that I hope continue feeling this way to the end of my days. And to do that, I must work, work, work at it and never let anyone get my spirits down. I'm glad I was persuaded by my friend not to attend the meeting. The guide of open-mindedness lead me to this workshop, and I've benefited so much from it. I feel much more confident and ready for life than I ever have. I can't wait to do more. I need to get away from home to do so, or risk going back into a routine complacency that gets me nowhere.

All in all, I want to thank God for his patience and everyone on Earth for their help, individuality (or characteristic lack thereof), and share of the Truth. I thank you, and will continue to march forward.

D'Angelo - "I Found My Smile Again"

The Beatles - "Baby, You're a Rich Man"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

School's Here, and I'm a Loser

It's tough being imprisoned by the system, the family, the conformity. It's even worse being so within the complacency, the laziness, and the fearfulness of your own human body. My soul is trapped. There are so many things I want to say, have to say, and will say, but at the moment, I'm so wrapped up in my own idiocy and self-loathing that I can't bring myself to change myself for the better. I must stop being so damn complacent. I need to stop staying awake late at nights only to stare at this damn light screen all the time. I need to do what I'm born to do, what God wants me to do.

I know my mission in life. I just need to adjust to achieve it. And that is taking a long time. It's not for me. It's for the world. That should motivate me. I need to learn. This entry is redundant and incoherent. I need to learn not to be lazy and actually revise my writing.

I need to start writing again. I need to start living again.

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." - Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Here is the original longhanded second draft for The Departure. It was written in the course of twelve hours from midnight to 10 am, as described in my previous entries on the production.

Also, production will resume and conclude on September 12. I can't wait to start shooting again.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Vertigo" and Extended Meaning

I will admit that I am embarrassingly new to the world of girls. How to act around them, what to say, all that jazz alludes me. Yes, girls are humans, too. All the same, their biological differences from us produce an altogether radical mindset and temperament (generally) that makes them all but inaccessible to me. On a personal level, that is. I can talk to girls rather easily in the most superficial manner. But what about when the discussion gets deeper? When life, love, and lust are at stake? How will I know who to trust, especially when my blazing hormones compels me to obsess over almost all of them? Who do I truly give myself to?

In the course of getting the film shot, I met three of Ben's friends who are girls. I like them all. That's the problem. Obviously, I can't be with all of them. It's not even logical to think I'd be with any of them. Yet, when I was around them, I felt a sudden urge to hold them. Protect them. Share with them my deepest fears and secrets. Needless to say, it's not purely emotional. I lust, too. How nice it would be, simply to rest together for all time. But it's not to be. My emotions are getting the better of me. I wonder how girls feel about us boys feeling this way about them. I wonder if they feel the same.

So, now, I am obsessed with one girl in particular. She is Becky, and she was the first choice for the lead in the zombie movie. As told before, her work schedule prevented her from being able to so. I saw her in person when Ben, Brendan, and I went to the coffee beanery where she worked. Forget that she looks [a lot] like Wynona Ryder. She's beautiful by herself. Apparently, she's a really fun and open-minded person, which is why she was first chosen to play the lead (back when the girl dies and her dead body is raped) in the first play. I'd like to find time to hang out with her. I was even stupid enough (brave enough?) to ask Ben for his permission to go out with her? Agh. Live and learn, kid.

This obsession calls to mind Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, a film about, above all things, a man's obsession over one woman, and how that leads to tragedy. That I should finally realize just what Hitchcock was talking about (and why this film may be his greatest) coincides with our English class' definition of meaning in poetry, literature, and the arts: surface, layered, and extended. Extended as to say, how does this story, poem, etc. apply to me in my life? Vertigo's sorrowful message, accompanied by the brilliant, sinister score of Bernard Herrmann, has taken resonance in my mind and life. I surely do not want to do to any of these girls what James Stewart wound up doing to Kim Novak.

I surely hope I am able to move beyond this insecure and vulnerable stage and eventually find someone I deserve to be with. For all of my alleged "brilliances," I do not do well flying solo. I need support, collaborate, guidance, even if it's from one person. Why can't that person be my soul mate?


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My First Time Shooting a Film! - Part Three


I intentionally woke up early simply to watch a movie before Ben and Ian woke up, just like I did yesterday with Pulp Fiction. Today's newspaper had a new review of Inglourious Basterds. Albeit, a really negative one. One star. Doesn't matter. I'm going to see it anyway.

Today's movie: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. First time viewing. Quite a fabulous film. The cinematography and the tension of the final scenes especially made this a keeper. I want to be like Clint Eastwood.

For the first hours of the day, we all had nothing to do.

I called Martin to make sure he actually came today. He said he would. Emily arrived and sat around with us. Ben showed her the trailer and a brand new teaser. At around noon, Brendan arrived. We shot his first couple of one-shot scenes immediately. Then we sat around again. We were getting hungry, and Ben kept mentioning a Digiorno pizza he had in the freezer. Seeing as Emily was merely there (she did take pictures, though), she was promoted "crafts lady" and ordered to make the pizza. She didn't. Ben and Brendan tortured her with feet in her face and their legs spread open in her direction. Weird.

At one o'clock, Ian had to leave for a doctor's appointment. Nothing to do. Soon, Martin arrived. He and Ben immediately began ripping on each other. I was a little upset, but then thought, as with Brendan and Aimee, the tension might be a good thing for the movie. We managed to shoot Quent and Martin's first scene together.

Soon, Ben and Brendan went to go pick up Aimee from her house. Nothing to do. While Martin generously made the pizza, I mindlessly walked around the house looking for good camera angles with no one for a reference point. I can't explain just how out of it I was. I did not feel like working at all. I wanted to quit the movie that day.

But then, something kicked in. Suddenly, I was tired to doing nothing. Doing nothing got no one nowhere. I was the director, wasn't I? The filmmaker? Well then, let's make a fucking film! How can I work to this goal now? I can prepare for the next scene! The next scene was a big one, too. Roger revealed his bite to the others and they were running away from him. OK. How will we do it? I immediately drew a map of the den and began blocking every camera placement, every movement, and every single shot I would use. By the time I had this all figured out and ready to go by the time Ben, Brendan, and Aimee arrived. Ian arrived sometime later, but I managed to set him straight, too. This was without a doubt the smoothest stretch of filmmaking we'd done. I was quickly able to get everyone in place and shoot maybe only two takes for every shot. At one point, though, Brendan called me out for being too "Kubrick-y." I can live with that. Ben is really good at tough guy improvisation. He should play the big boss in our next film. Oh, and my character (a nihilistic GameBoy player) knocks Brendan out with the shotgun. And then keeps playing the GameBoy.

After shooting the last shot needed with Brendan, we had finished for the time being. Brendan could finally go to college and we had successfully shot just over half of our movie. Yeah!

Everyone but Ben, Ian, and I left. We cleaned up the area to make it civilized again. We tried to see Inglourious Basterds that night, but couldn't. His dad did take us to dinner and then rent a movie, though. We went to an Italian restaurant. Really good bread. We rented and watched I Love You, Man, which, I must say, felt like a film personally made for me. I loved it. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel were fantastic. I totally could connect with Rudd's lovably unconfident straight arrow. He just wants a friend. I do, too. Except, he's lucky enough to be getting married as well. When will I know that kind of love? Will I ever?

So, that was our fun. My experience gained ranged from learning to deal with people (teenagers) and being comfortable giving orders. I could get used to this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

My First Time Shooting a Film! - Part Two


That morning, I decided to watch Pulp Fiction again to get energized and inspired. It helped some, and I got to enjoy the movie on Ben's bigger television (I never noticed before that Tim Roth was shivering in his scene with Sam Jackson).

By 10:00 am, I had finished the entire script. It was definitely much darker than the original, but just as sardonic to the characters (although, the girl, instead of dying and being raped, has an attempted rape scene). Soon, I'll have to post both drafts of the script on the blog so you all can see what my deranged mind produced.

Once the afternoon came about, Brendan came over to get started. He read the new script. And loved it. I can't tell you how wonderful it felt to be complemented on my writing. I was suddenly ready to hit an artistic high. Also, he came bearing good news and bad news: the good news was that he found a girl for the part; the bad news was that it was Aimee, a girl he had broken up with. Will it be that bad? So now we needed four more parts casted. Ben had to play someone, as did I. Ian was playing the zombie. Maybe he could play the wimp, too? A double role more bizarre than Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood? Ah, compromise, you sneaking bitch. It should work if we do it well.

We shot the first major sequence involving Brendan's character, named Roger, packing the getaway van and getting bitten by the zombie. It took about an hour to shoot, starting with an crane shot turning into a dolly shot running parallel to the driveway and Brendan. Brendan is a really good and dedicated actor, even if he can't watch his own scenes. While filming, he chose to run around the block and straight into the shot for realism.

After this, we shot his scene in the bathroom with Ian, now the wimp named Henry, which brought out Brendan's real acting talent. Essentially, Roger wants Henry to kill him before he becomes a zombie, but Henry refuses and runs away.

After this was shot, we stopped for lunch. Brendan and Ben would go get the pizzas, and also pick up Aimee so we could shoot their scenes together so Brendan could leave for college by Friday night. While they were gone, I created a scene list to keep track of our shooting progress. There were 31 scenes. We finished two. Oh boy.

Soon, Brendan, Ben, and Aimee arrived with pizzas and pop. Emily also arrived later for no reason in particular. She watched and enjoyed the production. Aimee looked over the script (she complimented my handwriting, which made me feel even better) and got the jest of it all. We immediately got to work on the garage scene, which required Brendan to be tied to an overhead pipe. Now, throughout this junction, there was a real tension between Aimee and Brendan that in a strange way helped their scene together. Brendan whispers to Aimee to do something for him for him, but she doesn't want to. She looks a lot like Anna Paquin.

Next was the dreaded attempted rape scene. Quent, played by Ben, was jealous of Aimee liking Roger, so he attempts to rape her. No one wanted to do this scene, and it wasn't until it was over that I realized just how serious the matter was. Now I regret doing it, but being naive and silly about it, we went and did it anyway. Originally, I envisioned Quent's angry as equally that of Jake La Motta's in Raging Bull, especially the scene where he beats up his brother for allegedly having sex with his wife. However, Ben was really puzzled by the mere concept of the scene (understandable), so we decided we would improvise the entire thing. This time, Brendan filmed the scene as I directed. Ben's improvising was the creepiest thing we'd ever seen. You'll have to see the final film to truly experience it...let's say it was...as if Jack Sparrow did an attempt rape scene. But worse. That's the best I can do.

After that was done, we stopped for the night. We were extremely exhausted and had to stop. Brendan, Aimee, and Emily went home. Martin, who was supposed to show up today, didn't. I called him and he promised he'd come on Friday so we could film some stuff with him. That night, Ben edited a trailer for our film with the existing footage that looked really good, especially since it was to be made black-and-white. We tried to watch The Wild Bunch, but I fell asleep after the first violent scene and woke up for the last. According to Ben, I wasn't missing anything.

We'd finish all of Brendan's scenes tomorrow.

Will finish up tomorrow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My First Time Shooting a Film!

Days ago, I spoke of my experience writing the first draft of my and my friends' production, The Departure. Last Thursday, we actually started filming the short zombie flick. Exhausting. Consuming. Difficult. Exhilarating. Puzzling. Absorbing. Exciting. Educational. Inspirational! These words and more fail to describe the experience had making this film.

I'll tell of my times in chronological order, starting from Tuesday, the day I went over to my friend Ben's house to start Pre-Productive work on The Departure.


Senior Orientation. Blah! I got up early, got dressed properly, and went to school for the first time in months for Orientation. It went by smoothly. I met up with old friends and my brilliant English teacher, still sarcasm and friendly as he was last time. After Orientation and year book photos, I rode with Ben to his house so we could work on the script. We didn't have an actress for our written role yet, so we picked up a friend of Ben's named Emily. She read the script, thought it was funny, but was weirded out by the actions of her character. She wasn't sure she wanted to do it anymore. Soon, though, we were assisted by our college-bound former classmate and somewhat trained thespian named Brendan. He read through the script, loved what he saw, but wanted more. In fact, he suggested using the hidden thematics to make the film more character-based (as opposed to the largely plot and irony driven stuff we had) and dramatic. Shakespearian, even. Cool by me. It's all about the film, not me.

To compensate for our loss of an actress (Emily left some time earlier), we went to visit Becky, a friend of Ben's that I believe he likes, to try to persuade to be in the role. She couldn't: too much work to do. Defeated, we stayed at the beanery, wondering who we could get to play the female and going over dialogue scene. Much talk of Quentin Tarantino, David Mamet, and why and how people talk. We got some good stuff before leaving to get some food. When Brendan left, Ben and I went over the draft together one more time before I had to go home. I promised to write something for the next day and that I'd spend the night to get the film done.


I got up at 7:30am and managed to get two scenes written. That was it. My stepfather picked today of all days to wash the carpet upstairs in my room and the computer room. This took about four hours. To compensate, I started making an outline with index cards.

At four o'clock, I was picked up by Ben's mother and taken to his house. His friend Ian was there to play the role of the first zombie. We discussed our plan: we would stay up all night working on the new script in longhand, making it more dramatic, Shakespearian, and, most importantly, better. After getting Chinese food and Monster energy drinks, we went back to eat. However, we didn't start writing right away. Ben had to leave to meet up with an old friend who was a girl, so he didn't want us to go with him (he meant well, though, so I don't blame him). Ian and I rode bikes, too small and uncustomed, into Downtown Royal Oak. We also stopped by our friend Rob's house for a brief visit.

Once we got home, we got set to start working. Or, at least, I was writing while they stayed up and looked at stuff online. Occasionally (too often), I'd stop and check out what they were doing instead of writing. (Note to self: write about "sacrificing do's and don't's") Upon finishing the outline index cards, I began to write the new script in longhand on a legal pad. This sort of writing practice took about ten hours, from ten at night to ten in the morning (with about two hours of sleeping in between).

I am very, very tired, and will continue writing later today.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What's My Problem with "Avatar" - Introduction

I managed to catch "The Boy in the Iceberg" on television last night, and you know what? It's better than I remember. It has the same flaws that would ultimately undo the series (for me), but unlike those latter episodes, "The Boy in the Iceberg" is quieter, more inviting, had many moments of fantastic animation, and, surprisingly, sets up its story very, very well. A common criticism of mine is that the writers don't know how to plausibly set up situations, but they're brilliant at paying them off. "Iceberg" does the job well enough that one can be forgiven for not picking up on, or maybe even flat out ignoring, the messy elements and continue to watch for what happens next.

Unfortunately, as the story gets deeper and better, these flaws become more apparent and annoying. Since I've set myself up as an enemy within these here parks, my nitpicks will be the main focus. There are plenty of good things in this episode outside of its set-up, but they are mostly technical (and then some of the technical things aren't even that good).

Here's how these posts will work. In each thread, I will focus on one element at a time, so that debates don't become too chaotic. Maybe, I'm not sure, whole episodes will be the subject of debate. The topics will range from technical to artistic, from contemporary to historical. Hopefully, such debate will pinpoint exactly where I'm coming from and why I feel the need to remake this series, and, hopefully, allow you more chances to fix me straight and stop all this nonsense. I'll tell you what, though: after watching some featurettes on Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull and how personally the project came about, my passion to remake Avatar is greater than ever.

P.S. These posts will also be on Avatar's IMDb message board page so that debate among fans can ensue, hopefully so they'll convince me of how wrong I am.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Inspiring Quote

I take dictation from that place within my mind that knows what to say. I think most good writers do. There is no such thing as waiting for inspiration. The idea of "diagramming" an essay in advance, as we are taught in school, may be useful to students but is foolishness for any practicing writer. The Muse visits during the process of creation, not before. - Roger Ebert

Now if that doesn't get you off your ass to start writing as it did for me, I have nothing else good to tell you.

Here's the entire journey entry: I think I'm musing my mind.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Draft of Zombie Script Done; Shooting Starts Sunday

Even since school end, my friend Ben and I have wanted to use the summer to make short films to build a portfolio between ourselves. Needless to say, my new job got in the way, and it isn't until now that we are finally going to actually shoot the film.

It is a zombie film called The Departure about a group of teenagers who survive the meltdown in their town, but now must get out of town. That's pretty much all I can say without spoiling the surprises, of which I believe there are enough to match a Coen Brothers' film. We came up with the idea during the last days of school when trying to find a movie idea that could be done within our limited resources. Luckily, The Departure is within our reach (I believe), so shooting should go very smoothly. It will be our first completed production (our first attempt at shooting a zombie film ended horribly because of creative differences between Ben, generally the director, and I, generally the writer) and it should be very fun.

All this summer, I procrastinated in getting the script finished because of my fear of the writing process, my laziness, and my new job. Hell, it wasn't until Ben called me last Saturday that he boosted my spirits up for the project again. Last night, I went on an all-out writing spree. I'd write at least a page or so, and then look at more things on the computer, and then write for more time, and back and forth I went until two-thirds of the first draft was completed.

Now, the interim between conception and solidification was never too bleak. For one, I learned how important personality was to art. One of the reasons I procrastinated had to do with my disinterest in zombie films in general. The solution: make it for me. What kind of zombie film would I want to see? I also started looking into film history and my favorite filmmakers again (speaking of which, I need to start Surrogate Fathers), especially Quentin Tarantino, since his new film opens in two weeks. David Bordwell's great On the History of Film Style is an excellent read, an examination of different views of cinematic development. Then, yesterday, I watched A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies again, and came out much more enlightened (particularly by John Cassavetes' archive footage) than I ever was before.

The result for the first draft: an overlong, very talky, stylish but realistic, post modern take on the zombie flick. Revision is in order (Ben will read it tomorrow), but I like it so far. I can't wait to start shooting.

Habit Check:

1. Read summer reading book everyday - haven't started yet
2. Stop messing with hair/biting nails - unsuccessful with hair
3. Add a new entry to blog everyday - done
4. Stay positive - tested by theological discussion; so-so
5. Be compassionate - so-so

Monday, August 10, 2009

I Have to Habit

The past seventeen years of my life, as in anyone else's life, are widely the result of the habits I developed over those years, and my failed attempts to change them. Whenever I start something, I'm compelled not to finish it because of my "psychological complacency," which all but convinces me that whatever new thing I was doing wasn't worth the trouble anyway. Bullshit, I say, but then I find myself in the same hole.

No more, I say. I must work hard, not just this last year of high school, but my whole life. I cannot expect the world to lay it out for me. I must lay it out for myself. And the first step to doing that is to change myself. And to change myself, I must change my habits.

Every week, possibly every Sunday, I will post a list of habits I seek to establish. Note I mean to say to do things I should, rather than not things I shouldn't. I will try hard to refrain from losing bad habits. On the other hand, I will try hard to cultivate new, good habits that will simply do away with the bad. One habit I need to develop is to stay positive, and that shall be my start.

According to some studies, a habit can be broken in three weeks with much will power. In subsequent entries, I should be able to reflect on how well those experiments go, and why they seem to fail. This self-aware should bring me closer to realizing the problem so I can better confront it. A brief reflection everyday, and a whole one every Sunday, should keep me in check.

It is no longer Sunday, but I shall start today with my list anyway for this new week:

1. Read summer reading book everyday
2. Stop messing with hair/biting nails
3. Add a new entry to blog everyday (like I promised when I started)
4. Stay positive
5. Be compassionate

Here is my start. Now the real work begins.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Comment on "Avatar" Audio Commentary, and Sporadic Commentary on My Own

I've listened to the audio commentary for the episode "Lake Laogai," and came to this conclusion: these people are not very interesting. Maybe it was the taxing labor of a television animation production that is to blame (I know my job sucks the life out of me, preventing me from blogging as often as I'd want), but DiMartino and Konietzko come across as timid, charmless, and unenthusiastic. Maybe, too, I'm simply spoiled by the idiosyncracies of my favorite filmmakers (Scorsese, Tarantino, Miyazaki, Kubrick, Spielberg, Coens, Altman, etc.) to the point that the rather level-headed nature of the Avatar creators' talk left much to be expected. Could their general, cheerful detactment be a sign of their strong connection to true Dao? (That would explain a comment made that DiMartino seems to take all bad production news with a smile.)

To give them the benefit of the doubt (how did I know this wasn't the worst commentary?), I listened to the commentary for the succeding episode, "The Earth King." It actually got worse. Now they seem to get excited about how you can "feel the weight" of those flying rock projectiles.

I sure as Hell did not feel the weight of those projectiles because, for reasons I'll detail much later: 1) scale is not relative; 2) the tempo never, ever changes, resulting in phony looking effects animation; and 3) the animation is so jerky that the physics of the projectiles are lost within the rigid compositioning of the drawings.

There was a moment I did feel, though, and wouldn't you know the filmmakers screw that moment up, too? Sokka stupidly tries to open an enormous palace double door. Suddenly, Aang Airbends the doors inside, off their hinges, knocking Sokka inside along with them. He skids to a stop on his face.

I felt that. It was a painful feeling, and while I didn't expect blood (there will be no blood in Avatar), I did expect some sort of reaction to this pain. Why the Hell does he rub the back of his neck?

Yes, Aang's winds wammed his entire back side, and I would have believed it had Sokka at least acknowledged his injured face. But no; the writers merely provide him the line (neck rubbing abound), "A little warning next time?" Tsk, tsk.

As far as reviewing goes, a large, coherent review of Avatar is out of the question. My thoughts aren't put together nearly well enough for such an undertaking. For now on, all Avatar-related criticisms will fall under the title "Sporatic Commentary on 'Avatar' ", followed by what the topic of that day will be. This certainly fits my short-attention span-induced mind better, and it allows me to more freely and clearly express my thoughts. Eventually, my ultimate motivation for doing all this grudging will be revealed...

All screenshots courtesy of Iroh.org -- [Tea . the Anti-Drug]