Notes on Process
Back in the US now one full week, and finally almost back into local hours after two weeks in Korea flipped my ever more inelastic internal clock. Jet-lag seems to worsen as I get older. In Seoul managed to see a handful of friends a few nights after arrival, staying up deep into the morning – 5 am – in the Kondae area. Not exactly the cure I needed for the jet-lag, rather its opposite – kept me firmly planted in West Coast time.
And then it was on to Jeonju, where thanks to the festival scheduling I wasn’t present at the first official formal public screening of Coming to Terms, its damn “World Premiere,” which I stupidly let happen, since it was also the premiere of The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima, and Jeonju got them both. Had I withheld one I could have wangled another airline ticket to Edinburgh or Locarno or Venice. Though perhaps given the jet-lag mangling it is a modest silver lining that I messed up and spared myself another transcontinental time warp. So the day after arrival I attended the Narcissus screening – a reasonably full house, and a good Q&A, though hardly enough to warrant the trip. And the following day a screening of Coming to Terms with a genuinely full house, and long and good Q&A. Narcissus showed again, ditto to decent house and Q&A.
As a requirement for screening these films were put into 24fps DCPs, which, as I’d forewarned the festival would happen, and asked that it not be done, made the films pretty bad to see. Shifting from 29.97 fps to 24 of course makes for horrible movement artifacts, and the shift in color forms also damaged the color and made all fades in and out have digital banding. It was literally painful to watch, especially when it was totally needless as they could have easily shown the h.264 files of the film. The few other films I saw also suffered from this conversion as most people, aside from Hollywood, don’t work at 24 fps, but either PAL 25 or NTSC 29.97 (or 23). I wrote the festival afterward to underline that they should junk this requirement.
Meantime the festival seemed less buoyant than in the past – perhaps soured by a little palace revolution in which the past director, and most his staff, were ousted and replaced by new people. Certainly the over-all organization seemed less tight, stingier, and less friendly than in my past visits. At the conclusion of the festival the head of the jury, filmmaker Darezhan Omirbayev, from Kazakhstan, apparently castigated the festival for the lackluster selection of films in competition (first and second films), saying no one on the jury had been passionate about any of them, and that they were all, well, too safe and conventional. He did manage to come to my films, both of them, and clearly liked them, telling me that if he can do so, he’ll try to arrange for me to visit and show my work there. Just when I could do this in the dwindling time at hand is another question. As is the question of just what purpose do festivals have anymore for those like me?
For the work I do, there is in the present world no “market” – to say someone or place which might buy it, in hopes of in turn making some money out of it. No distributor, no television, takes this kind of work anymore – 15 or 20 years ago I might have reasonably hoped to sell, if not for much, at least for a little, somewhere. But this is no longer a reasonable expectation. Instead the best one might hope for is - well, a ticket to place X and 3-5 days in a hotel there. And only once (or perhaps 2 or 3 times) for each film. And, in my case, maybe some DVD sales over a long period of time. Not exactly what one could call “making a living.” This is in part owing to the for-the-moment victory of hyper-capitalism which has commercialized everything and done a pretty good job of convincing a sizable chunk of humanity that the only important thing in life is money and the things it can buy. In my tiny little place in the world this translates into the kinds of pressures I get all the time about “telling a (more accessible) story” or something like that, and thinking about “the audience/consumer,” and making something “they” would like (and pay for.) And so on. It falls on my very deaf ears, I suppose because actually I totally differ with the great Market Economy religion of the times and think it is dead wrong, and will in due time render us all dead owing to its perverse “values.” So trying to convince me to accommodate its demands is rather misguided. The other reason the “market” for my work which once existed is gone is that the electronics revolution has rather sharply altered not only the physical landscape – but also, particularly in younger people, the psychological one. Time is more fragmented, in nearly all senses. Attention spans are shorter. Distractions abound, carefully constructed to grab the eye, ear and mind. And we are basically trained to avoid anything serious or demanding – so much better to pop a pill when we’re unhappy, or answer the text message our friend just sent us, or tweet our view in a handful of words. Actually sitting in one place for 90 minutes, or longer, paying attention to something making a demand on your mind and spirit is…. is so not now.
Before I departed for the festival, a few people asked if I was “excited” and I had to answer, no, I’ve been making films for 50 years, and going to festivals almost as long, and it is more or less a necessary chore, the only form of “marketing” to pretend to be doing. So I go. And so I left Jeonju not unexpectedly disheartened as it merely confirmed what I’d known before I departed: that what I do is rather meaningless in the present world, not that it hadn’t been meaningless in the previous one. I make an ethereal art, something requiring a complex apparatus to send photons bouncing on a screen to disappear as soon as it is visible. The sound waves go a bit slower, but decay just as fast. Inside the spectator synapses crackle, and one feels happy or sad, exhilarated or disappointed, and afterwards whatever one takes away shifts, and in due time you forget, or in all events, you lay down and die. In this case the whole impetus and seeming reason for making these things just happens to have died in advance of myself. And then, given the content of Coming to Terms, perhaps it is all duly appropriate.
So while I imagine I’ll go to some more festivals, if only to indulge the illusion that it has something to do with practical things like eating, and I’ll continue to make films despite the reality that all it does is eat up much of my time and energy, along with some of my dwindling savings, I can’t say I will do these things blindly or unaware: nope, I know full well it is, in the world I live in, considered a useless, worthless endeavor, unworthy of any payment at all. And a pat on the back with nice words is about all I can expect, though naturally that means almost nothing to me.
Buddy, can you spare me a dime?
I’ve been traveling a bit too much, and am a bit remiss on updating matters about Coming to Terms. It was invited a month or so ago to the Jeonju festival, which I have been to 4 or 5 times now. I went to the first one, I think in 2001, and then three years later, and while there got my job at Yonsei University (not that I was looking for it, sort of fell in my lap). While in Korea 2007-2011, I went (I think) each year, with a film. From the outset it was a well-organized, well-attended festival, programming a rich assortment of work from around the world, and doing retrospectives of a kind not seen elsewhere. After the rejection of the Sundance and a few other festivals I’d sent it too, I was beginning to wonder not whether Coming to Terms was good, but whether the times had shifted so much that I was in effect living on another planet. Jeonju had a month earlier invited The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima, and the delay had me wondering. As I had also submitted it to Cannes, I questioned if I should accept the Jeonju invitation, though my contact at Cannes, while liking the film himself, said my chances were slim. And I figured the non-competitive sections of Cannes may not absolutely require a g.d. glorious “world premiere.” So I said yes.
Jeonju is also a culinary high-point in Korea so I eagerly look forward to a steady diet of Korean food for 2 weeks. Love it!
So finally Coming to Terms will step out in public. I did, in the last week, get several lovely notes regarding it, one from Mark Rappaport, who I have been working on trying to get his materials back from Ray Carney of Boston University. See this for almost the latest on this matter. And the other was from Chris Fujiwara, the new – as of last year I think – director of the Edinburgh Festival.
A very quick note, to be followed by a much longer letter. I just saw Coming to Terms and I can’t tell you how impressed I am. It’s very beautiful, in a lot of different ways. I have to run out now and do some errands but I’ll write you much, much more later. You’re probably asleep (or should be) but I wanted to drop you this note just after seeing it.
OK, here goes—
First of all, I found it really affecting. Aren’t we supposed to be formalists and just, en principe, opposed to that sort of thing? I absolutely love that “alienating effect” of two people in the frame talking to each other but not facing each other. It puts the kibosh on that tired shot-reaction shot convention that is the gold standard in commercial filmmaking and that no one seems to be able to shake or even interested in shaking. I suspect that that choice will be the reason most people won’t get into the movie but I think it’s a brilliant device. If Ingmar Bergman had done it, there would be endless hosannas about how innovative it is. I tried something similar in Local Color in 1977, for comedic effect. The two women, especially Roxanne, were great. And we know how hard it is to find a decent actress “of a certain age” who hasn’t made it but is very good nonetheless. I really like how the impassive landscape bears witness without paying the slightest bit of attention to the human goings-on. It’s just there, impenetrable, impervious, neither watching nor not watching. You don’t engage in that pantheistic nonsense that has become Malick’s stock-in-trade. Oooh, isn’t it pretty?
I also like very much the nightmarish house-scapes, each of them looking like the pawns on a monopoly board, their frightening anonymity not giving a clue as to the sorrows (or pleasures) going on behind their dreary facades. At first, I was a little confused by the house-scapes and even the landscapes but once I relaxed into it, it worked very well for me. I also liked the musical accompaniment to the father’s death—the sound of flies. And the sound of rain as the background track when they all go back to Elaine’s house. I thought that the rhyming images of the curtains in Elaine’s house with the curtains of the father’s tent was very beautiful. I actually gasped.
I suspect this is a very personal film for you and has a lot of meaning in your own life. But I, for one, don’t buy the father summoning all the families he abandoned to help him kill himself. But maybe that’s just me. Somebody that cold and that selfish, who has shunned people all his life, could just as easily take 400 sleeping pills and wash it down with two bottles of bourbon. On the other hand, that he wants to implicate his two families in his actions and gives them all nightmares for the rest of their lives, makes him even more of a monster. As does that hideous poison pen letter he sends from beyond the grave. Well, I hated The Taste of Cherries in which this guy tries to inveigle strangers in his suicide. Why couldn’t he just jump off a tall building rather than try to find willing accomplices to help him do what can really only be done alone? What do I know? Palme d’Or winner at Cannes.
I think you will be surprised by the good reactions you’ll get to the film, when you actually get it out there. Unless I’m mistaken, I think this is a very new direction for you and very much worth pursuing. One little quibble—I don’t know if you can do anything about it now. The sound or rather the ambient sound drops out every now and then—and it’s a distraction. I don’t know that once you’ve made a DCP you can strip the sound and lay it in again. I think you should find a very good sound editor to enrich the background sounds. I know you feel that you’re done with the film but I think it’s too good a film to let these minor adjustments stop you from making it as good as you can.
And I highly recommend that you see Amour.
Anyway, congratulations once again. I think it’s a very, very strong piece of work and you should be very proud of it.
It’s a remarkable film, with images and transitions of great beauty and intensity. I value in it most the fact that it is a digital film, not a “film” that happened to be shot and edited digitally. You do great things with digital that could not be done on film. Above all, you show how digital makes possible a distinctive shaping of time, in a mode that is neither “virtual” nor “real,” but which has to do, I would say, with an immediate perception of time becoming an image.
One rather irritating thing is that Jeonju this year changed its regulations and required a DCP (Digital Cinema Package), a Hollywood pushed thing to make uniform standards in digital projection. A nice idea for corporations and all, but it requires a rather complicated thing of shifting to 24 fps, whatever you shot on, and prices for having it done professionally run $3-4,000 for a 90 minute piece. Any kind of reprocessing of one’s file can only hurt it, and DCP’s seem unduly complex to make (I checked on net about DIY, which is possible but seemed to complicated for me given the time I had.) I wrote the festival a serious letter saying this puts an undue burden on filmmakers, particularly those from poorer countries which Jeonju often shows. And technically in my view it sucks (Pedro Costa, with whom they did a retrospective a few years ago, is quoted in an interview I read saying DCP’s suck.) They said they will think about it and more or less agreed, but said it was too late to change this year. On searching around I did find one place which would do it for a palatable price, and I sent them my material: CreativeDCP, located in Nashville, Tenn. If you are in need of such, I suggest you drop them a line.
This week, along with thousands of others, I received a little email from the Sundance festival. I’d sent Coming to Terms (and 3 other works) solely because I’d been given a waiver and did not have to pay the pricey admission fee, and at 69 I thought it would be nice to get in one more skiing session before my body insists otherwise. I didn’t really think they’d take the film as it’s not exactly an audience pleaser, but the film world scuttlebutt was that the new director, John Cooper, was intending to shift the festival back to something more, uh, “independent,” and indeed in the last years they’d shown some installations (one by friend Leighton Pierce), so I thought… But not really. The other day’s announcement in the New York Times showed a program littered with stars, and was described by the writer as having films that “could be accessible.” [Translation: accessible = commercial.] So much for turns to “independence.” So no drive to Park City to sleep in the Subaru (festival doesn’t pay to get you there or accommodations, so…), and no skiing this year. C’est la festive vie.
RE: 12465-UNF – COMING TO TERMS
On behalf of the Sundance Programming staff, I would like to thank you for submitting your film to us for 2013 Sundance Film Festival consideration. Unfortunately, we were unable to include it in our Festival program this year. For the first time in our history, we received more than 12,000 submissions (12,146 to be exact), so deciding on a final program was more difficult than ever. We selected 170 films from around the world (1.4% of the total films submitted to us), and it goes without saying that we viewed far more worthy films than we had room for in our program. Please know that your film was carefully considered by our team, and we truly respect your hard work and dedication as an independent filmmaker. We wish you the best of luck with your project and hope you will give us the opportunity to view your work in the future.
Director, Sundance Film Festival
To see a PDF of the real thing, go here: reject from sundance
Now, being quite honest, I didn’t really think any of the things I sent would get in, but with the waiver it seemed worth the DVDs and postage costs to roll the dice. I’d been to Sundance 20 years ago, and it was already too much a frantic circus of short-term hysteria and people trampling over each other, and the aggressive “gonna make it” egos of filmmakers looking to punch their tickets on to Hollywood. The film I showed back then, in competition, Frameup, garnered almost no response, critically, or from the seemingly baffled audience of would-be “hip” viewers. My droller than droll dark humor did not amuse this crowd – they prefer their’s in Jarmusch mode I imagine. I did get to go skiing.
Frameup went on to the Berlin Forum, got some TV sales in Europe, and I still get people writing me, looking for a decent DVD of it.
I also sent the documentary shot last autumn in the Fukushima district in Japan, The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-hima. It is a delicate work on survivors of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. So far it’s been rejected by a handful of festivals – Toronto, Festivale dei Popoli in Florence, Italy, the Margaret Mead whatever in NYC, and a few others I forget. And now Sundance joins the list.
Trinity is 57 minutes of silence and discreetly gorgeous imagery, vaguely based on Christian myths, with which most of we westerners are all too familiar. Not your usual festival fare. Certainly not at Sundance.
And then Stand (After Courbet) is a short (28 mins) which though perhaps it appears to be a single shot, is not. It is meditative, like Trinity. It’s not going to be any festival’s hot ticket.
Of course these rejection notices come on the heels of numerous others this last year. Imagens de uma cidade perdida, a 97 minute long portrait of Lisboa, which screened in competition at the Yamagata festival last autumn, and was shown inRotterdam in February 2011, was rejected by everyone else I sent it to, a list a little too long to go into here – a mess of documentary festivals and others.
And then there was Dissonance, admittedly a challenging and strange film, which was also sent to a mess of festivals – including the avant garde American one at Ann Arbor, and it too was roundly rejected by all except the festival in Split, Croatia, which placed it in a side-bar for weird films.
I know that I was hardly alone in collecting all these rejection notices (when they bothered to send them – some I learned of by checking the list of films they were screening), though perhaps my cynicism is such that my response is primarily pragmatic: yes, I would have liked a free trip to Florence so as to see some friends in Italy, have some good food and wine, and, incidentally have a screening at the festival there. Ditto a few other places where participation = a ticket and a few nights in a hotel where ever. It’s the only pay I ever get for these things anymore.
Back in 2008 I addressed this in an early blog post, here. Once upon a time there was a little space for the not-so-conventional work, some festivals that encouraged such work. And I suppose there remain a few places here and there, though usually in some ghettoized section which announces a priori to the potential audience, “you don’t want to see this.” Underlying this is the vast corporate commercialization of virtually everything. Notice the list of corporate sponsors on any festival trailer or poster. Notice that one can’t get a review in a “main-stream” paper or magazine if the work doesn’t have “theatrical” play. That translates as “commercial” appeal since that is the only thing that will show in a cinema (however misguided the judgment may be on what is “commercial”.) [The current Cloud Atlas provides a case in point - a film packed with major stars (mostly giving rather bad performances), a twisted convoluted story which supposedly makes it "art." Instead it is an utterly cinematically conventional film, backed with $80 million in CGI pyrotechnics, foisted off on a dumbed down public as "art." It is a god-awful mess on all accounts, having nothing to do with art at all. Happily the investors will lose their shirts, though doubtless the filmmakers will see their failure rewarded with another shot.]
This, alas, is the world today, with most minds utterly colonized by our All-American Sacred Market Economy mantra, even though the Wizards behind it all have been shown to be as empty as that of Oz, and perhaps people are wising up. Maybe before I drop dead another quiver of some kind of creative pulse will show up – indeed it always does, though often in hidden ways.
Meantime I expect to keep collecting rejection slips….
Last night, using a large screen, good sound system, and with some minor revisions done, we looked at Coming to Terms, uninterrupted – we being myself, Steve Taylor, Travis Timm (age 21), and my friend from Vancouver, Elisa Ferrari (Italian, living in Canada, 30). For myself, aside from a handful of light-balance things, and very minor sound adjustments, it is done. And, in my view, certainly up with my best – Last Chants, Rembrandt Laughing, Vermeers, Bed You Sleep In, and others – though very different from all of them. I was a very happy camper. It – coupled with the Japanese film The Narcissus Flowers of Katsura-shima – definitely put to rest any lingering qualms about losing my creative moxie to time passing.
Extracting information out of viewers is kind of like pulling teeth, no matter how much you underline “tell what you really think/feel” etc. It becomes a kind of tea-leave reading art to get between the lines. In this case with Steve it was less difficult than usual. He’d entered the viewing with some clear reservations about the pacing and tempo, though in his previous looks he hadn’t actually sat down and let it play but had jumped around a bit. This time he sat back and let it roll, said nothing (no one talked during the screening) and when it was done it seemed pretty transparent he was impressed, and rather promptly said he’d been wrong about the tempo stuff, and it worked, languorous as it may be. He also commented on the ensemble work of the cast, though – joking a bit if not entirely – said the star of the film was….. the curtains. Travis was a bit hesitant to commit to much, though having clearly been watching careful he cited a few things which showed him to be a very attentive viewer. He said he needed time to think about it – which certainly is the case with a film like this. Today he said he “liked” it, whatever that means – especially for a film such as this which is not really meant to be “likable.” It’s meant to challenge and disturb a bit. Elisa seemed to like it, though she found the talk sequences a bit long. While she speaks English fine, it is not her native language and I suspect the talk parts required a bit more work. She very much liked the transition sequences, and their very abstract qualities. It’s half the film.
Reading from this quite eclectic little slice is not so easy, but my impression was that it went well – very well. It’s not an “easy” film, though it is not at all difficult to watch. I think despite its long takes and seemingly slow pacing, there is so much hidden tension within it that it seems shorter than its 89 minutes. As my friend Swain in Missoula said, it leaves a wide space for one to think (though that thinking is gently guided towards, oh, let’s use a fancy-ass word, and say “eschatology.”) Or dropping dead, and the reverberations it can provoke – which in fact are the reverberations which one’s actions in life have provoked.
Anyway, I am indeed a happy camper, and am a bit optimistic about the film’s chances in the festival horse-races – even though it is clearly not the kind of upper/action/seat-filling item that programmers like to have, for their self-interested, number-crunching reasons. And if it’s all a delusion? What’s life…
The other night, at my friend Swain’s in Missoula, I finally got to see Coming to Terms for the first time – no technical crap, no interruptions, no breaks for this or that. It was from a Vimeo compression file, and on a flat-panel video, which means it wasn’t as good looking as it could be, but…
My impression was, frankly, very positive: it’s the film I think I was out to make (hard to figure when you work in the manner I do – no script, nothing really “thought out” except a vague cloud of ideas which materialize in front of the camera.) While I don’t think it is “difficult” to watch, it is certainly not an “audience pleaser” – it confronts death, people who are not nice and are maybe made worse in the process of confronting death in their family. While having long passages that seem static, I think it is not at all boring, but instead rather sneaks up on the viewer, drawing you into the vortex of – OMG – your own thoughts. For people who either don’t have any or don’t like to be drawn into them, it certainly won’t work. But for the others…?
Aside fro some minor visual things, editing of literally a frame or two, and a little adjustment on the mix, I think it is finished.
I’ve sent it to Sundance, and it is being looked at by Cannes. Cynically I’d say it is not a Sundance kinda film, but perhaps they can surprise me. It’s still not their kind of film insofar as their audience is not really evidently into serious films. I think, though, it is a Cannes kinda film, at least in one of the serious sections. I’d love to have it in competition, but I know better. Why would I like it in competition? Because – and this is the reason for aiming at Cannes anyway – unlike about all other festivals, it might open the door for making a film with a little bit of money, with a producer who appreciated such things, and permit me at this very late date to “make a living.” So now to wait and see and then depending on the word back, juggle the festival politics. I suspect Cannes will not show if it is in Sundance, but something in me thinks perhaps it would be possible.
Counting our none-existent chickies before they hatch. Of course, the film could disappear down the Black Hole which has eaten up, oh, DISSONANCE, Swimming in Nebraska, Imagens de uma cidade perdida, Trinity, La Lunga Ombra, Over Here, and Parable – all of which have shown to no one or just one or two festival audiences. Big fkn deal.
In another day or two I’ll be out of here, at least for a while. It’s been now three and a half months since I pulled into town and set up in Marshall Gaddis’ redoubt up here in Walkerville. A busy three and a half months getting ready to shoot Coming to Terms, drawn into doing a thousand photos of Butte – easily enough for a handsome portfolio or book, and myriad other things. Actors starting arriving in August and things got the usual hectic (and fun), and we managed to get Terms done a little quicker than we thought, and jumped into a shot at another one. Mulling that latter one as there isn’t really quite enough to call it a film, so Ryan and are are talking resuming in LA early next year. what we have seems a bit too good to let it drop there. Meantime I’ve taken a few kind of trial runs for the coming 12 months of travels: seeing the Subaru works OK, and that I’m physically up for roughing it in the manner I can afford. Sleep in the back of the car or tent when the circumstances are nice, since I certainly can’t afford the apparent $50 a night minimum for cheap motels. After a run to Glacier Park, front axles of the car got replaced, and a 10 day trip as far east as Devil’s Tower through some real high mountain passes afterward seem to say vehicle is OK for the journey. And a week of camping, including some very cold weather, seems to say my gear and my body and psyche are up for it too.
See http://americanplainsongs.wordpress.com for notes on these trips, part of a large project to last perhaps 3 years.
A week and some ago, with the film virtually done (some little things to do with sound, perhaps some “invisible music,” maybe a tiny bit of visual editing), I wrote everyone a letter.
I am rendering a god awful compressed file of Coming to Terms to have in LA in time for the Sundance deadline. I will also send them a note and let them know I will be sending a DVD and BluRay, since the film relies so much on aesthetics and the ridiculous files acceptable to IMDB’s system, that Withoutabox uses as the uploading one are utterly terrible. I trust they will look a the better version.
Anyway it’s basically all done. I will go through it again and mix a bit more carefully (need to understand CS5′s Audio mixer better), and perhaps a few minor color etc. adjustments. I very much like the film and think it works as – vague as it was, as usual – my thoughts imagined.
Want to thank you all for bearing with me, and for great performances, all of you. Great ensemble work. You can see it best in the least conspicuous places: the shot where you all arrive at Jame’s house – the body language, everything, readable at a distance. Ditto with the shot in the house, the awkward silence, the “can we pray” etc. All just sings.
Anyway thanks so much. I think it has a good shot a Sundance (new director there trying, supposedly, to steer it back to more “indie” ways.) And if not there, then Cannes, though that seems far away.
I am going to put a 6 gigabyte render, that is good, into my Dropbox and invite you all to take a look and give me feedback. Please.
Meantime I’m at Marshall’s to end of this week, and then head slowly to Port Angeles. If anybody knows someone in Spokane or Seattle game to put me up a night or two, would be helpful.
Awaiting word from Firenze, Italy, doc fest if invited there with Narcissus Flowers. If so – should find out tomorrow – I will go if they foot the airfare/hotel, which they used to do, but maybe money is tight so…. If so latter part of Nov. [Update: Firenze said "non."]
Hope all’s OK with you all.
Drop a note.
PS: I will shortly be putting up a petition aimed at getting Ray Carney to return Mark Rappaport’s films to him. See cinemaelectronica blog for full story on that. Please sign blog and get everyone you know, especially in arts/media world, to sign on. thanx
So now it’s sit back and see if anybody wants to show the film. My record on this the last 10 years has been so awful (most films done showed at one, or perhaps a few festivals, an in person screening or two, and…. ) that I don’t give it much thought. If there’s any thought to give it is an internal question – why the hell do all this, out of my pocket, to make something a few thousand people will see? Part of it, I concede, is my own fault: I’ve refused to bend to the demands of our wonderful “market economy” where you try to figure out what is popular, appeal to it, and then, hey hey hey, “get rich.” I never gave a damn about getting rich, and I certainly don’t think I’ll be changing my mind. Coming to Terms is among my most uncompromising films. Just ask the actors!
While in Butte, as mentioned also shot a good piece of another film, and as I never counted, hundreds of shots of Butte – mostly houses and buildings. Certainly enough for a handsome book or something. But again, my utter lack of instinct for making a buck makes me wonder.
It’s been a great time and I’ll be back. Meantime it’s a huge thanks to Marshall Gaddis, friend of decades, without whose help we wouldn’t have made this film – or “these” once we get to the other one and finish it. Thanks Marshall !
So long Marshall. And so long Walkerville and Butte. See ya next time!
As the rest of the story of this film unfolds, we’ll note it here – the real finish, festivals, screenings.
Sept. 25. After some days of stalling and dicking around as I wasn’t really in the mood to edit, I finally kicked myself into gear and more or less – little details left to figure out and slip in, likely some shifting on lengths of shots, some sounds to add, and a final mix to work on. Actually, as usual for me owing to the manner in which I both “think” in cinematic terms, and thus the way I shoot already pretty much includes “editing,” there really isn’t much editing to do. A shot/sequence works, and it with the others, adds up to a film, or it doesn’t, and there’s little or no fall-back position. So, the editing, as it was, was kind of quick and merciful. It’s 90 minutes long. I haven’t actually seen it all – just piece-meal: this scene, that passage. So tonight, after a lasagna dinner with a few people, we’ll look at the film. This will be the first time I actually watch the whole thing, projected, with decent sound. My hunch is that it will work strongly, but very quietly. The ending is rather open, a kind of blank canvas for the spectator to fill up with their own take on the highly personal things the film deals with: screwed up families and death. Hey, party time! I look forward to the outside views of those who will watch it with me. They’re not film people, and I know this piece is not at all like normal films, or even anything more avanty that I’ve seen.
Sept. 27. As it happened, just before my friends arrived I discovered that the render I’d spent the day making was still in post-render whatever Premiere CS5 does to it after it is rendered, was still going on and I’d turned off Media Encoder, and lost it all. So we watched an earlier render, and I had to stop start a few times to drop in some sound, and in effect, for me killed the whole thing – I wanted to sit back and watch the entire film go by as it is essentially a tonal work, having nothing to do with lot, and tone gets pretty smashed with interruptions – like taking music on and off. However I did get a better sense of how it works, and whether it holds together. My guests, not accustomed to strange films in general, seemed to get hung up on plot matters, and technical things which are normal for this stage of a film. But, the feedback I needed, looking through the prism of their eyes, is that, nope, it was not boring, even to minds unaccustomed to such things. Wonder what they’d think of James’ films? Or Bela Tarr, or Pedro Costa. Shudder to think….
Anyway I am back at the time-line, doing final adjustments, mixing, and hope to render a virtual final version over night. Need to add a bit of Benning’s voice-over which I haven’t sent him text of – today will do so.
Here’s the whole film, shot by shot (dropping a few town-scape shots – where there’s one here there’s 3 or 4 in the film):
After the screening usual stuff came up – there’s no sympathetic character to “like” and care about; this or that wasn’t narratively clear, and things like that. Of course I never think about making a “sympathetic” character to drop a hook in the spectator, nor am I much concerned with narrative. Here I was consciously trying to make something that stripped away as much narrative trappings as possible with the aim of going directly to the emotional/psychological core of things, without explaining, giving background, or pretty much anything else. I don’t expect thereby to win any audience-pleaser prizes. Some films are made, knowingly, with the essential function of making money. That doesn’t appear to be why I do it.
[This stupid Worpress layout format won't let me put a big image up top without adding it to the" gallery" and tacking the image in here at the end. At least I can't figure out how to do it with the instructions given.]