Posts Tagged ‘moment of decision’

Working with animals

September 27, 2011

The poster I made, next to a real one on the dog park bulletin board.

Working with animals is a lot harder than it looks. And it’s not something they bother to teach us at Chapman, for some unknowable reason. Probably financial. So I decided to give it a shot early in my career. The result was a short film my production teacher didn’t like very much, for good reasons, but that I still think is sort of fun – and not bad for 12 hours’ work – writing, casting, shooting and editing. Take that, 48-hr Film Festival!

Thanks to all that helped out. Especially Daisy the dog, Vinny the actor and dog wrangler, Anirudh the cinematographer and Megan, the actress, who came all the way from LA to star.

For those interested in filmmaking, here’s how the dog made things trickier than they would have been with a human star.

1. She had to be enclosed and on a leash at all times as she isn’t a stunt dog or trained to sit and stay. This meant we had to shoot in the doggy park – otherwise she could have run into the street.
2. She isn’t used to playing with strange dogs, so she was nervous.
3. I didn’t know her before the shoot, but she bonded with me first. So it was hard to make her bond with the actress.
4. It all took so long that we couldn’t move locations to the more ideal place to shoot the scene where she sees the poster. I wanted to make it a different place. Shooting in the doggy park also made the dog being lost at all seem much less plausible.
5. Dogs drool, put hair all over you and have to be taken care of. It’s hard to direct when your first priority is not the actor, or the cine, or even the shotlist, but this slightly helpless hairy creature who doesn’t speak English. Have a handler on set – this stuff is not suitable for student skeleton crews.

Still, I’m not sorry I tried.

PS. Mom if you’re reading this and you want to watch the video you should click the play button (it’s a triangular thing in the middle of the video thing in the page). And I love you.

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Why I’m here

September 21, 2010

People often seem surprised that I came all the way to Chapman in California to study film. Now there are of course some obvious reasons, like…

1. There really isn’t a dedicated, world-renowned screenwriting program in SA. This isn’t because there aren’t great teachers or screenwriters there… but there just isn’t the money to pay for it. My fees are about 20 times more than they would be in SA.

See this awesome fountain thing? Ja, I'm helping to pay for that. Well at least there's an SA flag there (top right).

2. It’s good to be 25km from LA, and be taught by people who work in the industry there. My teachers are all really, really good. And they work hard. One of them even split the class into two and teaches it twice now, as he feels we deserve more one-on-one attention for that three hours.

mi casa mexican food

I got lunch here today... a burrito. Really good. The inside of the restaurant is amazing too - definitely going to sit down there for some food and drink one day.

3. The Mexican food is really good. No seriously. Even though I know the pigs are treated badly and stuff, cause I read Eating Animals, I can’t help myself around Carnitas. Carnitas. Carnitas. Oh, jesus, oh… jesus. Carnitas. Save me, for I cannot say no.
4. California is beautiful in its own way. It’s not Cape Town, but it’s nice to look at. It’s… you know… it’s got a good personality.

Pretty, safe, flat, friendly, windless, warm. Socal, they call it.

5. Also, this sounds cool, right? “I’m studying screenwriting in California”. Even if it does scream “What the fuck are you going to do if THIS doesn’t work out? Move to Kommetjie and invent some kind of curative massage nobody’s thought of yet?”

As a journalist who worked for South Africa’s biggest website, with some of its best journalists and editors too, I’m used to being surrounded by talented, opinionated, young people. So the fact that the talented, opinionated people I hang around with now are a little younger than the average intern at 24.com doesn’t bug me. In fact, I mostly quite like it.

So here are some of the cool things that I’ve done in the first two weeks at “school” as they call university here.

Assignment one – portrait of a character or location.

I didn't really do much. Mostly watched Ryan Broomberg - he's in my class - do stuff. You can watch the results here.

The In Memory of 911 sign is visible from the Stadium drive. This Fire Training centre is near the Angles Stadium. The day we were there they were training oil rig workers - not firemen. You could tell they weren't firemen cause they weren't *hot. *management would like to apologise for this bad joke.

My own assignment wasn’t as awesome but I learned a lot by doing it. The task: A portrait of a location in under a minute. I made a few mistakes, the most obvious of which was the use of zoom. I mean, I know better. Anyhow, here you go, Ma.

Assignment two: Moment of decision

Next up was: Show a character making a decision. Same time – 1 minute limit. No dialogue allowed, again. My major mistake here was to show him changing his mind back and forth rather than just progressively changing his mind, says my production teacher Gil Bettman. He’s right, of course. I tend to overcomplicate everything I do.

There were many other good ones. Many were posted on facebook video, and can’t be embedded. Here’s mine…

After we shot mine, we all helped shoot this one – we work in small teams to do these assignments in order to pool some skills and resources, each taking turns to play director / camera and producing, writing and editing our own assignments of course.

So that, my friends, is why I am so far from home. Of course, it’s not all a simple case of happy learning. I’m half way through writing tomorrow’s assignment. A personal reaction paper to the movie The Blue Lagoon. I’m comparing Brooke Shields’ performance unfavourably to that of the movie’s dolphin trainer and Brooke’s body double, Kathy Troutt (seriously), who according to the boys in my grade 7 class was the true stars, narrowly missing the top spot in that decade’s Tosscar Awards. Kathy lost first place to Bambi Woods. But only just. Now this would all be fine if I were writing it for South Africa’s online audience of drooling morans (their spelling not mine) because I am used to them hating me. But unfortunately, the director of the movie might be grading my paper.

I wonder if it’s possible to get a DD?