Friday, April 15, 2016

Sending Love Around the World




For many years now I've had a link for Jessica Koppe's website in my sidebar, and I kept it there even when she decided to start making her posts entirely in German language. That's because her art speaks the international language - you can 'get it' even if you can't read the words underneath. Visual art crosses the language barrier (which is exactly why I've always loved the European Puppetfilm so much even though often I have no idea what's being said in them!)

What else speaks the international language?

Love, of course!!

And that happens to be the subject of her latest endeavor, an animated film called Liebe (which is German for -  well, I think you already know, right? If not then I've failed miserably!)

Here's the link to her Indiegogo project:  Leibe

Yes, most of the text is in German, as is the video (at least the one I looked at), but she at least listed the perks in English as well, so if you decide to support her you can choose what level you want. I'm assuming that most of my core audience, the ones who go back to when I used to post about the Eastern Euro puppetfilm stuff, aren't overly concerned with needing to read the words, and are primarily visual people like I am. That's why many of us are artists after all, right? Because we have something to say that can't be said in normal everyday speech, or maybe not in words at all.



Jessica, if you see this, I apologize for not making the post sooner - I really wanted to, but suffered a debilitating computer virus that wiped out my internet connection and is still playing havoc with me. I'm only just now starting to be able to get back online, and limping along on this notebook PC that I have a lot of trouble using. Even the simplest things are extremely difficult. But enough complaining!

She explained it to me in an email, but right now I don't have access to my email account, so I'll try to reconstruct this from memory as well as I can. Hope I don't mess it up too much! I believe she said she asked people in her social media network to tell her their most powerful stories about love and what it means to them, and she's taking their responses and turning them into an animated film, I'm assuming in a style like her drawing/painting style. She likes to work on paper, often (always?) on paper that's already been used for something else, so it already has a certain 'lived-in' feel to it. I really enjoy her unusual quirky style and approach.

Let's send some Love across the Atlantic to Jessica, shall we? I for one really want to see the finished film!! I'll definitely be donating to help her complete it. I hope a few of you do as well. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Building much-needed bookcases

For way too long, this is what my 'library' has looked like. Sad haphazard stacks of books languishing forlorn in a corner of a basement room designated for 'storage' (meaning unrestrained chaos that's essentially the same as the day I moved in this house!) It looked a lot worse than this when I first got started - I moved 4 or 5 huge boxes out of the middle of the floor before taking this picture, to clear the arena for what I'm about to do..

These 3 heavy boxes contain the bookcases that I finally broke down and decided to buy yesterday. I never did buy any before because - well, whenever I look on Amazon all I see are particleboard or pressed paper atrocities with fake wood veneer.  I've got a few of those - I already know if you try to put hardback books on them the shelves will sag in the middle.

I had concocted a far-flung notion to build some modular bookcases that would interlock together but come moving time can be picked up and used as crates, just big enough so they won't be too heavy to carry even fully loaded. Yesterday I decided to get serious and just do it - I started sketching up the design and measuring and realized how freaking difficult it was going to be, and finally decided it was worth it to shell out for some solid wooden (not particleboard!) shelves. Sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet and pay for quality - after all, this is a lifetime investment. My books deserve a decent home!! So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

Under construction..

First one done!!

Wow, looking a lot better already!! 

I realized I could use the top surface as another shelf..

Took a quick trip out to Hobby Lobby - it had moved to just across the street from the old location, in a mega-gigantic shopping center - I had to drive around for like 10 minutes to find it! The only halfway decent set of bookends they had was this one with a split dachshund, who's tail had been broken off and glued back on rather poorly, but as a result it was reduced from $48 to $7. 

I've got the second bookcase built - but more pics at this point would be redundant. I might upload some more when I get the room cleaned up and the other shelves done and filled. It really feels good to bring some structure to the chaos. Especially some nice solid birch structure! These things are super strong - made for use in children's classrooms, where they're expected to get climbed on like a jungle gym. 


Monday, December 14, 2015

Bruce Bickford's Cas'l is finally released on DVD + some musings

I've been waiting and dreaming of this for so long I had given up hope and completely forgotten about it, but I just checked out of the blue and it is here at last!!!


Here's a very old video - I haven't been able to find a recent trailer or anything:



This clip is interlaced - I'm sure for the DVD release it's got the deluxe treatment.

Here's the ordering page on his website: Cas'l DVD

I tried to order the special edition from eBay but nothing was found there. Only 100 copies were released, so I guess they're already sold out.

I posted about this on StopMotionAnimation.com and made some observations about Bruce and his work - a subject I've long been fascinated with. I'll collect those posts here along with the video clips I linked there:


* * *

He tends heavily toward mythology. I happened to be reading Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth last night and he says just about every culture developed myths in which characters are killed and dissolve into the ground, only to spring forth in different forms - usually as vegetation. These are the myths of people who had recently switched from hunting to agriculture, so now their lives depend on the fecundity of the soil. Bickford's stuff is filled with that, plus characters devouring other characters and mutating into new forms. Heavily archetypal/mythological/psychological stuff. That's why it doesn't follow typical story form - it's more like dream logic.

Bruce is looking like a holy man/ visionary these days:





I noticed another odd convergence between Bickford's work and mythology. He likes to mix up different scales - little puppets beside big ones etc. In Monster Road he's sitting in front of a big window that looks out over a vast expanse of landscape and he says he used to dream of walking "out there" and finding that the houses are really as tiny as they look, and he's like a giant.

Joseph Campbell also talked about the differences between the mythology of forest people versus plains people - the forest people never see the open sky or a horizon line, or anything at a great distance, if they would step out onto the plain they'd think distant things are actually as small as they look and much closer than they really are. Weird that I happen to be reading this just now.

Bickford also seems to be obsessed with growing and shrinking characters and objects - very Alice in Wonderland.



Not only does he look like our idea of a visionary, but he does seem to have access to a glimpse of the primordial forces inside human nature, though as is so often true in mythology his visions are tragic because of some terrible price a visionary always has to pay for that power (like Odin losing an eye to drink from Mimir's well and then only being able to forsee the deaths of all the gods).

I think the reason I'm tuned in to Bruce is because I'm always interested in psychology and especially the subconscious. Mythology is practically a map of the human psyche, since it represents stories and rituals from pre-scientific times that reveal how we thought about nature and our place in it, how we warded off things that frightened us and the various ways in which we put a human face on the mysterious universe - the abyss looking back into us. This is why Freud and Jung made most of their insights by studying mythology. And Bruce seems to exist at a primitive, subconscious level in many ways, mostly because of his complexes and what he refers to as 'dyslexia' that makes it hard for him to differentiate between the 'macrocosm and the microcosm'. Lol well and also all the drugs he did in the 60's!

There are several more new Bickford clips online (new since a few years ago when I last checked) - Monster Road and Prometheus' Garden are up in their entirety now. Not legal I'm sure, but if people can finally see the films some might decide to buy the DVDs and support Bruce.

There are also a couple of clips of him giving talks. Interesting to hear him say he wished his animation was more coherent and had more of a story to it. At one point he said it's like looking into a washing machine, just everything moving all at once, and seeing it makes him feel nervous. He said when he animates he's not worried about story, he just wants to get something on film. This confirms my suspicions that his animation is done compulsively, as a warding-off. I feel like I'm getting to know him on some level now. I notice he sometimes uses phrases his dad used in Monster Road, and that the countless newspaper and magazine pictures George had taped up all over the walls in his house seem to be the material Bruce uses in his films - 20th century American cultural icons and pop culture references.

Historically there's always been a link between madness and prophecy or holiness, because madness opens up the unconscious and brings forth the archetypal forces that normally lie dormant until we're undergoing some important transition or crisis. The disturbed mind constantly sees those nightmarish visions that are locked away most of the time for the rest of us. And psychedelic drugs also open up the consciousness for those who are tuned in to the deep insights. Thinking of it this way it's easy to see why prophecy is always associated with madness and tragedy - they seem to be the price of profound insight into the psyche.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

My new film analysis blog has dropped

I've finally gone public with it. It was created to contain my Black Swan analysis, which has been in the works for some time. It's actually not fully finished yet (the Black Swan analysis), but then each time I think it is I end up discovering new stuff that requires further investigation and more writing, so I decided to go ahead and post it - it'll be a work in progress for some time now.

The latest post is a quick stream-of-consciousness writeup on the character web in Marvel's Jessica Jones, the new Netflix series. Turns out it's all built around abuse and trauma, and examines it in many ways, which for me makes it a  very intriguing show. I love when a work of fiction is built around some theme or idea, and I tend toward the more psychological ones, so this is right up my alley. I also am strongly interested in character driven drama, and JJ is an excellent example of that as well.

So, if you're interested in that sort of thing, pop on by and check it out!!

Oh hey - maybe I should post a link!

CinemAnalysis

Monday, November 16, 2015

Filmmaking System

Note - it should be obvious, but everything I write in these Filmmaking System posts is specifically about my situation and my cameras. It's not meant to be general advice for anyone who's trying to learn filmmaking, although I'm sure some of it will apply fairly universally.


  • Keep the Leatherman on your belt with the big flat screwdriver open all the time - unless you have a quarter in your pocket to tighten and loosen screws on quick release plates and swivel heads etc. 
  • If you're using a microphone mounted on the camera, turn it around when you're standing behind the camera and talking.
  • Record some room ambience to plug in to shots that need it.
  • A monopod makes a pretty serviceable steadicam if you attach something heavy like a superclamp to the bottom of it. 
  • replace room lights with daylight balanced bulbs - then it will match daylight coming in through windows and make white balancing much easier, plus lamps won't have a weird yellow or red color in the finished film.
  • If you do a custom white balance each time you move into new lighting situations (sun disappears, different room or whatever) then it makes it almost unnecessary to color correct later, saving loads of time on tweaking and rendering.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Filmmaking System WARNING: (If your battery dies)

  • If your battery dies (makes a quiet sound like a truck backing up somewhere in the middle distance) remove the memory card and download it to the computer!! Otherwise when you put in a new battery it acts just like popping the battery out and replacing it (covered in an earlier entry about the screen warning Cannot Record - File Number Exceeded) - it erases the card!!! Though strangely, if there are any leftover clips that were already logged and transferred (in other words if you forgot to format the card when you put it back in) those won't be erased. Weird, aint it? The ones you don't need anymore are protected for some reason, but the ones you do need get wiped out.  


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Filmmaking System part 3 - more notes from experience


  1. Record each take separately, don't get long clips that need to be cut up later. This way you don't forget to focus for each new setup, and you don't feel rushed while doing new setups because the camera is still recording.
  2. Use AF Single, not AF Continual. In Single it focuses instantly and beeps, in Continual it shifts back and forth and never quite finds focus or beeps and you can't depend on it to focus during filming. 
  3. If you're going to be starting a shot with an 'empty stage' and moving something into frame, place it where it needs to end up, focus on it, then move it out of shot and start filming.
  4. Best to use infinity focus for most shots, except when you want a shallow depth of field for special impact. If you're a one man crew this saves a lot of headaches. 
  5. When the screen says "Cannot Record - File Limit Exceeded" it really means it - you can override the warning by popping the battery out and back in, but that erases the card and all previous shots are lost forever. 
  6. If you move into a new location with different lighting, re-set white balance. The Color Checker card's white rectangle is big enough to use for setting a custom white balance, which is necessary if you have a mix of daylight and indoor lighting.
  7. Switch off phones when shooting or they will start ringing and ruin your best shot. Maybe hang a "Filming in progress, please don't disturb" sign on the door, but I doubt it would stop anyone from knocking anyway.
  8. Only have your current project open in Final Cut or whatever footage you log and transfer will end up in the wrong one and you'll need to copy/paste it in.
  9. Find an interesting and quick way to do things - don't record a lot of bland footage of ordinary stuff nobody wants to see. It needs to catch the eye and fascinate, like a magic trick.
  10. Do more with less. Stage in depth (Citizen Kane style, but I don't need deep focus, I sorta dig the shallow focus). This way you can show several things in the same frame, rather than having to cut together different clips. Reduces camera setups and editing. 

Concerning cooking shots:

  • Trying to move the camera around to get a montage, you're either going to end up with a good meal or a good shot - pretty hard to get both. Especially if you have multiple burners going at once. 
  • You can concentrate more on the cooking if you get the whole thing in one wide shot. Using 2 cameras can allow for some cutting back and forth between A and B rolls.