October 14, 2004

Untangling the Images: Cornell Film, Part 2

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Two weeks ago, DAZE began following the four members of the Intermediate level filmmaking class. At that point, all four had already broken into the processes of selecting film stocks, choosing cameras, crew selection, auditions, and continual revisions of their scripts. So naturally, a lot has changed since then.

Pam Su spent Fall Break filming the live action sequences of her film. But it wasn’t without difficulty. Using a sync-sound camera, the DAT recorder broke, thus disabling the sound function. To compensate, Pam employed a DV camera to record sound while she filmed. Of course, she’s awaiting to receive the film back from the processing lab for the results. Also Amir Noorani’s director of photography, Amir and Pam have begun to lay out a shooting schedule. Since Amir is seeking funding for his project, he is in the process of creating a budget to present to the Financial Aid office. Both Brad Wilson and Pietre Valbuena will be beginning shooting this weekend at locations around Ithaca.

Though it seems distant, the screening date of December 12 looms ahead. What we see then will likely be somehow reflective of the works already screened by these students. Last spring, Pietre, Amir, Brad, and Pam all presented films shown in the screening for the Introductory level course. Each was distinctive in its style and approach. Pam’s two entries were visually arresting tone poems. “Subway,” a short film, used both Photoshop and Flash programs to animate live action video like that seen in Waking Life. “On Climbing to the Terrace of the Phoenix” served as a meditation in the visual style of Leighton Pierce on the rituals of Buddhist monks at the Chuang Yien monastery in Ithaca. Brad’s two entries, “Rejected Applicants to the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters” and “Penny: A Musical” were irreverent, raucous romps that included girls turning into plants (“Rejected Applicants”), underwater duets (“Penny”), and dead Trekies (“Penny”). Pietre’s two entries, “Mono No Aware” and “Was Tut Dir Weh” were stark, at times violent sequences of imagery, highly personal in their approach and subject. Amir’s entry, “Alone,” tracked the self-destructive thoughts of an anonymous male in his walk up Ho Plaza on a cold, empty day.

In Their Own Words…

Brad Wilson

My film is progressing well, and I’m in rehearsal for several crucial scenes which I’ll be shooting over the next few consecutive weekends. Hopefully, weather will be good enough to allow for some cinematic killin’. Meanwhile, I’m balancing my shooting schedule with my rehearsal schedule for Risley Theatre’s production of Oedipus, in which I’m playing Oedipus. This Saturday, I’ll be shooting the scene where a group of Wiccans forces my main character to eat a squirrel head, and so I’ve been busy in my Frankenstinean workshop, turning a cute stuffed animal into a sinister decapitated squirrel. Ah, the magic of the movies.

Pietre Valbuena

About my 377 film: was tut dir weh? Although fictionalized, this was quite the personal project for me, a film about disconnection and my own amorality. It was inspired by someone who had a profound effect on my life, someone both brilliant and mercurial. She showed me the sad, true composition of my character, and for that I am forever in her debt and forever grateful. I shot it all on DV, composed and performed all of the music, and did the drawings for the dream sequence/flashback which appears toward the film’s finale. And it was because of my personal stake in the film that the project proved so emotionally draining. In my 377 film I was able to make use of my strengths, which lie not in screenwriting but instead in the visual: shot composition, camera movement, blocking, staging and editing. I have some measure of skill in storytelling with pencil, pen and ink, so my eye/feel for that carried over into filmmaking.

About the new movie: my last film was so personal and so important to me. I wish it rather than my new project got this kind of press. I have less personal stake in this new film and so I had no passion for the project. That more than anything else was providing the greatest challenge. I have all parts cast but one — I still need an 30-50 y/o Asian man to play a character’s father. If worse comes to worse, I’m going to ask my father to play the part, so I have that covered at least. I’m getting hyped up for the new project in part because I’ve more thoroughly visualized it and am now more interested in committing it to the screen. I intended to shoot most or all of the movie on film, but I am now shooting the majority of it on DV — the 24 frame camera — due to cost constraints, time constraints and my own impatience. I am set to begin shooting this weekend.

Amir Noorani

Frustration: the one word that probably resonates among all filmmakers, regardless of background. Though, up until now, production had been moving along as scheduled, I myself have run into more than a few problems. I still cannot find an Indian or Pakistani adult willing to play the roles of Mother and Father in my film, and while the call backs I held on October 2nd went well and I was able to find my lead actress Sonal Jagasia, I also just found out that the Resident Performing Teaching Assistant (RPTA) I had slated to star along side Sonal can no longer perform due to a medical emergency.

If there is one thing I have learned so far, it’s that you always need to expect the unexpected and be prepared for disappointment and failure. With that being said, I should still be able to finish the film on time if all other things fall into place. I am still lacking permission on several locations that I had in mind, however, once that occurs and I am able to replace my lead male and find two willing South Asian adults to play mother and father, I should be ready to begin production.

Despite all these obvious setbacks I am still very excited about production of the film and Pam and I can’t wait to get started. It will be a nice change to move from the administrative details of the film, i.e auditions, call-backs, location scouting, scheduling, budgeting, etc and move on to the actual production aspects of the film. Response to the film has been tremendous so far, so I am expecting quite a large crew which should help with a lot of the detail work of production. Hopefully with a little luck everything will fall into place and I will find the rest of my cast and hopefully secure all the perfect locations, until then, you might see me on campus with a few graying hairs.

Archived article by Zach Jones
Arts & Entertainment Editor