Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Disneyland - The Scariest Place on Earth

It's common knowledge that those things that terrified us as a child eventually become the neuroses that plague us as adults.  And one thing that clearly stands out for me as a child was being led into a small dark room, the only exit quickly closing behind me while a scary-sounding man mocked me:

“Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host – your ‘Ghost Host.’

Then the paintings on the walls started growing as the whole room seemed to be growing with it. Or was I shrinking?

“Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmm…?”
It didn't help any that some of the people in the room with me seemed to be tittering, as if this was funny.  Couldn't they see that this was NOT FUNNY.  Something was VERY WRONG HERE!

I wanted out.  Simple as that - mom, get me outta here ok?

“…And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows, and no doors... which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Of course, there's always my way...”

Lights go out.  NO WAY OUT? WHAT!!!?!?

Some people start to scream and then BANG!!!  With a flash of lightning a hanging man is revealed RIGHT ABOVE MY HEAD!!

Pure animal instinct flows through my veins and hits my adrenal glands like molten electricity.
Flight or fight. I choose flight.


I'm told I cannot leave.  It's just make-believe. Get in the moving car and enjoy the ride.

Yeah, right.

Flash-forward a few decades as my family and I visit the Happiest Place on Earth.  I have not been back since that fateful night.  This is also the first time for my two boys, ages 4 and 7.  As an adult I want to re-experience some of the demons that haunted me as a child.  This place is full of them.  I want to see with adult eyes what was so scary to me as a child.  Maybe I can gain some insights into what dark alchemy makes something "scary", and use that in my movies.

Maybe I can sleep better at night.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lost finale in a nutshell

Willy Wonka: So who can I trust to run the factory when I leave and take care of the Oompa Loopa's for me? Not a grown up. A grown up would want to do everything his own way, not mine. So that's why I decided a long time ago that I had to find a child. A very honest, loving child, to whom I could tell all my most precious candy making secrets.
Charlie Bucket: So that's why you sent out the golden tickets!
Willy Wonka: That's right. So the factory is yours, Charlie. You can move in immediately.
Grandpa Joe: And me?
Willy Wonka: Absolutely.
Charlie Bucket: But what happens to the rest...?
Willy Wonka: The whole family. I want you to bring them all.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

R.I.P. Frank Frazetta

I was saddened to hear of the death of the legendary Frank Frazetta this morning.

The Vault of Horror did a nice write-up about his life and legacy.

The amazing Conan paperback covers were my introduction to Frazetta's work - and to a world of larger than life heroes, monsters and oh yeah... those luxuriously captivating women!  I would spend hours falling into those canvases and swimming in those scenes that seemed so real - a doorway into another world. My limited brain could not begin to fathom how a person could dream up, yet alone put on canvas such extraordinary images.

Others like Boris Vallejo and Chris Achillios would follow, but none could touch the blazing talent of the master.  He was a prodigious talent, a huge atlas of a man whose broad shoulders many, many people would stand on to produce much of what we know of the visual language of fantasy, sci-fi, sword & sorcery, and horror.

Frank was an overwhelming influence on me as a young artist and continues to shape the way I view composition, color, and dramatic tension within the image.

He will be tremendously missed, but we are fortunate that his visions will live on forever in the fabric of our daily lives.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Overactive Editor

One of my pet peeves of modern filmmaking is the overabundance of "coverage" shot for a given scene.

Coverage! coverage! coverage! is the rallying cry for too many directors.  If the story of a scene can be covered with one camera angle, then certainly it must be better if it was shot with 4 or 6 or 10!

And of course once all that film has been burned (or more likely, digital media has been filled up), and the expense of all those camera setups and re-lights (not to mention the assistant editor's time to capture and log all those takes) has been added to the budget, the editor sure as hell better use all those shots - whether it suits the story or not.

Thank goodness we have Walter Murch to remind us what's important:

  • An overactive editor, who changes shots too frequently, is like a tour guide who can't stop pointing things out: "And up there we have the Sistine Ceiling, and over here we have the Mona Lisa, and, by the way, look at these floor tiles..." If you are on a tour, you do want the guide to point things out for you, of course, but some of the time you just want to walk around and see what you see.  If the guide - that is to say, the editor - doesn't have the confidence to let people themselves occasionally choose what they want to look at, or to leave things to their imagination, then he is pursuing a goal (complete control) that in the end is self-defeating. People will eventually feel constrained and then resentful from the constant pressure of his hand on the backs of their necks.
Walter Murch,  In The Blink of An Eye

My mantra while editing is that I should always have a reason for making every single cut.  Every time you destroy the fabric of temporal and spatial continuity in a scene to make a cut, you better have a good reason for it.  Just switching to another camera angle because you have one available is not good enough.  Plus, you're giving me a dang headache - so knock it off!

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    The Commune's Elisabeth Fies Interview

    Speaking of courageous independent filmmakers, The Vault of Horror just posted an audio interview with writer/director Elisabeth Fies wherin she brilliantly discusses her horror/thriller The Commune, her take on genre films with a feminist point of view, and the process of indie filmmaking.

    (FULL DISCLOSURE:  I am of course the editor and a producer of The Commune so I have a completely biased opinion of the movie - so there.  However, unbiased opinions can be found here, here, and oh yeah, here.)