maandag 2 september 2013

PRAGUE-ticing Film making (pt2)

I copied this "old note" from a website I'll delete soon, but I don't want to get it lost...
it is about my time in Prague :)

Back to the Past -  19th of October 2012

Dear friends,

it is almost a month ago that I wrote something about my adventures and stories in Prague, so finally I found the time to write a very long update of the last month. First, I take you back to Chile… 

In the footsteps of Neruda

In March 2012 I visited the house of the famous poet Pablo Neruda in Valparaiso. This Chilean politician had different houses, which are all eclectic pearls who are even breathtaking as his poems. This Nobel prize winner collected everything what touched his heart. In his house in Valparaiso, I admired his colored bottles, prayer flags, pop-art paintings, world maps and renaissance statues. After this visit I wandered alone in this city of colors, and witnessed how a street clown on the crossroads played with cars, passengers and the audience, and this audience were hunderds of Chileans. He let us laugh, applaude and even utter a cry of concern. I was back amazed -you can always become again and again amazed about the same things- how a artist, a play, a dreamer, a philosopher… can change the consciousness of many people. There are different ways; you can become a politician, or a economist, or a scientist… but art is more honest. 

I still remember that I gazed for a long time to a poem written by an unknown street artist, in Calle Garibaldi, and smiled. I wrote the text in my notebook, to remember, and to read again, to remember the art and the creativity of Valparaiso, which was also the town where I wrote that whole statement about traveling, as a lifestyle, not as an escape, because traveling has also many challenges and problems to face.  

El artiste de la calle me invita a reir a carcajadas de colores
con marionetas y caras pintadas a ver la vida.
paseando en troles mientras los ninos 
vuelan en sus volantines
en un subir y bajar de asunsores
me pierdo entre mil escaleras
buscanda el mar de mis emociones
sobre la paz y la libertad
mi trit arna
hoy escribe canciones a valparaiso de mis amores
mi amor quiseria brindarte honores
con trazos y pincelados 
pintar poeticas composiones
finsera yo simplemente artiste de la calle 
para plebeyos y senores.

Google translate this text, if you don’t understand it. Six months later I was walking with Parn, my Thai Roommate, in the Nerudova street, up to the St Vitus cathedral. 

Walking in Prague, with my (new ex-) roommate Parn, September '12
We listened to the music of Prague, in all his sounds and colors, took photographs to capture the memories of this city, before it fades away. I take also more and more films, because a video says more than a picture, if you want to memorize the authentic atmosphere of a city. Parn and I observed the crazy Czech guy who imitates Indian dances on the big square. When I ask his name, the only word he can say is "wodka".

On the top of the hill of Hradcrany, Parn and I watched Prague, our home, for the next months, and she remarked that Prague is too beautiful, because it seems unreal that this kind of cities exist. Established as a trading centre for amber and salt at a ford on the Vltava around five thousand years ago, the city of Prague developed out of six independent districts which were unified in the eighteenth century; Stare Mesto (Old Town), Josefov (Jewish Quarter), Nove Mesto (New Town), Mala Strana (Lesser Town), Hradcany (Prague Castle) and Vysehrad (High Castle).

Two weeks later, I did almost the same walk with Jenda and Ola, my friends from EGEA, who made a stop in Prague for a day, and Jenda, my Czech friend, told me about the Nerudova street, pointed me to all the signals of the houses, as the two suns where Neruda lived. Later I read more about Jan Neruda: he was a writer in the 19th century whose tales of the Little Quarter (close to Hradcany) immortalized the bohemian lifestyle of the area. In the same street, Mozart and Cassanova attented balls. This streets make me long to the time of costumes, balls and operas, which is weird, because how can you be nostalgic about a time you never experienced? Later I heard that Pablo Neruda changed his surname after Neruda from Prague, and also have been walking in the same streets as I. 

This is not the story about Prague, or the story about film, books, poetry or other art, or
the story about bohemian lifestyles, this is just another story, next to a story of Jan Neruda and Pablo Neruda about Prague, bohemian culture and art. This is my version.

A) Lost in Translation - Screenwriting
Today the third project started, which is the first important one, because we had to write our own script. The assignment is to make a movie of 4 minutes, with maximum 12 lines. 
I had different ideas. When I walked alone at Wenceslas Square, I noticed all the black guys who are standing, waiting for tourists, to sell drugs… or to have a talk. I don’t know. I wanted to make a four minute movie about them… and then changed… and changed… and changed… I was never very sure what I wanted to write. As a teacher said, making a feature film of 1,5 hour is more easier than one of 4 minutes, because the time limits you to make a clear story. Two weeks ago, I wrote 2 pages about a groom in a forest, suffering cold feet. In this forest, his grandfather died some weeks, months… ago. When his grandfather died, his visions about the future died, because he also had the visions that his grandfather should teach him to drive a car, would attend his wedding… 
In that forest, which is kind of a dream, a memory, a metaphor… his grandfather will say him farewell, on the way he wished, namely they decorate together a tree with symbols of the time, cfr decorating christmas trees, then he leaves her, goes to his bride, who is dancing and wrapping ribbons around a tree, gives her the wedding ring, lifts up her veil -which symbolizes the uncertainity of the future- and kisses her, surrenders to the future. It is a really personal story, because all the persons who know me very well, know that my grandfather died in a forest, when he was felling a tree. It is a contribution for him. I think that he deserves to be the story of my first short film. 

 B) Actor Spotting - Casting
Actors need objectives. Note that down if you want to become a director. An objective is not an adjective, but a verb. Ask them to challenge, to seduce, to scare, to hate… but do not ask them to be nice, to be more angry, to say that on a different tone… 
On my first Friday, Nancy Bishop - an American lady who makes me proud that I am a student of her school, and who was the casting director of moves as… Mission Impossible IV, Wanted, the Illusionist, Narnia: Prince Caspian, - gaves us a lecture about casting actors. After these lecture different actors from the school and from the community could show their skills. The two scenes were very short, and not really from a high standard.
What’s up?
What’s up?
Don’t play games with me. 
We had an agreement.
I was going to hear the other students repeating these lines in the next weeks. We heard these dialogues at least 40 times. My favorites were the actors who pretended to be hamsters. Do not ask me to describe that. Everyone was watching them with an open mond. Literal. I am not exaggerating. After these casting workshop the school treates us un free drinks and snacks. I met there an amazing old American actress. My mouth felt for the second time open, and my eyes sparkled, when she gave her imitation of the zombie grandmother. She added that she hopes to play once a vampire, or an evil babysitter. 
Yesterday, I met Maggie again in a bar in Prague, because I casted her to play the grandmother in my third project. In the database, there were none actors who could replace my grandfather, and for the symmetry and to make it easier, I changed the grandfather in a grandmother… but it is still a story about my grandfather. We talked about her father, who teacher her a lot about nature and forestry, and never studied, because he had no money, and I told about my grandfather, who had a lot in common with her father, and she told me why she loves to be in Prague: they let you be here everyone, and that is true. When I walk in Prague, even in my school, I see and meet so many interesting and eccentric characters. Prague is the perfect place for a casting. 

 C) Delegating and coordinating - Directing
Manchester from South-Africa learnt me these two words in the second weeks. She wants to become a director. In the school, you’re the director of your own project, and the director is the most important person on the set… or almost. In the real world, the director has to listen to the writer (certainly for a television series; the writer can have the last word, in a film it is different), the producers with the money… and also take care that the actors will do what he want, but also has to listen to them. I think that a director needs a lot of management skills, certainly in HR, because he or she is the central figure, who works with different departments very tightly; and is the person who has to place the right person on the right place on the right time. I like directing; it combines the creativity and organisation skills. 

 D) Swimming in the The Moldau - Intermezzo
Besides film, writing… I am also having great time to explore the Moldau, the night life, the coffee bars and tea houses, meet amazing people, have amazing conversations with my roommates Lily and Parn, hang out with Czech people…  I had already visitors from EGEA… and yes, also my parents were here for some days, and brought me some Belgian souvenirs. Some friends of the film school and I went even swimming in the Moldau… when it was raining. 
Why not?
These are two words I hear a lot in this school and environment. 

Memories about Prague and great people I met there, October '12
 E) Boys and their Toys - Cinematography
I’ve to be honest. In the beginning I frowned my eyebrows a lot when the Czech teacher and all the boys in my class were talking about all the different lenses, brands of cameras… Cinematography and lightning is in the film world also a place for men… When more days passed, I have to admit that I became more and more interested and enthusiastic, and try to show that also woman can do this work (yes, this is the feminist in me, I guess :) ). In the first week white balance, color temperature, the use of a 24mm lens, key lights, fill lights, exposure… was really in the  blue, cold zone of my mind. I was maybe also a bit too shy to ask questions, until the teacher confronted me, and then I had to leave my comfortzone. I think that was one of the most crucial moments, and I am very grateful the teacher confronted me. He gave me some private classes, so I could catch up, and since then color temperature is no problem for me. He is one of my favorite Czech persons :)
During the last weeks, in fact, I became more and more one of the “boys and their toys”, and the color temperature of my feelings for cinematography is now 5400 K. I have to learn the most about cinematography, because this is maybe the most creative area. And I’ve to start to train my shoulder and arm muscles; the camera is not that heavy, but all the steady cams and other equipment to film steady, without a tripod, makes the work heavy.

 F) Sex, Lies and Videotape - Editing
After filming (in fact, the set-ups requires more time than the real filming, the world of film is more a world of waiting than you can imagine) 4 hours, I needed 10 hours to make a… dialogue scene of… 2 minutes. A dialogue is something different, because it is dynamic. The rule in editing is that how more dynamic you want to have the scenes, how more cuts you have. A cut is where you take footage of one shot. Every shot, which can exists of more takes (=attemps), is in fact a set-up of the camera, and the light, where you don’t change the angle. There are rules that you do not zoom, unless you are Kubrick.  It is important that you always change the angle. You can not shoot a situation, come closer with the camera, and film the same scene from the same footage. For every shoot, you need another angle. For my scene of “loves of a blonde” I had one close-up of hands, one close-up of actress A, one close-up of actress B, one close-up/medium shot of the guitar part of the scene, one close-up/medium shot of the kiss, another wide/medium shot of the whole scene, and one establishing wide shot. The actors repeat the scene sometimes 20 times, but it is up to the editor to give the audience the feeling that the scene only happened once. Working in the film world let you realize how fake this all is. 
During the editing, there is one big problem: continuity. After one line, an actress is maybe playing with her hair in one shoot, but not in the other shoot… so, you cannot use this shoot, and have to find a solution: either you use the other shoot longer, or you look in the other materials, where the continuity is respected. Normally it is the job of the script supervisor and the actors during the production to control that the actors do everything on the right moment, that everything is on the right moment…
I was the script supervisor for a scene from “Sex, Lies and Videotape,” where the actor has also to dress himself, so every time we started over, I was standing next to him, undressing him (haha), and taking care that all the clothes were on the right place. I had to check that the blancket and the T-shirt of the actress lie on the right place… etc. I still made a lot of mistakes, but honestly... you learn the most from your mistakes...  certainly in this environment. 

Fo my own scene, I had not that many problems in editing. My result was fine, according to the teacher. I’ve to learn more tools, effects… and more rules… but… I like editing very much. After the deadline, we saw the work of other classmates… I know some lines of Sex, Lies and Videotape, American Beauty, High Fidelity and Loves of a Blonde out of my head. All the students became freaks who sometimes starts to quote lines from this scenes, out of the blue… 

G) Harry Potter and the Computer graphics
During this class, we learn how to replace the blue or green screen in the background of our actors by Las Vegas, Antarctica and other places you want. The idea is very simple, but there is a big gap between the idea and the realisation. Sometimes it is very easy to replace the green screen, in some minutes, but some stuff requires more time. We also learn how to track images, learn rotoscope… and all other stuff which is necessary, but asks more time than you think. One of the most hated sentences is "we'll fix it in post"... it is not true. 

I conclude this chapter about an anekdote we heard in the documentary we watched about the magical effects in the Harry Potter series: 

"Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now: students. If they can do it, why not us?"
—Harry's speech to the D.A

I've a long way to go... to reach my goals in (Film)Wonderland, but every journey has a beginning we all have to face ;)

Bohemian hugs,


ps At the moment:
Favorite movie:  “The Seventh Seal” by Bergman, where a Swedish knight plays chess against the Death
favorite coffee bar:  Mama Coffee 
favorite teahouse: Daruma, in Na Morani
favorite Czech dish: bread dumplings 
favorite place in Prague: Charles Bridge at midnight, when it is full moon; the big gate tower and the dramatic  statues look spooky; you expect that a ghost coachman and his ghost horses will appear

ps2 my schedule for the next weeks... 
21-22 October: I will act for someone's short movie
24th of October: the shooting of my short movie in the forest, with a RED camera (next time I'll give more information)

Back to the future: here are already pictures from the set... -  24th of October '12

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