Jan 29, 2010

4907 Teaser

Kieran and I recently finished a film titled "4907". Here's a teaser clip from the film...

The Unsung Heroes of Film-making

I found this interesting article on Screen Daily titled "Producers who actually produce" and I am reminded of how film producers are one of the major unsung heroes of the film-making business.

During my last semester at film school, I learned how difficult it was to coordinate strong, individual minded people to create a film that everyone (including myself) would be happy with. At the very end of this first-time run as a producer, I found myself feeling quite proud of what I'd achieved and what I was capable of doing, although I honestly wasn't happy about the final product.

However, at the end of the day, I found that I was the only one patting myself on the back for the effort I thought I never had, but found for this project, in order to produce the film. When I look back on all the times I had to make quick decisions to meet deadlines, I'm reminded of all the times when I would receive such dirty looks or hear others begin to mock my efforts. No one looks at a film and thinks about how the producer's work - it always seems to be how creative the cinematographer is, and how fancy the costumes look. It really is a difficult job. Nevertheless, it's one that I honestly enjoy.

After reading this article, I can now add this issue of "where are the producers who actually produce" into the list of downsides of being a producer. Another thing is that the producers are often overlooked in today's culture - it's often the director who is the film's representative, yet all they do is 'direct' the film's creative vision while the producer is busy maintaining the budget, keeping the cast and crew happy, licking floors for favours from external companies and organisations, and everything else behind the actual making of a film.

Till then, I might just have to grow a pair of balls to succeed and feel good about myself in this industry as an aspiring producer. I might.

Jan 28, 2010

Bueller? Anyone?

I recently watched John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off and found it even better of a classic than The Breakfast Club. Hughes seems to have this great ability to create memorable characters in such simple, yet colourfully written situations. Great direction. Great cast. Great music. Great, great film.

A scene from the film. I promise it won't spoil anything.

Jan 27, 2010

Man With A Harmonica

Best original score for a film I have ever heard, next to John Williams' Star Wars. Yeah, I'm that kind of a geek.

Once Upon A Time In The West

A couple of days ago, I went to Chauvel Cinema in Paddington to watch one of Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western films, Once Upon A Time In The West with Kieran. Fortunately for me, my first ever screening of a Leone film was in a large theatre, of a restored 35mm film print. The experience was out of this world.

Initially I was prepared for another one of those boring old films, which go on for at least one hour too long for my fragile attention span. Kieran had been telling me about how Leone films were known to be "long and draggy" to the average viewer. Afterwards, I hoped so much for the night's screening to prove my doubtful self wrong.

And so it did. Leone's meticulous filmmaking created this stunning, epic western film. One that I really, really enjoyed. After the film's 15-minute opening of the most beautifully composed sound design, I knew I was going to enjoy this. It said everything about Leone's filmmaking style - methodical, European. The excellent sound design continues throughout the film, layered with Ennio Morricone's amazing music composition. I was sold when Charles Bronson's character began to play that hauntingly beautiful track - titled "Man With A Harmonica".

I think what makes Leone's characterisations so fantastic is his clever use of Morricone's music throughout the film, played as theme songs for his characters in different situations, and at times, in different tempos. Also, combined with features of meta, such tracks become so memorable, it simply works for the film.

Leone's vision is captivating in this film. I absolutely loved the dueling eyes of Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson captured in the power of the extreme close-up shots that filled the camera's wide frame - what tension! I just loved the confrontation's impact on me in the theatre. The cinematography of the film came across as formalist, which I understand - prior to the screening, Kieran had told me a story about how Leone was so precise with his direction that he was literally mathematical about everything.

Otherwise, there was nothing about this film that I didn't disagree with. The dialogue was a bit weird, and at times Claudia Cardinale seemed dubbed, but everything else about the film worked for me.

A great western film overall. The next on my 'Sergio Leone must watch list' will be the three films prior to this - A Fistful of Dollars, For A Few More Dollars and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

I just can't rate this any less than 10/10.

Jan 24, 2010

Where The Wild Things Are

The story. Max is a disobedient, rebellious boy who is clearly unhappy with being a kid. He yearns for the attention of his older sister, and mother, but it seems as if no one understands him. After throwing a tantrum in front of his mother, he runs away into the night and finds himself sailing away into the unknown abyss of the wild - into the wild of his own imagination, where he meets these strange creatures, the Wild Things. He soon learns that life where the wild things are is not as easy as it seems.

What worked for me was Spike Jonze's ability to create this other world outside of Max's reality where his home and family live, and one so believable that I had completely forgotten the circumstances of how Max ended up where the Wild Things are, and felt like I was right there with him. However, what didn't work for me was the film lacked the ability to absorb me into the experience of it all. Yes, I remember building forts and bedsheet tents; I remember having rubberband fights (my equivalent of snowballs) with my friends - but for some reason, I just couldn't fully experience Max's journey.

Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are is clearly not a film for children. The themes expressed in this film are adult. I feel like one of this film's inner themes is the exploration into a child's self-reflection. With the excellent cinematography direction of Lance Acord (who was also Director of Photography on Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette and Lost In Translation, both of which I really love), the barren landscapes and wide expanses of this world in Max's imagination works as the inner depths of Max's mind, with the Wild Things being embodiments of his emotions. There is a sense of loneliness in the environment, lived in by creatures that are not only emotionally unpredictable like how Max is presented to us at the beginning, but physically, they look unhappy. In this world, Max promises to bring happiness to all, but soon realises that his relationships with these wild things are more complicated than it seems. It is in these relationships with the embodiments of himself that he learns.

As a whole, the film does really well as one about what it's like to be a child (so excellently performed by Max Records), and a journey of self-reflection for a boy who clearly has issues with being a kid. I was really taken away by Max Records performance and felt that he did a really ace job at making the part of Max 110% believable, although I didn't feel as connected to his experiences while he was with the Wild Things (this may be my only disappointment with the film). I have to give props to the voices of the Wild Things - James Gandolfini, Chris Cooper, Catherine O'Hara, Forest Whitaker, Lauren Ambrose and Paul Dano. Also, the music written and performed by Karen Orzolek (known on the credits as Karen O and the Kids), lead singer of Yeah Yeah Yeahs was fantastic in capturing what it's like to be a child, and what it's like to be 'a wild thing'.

After seeing this, I plan to see more of Spike Jonze's films as I don't think I've seen any in full. Throughout the screening I felt a resemblance with Michel Gondry's dream-like style, so hopefully there is more to like about Jonze's work.

I rate this 8/10.

Jan 22, 2010

Writhing from Writing

It's now that time of the year when everyone is rifling through course handbooks looking for their preferred subjects for the semester, and enrolling before all the places are taken. Some will follow on to complete their majors, and some will pick up something completely new for a fresh start.

For me, however, in my final semester of this course, I have to force myself into other subjects in order to avoid the notoriously critical course, Script Editing. I had my first taste of it last semester when I had to do a compulsory workshop for script writing. I wrote a piece about a middle-aged, married and retired man who is faced with the unfortunate death of a love affair. He revisits past memories prior to the funeral and reflects on his relationships between himself and the affair, himself and his wife.

In all honesty, I don't really know why I came about to writing a story about a man who is in his mid-life crisis, with a wife who he has been married to for 20 years, and who has a love affair with another younger woman during his marriage. All of these ideas were spawned from nothing but books that I have read, movies that I have watched, and who knows what else. The fact is, I promised myself after leaving school that I would never write stories about situations I have never experienced myself, and it was for a very logical reason. Yet, I did here.

How can one write about something they have never experienced before?

I guess the primary answer to that would be to research your subjects well. In my case, or in any other high schooler's point of view, this could be deemed pointless. Unlike professional writers who actually spend countless time and energy on a story and who research their subject's every nook and cranny, it isn't something I can afford to do when I want to write about a character who is of the opposite sex, lives in a mid-life crisis and is both married and unfaithful.

Nevertheless, I thought just for the sake of this course, I would drop all my beliefs and go with whatever I felt like writing about. And what a mistake that was. On some days, I would walk into class and the script's draft would be received well with some positive and hopeful remarks. On other days, I would walk into class (mind you, with a script that has been edited to suit the last given advice) and the script would not receive more than comments such as "That's unrealistic" and "It's not believable."

I was so discouraged after writing about how the wife respected her husband's privacy, and was told by the tutor that in any shared household, if there is unopened mail regardless of who it is addressed to, it will be opened by either parties. In my household, however, that doesn't happen. I had to argue my point with the entire classroom including the teacher. I wasn't basing the wife on them. I was basing her respect for her husband's mail on myself. They unfortunately failed to understand and accept that.

I guess that makes me a coward. I've had some bad records with my written work and have grown into a shy creative with ideas I believe in but think that no one will ever understand in a million years. Yes, I am completely aware that I am in the industry where ideas are gold, and no matter how ridiculous or babble-like they are, they are always worth something. Sure, but that will never get me back into script writing, or script editing for another six months of my life.

Back from the above's extended tangent, I decided to go with the editing side of things, over script editing, cinematography, production design and documentary. I decided to go with the After Effects and Pro Tools courses, both of which I've been advised, would be good for an editing job later on. I thought, yeah, I enjoy sitting infront of the computer all day long tweaking little things, playing with sound, learning about creative editing programs. In other words, I looked for many logical reasons to avoid confronting script editing again. On top of those two editing courses, I elected a Directing course as well. Hopefully with a line-up of subjects like this, the semester will bring me much enlightenment. Surprising enlightenment.

Perhaps from reading this entry, you may (or may not, and if so, thank you) understand why I have written such a horrible review on Jason Reitman's Up In The Air, or my other blog entries in general. I'm a harsh self-critic, but it's nothing I haven't heard before so I manage to carry on with entries like these for you to read. So may this be a note to you: please excuse my horribad writing style. I'm awfully embarrassed about it, but I enjoy blogging so much it's in this moment that I don't care.

Jan 21, 2010

Top 5 Films I missed out in 2009 and would like to see in 2010

There were quite a few films that I missed out on seeing last year, and intend on somehow seeing them soon if not now. For me, 2009 was my first foray into Australian cinema. I'd volunteer at as many film festivals as I could to one, gain work experience; two, meet friends; and finally three, to watch free films. Apart from that, I was heavily influenced by my boyfriend (Kieran from now on) to apply for as many freebies and competitions (for free things) as I could - and in doing so, with my compulsion to work for free, I managed to see more films in the theatre last year than I could ever see in my entire lifetime. Note: I'm not old enough to make that last sentence sound as epic as it could potentially be, so calm down.

The majority of those films were Australian - meaning they were either funded completely or partially by an Australian funding body like Screen Australia, or directed and/or produced by an Australian. These days, nobody really knows how to distinguish what makes a film Australian as a lot of local films get distributed or theatrically released by big international companies like Paramount or the BBC (but I won't get into that as it could work as a completely different entry). Anyhow, as the majority of these free films I went to see last year were Australian, I simply didn't have the time (especially with film school taking up most of my time) to watch anything else.

Here is my list of Top 5 Films from 2009 that I would really like to see this year. The idea behind this list is that some of these films either don't have screenings in Sydney any longer, or are in their last week of theatrical release in town.

A Serious Man

This latest film by the Coen Brothers (Burn After Reading, No Country For Old Men) is almost completely washed out of cinemas in Sydney. I'm absolutely gutted I missed this one last year. I've heard many great things about this, including an outstanding performance by theatre actor Michael Stuhlbarg and some very clever filmmaking by the Coen Brothers.

Where The Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze's latest is not your average children's bedtime story. After listening to reviews of this, I still don't understand how it could appeal to parents who want to take their kids to the movies on a Tuesday night. This film seems to me much deeper than that, and I absolutely can't wait to see it.

An Education

A coming of age story about a young teenage girl living in 1960s suburban London, with the prospects of joining the elite at Oxford. She risks throwing away her future when she meets a charming man twice her age, who tempts her into the lifestyle of a full-time female companion. This sounds to me like a modern day story of something from the likes of Jane Austen. Directed by Lone Scherfig and starring the promising new-comer Carey Mulligan, and Peter Sarsgaard.


Yes, I know, how could I have missed this film last year? This Disney-Pixar animated feature is meant to make hearts soar new heights.


I honestly feel dirty with this being in my Top 5 due to what I've heard about this. I think the tagline "When nature turns evil, true terror awaits" says it all in this Lars von Trier horror film. This is supposed to be a whole different experience in itself, and I intend on sitting through this.

Note: obviously there were many more films other than these that were released worldwide in 2009. This list is made of films that had theatrical releases in Australia.

Jan 20, 2010

Up In The Air

I initially thought this film would be nothing more than your average rated summer film that has managed to squeeze it's way into the Golden Globes nominated Best Motion Picture Drama category (where heavyweights Avatar and Inglourious Basterds reign). But when I am forced obliged to spend the afternoon out (while I wait for my boyfriend to finish his volunteer shift nearby) and am faced with the choice to see either Up In The Air or Lovely Bones, I had to go with the former.

Jason Reitman's Up In The Air surprised me. After having listened to Adam and Matty's podcast featuring their review of the film, I was skeptical. Was I sitting in a theatre waiting to see another one of Clooney's typical suave, handsome good-guy character films? Yes, and no. But putting that aside, this was a great film.

What worked for me was the interesting storyline behind this film. Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man whose job it is to fire people all across the country. Bingham's life revolves around the many hours spent up in the air. In fact, he lives on frequent/loyalty memberships which he benefits from all the miles he travels and all the hotel rooms he calls 'home' in a year. This world he knows so well comes crumbling down when the company decides to ground him.

As the film progresses, Ryan learns about life - a more grounded life - the life he has missed out on in his travels. As Ryan learns, we as the audience learn too. There was much about life and relationships, and I felt that it was well reflected in the relationships between the characters, cleverly directed by Reitman. When I remember Juno, the characters and how they interacted was what made that film a winner. Reitman, in his latest film, has managed to sustain that excellent directing.

I wasn't so keen on the editing of the film. There were times when it seemed too choppy and I felt there were shots that were completely unnecessary to the story's progression. Otherwise, there were some clever stylised edits like the jump-cuts at the beginning when we are introduced to Ryan's job.

Props to Anna Kendrick who played the tightly wound, but fantastic Natalie Keener, and J.K. Simmons, who had a small role, yet I thought it was played well.

Overall, Up In The Air was a good choice, and I'm glad I picked it over Peter Jackson's Lovely Bones. Reitman has done well this time, especially after the success of Juno. I highly recommend this film.

I rate this 7/10.

PS.: I beg forgiveness for the seemingly sloppy and incoherent write-up. I would give you some form of an explanation, but truthfully, no one wants to know anyway.

Jan 19, 2010

The Alternate Beginning

If anyone knows how to start a blog, it's most definitely not me.

So let me explain my primary inquisition here.

By July this year, I will have completed my Diploma in Screen and begin my venture into the real world of film - the raw and harsh reality of the film industry where the dreams of young, new filmmakers alike may never be met with more than a few unpaid gigs as a runner. By my standards, this is a pretty big deal and I feel like I need to create a new blog to document this journey.

The excitement doesn't end there. I plan to write about films I've seen, want to see, like and dislike - without being your usual wanky film critic with some fancy accreditation in literary criticism - you may (or may not) catch my drift, so I'll continue thinking that you do.

So, let this be my attempt to reel you in for more. Go ahead, bookmark me. Save me in your Google Reader.

I'll promise you everything, and nothing.