It…is…alive….

My computer rebuild and reformat went smoothly.

The patient will live.

Press conference scheduled at 6:00 p.m.

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The Most Frustrating Annual Ritual I Endure

Once a year, whether I need to or not, I invariably have to move all my files, fonts and programs to external hard drives and rebuild and reformat my primary computer. An entire day lost returning my system to operable standards.

This is inevitable result of being plagued by 365 days of infectious spam, fending off hackers, random viruses, the NSA, malware, spyware, and the never ending bombardment of undesired and invasive advertising… people I don’t even know trying to destroy my work, derail my momentum, and annoy me into buying worthless products and services. The slow attrition of morally bankrupt predators.

By design the Internet is neutral of regulation.

There is no better mirror in which we, as a culture, can see ourselves.

The fact is we probably deserve this world and everything we’ve done to it. We are no better, and so deserve no better.

This is frustrating because we’re talking around 7Tb of stuff.

Ever had to load 25,000 fonts?

Yeah, put on Cold Mountain, it’s going to take a while.

Faith Will Survive

Reading Richard Dawkin’s laughably errant work The God Delusion.

I will comment further once I have finished it, but if this is the best argument the atheistic community can marshal then religion will have a very long a prosperous future.

Ironically, I recommend The God Delusion to any person who believes that reality is more than a long line of chance configurations, quantum accidents, random dimensions and miraculously incarnated matter to strengthen your conviction.  Dawkin’s arguments against God are so desperate, so transparent and so…well…silly that they prove the low standards presently accepted at the University of Oxford, and the general degradation of critical thought in American and European universities.

This work is stuffed with accusations so gymnastic their credibility is at once betrayed.

Again, I will address this more fully in the future, but this work reminds of Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason, a work I also recently read.  To Paine’s credit, he showed great restraint and wisdom (initially) in waiting until his mature years before offering his comments on religion, particularly Christianity.

Likewise, I waited to read Age of Reason because I grew up hearing of the last few chapters, and their inescapable deconstruction of issues of faith. I was like “maybe this guy has the silver bullet that’s going to change my mind.”

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t resist having my mind changed, but my mind is a big place with lots of zip codes, so I don’t change whimsically or lightly.

So, governing my resolve, I bought Age of Reason, and with a deep shoring breath, began to read it. Mind you, only the end of the book was of particular interest to me.  Let me say I found Paine’s reasoning and wit wonderful and incisive and worthy to be added to anyone’s library.

Then I got to the end of the book and there they were: the diatribes, accusations and spiteful logic — all dripping off every word and sentence.

I read it and put it down.

Mystified, I read it again and put it down.

What was I missing? Where was the revolutionary wisdom that was the coup de grace to my reason? Did I miss it?  Surely, these silly arguments weren’t the vanguard of his counter-position.  In the end, Age of Reason didn’t shatter my faith — okay, it didn’t even dent it.

So I moved on to Bertrand Arthur William Russell’s Why I am not a Christian fully expecting this brilliant mathematician and world renown logician to skewer me and leave my reasoning in little bloody ribbons on the floor.

Rinse and repeat.

I laid down his pamphlet, not quite sure how anyone ever thought (in his century or mine) his philosophical surgery was anything more than a straw argument, and certainly not a formidable injury to anything I believed.

So, suddenly I felt a rush of validation: Thomas Paine and Bertrand Russell had taken their best shots and not only did they fall short, they fell tragically short.

Returning briefly to The God Delusion, as I said I have not finished it yet — I find the science and speculation fascinating and thoroughly enjoy the chemistry, biological strategy and theoretical models enormously. I re-read them over and over again as I am a fawning disciple of science too.

Dawkins latest book is harmless, ironically bolstering the very thing it tries to classify as a “delusion.” One of my favorite books and greatest boons to my personal faith is The Biochemical Basis of Neuropharmacology — 3rd Edition (1978) by Jack R. Cooper, Floyd E. Bloom and Robert H. Roth.  I read it when I was very young and it made an immense impression on me. The book only has 12 chapters that cover cellular foundations, metabolism, receptors, catecholamines, cyclic nucleotides, etc.) but by the time you get done reading it you are definitely not a skeptic.

I don’t believe in Intelligent Design.

It is far, far more than intelligent — it is brilliant.

Oh, if you really want to know about the Age of Reason you would do well to remember the last words of the man who wrote it, Thomas Paine:  “I would give worlds, if I had them, if ‘The Age of Reason’ had never been published. O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! Stay with me! It is hell to be left alone.”

Clear Your Frame

You would think this would be obvious.

You would think it wouldn’t have to be said: clear your frame.

That is Director-speak for “whatever is not supposed to be in the frame must be framed out, or removed.”

If, after having told any member of your camera crew repeatedly to check and clear their frame, they do not, then you are dealing with

  1. incompetence
  2. passive-aggressive behavior
  3. willful insubordination

None of these are acceptable. Remove them from set immediately.

It is essential for any filmmaker who is responsible for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars (and eventually millions of investor and studio dollars) to learn the power of dismissal.

Always be fair, but be firm.

Tyranny breeds rebellion, so you can’t be a tyrant. But you should be running a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy.

Make the call. If you don’t have the answer, get a short list of options from people with opinions you trust. Then make the call, and politely demand everyone to comply.

But in the end, it doesn’t matter how pretty your shot is, how compelling the acting is, how gorgeous the art direction is—if Camera B is reflected in the mirror behind the actors you can’t use the shot. And forget “camera safe”—clear your frame edge to edge.

Be a professional. Clear your frame.

Style is a Noun

Dictionary.com defines style as:

(Def. 9.) a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode or form of construction or execution in any art or work: Her painting is beginning to show a personal style.

Don’t worry about the previous eight definitions:  they are very close to this one.

First, you figure out what your style is. That’s easy, it’s what you like in the work of others. Start there, then add your own flourishes to it, make it your own.

Second, you find someone who thinks like you, sees things the way you see them. Find someone who shares your style. Now you have a team. Find a third person and your team is bigger.

Once you have the same language you can communicate directives to achieve your style in any part of your film making.

Do not make the mistake in believing everyone else sees what you see—they do not.

An invaluable part of pre-production is showing your camera operators and your lighting team the movies and the moves you like. Storyboards and pre-visualization is critical to getting your team thinking in the right direction.

I learned this the hard way.

If any person of your crew doesn’t understand what you want. Explain it to them, meticulously if necessary. Thereafter, if they are incapable or unwilling to give you what you want—replace them immediately. Find someone who can follow your orders. You do not want to start the editing process with shots that embarrass you, deconstruct pace and mood, and weaken the story.

I would spare you that pain.

The Death of Hand-Held Camera Work

There is a chance, albeit a slight one, that with the breakthroughs in modern medicine and the benefits of living a largely guilt-free life, that I will live long enough to see the end of hand-held camera work.

Having just finished a feature film, I can unequivocally inform and educate you that the best investment you can make for your first time is a [expletive] tripod.

Mount the camera. Lock down your shot.

Do not be deceived by others or yourself into thinking hand-held camera work is some instant and immediately comprehended mechanism for being “edgy” or “organic” in storytelling.

New Rule: nothing screams amateur like the inability to stabilize a shot—nothing. Would you settle for out of focus photography? Then why settle for camera work than cannot even demonstrate the basic ability to be still, or follow the action properly.

Any camera movement (zoom, dolly, pan, crane, hand-held, swing) should only be considered in service of the scene, and the mood contained therein. If as a filmmaker you are picking any shot arbitrarily you have failed in your first obligation to the audience: you are not hip, naturalistic or defying film’s many choking rules—you are being selfish and ignorant. It may take too long to get a great shot, but it takes the same amount of time (whether you have a lot or little of it) to frame a steady, good shot as it does to frame an unbalanced, compositionally flawed one.

This should be common knowledge. The bad news is that it isn’t. You must communicate your visual expectations or you will not get what you, the scene and the story need. Beyond this, you must be strict with your expectations.

Buy a tripod then use it.

The Atlanteans—big fans of hand-held camera work. Look what happened to them.