I experimented taking portrait photos using one source lighting (Rifa light) on Father’s Day.
I experimented taking portrait photos using one source lighting (Rifa light) on Father’s Day.
As a swim coach this summer, I was asked to make a music video including myself and all the other coaches. We did a great job planning out the song and storyboarding the entire video. I have never planned so much for a video in my life and it inspired me to plan just as much for all my future videos. Here’s the final product:
Our last day at Sundance started off with our second class meeting of the trip. Our professors reminded us of our responsibilities as members of the Elon: Experience Sundance class. The two big reminders were that our research paper and review of each films were due a week after arriving back at Elon and that we would need to have at least 30 business cards by the time we left Sundance. A lot of my classmates did not think our professor was serious about collecting all thirty cards because many of us found that to do be very difficult. Luckily, for me and some of my other classmates, we were informed that we could get credit for 10 business cards for each person we were responsible for bringing back to our house for an interview and 5 business cards for being on time to our class meeting. That put me at 25 and luckily I already collected 5 contacts so I was done! Whew, sigh of relief! Unfortunately, many of my classmates had to spend their last day at the festival desperately scrambling around for business cards.
As the day began, I was off to an interview with Drake Doremus, director of my favorite film at the festival, Like Crazy, and longtime friends with my new buddy and DP of Like Crazy, John Guleserian. We met up with Drake after his last screening of Like Crazy at the festival and I was on duty as cameraman. We shot it in the street outside of the famous Egyptian Theater and it should be included in our class’s DVD of all the interviews we collected over the week from various filmmakers. Drake was one of the coolest directors at the festival and really spoke from his heart. You could tell he has a great attitude and outlook on life and I cannot wait to see where his career takes him and how the public reacts to Like Crazy, which was picked up by Paramount earlier in the week.
The only film I was planning on seeing this day was Miss Representation, a documentary discussing the impact media has on women. It looked really interesting and we heard good things about it so we got there especially early to get wait list tickets. Unfortunately, I was also turned down for only the second time at the festival from getting into a film and it would be my last chance to get into one. It was so frustrating because we got there 2.5 hours early and it still did not matter because no one in wait-list got in and even some ticket holders didn’t get it. We learned that local Utahns were taking the spots that we thought would easily be available at the end of the festival week because most people had already left. Turns out, many locals are passholders and can get into most films with this privilege, sometimes even knocking out people that had tickets to the movie. It was upsetting to get turned down twice in a row on our last days at the festival but I cannot complain because I saw so many films in the days before and some that I was blown away by.
We decided after not getting into the film to go collect business cards since most of the people I was with still needed to fulfill their quota of 30. We walked around Main St. and walked specifically to the Filmmakers lounge. At the lounge, their was a filmmakers panel getting out so we got in there as the last few were leaving to see if we could get any business cards. We ran into Marshall Curry who we interviewed the day before and thanked him for coming. The lounge was really cool. It had an area with nice comfy couches and chairs as well as a small cafe. I found the jackpot when I saw all the film magazines available for us to take home with us. All of the magazines had articles pertaining to this year’s festival so it was neat reading about something so current and familiar to us.
It also happened to my roommate and fellow fellow, David Gwynn‘s 20th birthday. Although he spent most of his birthday looking for business cards he ran into people that gave him their tickets to the Awards After Party. He also got to go to a panel discussion at the Egyptian Theater that discussed torture in film. Robert Redford was there as well as Sundance 2011 Jury member, America Ferrera. This was exciting for the class that someone saw Mr. Redford himself, even though most of us weren’t there to witness.
Even though you had to be 21 to attend the Awards After Party Gabby, David, and I thought we would take our chances at getting in. We were so nervous when we got there and we had to wait outside in the cold forever but eventually we made it past what we thought were the only door checkers. Turns out there was another line inside to get into the actual venue of the party. We each got through and were so impressed with ourselves/really excited to be at a party with all the filmmakers, even some that just one awards. The decorations were so cool: multicolored flashing lights, snowflake structures, DJ stand, bars, etc. At the beginning of the night they were playing 80′s/90′s pop music that most of the indie Sundance-goers would like then as the night went on the DJ began to play newer hip-hop music which made us feel so young/cool! We had a great time dancing the night away and feeling important around all the filmmakers. I even ran into my good friend John Guleserian, Like Crazy‘s director of photography and congratulated him on his film’s win earlier that evening for Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Dramatic film, which is one of the biggest and most impressive awards to receive at the Sundance Film Festival. I was so proud to have met and formed relationships with both the Director of Photography, John, and the Director, Drake during the festival and can’t wait to see where their film goes!
A few hours after the party, we left our house at 4:45am. I luckily got to ride in a Hummer which was a cool way to leave Utah. I was sad to leave because I loved it there so much: the weather, the landscape, main street, THE FESTIVAL…it was all so amazing. I hope to come back to the festival as many times as possible and maybe one day I will have a film of my own there! My ultimate goal now is to one day have a vacation house there! Peace out Park City. I will hopefully be seeing you again soon! (perhaps if Elon goes again I will be old enough to volunteer and can work at the festival!)
The morning of Day 5 at Sundance was by far the highlight of my entire trip. Ever since seeing Like Crazy I had been in contact with John Guleserian, the Director of Photography. Ideally, I would have loved to have him come to our house for an on-camera interview but his schedule didn’t allow that. We decided to meet for breakfast instead. He invited to the Filmmakers lounge at the Marriot in Park City and we had a two hour conversation about everything. It was absolutely fantastic. I got a lot of insight into what the life of a DP is like. I learned about how he got to where he is and he even gave me tips for my future. I felt so lucky to be sitting across from the DP of my favorite film I saw at Sundance and to be learning so much about my aspiring position in the film industry.
At 12:15pm a few of us went to go see Pariah. The first scene opened with a club-banging hip-hop song and a vertical dolly shot following a stripper down a pole. The audience quickly realizes we are in a lesbian strip club. Throughout the movie you learn that the main character, Alike, is fighting a battle everyday by going to school dressing like a guy and being comfortable lesbian then coming home and hiding her true identity from her family. Her dad is more supportive of her in all aspects of life while her mom is very tough on her and pleads with her on clothing and choosing better friends. Her mom is so wrapped up in the image of how she would like her daughter to appear that she completely forgets to let Alike be herself. Not only is the mom getting angry at Alike but she begins to get suspicious of her husband because he’s always “working.” We never know for sure if he was cheating but we can assume he was since anytime his wife wanted to be close to him he backed away and one time Alike walked in on him on the phone with someone that he refused to reveal to Alike. As the movie progresses Alike is continuing her early journey discovering herself as a lesbian and even experiments with other girls but appears to be overwhelmed by stress confusion and denial. The movie is very personal to the director Dee Rees who probably went through something very similar. When Alike finally comes out and tells her parents she’s lesbian her mother immediately lashes out screaming and hitting her. Luckily Alike’s father is there to protect Alike. Alike then makes the decision to continue school far away from home to concentrate on her passion for writing and find acceptance in her life. I think Pariah is a great message to other young lesbian or gay individuals growing up and it’s especially good message to the parents who are in denial that their children are gay. The film tells them that they need to accept their children and allow them to grow up being comfortable with themselves.
Later in the day a few of my classmates and I went to see Todos tus muertos (All Your Dead Ones). The description stated that a farmer wakes up one morning and finds a bunch of dead bodies in his crop field. It sounded very interesting but I found the film to be very boring. Maybe the fact that it was in Spanish and I had to read subtitles took away from the film but I honestly just got bored with the characters standing in the same field 75% of the entire movie deciding what to do with the body.
I did, however, enjoy hearing the director and crew speak about the movie afterwards during the Q&A. They said this one of the first movies to come out of Colombia that is addressing the issue of their ongoing civil war. They were excited to show Colombians their film when it becomes released after the festival. I am interested to find out the Colombians’ reaction and see if they like the filmmakers choice to poke fun at the situation in their country.
Later in the evening, I decided I wanted to end the day watching a movie I would enjoy. My fellow classmate Greg and I hopped on the bus about 2.5 hours before show time and went to the Yarrow Hotel theater to go see Martha Marcy May Marlene. My fascination with cults drew me to this film. Also, Mary Kate and Ashley‘s younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen, was starring in it which was exciting for me because I don’t believe I’ve seen her in anything and was eager to see how see measured up to her notorious twin sisters. Unfortunately, after waiting in the wait-list line over the 2 hour period we did not get in. I was fairly upset because this was the first wait-list situation where I was unsuccessful at getting into the film. It was very frustrating because only five people got in which was the least amount of people I had ever seen get in from “wait list” especially because it was a midnight showing and it wasn’t the premiere of the film. As frustrating as it was, it allowed me time to buy doughnuts at the local grocery store and to more importantly get a good night’s sleep. I hope to see the film when it’s released because it was getting great reviews at the festival.
Surprisingly, it was only myself and 3 other Elon students that decided to go skiing in Park City today. It was an absolutely beautiful day. It was even warm. I found myself delayering quickly. I’ve only gone skiing five times in my life before this trip and all of those times have been at a small ski resort in West Virginia. After skiing at Park City Ski Resort, I can say that I prefer skiing in the West, where the snow is real. It was incredibly beautiful being surrounded by blue skies, great temperatures, powdery snow, and amazingly talented local skiers and snowboarders. I hope to get back there sometime and spend even more than a day on the slopes. If my life plan of owning a vacation home in Park City comes true I will definitely be there every year!
Due to being on the slopes most of the day, I didn’t have a chance to see any films during the day. Luckily, I got the first wait-list spot for the film Homework for the midnight showing. Homework was a movie featuring the talented British actor Freddie Highmore known for his role as the little boy in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and his role in August Rush, as well as actress Emma Roberts, Julia Robert’s niece. It was a coming of age film about a boy who is rebellious and doesn’t really have a care in the world until he begins to fall in love with Emma’s character, Sally. Overall, the movie was somewhat bland. I did not really enjoy. I think a lot of the writing and some of the acting was cliche and I think a big problem was that the director, Gavin Wiesen, wrote the screenplay based his own life. I think this sometimes is helpful that the writer is also the director that way they know exactly how the want it too look. The problem was that Wiesen spoke in his Q&A about how he did not collaborate with many other people on the script. I think if more people had looked over it and fixed some of the cliche scenes the film could have been a bit stronger. It wasn’t a horrible movie, don’t get me wrong. I definitely paid attention. There just wasn’t much there. A boy. A girl. Love. Boy and some family problems. New love interest. Jealously. I gave it two stars out of four so not the worst but definitely not my favorite at the festival.
Kevin Breslin, director of Living for 32 came by for an interview in the morning and he was great guy to talk to. He had so much energy and enthusiasm for his film, the festival, and our class. ”Getting into Sundance was like going to the race track,” Kevin said. He thought Sundance was great place to get your film and was so ecstatic to be there. Unfortunately, I was not able to see his film while at the festival but Kevin’s plan is to try to get it to screen at Elon on the film’s National College Tour. Breslin’s film focuses on Colin Goddard, a survivor and victim of the Virginia Tech massacre that occurred in 2007. The short focuses on trying to get stricter gun control enforced in the U.S. so that there are background checks done on individuals before they are granted access to a weapon. Breslin asked some of the PR students with us what ideas they had to help promote the film. Social media like the usage of Facebook and Twitter were common solutions that my classmates suggested to him. I hope the film becomes well promoted and Elon hopes to screen it sometime this spring to a large student audience.
Right after our interview with Kevin we were lucky to welcome Marshall Curry, director of If A Tree Falls, to our house for an interview. Curry is friends with Brooke Barnett one of our documentary film professors at Elon, and was able to serve as a connection between him and our class. Interesting fact about Curry: he’s an Oscar and Emmy nominated producer and director for his documentary Street Fight. He was a very personable director and spoke about how this film was made to raise more questions than answers. It was cool to hear him speak about how he started making documentaries. He said it’s so easy nowadays, all you need is a camera, editing software, and an idea. Curry taught himself Final Cut Pro and starting shooting and things worked out well. Hearing that from a successful director like Curry was inspiring. We found out at the end of the week that If A Tree Falls won the U.S. Documentary Editing Award at the festival.
Tom Lappin, the director of photography for Rebirth came to our house for an interview as well. Tom was able to give me a documentary perspective in terms of dp’ing a film. His film, Rebirth was shot over a nine-year period following the lives of five people affected by the attacks on 9/11.
My first question for Tom was to ask what exactly his role was as director of photography on a documentary film. He explained his role by answering, “my primary job was to work with the director, Jim Whitaker, and to give him the footage he needed.” Tom told us that he had conversations with Whitaker about the style they were aiming for and what the look, lighting, and feel of the interviews would be.
Tom also discussed the importance of determining what format they chose to record the documentary in. Rebirth was filmed over a nine-year period so it was important picking out what they would be using for that long period of time. He said a lot of documentaries are created to share stories that should be remembered so they wanted to use a format that would be easy to archive.
Another important aspect of shooting a documentary is how your subjects react to your presence. Tom spoke about how they wanted to get real reactions out of their subjects so that they did not feel threatened by camera crews. A part of not having a presence as a director of photography was to use longer lenses. Tom said the first few years they shot the subjects they filmed from farther away so that they were practically unnoticeable.
I think people will appreciate the time put into Rebirth. Seeing the rebuilding of Ground Zero in timelapses over the past nine years and following the lives of 5 individuals and their unique stories of healing.
Overall, I was glad to be a part of all of these amazing interviews and look forward to seeing where each of these filmmakers go in the future.
When I woke up on our third day at the Sundance Film Festival, little did I know, I would be faced with three movies dealing with not-so-happy themes. That’s why I must call this day, “Day of Death.” Continue reading for more details and each of my movie reviews.
I didn’t know what to expect before seeing this film. All I know is that I was very hipster/indie looking film about two girls coming of age. Well, that was accurate but what I didn’t know is that it would involve use drugs, sex, and violence. To summarize the film, two girls who were best friends began to grow apart when one of them found a love interest in L.A. while the other simply was there as a tag-a-long. Of course the friend that started hanging out with this guy got caught up in the wrong crowd that would steal from others and lived out of an abandoned hotel. They began using the girl to their advantage by getting men from the internet who wanted to get with a younger girl to meet up with her and then the boys would proceed to steal the men’s money. At the end, during one of the times Juno is bringing this guy back to the gross abandoned motel room they lived out of the guy was suspicious and beat up the boys before they could take his money. Then the man wanted to rape Juno and her best friend shows up and shoots him unexpectedly before he could harm Juno. That twist in the movie was the best part because it was so unexpected.
Other than that the film was somewhat bland just showing the girls as friends and their rocky relationships with their parents. It was a good coming-of-age film and after the Q&A I had much more appreciation for the film. The director, Elgin James, explained to the audience that when he was younger he got caught up in the wrong crowd, did drugs, and was in a gang. He discovered his love for films and Sundance lab gave him a chance to develop his talents and work on Little Birds with him. I think to come from a place like that in your life to having a film at Sundance is remarkable and deserves to be recognized.
Two days after seeing Little Birds, Gabby and I saw Elgin on Main St. and was the most approachable and nicest filmmaker we had spoken to all week. He was not only interested in us talking to him about his film but he wanted to know about us and why we were there and what school we went to. After that encounter I couldn’t help but want to like his film even more. I think he has great potential and I told him I can’t wait to see what he creates in the future.
I luckily had no problem getting into Little Birds since we bought tickets beforehand. But with I Melt With You, it was another wait list situation. Because it was the world premiere of the film I was a little nervous we wouldn’t get in. I kind of forced Gabby and David to come with me, which I regret doing because we didn’t like it. I wanted to see this film so badly because I’m researching directors of photography at Sundance for my research paper and I read that I Melt with You was unique because it was the first film in the festival shot completely on an HDSLR, a Canon 5D Mark II to be exact. Which is revolutionary and incredible to put a low budget camera on such a big screen. The film looked beautiful, as it should have. I’m a big fan of using these smaller digital cameras, therefore I’m biased towards its looks. So simply because of this revolutionary technology being premiered is the sole reason I wanted to go.
It helped that the description of the film seemed like something I’d want to see. It summarized the movie as being about four middle-aged men that were friends since college reuniting once a year to rekindle their friendship. Seems like something that could be cool, right? Wrong! It was cool until they started using cocaine, prescription drugs, and excessive use of alcohol. For 20 minutes of the movie they showed the men each day of their vacation together using these substances with slow motion and cool camera movements, BUT it was way too long. We got the point. These men are going crazy and like to party. Then you learn that they men made a blood-signed pact as college students that if they were not happy with their lives 25 years from then they would die as one. Well, one of the men took this pact very seriously so the movie began to turn very dark when it cuts to a seen of him hanging in the shower with the water running. The other friends discovered him and were shocked. Of course, after awhile they see the note that he left behind and the audience learns whey he chose to take his own life. Eventually all of the men commit suicide or have one of his friends suffocate him…cheery, right? Not at all. Although we were in the last row in the theater, the speakers were just as loud and just as affectively blaring the emotionally straining soundtrack that really grasped the audience emotion. It also did not help that one of the Sundance volunteers stood right behind my seat during the entire movie which drives me nuts. I can’t stand when I can sense people hovering over me; not only is it annoying, but it freaks me out, especially during a suspenseful movie like I Melt with You. I will say that this movie did a great job affecting me, I was completely horrified by some of the things I saw on screen and the music really played with my emotions. Although I found this movie very disturbing I would have loved to interview the DP because he was responsible for shooting this entire film with the new DSLR technology. Unfortunately we already had tickets to see Vampire at midnight that evening so we didn’t even have time to stay for the Q&A.
We had less than 15 minutes after I Melt with You to get seated at another theater for Vampire. The volunteers recommended that we walk because it would only take 10 minutes where a bus may take longer getting to the theater and may wait to load it up with people. So we said, “what the heck, we can do this! let’s book it!” We proceeded to discuss how we were all very disturbed by the movie and were a little on edge from witnessing so many suspenseful suicide scenes. Things got really strange on our 10 minute walk between theaters. First, I reacted to any weird noises/shadows then we walked by a dead cat covered in dirty snow, which scared us. Then shortly after, we walked by a restaurant called “Adolf’s”…how cheery?! NO! Then I saw this light shining in a field thinking it was something weird in a graveyard then we discovered it really was a graveyard and that freaked us all out. Needless to say David and I were both more scared than Gabby, so she was a little upset we weren’t being the tough men protecting her. She was going to have to to ward off the dead and villains that we thought would surely attack us any second. We started running from the creepy graveyard but also to the theater so we wouldn’t be closed out from the movie we already paid tickets for. We made it in right when the movie was beginning, perfect timing.
We were hoping to see something a little bit more up beat after coming from the depressing I Melt With You. Little did we know, we picked the worst movie at Sundance to pick our spirits back up. Within the first 5 minutes you discover that the main character is a complete weirdo and is meeting up with this girl that wants to mutually commit suicide with him. He then proceeds to murder her and doesn’t kill himself, by draining all her blood into 4 separate jars. One he then drinks and later throws up. Disgusting. We were not happy about this, we were all looking at each other like, “This cannot be happening.” We then mutually decided to leave the movie after seeing the main character contain his Alzheimer’s mom in her room by permanently strapping huge balloons to her back and then witnessing a scene where one of the vampire’s fellow weirdo friends traps this innocent in a plastic bag to kill her and rape her. I will say though that the best part of what I saw of that movie was when the main character first introduced himself to his victim and she responded saying her name was “jellyfish.” David, Gabby, and I were yearning for something joyful that we thought it was hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing.