Author Archives: halgrain

Ars Poetica

Film is full and comprehensive and interesting and varied. Film is like a consciously perceived dream. You can do anything in a dream. You can be anything. You can say anything.

The ideal filmmaking process is that of total creative control. Every detail is a different canvas. It’s impossible to try to break down all the possibilities. Faces, colors, sounds, light, movement. It’s every other art form condensed.

There are symbols and metaphors, melodies and beats, colors and objects. Film is a complete sensory experience. You can put your viewer through anything and with that there is a responsibility.

 

I believe films are capable of curing a discordant mind or an unsettled heart. This powerful medium will take an audience away from reality to enter a lucid dream. I have tremendous respect for the filmconsumer.

If you want to be moved you will be moved. You can be changed forever. A little piece of you can be added or taken away. So that maybe you can open yourself to something new, something radical.

Film in the narrative form is at it’s most influential and irresistible. Stories are an elemental part of human civilization, and they are how we form our social constructs. And that is exactly what makes it all so exciting.

A well crafted film can easily emotionally manipulate regardless of its intentions or message.

“If we can tell evil stories to make people sick, we can also tell good myths that make them well.” –Rainer Fassbinder

Nothing could be more significant than re-contextualizing our human experiences. Sharing them with others, transmuting them into something more meaningful. I love how a film can use anything and everything you’ve been conditioned to respond to and alter it, shift it, develop it.

Films can argue for a lighter sense of being, a more mindful consciousness. They are a means to move ourselves further away from old ideas and from stagnant perceptions. We can do it by laughing and crying watching films, by being captivating by flickering lights and moving pictures.

“It is not enough that poems be beautiful; let them be tender and affecting, and bear away the soul of the auditor whithersoever they please.” – Horace

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Revisiting The Deserted House

The Deserted House is a highly evocative and darkly ambiant poem. Originally, Juan and I were shooting with the express purpose of creating a mood befitting the poem’s subject matter. We chose to shoot an actual deserted house, cemetery, and cathedral. We included rocks, cement, fences, and trees for texture. We shot at angles meant to invoke an ethereal presence. Our vision was to portray the atmosphere and spirit of the poem.

 

With a sufficiently spooky foundation set, I was satisfied with our footage, however during our in-class workshop , I realized that there were important secondary elements that were missing. Things like mystery and suspenseful tension were lacking.

In revising our film, I added more vertically moving shots and abstracted some of the frames, taking care to remove things that allowed the viewer to identify too much of the objects. I played around with video filters with the purpose of making the images more moody. I darkened some of the images and did my best to better establish a mysterious presence. I also tweaked the pacing of the film to better suit the poem’s rhythm.

 

My main intention was to grab the viewer’s attention, to have a sense that we are allowed an insider’s peek of a spirit’s last journey on Earth.

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The Making of…

In describing the arduous yet fun task of making a stop motion film, I must start at what I feel is the most integral of parts, the set and materials.

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     Post-production

Stop motion opens up a million possibilities, even if I could only think of five, for creating a make believe world. It was a daunting decision to make. The colors, textures, and figures are the viewer’s doorway into another world. I spent most of my time experimenting with different materials in an attempt to evoke a emotionally tinted atmosphere.

The fact my poem was in Arabic and the film will be screened to a primarily English speaking audience was central. I decided on a more literal interpretation of the poem.

I made sure that there was enough direct information conveyed. I decided it was important for the film to revolve around a masculine gold-hued clay figure due to the subject matter of the poem. because I wanted the viewer to know the poem was specifically talking about a man and his life. I then stuffed the film with symbolism in reference to the poem.

The most significant are:

– Drumming and sparseness of the images

– drab and muddy color

– coming and going back into the clay

– varying focus of the images and the ill-defined figure

I did not leave much time for editing. I wanted to synchronize with a lot of things with the music and to a certain extent I succeeded. Every series of images corresponds to each line of the film. I had fun syncing the most dramatic parts of the music with the images.

When workshop-ing I felt I had been successful in conveying the emotional content, but I have to give credit to the literalism in the film. I do desire to further revise the film taking into consideration pointers from my fellow filmmakers.

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لمّا نُسِبْتَ فكُنْتَ ابْناً لِغَيرِ أبٍ

A short film set to an Arabic poem.

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by | July 17, 2012 · 9:48 pm

Sweaty Eyeballs

Our first class trip was to the Creative Alliance for a screening of animation shorts.Image

First of all, it was just nice to see the place where we will screen our films. I would have been content watching it on a home projector in a basement or garage. It’s hard not to gush about the opportunity to have our films be shown alongside films made by established artists, in a not unpleasant venue!Image

The Experience

It was actually my first time watching a screening of this sort. It was a wonderful mishmash of artistic visions. It would be difficult to point out any one particular film because the screening of these colorful and diverse shorts resulted in a imaginative and very satisfying animative gestalt.

The films played off one another so well. The more humorous ones pierced the dark ambiance left by more serious films. Some were gentler than others, easier to wrap your head around. Others left you pondering well into the next film.

I found that emotions can be more easily imbued in this medium of film where there are no human actors. In a sizable portion of the films we saw, the whole background set was purely of someone’s imagination. Mundane things are given shapes and colors we are not familiar with. With nothing to really anchor the viewer in reality, the filmmaker has total control in creating the atmosphere.

Even when the film felt more realistic, the shot angles and atypical motion were potently transportative.

“Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation.”

– Walt Disney

Overall, it was a whole lot of fun. I loved being in so many artist’s minds. I loved the wonderful stories and even enjoyed the incomprehensible few. It was a rich and fulfilling evening, and I now have a much-appreciated, broader understanding of the art of animation.

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Assignment

art with a bad attitude. exasperating viewpoints that refuse to value the opposing side. or worse making points, making statement after statement by railing against the other side. passion against is not of the same caliber as passion for. artists who get a kick out of ripping apart other philosophies, constantly demeaning different perspectives in their crappy manifestos. I hate infantile tantrums in the name of conviction. ‘The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”-Yeats. “art that is still studied and dignified even though it has elements of racism, sexism and other nasty –isms. throw them out. there’s no lack of art! art that makes a name of itself with sensational violence. send the artist to war. pessimistic art sucks. if you think it all ends badly then what’s the point. go home. there needs to be a higher ideal. strong, self-assertive art that does not rely on cheap tactics to catch disfiguring garish makeup mindlessly applied by a lady of the night. overly intellectual art that is a pain to ponder. or worse art so sickly sweet you’ve had enough of it before you’ve started. there’s a unique displeasure associated with humorless art.

That’s it. Otherwise I love everything about art. What could be more magical than a vague abstract concept like ‘art’ that invites so many dreamers and hopers to share their desires and visions. So many voices, from all directions. It’s a chorus! Somehow humanity has sung itself a beautiful little tune. We have been given the opportunity to climb atop the giants who have lead us to this point. We can attempt to see more, do more, make more and if we’re lucky, laugh more. “Earth laughs in flowers.” –Emerson.

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by | July 14, 2012 · 6:33 am

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لمّا نُسِبْتَ فكُنْتَ ابْناً لِغَيرِ أبٍ
ثمّ اخْتُبِرْتَ فَلَمْ تَرْجعْ إلى أدَبِ
سُمّيتَ بالذّهَبيّ اليَوْمَ تَسْمِيَةً
مُشتَقّةً من ذهابِ العقلِ لا الذّهَبِ

مُلَقَّبٌ بكَ مَا لُقّبْتَ وَيْكَ بهِ
يا أيّها اللّقَبُ المُلقَى على اللّقَبِ

When you traced your name, you were fatherless,
so you ventured forth, throwing out decorum —

on this day you were dubbed Golden*
after the flight from sense (not the substance of the same)

and named, woefully, for that which after you
was called — O name cast over name.

*The word for “gold” and “go” are the same in Arabic. Though the link is uncertain some propose it is because gold is a substance that passes from hand to hand — endless circulation.

Poem: untitled (traditionally referred to by its first line). unknown translator ( http://adamahmed.blogspot.com/2010/05/al-mutanabbi.html )

Image: Al-Mutanabbi by Khaled Al Saa’i

Abu at-Tayyib Ahmad al-Mutanabbi is a poet born in the Iraqi region during the Abbasid caliphate. He is a master of the Arabic language. In my opinion, he is more a craftsman than a philosopher, but he definitely does not lack intelligence or wit.

I chose this particular poem because it has a strong rhythm that hopefully non-Arabic speakers can perceive.

Below is a YouTube video of another Arabic poem set to music. Enjoy.

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by | July 13, 2012 · 11:52 am