Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Here we go!

Man, we're less than a week away from beginning principal photography on EARTHLING. I'm equal parts nervous and excited. We've put such a great team together that I actually think now I'm probably the weakest link! Of course, the self depreciation is a lame attempt to get all my friends to tell me how absolutely positive they are that I'm gonna do a great job. Whee!

Alongside prepping, I've also been doing my time at several film fests. AFI Dallas is wrapping up now. ST. NICK played there to sold out screenings, coming on the heels of previous sold out screenings at South by Southwest.

These screenings, plus upcoming ones, are nicely plotted out on producer James Johnston's blog here!

I always knew the film was really good, but I honestly had no idea what audiences would make of it. As it turns out, they absolutely love it. It really is a film that rewards you if you let it in. I was worried about the amount of patience it requires (for lack of an obvious traditional narrative), but the spartan qualities of the film turn out to be its greatest asset.

I think a shared familiarity of youth is tapped in a manner without sentimentality, allowing one to honestly imprint their own childhood longings and confusions. I think I finally get why David chose to hang on certain moments much longer than one normally would find necessary. The imprinting requires introspection. That sounds much more pretentious than I intended. I'm not referring to a pseudo-intellectual search for cheap symbolism, it's something more unconscious. It's about simplicity. A deft and intentional simplicity.

I remember a particular shot. A single shot which, because of its closeness, it's sheer proximity to the actor in question (it was a close-up shot of the dad looking pensive), implied a narrative explanation for the "inciting incident" that kicks off the story. Even this oblique inference of latent meaning was too heavy a hand for the film. I remember feeling it was necessary at the time (I pushed David to shoot the darn close-up), but now understand how it actually works against the purpose of the film. 

In what might come off as a trite tangent, I think my thoughts can be best summed up via an essayist from a slightly different (but exceedingly relevant) artistic world. There's a great book by Scott McCloud called "Understanding Comics," which is the closest thing we have to a total psychological and sociological deconstruction of sequential art. In it, he spends a great deal of time on the simple cartoon face. The idea that faced (!) with a certain lack of detail and overt information, but given certain familiar symbols, the brain will construct a narrative (or a human face, in Scott's case) far more personal that that of the highly detailed and case specific story (or drawing).

I think the key to what makes ST. NICK work so well is in there, if you allow yourself to approach the notion from a slightly abstract or obtuse angle. It's a lesson more filmmakers should take to heart (myself included).

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