May 6, 2010

Universal Studios Singapore

And with this footage comes the final edit of my Singapore trip last month.

Universal Studios Singapore was never something Stephanie and I had planned prior to going. This was a business trip after all, and with only one full day off we weren't sure there'd be time for a theme park. Luckily, there was.

On the good word of some of the people we had been working with, on our Wednesday off we took a taxi and then the monorail out to Sentosa Island. Sentosa is nicknamed 'Resort World' because the entire place is undergoing a massive tourist overhaul. Fancy resorts, beaches, and attractions are popping up all over this island on the southern end of Singapore. Universal Studios itself only opened in March, so it was only a month old.

Not as big as the park in Hollywood (see my edit of that here) it doesn't incorporate a tram ride element, and instead is all theme park. It was actually just the right size to see comfortably in a single afternoon, which was nice because it didn't feel like we had to rush.  From a Madagascar section to a Shrek themed 'Far Far Away' to a popular Jurrassic Park zone, Stephanie and I actually enjoyed the Revenge of the Mummy Ride in Ancient Egypt the best. We ran on twice in a row, and all I have to compare it to is the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.

The Revenge of the Mummy ride is part tour of movie scenes, part storyline, and part surprise coaster. What was best about it was that it was a really good mix. Fire explosions, cracking walls, sounds of bugs swarming all over you, quick starts and stops, and then finally a thrilling coaster ride in the dark to finish it off! On the second time around I knew where the on-ride camera was and made devil horns at Stephanie. It made for a good souvenir photograph that I bought to take home.

All and all it was a fun afternoon, but the day was far from over. We followed up Universal Studios Singapore with a ride on the Singapore Flyer, and later that evening, with a cruise on the Singapore River Experience.

May 5, 2010

Film School Lesson: Film Theory

Of all the classes I took in film school, none were discussed with more direct disdain by fellow students than film theory courses. It's just talking about movies you say, but in actuality, it's a set of criteria established to define how we approach varying aspects cinema and how time has made such criteria more relevant. In a largely opinionated and biased way, film theory reinforces rules, genres, theme structures, etc. that make the movies the 'artform' that it is. 

It may not be an easy pill to swallow, but the truth is (film students) you need to know this stuff whether you get it from a professor, the library, or the video store. 

I was never one to do exactly what I was told, especially in film school, but I was still perceptive enough to know that challenging myself was the only way I was going to get better at what I was doing. Film theory, however, was still a hassle to me because I was so determined to make my own work that I wasn't interested in breaking down anyone else's movie. What I failed to initially realize, was that despite my lackluster interest in the classroom, I was actually educating myself on filmmaking theories by watching tons of old movies. As a film student - any serious interest in films outside of your lifespan is to be commended.

Yes, there is a difference between theory and history, but by simply acknowledging the work of Chaplin, early Scorsese, early Spielberg, Wilder, Kazan, and Capra (to name a very select few) I was actually teaching myself a lot about the basics of how to construct a story in numerous styles. My point being that there are numerous routes to the same goal (something reinforced over and over again in film). 

A filmmaker without knowledge of film theory is essentially mimicking a style that they've seen somewhere, trying to copy someone else's pattern to create comedy or drama. This is because they don't understand that there's a framework that gives meaning to the images they've chosen to showcase.  This is both incredibly basic and complex, and can include everything from editing style to the significance of the music chosen, a historical or regional context, and so on.  It's not that you can't figure some of these things out by experimenting, it's just that you're wasting your own time trying to discover a formula that countless others have been trying to share with you.   

In a simple example, it's the way a relationship can be created by just combining two images together. A shot of a face followed by a shot of an apple could be suggesting that the subject is hungry or has an interest in picking that apple up. Simple things like this help to explain why many student films are so wooden or overly didactic.  It's an art to learn how to subtlety convey meaning while naturally encouraging an audiences emotional response. 

For instance, we don't necessarily need to create a complex shot by shot of a character establishing that he's hungry.  Maybe we just need to hear his stomach growl. Why? A stomach growl is a universally recognized sound conveying hunger. Numerous layers can be added to this to establish context and meaning. Theory, for better or worse, is about heavy and repetitive discussions like this that aim to tap you into the culture and influence of the medium.

Relevance is also the essence of film theory; understanding what your work as a complete unit is saying about society and from what perspective it's doing so. From here we can break down scenes, dialogue, style, etc. Lot's of things will overlap.

Think closely about this, as whether you'd like to believe it or not every movie ever created does actually fit into some category or form of classification. What are you trying to say with your work?  What does it mean?  Why did you do it that way?  None of these answers are as simple as they first seem.

May 2, 2010

Top 4! Yobi Film Finals Continue!

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It's very exciting to think that I now have a 1 in 4 shot at winning Filmmaker of the Year from the Yobi Filmmaking Competition! To make the finals felt huge, but to come this close to the top feels both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Still, thank you all so much for your votes and helping me advance! This could really be a life changing opportunity just based on how many people are continuing to view my profile.

To help my streak continue, use your email address to cast a vote for me here.

Use your email addresses, help me spread the word, any and everything is appreciated and could help tip the scale in my favor. Thank you guys for all your efforts in helping me make the most of this incredible platform! Another wholehearted, thanks!