Feb 28, 2009

Mean Mr. Mustard is Homeless (2003)

I made this project in March of 2003, which to me feels like another world away. I suppose if I look past the random tests and trials, this short was actually the very first video I ever made as part of a film school class.

It was in Film 200 and the assignment was to script and shoot a character study, real or fiction. This project, as was the purpose of Film 200, marked the final part of preliminary testing before actually being accepted into the University of Regina film program the following year. In the end I think they let in anyone who was willing to pay.

It's tough to say exactly what inspired the short, but I'm thinking it was the same thing that inspires every filmmaker to make a 'homeless guy' movie at some point. It's cheap, there's a grittiness and reality to it, and it's an easy way to make drama.

For me, Homeless was a mix of seriousness and comedy. The magazine page of the woman that he stares at and then uses to clean his face, the mustard gag, the newspaper sticking to his face after sleeping on it, etc. are my nudges to the audience to say that I'm not actually trying to be too serious. Still, it's tough to avoid the element of sadness and hopelessness about it that I notice whenever watching it with others.

In class when the project was previewed for the first time, I remember silence mixed with awkward laughs. When it was over a common sentiment was, "I wasn't sure if I was allowed to laugh or not". Truthfully, it came off more serious than I expected.

My friend Ward did an excellent job of playing down the role in my opinion. In so many student shorts people try to overact or include every emotion in the book to make it feel heavy. I feel like the value of this project is that in opting to go dialogue free, keeping focus on a single location, and allowing things to unfold naturally, you actually get a more legitimate view of who this person would be if he was real. It feels like a confident effort despite being 18 at the time. Not to say the project is without flaw obviously, but for the exercise and class it felt very relevant.

We shot on a cold spring day in March armed only with my D8 camcorder and storyboard. I didn't have a clear idea of where I wanted to shoot exactly, but I knew I wanted an alley in downtown Regina so that the scale of the scene would be more fun to work with.

Ward and I, having met at university orientation and becoming friends throughout first year, had worked together on other projects. When shooting photos for a slide show earlier that semester we used the parkade that borders this alley for a better vantage point. That probably had as much to do with deciding on the location as anything.

Technically, I'm still very proud of how this assignment looks. It was shot entirely in-camera, chronologically, and only the music and titles were added in post. As per the rules of the lesson, it was a test on our skills to block scenes, rehearse, and plan on the fly. I storyboarded everything, and my resulting high grade was no doubt a result of my organization.

The evolution of the project came about in 2007 with the start of this blog and my desire to upload my film school shorts. Until that point this project had simply been known as Homeless. With the mustard scene fresh in my mind and the addition of the song Mean Mr. Mustard by the Beatles, it seemed that a new title would be more fitting. Consider the first few lyrics of the song - "Mean Mr. Mustard sleeps in the park, shaves in the dark trying to save paper. Sleeps in a hole in the road. Saving up to buy some clothes. Keeps a ten-bob note up his nose. Such a mean old man".

There's no evidence that Ward's character was mean, but the association between the lyrics and the literal mustard gag seemed like a fun comparison. Thus, the title changed to Mean Mr. Mustard is Homeless - though the short itself (with exception to the titles) is identical to the 2003 version.

My fondness for this short and Film 200 specifically, comes from the memories associated with getting started on a new phase in my creative career. Many of the people I met in 200 I still talk to today, and it was their work that directly fueled my competitiveness and drive to push myself even further. It seems like an understatement to say that a lot has been accomplished since then.

It's all good if you can make a living making movies about being homeless, and not being homeless because you took your shot at making movies.

Feb 25, 2009

Postcards & YouTube Music Copyrights

For the last several months I've been at odds with YouTube and their crackdown on copyright music in videos. I guess this is more about pressure from record companies than YouTube stopping it, but things are certainly changing.

While I've always respected copyrights when submitting to festivals, YouTube to me was more about free range. It was lip sync videos, fan videos, and home video put to music. While not everything is off limits, and while some copyrighted songs are still allowed to play - others are blocked months after a video was uploaded. This is the challenge I've been facing with some of my video postcards - my travel edits that I've uploaded.

It's difficult to say how serious an issue this is, as there's no list that says which songs are approved and which aren't. YouTube's audioswap feature is also available, put the choices in music are painfully bad and lame. It's worth removing the video and uploading it with a new track than settling on one of their options.

My newest videos often feature independent artists or royalty free music as to avoid this problem now - however, it's my older projects where there's background music playing that I'm concerned about. I suppose I'll just have to re-edit and re-upload if anything happens.

Here are two of my travel edits that I recently uploaded again. The nice thing about them is that they weren't cut specifically to any piece of music, so most songs compliment the footage. It just means a bit more work on my part and research for more talented independent musicians - not that I was taking credit for anyone elses music to begin with.

Driving Through Western Nebraska

Black Hills Photo Collage

Feb 18, 2009

Bellagio Fountain Remix

Somewhere between a series of animated ink blots or gushing oil geysers is where I'd categorize this latest edit. I had started out with the idea of making a short travel clip of the fountains at the Bellagio that I shot while on vacation in Las Vegas last November. The further I got into it the more I felt like switching things up.

If you want to experience what the fountains are really like you can go to Vegas yourself or watch one of the thousands of videos already uploaded on YouTube. I opted for some inverting, overlapping, and rhythmic cutting. It was fun playing with the patterns and motion in this short, which made experimenting easy - and then creating several variations after mixing it with the MGMT Kids Soulwax Nite Remix. Parts of my footage were filmed from the top of the Eiffel Tower at the Paris Hotel, and others at various points out front of the Bellagio itself. Yes, it's different, maybe even a little weird and/or pointless, but to me it sure feels energetic and cool.

Feb 15, 2009

Siblings (2008)

My sister was visiting and I said to her, like I say to almost everyone I know, 'We should make a movie'! It was July 2008 and I had the rough idea for Siblings in the back of my mind for a while. Nothing complicated, just a little flick about sibling rivalry and a punchline. The kind of short that doesn't take long to set up, and is so much more about playing around than specific shots.

While this project is far from my most ambitious work, it's the kind of short that I hope to make a lot more of.

With all the film school projects I feel like my portfolio is already heavily weighted in experiments, art shorts, video poems, etc. and the random comedies that everyone else uploads on YouTube are something that I'd like to have more of myself - even if it's just to attract a few more like-minded viewers. Pull 'em in with the popcorn flicks, make 'em stay for the art.

Siblings was almost entirely devised on the spot. Like I said, I had a rough idea about my sister and I playing in the playground entirely because it just seemed like it'd be funny. The punchline of the short was a product of the shoot. Originally, the ending we discussed involved my sister and I sitting on a park bench, my sister still grumpy and emotionless, we're both drinking slurpees. I'm beaming ear to ear after playing on all the equipment, my sister chucks her slurpee at me and says 'Now can we do something that I want to do'!

That ending would've worked well too I think, but the idea for the change came on the walk back from getting the slurpees. We thought it would be a funny twist if instead of being emotionless the whole time, my sister finally cracks on the merry-go-round and has a bit of fun . . . which ultimately leads to the revised twist. And there's the dynamic between my sister and myself in a nutshell - at least in my comedic view.

A couple months later, I was playing with the Siblings footage trying out some new filters and effects that I had just purchased. What resulted was a the Siblings Remix, mainly just an animated music video playing on the footage we shot that day cut to a remix of Coldplay's Viva la Vida. The remix video doesn't really add anything new, but as far as editing exercises go it was fun to make and seemed worth sharing. The animated nature of the footage was perfect for trying different things, so I guess it was only a matter of time before something else came out of it. For being so simple, it sure makes for an entertaining family home video.

Also, check out the surprsing sequel, Siblings 2!

Feb 12, 2009

I'll Fun Punch You in the Face!

The Bag Raiders and their music video 'Fun Punch' were new to me just a few weeks ago, but seeing it was more than enough to kick off my downloading spree. Remember that spandex loving, high flip kicking, mighty morphin' gang known as the Power Rangers? It turns out they inspired more than just pre-pubescent violence - their action sequences are undeniable in Bag Raiders homage. The edits are tight, the choreography is sharp, and the song is downright addictive! GO-GO-FUN-PUNCH!

Feb 11, 2009

from 84 (2006)

December 2006. As my final assignment that semester in an experimental film class, I completed from 84. From what I recall, the project was to embody something personal - a diary of sorts. It was a broad focus, but having recently gone through a bunch of childhood pictures I decided that my personal experiment would consist of the abstract patterns and textures cropped, largely out of context, from those photographs (many as you may have guessed were from the year I was born, 1984).

My goal was to create a video patchwork that related to those loose first memories and how despite experiencing a wealth of new things in our first years, we lack the foresight to tell ourselves to remember. There are obviously numerous clues relating to my own childhood in my selections. Wallpaper of my bedroom, toys, clothing with race cars, random family members and different outings all mix together with other indiscernible fragments to create the illusion of a lost past.

To assist in the viewing, I used repetitive narration to directly address the common idea of locking numerous moments, periods of time, or memories in a photo. However, I also intended the repetitiveness to portray a sense of continually looking over the past and still coming to the same conclusions about it or landing on the same highlights. In many ways this short was influenced by the video poem I made earlier in the semester, Alphabet, about trying to recall my first day of school.

What I think is most successful about from 84 is that its depth is dictated by the viewer. Some will find clues that relate to their own past, some are simply guided by the anchoring wide-eyed glare of my central baby picture, some are taken in by the words, and others will find it to be completely pointless and empty. And therein lies the wonder and completely generic nature of childhood.

Like I've tried to do in so many of my other experimental shorts, I incorporate a bit of whimsy with as much of a clear thread throughout the piece as possible. I'm not trying to trick anyone or appear overly ambiguous to fake meaning, but in this genre especially, many freely express a love/hate relationship. Keep in mind that the experiment here is as much about what you choose to look at, as it is about what visual triggers are provided.

In short - keep an open mind and think critically. 

Feb 9, 2009

When No One's Looking

a poem by Luke Fandrich

It's on principle that I offer my work.
A belief that a few cuts can influence.
A belief that a few seconds is enough.
A belief that I do have something to share.

It's on principle that I offer myself.
Tear me apart.
Build me up.
Maybe see what I see.

It's on principle that I dropped out.
Too cool for school.
Too smart to be dumb any longer.
Too young to feel stuck.

It's on principle that I push.
Even if you won't watch.
Even if you won't read.
And especially if you don't care.

It's all in the principle.

When no one's looking I'm still editing.
When no one's looking I'm still posturing.
When no one's looking I'm still learning.
When no one's looking I'm still here.

I'm not asking for much.
I'm just fishing for a chance.

Feb 6, 2009

1989 Buick Park Avenue

It's no secret that I love my car. Sure she's old and a little rough around the edges, but she still works surprisingly well.  From Educated Detours, to Buick to the Future, to Split Wash and beyond, I'm sure my car will continue to pop up in my videos for as long as she runs. This post was inspired by a handful of original Buick commercials from the 1980s that I found on YouTube. Crazy that "THE Buick" as she's known, is now over 20 years old.  See my car below.

Feb 4, 2009

Car Kaleidoscope (2008)

When I came across the site for the Toronto Urban Film Festival in June 2008, I knew instantly that I wanted to try and make something to submit. The guidelines for the festival stated that the project was to be exactly 60 seconds long with no audio, and was to fit into one of their categories pertaining to the various ways people live in urban environments.

I settled on the 'urban travels' category and came up with an experimental short that played on the patterns of rush hour traffic in a single intersection. By dividing, or split screening, my footage I created my initial pattern. Then I replicated that image several times to create the grid, and the sped up depth of movement mixed with the variety of colourful vehicles created the geometric illusion of a kaleidoscope - or one of those computer generated 3D prints.

My film wasn't selected to take part in the festival that September, but I can understand why. The selected films ran in repetition for a week on the Toronto subway platforms. Those screens aren't that big to begin with, and my short is tough enough to make out when it's right in front of you. Plus, those that were selected were very deserving in my book (and based on the awards ceremony, they seemed keen on rewarding people from Toronto so people would actually show up). In any case, Car Kaleidoscope was certainly worth while as it proved to be enough motivation to try out several other split screen experiments that summer/fall.

For as seemingly simple as this experiment was, a lot of trial and error went into the effect. Even if you've never been into experimental film, I feel like there's something very relaxing and cathartic about getting lost in the pattern. This version of Car Kaleidoscope is obviously different than the one I submitted to TUFF as a soundtrack and titles have been added, and I've repeated the footage for longer than the original 60 seconds.

To fully appreciate this short it has to be viewed in high quality to make out the images. If you watch it from my blog be sure to click the HQ tag after you press play, or better yet, double click on the video and watch it in larger HD quality from my YouTube channel. Thanks for checking out the experiment!

Car Kaleidoscope (2008) Shot and Edited by Luke Fandrich

Feb 3, 2009

Urban Jazz (2003)

Inspired by all the early City Symphony films from the 1920's and 30's that I saw in my first year of uni, in the summer of 2003 I attempted one of my own. On a day trip up to Calgary my friend Andrea and I were playing tourist and I ended up shooting a ton of footage from the top of the Calgary Tower. Mixed with some other footage I shot of the old hotels and buildings by the tracks in Medicine Hat, I cut together a vignette of a growing urban landscape.

Like those early classics, Urban Jazz is a contrast between the old city and new city, between structure and chaos, the beauty and decay. Having shot the project almost entirely from above, there are some pretty interesting vantage points and patterns. What makes these city symphony flicks so unique in my view is that as they age they gain even more depth. The city changes, growing and shrinking, and the technology, from the cars to the signs, begin to date the footage.

While this project showcases some of my novice, and rather playful editing, it's also an example of my focus to branch out and experiment (I was 19 at the time). I hadn't really made any serious 'avant garde' flicks before this one, and the year in university that came after this essentially opened the flood gates. To me it's just another reminder that as quickly as time has gone, I created a lot of stepping stones by trying new things and making videos purely to entertain myself. To say the least, I'm happy that motivation hasn't faded.