Aug 30, 2010

University of Regina

To have made it through university hasn't helped me escape the fact that it feels like back-to-school even if I don't have to go. I'm still tempted to buy school supplies and it still feels like another fresh start with the fall starting to show itself. And then with nostalgia kicking in, I remember that school was a lot better than I sometimes give it credit for.

My time at the University of Regina seemed endless for awhile, but now it just seems like a blip. In retrospect a semester was nothing. It was just long enough to get comfortable and then you were forced to change things up anyway. I still find it difficult to recreate that level of variety even with the project to project routine I have down working as an editor.

As you might have guessed (or already knew) I went to the University of Regina to take film and media production as part of a fine arts degree. It was the type of course that gave you the freedom to make a lot of creatively rewarding content and a lot of creatively stifling mistakes. I take credit for both though.

I suppose what I've taken from my time at school, is that the critique never stops you just don't get to see the grades anymore. Try to think of it as more a transition in experience and less of a golden ticket. Make friends, pay attention, don't stress about 5% in a grade, and make bold choices. I've only been out of school for a couple years now, but I can still see how putting myself out there opened a lot doors when it came time to find work.

No matter where you go to university or college, the lesson is so much bigger than what happens in the classroom. One day you'll find yourself staring at a shelf full of notebooks or a bin full of pens and you'll be happy to come up with a reason to actually use them. With the textbooks now acting as shelf decor, and my film school shorts becoming stronger examples
of what I'd like to get away from, the fact of the matter is that everything is better with a bit of a challenge . . . and my notebook just happens to be online now.

Aug 27, 2010

Inspired Singles: Issue 09

A single a day keeps your creativity in play.
Join me as I share some of my fav tunes in an effort to pay the inspiration forward.
Inspired Singles: Issue 09 by Luke Fandrich

Brilliant by David Usher

Known for his lyrical poetics, this track by David Usher is energetic and upbeat. With a reverence for nostalgia and growing older, the song's
chorus chimes 'is it brilliant where you are, where the lights are low'? Questioning if this is all life has to offer or if some people are just comfortable being safe in their bubbles, to me the lyrics emphasize that the experience is what you make of it. Is it brilliant where you are? Yes David, I think it is.

I Don't Know What to Say by The Magnetic Fields

Echoing, ambient, and like a modern lullaby, t
his track floats and lingers. I picture a row boat with the sunlight dancing on the ripples of a great lake in the way this song inspires dreamlike imagery and relaxation. The lyrics are haunting, but in a beautifully innocent way.

Ikea Sangria by Beth In Battle Mode

Choppy piano and an elastic drum beat compliment the vocals that you may at first think belong to the lead singer of the Counting Crows. A light and jaunty piece of music, it just makes you feel good. Certainly worth checking out!

Aug 26, 2010

Marcel The Shell With Shoes On

This cute short, directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp is a classic example of what can be done when a simple concept is given the right polish. Extreme close-ups are made to look epic in scale with Marcel as the focus. Here's a little piece of awesome to spice up your day!

Aug 25, 2010

100 Movie Icons

I came across these animated icons and had fun browsing all the different characters and movie icons. I was amazed that there were only a few I didn't recognize - thank you film history. I thought I'd pass on the challenge to you. How many movie icons/characters do you recognize? Click the image to enlarge, and for a hint at who the character might be the list of movies represented (in chronological order) is listed below.

Nosferatu: eine Symphonie des Grauens, Metropolis, Frankenstein, City Lights, Duck Soup, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Singin’ in the Rain, Rebel without a Cause, Seven Year Itch, Spartacus, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Dr. No, Lawrence of Arabia, A Hard Day’s Night, Dr. Strangelove (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb), The Sound of Music, Il Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Rosemary’s Baby, Easy Rider, A Clockwork Orange, Shaft, The Godfather, The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, Saturday Night Fever, Star Wars, Superman, Alien, Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Scarface, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Amadeus, Full Metal Jacket, Robocop, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, The Silence of the Lambs, Reservoir Dogs, Forrest Gump, Léon, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Braveheart, Scream, American History X, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Lola Rennt, The Big Lebowski, American Beauty, Fight Club, The Matrix, Gladiator, Memento, Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain, Lord of the Rings, Kill Bill

Aug 24, 2010

A Decade From Ontario

In that dream state that seems to befall the best of us when referring to the passing of time, here I am ten years later. On a summer vacation in August 2000 I was off to southern Ontario with my family to explore Toronto, Ottawa, and Niagara Falls for the first time. It was marked by the purchase of my brand new D8 camcorder (digital!) just a few weeks before that gave me that opportunity to shoot in a way I never had before.

My reverence for this trip comes largely from the edits I managed to create on the fly - something that is far more complicated than it sounds. At 16 I had no computer of my own, no video editing software, and I managed to pull off three separate edits synced to music (while touring!) entirely in-camera.

The project was unnecessarily complicated in retrospect, but 10 years later I'm still impressed by the exercise I put myself through. Read the complete post for my Ontario Postcards here to fully understand what I had going on - and be sure to check out the playlist of finished postcards, now a decade old, below.

Aug 20, 2010

One Million

It certainly didn't happen by accident, but day after day that seemingly unattainable goal started to look more and more realistic. Three years and three months into the game and today my combined video views from YouTube, Vimeo, and now total more than one million! That's a pretty respectable milestone if you ask me.

Divided up over a number of projects, I'm proud to say that the views didn't all come from a single video or from uploading someone elses' content or from a cheap attempt to go viral - no, the million views (and counting!) have come from simply sharing film school shorts, experiments, travelogs, parodies, and a variety of other original content that I've created over the years. And to be clear, the number doesn't include any of the corporate edits or videos that I've done and that others have uploaded to their sites.

It's a small time success story in that there are those who have achieved this milestone seemingly overnight - but, for my sake, the number simply means that people have been watching. Whether the number was 10,000 or 1,000,000 that's all I ever really cared about. The number is more or less a realization of a goal that seemed almost impossible to reach when I started out, and in that sense it's a marker for the determination and effort that I've invested in myself and the work I'm passionate about. It feels incredible to have reached one million views and have perseverance to attribute it to.

Thank you all for continuing to make the journey a rush!

Aug 17, 2010

American Teen: Documentary #2

I imagine every generation of teenagers has believed they've had it harder than their parents did. It's par for the course when the smallest things seem life changing, when your social life feels pressurized, when you don't know what you want, and when your experiencing one first after another. Thus is the conflict within an Indiana high school in American Teen (2008).

The film kicks off on the first day of the school year where we're introduced to a cast of characters who initially seem painfully cliche. From the jock to the outsider to the princess - it's clear from the get-go that we're going to be in for a lot of angst. Still, there's something redeeming and unexpected about the approach.

Whether you're a teenager or not it's easy to get swept up in the drama. I remember the stress of trying to figure out where I wanted to go university, the torture of high school politics, and the arrogance and
stubbornness that seemed to make daily life more complicated than it needed to be. American Teen isn't about hard hitting facts or specific problems, instead it's a fly-on-the-wall documentary about that awkward, raw, and emotional teenage experience as told by distinct (and suggestively average) cliques.

We're witness to the daily problems of each kid, who really have a lot more in common than any of them are willing to recognize. A highlight of the film is the unexpected romance between the high school pretty boy and the artsy chick with aspirations to go to the big city - a match up that is initially portrayed as never-in-a-million-years. Moments like this help to capture a slice of that feeling you had when you first realized that the world was bigger than you gave it credit for. Seeing each student grow out of their role (however marginal) is what gives this experiment and documentary some weight.

American Teen was filmed over an entire school year, which is impressive in itself, but it's almost a requirement just to escape the day-to-day gossip. At times the documentary feels too superficial, too focused on playing up forced drama, and I couldn't help but think that in the moment the subjects had to know the cameras were there capturing what they were doing. This is most obvious when a high school prank causes 'the princess' to lose her student council position. Who would actually do this knowing that it would be permanently showcased in a mainstream documentary?

Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, American Teen's director, Nanette Burstein, was also an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary (feature length) for her 1999 film, On the Ropes which she co-directed with Brett Morgen.

In the same way the Hills or other MTV shows have failed at documenting 'actual' reality, American Teen walks a very fine line. I'm not convinced that everything we were shown was entirely truthful, but it's convenient. We want to see the artsy girl leave town, we want the jock to get his scholarship, we want the outsider to gain a bit more confidence, etc. and
by showing this that youthful optimism is further emphasized and resonant. In this circumstance, I think that's crucial.

Being a teenager isn't easy, but as we get older it becomes almost comic in comparison to the responsibilites of our day to day lives. American Teen embodies a spectrum of 'frustrations' to show how real life and growing up begins to overshadow the soap opera, how there is a lot to figure out, and how before you know it you're out on your own. It would be interesting to see a follow up in a decade to see what's become of everyone. And, I guess that's the point of what I'm saying - it's fun to watch potential.

Aug 14, 2010

Indio or Bust!

The time has come again! After last years very successful and highly anticipated road trip to Indio, California my friend Dave and I have finalized our plans for a return trip this September. This time we're spending more time down there and taking an alternate route home - something there simply wasn't time for last year.

From Salt Lake to Vegas to Indio, LA, Hollywood, Long Beach, Palm Springs, the Salton Sea, and ending with a trip up the coastal highway for a stay in San Francisco, this is going to be one epic journey. If my edits for Indio Outio were any indication, this second excursion will prove to be even more dynamic and diverse.

I'm also excited that we'll be revisiting places that are now completely different from how we saw them just a year ago. The North Shore Yacht Club at Salton Sea will be the biggest change. Renovations over the last year have been completed and the abandoned site we explored is now a restored museum and community centre - see the post I did about that here. Also, we've planned to check out the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway again, but this time earlier in the day so we can see more of the landscape. Riding the tramway at sunset we caught a glimpse of the city lights through the valley on our last visit - the video I edited captures the euphoria quite well.

I'm anxious to get away again and am just as inspired by the potential edits I have in mind to create. While last years trip fueled some upbeat travel clips, I want to make more of a statement this time around by creating poetic vignettes of the experiences. Likely all to be narrated, I'm going to push myself to create bolder, more weighted, interpersonal presentations. A reworked mashup of last years footage from Indio is also in the works and should be a gauge of what I hope to accomplish.

Once again it seems a road trip has presented itself as the ideal escape. Dave and I both seem to have quite defining memories of the random locales seen last year - with the extra money and time already put forward, I think we're going to be amazed again at how much we see and do.

What else can I say? Our California trip has been jokingly referred to as our skewed version of Sideways. We shall see.

Aug 13, 2010

Educated Detours Photo Collage

I have no shortage of photos! In recounting some of my past projects I had the idea that it would be fun to create small photo collages to highlight the unique look of some of my older work. For the most part a lot of these photos have sat on CD or in a folder where they're just not seen. Once again, the blog seems to be the perfect venue for quick reference and a bit of nostalgia. Expect to see more of these as I work my way through my archives.

Check out the complete Educated Detours project by clicking here, and have a look at the short trailer below.

Aug 12, 2010

Dear Japan by Matthew Brown

I've made it clear with my edits in the past that travel inspires me. The fresh perspective on an unfamiliar locale can bring out the best in my shooting, and ultimately fuel my most creative editing projects.

Stumbling around Vimeo I was introduced to Dear Japan by Matthew Brown. His beautiful and shockingly detailed edit of random attractions, faces, and textures literally paints a video portrait of a dynamic and vibrant cultural experience. It's a brilliant piece of editing, both to see and hear. Credit also goes to Nathan Miller for shooting this with the Canon 7D - amazing footage!

I love how something like this seemingly just falls into my lap and suddenly has me thinking about what I can do to push my own work further. My hours of Indio footage from last year immediately came to mind after my first viewing of Dear Japan, and now I'm considering doing a mashup of the hours of footage I shot on the open road.

Dear Japan is exactly what a good edit should be - captivating, lyrical, and emotionally focused. Matthew Brown, I don't know you, but well done!

Aug 11, 2010

Radiant City: Documentary #1

Radiant City (2006) is a film about suburbia, urban sprawl, and the mindset of those who call 'the burbs' home (aka the bulk of the North American population). It's meant to be a slice of life, but there's something else going on here.

What I liked about Radiant City was how it brought my attention to the realistic concern of how long we can continue to grow like this - or view growth as simply a matter of construction. The conservationist movement is becoming more prevalent each year, and yet we continue to build cookie-cutter neighbourhoods farther and farther away from actual services. Our society is so dependent on owning a vehicle now that navigating our cities has become less about interaction and more about forming lines.

I was intrigued by the argument that our new idea of community is conflicted with our desire for privacy. Fenced sub-divisions, private transportation, individual cubicles; these cliches of post-modern living have been the subject of debate for decades, but there's a hint of something here that should've been explored in greater detail.

Radiant City, unfortunately, isn't saying enough. Instead of really diving into the stories behind potential alternatives, or possibilities for refurbishment and smart growth, the film dwindles in its final chapter relying on a gimmick to try and prove a separate point. I can understand the logic behind why the filmmakers decided to go this way, but I can't help but feel it only serves to undermine the points that the rest of the film is based on. It's like they didn't have faith that people really cared about the truth behind something most of us could relate to? The facts become lost in a foggy epilogue that derails the argument for the sake of forced poeticism.

Yes the suburbs are big, yes they're wasteful, and yes there are interesting stories as to why we live this way. I wish this documentary was more like the trailer I watched after seeing the film though instead of simply stereotyping the suburban experience as the pursuit of a fantasy - there's more to it than that. People also just need places to live.

While I wouldn't recommend Radiant City based on its merit as an informative documentary, it would still make a great film school lesson in that it offers a lot of material for debate on the choices the filmmakers made in constructing their argument - see the IMDB forum for spoilers on why this is.

In the end the film makes light of suburbia, as it should, to point out that there are perks when living in the sprawl. However, Radiant City ultimately falters on providing a perspective with enough focus to pin-point actual urban development solutions and simply doesn't trust itself enough to be genuine with subject matter this abundantly revealing and available.

Aug 9, 2010

9 Documentaries Project

Over the last weekend I found myself browsing the well picked over crop of clearance DVDs in a local video store that's going out of business. The store was practically empty, both in product and people, but with everything 85% off I was completely willing to explore the haphazard displays and take the risk of buying a few duds.

Of all the sections remaining it was the documentaries that looked the most promising - practically untouched. Sure, most kids aren't clamouring for the 'special interest' shelf - a label that only emphasizes the hodge-podge of titles that end up there - but on this rare circumstance where everything-must-go I jumped at the opportunity to pick up some radically different perspectives in documentary form.

I quickly recognized the creative potential and challenge of subjecting myself to a series of largely unheard of titles for the sake of writing new material on my blog. I ended up getting 9 documentaries for under $14. Of these films I've only seen one before, and for the sake of the project I can now guarantee that there will be at least one film I like. Expect to hear about surfing, wine, suburbia, and even bestiality . . . I can't say I'm surprised that all of the titles were still there.

Whether these documentaries will be any good is hard to say, but I'm intrigued by the truths presented by these (largely) low-budget slices of life. Be sure to continue to check back for updates as the series of posts (and documentary titles) are revealed. A couple of years out of film school and it seems I'm going back.

Aug 8, 2010

New Kinda World (2002)

In my first semester at the University of Regina everything was heavy. I was on my own for the first time, living in a city where I previously didn't know anyone, and just learning to balance my personal responsibility with my desire to let loose. It was memorable.

New Kinda World was just a short edit that I put together before Thanksgiving to take home and share with family and friends. It's basically just a brief look at the campus, but it gave a sense of my new surroundings. Little did I know at the time, but this footage would become dated fairly quickly. Just a year after this was shot, construction began on a brand new residence and phys. ed complex that would cut the campus green space in half and re-define the centre of the entire school. Check out the follow-up university edits that I made in 2006/2007 to see what I'm talking about.

While on the surface this footage is little more than a home-video of a few buildings, to me it's a reminder of those first few months when everything changed. I look at this and remember being on my own in my dorm, the walks around campus to try and figure out where my classes were, and all the new people I met in those first few weeks. I can't help but get a bit of that anxiety and energy from thinking about just how different all this was in the moment.

If nothing else, New Kinda World is a great piece of nostalgia.

Aug 5, 2010


I seem to be having a problem with procrastinating more and more these days. Maybe it's the amount of work I have on my plate at the moment, maybe it's the nice weather, but I'm generally having a lot of trouble getting things done. I haven't finished an edit for myself in several months now and it feels like even with procrastination there's just not enough time to mess around. Posts like this don't seem to help either . . . haha, merely a pleasant distraction.

Watch this clip from Ellen DeGeneres' Here& Now special for more random musings about procrastination - over the years this DVD has been a good reminder of all the things I'm not getting done.

Aug 1, 2010

Modern Times (1936)

If there was one celebrity I would have loved to meet, it would have been Charlie Chaplin. The man and his little tramp character are not only still recognized internationally, but Chaplin acted, wrote, directed, produced, and composed the music for a range of films (many his own) that are now regarded as the classics of early cinema.

He was an independent man who wanted to do it himself, and on a path that took him from poverty to international success he acquired the means to do just that. I have nothing but respect for Chaplin's accomplishments and am amazed at how a single man was able to so dramatically change the landscape of a burgeoning entertainment industry.

It's incredible that Modern Times is now over 70 years old, and even more incredible that it's still capable of garnering laugh-out-loud reactions. True, slapstick is slapstick, but what made Chaplin such a force is how he merged social concerns, in this case unemployment and the mechanization of the workplace, into elaborate gags. You may recall the famous scene where Chaplin slides between a series of giant gears after failing to keep up with a conveyor belt that was going too fast. Or, a scene where a small flag falls off the back of a truck, and after picking it up Chaplin finds himself leading a group of striking workers.

The basic setups are simple, but there's always something endearing and honest about watching Chaplin's struggling little Tramp - the character he's most remembered for. So much could be suggested by showing the light and dark sides of a man who was down on his luck, or often just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Films like Modern Times established a connection and understanding with those real folks who at the time of this films release were smack-dab in the middle of the Great Depression.

I couldn't say it better than Nick Davis does in an excerpt from his review, noting, "[Modern Times] finds the comedy in the dashing of hopes, though it has both the verve to be funny for funny’s sake when it feels the urge, and the fortitude not to tidy up or erase every dark stroke in the picture. Orphans are not un-orphaned, and some of them permanently vanish. Lovers on the lam stay on the lam. The sidewalks and roads all feel dusty, as well they might in 1936. Though this is hardly The Bicycle Thief, Chaplin shows real conviction in evoking the dehumanizing routine of the assembly line, the political roils of factory strikes and Communist agitation, and the chintzy desperation of Depression-era have-nots".

When you consider how heavy some of these issues must have been in the mid-30s it seems incredible that Chaplin constructed such a successful comedy. Constructed seems to be the right word too because the structure of the film is clearly unbalanced; motivated by a series of smaller skits strung together in lieu of a classic plot arch. Yet, the film works because of the moral clarity of the Tramp.

It's not just the story of a funny little man, it's quite honestly the story of 'modern times' and the hardship that can accompany them. This tale of frustration took courage to tell, especially when the subject matter came from a man who had become wealthy playing a hobo. But, perhaps it took a man who had seen both sides of the coin to really understand the weight and levity of what was going on. In my opinion, Modern Times was Chaplin's most pitch perfect film.

And despite all the seriousness, at the end of the day Modern Times is a comedy that sticks with me. Chaplin and the feeding machine may in fact be one of the funniest moments in movie history, and I was literally in tears the first time I saw it. All the ingredients are clearly there - this is a comedy that will never go out of style.