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Into Post for Moments

Just wanted to update you on the progress of our little film, A Thousand Moments Later as the main chunk of principal photography is now complete, and I’m back at home beginning the larger task of sorting the footage and putting together an assembly cut from which I will begin to mold the piece into a proper movie—adding music, sound design, and of course, finessing the edit itself.

 

Here’s what has happened thus far:

 

We started in a little apartment owned by a friend to do the opening scenes when Gemma (Lily Hall) and Ryan (Chris Farrell) appear on screen together for the first time. This was early in the month and we were there for two days. We used black plastic to cover all the windows of the apartment so we could shoot during the day and have it appear as if night. Strangely, after a few hours inside the blackedout apartment it really did feel like night time.

 

After this we had a travel day to get to the coast and setup for the coming two weeks—food shopping, sort out who got the best rooms etc. We all lived together in one house. It was fun! Like a little family. And yes we also argued like a family at times. But the feeling of going through something together bonded the small group beautifully.

 

So this beach house was base camp and each day we’d travel to the location for that days shoot. This meant a lot of 4:00am starts. It was both exhausting and exhilarating as I would often not finish the day before 10:00pm or so.

 

Now I had always seen the film with lots of sun and clear skies but the weather was not kind to us. Not kind at all! But rather than fight this I rewrote sections of the film and used the weather to add to the drama.

 

Much of my background interests are clearly marked in the thematic scheme and voice-over of the film. But I am keenly interested in the film having a dark(-ish) edge as I believe this contrast between light and shade, between the theme and the images used to convey said theme will go someway to adding complexity to the story.

 

But when I say “dark” I do not mean negative or emotionally destructive. I simply mean “real.” Real life. Real people. That is the goal.

 

The late great Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, Cold Mountain) believed that cinema had a moral function. By moral function he simply meant a way of showing us how to be in the world in such a way as to make it a better place. I agree with him. Thus by putting “real” characters in pseudo-real circumstances and having them display their own potential as sentient beings is what I am interested in.

If you have not seen this bookmark it and make time, some time, to watch the master discuss his process — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ihVndJm_yM

 

So there are sections of the film that are very quiet and almost European arthouse in aesthetic. While other sections of the film are jump-cutty with lots of camera shake as I felt this reflected the inner emotions of the situation.

 

I hope my choices were correct because I cannot edit around these choices now! 🙂

 

So…below are a couple of screengrabs and behind the scenes pictures (if you follow me on instagram you may have seen a couple of these already).

 

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A Better Place Starts Here

I’m not sure my art can change the world but I know it can change me.

I’ve long struggled with what, and how, I can do in order to best serve. I’ve tried various things but today it became a little clearer as I sat silent in meditation that the best thing I can do for the world is to be a better person.

Stop trying to change the world “for the better.” Simply change myself and the world will be better as a result.

I’ve said this before — let your work be an expression of Bodhichitta.

I’ve never felt this to be more true than I did today.

 


Into the Given Part 3 — A choice the premise

As part of the pre-production process for my upcoming film, A Thousand Moments Later, I put together a document for the actors and crew to give them something to think over. The document contained some prose and some reference photos of key moments. What follows is part of that document.

Part 1 — What’s needed is an experience
Part 2 — Embracing Failure!

 

Love. What is Love? When we say, I love you? What does this mean? And how could it possibly be a choice?
A Thousand Moments Later is a story about the development of such love.

This type of love is not what we normally think love to be but rather the love to which the ancient Greek philosophers referred to as agape. Spontaneous and unmotivated, agape is love grounded in the aspiration that another be well and happy. This kind of love is not motivated by one’s own aspirations or even preference for a particular outcome. It is unconditional in the purest sense. Indeed this kind of love is the love spoken of by Buddhists and called mettá or maitrí in Sanskrit. The etymology of the term mettá is often rendered as loving-kindness and I think this captures well the intent behind love in this Western sense of agape for both are fundamentally a deep sense of caring—a strong yet gentle impulse to care.

To care and to be care about (not cared for but cared about) — this is the foundation of all romantic love. Yet this mutual and very symbiotic kind of love is hard won. It is hard won because while the genesis of romantic love may be pure, as the years go by love can become mixed with resentment born of power-games, of pain from the things left unsaid, and even just plain old boredom and isolation. In such cases the sense of being cared about has been severed through circumstance. And this can happen without any intention by either party.

But notice something very important here. Love as defined here is not something one gets from another but rather it is something that one gives to another — you do not receive love, you give it. In fact, I would claim that one can never receive love. You can only give it for love is the act of caring. What you receive from the other is a sense of being cared about — supported. And it is when one feels this sense of being cared about that one’s aspiration for the other to be well and happy increases. It’s symbiotic. But someone has to start. And this “start” is a choice.

Love is, therefore, an act of freewill. When it’s not an act of freewill, it is not love. Something else is motivating it. Moreover, when things are going wrong in relationships and arguments become the special of the day, we are in fact fighting with ourselves—with our own fears and doubts about our own lives in isolation. When fear of abandonment manifests into an argument what is the real issue here? Ego!

Ego is the manifestation of the self as a self—cutoff and in isolation from another. At best this is delusional. For upon reflection it is easy to see that no one lives this way. We are, in fact, interdependent by nature but ego cannot see this fact and through its blindness a sense of importance is developed. My happiness. My life. My feelings. My my my. Me me me. The ego is selfish by definition. Suffice it to say, it is only through the transformation of love from one based on the physical to one based on the mental that relationships survive longer term. And similarly it is only once the physical has become mental that the ego can be slain—allowing for this transcendent caring to express itself. While we continue to define ourselves in relation to another— cutoff and in isolation—we are doomed to wander through life uncertain and unable to commit to anything other than the egos own sense of importance.

Now, Ron Howard once said that film narrative is about mapping basic human emotions to interesting actions. And Elia Kazan (East of Eden, A Streetcar Named Desire) before him famously told us that we are trying to make the psychological, physical.

In this regard, A Thousand Moments Later is the story of the potential to love in this purest sense. And the story argues that agape and mettá are both real and possible and often brought to bear in key moments. Moments that define who we are beyond the mask we present to the world — beyond the mask of ego.

This indeed is a difficult task but how could it be any other way?


Into the Given Part 2 — Embracing Failure

As part of the pre-production process for my upcoming film, A Thousand Moments Later, I put together a document for the actors and crew to give them something to think over. The document contained some prose and some reference photos of key moments. What follows is part of that document.

Part 1 — What’s needed is an experience
Part 3 — A choice the premise

EMBRACING FAILURE!

For those aspiring to say something meaningful it can be easy to get caught in thoughts of whether a project will be understood. We carry expectations into our projects and as such it is easy to become disheartened when these expectations are not met. Or worse, we let these expectations guide us through the creative process. This way is death.
Setting to one-side expectations of any kind is the light even if this entails the possibility of failing to be fully understood by everyone.

Successful filmmakers—no, strike that—successful people, embrace failure. That is to say, they embrace the possibility of failure for such people are not put off by long and difficult journeys towards understanding. They know it is a journey of discovery for both filmmaker and audience, and they lean on this process to get them through. In fact they are often inspired by such challenges and the patience needed to follow an unknown path. They trust in each other and the ability to see through common everyday likes and dislikes offsetting short-term narrative satisfaction for longer-term meaningfulness. And they do this with steely persistence. Wong Kar Wai and Terry Malick being two filmmakers that embody this tradition.

Process. Patience. Trust. Persistence.

These four tenets cohere creative teams. Allowing them to remain on course as everything else around them turns to mud and the haters (both the inside and outside haters) come to play.

Losing You Way — Finding Perspective

But sometimes it happens—we get lost. Lost in thought. Lost in time. Lost in life. Lost in the creative process. And yet these times can be the catalyst for fresh insights into old truths.

It is important, therefore, to allow oneself the chance to be lost.


What is needed is an experience Part 1

As part of the pre-production process for the upcoming film, A Thousand Moments Later, I put together a document for the actors and crew to give them something to think over. The document contained some prose and some reference photos of key moments. What follows is part of that document. (sorry but I cannot use the pic here as they are copyrighted)

Part 2 — Embracing Failure
Part 3 — A choice the premise

WHAT IS NEEDED IS AN EXPERIENCE.

A pithy line of dialogue, a reveal engendering insight, all these cinematic devices are the tools of smarter men and women than I. Indeed cinematic storytelling, for the most part, is not easy. It is not easy because it is a sophisticated medium where hours can be spent frustrated by misunderstanding, or, as is more often the case, a sense of not fully understanding what the hell it is you are doing/watching. Frustrations notwithstanding it is an experience for which one is better off for having regardless of whether or not the filmmaker’s intention was missed or misunderstood.

With the aforementioned in mind, and as good evidence of my point, I want to address the notions of clarity and coherence in cinematic storytelling. Some might argue there is, in fact, a lack of clarity in the very enterprise of filmmaking for cinematic storytelling is inherently abstruse by its very nature—to some degree images are subjective. To make things worse, the ideas we are grappling with here are difficult. Yet is it their importance that renders them difficult, or is it their difficulty that makes them important? I think one could argue it is, in fact both, and for that very reason, it is important for those engaged in the articulation of these themes to make certain the answers are accessible to as many inquisitive minds as possible. If the filmmakers, through artiness, simply add to the abstruseness of their project, thus taking important questions and making them impenetrable, cinematic storytelling turns into the quibbling of vain men and women.

Having said all that, and by saying it in such a way as to highlight my very point, I want to ask the following question: Is misunderstanding the fault of the audience or the filmmaker? Does clarity ensure comprehension? Or is understanding “given” through the art of visual eloquence? This question goes to the heart of a pedagogical dilemma presented herein: how do we get knowledge — the cognitive effect of understanding—from page, to screen, to the heart via the head? Is it the duty of the writer to forge this understanding? Cleaving difficult ideas in plain English even at the risk of cogency. Or is it to the director we must turn in order to lift obfuscated prose from the page? What role do audiences have in this play of wits? These questions seem important to me for freedom from suffering is at stake here—if the opposite of freedom is ignorance.

If cinematic art is to be important to people it must be important for people. And for this to be the case a film must leave the viewer with a visceral experience not found elsewhere. It must speak to them in such a way as to seem important even when the narrative is difficult to grasp. Indeed, I would argue it must be somewhat difficult to grasp as this is what will inspire deeper thought. It will ignite interest to look beyond the ordinary.
This indeed is a difficult task but how could it be any other way?

I believe, therefore, that clarity and coherence is dependent on audience and filmmakers alike. Nevertheless, there is simply no way one could fully grasp the intended meaning upon first viewing because that is not how knowledge moves from one being to another.

This indeed is a difficult point but how could it be any other way?


Unconditional Surrender

I just had a memory of my teacher, Geshe Thubten Loden and the creation of art and expectations.

It was around the time when I first became involved in Buddhism. I’d been going to his dharma centre for only a short time. I had not yet moved in with him so it could have only been a short time after I first met him.

I’d made him these little bookmarks hand painted in a kind of mandala/aboriginal style dot painting. I was so proud of those little things and spent days creating them.

I was having my first “private audience” with Geshe-la and so I wanted to present him with something. This is what I did.

So on the day and when I finally got to sit him front of him I pulled out my gift and handed it to him with both hands as a sign of respect.

and without even looking at them he placed them onto the side table and began asking me questions not at all related to what I had just given him.

I was surprised. A little hurt. But I also knew he was showing me something (This kind of thing went on daily for the next 15 years).

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This morning I recalled this and in the following context: Anyone that creates stuff—either for a living or not—but anyone that presents their work (often hour and hours and hours of work) to other should do so without expectations.

Speaking to myself now: create your work without expectations. And without thought of what will come. For an expression that is pure, is the best gift the world can receive regardless of how it is indeed received.

I aim for this. But fail more often than not.

I have no idea what happened to the bookmarks. I suspect they were thrown in the rubbish-bin soon after I left. And this is ok. Indeed the prefect place for them. Not because they were rubbish but because I thought the opposite!

Stay in Touch




Street Photography

Along with a new camera that has a “silent shooting” mode I went for a walk on Saturday. Walked along way. From one side of Melbourne to almost halfway home in the suburbs.

I got one picture I liked in six hours and it’s not that great. I like it but it’s only mediocre imo.

Street photography is hard, man. Really hard! Why? Because entering the personal space of a stranger with a camera without making them feel uncomfortable to foreign to me. I cannot say I enjoyed it all that much.

I love looking at street photography but, I’m not sure I will spend much time doing it moving forward.

It is, however, something I’m glad I forced myself to experience.

 

Helping a Friend

Old man reading a romance novel

Old man reading a romance novel.

Old lady collecting free fruit.

Old lady collecting free fruit.