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Favorite Films: Exotica

Atom Egoyan’s best work. One of the biggest reasons for me to quit business school and become a filmmaker. It was my secret film that nobody (at that time) had seen or even heard of. When people talked about their great films, I thought about Exotica. I aspired to make this.

I was working at the now defunct 68th Street Playhouse when the movie opened there. This is one of those movies I could watch over and over again. It was made for me at that moment and place in time. It was perfect for someone who couldn’t see it all the way through. Perfect for an usher to steal a moment and watch a scene from the movie.

  • Love the structure. Eternally moving. Even now those characters keep in that tight circle.
  • The powerful ending. It is not never about the plot as it is about healing and mystery.
  • The scene where he sits there in that bare bedroom and turn on & off the light. Damn good. That was me then.
  • The space of the strip joint. It was so well established. You wanted to be there.
  • The see through mirrors at the strip club.
  • Then there are the mirrors in customs, like the strip club.
  • The gay relationship was odd.
  • The conversation between the searchers. I can’t remember what they talked about but it just has this beautiful sadness. Love blossoming near death.
  • Exotica = pets, exotica = sex.
  • Perfect casting.
  • The DJ’s intro to the girls. “What makes a teenage so enticing” monologue. It is brutally honest and yet introspective. Even today, when I buy fast food, I still remember his line that goes something like “they haven’t been spoiled with fast food”.
  • Those haunting home videos.

Too cheap for culture

So few can be called “a patron of the arts”. People will spend an eternity deciding to spend money on a book, cd, movie and such. But the same amount for food, gas, clothes and general crap is not an issue. And I am not talking about people who have no money to spend. Giving money to an artist or buying something from them meets a complicated approval process.

  • Is this artist worthy of encouragement?
  • I don’t really need it. I can cut this out of my budget.
  • It can’t be any good if I am dealing directly with the artist?
  • I don’t really need it. I can donate the money to a cause and get a tax break.
  • They are living the dream life, I must make them struggle.
  • I don’t really need it. I can get a cheap or free version of it.
  • It might challenge me, or my life or the people and things that I like. Why should I pay for that?

If people get past their issues with art, then they have to deal with the stereotypes that artists themselves love to paint:

  • Artists should not be interested in money.
  • Best art comes from poverty.
  • They also die in poverty.
  • Best art makes no money.
  • The best work of an artist always fails to make its money back.
  • Best art comes from a great struggle.
  • Art should never simply be easy or fulfilling.

I often find myself being cheap with my favorite musicians, filmmakers, writers and so on. It needs to end.

Computer vs Sets

Random observations on some of the changes happening in the DV world.

  • More and more, filmmakers are choosing to work on their computers instead of shooting on location. Computer filmmaking includes animation, greenscreen, motion graphics and others. Set production is the traditional mode of filmmaking.
  • Computers provide more control over decision making process. Shooting on set seems like cowboy trying to reign in the chaos
  • Computer filmmaking is less social, this can be a good thing. No big ego’s to deal with, whether it be with cast or crew. Most times, it’s just you and the computer. And as far as I know, the computer usually comes with no ego.
  • Less social is also a bad thing. It can be lonely clacking away by yourself. You are less exposed to stimuli, cooped up in your studio. You aren’t forced to deal with personalities.
  • No time limits in computer filmmaking (for the most part). This could be a good thing or bad thing. Some projects need a lot of tender, love and care. While others demand you get on with it.
  • What is being lost? Human faces. directing of actors and all that entails. Subtlety, especially in the human face, is in jeopardy.
  • The embrace of conflict and of coincidence is also lost when you move away from the set. Most great ideas come from doing, not thinking. On set, you are constantly in the process of doing. On a computer, you are doing what is already been thought out. Somewhat of an exaggeration here but you know what I mean. You can change a story on set, you can’t do that easily on the computer. The computer makes you think, plan and then do what is decided. On set, no matter how great your plans, you will have to improvise. Sometimes this is a pain and in others it is a boon.
  • With computer filmmaking, Stories will move towards the fantastical. The storyteller takes prominence here.
  • Traditional filmmaking embraces extroverts. Computer filmmaking needs introverts.
  • Computer filmmakers are software oriented while traditional filmmakers are hardware oriented.

More will be added as I think of it.

Lessons from Indian Giver

My lessons from directing Indian Giver:

  • You will not understand the nature of the piece till you have everything on one timeline. Till then, it is all a dream.
  • Figure out your editing plan. Figure this out or you will creative energy will be sapped when it comes time to edit.
  • Again, always get more than what you want. Take a gamble on other emotions, ideas that weren’t in the script. You will always need it.
  • Remember you did well to recover from bad weather. The story shifted away from the original and that was probably a good thing.
  • If you going to do a story in a music video, be detailed about the plot and hi and lows of the song. Make sure the movements are correct.
  • If possible, pick actors and other stuff based on flexibility. Because Lindsey lived so faraway, I could not shoot any reshoots. I had one shot. And because the weather was screwed up, that simply wasn’t enough.
  • On a positive note, the camera work was good. Making something out of nothing.
  • I didn’t achieve anything with the editing till it got messy. Till I started making choices. Till then I wasn’t going anywhere. Being editor, don’t be afraid of losing the plot a little. Of getting your hands dirty.
  • If you are going to do something that works in a subtle way. Also include obvious scenes, even if you don’t plan to do anything with them. The obvious moments made this video. Otherwise, it was very very bland.
  • Subtlety works well when something else is very obvious or direct.
  • Actor chemistry is so important. Important that people meet and you have a chance to watch them interact.
  • Many times actors work when the camera likes them in the same angles.
  • HD is overrated. Lighting is underrated.

My notes: Artist’s role

Artists cannot be like scientists, we just cannot drive ourselves to a point where no one has gone before. Art is private, it is between two people. The artist and the receiver….

The artist gives his audience the common privacy to give the audience the ability to live as an individual.

My notes: Time

time, told simply forward is innocent
packaged with habits and silly coincidence
but destroyed and created again
it masters a new meaning that maintains
so proficient, that ceases but existence remains

Courage & Embarrassment

I added a new post (Maroon) to Squiggle. Definitely not my best, probably not my worst. But it was easily the hardest, the most embarrassing and the piece that will continue to haunt me. The reasons are simple, my face is analyzed. When beauty is achieved, I feel vain. When ugliness is achieved, I feel pain (no rhyming intended). The only time I was happy with it is when I lose myself in front of the camera, where I am unawares of the camera. And I can truly say that I surprised myself with that ability, and more, with my courage. But I feel I edited out some truly good acting moments. I understand now why actors see editors as arch rivals. In this case, I was my own worst enemy.

Sometimes I edited something because I did not look good. Yes, I was deeply shallow. This is not the right thing to do — to edit one’s own acting. Sometimes I edited because at the time I wasn’t feeling what should be felt. Even though, that means nothing, especially in this case. Why? Because I was basically editing myself saying gibberish. No, not the content, the actual language I spoke was gibberish. A series of bidibi’s. After a couple of hours of editing. I felt like I was losing my head. I had to take more breaks to differentiate the bidibi’s. It was easily the most absurd thing I have ever created and I have created a shitload of absurdity.

I was initially going to talk gibberish, whatever came out of my mouth. But it was hard, creating gibberish and remembering the lines. Kelly suggested bidibi. It was brilliant. It helped my performance, all I had to do was focus on the tone of my voice and my expressions.

There is another personal element to this piece. To those that truly like me and respect me, they will see something. To those who don’t will unable to see anything substantial. I can say this because no one currently is aware of this blog. This isn’t me trying to stick them up. I don’t plan to do nothing here but write. But it is interesting to hear people’s reaction. Do they see my courage? Or do they see me falling on my face? Do they see what I am trying to say? Or do they see me acting?

I am afraid my Mom will hate it but only because of good reasons though. She will wonder why I would put myself in danger of being further stereotyped. Others that hate it, will see all that rough coming out. I am overstepping my boundaries, I am out of my element and they see the limits of my abilities. The nurturers of my life will see growth and they will encourage me. It is like the Godfather, when Michael is advised by his father that the traitors will show themselves in such and such way.

I don’t think I am against criticism. No. I know this piece has a lot of crap. I have watched it once all the way through. Seriously. It bored me to tears. But someone’s comment can indicate how they see me. A compliment means nothing but instead what they choose to compliment. Same with criticisms. Some are giving you something, others are seriously thinking about your growth as an artist.

Am I being analytical? Yes. And I wish I could stop. Funny thing is that it doesn’t affect my confidence as such. It is just intriguing. I hate to feel like an idiot is more like it. I want to know whether people real like me. Not because I might be disliked but that I will be a sucker for somone’s crap. I want to know who my real friends are.

All the gibberish stops here.

The modern community

Sometimes I worry about being in North Carolina. The worries stem for two reasons 1) I won’t meet the contact that will help me with my career 2) that my art will suffer because I am not being stimulated by a community. There are small other ones but for the most part they are really insignificant to the point that I can’t recall them right now. The first situation of not meeting that special contact always gives me anxiety till I realize that when I did live in NYC I met no magical contact. The second does worry me till I thought about it today.

For however long, artist in communities created better art. There was a lot of cross-polination going on with ideas, problems, aesthetics, politics. I have worried I was not recieving that ideal stimulation. But like the earlier problem, when in NYC, I rarely was challenged or pushed. Well actually, I did, but a lot in college and also working on specific challenging projects. But there was no community I joined that got my creativity going. Maybe it was just me.

At times, Kelly will apologize for “dragging” me out of NYC. I will explain to her that this was my choice and I have never been as productive like I am now. And this is God’s honest truth. I got projects up the wazoo. I have never felt so creative. The city was seriously seducing me every time out. I could never get anything done. I watched so many more movies, I was exposed to so much more art, so much more life. But it was too much. I am addicted to seeing. I could watch anything, really. But I wasn’t creating anything. So the move was great for me!

More than that, we are at a point where silence is more important than communication. Where distance is better than proximity. I could be wrong. But it feels so. Because we are bombarded with communication. There is no art that is outside of the online world. There is no idea that is outside of the online world. Which means most of the important stimulations are available to me. I said most because the biggest stimulant is a person-to-person conversation. And in many ways my wife has been that for me. Maybe not all but a lot of what I need. Every idea, every thought – there is always Kelly to bounce it of. I could have never imagined how useful it was to have someone so close to you and knowing your work inside out. My work relationship with my wife has been the most fruitful of stimulations. No ego, same sides, same ambition. She wants what I want as much as I do. A two person community in a sea of over-stimulation.

Continue

Personal blog of filmmaker/blogger:

Ajit Anthony Prem

For much of his life, Ajit lived peacefully and joyously in a fantasy world of his own making. One day, not too long ago, he found himself happily married. Since then he has boldly and quietly stepped onto the real world. However, if you spend enough time with Ajit, you will realize that the fantasy land has stepped out with him.

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Contacting Ajit

You can email Ajit at ajitanthonyprem@gmail.com