Shave that Monkey and call it a mental patient

Being able to call myself an Auteur is one of those little luxuries born out of the necessity of making small independent films where, besides the voice talent, I've done all the work. When I started out it just made it cheaper (free!) and easier.

But in the bigger world of film it's quite possible that if you honestly think you're Auteur then it probably means that no-one really wants to work with you. I think that's probably the most disappointing thing about school this semester was that I only had one crew member from the school, the rest being friends. Sure it was because my film was a last minute inclusion to the shoot roster and I, being a part-timer, had a lot less time to meet and schmooze other students into coming along for the ride but I still ended up in that role of Auteur. Driving the production, making all the arrangements, and making all the decisions... As a Director, this is exactly what you do not want!

Probably the best time I had in terms of production was working with another proper student filmmaker, his film won a lot of awards (a great indication of his ability to lead his crew and he's not completely clueless), who did camera on one night of my shoot. He doesn't have a lot of experience on camera and he did start the night asking all those questions about camera operation that should have been answered long before we were turning on a camera to shoot. But the difference is, once he realised I didn't particularly care, he started making the decisions for himself. (Of course I was feigning indifference, sheesh, that's probably a risk most filmmakers wouldn't take but I pretty much knew he had it in him and we were 'only doing a student documentary').

THIS is the way to make films! Sure, as a Director, make sure your crew know what you expect. And this other Director cum documentary camera man and I had a pretty good understanding of what was needed. But you've got to trust your crew to take that information and turn it into camera positions, lighting set-ups, camera moves, sound... basically footage that's of use to an editor. Every crew role is a specialisation, I challenge any Director to have all the answer all the time regarding these specialist jobs. No. You need those crew members to be telling you how to make things happen. And still, a lot of young Directors find this really hard. They have a vision. They have the answers. They have to make it perfect. They have gotta relax or they'll be working by themselves very quickly.

Now that doesn't mean that if you see something you don't like you sit on your hands and trust the crew member will work it out. By all means, call 'Cut' and say something, it'll be better for everyone... particularly the editor. But you still need to treat that person like a professional, undermining their confidence is only going to get a whole lot of decision making pushed back onto your shoulders. Trust me, you'll have plenty of decisions to make as it is. And of course once you call 'Roll' again you can't hold their hand, THEY still have to do the job they're assigned too.

So that's it. I'm totally done with being an Auteur. I want to make films. Not force them into existence. Next semester I have no choice except to be a crew member (if anything at all), no Director's position for me (Yay!), and whether I'm boom swinging, clapper loading, pushing a dolly, or placing props on a set, I hope the Director isn't an Auteur and I don't make them call 'Cut' too often.



You can all ignore these posts if you want.
These are really for my own benefit in order to set down some of the thoughts
I've had after the semester.

After the Awards Night on Wednesday, one of the staff I was talking to, who is excellent at what he does BTW (not just an excellent teacher but also a formidable practitioner of his art - like the majority of the SFS teachers actually), turned to one of his co-workers and said something like, "all he did was make jokes but he still wants us to take him seriously".

Now, I wasn't intended to hear that and there's a good chance that I may have misheard the statement, the music was loud, but even if it was close to what he said I could quote the motto's about compassion these staff seem to hold dear but I'd rather respond in my typically flippant way with, 'Well Duh!' (Eloquent ain't I)

So, because I have a sense of humour I'm not meant to be taken seriously?

Try having your 'serious experimental student documentary on balancing environment and heritage' (ha, now that's comedy!) stifled by the State Government, where one of your only reasons for not shooting it anyway is because you don't want your learning institution to come under fire if you get caught filming it. Then see if you can (or want) to come up with another piece in under a week with a similarly 'serious' subject matter.

Then I want your new idea to come second in the vote only to have it not even short-listed. Have the email telling you this sent to the wrong address. With only hours before the 'green light' announcement I want you to hear and deal with this news, pull it together, then go to the documentary producers and in 15 minutes not only argue for your idea but also convince them to add you to the short list AND green light your project.

I then want you to find out you have a tumour but wait six days before they can tell you if it's the type that will kill you or just disfigure your face.

During those six days, I also want you to take on the huge project of manufacturing characters (in a way you've never done before) over a short time frame for another director because you believe strongly in her vision, the medium with which she's chosen to express that vision, and because the people who said they would help her have conveniently forgotten their promise (something all too common in the student environment but something I despise nonetheless).

I then want you to go shoot your film idea with only one other 'trained' but non-english speaking crew member in several locations, fitting it around specialist appointments, cat scans and biopsies. Oh yeah, and you've still got make a film good enough, with no editor, to capture the majority of the audience vote on the most competitive night of the festival to win the only 'award' you know you're going to receive because you broke too many 'documentary conventions and rules' to ensure the film was what you said it would be at it's inception... 'comedic'.

Sure I only made a comedic documentary (is that easy?), but comedy films are designed to elicit laughter from the audience. Comedies are light-hearted, crafted to amuse, entertain, and provoke enjoyment. The comedy genre humorously exaggerates the situation, the language, action, and characters. Comedies observe the deficiencies, foibles, and frustrations of life, providing merriment and a momentary escape from day-to-day life. They usually have happy endings, although the humour may have a serious or pessimistic side. And that's exactly what I made and the audience loved it.

Here are some of the complex raft of interwoven comedic devices I used to make the film work for an audience.

Slapstick: Slapstick was predominant in the earliest silent films, since they didn't need sound to be effective, and they were popular with non-English speaking audiences. This is primitive and universal comedy with broad, aggressive, physical, and visual action, including harmless or painless cruelty and violence, horseplay, and often vulgar sight gags.

Deadpan: This form of comedy was best exemplified by the expression-less face of stoic comic hero Buster Keaton. The modern master of this form is Bill Murray.

Verbal comedy: This was classically typified by the cruel verbal wit of W. C. Fields, the sexual innuendo of Mae West, or the verbal absurdity of dialogues in the Marx Brothers films, or later by the self-effacing, thoughtful humour of Woody Allen's literate comedies.

Black or Dark Comedy: These are dark, sarcastic, humorous, or sardonic stories that help us examine otherwise ignored darker serious, pessimistic subjects such as war, death, or illness. Two of the greatest black comedies ever made include the following: Stanley Kubrick's Cold War classic satire from a script by co-writer Terry Southern, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) that spoofed the insanity of political and military institutions with Peter Sellers in a triple role (as a Nazi scientist, a British major, and the US President), and Robert Altman's M*A*S*H (1970), an irreverent, anti-war black comedy set during the Korean War. Another more recent classic black comedy was the Coen Brothers' violent and quirky story Fargo (1996) about a pregnant Midwestern police chief (Oscar-winning Frances McDormand) who solves a 'perfect crime' that went seriously wrong.

Parody or Spoof - also Satire, Lampoon and Farce: These specific types of comedy (also called put-ons, send-ups, charades, lampoons, take-offs, jests, mockumentaries, etc.) are usually a humorous or anarchic take-off that ridicules, impersonates, punctures, scoffs at, and/or imitates (mimics) the style, conventions, formulas, characters (by caricature), or motifs of a serious work, film, performer, or genre; This category may also include these widely diverse forms of satire - usually displayed as political or social commentary.

Yup, all of these devices were used, sometimes in conjunction with each other, in 'THIS is Alan Chapman'. And let's not forget that this was a Documentary. I had little control over my subject, so I had to sort through hours of footage to find these moments, there are some weaknesses in the films structure I agree, but you can't sacrifice the story content to put in suitable comedic moments. They must flow with the story.

So, do you really think I'm not taking the film-making process seriously. Or is it that you focussed a little heavily on the fact that I use my sense of humour to deal with tough situations/times? (and usually only with people who I like)

OK, now I've had my little moment of defensiveness... I wouldn't have changed the last six months for anything. I really did learn a bundle and enjoy every moment of it.



Well, as much as a person can be done when making films.

But I'm certainly done watching the 65 films over the last two days of the festival. There is a sincere depth of talent at the school that resulted in some absolutely incredible films made this semester. It must be said they were not only the work of some wonderfully imaginative Directors, the films that really impressed were those whose entire crew pushed themselves (tirelessly) to bring the film to the screen. If you ever want to study film you could go to a more renowned learning institution but I don't think you'll find many places that allow film-makers the freedom and encouragement of ideas, or the understanding of the need for 'space' film-makers need to find those ideas as Sydney Film School. The school's faculty and board should be really proud of what they're doing in that little building in Waterloo.

Having said that, gawd there was some crap made there too. I made the point of watching all the films produced this semester... I felt like tearing out my eyes at some points. It's so hard when you're a student learning a craft and you go well beyond your means for producing or even fully understanding the ideas you have. But for all those people who fell into that trap I can say that I learnt more from watching those films than I did watching all the films that were beautifully resolved and produced.

So, how'd we do with THIS is Alan Chapman...

Red Door background by Lindsay Anne Black - I love web communities!!!!
Speaking of, a HUGE thank you to Ticharu as well for the use of his music.

Well, GREAT! The film was played on the opening night, a wonderful session for it to be included in as it has the biggest audience and most exposure along with the best crafted films the school can offer.

Now, I could focus on the fact that come awards night none of the judges had a single mention for 'THIS is Alan Chapman' but I fully expected that, a comedic documentary about a non-Australian subject that used a lot of devices normally reserved for Drama was certainly not going to compete with the beautifully turned out doco's which took a more traditional vent on 'serious' subjects. But I can say that 'THIS is Alan Chapman' achieved what it set out to do;

Firstly, to get Alan back up on stage, and didn't THAT work out a treat. After shooting in a Playhouse, Alan was offered an audition and now has his first stage role in 20 years playing Enobarbus in Shakespeare's 'Antony and Cleopatra'. He has since secured himself an agent and continues to be put up for more auditions. Having a real life effect with your film is one of the most fulfilling things I've ever experienced;

And secondly, to help people connect with a film's content by making them laugh. A full cinema audience pealing with laughter again and again is terribly humbling. It's a strange experience knowing you've made an audience come alive like that. I had to sink below the level of my seat to deal with the quiet warmth that creeps into your heart during such an experience. It certainly achieved that aim better than I could have hoped. In fact, it connected with the audience so well on that level it garnered the opening nights Audience Award for Best Documentary. Awww shucks, it appears if you make them laugh they will follow you anywhere!

What else... Oh, forehead slap! Of course, the PUPPET FILM! 'Water off a duck's back' was the first Stop Motion made at Sydney Film School. It only won BEST FILM in FESTIVAL! Pia (Director and Set Designer), Jesse (Animator), Pia's Dad (Armatures and Props) worked their asses off to make that film happen. The final film was brilliant and truly deserving of the award. It was certainly nice to be part of the team that helped bring it into existence. Well done Pia Dulu, I'm terribly proud of what she achieved!

So what's next, SLEEP! And then I'm going to try and get as much work done before my operation... oh yeah, can't forget that I've been doing all this while dealing with a tumour... pat on the back for me, can't believe I kept it all together... let's see how I do now I don't have any distractions.