Busing Movie 1.0

In all projects there is a learning curve.  I’ve put off showing this video for some time now, because it is amateurish at best.  However, I am hoping that you will be interested in seeing my development aesthetically and narratively.  As always, please feel free to provide feedback, and contact me if you have any archival footage, information, or even if you would like to be interviewed.

<3 Padriac

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Sink or Swim

Su Friedrich came out with this avant garde film, chronicling the story of a girl and the issues with her father as she got older.  It is black and white, narrated by a little girl, and quite ambiguous as to whether this is self-reflexive or not.

Without reading anything about the film, I took away that it was a documentary because the filmmaker started inserting herself into the film as the character became more of an adult.  At Emerson I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on documentary, but I really haven’t wanted to completely isolate myself from the narrative world.

The way Friedrich created this film really gives me a place to start off (much like Man on Wire) to see how I could marry the world of narrative and documentary.  I haven’t really ironed it out, but there’s something about thinking back to those old days in film school where I was given 5 film chits for 16mm film of my choosing and being told to make a movie.  I miss the creative parts, not the long hours, but I don’t want to leave that aspect of my work out.

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The Fine Cut

So I found myself sitting at the editing station last night thinking to myself, “If I keep changing things up like this, I’m really going to mess up this video.”  In other words, “You’ve got your fine cut, idiot.  Stop tooling around.”

I read an article about the video game Duke Nukem.  This was a blockbuster video game – one of the first of its kind.  Naturally, after making millions of dollars, the game designers started working on the sequel.  Well, over a decade later, people are still waiting for the sequel.

The owner of the company kept finding new technology, new ways to tell the story, and new ways to up the action.  They spent millions upon millions of dollars to make this game the best game ever.  However, there was always something new that came along that made the engines they were using to look obsolete.

This brings up when to walk away…They could have put out the sequel, and just went on with the franchise, but instead they shot themselves in the collective foot, used up all their money, and wound up losing the franchise to their funders.

In my case, I was downgrading all my technology in putting off the fine cut.  I went from the 7D to the EX3 to the PD170.  I was messing with the look of my film, and making it more inconsistent as I went on…okay if this was a three year project, not a three month project.

So I walked away.  Stay tuned for the upload.

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Freestyle is a film that follows the chronology of freestyling in rap music.  This documentary reminds me a lot about my piece.  They put a timeline of the freestyle movement together, but it’s really not enough to just go on that.  This is when they incorporate sequences of freestyle circles and man on the street interviews with people talking about how it makes them feel to get away from the talking head stuff.

My piece is mostly of people putting together a quick timeline, then talking about how the different aspects of busing made them feel.  People felt that this style was a little disjointed, and that it made no real point.  My feeling is that the piece – at that version – was like a montage, and there’s no one point that’s going to give you that “Aha!” moment, rather it is the culmination of everything that gives you an idea and feeling when you walk away.

I’m starting to see my style.  I use a lot of talking head interviews to tell the story, and I always struggle with b-roll.  This time, however, I’ve wound up with a lot of B-roll.  scenery shots that I captured with the 7D and EX3, 8mm home movie footage that I got from my grandmother, old pictures, and old newsprint.  I’m still using the talking heads a lot, and the one thing I need to do is to give more breathing room in pieces (difficult to do with the fast-talking Southie accent).

I still maintain that my style of storytelling that gives you all this information, and allows you to draw from it what you will, is very effective, but I think I need to focus more on how to make it entertaining.  The way I see myself editing is more questions you ask after someone tells a story, as opposed to asking people what the story was.  “How did it feel after they came down with the busing mandate?”  Not, “Tell me how the busing mandate was passed?”

With this, I need to find my own style of providing back story.

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When All The Shooting’s Done

The past few days have been a whirlwind for me.  I’ve been spending almost 12 hours a day editing (when I’m not writing my paper), and every night when I’m done editing, I come up with a list of clips I need to shoot to insert the next day.

This begs the question:  When do you stop shooting?  Well in my case – a year and a half at the earliest.  But for this short assignment, I’ve been shooting right down to the wire.  I’ve even broke out my trusty PD-170 to do the job now (which really holds up against the HD stuff).

Traditionally I have been against reshoots.  Mostly because I feel it will take so much time away from the editing that I will wind up with a worse piece in the end.  (This is why it’s important to have a great pre-pro, kids)  However, this semester has been three months of trying new things, and in the process I’ve wound up with some cool stuff.

I still think that last minute reshoots can be like Indiana Jones taking one last reach at that Holy Grail, but I’m more open to it now.  I’m not going crazy, though.  I have a box full of newspaper clippings and transcripts that I’m staying away from, because I want to savor the feeling of the fine cut for a week or so before I see everything that I left out at the 11th hour.

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Classified X

Classified X is a documentary by Melvin Van Peebles about the rise of the Blaxploitation genre.  Van Peebles made the first Blaxploitation piece, Sweet Sweeback’s Baadasssss Song (that’s 3 A’s and 5 S’s in Baadasssss).

The documentary really shows what it means to be independent.  Van Peebles stands in front of a green screen with a background that shows him standing underneath the L tracks.  Thinking back to my last post about being bitter in my film really connects to this piece.  Van Peebles was an angry filmmaker that was cut out of the Hollywood industry due to his race.  I laughed when his opening credits gave the title of the film, followed by, “Starring: The Black Community”

I’m starting to think that sometimes an angry documentarian can be funny, but for the most part, you are taken much less seriously (unless you’re just pissed off at the end because you didn’t like the outcome).  People really start to question your intentions, and almost start to ignore your voice all together.  Think about someone screaming outside of a bar…does it really matter if they’re right or wrong?  Probably not by that point.

I think it’s also hard to sustain that anger through the entire process because you really need to be stubborn to not come to terms with something you’ve spent so much time researching and working for.

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Narration 4: Take 2

After showing my ending to my professor, he gave me some good advice:  If I’m going to use this film as a demo for my thesis, I should probably give a less bitter ending (of course what happens when people read these blogs?)  It makes sense, though.  I didn’t script this final narration.  Instead, I just started recording, and spoke into the mic.

You can hear that my tone is different, and that I pause a little between words, but I like that.  This is more sincere than my alternate ending, and attacks detractors a little less too.  I’ll be glad when I get some people from the other neighborhoods in this piece, because different audiences will feel like they’re represented – Even if the film doesn’t have a map.

You know, watching this film back, I’ve noticed actually how angry people seem towards the end, and I think that’s because there’s never been any closure with the issue.  I’d like to see the people from Roxbury and South Boston sit down and have a conversation.  Maybe get a couple students together.  Sit down and hear a conversation with the transitional aids.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to talk about this issue.  And who better to get it rolling than a Southie boy?

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Debbie Does Dallas (The Documentary)

Thanks again to the fine managers at Newbury Comics, I was able to get another low-priced documentary to quell my fix.

The documentary Debbie Does Dallas looks at the film, the producers and distributors, and all the controversy involved.  There was an FBI sting operation, the lead actress went missing, and there were many mobsters looking to get their cut.

Off the bat, I thought that this film would have issues with the concept of intended audience.  Who do you think would buy a documentary called Debbie Does Dallas?  Well, I’m sure the patrons of Gate of Heaven Church would not be on that list.  However, the story fits in more like any “making-of” piece.

The way they paid off the porn aspect was that they showed blurred images of the actual film, while focusing more on the people involved in the production.  Looking at my piece, I really need to think more about my intended audience.  Of course, it would be easiest to target it towards Boston natives, but that doesn’t really give me an opportunity to branch out beyond L Street.

A lot of the feedback that I got was that there were things said in my piece that people really didn’t understand, like which came first?  Desegregation in the north, or desegregation in the south?  Other people had no concept of where Southie it, Where Roxbury is, and where they are in proximity to each other (which results in the feedback I hear at least once a semester:  You need to put a map in there).

Well, I want to find a way to creatively address these questions without going to Google Maps.  However, before I do that, I need to think about people coming to this film with no background of the timeline, geography, or back story, and anticipate their questions.

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Narration 4

Trying to write these narrations has been tough.  When I first started out, I was trying to think of a political way to say everything, but that is really just not me.  Eventually I wrote this part as a response to the rough cut screenings I showed at Emerson.

A lot of people told me that this was a very one sided piece, and that all the subjects were very similar.  Well, yes.  I tried my best to try and show there were other opinions about this topic, and of course it would have been nice to get a Roxbury student.  However, it just wasn’t in the cards this time around.  I think it was good to have to work with the interviews I had, however, because it forced me to try to tell a story with only half of the information.  It worked out so deliberately that you could look at the film and think that there were strict guidelines to making the film.

As for everyone being similar…well, if you’ve ever been in a bar in Southie, you know that most of the Southie “lifers” have the same raspy voice, rarely finish their thoughts (because the rest of the sentence is understood), and that there’s a lot of sayings like, “like that” or “you know?”

Anyway, this is the ending of the film at the moment…

I’m pretty much at the end of this film now, and I know I haven’t covered all sides of the issue, and to be honest, I don’t even know what to believe at this point.  But I do understand the people of South Boston a little better now.  Maybe not the way you’d think…I know that I will receive an extra critical eye with this film because I’m from South Boston.  I was sitting in a court room one time watching a family member’s trial.  When someone from my family took the stand the prosecutor asked her, ‘Ms. Farma, do you love your brother?’  By asking this question he was trying to undermine her entire testimony.  Well let me tell you, I love my grandmother, I love my father, and I love Betty.

Maybe some of you might say, ‘It’s impossible for him to be objective because he’s too close to the subject.’  Or, ‘Of course he’s going to have them say they’re not racist.  They’re his family.’  Well that may be true, but not likely.

This is just the beginning of an even bigger journey for me.  There are more interviews lined up, more perspectives to be captured, and more information to collect.  Remember when I told you that I understand the people of South Boston a little better now?  Well I didn’t live through busing, but I will live through the screenings and reviews of this film.  And with that, just like the people of South Boston, I will walk away feeling confused about my intentions, a little bitter, and a little misunderstood.  Afterall, I’m a Southie Boy.

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I watched Jerry Seinfeld’s documentary, Comedian, the other day thanks to the low, low prices of documentaries at Newbury Comics.  I didn’t know what to expect when I turned on the film.  Sometimes you get documentaries produced by celebrities, and there’s just enough footage of them to warrant a trailer.  However, this film followed Seinfeld as he went to local stand-up clubs to work on a new act.

We follow Jerry as he works on his craft and talks to other comedians about the process.  We also follow a new comic named Orny as he gets a manager, and eventually debuts on David Letterman.  They really show the pain that comedians go through, navigating through their inner turmoil and insecurities.

Orny reminded me a lot of Troy Duffy as he was pretty arrogant, and got pretty upset when audiences didn’t react the way he wanted them to.  We hear him say over and over about how he is so talented, but I think the editors got tired of him too, because they abruptly ended his story after he got on Letterman.

This is a story more about the art and process of making it as a standup comedian, and it was fun to see the juxtaposition of Jerry, a mega celebrity, and Orny, a guy who has a lot to prove.  I think this ties into my doc a lot, because I will be dealing with a lot of people who know a lot about busing, while I’m a fresh face that is trying to figure it all out.

For my thesis project, I really don’t want to insert myself into the film, but I will look back at this doc again if I decide to go that route.  Plus, I’m not as much of an ass as Troy or Orny.  I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggonit, people like me!

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