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Some thoughts on my short film ‘Cams’ (before I forget them)

My short film Cams was just selected for the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival. This was extremely unexpected for several reasons, one of which being that vfx-heavy sci-fi is not at all a filmmaking genre I’m usually drawn to. My first short film Late (2009), although an early effort, is much more representative of my style (It’s also a better film. I’m allowed to say that because I’m my own producer. Lol.). It seriously wouldn’t have surprised me if I sent Cams to 30 festivals and didn’t get accepted into any of them. I guess the Venice people appreciated the effort in taking a pretty unconventional idea and going with it for a year. I’m very grateful that they did. I’ve got mixed feelings on this whole festival world. On the one hand, the idealist in me wants to put a film online for the world to judge as soon as it’s done, but I’m also starting to accept that the exclusivity factor of festivals, while a bit ridiculous, definitely adds to the experience on an innately human level.

Last August, while living in Falsterbo, I was looking for projects that would make my vfx reel look a bit more impressive than the freelance work I was getting at the time. One of probably hundreds of one-sentence movie plot outlines in my notebook read “Cameras, post-apocalyptic, Falsterbo”. I decided to go with the idea and make a short film, killing two birds with one stone – improving my reel and hopefully making an interesting film in the process. I saw the fact that I could probably pull this off without having to use neither a cast/crew (=human factor) nor music (=copyright hell) as a bonus. Don’t worry, I’m not completely opposed to working with humans, but at that point in my life it seemed like a great idea.

Falsterbo is a beautiful place filled with interesting spots just waiting to be photographed. I didn’t have a script yet, but I had to decide on a handful of these spots to shoot before moving to London a week later. This would be the main (“principal”, to be pretentious) footage, to serve as a basis for what would simultaneously be the post-production and script-writing process. Any additional footage would be for comped-in elements shot in London.

Looking back, my first script draft was very naive. It led me to understand why vfx teams are so huge. During the following months, the amount of vfx I had planned decreased to about a tenth, and the expected post-production period increased from 3 months to 11 months. I had never before had to worry about render times, but due to the complex structure of the film, though I must say some solutions were pretty clever, 8-hour renders were not unusual. I was pretty sure I was killing my Macbook Pro. It’s still alive and well. I shot tons of comp footage, very little of which ended up in the film. But of course, it was very educational, and I can’t thank my girlfriend enough for bearing with me through this process which must have seemed pretty odd at the time.

London is considered by many to be the vfx capital of the world. During my stay there, I applied to over a hundred vfx companies. I definitely don’t want to make this some kind of sob story about not getting a job, but as my resume is pretty descent for a junior position, and I wouldn’t consider my writing skills all that awful, I’d credit at least some of my lack of success to the vfx industry crisis, which has affected others and their families far, far worse than me.

While job-hunting and working on my film, I also freelanced for a Swedish company, did a bunch of vfx shots for my good friend Johan Windh’s film Glimma (a haunting short that you should check out if you get the chance) and studied Nuke. I pretty soon realized that I should have created Cams in Nuke instead of After Effects, but I decided I didn’t have the time to start over from scratch. I also realized that I shouldn’t take on more than two projects at a time.

In April, for the first time, I had a pretty conclusive to-do schedule, which was a huge relief. Deadlines for each scene forced me to make hard decisions. I had moved back to Sweden, and had a decent enough previs to start the sound design process with Sebastian Cronholm, who did the soundmix for both my previous short films. Seeing the film complete with sound was like seeing it for the first time. Having focused on details for many months, the feeling was “What’s this? Did I make this?”. Walking down one of the streets from the film for the first time since filming was a surreal feeling, like walking into a painting you know inside and out.

Anyways, cut to July. I’m trying to digest the fact that my film has been accepted into Venice, when The Swedish Film Institute calls me up. They’re also very surprised, because normally when a film is accepted, the whole process has started with the director applying for, and being granted, production funding from SFI. Apparently it’s very unusual that a film they’ve never heard of gets accepted. In a way, this was the best compliment I could imagine, because if there’s one thing I’m sick of it’s the antiquated notion that filmmaking has to be expensive. To me, making a short film without funding is not the last resort, making it with funding is.

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Spring Breakers (2012)

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Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (2009) was one of the weirdest movie experiences of my life. Not so much because of the weirdness of the movie itself, but because even though I didn’t give it a favorable star rating (and still wouldn’t), I admired its uncompromising commitment to the found-footage concept that amplified both the creepy and funny moments, and made them linger in my mind for days, something that would make most thinking people contemplate the purpose of star ratings.

When I heard Ruben Östlund, in my admittedly narrow worldview one of the greatest directors alive, at a Q&A explain that Korine’s directorial debut Gummo (1997) was the film that made him realize that it’s OK to say “fuck you” to every rule of cinema out there as long as you do it interestingly, I eagerly downloaded it to set myself up for a new series of strange and pretty images. It was basically a more poetic version of Trash Humpers. It wasn’t until I saw the bland Mister Lonely (2007) that I started to fear that the future masterpiece that Gummo and Trash Humpers held tiny promises of would never arrive.

Then came Spring Breakers.

By the turn of the millennium, when gangsta rap videos had just developed their now classic aesthetic of slow-mo and expensive cinematography (though the themes were as old as humanity: Drugs, weapons, naked girls – everything required to have a good time), it was love at first sight for me (Actually, I’ve been trying to turn all kinds of projects into gangsta videos for the past decade. People usually react by looking like they feel sad for me). But while I was never sure if these videos were deadly serious or meant for laughs, Spring Breakers is constantly both without flinching. Just like David Lynch has a true love for 1950’s Americana that people insist on calling ironic, Korine loves gangsta imagery, neon and Britney Spears hits relentlessly, including the ridiculousness of it all. In Spring Breakers, logic and story is secondary to what looks and sounds cool. Every once in a while comes a movie that is so visceral and progressive that you have no choice but to get hypnotized for 90 minutes, every new scene showering over you with both unpredictability and obviousness, giving you no time to start digesting it until the credits start rolling. And what beautiful credits they are.

Oh btw lol, I invite every hipster journalist who’s not at ease with their own love of this film, making them push it as a critique of body ideals and internet culture, to consider the fact that Korine, 30 at the time, met his wife, Spring Breakers star Rachel Korine, when she was 17.

Mina tips till unga filmskapare

Du läser det här, alltså finns Internet fortfarande. Du kan lära dig allt du behöver veta gratis.

Twittra inte om produktionen, blogga inte, facebooka inte. Ingen bryr sig. Filmen är ingenting innan den är klar. Behind-the-scenes kan vara intressant. EFTER att man sett filmen.

Skryt inte om din låga budget. Sist filmskapande krävde pengar var du inte född. Om du mot förmodan behöver pengar, jobba och ät bönor i några månader. Crowdfunda inte. Du vill inte känna indirekt skuld till nån.

För att citera ordkonstnären Snoop Dogg:

“That’s what’s wrong with you niggaz, you niggaz is just like bitches
Hoe-ass niggaz, talk too motherfuckin much (speak)
Study your own, get your own – yahmsayin?
Be independent, nigga – BEOTCH!”

Play (2011)

Du läser i tidningen om ett gäng invandrarpojkar i Göteborg som vid flera tillfällen rånat andra barn som de lurat ut från stan under timslånga retoriska rollspel. Det där skulle jag vilja göra en film om, tänker du, men avbryts direkt av en liten röst i ditt huvud. Den låter lite som en blandning mellan den där inspelade högtalarrösten på bussen och Gudrun Schyman.
-Folk kommer att läsa in budskapet att alla invandrare är kriminella.
-Jag har inget budskap! Inte än i alla fall. Men det är en intressant historia. Jag kan väl inte ta hänsyn till att några få…
-Det är PRECIS vad du ska.
Du ger upp. Och där dör din film. Men Play lever.

Jag skäms över att större delen av min recension ska behöva tas upp av den där jävla rasfrågan. För det är inte huvudsakligen vad Play handlar om. Precis som Östlunds tidigare filmer (långa som korta) visar den oss situationer där ordningen i vardagen bryts och extremt pinsamma, roliga och obehagliga sociala situationer uppstår. Stilen är närmast identisk med den i debutfilmen Gitarrmongot (2004), vars DVD-omslag likt Fight Clubs stoltserade med citat från såväl fem- som enstjärniga recensioner. Och tro mig, många hatade den verkligen. Det känns därför mycket märkligt att inget verkar kunna stoppa den ström av lovord som överöser Play just nu, trots det “kontroversiella” temat. Men det går ju trender i allt.

Det enda som bryter illusionen av ren verklighet är skådespeleriet. Det är inte perfekt. Men det är likväl levererat av mestadels icke-skådisar som får den rad av svenska trailers som visas före filmen att framstå som rena skämten. Och en film som lyckas trollbinda min ADHD-hjärna i 118 minuter är fanimej något utöver det vanliga. Det hade om möjligt varit ännu mer intressant att få närvara vid visningen jag läste om där ett tjugotal av skådespelarnas snorungar till kompisar satt och väsnades under hela föreställningen, till ett gäng nervösa svenskars stora irritation.

Life in a Day (2011)

You’re YouTube. It’s 2010. You decide to assemble a feature-length film from video clips submitted by people around the world, all recorded on a single day. It’s a timely project. It would have been even more timely five years ago. Whatever.

You’re bound to get some amazing footage. It would take a real moron not to edit this into something interesting. Doesn’t make it any less of a good movie, though.

Nature, religion, food, dancing, love – sometimes it plays like cringeworthily politically correct charity or travelling ad. But those images are iconic because they do trigger something universally human in us. The essential ingredients are there. I’m entertained. I’m moved.

Still, I can’t help wondering why sex is off-limits, when they’re obviously OK with showing us animal killings, surgeries and violence. Am I simply supposed to grow up and accept the reality of being a big corporation? Though I applaud them for deciding to keep less comfy stuff like a man calling homosexuality “a disease”.

You’re bound to get some amazing footage – the challenge is what to do with it.
Ridley Scott and his pals did good.

Bridesmaids (2011)

It’s not easy being a woman. Not even a wealthy American woman, apparently.

After being praised by feminists and critics as not only one of those rare movies that are actually about women, but also genuinely smart, warm and funny, you’d expect Bridesmaids to tone down the hysterical female stereotype that made audience reactions to the Sex & the City movies so diverse. Not so much so.

Believe it or not, I have female friends. They’re like guys, except good-looking. But when girls wander off to Chick Land, something happens. Life is very different there. When you meet a cute guy, you run away. Sleeping around is encouraged (“You go, girl!”) and looked down upon (“What a slut!”) at the same time. Luxury is both the height of pleasure and pathetically over-the-top. And if you’re out of luck, all it takes to make your fellow women hate you is being pretty. Which is of course also one of the main things you strive for.

Bad dramas are boring, but comedy is like horror and porn. It doesn’t take a lot of brains to make loads of money. Bridesmaids is not a dumb movie. You’ll most likely not be bored. You’ll laugh and perhaps even cry with and at those whose menstrual pains I’ll never experience and for whom the disco ball shines just a little bit brighter than I’ll ever apprehend.

In the process of becoming an adult, you learn to accept that there are different kinds of people, with different sets of morals and ways of thinking. I’m not quite there yet.

On a scale of 1 or 10

If you’ve ever voted on a movie on IMDb, this post is, statistically speaking, probably aimed at you.

You’re (unfortunately?) free to give each movie a rating of between 1 (worst) and 10 (best) stars. That is, best like in it DOES NOT GET ANY BETTER than this. Now, if you find this concept a bit mind-boggling, I don’t blame you. How are you supposed to know the upper limit of how “good” a movie can physically (yes, everything is physics) be?

This is how I’ve handled this so far. When I was 16, I didn’t have any 10’s on my list. I think I had a 9 on Pulp Fiction. It was the best movie I’d ever seen, but the notion that I’ll never see a better one was too depressing to give it a 10.

As you get older, grey areas start to appear between the black and the white. You’ve stopped wondering why we can’t all just get along or why grown-ups don’t have sex ALL THE TIME like you did (wondered, that is) when you were eight. You start to realize what it means to be human. And that reducing a movies merits to a number is kinda ridiculous. And you’ve seen enough movies that giving a few of them 10’s doesn’t seem as far-fetched anymore. In other words, you’ve developed a legitimate respect for the 10.

About 6% of IMDb users have this respect. If you somehow managed to physically restrain the other 94% from using IMDb, stuff like The Shawshank Redemption would never reach #1, and hopefully not even come near the Top 250. Garbage like Zack Snyder’s (only bad movie) 300 wouldn’t get ridiculous amounts of 10’s just because IMDb doesn’t have an age (or taste) limit.

It’s interesting though, that the only movies whose main ratings are 10 and 1 (except pretentious festival crap where half of the voters are in the crew) are prettyboy vehicles like Twilight, carefully designed to stir up the already extremely fragile emotional lives of tween/teen girls, while luring their minds from the great lie pre-teen girls tell themselves, that they want a nice guy, to the even greater lie of Team Edward, that they want a “deep” guy.

But who am I to tell people how to vote? I can’t demand that all people be movie geeks. Just like writing nazis can’t demand that I end a blog post properly.


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