Over the weekend, Dan Bailey shared this video with me; it’s apparently the latest big internet meme. I found it enjoyable and well-made (especially in light of all the potential complications to making a short film we’ve discussed in Advanced Scriptwriting recently), but, surprisingly, it also disturbed me existentially on a couple of levels. First, while I like stories that problematize narrative, seeing narrative break down all together is frankly terrifying; it’s like witnessing a mass killing. And secondly, I’m worried that the show runners over at “Adult Swim,” tossing out content for stoned college kids to watch at 4am, are producing work of more conceptual richness and depth than myself or my peers. What to do? How to up my game?
On the road to school this morning, I listened to Ken Burns on WYPR’s “Maryland Morning” show. Host Sheilah Kast asked him about the “Ken Burns effect,” which she claimed to have only recently discovered while researching the segment. You can listen to his response here. In addition to putting the technique in perspective, it also answers a question I’ve had for a long time: How did Apple get away with naming a screen saver setting after a living filmmaker?
I’ve never been a big fan of the overall tone or scholarship in Burns’s work (though listening to him talk about it this morning made me want to give some of his films another look), but I can remember watching something as a teenager, on a tiny TV in my mom’s basement, enthralled by those panning, zooming stills, frozen instants brought to life by camera movement, narration, and sound. Many nights since then, lying in bed while my computer runs an overnight render, I’ve thought about making a movie with my screensaver.
When I first encountered Chris Marker’s La Jetée, it didn’t strike me as odd, it just made perfect sense; in fact, I wondered why there weren’t more movies like it. I think, in retrospect, that Ken Burns had gotten me ready.
Steve Reich and Beryl Korot’s “Dolly.” How can something with so many good ideas in it be so bad? Perhaps it’s the reactionary religious tone?
Outside today, reading film theory and smoking. Spitting on the ground serendipitously produced this little portrait of a man spitting.
While I’m thinking about timepieces, here’s another long-time inspiration: Jim Henson’s “Time Piece,” from 1966.
TimePieceV06 from Wes Stitt on Vimeo.
After workshopping “TimePiece” in studio class using Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Method, and then taking some time to mull it over, I made some changes to the video. The staggered motion now unfolds in the opposite direction from the turning of the frames, and begins closest to the viewer and moves deeper into the layers as it goes on. This has the effect of making the motion more easily apprehended, since it begins close up and clearly visible, then gradually recedes into atmospheric depth, as opposed to the other way around, as in the original.
I’ve been waiting a while for the next installment of Star Wars Uncut‘s ongoing project to crowd-source shot-for-shot remakes of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, 15 seconds at a time. “The Empire Strikes Back Uncut” was just released a few weeks ago, and I’ve finally had a chance to watch it. It’s kind of an amazing project, and though they vary wildly in quality, the micro-films that make it up are generally pretty extraordinary. I had to watch in installments; I find the constant changes in aesthetic make me feel dizzy and nauseated after a while. This may explain why I needed to use filters to give my “Dracula” mashups a unified surface texture.
I Remember (Phil Phase) from Wes Stitt on Vimeo.
After working with the drumming gorillas from the Cadbury’s commercial, I took a look at the original music video for Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.” I selected a phrase that seemed particularly significant, in terms of visual action, sound, and content, and phased it with itself. Because the face is moving toward the camera in the selected clip, I decided to try for visual depth, rather than mirroring or width, in the composition, stacking the looped clips transparently on top of one another.
In a dream last night, I heard myself saying to a friend, “The world is too fast now. I’m a very slow person.”
Yesterday, in response to all the birthday wishes I received on Facebook, many from friends I haven’t seen in ages, some from people I only know online and have never met in person, I found myself thinking about the old saying, “It’s a small world,” and about how it’s often asserted in this day and age that it’s getting smaller all the time.
Taken together, these two thoughts have me turning the law of Conservation of Angular Momentum over and around in my head. This bit of science says that as the diameter of an orbit decreases, the orbital speed proportionally increases. This explains why stars spin faster as they collapse, and why the massive swirls of cosmic dust and gas that make up nebulae turn much more slowly than the stars or planets they eventually become. I wonder if the perceptual size of the social world somehow influences its perceived speed. Do my personal interactions seem quicker because they cross a smaller perceived space than they used to? Does that even mean anything. And do we really perceive time as generally moving more quickly as we age, because each moment is a proportionally smaller unit of our total consciousness of time than the last?
And whether any of this works or not, how would it look translated into a piece of art?