Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ENDINGS Post-Production Update

Post-production continues on Endings. The first cut had a lot of issues (no offense to BK, the editor -- and one of my blog readers), but the latest cut is really starting to come together. As I watch certain scenes being re-cut, it's been enjoyable to me to see the performances really come alive. They were always there, waiting to be found. And it feels like we're beginning to find them.

Of course, I'm still watching it one or two scenes at a time. Once we get each scene working as well as it can, we have to go back and see how it all fits together, which will necessitate another round of cutting. But right now, it feels like I'm watching the cut come together, which is nice.

I also met this week with a group of Entertainment Marketing students who have been working on ideas for marketing the film, getting the word out to potential audiences, etc. Once of their best ideas, I think, came in the form of a "submit your video" competition, where people can "Describe YOUR Ending" -- in other words, describe what your last day would be like, if you knew today was to be your last. I really like the idea of getting people to submit such videos (through YouTube or Vimeo or some other web video tool). It could potentially get people talking about the ideas in the film, thinking about how you might want to spend your last day. And, after all, that is one of the primary "hooks" of the film.

I'm curious what blog readers think of this idea. If you have an opinion, feel free to express it in the comments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Living without your MacBook Pro

My trusty MacBook Pro fell victim to a faulty NVIDIA chip. Having read the news items, I knew this day would come. But it doesn't come with any warning; it just happens. The screen just remains black, and you really can't do anything about it. And it's very, very frightening, especially when you don't regularly back up all your data to an external drive.

Fortunately, my department has several labs with iMacs as well as another MacBook Pro being used for research purposes, so I very quickly had two back-up computers to use, albeit without my own data.

And two days later, I had my own MacBook Pro back, with a new NVIDIA chip, new logic board, and a new 160 GB hard drive with all my data copied onto it (side note: how did I accumulate 95 GB of data -- time to do some spring cleaning on the ol' hard drive).

Phew -- life returns to normal. I was worried there for a few days...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sweeney Todd (on stage)

I know some of you are still sick of me talking about Sweeney Todd (the movie) -- but this post is about the touring stage show. So there!

A colleague had an extra ticket to last night's show at the Waco Hippodrome, and knowing what a fan I was of the movie, he invited me. I have never seen any stage version of the show, so it was an interesting experience. It's always hard to clear your mind of the film's images, especially because they're so closely associated with specific music cues that become overly familiar if you've listened the music a lot (as I have).

But the show is not staged in a conventional or natural way, so after a while, you kind of get past that. The actors portraying the characters in the story also serve as the orchestra, playing multiple instruments throughout the piece, and the action is carefully choreographed around a single set, with a black coffin occupying center stage and serving as various props (table, barber chair, etc.). Sweeney's murders are conveyed in an imagistic fashion -- though he does mime the act of drawing his blade across someone's throat, there are no effects involved. Instead, the lighting turns dark red (and a music cue signals the death to the audience). Meanwhile, an actor downstage pours blood from one white bucket to another (the sound of the blood collecting in the bucket is, I think, an attempt to recreate the sound effect of blood pouring from a sliced-open throat. And finally, the actor portraying whoever was killed dons a white coat that has been "pre-drenched" with blood.

This seems a little odd at first, I admit. But -- these actors must remain onstage because they still must play their instruments and participate in the choreographed movement of the scenery. So as the death toll in the play mounts, the increasing number of actors on the stage in bloody white coats creates an interesting image. By the end, nearly everyone wears such a coat, and this image -- of the differentiating between the dead and the living -- has an impact on the audience. Well, I should say that it had an impact on me.

You can watch a five minute clip of the 2005 Broadway version of this show here:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Home from Chicago

I just got home from several days in Chicago for Film & History's conference. This year, I served as the Area Chair for the Doctor Who area of the conference, which means that I solicited and selected the Doctor Who papers, then organized them into panels (for which I came up with spiffy names), and served as a point of contact and advocate for my panelists.

The conference was a lot of fun (in a manner of speaking -- I mean, it was a bunch of academics reading their papers. But the Doctor Who area seemed to function as a sort of mini-conference within the larger event, with a bunch of die-hard Who aficionados holding extended discussions about the show and its themes, issues of gender and racial representation, how it reflects the British culture from which is emanates, etc.

Chicago was great. The weather was surprisingly temperate. One highlight for me was spending an evening with my college friend and the lead actor of my new film, Endings -- Matthew Brumlow. He's a company member of the American Theatre Company in Chicago, and he and his new bride, Cora, took me to see the new ATC show, a play called Celebrity Row, written by Itamar Moses. The hook of Celebrity Row is that, at one point in the 90s, a SuperMax prison facility in Colorado housed -- at the same time -- Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber), Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City bomber), Ramzi Yousef (the architect behind the first World Trade Center bombing, and Luis Felipe (leader of the Latin Kings).

It's a really interesting play. Of course, the idea that these men who have "yard time" together is ludicrous, but the play handles the suspension of disbelief well, and it's a really interesting exploration of some of the issues facing the U.S. right now.

All in all, a good trip, but I'm glad to be home. Today was a long day of travel, waiting at O'Hare (had to check out of hotel early-ish, but flight wasn't for several hours) and then again in Dallas. And tomorrow morning, up early to take the girls to school and head into the office...