That's A Wrap

Elizabeth Garrett as Brady
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Filming effectively ended this weekend. We closed with the climax of the movie, which was heart-wrenching to witness. It also left the whole house infused with an air of desperation and anger. I've considered smudging the place clean but am concerned that some unforeseen pick-up shot will be immediately needed should I attempt to reclaim my environs too soon.

But I'm getting ahead of things. Perhaps a bit of background is in order.

* * * * *

Months ago Amy presented The Company with a script. Like all things Amy produces it was alarmingly good, and honored all of the edicts we'd set down after learning what we did producing Fine Arts. Namely, that we don't have any sort of budget and should only write in locations that are ours to access. Furthermore, actors and actresses prefer to have lines to speak when they act. It seems to be part of their craft— this memorization and convincing delivery of lines.

So this new script was talky, which meant Director Brandon wasn't going to be the Director, preferring the quieter screenplays as he does, and it would take place in my apartment, seeing as how I live next door to some other folks Amy and Brandon are quite chummy with and we needed a place for the creepy neighbor in the script to live.

Which meant my home became a movie set. A movie set that Ariana and I had to live in, always questioning whether or not we could use a certain glass ("Is this part of the set?") or throw away the soap dispenser when it emptied ("How can I dress the set for scene 18 if the soap dispenser from scene 17 is now in the landfill?"). All sorts of frustration ensued. Ariana nearly lost a lung to a melting plastic spatula and the cat started to neurotically scratch holes in her skin.

I lost sleep. I lost my keys. I lost my checkbook. At times, I must admit, I lost my cool.

* * * * *

Nevertheless, as the Director, I've been privy to the dailies (movie parlance for the footage shot thus far, or on that day, or something like that) and I can say that all of this trouble may just net one awesome short film. The two leads (Elizabeth Garrett and Raj Patel) were accommodating, committed, and exceedingly skilled at realizing a script that was anything but simple. I found myself watching them storm through a scene and thinking, "Where do actors find all of the extra energy to live all these other lives?" There were moments when I found it difficult to watch, what with the emotions flying about being so raw, and that speaks volumes about the efficacy of their performances.

* * * * *

There's plenty more I could say, but I'm sure that editing the footage for the next three months will provide countless opportunities for Blogger-powered reflection. . .

In the meantime I tried to grab a few screenshots from the rough footage for this post— which turns out to be more difficult than I thought (undoubtedly due to some silly copyright infringement fear on the part of Apple) so please forgive the rather choppy images displayed here. I can assure you that the actual footage is not only much crisper, but far more saturated as well.

Crisper and more saturated— words to live by.

Raj Patel as Jacob
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Active, Adventurous, and Beautiful

Compass at the Dee Wright Observatory, McKenzie Pass, Oregon

I've returned from a week long trip through the geological wonders of Central Oregon. This is the third time I've taken this trip, and the second outing with students in tow.

For those of you who grew up with a public school education the idea of setting out with your teacher for a week long camping trip probably seems incomprehensible. The organization, money requirements, and liability complications would render such a trip impossible. Yet, I would argue, that it is just such thoughts and limitations that have neutered our public schools in the past three decades. Ultimately, I believe our inability as adults to free ourselves from such fears will contribute greatly to a dramatically diminished economic and cultural output in America.

The fact of the matter is, there is no better way to instill in a child the magnificent power of nature than to let them experience it first hand. Hiking to the top of cinder cone volcanoes in 98 degree weather only to descend through a 6000' lava cave that is 40 degrees on the same afternoon does more to nurture a child's imagination than any classroom demonstration or diagram. In order for education to be lasting and meaningful to a child, it must be composed of experiences that inspire and enliven— it must be active, adventurous, and beautiful— in short, it must be all the things that we believe our children to be.



Resistance, 2009
acrylic, toner, graphite, and wax on panel
10.5" x 10.5"
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There are a good number of things in life right now that are providing a bit of resistance. I'd like to think that I'm standing as stoic and strong as these evergreens, but the truth is quite different. I have fewer years, less pith, and a great deal more awareness of discomfort; which I suppose are the hallmarks of consciousness, but do not necessarily yield humanity a more enviable path in the natural world.

* * * * *

I remember witnessing this stand in the snow atop Mt. Hood during a snow flurry and feeling very small. These trees had already lost ten feet to an accumulation of wind and moisture that would have consumed me in a matter of hours if I opted to stand still.

Winter has long been portrayed as a season of death, but ultimately this is a great simplification. Winter, like modern life, is merely a catalyst and punisher of inertia.


Spoiler Alert!

Photo by Edwin Aldrin, Apollo 11, July 16-24, 1969
Hasselblad 70mm transparency

Ariana and I went with high hopes to see Moon the other night. Our hopes were dashed.

Here's what I hoped would not be part of a movie about the moon that had been billed as quiet, contemplative, and spiritual:

1. a talking computer with questionable motives— Talking computers may be the future, but after HAL, there's really no way to cast a computer without it being an obvious play on HAL, and that means that everyone will assume the computer is evil, heartless (if you have a hard time with the word evil), or susceptible to devastatingly literal programming by emotionally stunted programmers. Unless of course some clever auteur were to subvert our expectation of a HAL-like computer and give it a heart, hmmmm. . . didn't see that one coming.

Happy and sad face computer displays as an empathy device don't go over so well either; especially in a mostly monochrome movie of moon dust and plastic surroundings.

2. another clone movie that explores what it means to be human— Let me just say that there is not one moment in this film that comes close to the emotional resonance of Rutgur Hauer's justification for his right to life in the final scene of Blade Runner. Which isn't to say that Sam Rockwell does a bad job, because he doesn't. But he has a hard time really getting to a the low we would expect of a man left alone to die— a man whose whole world view has been shattered— because there's another, more vivacious him, to play off of. This ends up making it more of a surreal buddy movie rather than a reflection of selfhood.

Or, as my wife put it: it's hard not to just get Weird Al's "I Think I'm a Clone Now" on a loop in your head for the last hour of the movie.

3. lots of talking and even a few jokes— Clearly somebody didn't read their Making of an Epic Space Tale 101 Handbook. If the objective is to make a profound film set in space make sure everyone says very little.

Sure, Moon has the weird unexplainable visions part nailed. And it was adapted from a short story into a long feature length film, so those are some instant credibility points. But ultimately, the movie is awfully heavy on dialogue and woefully light on sweeping desolate vistas to truly enter the ranks of the memorable space epic.

So let me offer a suggestion for round two, because the sequel to this film could be awesome. In the final shot of Moon there is a bit of voice over that alludes to the reaction on Earth after Mr. Rockwell returns to tell his tale of clone woe. If you want to make a truly good science fiction movie, how about a genre-bending court room drama about a clone who falls to earth and explodes an international debate about what makes a human being human, coupled with an exploration about how immigration policy must be reconsidered in light of the cloning capacity of nefarious mining corporations.

I'll write it for any studio in Hollywood for, say, half a million dollars.

Call me.


The Lost Statement

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This quick Photoshop collage is not a part of my recent exhibitions. I put together this comp to compare the different looks of some daguerreotype textures provided by Caleb Kimbrough at Lost and Taken. Nevertheless, I think it proves to be a fitting accompaniment to the short artist statement I drafted for my current show at the Glenn & Viola Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro, OR.

It turns out that the Arts Center didn't have a designated location to post statements so this brief composition will find its only home here.

* * * * *

I spend a good deal of time longing to be outdoors.

This wasn’t always true. Much of my life played out in the suburbs and cities of Southern California where there are no true seasons— everything blooms and grows unchecked if you water it enough. Leaves don’t turn vibrant colors. Snow never blankets the ground. The sky is perpetually laden with heat and the particulate offerings of tailpipes. In such a place there was little incentive to be outdoors, and I had no real conception of the breadth and majesty of the natural world until I moved to the Willamette Valley.

That first year in Oregon I would drive around the farmlands outside of Salem, or up into the coastal range to the West, and I would witness a nature more magnificent than I’d ever imagined. Who knew the moon could be so large? How is it possible to have concentric rainbows? Isn’t it incongruous how the combines are so loud but create a dusty film that filters the setting sun into a splash of shadowy purple across the fields? In that year I discovered a sublime beauty and, quite by coincidence, I also discovered photography.

Well, I discovered pinhole photography anyway, which is a very primitive sort of way to take a picture; the camera being nothing more than a cardboard box with a hole to allow in some light like a lens would on a “real” camera. To be honest, the pinhole cameras I constructed did a poor job of capturing any of the sublime moments I witnessed, but in their indistinct and blurry compositions I discovered something equally beautiful. These crude images conveyed something about the underlying shape of nature; about nature in motion. A picture postcard of a vista doesn’t tend to do that, it just boasts about being somewhere. An image like that is about conquering a bit of landscape, whereas the pinhole image that takes minutes (or even hours) to expose is about experiencing a place.

Eventually, I began to supplement my collection of muzzy pinhole images with antique photos that had similar properties. I would hunt through flea markets and junk shops for damaged and discarded impressions of nature. Then I would transform both my images, and the found images, into drawings like the ones you see exhibited here. These drawings allow me to adjust the scale of the images and to perhaps even improve upon the original negative by adjusting the composition or contrast of the subject as I draw it.

I suppose I could outline that drawing process here, but it is complicated, and the only important thing to understand is that the process allows me to devote time to each image— more time than one person ever really devotes to a picture these days when imagery in ubiquitous and, quite frankly, exhausting.

The way we spend our time says a great deal about what we value. When I consider these landscapes that I’ve drawn, whether they are places I photographed or places some anonymous photographer felt compelled to record, I realize how important these moments that cause us to stop in wonder- to stop in awe- actually are, and I feel a great longing to step outside and discover everything all over.

August 2009, Portland, OR