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Austin Film Festival Recap

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Austin Film Festival Recap

I was recently able to attend Austin Film Festival and caught some screenings & panels. Here are some highlights.

Wild, by Jean-Marc Vallée and starring Reese Witherspoon, surprised me the most out of the group. I just hadn't heard enough about to it to draw an expectation. It's right on par with Fox Searchlight efforts, a movie with indie feel and a star actor attached. You can expect to think about your relationships, the experiences that shape you, and how you carry them.

The Homesman is Tommy Lee Jones at his finest - co-writing, directing, and starring. Seemingly set as a Western, it's everything but. There's no folk hero or lore here. Instead, it's a display of characters at their most desperate and how they come together to be an unlikely family. You'll think about what motherhood, feminism, and romance means. Along with Tommy Lee Jones's beautiful dialogue.

The Imitation Game is as precise and well thought out as any invention from Alan Turing's mind. This biopic is not about a life, but about a romance, and how a man attempts to reach it. Things to look out for: what it means to be misunderstood, the cryptography of love, and the battle between humanity and intellect.

Other screenings worth noting are Rosewater and One Eyed Girl. I may post a thing or two about the panels, one of which was a live Scriptnotes podcast, which you can listen to here.

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for the gear heads: hbo's vice

I've enjoyed Vice ever since high school, when I picked up a magazine issue in a skate shop. Since then, they've grown into an inspiring, massive content company with web shows, music labels, and an Emmy-award winning show on HBO. The shooters behind the fantastic documentary story series does  a quick 'show and tell' of the gear they use. Even if you don't use a c300, a lot of their rigs can be replicated to applied to your own equipment.

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alex blumberg's startup podcast

Alex Blumberg, who produces This American Life and NPR's Planet Money, has just started his own podcast...about his own startup idea of creating a podcast company...and it's called StartUp Podcast. The meta approach could easily be cheesy, but its story structure (very similar production to This American Life) and brutal honesty of his startup journey makes it a well-produced, distinct perspective in a crowded segment. From the first two episodes, it shows the promise of a series arc, rather than your typical conversational podcast. Check it out.

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x-men, from scratch, mad men and the lift app - this week's content consumption

Another busy week eating up content here, especially with the long Memorial Day weekend. I spent the extra time being productive (part of those efforts soon to showcase here!) while also catching up on my many content addictions. For some of the movies and TV wrap-ups, I have to be vague to avoid spoilers, but my general thumbs up/down is given. Here we go.

Movies:

X-men: Days of Future Past - Starts off with a gimmicky premise but after getting past that, it's one of the better movies of the franchise. Doesn't live up to X-men: 1st Class but is certainly entertaining and includes cameos from many of the characters along with some new ones (in the movie franchise).

Television:

*Mad Men - In this final season, the show has yet to take a dip or make choices (so far) that compromise the integrity of the story just to hit crowd-pleasing marks. If anything, it actually brings new challenges to Don and Peggy, and really realigns the story back on them in the midst of a dynamic cast and setting. The show's historical context is as prevalent as ever. Too bad this first half of the season will also soon become history to us since AMC won't be airing the second half of final season until 2015.

Podcasts:

*From Scratch - Just discovered this one a few weeks ago, but I've already added it to my 'must listen' queue. It features intimate 30 minute interviews with entrepreneurs in all industries, giving insight to their backgrounds and how they make their visions happen. As a part of NPR, Jessica Harris gives a more structured, edited interview typical of the network as opposed to the freeform podcasts, which feature the tangents of natural discussion.

The Nutrition Diva - I wouldn't consider myself a health nut, but I do think I'm conscious of healthier lifestyles. In that vain, I'm always searching for info about nutrition and came upon this podcast when I was looking to find out the differences between farm-raised fish and wild-caught fish. This was one first hits and after listening to the episode I needed to, I realized that the podcast's full title may target women, but 90% of the episodes are for general nutrition, with some even for men. Most of my podcast consumption consists of lengthy episodes that go in depth, but I enjoy how these are under 10 minutes and are concise and to the point.

Apps:

*Lift - This one may change your life! It's been popular for awhile and I've been meaning to jump on it forever. Had I had Lift to motivate me to get & use Lift, I would've blogged about it much sooner. This app helps you build habits to complete long term goals or just to motivate you to do weekly tasks. So it's a weekly to-do list that not only reminds you, but tracks your progress, turns it into a game with achievements, and adds a social factor to find what other people are doing or to give/receive "props" with friends. For example, I some health habits, such as juicing everyday and playing basketball, alongside production things like blogging and learning code.

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"living moments", an nyc video for nokia

There's quite a few great creative ad campaigns out there for mobile devices. Nokia is one of the best at it. Yet again, they take a feature such as the Lumia's high pixel resolution and apply it to a photo project. A 'tech meets art' deal. Here, they use 50 smartphones on an arc to shoot simultaneously to create a revolving "bullet time" (think Matrix the movie) effect in post. Nice.

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old photos from cali

It's been awhile since the last post. Work has been busy so this has taken a backseat but I'd like to get back to a regular routine. This weekend I'm in California to visit family very briefly for a couple of days. I won't have much time to take photos unfortunately or explore, but it reminded me of the last time I was here a few years ago. So I dug into some old stuff and found a few of the snaps I took back then. I hadn't thought of photography as more than a fun hobby and primarily used the Olympus Stylus Epic 35mm film point & shoot - still one of my favorites to this day (sadly it was lost on an expedition in NOLA). It was so nice back then just to worry about focus and framing, to shoot in a very minimalist way.


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saturday stills & motion

Grabbed images at the Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Olustee and had a great time. Reenactors have a quiet passion and confidence when in their world. Watch the video below in HD here.

time is a flat circle

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scorsese's open letter to daughter

martin-scorsese-promo-still-for-the-kennedy-center-honors-2007.jpg

This is beautiful. Scorsese pens this to his daughter, but he's speaking to every young creative person, especially those who feel paralyzed by ambition. Creating something is a vulnerable act because I think a majority of people believe they know and recognize good work but they are never sure if they can craft it themselves. Sometimes we don't even give an attempt because we falsely believe our ability won't ever catch up to our taste. We then rationalize this fear by blaming the barriers of technology, knowledge, money, or resource. But in this letter by Scorsese, he, a legend of American cinema, has deemed the system of 'cinema' to be gone. This change is bright, though, he tells his daughter. Making movies (anything, really) is easier and more fun than ever - so all you need is your persistence.

Read the original publication on L'Espresso

"Dearest Francesca,


I’m writing this letter to you about the future. I’m looking at it through the lens of my world. Through the lens of cinema, which has been at the center of that world.


For the last few years, I’ve realized that the idea of cinema that I grew up with, that’s there in the movies I’ve been showing you since you were a child, and that was thriving when I started making pictures, is coming to a close. I’m not referring to the films that have already been made. I’m referring to the ones that are to come.


I don’t mean to be despairing. I’m not writing these words in a spirit of defeat. On the contrary, I think the future is bright.


We always knew that the movies were a business, and that the art of cinema was made possible because it aligned with business conditions. None of us who started in the 60s and 70s had any illusions on that front. We knew that we would have to work hard to protect what we loved. We also knew that we might have to go through some rough periods. And I suppose we realized, on some level, that we might face a time when every inconvenient or unpredictable element in the moviemaking process would be minimized, maybe even eliminated. The most unpredictable element of all? Cinema. And the people who make it.


I don’t want to repeat what has been said and written by so many others before me, about all the changes in the business, and I’m heartened by the exceptions to the overall trend in moviemaking – Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, David Fincher, Alexander Payne, the Coen Brothers, James Gray and Paul Thomas Anderson are all managing to get pictures made, and Paul not only got The Master made in 70mm, he even got it shown that way in a few cities. Anyone who cares about cinema should be thankful.


And I’m also moved by the artists who are continuing to get their pictures made all over the world, in France, in South Korea, in England, in Japan, in Africa. It’s getting harder all the time, but they’re getting the films done.


But I don’t think I’m being pessimistic when I say that the art of cinema and the movie business are now at a crossroads. Audio-visual entertainment and what we know as cinema – moving pictures conceived by individuals – appear to be headed in different directions. In the future, you’ll probably see less and less of what we recognize as cinema on multiplex screens and more and more of it in smaller theaters, online, and, I suppose, in spaces and circumstances that I can’t predict.


So why is the future so bright? Because for the very first time in the history of the art form, movies really can be made for very little money. This was unheard of when I was growing up, and extremely low budget movies have always been the exception rather than the rule. Now, it’s the reverse. You can get beautiful images with affordable cameras. You can record sound. You can edit and mix and color-correct at home. This has all come to pass.


But with all the attention paid to the machinery of making movies and to the advances in technology that have led to this revolution in moviemaking, there is one important thing to remember: the tools don’t make the movie, you make the movie. It’s freeing to pick up a camera and start shooting and then put it together with Final Cut Pro. Making a movie – the one you need to make - is something else. There are no shortcuts.


If John Cassavetes, my friend and mentor, were alive today, he would certainly be using all the equipment that’s available. But he would be saying the same things he always said – you have to be absolutely dedicated to the work, you have to give everything of yourself, and you have to protect the spark of connection that drove you to make the picture in the first place. You have to protect it with your life. In the past, because making movies was so expensive, we had to protect against exhaustion and compromise. In the future, you’ll have to steel yourself against something else: the temptation to go with the flow, and allow the movie to drift and float away.


This isn’t just a matter of cinema. There are no shortcuts to anything. I’m not saying that everything has to be difficult. I’m saying that the voice that sparks you is your voice – that’s the inner light, as the Quakers put it.


That’s you. That’s the truth.




All my love,


Dad"

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inspiration: alex prager's contemporary classic

There's been a bit of a lag since my last post but the holiday seasons are usually pretty busy for everyone. I have been keeping up with looking at new gear (which I hope to soon own) and new inspirations. I've been watching a good amount of movies from the year and right now is award season so I'm going to be binge watching all the theater releases. Separate post about that soon enough. For now, I want to talk about this amazing photographer and filmmaker from the art world, Alex Prager. Her visuals are stylistically formal, and reflect a contemporary pop art sensibility with vivid colors and memorable imagery. Yet, the content of her work often resembles stills from classic cinema as if from a Hitchcock movie. Must catch her work in person someday because I'm really loving her work - she has a new exhibit, Faces in the Crowd, currently.

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directors' roundtable

Every year, when it comes closer to awards season, The Hollywood Reporter does roundtable discussions with contending actors, writers, and directors. it's a group of the best creative minds in filmmaking discussing their craft and speaking candidly about the industry. I could listen to these interviews for hours upon hours, but THR has kept it to roughly 60 minutes. The latest one for the directors has been released and includes Steve McQueen, Paul Greengrass, David O. Russell, Ben Stiller, Alfonso Cuaron, and Lee Daniels. The writers interview is also out and I would highly suggest that one, too. Click through the photo below to watch.

*The photo below and the photoshoot by THR was done by Miller Mobley, whom I recently discovered and found incredibly inspirational. His portraiture work has landed him high profile shoots with celebrities. He's 26.

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inspiration: primordial

Enjoyed this video. It just nailed the basics really well, especially with color - the timelapse shots were great, too. It's an excellent mood video with a solid crafted design. I have an affinity for the graceful movement of animals. 

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edible: delicious visuals from tiger in a jar

Frequently, I'll post up inspirations of food photography or video. This one is about the production company, Tiger In A Jar. I'm really excited to share them because I've seen their videos on Vimeo for awhile and tend to revisit them. A lot. They also work with Kinfolk often, which is fantastic food quarterly in print and another huge inspiration. It's a perfect pairing because both the publication and the videos have an ethereal, yet whimsical quality to them. The colors tend to lend themselves to earthy or warm tones, hand held, shallow-focused shots, which gives the food and its ingredients a very comforting home-crafted look. They use some playful typography, too. While all their videos are great, I'll limit myself to highlighting one of their recent food videos about raspberry tart. It's very clean, minimal, and nicely framed. I hope to see my work heading in this direction.

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