Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Mile High Club

On a tour of the Taeri Airfields near Dunedin, New Zealand, guest lecturer Ed Jowett, field store manager for NHNZ, is on the case. In this 2.5 min. video, Ed shares the tricks of getting beautiful motion picture from miles up in the air with the enthusiastic class of 2006 Natural History Filmmaking and Communication students. Nick bravely tries out the gyro-stabilizer.
Not many days now before our buddy Nick Macintosh exchanges this world for stethoscopes and remote lands. Check out his tight animated video - 2000 frames! Peace out, my brother.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Room With A View

This is the view from my room early in the morning:

At night:

And during a big forest fire today...with 4 fire helicopters equipped with monsoon buckets. They started dipping their buckets in he Otago harbour at 2.30 p.m. and helped contain the fire. Thank goodness for helicopters, not just for aerial filming but for saving trees and people!

Aerial Filming

Paul talks about escaping his helicopter crash landing.

Dwayne preparing for his maiden voyage to film "Judas Goat".

Pilots are all about details.

Paul shares the finer details of filming while hanging out of a chopper.

Flight school Fanatics

Fixed wing airplanes rock!

Safety first with Paul and Ed

Ed Jowett is on the case...

Unidentified student sneaking away without paying for flight

Today we went to Taeri Airfields to learn all about aerial filming with our instructor, Paul Donovan. The kind folks from Helicopters Otago gave us a detailed briefing on all the considerations for helicopter filming. We were also given tips from Paul on filming from fixed wing planes. Ed Jowett, a cinematographer and director of NHNZ's field store treated us to a buffet of gadgets that would have made McGyver green with envy.
This online discussion I found about helicopter safety with cinematographers was informative too.

Creative Lighting with Paul Donovan

Ask anyone in our class and they will tell you lectures with Paul Donovan are sweet. Why? Because he's always sharing cool toys and helping you make better images. Case in point, last week, a class practically devoted to the magic of flex-fills and bounce boards. With the flip of a wrist, and the right tool, you too can turn out gorgeous interviewees.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Happy Birthday Bill

Last Saturday was my friend Bill's birthday. Bill is also my childhood friend (pictured middle) Catherine's husband . One of the things I miss about being away from home is celebrating with friends and relatives. Birthdays, especially. Bonne Fete, Brother Bill!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A recipe for writing

FLEA, my 4 year old Weimaraner, is asleep in a sunbeam as I try to write my shooting script for Richard. Writing is tough work for me. It helps to have an inspirational view of Dunedin and the harbour. This is what you see through that big glass window by napping Flea. Best of all though, is Flea's quiet, loyal company.

This is Flea marvelling at two fur seals on Aramoana beach. She has good manners and doesn't interfere with the wildlife. Perhaps this is because she believes she is human.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Filming wildlife at Victory Beach

This is a short video Jinty and I put together about our class trip. We were learning how to film wildlife from master cameraman, Paul Donovan. I posted it earlier, but this version is better quality. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Sarah!

Sarah turned 24 and we are celebrating Saturday night! Sarah is from Ireland. She just teamed up with Louise, or Lu as we call her.
Some filming teams that have been announced:
Other teams to be announced soon.

One of our star colleagues, Nick, is leaving the course and returning to medical school. Nick is one of those people that drives me crazy because he's excellent at everything. When he's not taking beautiful photographs, he's climbing some huge mountain. He is pure talent. The world is losing a great filmmaker but gaining a superb field surgeon. I will miss you, Nick! I don't actually believe you'll leave filmmaking for long. I am looking forward to your field documentaries...maybe you could make one like award winning War Hospital . That film was so moving!

Isabelle is fine

A woman is carried away from the scene of a school shooting at Dawson College in Montreal, September 13, 2006. REUTERS/Shaun Best

My sister, who attended Dawson College months ago, was going there today to meet friends when she received a call, saying this tragedy happened. This school is moments away from my home in Montreal. I am grateful that Isabelle was not hurt. I feel terrible for the families and those who have a relative involved.

Gunmen reportedly kill four in Montreal
Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:54 PM

By Robert Melnbardis

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Up to three gunman dressed in black army fatigues opened fire in a downtown Montreal college on Wednesday, and early, unconfirmed reports said four people had been killed.

RDI Television quoted unofficial sources as saying that 16 people may also been injured in the shootout. The network said one gunman had turned his weapon on himself and committed suicide, while a second had been shot and killed by police. This could not yet be confirmed.

"A suspect has been neutralised, which means he is not shooting any more," said Ian LaFreniere, a police spokesman.

Montreal police said they believed there were between one and three suspects.

A health agency official told reporters that at least six people have been taken to hospital, of which three are seriously wounded.

The shooting took place in the cafeteria of Dawson College, in the heart of Montreal, Canada's second biggest city. The college has around 10,000 students aged from 16 to 19.

The shooting triggered memories of a 1989 massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal, where a gunman killed 14 women before killing himself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Collaborate or perish

Happy times...this is a few of us aglow after the pitching session. Well, not exactly. I admit this is many hours later, after the stress of the day was diluted with a little Emerson's.

PEOPLE CALL CINEMA the 7th art. I believe that. Great films can be great art. When I used to study and practice fine art, it was a pretty lonely process. Of course I shared studio space with my classmates, and we gave each other valuable feedback. But at 1 o'clock in the morning, with a deadline looming , it was just me, the paint and the canvas. Filmmaking is quite a different beast. The nature of cinema is that it takes so many instruments to compose a melody that a team is helpful. You can't shoot, direct actors, edit, and create the music all by yourself and expect it to have perfect craftmanship and carry the message. Of course some creators do the one-man-band-thing. And are successful. But it must be a long and lonesome journey. And, in the end, who do you share the kudos with? There's no sound when you make a champagne toast with just one glass.
Luckily, the course I am undertaking makes filmmaking in pairs mandatory. So last week, my colleagues and I pitched our hearts out to each other and a committee of veteran filmmakers. Everyone had a viable story idea. In fact, the ideas were so well cultivated and passionately delivered, that it makes this next step very hard. Students must pair up and make only 6 of those 12 films. A delicate dance has begun. Negotiations are in progress. Feelings may be inadvertently pinched. It's not exactly Project Runway, but close; there's some of that vibe in the air. Tomorrow we are supposed to announce our partnerships. The big question is, will we strike the lonesome path to 'art' or will be be able to supress hubris and nurture fruitful cinematic collaboration? To be continued...

Taxidermy in Art

I am fascinated by taxidermy in art. These are currently my two favourite pieces. Please tell me if you know about others!

Head On is by Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. It is on exhibition now at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. Composed of 99 life sized wolves, confectioned from painted sheepskins, they charge in a continuous stream towards, and finally crash into, a manufactured glass wall. The idea of a wolf in sheep's clothes is not lost on me, but the sheer dynamism and ambition of the piece really grabs me by the collar. More here. Or read "Tragic Beauty
A Conversation with Cai Guo-Qiang."

Untitled, 1979 by Jannis Kounellis is made from charcoal, paper, arrows and stuffed birds. In June, while visiting my friends the Ganzlebens in London, I saw this piece at the Tate Gallery. I am intrigued how a simple black line can carry story. Those industrial buildings, by their starkness, invite you to infer your own experiences. Standing in front of this piece, you want to gasp for air, you actually feel sooty, and dirty. My thoughts went to climate change, fossil fuels and the environment. This was probably not Kounellis' preoccupation in 1979, but it just goes to show how imagination in the form of great art is timeless.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Being Caribou

We are watching one of my favourite films today in class, BEING CARIBOU.

Interviews with the filmmakers

official website

this is the latest news on the Arctic National Refuge

And that wonderful institution that makes great Canadian documentaries, the National Film Board Of Canada