Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This is what Halloween in Toronto looks like...ADORABLE!

My goddaughter, Morgan, in her Elephant outfit!

Morgan hugs her future brother/sister, proud mum Catherine and dad, Bill.

Happy Halloween!

You find wildlife in strange places in Dunedin. For example, in my neighbourhood at Waverly Hair Fashions...I found Stella, the 2 1/2 year old rabbit and Ruby the 3 1/2 year old monkey. MAF cannot be doing their job, clearly these are imported exotics, not local wildlife! Well, in fact, Stella, Ruby and their big sister Lucy, who is 9, are 'native' in a way. They have a Canadian daddy from Edmonton, Alberta, a Mr. Wispinski, I believe. So these wild animals, sitting on Bev (young grandmother) and Karen (Mom) can be classed up as Kiwi 'wildlife' after all! Pretty cute, eh? Wish I could make a film about them!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meet Craig Watson, The Sound Magician

Master Craig Watson at the controls

"You want me to do what?!"

Glorious ProTools

Maybe if we just try a little of this...

...and a little of this...

Alastair and Donna (Alastair's adorable wife) gaze in awe

When you walk into the sound suite at NHNZ, there's a pretty magic wand near the equipment. It looks like the stray prop of a 5-year old girl's halloween costume. Craig says he sometimes has to humour prickly producers with it. When they come in asking for audio miracles, he says, 'OK, just hand me that magic wand over there , please." That being said, is there anything Craig can't do? I think not.
I've been meaning to blog about Craig Watson, Sound Recordist/Designer at NHNZ, for a wee bit, but with the end of our first semester and all the pressure to find a film, I was waylaid. Here's the thing, Craig is brilliant. For example, he was recently nominated for an Emmy for Buggin' with Ruud.
So when Alastair and I were working on an assignment called 'Vulture Culture'a few weeks ago, and we had to create a film narration, Craig immediately came to mind. What we wanted to do was convert my voice to something that sounded like a vulture talking, kind of DMXish, rough and street.
Craig came to the rescue. Using ProTools and a great deal of creativity, he rendered my voice unrecognizable! And very vultury. Thanks Craig, you are a legend!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Happy Birthday Reem, Roula and Uncle Rizk

Inland Sea at sunset, Qatar.

Uncle Rizk, Auntie Therese and Taima, their granddaughter.

Complex for the Asia Games, Doha, Qatar.

Reem and Roula

Reem, a friendly desert lizard and me

It fascinates me that my girlfriends Reem and Roula share their birthday with their Dad. Also, he and all his kids, including their brother Ramzy, have names starting with 'R'. It is as if only certain numbers and letters are favoured by the Haddads. Happy birthday, you three. Thank you for enriching my life. The lizard pictured was not part of the chaos described in the article below, as far as I know!

THE PENINSULA (Qatar) 29 August 06 Wild lizard terrorises residents of apartment complex

Doha: Three terrorised Filipino families were holed up in their apartment in the Old Airport area because of a large-sized wild lizard that escaped from its Qatari owner, an Arabic daily reported.

Hassan had apparently hauled in the lizard after a trip in the desert, placed the reptile in his car and tied it up to prevent it from escaping. However, the lizard made a getaway even as Hassan remained blissfully unaware that his pet was now on the loose.

He only realized something was amiss when he heard women and children screaming in their apartment in the complex where he had parked his vehicle.

The wayward creature was duly captured for the second time in a day and returned home with its Qatari master.

The fallout of the entire episode was that the four children of the families had to take a day off from school that day and some tenants caught outside made delayed returns to their apartments.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Brown Paper Packages Tied Up With String II

Anything in there for me?

Most amazing frog treats ever!

Gorgeous stylized frog bag

My parents, expedition-style!

Once in a while, I am lucky enough to come home to a mailbox full of goodies from my thoughtful and generous family. These treats are from my parents' expedition to Alaska and the North West Coast. People who know me a little soon discover my obsession with frogs. My family considers it my totem. They find the most unusual representations of amphibians and add them to my collection. The watch is choice! Thanks Mum and Dad, love every bit of it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

402 - The End Of A Great Thing

Yesterday we had our last class with Richard Thomas who teaches 402. It is the end of something special. With the advent of the newly minted Masters Program, 402 is no more. But we milked it for all it was worth yesterday, peer reviewing rewrites of narration for a film about dog sled racing called Yukon Quest, in addition to hearing Richard's words of wisdom on thought tracks and how to handle interviews.
What resonated with me though, was the last video clip Richard showed. It was from a film he made on factory workers. You can see a character from the film on the screen behind us in the photo. Richard expressed this film as typical of his signature: "I care about other folk who've had it rough. That's the kind of film I care to make." He urged us to make films about what moves us. I firmly believe that 402's legacy rides on the wake of some very passionate filmmakers, pictured above. Thank you, Richard, for sharing your toolkit so graciously with us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Magic Of Polecam

This 2 minute video stars, in order of appearance, Katie, Bojun, Jinty, myself and Ed. The wonderful filming was done by Artist-at-Large, Lu. Here we are at Portobello Aquarium, learning all about the joys of polecam - getting a camera underwater without ever getting wet! I tell you, the stuff they keep in those tanks at the aquarium is amazing...

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I was walking along Tomahawk beach at 10.30 am today and I was lucky to find a real (dead) Teuthowenia! It could be Teuthowenia, but it may also be one of the closely
related cranchiids (there's lot of them and they all look similar when
small). Ever since I saw Peter Batson's photo of this deep sea creature in his book Explore The Abyss it has captured my imagination. I wish I could make a film about this squid - quite impossible, but still it's fun to dream!
My snapshots are nothing compared to Peter's but I thought I'd have fun and show you how tiny this creature is: it is sitting in a mussel shell in the last picture. It fits into a tablespoon, and I shot it in a tranparent teacup. I was only able to manipulate it for a short while after the beach before it started to disintigrate, it's ink staining everything. It is such a fragile, beautiful little animal! One of the parts I like about it is the spots all over, like a tiny leopard. These only became very apparent when I moved it from salt water to tap water, usually it looks quite translucent. It shrank a bit when I put it into the tap water, like it was being pickled or something. Teuthowenia looks like a creature from another planet to me.

Watch out for the fur seals!

I had this adventure with Sarah a little while back. She made the most exciting film of it! Love the music Sarah! We also found a kite that day and flew it.

And we slid down a steep beach hill and tore my pants. Sarah happily photographed my destroyed fashion. Good times in Aramoana, I tell you.

Here's the thing - do you think these are fur seals or New Zealand Sea lions? They are a little hard to tell apart...guesses anyone?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Narration - You Can Never Start Too Early

Wise words from Richard Thomas. Narration can really make (or break) a film. As he puts it "Narration is not Polyfilla you smear on at the end. " Richard is pictured here (right) with the famous Dr. Nick Macintosh. Richard had these pointers on narration that inspired me:

  • use present tense
  • use simple words and short sentences
  • use potent, spare language
  • use signposts to help the viewer know where the story is going
  • remove excess words
  • spend lots of time on openings and endings
  • enrich the picture, tell what can't be shown
  • love the silence, love the space, words aren't everything!
  • tell what is shown in the picture
  • give too much (information overload)
  • use many figures, e.g. 900lbs of 10ft planks on a 5 tonne boat
  • use jargon or technical words
  • use cliches
  • give the story away
  • put words over pictures that can stand alone
Other great tips were:

- Get shots while filming to illustrate particular narration you have thought about on site or during the shooting script period

- Lock the picture AFTER you have finalised your narration

- Write narration OVER cuts to make transitions smooth

As you can see from this picture, Alastair and I have taken Richard's advice to heart, and are busy working on a buzzards narration trying to employ all the techniques.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Happy Birthday Cui-Cui!

This is my sister Genevieve, who we call Cui-Cui. Who would have thought that this dancing queen would produce such a magnificent family? Joyeuse anniversaire!

Cui-Cui, age 6, Barbados

Cui-Cui, with eldest son Lukas, in Barbados

Sebastian her youngest son, Cui-Cui, Bones (husband) and Lukas, in Canada

Cui-Cui and Isabelle (sister) at Accra Beach, Barbados