4.29.2004

The VC Filmfest starts today. A little anxious about how my little DV short will look in a big room. It was processed with a program called Magic Bullet which is supposed to make it look more "like film." The white highlights get brighter and more mysterious and the blacks are crushed. Apparently the blacks are usually crushed in film.

4.26.2004

OK. Just got a letter saying my claim to the city has been denied. Apparently the police are not accountable if they break into your vehicle to establish that no crime is being committed. Actually no reason was given for the denial, but now I'm starting to get ticked off.
....By the way, apparently the police do not "break and enter," they "enter without keys" (the technical term) since, after all, breaking and entering is against the law.

4.24.2004

Just turned in the more-or-less final copy of "Sitter," a DV short I did last year with Jen and Mary and Carrie, to those blessed happy people at the VC Filmfest. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, it'll be interesting to see what the audience reaction is. It's not really horrifying enough to be a horror movie, but I think it's fairly creepy.
....Also, lost my cell phone a couple days ago. Life is so much more peaceful, or at least less aggravating, without a cell phone. It's too bad they're so insanely useful.
...There was a wonderful moment today at work where someone finally spoke up to one of the regular players, let's just call her K, who ordinarily rules the table with a mix of nepotistic authority and constant screaming whiny bitchiness. Another player, let's call him F, decided enough was enough and says, calmly but forcefully, "Why do you complain when you win? I have no problem when people complain when they lose, but when you complain when you win, I got a problem." (It is true that K's only means of communication at the table is by complaining about everything, and for aforementioned reasons and other complicated ones we have to tolerate infantile behavior that in any other environment would have earned her a regular series of smacks in the head.) The complaint in question arose when K won a $1000 bet and then started whining because the dealer paid her in a stack of $100s instead of a single $1K chip, and K started her customary screeching along the lines of "Why you pay me in white chip I say I want grey chip! This dealer always blah blah blah." F's was a brilliant counter-complaint, superbly timed, because, having just won the hand, K's choice was to either fire back at him louder and prove, indeed, that her whole life is about complaining about minutia, or to keep some semblance of dignity and shut the heck up. She chose shutting up, which was perfectly satisfactory for all involved. Anyway, I started to feel a little sympathetic afterwards, because after the hubbaloo of F's hubris wore off, she resumed her standard complaints about the dealer and her luck and her money ad nauseum, but they didn't have their usual conviction. It was like she'd been sliced through a little bit by the comment, and maybe she had a moment outside her usual pathetic gambler's self-interest to see that her entire way of being is totally annoying to normal people. Or maybe not. For better or for worse, we never get to really see people who recover and redeem themselves for their behavior within the casino (assuming there are any), because if they do have that life-changing introspective moment, it must, to be of any worth, cause them to never come to the club ever again.

4.19.2004

So I just got a letter from the City Clerk of Los Angeles telling me that a claim number has been assigned to my claim. Not that they're anywhere close to paying me for the damages, but I do have a claim number now.
...I didn't get to explain this story in full earlier, but now I will: flashing back to Friday, March 12, we loaded an Unmarked White rental truck with grip gear to begin a 5 day shoot at the State Building in Van Nuys (which you can sometimes get for free if you're an indie filmmaker and you go through certain hoops, yadda yadda). We parked the truck next to the building because I figured, hey, it's next to a police station, it'll be safe overnight. And then went home to stress about the shotlist.
...At 6:30 AM the next morning (Saturday the 13th) I'm woken up by my cell phone. I figure it's Carrie or someone with a last minute production crisis. In fact, it's someone wanting to know about the truck parked in front of the State Building. (In my sleepiness I don't pick up the guy introducing himself the first time) He wants to know if I'm the Dominic Mah who rented it. Yesssss, I say, sensing trouble. "It's causing quite a stir," he says. "What kind of stir?" I ask, and then I remember to ask who again it is that I'm speaking to. Officer Somebody from the LAPD.
...So it turns out that during the night, a patrol car in the Van Nuys area has called in about a suspicious unmarked van parked in front of a State facility. Keeping in mind that this is just a few days after the bombings in Madrid and all of our agencies are understandably at a high state of alert. So they call the bomb squad on this unmarked van, they send a bombsniffing dog to it, and the dog sits. Probably it smells some piece of camera gear that is like something used in bombs, I dunno. At this point, the LAPD goes into action mode. They seal off several blocks' radius around the building, and start busting into the truck, breaking the window and the side door locks. They've already got people rousting the rental company owner out of bed so he can go to his office to use the computer to find my name as the renter.
... Meanwhile the officer on the phone is telling me first to drive to Van Nuys right away, then he changes his mind once he figures out I won't be able to get through the blockade. So they send a local police car to get me instead. Within two minutes, a siren is approaching my apt, just about the same time I'm getting out of my pajamas. I throw on clothes and run outside, where the car is pulling up to the front of my building. The officer says, "Are you Dominic Mah?" Yeah, I say. "Ever wanted to ride in a police car real fast?" he says.
... Actually, no. But I get in anyway and off we go with sirens blaring towards Van Nuys. When we get there about ninety seconds later, we have to go through several checkpoints before getting to the place where I parked, in search of something called the CP (I guess this is "Command Post."). When we reach the truck, I have to stay inside the car for a while until they're ready to talk to me. There are dozens of cops, firemen, and federal officers (identifiable by their jackets that say "Federal Officer" on them) around. I hear someone say, "So how much is this costing the city?" By this time they seem to have figure out that there is no imminent terrorist threat and they're all acting a bit embarassed to be there. A man from the bomb squad approaches me, very friendly, and says "Mr. Mah, I'm going to show you some of the things we had to do to enter your vehicle."
... The things they had to do included breaking through the passenger side window and also the lock on the side door, all so they could get inside and rummage around our rented lighting equipment. I was a little too shocked still to be know what to say, and the police, now that I had arrived, were in a hurry to disperse. The bomb squad guy gave me his card and told me how to file a claim with the city. The explained to me several times how the bombings in Madrid had put them on alert, and how we were living in a new world. Then they left before I had the presence of mind to ask them to clean up the shattered glass around the truck. I'm standing there dumbfounded for about ten minutes, and then the crew starts showing up to begin our shooting day.
... Anyway, that was how our little indie movie encountered the War on Terror. It's funny because there are probably hundreds of white grip trucks parked around Los Angeles on any given night. It's just not a good idea to park them next to state facilities without marking them with some sort of contact info. A lesson learned.
... Oh, and I almost forgot the (in hindsight) funniest part. While I was initially on the phone with the police, in my PJs, and told them that the truck was full of lighting equipment, he started running down the airline security questions on me. "Were you present when the truck was loaded?" "Uh....no...my friend did it." "What's your friend's name?" "Uh...Wolf." (Instantly regretted saying this.) "What's his first name?" (Wolf is actually his first name.) "Uh....Aasulv....he's from Norway." (Instantly regretted saying Norway.) This was the point at which I was sure that the movie was all over. Instead though, the movie is happily finished shooting and I'm just waiting for a reimbursement from the city for the truck damage.

4.17.2004

A couple of photos from the shoot are on the web at here in Gallery 7. They were taken by our production still photographer Karen, who is also a very accomplished actor and filmmaker and all-around swell person. Film, dangit, we shot on film!

4.14.2004

So I ordered this super new dual-processor Mac G5 on which to edit the movie, and it's supposed to be the top of the line computer that an ordinary joe like myself can buy. I bought it refurbished off the Apple site, which may prove out to be my fatal error. It arrives, I'm all happy, I set the thing up, turn it on, and some Extremely Loud Fans come on. You can feel the breeze coming out the back of the machine from several feet away. This is not what is supposed to happen, all my Mac friends assure me. Shortly after, the the thing crashes while trying to play a DVD. OK, granted, it was a bootleg DVD from Malaysia that confounds most every other DVD player it's put into, but this is supposed to be like the greatest computer on earth. Anyway, it's back at the Apple store now, so we haven't started editing the movie yet.
...There are a million things to worry about as we start the post process. Basically a lot of cost-benefit issues, such as whether or not to invest in the hardware to edit uncompressed footage, which will (in theory) make the final movie look better but greatly complicate the editing process in several different ways. It seems clearer to me now that there's no standard way to proceed, especially using this camera. There are hardly any finished movies right now using this camera, but a whole lot of them are in coming out soon. One of the "problems" is that 'cause the images are generally prettier and filmier than regular DV, one is sort of tempted to invest in all this software and hardware hooha that will make it even prettier and "more like film." But there's no reference for what a movie made on this camera is supposed to look like. There are hardly any references for standard DV movies, even, so it's a little hard to know how high you can shoot for. There are all these different tricks that you can employ to get to that "more like film" place, even though, as the purists repeatedly observe, DV will never be film. But there are certainly many many different ways to spend lots and lots of money trying to get it there, and the choice of which way is the one that I'm pondering until I get the new computer back. So I'm now very interested in meeting any people who have not just talked or thought about but actually made a feature length movie on a Powermac using DV footage, especially a movie that involved a) the Panasonic DVX100 in 24p Advanced mode or b) going to a film print that was actually seen in a movie theater.