What I Learned in My First Year at Film School
- I’ve learned ju-u-u-ust enough to become a monster pain in the ass on set. No more. No less.
My instinct to anticipate and solve problems must on occasion be overmastered by the need to shut the hell up. This has not been easy. I have worked my way to the place where I say things like “you’re gonna need to wrap that cable” immediately followed by “why did I say that? That’s not my job.” The next step is to get that monologue nice and internal, but until then it’s an unsettling dinner theater rendition of “The Enemy Within.”
Looks like I picked the wrong day to quit drinking motor oil.
- The chancellor of the school had an investigation and resignation all this year, and I had no idea what he looked like until I looked him up just now. Chancellor Michael Hooker walking around campus picking up trash? Not exactly. It seems unwise to mock further, so I shan’t.
- One reason there aren’t so many 24-year-old film school freshmeats making major motion pictures: Harvey Keitel. Say you’re very lucky and get a good script and a good production deal and you land some freaky hardass genius acting credibility like Harvey Keitel, and you’re 24 and never been nowhere did nothing (which is totally different from 26 and the same, koff koff) and you’re trying to tell Harvey Keitel how you interpret his character different than he does. Nah guh happen. Bruce Campbell tells a cool story in If Chins Could Kill about how Sam Raimi got Gene Hackman to take instruction on The Quick and the Dead, but that takes a tricky combination of deft lubricity and enormous gonads that I haven’t seen too much of.
There was a cool aside in my set construction textbook (What an Art Director Does by Ward Preston — highly informative and a pretty fun read) that described any construction team: there are gonna be two great, genius go-getters driving the herd, two lazy-asses, and everybody in between. The normal response is to fire the two lazy-asses and hire two new go-getters. But the normal effect of that is that two old go-getters aren’t going to work as hard, and some others will settle into the lazy-ass roles, and what you got is the same team you had before plus an upset social structure. As far as I can see, this is at once hilarious and true. As a corollary, I submit that neither an ass-chew or a come-to-Jesus will get a lazy-ass to work, but both will make him send out a ripple of discontent, so don’t even try. Unless it’s funny.
Early GIS result for “Come to Jesus.” How can you beat those numbers? Buddha’s going DOWWWN!
There’s a certain size of close-up where the frame is just chopping off a little bit of chin or hair or both. This is no good. Either get so far away that there’s a little space above the noggin and plenty below, or get so close you’re just above the eyebrows (though far enough below the chin) that you’ve got one of those “BLARGH! That face is huge!” close-ups like Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator. I managed to avoid these sorts of face composition problems when I was cinematographer this term, but some subtleties eluded me still, like “anticipatory camera” and “lighting the subject.”
Am I not SEXIFUL?
There is no workday so long or so strenuous that its metabolic benefits can’t be offset by a trip to the craft services table. This and enthusiastic exploration of Cookout have had an undesirable impact on my ability to wear 85% of my pants (“craft services” is filmmaking industry jargon for carbs `n` lard). Jake the Dog, on the other hand, spent the last nine months alternately suffering neglect and working peanut butter and cheese out of a Kong and subsequently lost three pounds. Jake the Dog rules. When they weigh Jake the Dog at the vet, I don’t have to say, “Um, yeah, you’re gonna wanna go on and put that bottom beam up to 150. But thanks.”
I don’t get a treat for getting on it, either.
There’s more, of course, but that should do for now.