April, Come She Will: Final Cut

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2009 by Katie Heimer

Here is the final edit of my film–content/structure-wise, it’s pretty similar to the cut I posted a few days ago, but I went back and changed out a few of the still images for video or sort of stop-action-y stuff to try to keep the flow moving. I also went back and worked with matching the video against the music much more meticulously, since, as Virgil pointed out last week in class, if you take the risk of doing a movie where the music is so central, it can easily detract from the imagery, which I didn’t want to do.

In terms of ‘plot’, I would say my aim was more aimed at evoking an emotional, impressionistic sort of sense of the trajectory of a relationship. I sort of wanted it to be a little impressionistic so the images could speak for themselves and people could interpret the overall impression as they wished. As I said, to me this was the story of the arc of a romantic relationship, but in previewing the video to some people I know, one person asked me if it was about the death of someone beloved, and I thought that was an interesting understanding of it too, and not one totally foreign to my original intent–after all, the end of a relationship can be a death of sorts. From beginning to end I wanted to use imagery that evoked an intimate, homey feeling and also mirrored a shifting relationship, rather than just have all the images be of her. I wanted to play with and explore the qualities of memory, how some memories can be more fragmentary, others more fluid, some more precise, others a little out of focus, some more like snapshots in time, others more extended, etc.

Being a perfectionist, I’ve been kind of hung up with little places where my camera work shakes and things, but ultimately on some level I think that works in that it gives some of the footage the feel of a home movie which enhances the feeling I was trying to achieve that the person through whose eyes we are seeing these images is, with the girl, the other member of that relationship. A while back, I had referenced as an example of what I was going for the scene in the movie “Once” where Glen Hansard’s character watches old home movies of he and his ex girlfriend (who he is still in love with) on his computer while playing and singing the song “Lies” (here is a really low quality clip of the scene I’m talking about with annoying subtitles–sorry, it was the only one I could find online). In that example, the footage is much more heavily focused on the person (his ex-girlfriend) but the feeling is sort of what I was after. I know there are other good examples in movies I’ve seen, I just can’t seem to remember any others at the moment.

Anyway, despite much frustration in the process, most of it technology-related, I’m pretty pleased with the final result. I hope you enjoy!

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Rough Cut of Video

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2009 by Katie Heimer

Well, last week’s class due to technical difficulties, I wasn’t able to show a rough edit of my video due to the fact that I hadn’t even been able to get my video footage off the mini DV tape yet. It’s a long, boring story, but after working all day long yesterday after class, I was finally able to retrieve my video footage and last night and today/tonight I cobbled together a rough edit. It’s not quite what I originally envisioned but it’s heading in that direction. I doubt anyone will look at this before class next week, but on the chance someone does, I would be very grateful for any feedback anyone could offer. Please excuse the shaky camera work–believe it or not I actually used a tripod for most of it, but for some reason, I couldn’t get the tripod bearing to pan smoothly–it kept sticking a little as I pivoted. Anyway, the premise is sort of a music video of sorts (despite Professor Wong’s words of caution in that direction), chronicling the arc of a relationship in a semi-impressionistic way. As I said, the result as it exists now is not exactly what I had in mind but it’s the best I could do. If anyone sees this before next Saturday (4/25), let me know if you have any feedback or advice. Thanks!

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Video Killed The…Media Student (Almost)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2009 by Katie Heimer
"The files are IN the computer...?" (or in my case, the DV deck)

"The files are IN the computer...?" (or in my case, the DV deck)

Several times this week as I did battle with my mini DV tape, trying to extract my footage from it, I thought of Professor Wong’s warnings last week about the way that Murphy’s Law so often operates in creative and technical endeavours. After many lost hours and many suppressed tears and screams of frustration, I now understand this in a much more personal way. Suffice it to say that the words “time code error” will haunt my dreams for weeks to come.

Everything seemed to be on track with my movie up until this point. From fairly early on I came up with an idea of what I wanted to do with the video, and I checked out the video equipment and shot some footage over the course of several days. Already, to begin with, my project was based around the restrictions, or should I say obstructions, that existed, most prominent being the tricky schedule of my friend who had been the subject in my photographic assignment on which the film was to be loosely based. It was at least in part due to this  reality that I decided that the bulk of the two minutes would consist of a more abstract approach to constructing the arc of a relationship. I decided to bookend a montage of images with footage of my subject walking down a street toward the camera, smiling warmly in recognition (at the beginning) and walking away from the camera down the same street, glancing back briefly. These bookend footage clips I envision as representing more literally the beginning and end of a relationship, and giving the center section a context, a continuity that creates a narrative arc when taken as a whole. In between these two clips, I wanted to create a collage of imagery, some photographs, some short video clips, depicting objects, actions, and sensory experiences which evoke home and a sense of intimacy. I wanted to arrange these in such a way as to build slowly, a dripping faucet become a animated when turned on full blast, blooming flowers, later wilted. Interspersed would be brief, intimate images of the same female subject, correlating her with the other images, as if her facial expressions are merely more images among the others through which to track the growth, then fading of intimacy in a relationship. As the soundtrack, I plan to use the song “April, Come She Will” by Simon and Garfunkel–this song seemed to work well both length-wise and thematically. Since the lyrics use the metaphor of the passing of time from month to month, season to season, as a metaphor for the evolution of a relationship, it fits well with the approach of using images to convey a sense of passing time and with it a sense of the gradual birth and death of a relationship. I know that inevitably, the final product will not be exactly what I envision in my head, but if I’m able to somehow coordinate all the elements in a way that at least evokes some sense of emotion, I’ll consider that a pretty good success.

Now that I finally seem to have conquered the hated time code errors (fingers crossed), I’m eager to get to work putting all the pieces together as best I can.

Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2009 by Katie Heimer

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Anyone who will be in New York this Saturday–come to the Critical Themes in Media Studies Conference this Saturday at The New School! The conference, in case the image above is too small to read, takes place this Saturday, April 4th from 10 am to 8 pm at 66 W. 12th Street in Manhattan and is free and open to the public. It will kick off at 10 am with a keynote address by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and will continue through the afternoon with a variety of panels involving themes in media studies. For more information and a full list of the presenters, visit the conference’s website here.

I’m on the planning committee for the conference and we’re hoping for good turnout on Saturday–hope to see you there!

Stalker Story Soundscape

Posted in Uncategorized on March 27, 2009 by Katie Heimer

Here is the soundtrack I created to go with my story from the last class. It was a little challenging because my story is so impressionistic and internalized, so I basically chose to create a soundscape as the protagonist would hear it as he walks alone around the city and follows the woman he is obsessed with. To that end, I tried to weave the sound of footsteps throughout all of the “real world” portions, as this man walks through different sonic environments–the street, the subway, a cafe, etc. Unfortunately, my extreme lack of technical expertise means that the footsteps sound a bit more like a record player that has reached the end than footsteps. 

To me, the most successful portion, the portion I am happiest with, is the middle section  which represents the daydream portion, the portion in which he recedes into his mind and creates a life and a back story for himself and the woman he is stalking. I wanted this part, in contrast to the barren, industrial soundscape of the real life portions, so I chose to use a short piece of music to foreground sounds that evoked happiness, home, and intimacy–laughter, a door creaking open and shutting, ice cubes tinkling in a glass, and a brief excerpt of a classic movie (The Way We Were). Though as a whole I was frustrated by the way that my lack of technical knowledge inhibited my ability to create the soundscape as I had it in my mind, I was fairly pleased with the way this portion turned out, though of course it, too, could have been much better.

Here is the full soundscape:

Story Soundscape

Here is the daydream portion only:

Soundscape Excerpt

Reverse-Engineered Narrative

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2009 by Katie Heimer

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Characters:
Nameless man: lonely guy, living in New York City, feels very isolated, driven slightly out of reality by his prolonged loneliness and isolation. The narrative is told by an omniscient narrator, but is roughly from his perspective.

Nameless girl: everything the reader knows about her is what is posited onto her by the nameless man, who doesn’t, in fact, know her, but creates elaborate scenarios about who she is and their life together. Beyond her physical reality, she is a blank canvas on which he posits his own fantasies and increasingly his self-constructed realities of her begin to supersede her actual, physical reality.

Time: Contemporary

Place: Manhattan, but it could as easily be any big city. While his actual sightings/stalking of her occur in the streets of the neighborhood where they both, presumably, live, through coffee shop windows, on the bus, etc, through his imagination she (and the reader) is transported into other, fantasized locales and realities (the nameless man’s apartment, the home of the nameless girl’s Italian parents, etc).

The Precipitating Event: In a way it is the first moment he sees her, but in another sense, the precipitating event is the nameless man’s depression and loneliness, which set the stage and, indeed, precipitate his descent into delusion.

Rising action: Each successive sighting of her, his mounting fascination/fixation with her and his growing desire to know her, to meld fantasy into reality.

Climax: Finding himself unexpectedly face to face with her on a street corner, their eyes meet and someone seems to say ‘hi”, though he’s no longer able to distinguish between reality and his imaginative fictions.

Denouement: The girl disappears and the reader is not sure if she has merely walked away as the nameless man contemplates the moment, or if, in fact, she was entirely a figment of his imagination from the beginning.

“After You”:

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There she was again, quickening her already-brisk striding pace across the street as the light flickered from yellow to red. He couldn’t remember exactly where he’d first seen her, or why, exactly, she’d caught and held his attention, but, undeniably, she had. Sometimes, he spotted her through glass—while sipping slowly on a cup of lukewarm coffee in a hole-in-the-wall bakery or through the rain-streaked window of a city bus as it pitched and rolled by, jostling its contents like so many eggs in a carton, ready to crack. Other times he would catch a glimpse of her, between the flow of cars, striding briskly by on the opposite side of the street.

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At first, this was enough—to passively observe her, to take in as much about her as he could in the time it took her to pass from view and look forward to the next time, whenever it might be. At first, he was comforted simply to know she was out there, and to leave his next glimpse to chance, sensing that inevitably she’d reappear when he least expected it. Slowly, though, curiosity grew. He found himself wondering as soon as she’d passed from sight how long he’d have to wait before she would reappear, like a junkie calculating the hours and minutes until his next fix.

For a man as isolated and alone as he was to permit the presence of another person, a regular presence, to encroach upon his solitude seemed to have become a slippery slope that quickly escalated into a landslide. For so long, he had lived alone, slept alone, eaten alone, sat alone on park benches, coffee shop stools, and subway seats, that the very awareness of another person, the very perception of constancy that he began to feel for her as she wove herself through his daily experiences like a single bright thread on a loom dressed entirely in gray, was intoxicating.

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He felt, somehow, that he knew her, and before long, he found himself expanding on the reality of her, imagining innumerable personal histories for her, creating and recreating her until the lines of truth and reality began to blur.
For him, she became whatever he needed her to be—she was a recent immigrant and he was helping her learn English, they were watching TV in bed and when someone on the screen said a word she didn’t know, she would repeat it, tentatively, and look to him inquisitively for the meaning. She was a graduate student and every night she would come home and kiss him gratefully, smelling of old books, as she sat down to devour the meals he always had ready for her at 7:30. She was a hairdresser and cut his hair at the kitchen table, in the glow of a single light bulb, running her fingers gently across his scalp, the sound of her scissors softly, rhythmically intruding on the sound of his voice as he read out loud to her. She was the youngest of seven sisters, from a large Italian family, and every Sunday, they would go to her parents’ house and eat and drink until all anyone could do was sprawl across the living room furniture, laughing until they cried. Sometimes her cousin would play the guitar and everyone would sing. She was a photographer, and she would take his picture, gently reaching around the camera to adjust the angle of his face or the direction of the light. Somehow, she found a vulnerability in him that he hadn’t even realized was there, and when he looked at her photos, he would feel exposed, but strangely exhilarated.

Some imaginings were less complete—more like snatches of memory: she was lying next to him on their bed, wearing a blue cotton dress, she was running toward him, smiling, she was drinking tea from a large mug, cupped between her hands.

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These thoughts became more vivid, more colorful, more beautiful, more real than anything else to him. When he saw her walking by, the feelings they evoked rushed over him.

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He became less and less able to see her as the person he had first observed, the solitary figure, walking briskly. For him, the woman moving quickly down the block ahead of him was less real than any one of the thousand versions of her he’d created in his mind. He found himself following her, fascinated, fixated, trying to find a way to break down the barrier between realities, to make the vivid images of their possible lives together real, to give his life the kind of color, vibrancy, and meaning that every imagined moment with her held.

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And then one night, there she was, standing only a few feet away from him on the street corner, suddenly real, in person, once again in sharp focus, and almost close enough that he could have reached out and touched her. She looked so ordinary, so static, somehow smaller, silhouetted against the backdrop of passing cars, with a cacophony of sirens, skidding tires, snatches of mariachi on car stereos, the screeching laughter of teenagers, drowning out her silence.
He inched slowly closer, intoxicated, aware of the delicacy of the moment, scared it would pass before it had begun, but sure she could feel the bond of common understanding they shared. He waited, anxiously wondering what his next move could be, and then she made one for him. Glancing up (could it have been accidental?), her eyes met his for a moment as she scanned down the street, then, returning, glanced back over him. “Hi.” Had she said it or had he? Had it been out loud or in his head? He wasn’t sure, but in that moment as he hesitated, wondering, she was gone, and he was alone again.

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Back To The Future

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2009 by Katie Heimer

la-jetee-orly

In La Jetee, an unnamed man (the protagonist) has a very strong memory of his boyhood involving a glimpse of a woman on the end of the main pier at Orly airport in Paris and a man falling to his death—the indelible quality of this memory in the man’s mind becomes a motivating force for much of what follows in the rest of the story, making this moment, therefore a precipitating event in the man’s life. After Paris is destroyed in a global World War III apocalypse and people are forced underground, he is selected as a new guinea pig by those responsible for the destruction (the antagonists), in the attempt to secure help from the past and future in order to save the human race from its current state of doom. The experimenters work on the protagonist, stripping away his grounding in the present and sending him into his past, beginning from his strong memory of the Orly pier. On the tenth day he begins to encounter images from the past. On the sixteenth day, he finally arrives back on the Orly pier. In returning to this memory, he is able to find the woman again and on the thirtieth day they meet and he is sure they are meant to be together—along with the transformative childhood memory, this becomes a precipitating event, motivating the protagonist throughout the rest of the story. The woman’s motivations are unclear, though she appears to embrace their sporadic encounters and to feel the same connection as he does. Together they travel to various points in the past—a garden, sleeping in the sun, and later wandering (on the fiftieth day) through a museum of his memory. He realizes she is dead and that they can only be together if he stays in the past with her. But, instead the men who are conducting the experiment decide he is ready to be sent to the future. In the future, Paris is rebuilt and he convinces the leaders of this future world to give him the means of saving humanity—he returns to the present and the experimenters have exhausted their need for him. All of this constitutes the story’s rising action. He waits to be executed but the men from the future come to find him and bring him to the future—he opts instead to return to the past to be with the woman. Back on the pier at Orly, returned to the moment of his boyhood memory, he runs towards the woman, but recognizes a man who has trailed him from the present and realizes there is no way to escape the framework of time and reality—in the climactic final moment, he realizes that the childhood memory of the man falling to his death was, in fact, a prescient glimpse of the moment of his own death. This final moment of realization and revelation is both the climax and the denouement.

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Throughout the story, the protagonist moves numerous times back and forth fluidly between the past, present, and future. The story is grounded in the present of post-apocalyptic underground Paris, with traveling occurring backward and forward from this point. The final moment of climax and denouement occurs in the past, which, however, is in some sense the farthest point in the future, since it proves to be the final moment of the protagonist’s life. The major external conflicts include the struggle of the antagonists to save humanity through time travel, as well as the struggle of the protagonist and the rest of his fellow prisoners to live in their underground conditions and not be killed by the experiments of the antagonists. The protagonist’s primary internal conflict is his desire to stay in the past in order remain with the woman he loves.
I found La Jetee powerful, captivating, and ultimately somewhat unsettling. While I haven’t seen the Terry Gilliam film, Twelve Monkeys, which was supposedly inspired by the story and concept of La Jetee, I was overwhelmingly reminded of the work of Michel Gondry, particularly his 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while watching. The scenes in that film which feature the two protagonists, played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, escaping into their minds, hiding, literally, among their memories in the attempt to save their history together and prevent it from being erased, while not representing the exact same plot line seemed to deal with similar themes and conflicts and present a similarly fluid idea of the chronology of time and the nature of memory in relation to space and human beings. This rupturing of the commonly understood boundaries of time and space, centered around the desperate attempts of the protagonists to stay together and be together, venturing through much the same kind of fragmentary world, their own museum of memories, I found deeply reminiscent of La Jetee.

The use of sequential still images rather than uninterrupted film was very effective in creating the kind of dystopian feeling of fractured reality that was reflected in the facts of the story as it unfolded. It gave the film an episodic feel, as if grasped from snatches of memory, flickering in and out of reality, and helped to enhance the disrupted and disturbing sense of moving back and forth in time, not being anchored in any one state of reality for very long. It also helped to build a sense of drama. I keep thinking back to what Herbert Zettl said about the way in which sometimes very blown out, black and white photographs draw the viewer in more emotionally than more “realistic” photographs where more visual information is present because they invite or force the viewer to fill in what is missing, to invest themselves more emotionally and intellectually in the image in order to fully constitute it. It’s an idea I’m very interested by and one I’m interested in working with in my own work in the future, and it seems to me that this accounted for some of the emotional, visual power of La Jetee.