STAGE 1: Theme, Structure, Key Film Pitches
Key points from two original discussions assembled by Odilonvert
Toward the end of 2010 fellow Mubian Anonymouse began a thread to recruit members to write a collaborative script, a script that anyone could make a movie from, from high school students to professional filmmakers. After continuous discussion about structure, theme, and film pitches, on December 21st, PolarisDiB made the following proposal for structure:
“Wikipedia entry for ergodic literature.” Also it’s linked associated articles for: “Cybertext” and the professor/writer of these concepts: “Espen Aarseth.”
This is what I propose:
Making an Ergodic Cinema, or an Ergodic Movie.
Here is why:
1) Ergodic Cinema: The theme that took off, “moving through”, “travelling,” could be interplayed both structurally and stylistically with the overall content and texts of the movies. Literally, we create a structure of posable deviations from a central narrative, and filmmakers themselves are quite allowed to create their own “offshoots” of the original structure. WE have to produce the first few movements, say, half a dozen short films that revolve around what seems to be a narrative, but which can branch out in any direction. Think The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, except made by multiple artists instead of a single director." -- PolarisDiB
2) Cybertext: Another theme that has seemed to take off quite well in these dicussions is our placement as cyber-collaborators, detached and decentered production units capable of a global scale production but struggling with the viability of pulling our resources together in any meaningful or continuity-edited way. Cybertext fixes this. The short films refer to each other, but not just in terms of allusions but actually in terms of structure. We must create short films that can be seen in any order, thus changing the narrative of the overall project as a whole—these short films should refer or allude to each other in a means that draws the audience to other “chapters” of the story via a visual hyperlink, but without the dead ends or frustrations of an anticlimactic Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. The most successful result would be the one where an audience just simply doesn’t know when to end, even though finding its way back to similar videos rewatched, recontextualized in a different part of the narrative.
1) Logistics: Yes, I realize that this will be intensely difficult to do. However, it is a unique idea and totally worth it. It also allows us to write our own scripts and then requires the group to edit them so that interplay of structural parts between scripts is associated. For instance, Odilonvert makes an abstract cinepoem or other non-narrative film that she still writes down the general imagery, theme, process, whathaveyou in advance. This abstract section can operate as a flashback, dream sequence, delirium, opening titlescreen, closing remark, losing control, or other forms of the overall structural piece depending which two interrelated short films bookend her piece.
To do that, we will have to create before writing our separate segments, collaboratively, and vote democratically upon, an almost literal site-map or web structure that the shorts involve.
One possible easy way of doing this structure simply is to bookend every short in some sort of set-up for a reaction shot/reveal structure. To be discussed if this idea takes off.
2) Design: This project subsequently cannot go on YouTube or Vimeo, as though each provide great opportunities to link from film to film, I do not believe either provides a way of deciding or regulating the links between films in order to keep the project self-contained. I am sure all of you have had those moments where you started watching a short film on YouTube about a ghost, and seven or eight films down the line are watching videos of kittens, not recalling exactly how you linked from point A to point B. We want to replicate that fact with the ghost or vestige of an actual directional association, bookended eventually by an actual end. This will be difficult to do anyway, on YouTube it’s impossible.
Think of it more like when you are watching a movie split into segments on YouTube, and have to follow the Part X of X links, but without the guidance of progressive numerals and with the option to choose the general direction of the next segment. OR, think of it like reading articles on Cracked that are linked to, “Like this article? Try this or this or this.” that has a logical progression of associations until you suddenly realize that said logical progression went from Batman jokes to the ten worst investments in history.
3) The Seed of Growth: here we can go two ways. We can set a fixed series of videos and strive for the production to fill all of the specific gaps, or we can set a foundation for the project to continually grow.
Now, I am assuming that more people would want the project to grow, and I recognize this is in line more with Anonymouse’s original intentions. In advance, I disagree. I think for the project to maintain coherence and continue to be self-contained and logically progress, it should have a fixed number of interrelations and sequences, and basically have one beginning, but up to three or five endings, with a variety or bulk structure in the middle. In the simplest and most boring from, it should look like this:
1—2 or 3 or 4—5 or 6 or 7 or 8 or 9—10 or 11 or 12 or 13 or 14 or 15—16 or 17 or 18
so that a viewer could watch a complete five act structure movie progressing 1,2,5,10, 16, or 1, 4, 9, 15, 18 and all the varieties in between, but it would be more fun if we can somehow create a way of making 1, 17, 12, 3, 6 work too.
Again, I know this is complicated but once we create one of those line charts for the project, I swear all this stuff will fall into place. Note that even as a small associated map, that is 18 individual segments of video that must be produced. The bigger we allow the project to be, the much more complicated it becomes to control.
The What: Or, Deciding on a Theme
Thus, we can look at many of the ideas above and try to link them not by thematic representation, but actually link them in terms of a visual structural progression. In the meantime, however, we have this opportunity to take the structural idea of “moving through” (moving through the segments, exploring the possibilities) in the definition of ergodic literature (slash cinema), and the very placement of this structure within cybertext and cyberculture, to then make a movie that is about moving through cyber culture, yeh? It only makes too much sense to me. This also presents a very easy way of linking unrelated actors and unrelated stages, via the transformation of information between segments. One bridge, for instance, could be a love letter at the end of one segment mistakenly sent to the wrong e-mail address in a different segment, which becomes the inciting incident for someone believing they have a secret admirer—OR, in a different segment, stalked! A plea for donations for a cause like Parkinson’s at the end of another segment links to a character struggling with political cynicism in one segment, or a character suffering from hypochondria starts reacting negatively.
These links needn’t be so narrative, but at least contain some semblance of a directional structure. Secondly, not all of the links have to end in an e-mail or digital transition, that would in fact become repetitive and detract viewers after a certain point. However, these are just the basic ideas that can bloom into something very, very interesting, quite unique, and more importantly, collaborative and original.
The purpose of this post is to begin documentation on this collaborative project, which is being hosted right here on Garage. Each phase of the project will be documented from this point forward as a stage, with this production note entitled Stage 1 and encompassing the the film's structure and theme, as well as pitches for the first key film(s).
Committed collaborators as of 1/6/11:
Anonymouse (Project Executive)
Structure: Ergodic, as described above by PolarisDiB -- agreed on by vote on 01/01/11: (9/0)
Theme: Search, Death, Rebirth -- agreed on by vote on 01/01/11: (8/1)
Length of Segments: 11-15 minutes.
Equipment: In keeping with Anonymouse's original philosophy, this project should only require equipment that anyone could use. Therefore, it is not equipment-specific.
-- Actors may be used but are not required.
-- Films do not need to be in English, but if in a language other than English
should be subtitled.
-- Ryan Estabrook has offered to compose original music
Shooting Schedule: 10-14 days after a script for a segment is approved.
First Film (key film) Pitch Deadline: One or two key films to which all other films will need to be adapted will be chosen. The current deadline is January 18, 2011. If you need an extension let Anonymouse know.
Team Communication: pulled from various posts by the team:
1) Keep all communications as public as possible. What may not fit into this category are nitty gritty production details.
2) Skype may be used if necessary for urgent communication.
3) Post from Anonymouse regarding how each segment should be handled editing-wise:
"I was also thinking we could release each "section" (search, death, rebirth) as a block at the beginning of each week or some such. That way we could have a bit more time to complete editing for each."
To participate in this project: Contact Anonymouse, PolarisDiB, or Odilonvert for permission to post.
How to show in festivals (future): As explained by PolarisDiB:
"There is a way to show it at festivals as a sort of randomizer screening.
In Flash, one can turn a high definition movie into a FLV that does not take very much size. Each separate segment filmed becomes its own FLV, that is brought into a mother file. The rest is coding, things that I have done before, but a long time ago (and could easily refresh: hint, I have Flash CS5). Here’s how it works:
In Flash, “chapters” as you’d call it can be made by setting the beginnings of videos at different frames. When the last frame of one video is shown, coding on that specific frame will send the video on to another frame, based on where you direct it yourself (for instance, a video ending on frame 369 may have coding that says something like goTo(5), sending the video right on to frame 5). This is linear because each final frame sends to the directed next frame of the video, even though the video itself may be laid out non-chronologically on the Flash frame equivalent “timeline.”
Flash ALSO has coding for a random number generator.
So, what you do then, is have a code something like goTo(seeCode) seeCode=(randomNumberGenerator1,3) 1=frame15, 2=frame796, 3=frame3102 (FYI: this is totally not the real coding, at all. Do not try this at home, you will get absolutely nothing). Thus, say the one clip is “bridged” via the structure we created to three possible subsequent next videos, a random number generator chooses which video to continue on. We design the script so that there are no loops, and voila, a flash video that will randomly generate a new five-act structure each time.
So how does this play at festivals? Two solutions:
1) we render out various randomized full videos and send them separately;
2) we send the Flash file as a .exe and .dmg to play electronically on any digital projectors they may have.
This is also something I’ve done before, and more frequently, recently. We’ve been creating grad videos for some of our classes that we have to project in an auditorium, so we create Flash files that can play on any computer so as not to worry about .movs and .avis running amoke with nonstandardized players (because the school is stupid and doesn’t have Quicktime loaded on their computers).
Anyway, I would propose that if we do it we can shoot an introduction that states something like, “Hello, this is one of x possible movies made under this title. This video was randomly generated. Subsequent showings of this video will reveal different narratives, different endings, and different structures made under the same conceptual framework via multiple directors from around the world.” Pro tip: if we want to send the video on a tour around the world, we may possibly get people coming to the theatre multiple times to see the different results.
Yet again, I do not know how this would work with the Garage though I think there’s a lot of room for it to work. As I am to understand it, Garage videos come from Vimeo, but possibly there is a way to embed the FLV randomizer into it as well?
Now that I’ve explained it, I have to admit I’m not 100% positive it will completely work. Nevertheless, I believe it is more than possible and definitely worth looking into. Finally, even if it results in a website-only video, nevertheless we still would have created a new digital art form. That’s something.
I think the fun part will be figuring out how to get the disparate videos made from different people to link together, possibly in invisible ways not readily observable by the audience (probably stretching here). But I’ve started toying around with some concepts on how to “introduce” the concept so that the impact of the idea becomes readily apparent. Once a couple of graphics-savvy coworkers of mine come back from leave, I’ve thought about starting on something resembling a title sequence/marketing video so that we can possibly get a) funding and b) people on board to help make it. …"
First pitch for key film, by Dandara (1/6/11):
“MISSING (a short movie pitch)
1970’s. B&W images. Detail of a silver cross pending from a woman’s necklace, against her tanned skin. She holds a school notebook tight to her brest. She walks along a stone wall, topped by an iron fence, expressing anguish and anxiety. Across the fence, the grave-yard of Saint John The Baptist cemetery, in Rio, with large crosses and religious sculptures adorning the marble tombs.
Dream lile sequence. The woman on a bed, in an all white room. She can’t fall asleep. She looks to someone beside her with doubt and despair.
The woman checks a huge record book searching for the location of a specific grave. She walks through the cemetery alleys, stopping to watch the graves of Carmen Miranda and Antonio Carlos Jobim. She continues her search. She walks and walks… trapped in a labyrinth. Dream sequence. The woman’s companion on bed is a ragged man’s army jacket. She caress it as if caressing a beloved one. The jacket is stained and has a bullet hole in the heart.
She keeps on searching. Now the urban cemetery changed into a grassy small town grave-yard, with many little white crosses signing the tombs of fallen soldiers. She finds a tomb, covered by dust and ivy branches. She cleans it, looking for the image that identifies whose rests lay in there. The old picture on it is hardly visible. She opens her notebook, filled with photos and notes about herself and a man, as in a sort of analogic Facebook. She takes one head shot off and compares with the image on the tomb. It’s not him!
Dream sequence. The woman receives a package, which she in her arms as if it was an injured person. She opens the package to find the army jacket. She notices the hole and the stain. Scene turns COLORFUL and the stain is as red as fresh blood. She embraces the jacket tightly.
The woman drags the army jacket through a bare land, pulling it “by the hand”, as if it was a body too heavy for her to carry alone. She digs a hole, so deep, that she disappears inside of it, and we can only see the dirty that comes out. She carefully places the man’s jacket onto the grave’s bottom. She puts her own necklace on top of it and begins putting the dirty back into the grave. She places a small white cross onto the tomb, opens her notebook and chooses a “thumbnail” to identify it. She attaches the chosen picture to the white cross.
Contemporary sequence. The woman with white hair coming out of cemetery Saint John The Baptist. She’s well-groomed and neatly dressed. She walks outside the wall, in the opposite direction of her opening sequence’s movement. She’s no longer in pain. She crosses a busy street. As she disappears in the crowd, subtitles dedicate the movie:
TO THE 82 POLITICAL PRISONERS OF THE BRAZILIAN MILITARY DICTATORSHIP (1964-1986) WHOSE BODIES ARE STILL MISSING.