June 4th, 2004 §
The first day of each class, I’d make the students recite, “Never give the clients what they ask for.” After everyone finished laughing, I’d explain that we’re supposed to be the experts on presentation. Although clients usually don’t know how to light a shot or cut a montage, they are the ultimate experts on what they want to say and on what rubs them the wrong way. So there’s a second half to that mantra: “Always give the clients what they want.” Inevitably, what they want is excellence, even if they don’t know how to ask for it.
Absolutely true. Well said, Jay Rose. From the latest issue of DV.COM (free registration required).
He goes on to add this bit of wisdom:
But I’ve always believed the key to success in this or any business is to give the client a reason to choose you.
It can be a low price, but if we’re all competing on price, then budgets start dropping and nobody wins. It makes more sense to compete by being better at some aspect of the work than anybody else in your market.
There is a general tendency now for all clients across the board to demand prices which will not generate a living wage for all concerned. And quality drops further and further.
In North America, no one particularly seems to care. The average daily aesthetic experience for a North American is a horror show.
The day begins with radio announcers literally screaming in your ear. Along with their advertisers.
It continues with hideous print billboards and wretched above ground wiring in ugly neighbourhoods (except for a privileged few) as they drive to work.
The day is passed under florescent lights in stale air in an office tower or a mall office or a strip mall, surrounded by horrid furniture chosen for its pallid colour scheme.
Lunch is synthetic fast food of some kind or another. Even the health food eater must contend with the fruit from the local supermarket that is bright, red and utterly tasteless, .
If our denizen of every day is lucky enough to pass by the bar on the way home, he or she is likely to find a tv blaring in one corner, a bland wall to wall carpet and advertising on all the walls.
The drive home is more of the same overcranked radio announcers and ugly advertising unless it’s after dark. Nobody in the house has the strength for cooking by the time all are home from extended work days so heaven only knows what they eat.
Evening television is now one third advertising – almost all of it ugly, glarish and blaring – enough to stupefy a hundred caged monkeys in an hour.
Is it any wonder the clients are asking for the wrong thing?
And so the downward cycle continues.
March 23rd, 2004 §
for afficiandoes of short film, my friend and sometimes cameraman richard yagutilov has just put up his own site, yougottalove.com, where you can see some of his short films.
particularly interesting are numb and balls out.
once you watch numb, public transportation will never be the same. closet iPodphobes mustn't miss the chance to see their darkest fantasies realised.
balls out is a little harder to explain. some guy wants to neuter his poodle. the poodle doesn't want to be neutered. enough that he starts to talk. or rather starts to rap.
after much singing back and forth, master and pet hold an extended rap duel over who should be castrated in the end while the master's two friends referee.
my dislike of rap and the agressive of posturing of hip hop stood in the way of really enjoying the film. but for amateurs of either rap or talking pets, there's quite a bit of fun here.
park pleasures would also be worth a peek - it looks to me like richard is trying to do something a little more mainstream in the hopes of getting a movie or a television deal.
sadly, the web version is just a short excerpt from the beginning and misses the visual punch line altogether. thus quite unsatisfying.
i have the DVD version and enjoyed park pleasures. maybe richard will post the whole film some time soon.
technical: the web versions are in quicktime format (i.e., they look and sound good enough to watch unlike most of the WMV and real stuff). worth a visit.
January 26th, 2004 §
finally saw lost in translation tonight. would have preferred to have been working on my own film, but on the strength of astrid’s recommendation and out of the need for human society of some kind, i ventured out into the (very) chill toronto night over to the revue cinema.
i was astonished by what i saw and heard. or more significantly didn’t hear. there is almost no dialogue. i had thought this film was supposed to be about two disparate people hooking up and exchanging things from their different lives.
historically, under such circumstances the individuals in question speak to one another. and through language learn of the other.
here they are almost silent.
in general i thought the film much overrated. the beginning gears up nicely through the car ride from the airport, the estrangement of bill murray’s character at the hotel and at the tv spot shoot.
the totally useless and ineffectual translator on set is closer to the truth than most people realise. international commercial shoots can be a nightmare that way. many times on my own commercial shoots in moscow, horrible misapprehensions – the kind to warp an entire shoot day or performance – were created by interpreters. disaster was regularly averted only by close monitoring of these conversations and their translation.
there are some scenes that will ring true to anyone who has ever been in a longterm relationship. when charlotte’s husband comes home and talks about his day at work with the japanese, he totally fails to see that his young wife is swimming in alienation and unable to connect with these mundane concerns.
certain other problems pertain more to the privileged elite of america. the endless conversations about carpet colour for the redecorating.
some well-drawn parallels were shown between bill murray’s bob harris and the scarlett johansson’s charlotte. both make phone calls of desperation to their distant lover and fail totally to connect with the loved one from whom they seek a compassionate ear.
this is certainly true of most current north american relations. it is almost senseless to call anyone for existential questions. the answer will inevitably be, i’m busy call me when you’re feeling better.
frankly i wonder if this indifference to the interior lives of one’s loved ones contributes to the suicide rate in any kind of a positive way.
but i don’t criticise these north americans anymore, for indeed their way of life and their work preclude any other reaction – stretched to the hilt by circumstance and obligatory personal ambition, they have no time except for the practical and/or aspirational.
i remain shocked though that even when characters connect – recent yale philosophy graduates and a self-avowed serious actor (harris says he’d rather “be doing a play somehwere”) no less – and they have almost nothing to say to one another.
truly the end of language.
and in this absence of communication i feel the film fails on most levels. there is no connection between any of the characters, whether it be husbands and wives, new lovers, work colleagues, friends or family. bleak as my world view may be at this specific moment in time, people do talk, people do connect.
thus the film becomes an aesthetic fabrication, untrue at its core. pretty pictures and interesting sequences cannot save what rings false through the center.
in fairness to ms. coppola, much japanese cinema is almost mute (i.e. imamura’s eel). perhaps the silence is just a quiet homage to japanese cinema. i doubt it.
if lost in translation were a french film, i think it would only rate as very good. much of its acclaim has come from the absence in american cinema of well and freshly shot film working strongly with personal material. i.e. the absence of high quality auteur work coming from hollywood. in this sense, lost in translation is a wonderful contribution to american cinema. it may wake audiences up and open the door for more wonderful films to come.
January 6th, 2004 §
after my daily swim at trinity bellwoods in toronto, i met some men and from one of them heard an amazing tale.
this fellow has a friend, you see. and the friend moved to germany. the friend is some kind of an engineer and likes to put in long hours.
he was stymied in his desires. when he arrived at the german company he was given a ten page book of work rules. highlights include.
- no eating lunch at your desk. a fireable offense.
- obligatory half hour of socializing in the lounge with co-workers after lunch. not a fireable offense but warnable.
- mandatory six week holidays. not taking everyday of your holidays and sneaking into work to put in extra time, again a fireable offense.
the taleteller went on to relate that he had two weeks holiday and worked five twelve hour shifts a week in the automotive industry.
no wonder most in southern ontario are stark raving mad, desperate creatures badly dressed, with frayed nerves and (in the case of the women) unfinished or absent makeup.
no rest for the weary, no respite for joy.
they are astonished that somewhere on earth people take their lunches, enjoy vacations.
life as it is meant to be lived. you go to work, work hard, finish your work. go home or go out. enjoy your family and friends.
still not convinced?
allow me a simple metaphor.
games have rules and so should life. there should only be so many hours the players (employees) should be allowed to put in. anything more is really cheating and ruining the game for everyone.
January 6th, 2004 §
fionnuala suggested i see le divorce - not because it is a good movie - but because of the subject matter. english language film set in paris.
dropped by rottentomatoes.com to have a look at the synopsis. a priceless quotation from the lovely kate hudson.
She was particularly intrigued by the French willingness to say almost anything, no matter how seemingly outrageous or controversial, and to utterly disregard any notions of political correctness. "However they feel, whatever they want to express, they just say it," she notes. "They're quite a passionate people."
it turns out in europe one can actually say what one thinks.
a wonderful way to live.
let me out of this madhouse (north america).
December 22nd, 2003 §
today i needed to find some moving boxes and a car to rent. first i tried to find uhaul for the boxes. impossible to find a company website.
the top thirty google listings for uhaul toronto have almost all been spammed by a single company. what’s worse that company has a talking doll as its spokesperson. i have written google to let them know about the spammer.
next i decided to rent a car, preferably from national as i had some good experience with them in the past and they were not expensive.
no luck there either. no company website turned up in the listings. do they have one?
the closest i came was a very funny epinions review of a negative experience in toronto with national car rental.
but what i needed right now was not to laugh but a car. so i pressed on.
lots of different companies offered to help me book a car. cheaper, faster, easier.
i tried to or three of them including one called hotwire. none of them actually came up with cars (do i believe toronto is sold out of rental cars right now, i guess i’ll find out tomorrow).
lessons drawn from the exercise. online commerce still has a long way to go. google is not as good as i thought it was. the optimization scams of cloaking and mirroring work a lot better than i would have liked to believe.
none of it matters as i and probably most people won’t do any business with the hardcore spammers who are easy to spot almost right away. you search for one thing and get another.
it’s really hey buddy you want to buy a watch, taken to ridiculous extremes.
so much better for bell. at least the telephone will usually get you what you want.
December 8th, 2003 §
since i've been back in toronto, i've received two newspapers each day. the globe & mail which is known as a national paper (although it is based in toronto) and the toronto star which is proudly a city paper. the star has its role on the national stage as well as it is sole major liberal voice in canadian newspapers. all the other major canadian papers are part of canwest or southham.
canwest's major contribution to canadian culture has been the rebroadcast of american hit tv shows with canadian ads. they no longer allow independent editorial in their dozens of papers. criticism of israel, implicit or explicit, is a fireable offence. the american neo-conservative propaganda that they print in the national post is a colossal failure to capture the canadian national mood and disqualifies the post for this survey.
even my recently deceased grandfather who spent his entire life in business and regularly vacationed south of the border had no use for the hate-mongering and intolerance of the national post.
globe publisher southam is a simply conservative sort of organisation, in the business of newspapers.
the toronto star is a genuinely independent corporation. its other major holding is harlequin, the extremely profitable romance publisher. the roses and kisses division contributes to the bottom line but does not mess with politics.
sadly, while i usually agree with star politics, due to their simplistic and dull writing and the ensuing verbal boredom, it is difficult to push one's way through the paper.
in any case, i've had four days with two sets of toronto papers. it has been a depressing read. out of the six inch high pile of newsprint (and ads), there have been only two articles well enough written not to regret the time spent reading them.
leah mclaren's saturday style column in the globe managed to make a rather dull tv reality show sound interesting. her paragraphs about her own and her friends' girl talk livened the otherwise moribund topic.
My girlfriends and I have the same conversations over and over again and never get bored....Particularly with old friends, their stories come up like familiar melodies blended with new rhythms. The story of one girlfriend's recent breakup serves as the impetus for another girlfriend to tell the story of the abortion she had when she was 20. We've all heard the abortion story before, but somehow we never get bored with it. Like a familiar musical passage it opens up this way and that way with each hearing. This, in a nutshell, is the nature of girl talk.
today the op-ed comment at the back of section was a surprisingly fresh riff on how cellphones have changed society.
Yes, tragedies there have been, in past cellphoneless ages, and I suppose it's real fear that drives us to suckle so hungrily on this particular techno-teat...More than any cellphone or Internet communication device, there is something we can all turn to, as our best hope for getting through this life with a semblance of dignity and grace. It's invisible to the outside world, marvellously protean and portable. It provides hours upon hours of silent entertainment and, so far, is free of monthly charges.
It's called an inner life. Don't leave home without it. I put it in the "use it or lose it" category.
And a society that loses it, en masse, is the most frightening thought of all.
in any case, two articles in four days is not good enough. long enough to understand why i have not been missing canadian media. it is so flatly written with commentary banal enough to send one back to sleep in the morning.
i've started to realise why i so much enjoy my aggregated newsfeeds. after a week or two of following a feed i can determine if the writer's taste is good enough or thought rich enough for me. much better to have them read whole sites and newspapers and glean the finest articles for me. it is like so many refracted versions of yourself taking in all the (english speaking) media of the world and distilling into fifteen or twenty articles a day.
the local newspaper's day is done. it is just too boring.
December 8th, 2003 §
russell smith talks about virtual beauty – a new beauty contest of virtual models. more interesting is the point he makes about the body image of women. it certainly is no longer men who are at fault for women’s compulsion towards self-starvation.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not men, on the whole, who determine the beauty ideal in fashion magazines. The readership of fashion magazines, like the editorship of fashion magazines, like the audience for fashion shows themselves, is female. Fashion models tend to be much skinnier in women’s magazines than they are in men’s magazines. Compare the curviness of female models in, say, Maxim with the bony, ethereal elegance of those in Vogue. Any fashion editor will tell you that if you start shooting normally healthy women in fashion spreads, it is female readers, not male readers, who will complain about “overweight models.”