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My first documentary

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prodigalgodson
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My first documentary

#1

Post by prodigalgodson » August 2nd, 2020, 12:57 am

Hey ICM friends! I've been working on this documentary for the last month, shooting at least a little every day of July, within the borders of Culver City, my little corner of west Los Angeles. It's rough around the edges due to technical/budgetary limitations, and it's very much a product of my sensibilities -- if you know my taste that might give you some sense of what to expect -- which means it probably won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if anyone has an hour to kill on some leisurely amateur filmmaking I'd love to hear your feedback.

https://vimeo.com/443518231

:cheers:

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Mario Gaborović
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#2

Post by Mario Gaborović » August 2nd, 2020, 1:27 am

I've just added your film to MUBI. Just tell me, are you THIS very guy? If not, then I should add a new one.
https://mubi.com/cast/justin-kelly

I'm working on my own contemplative doc, more about it on another occasion.

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prodigalgodson
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#3

Post by prodigalgodson » August 2nd, 2020, 1:48 am

Ahh thank you friend! No that's not me though.

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Mario Gaborović
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#4

Post by Mario Gaborović » August 2nd, 2020, 2:25 am

prodigalgodson wrote:
August 2nd, 2020, 1:48 am
Ahh thank you friend! No that's not me though.
I love this shot the most (l)
Image

I wonder if you had thoughts about eliminating shots that simply ain't attractive enough. That's what I'm most worried about, as keeping one's attention requires something worthy to contemplate over.
Also how many dialogue (and if any) should be put inside a poetic film, as some cinephiles say that's needless in a film that aims to be poetry itself.

These things I wanna clear off before I put something on a table.

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prodigalgodson
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#5

Post by prodigalgodson » August 2nd, 2020, 3:29 am

I appreciate the watch! To answer your questions:

1. I'm not that interested in pure aesthetic pleasure on a shot-by-shot basis so much as how meaning (even in the abstract) is created by a progression of imagery; in this case to capture as authentic an experience of my perspective of a time and place (this was at least as influenced by hip hop as by Marker, Benning, Herzog etc.), which isn't always the most attractive. It's chronologically edited, and I tried to only keep the shots that are interesting and relevant to the world I'm trying to build, as well as including at least some footage from every day of the month. I agree that there should always be things to contemplate, and I may not be providing enough in that regard, but nonstop screensaveresque prettiness is too at odds with authenticity, in my experience, to make for an experience I'd be interested in watching or creating.

2. By dialogue do you mean diagetic conversation between two people or voiceover narration? If it's the former I'd definitely consider including more in a future effort, as I think conversation can add an interesting element. If it's the latter, I'd say it depends on the content. I don't think I'd ever make a documentary where the voiceover was like "this is my place, this is my favorite restaurant, this is my girlfriend," etc., but if the voiceover interacts with the footage in an interesting way or helps illuminate different angles of the world than the imagery alone provides, I'm definitely for it (Peter Mettler's work, which I happened to discover thanks to ICM halfway through filming and writing this, provides for my money an example of ideal contemplative voiceover). Since this is as much about the subjective perspective seeing this constrained world as it is about the world itself, I thought the voiceover added rather than detracted. I tried to walk a line between too explicit and too vague, to make it meaningful without hitting what Tarkovsky would call a "thought ceiling" and negating the participation of the viewer's intellect; I hope I didn't include anything too superfluous. I was working on a silent narrative film when I started this, which I'm hoping to retool now; I definitely appreciate the value of pure imagery too, and my complaint about many documentaries has been a glut of obviating voiceover.

Cheers!

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Perception de Ambiguity
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#6

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » August 21st, 2020, 4:46 pm

A lot of genuineness came through in it for me, I admire that. Lots of wonderful little moments here, the fast food-eating seagull obviously was one of the more wholesome ones for me. Keeping the shots strictly chronological is something I appreciate, giving it something to hang on to if all else fails, a narrative with lots of room to dream. It provoked contemplating a larger personal context, so I'd imagine how your day might have looked like aside from the captured moments, for example. If you make more films of this type maybe you could give more emphasis to the fact that you used this restriction in the edit to enhance that effect even more. Just an idea.

Shaky tunnel scene is dope as fuck. How did you do it?
The Pierre Bezukhov quote is right on.
Digging the driving scenes too. This "going into the image" motion has become one of the only or the to me most obviously recognizable example of something that has still maintained a visceral effect for me left in motion picture viewing, the thing that makes me most feel like I'm right there, sharing this reality, commonly experiencing it more like looking out of a window than just looking at images that I'm disengaged from. Which is really just on me, as I've grown disengaged to the world and I can relate less to many of the things shown on screen as I have less and less vivid personal experiences to relate the images to.
The addition of music in the driving scenes only makes it better, of course. Makes me yearn to get a license and experience the wonder of joy riding firsthand, driving through the LA night, listing to pop songs and crying to Ryan Gosling...

Keep at it, man, and stay real.
When did you first start making films? What's your story?
We do not have to understand new things, but by dint of patience, effort and method to come to understand with our whole self the truths which are evident.Image
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prodigalgodson
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#7

Post by prodigalgodson » August 22nd, 2020, 9:34 am

Ay, thanks so much for watching and for your comments!

I think I will add that editing caveat into the blurb on vimeo after all. I wanted to avoid using "chronicle" and "chronological" back-to-back but I think like you said it's helpful information.

Glad you liked that tunnel shot! An old high school discovery. It was gonna be one of a few dolly shots of the creek, but the rig I used (a furniture dolly with the tripod bungee-corded to it) had such small wheels, and the surface was so rough, that this is the only one I used. I do love the effect though -- cut the sound to add to the eeriness and obfuscate my methods haha.

I can empathize with that going-into-the-image movement being one of the last cinematic techniques that allow me to really get lost in an image, for me because of a certain methodological cynicism I've developed over the last number of years (maybe just maturity) that's really changed the way I experience art. I've always loved dolly and steadicam shots, but it's not til more recently that I realized how much aesthetic value they add.

I'm a true Angeleno: driving, especially while listening to music, has been a pillar of my sanity for the last decade. Get ready for much more in my next project, haha.

My dad's a film editor -- I've been making films with him since I was a toddler, with a Godzilla action figure tearing down styrofoam buildings and stomping on hot wheels. Then other little projects I put together in my early years stoked my enthusiasm, e.g. a short I made as part of an annual 3rd grade animation project (a program started by my grandma, who taught at my elementary school), and 4 6th grade historical videos my friend and I wrote that my dad shot and edited. I started directing my own projects in high school, as part of a great after-school arts program we had. In addition to a lot of little video projects, and helping out on other films in various capacities, I made 3 pretty ambitious short films, then one very amateur neo-noir feature in college. Then I entered the working world and began a dissolute life at odds with my values: drugs, materialism, illegal ventures, empty hookups, extreme isolation, malaise, and paranoia contrasting a very social, lucrative restaurant work environment. During those years I totally abandoned filmmaking, which I'd planned to continue when I moved to SF after school, though I did keep the creative gears turning slowly in other ways (5 rap albums, a handful of singles, 10ish short stories). Then I met Yanti through a friend, it became serious, and I moved back to LA where she lives with her kids. I had an apartment for a year, reluctantly returned to a restaurant job when I couldn't pay the bills and an increased rent working the gig economy, and when I still couldn't make ends meet, moved back to my folks' place after 8 years on my own. About a month later COVID hit, and I'm making almost twice as much from unemployment insurance now as I was busting my ass 6 days a week at the most recent restaurant, which, without having to pay rent, has allowed me to settle my debts, take care of my lady (who's taken a big financial hit with the shutdown) and cover my cats' vet bills and medicines. When the unemployment money starts to run out at the beginning of next year I'm gonna start pursuing a job in film curation or preservation (probably falling back on delivery work in the meanwhile), but meantime the best bet seems to be chilling and collecting some get-back. So after a few months of non-stop weed-smoking and movie-watching, wherein my only productive activities aside from working out and cooking were finishing the TSP top 500 and quitting smoking (cigarettes), I decided to dig the camcorder out of my frayed old camera bag, get some new batteries and a tripod, and finally put in work on something I find actually fulfilling.

:cheers: old friend.

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#8

Post by Perception de Ambiguity » August 24th, 2020, 12:41 am

Cool history in making films. Sounds like you are destined to do this. You can rape the world and be creative now. I can't think of many major avant-garde filmmakers that were based in Los Angeles, not that I'd really know. Visually an arresting city that seems to still hold myriads of little shown interesting places ripe for capture. Is it true about what they say about the sunlight being special there? Have you ever worked with film?
We do not have to understand new things, but by dint of patience, effort and method to come to understand with our whole self the truths which are evident.Image
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#9

Post by viktor-vaudevillain » August 24th, 2020, 9:39 am

Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
August 24th, 2020, 12:41 am
I can't think of many major avant-garde filmmakers that were based in Los Angeles, not that I'd really know.
Pat O'neill maybe?
not everything is fish, but fish are teeming everywhere

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#10

Post by prodigalgodson » August 27th, 2020, 2:58 am

Perception de Ambiguity wrote:
August 24th, 2020, 12:41 am
Cool history in making films. Sounds like you are destined to do this. You can rape the world and be creative now. I can't think of many major avant-garde filmmakers that were based in Los Angeles, not that I'd really know. Visually an arresting city that seems to still hold myriads of little shown interesting places ripe for capture. Is it true about what they say about the sunlight being special there? Have you ever worked with film?
Ayy what am I, Jodorowsky? Can't I just wallow in the world heh heh.

Kenneth Anger's the only big name off top...I'd be honored to build on that legacy.

I agree LA and the surrounding area has a lot of fascinating little corners (it's just sooo big geographically) that are surprisingly underrepresented in a city where an enormous percentage of films are shot.

The sunlight here's pretty magical, especially late in the afternoon. But my only long-term basis for comparison is the Bay Area, and the sunlight's usually gone there by the late afternoon.

I helped out on a (terrible) short film my freshman year of high school, but I was just a script supervisor, and the program went all-digital the following year. I obviously adore film, but I do really like the freedom afforded by digital.

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