Saturday, February 14, 2009

And now for something completely WordPress

I officially shifted the blog to WordPress hosting -- which you'd know if you were checking it via! For shame.

Anyway, that's where I plan to post new posts from here on. All posts and their comments to date have been transferred over, so it'll be like nothing changed, aside from the look. See you there!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Darwin Day!

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of naturalist Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book On the Origin of Species. Darwin did not create the theory of evolution, which dates back to the Greeks; he only postulated the mechanism by which it occurred, natural selection.

Despite the efforts of certain people to discredit evolutionary theory, because of a vested interest in Bronze Age superstitions that cannot be reconciled with observable fact, our understanding of evolution forms the cornerstone not only of modern biology, but resonates throughout all of the natural sciences, from chemistry to archaeology to anthropology to medicine.

If evolution weren't true, none of the modern medications or antibiotics we have would work. But they do, because it is.

There was a lot that Darwin didn't know about -- he had no knowledge of what we today call genetics, for example. Although DNA would be discovered during his lifetime, its implications in relationship to natural selection would not be understood until the mid-20th century. With all the advancements in knowledge we have made in the last century and a half, Darwin would likely find any of the current work being done in the field of evolutionary biology completely mystifying.

But through 150 years of science, evolution by means of natural selection has been proven, and strengthened, with every new discovery. There are certainly conceivable discoveries that could be made that would render the theory invalid, or at least inadequate to explain them; but such discoveries have, to date, never been made. Anyone who tells you that evolution is a "theory in crisis" is either ignorant of the facts, or lying about them.

Ars Technica has an article about appreciating evolution. I'm sure you will find many more out there to enjoy and learn from.

Today, by the way, also happens to be the actual 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. So props to him too, though the official birthday celebration has been paired with the celebration of Washington's birthday and gets everyone not working in post-production a day off on Monday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sony Releases New Piece of Shit that Doesn't Fucking Work

Brilliant, biting, and like all good satire, way too fucking true.

Where the Wild Things Are -- Wild Thing Pics

Slashfilm has some images from the Spike Jonze film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are, showing for the first time the eponymous Wild Things.

WTWTA is a classic children's book -- I doubt there are many of my generation or younger who don't have a strong affection for it. And everything I've seen and heard about the adaptation sounds fantastic. There was a brief scare after Jonze turned in his first cut -- it was deemed too scary for kids and too weird for adults. This worried the studio. But it excited me.

Even though WTWTA is an extremely short book (only 48 pages, and averaging a single sentence per two-page spread), it sounds like Jonze used that as a starting-off point to create what could be an equally classic, timeless film. Bizarrely, even though there is limited source material and I expect (and even desire) deviations, my expectations are higher for this than any other adaptation in recent memory.

Loved Jonze's work to date. He's just weird enough to pull this off. Fingers crossed that October 2009 it turns out to be what I hope it is.

Monday, February 09, 2009

New Job Joys

So as a brief note, I've landed a full-time visual effects gig for the next couple of months with Digiscope. I can't say yet what I'm working on, I'm afraid, but I think I will be able to by the time the trailer hits.

This isn't my first experience with working at an FX house. I had a brief stint at Glowgun at the end of last year working on Feast 3 (which I assume is safe for me to say since they've already added it to my IMDB profile). But this is the first time working on a high-budget, high-profile movie that will see a wide theatrical release. But again, I can't say more than that right now.

I've got a ten-hour workday and I've still got a bunch of personal projects that need my attention in the off-hours, so while I'm not suspending blog activity, I'm going to shift the focus for a little while. Instead of the longer, more opinion-driven posts, it'll probably be more re-blogging. YouTube videos, news articles, stuff like that, with maybe a very brief commentary. That's aside from Secular Sunday posts, which will still be relatively comprehensive.

So I'll still be posting with frequency, and possibly even more frequency than before since the posts will be brief. And stay tuned for when I can actually say what I'm doing here!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Secular Sunday: Atheist Q&A!

So I actually can't find my copy of Case for a Creator right now. I picked it up to have it with me to write this week's entry and now I can't remember where I put it, and with a new job taking up ten of my daily waking hours, I actually don't have a lot of time to look for it.

It probably sounds like I chucked it in the bin, but I didn't -- I'd tell you if I did. So please, nobody send me another one. I will find it.

But this week, we're not falling far from that tree, because I'm still going to talk about a Lee Strobel topic. Lee Strobel was asked some questions, by an atheist, which he answered.

I may address his answers another time, but I am led to think that maybe I've been a little harsh on the guy. I've accused him of intentionally obscuring or distorting the truth, but it appears quite possible that he really just has poor critical thinking skills, no doubt atrophied from years of disuse. It seems like he may honestly believe that the things he writes and relays in his books really are logically sound.

To paraphrase Gandalf: a fool he may be; but perhaps, at least, an honest one.

But as I said, that's not what I'm going to post about today. In response to the atheist questions posed to him, he and some of his apologist buddies came up with some theist questions they would like to hear answered by atheists. Other atheist blogs have addressed them, but I thought I'd take my own crack at it.

What I say is not the "official atheist answer," as no such thing can exist. Atheism has no tenets or dogma and thus cannot have an "official" position other than the non-belief in gods. These are only my responses to these questions.

By the way, some Harry Potter spoilers slipped in there by means of comparison. If you haven't read the books, particularly the last two, then you should have by now, but I'll still tag it in case you want to avoid.

Christian apologist Mike Licona: "What turns you off about Christianity? Irrespective of one's worldview, many experience periods of doubt. Do you ever doubt your atheism and, if so, what is it about theism or Christianity that is most troubling to your atheism?"

Licona's first error, of course, is in assuming that the only alternative to atheism is Christianity. I might ask him what "turns him off" about Buddhism, Hinduism, or Islam. Perhaps he would give reasons that regarded the behavior of certain of those religions' adherents, but ultimately I think it would come down to "I just don't buy what they're selling." As the saying goes, we are both nonbelievers in Apollo, Thor, Mithra, Shiva, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, among thousands of others. I only take it one God further than he does (or three, depending on your perspective).

My issue, first and foremost, is not that Christianity has "turn offs." It is that theism in general lacks sufficient evidence to indicate the existence of any god, much less any one(/three) in particular.

Though I both experienced and continue to research theistic beliefs, I have yet to come across any evidence that has "troubled" me with regard to my current lack of belief. I would be more than willing to acknowledge such evidence, should it ever be presented, but I'm not holding my breath.

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot about what's written in the Bible that I find repulsive, and I'm pretty sure from a literary standpoint that God is actually the villain of the story. And there's a lot about the intolerance and arrogance that Christianity has a tendency to engender in its followers that "turns me off." And I think that it damages critical thinking skills, and does not allow for sufficient questioning or doubt. But none of that has anything to do with the reason I don't believe in it.

Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig: "What's the real reason you don't believe in God? How and when do you lose your faith in God?"

Well, first of all, I object to the way this question is phrased. Asking for the "real reason" implies that I have or would give a "fake" one.

That aside: I don't believe in God because I have not been shown any compelling reason that I should. It's the same reason I don't believe in unicorns, faeries, goblins, or Lord Voldemort.

The second question is equally presumptuous, as it assumes that the atheist being questioned has ever had faith in any god in the first place. It happens to be true in my case, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a very loaded question.

I've already written my answer to this, but the short version is that I lost my faith in God when I went seeking for evidence to strengthen my faith, and sharpen my apologetical skills, and found at every turn that none existed. And so I was forced to determine -- against my heart's desire, at the time -- that God, too, most probably did not exist.

Author and Christian pastor John Ortberg: "How can you create a meaningful life in a meaningless universe?"

My question in return is: how does the meaningfulness of the universe impact the meaningfulness of one's own life?

Sure, the fact is that millions of years from now, not only will I be long gone, but the entire human race will be gone. There will be no one left to remember my name or my deeds, and the universe will continue to do what it does as if humanity had never existed. But that's true whether God exists or not, isn't it? The fact that my life doesn't mean anything to the dust of Mars is a fact, whether there is a God or isn't.

Does that really preoccupy anyone on a day-to-day basis?

Quite honestly, I think life has more meaning when that meaning is ours to determine and create, rather than just fulfilling a grand "plan" in which our every action is already anticipated and accounted for. Where is the meaning there, when your part to play is given to you by some outside entity rather than self-determined? How is this life "meaningful" when it is supposedly the lesser of the two lives one will live?

I create a meaningful life by making use of my life to improve and enhance the lives of those around me. It is fleeting for all of us, and that should make us more determined to make it as enjoyable as possible. Meaning is whatever we make of it.

Resurrection apologist Gary Habermas: "Utilizing each of the historical facts conceded by virtually all contemporary scholars, please produce a comprehensive natural explanation of Jesus' resurrection that makes better sense than the event itself." "These historical facts are:

-Jesus was killed by crucifixion
-Jesus' disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them
-The conversion of the church persecutor Saul
-the conversion of the skeptic James, Jesus' half-brother
-The empty tomb of Jesus.

These "minimal facts" are strongly evidenced and are regarded as historical by the vast majority of scholars, including skeptics, who have written about the resurrection in French, German, and English since 1975. While the fifth fact doesn't enjoy quite the same universal consensus, nevertheless it is conceded by 75 percent of these scholars and is well supported by the historical data if assessed without preconceptions."

That's a lot of assertion, and a lot of bandying-about of the word "fact" without actually backing it up.

Who are these "contemporary scholars"? I want names, and the reasons that they "concede" these "historical facts." Better yet, skip the appeal to authority and just tell me what the evidence is that makes those assertions "facts." As far as I can tell, they are not facts at all, just a semantical ploy. Borrowing from another atheist blogger's answers, I will rephrase your "facts" in the form of questions, because that's really what they are: questions to be answered.

Was Jesus killed by crucifixion? Skipping the questionable nature of the very existence of Jesus at all (and yes, it is questionable), it is reasonable to believe that he might have been crucified. It was an actual method of execution, so it is not outside the boundaries of possibility that a rabble-rouser named Jesus was executed by means of crucifixion.

Did Jesus' disciples believe that he rose and appeared to them? Again granting that he existed at all, sure. His followers may very well have believed that Jesus rose and appeared to them. But the Aztecs believed that human sacrifice made the sun rise. Scientologists believe that our bodies are filled with alien ghosts. Just because a person or group of people believe something does not mean that it is true.

Did the church persecutor Saul convert to Christianity? Once again, the first assumption is that such a person ever existed, although admittedly it is likely that he did. Saul of Tarsus may genuinely have converted to Christianity, and may genuinely have believed that he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. But again, because someone believes something does not make it true. As no one was with him when he had his vision, it seems perfectly possible that he hallucinated the experience. He was walking in desert heat, maybe he got sunstroke. That he genuinely believed it happened does not mean it really happened.

My pet theory, on the other hand, is that Saul realized that he could benefit much more by conning believers than by killing them. Paul realized he could make some serious cash off the whole "tithing" thing if he got in at the high levels of the church, which he did. He's also the one who invented the notion, out of thin air, that Jesus' salvation applied to Gentile as much as Jew. Sounds like he was trying to add more members to swell up the coffers.

I have no evidence of that, but it's certainly a "natural explanation...that makes better sense than [resurrection]."

Did the skeptic James, Jesus' half-brother, convert to Christianity? As I hope is clear by now, I find this point irrelevant. Doesn't make it true even if he did.

Was Jesus' tomb empty? So what if it was? The best and most sensible explanation you've got for a dead body not being where it's supposed to is that it un-died? Grave-robbing is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this, if there in fact even was a Jesus and if in fact there even was an empty tomb. I might as well say that [HARRY POTTER SPOILERS]Dumbledore's cracked tomb is evidence of Voldemort's return[/SPOILERS]. If we can't even establish the existence of the tomb, much less its empty or cracked state, then it's fatuous to claim that its emptiness is evidence of supernatural events.

In fact, of all explanations for all the so-called "historical facts," even if their historicity was totally undisputed, the resurrection explanation is the one that makes the least sense, is the least reasonable, and has the least evidentiary support.

These "minimal facts" are strongly evidenced and are regarded as historical by the vast majority of scholars, including skeptics, who have written about the resurrection in French, German, and English since 1975.

Name them, and their writings. Don't just say "there's lots of them, srsly." Doesn't fly.

Christian philosopher and apologist Paul Copan: "Given the commonly recognized and scientifically supported belief that the universe (all matter, energy, space, time) began to exist a finite time ago and that the universe is remarkably finely tuned for life, does this not (strongly) suggest that the universe is ontologically haunted and that this fact should require further exploration, given the metaphysically staggering implications?"

"And, second, granted that the major objection to belief in God is the problem of evil, does the concept of evil itself not suggest a standard of goodness or a design plan from which things deviate, so that if things ought to be a certain way (rather than just happening to be the way they are in nature), don't such ‘injustices' or ‘evils' seem to suggest a moral/design plan independent of nature?"

Well, to the first question. I'm not sure that the belief that all matter and energy began a finite time ago is "commonly recognized." Certainly the universe as we know it had a "beginning," which we call the Big Bang, but it was not a sudden creation of matter -- just a sudden expansion. It represented a change in the state of matter and energy, but not necessarily the beginnings of them.

I'm sure the "fine tuning" argument will come up later in Case for a Creator, so I won't go into it now, but I have a counter-question: if the universe is so "finely tuned" for life, why is there remarkably little life in the universe? Why is so much of the universe hostile to life as we know it? The vacuum of space does not support life, nor does any other planet of which we are currently aware. Even our own planet has large swaths of its surface that are hostile to life. It's a bit like finding a single silver atom in a 20 ton granite boulder, and saying that the boulder was "finely tuned" for silver.

A universe "finely tuned" to support life should presumably be teeming with it. It seems to me that life as we know it has finely tuned itself to survive within the constraints of this universe, rather than the reverse.

As for the question of evil, it's an easily observable fact that there is no universal morality or concept of evil that transcends boundaries of culture. We believe the actions of Muslim terrorists are evil; they in turn think the same of our actions. Who is right?

Everyone defines evil in their own way, and cultures create a consensus, one that can shift drastically (see, for example, the shift in Western culture from considering homosexuality "evil" to merely "undesirable," and now very nearly to "acceptable").

The notion of something being "bad" or "wrong" is not remarkable when each culture, and each individual, ultimately defines it for themselves.

Radio host Frank Pastore: "Please explain how something can come from nothing, how life can come from death, how mind can come from brain, and how our moral senses developed from an amoral source."

Okay, one at a time:

How does something come from nothing? Atheists aren't the ones that say it does. Theists are, and they have no answer for how other than "magic." In the beginning God created etc.

I happen to think that all the matter in the universe has always existed in some form. So I can't answer the question because I don't believe the assertion I'm being asked to defend.

How can life come from death? Life doesn't come from death. Life, as we define it, comes from natural chemical processes that occur in various reproductive cycles.

How can mind come from brain? Dunno how. It's a fascinating question currently without an answer.

But despite the fact that we don't yet know how it does, we do have strong evidence indicating that it does. With MRI and other scanning technology, we can see brain activity occurring when a person engages their higher functions of thought and reasoning, and the areas of the brain triggered have a consistent correlation with the types of thought processes occurring. And we have plenty of documented cases in which brain damage has drastically altered a person's personality and thought patterns (aka what we would call "mind").

How did our moral senses develop from an amoral source? This is a question that would be done a disservice with a short blog answer. Entire books can be (and have been) written on the subject, and I suggest you look into them for a more comprehensive answer. But for the sake of the Q&A, the short-to-the-point-of-oversimplification version is that humans are pack animals, a cooperative species. In our evolutionary past, we would have survived better working together than against each other, and so it would have benefitted us as a species to evolve a sense of how to get along with each other. Hence what we call "morality."

Not to mention basic empathy. There's nothing mystical about "I don't want it to happen to me, so I won't make it happen to others."

Christian apologist Greg Koukl: "Why is something here rather than nothing here? Clearly, the physical universe is not eternal (Second Law of Thermodynamics, Big Bang cosmology). Either everything came from something outside the material universe, or everything came from nothing (Law of Excluded Middle). Which of those two is the most reasonable alternative? As an atheist, you seem to have opted for the latter. Why?"

The first question implies that there is a "why," and also that "nothing" being here is even a possibility, neither of which we have reason to claim are or could be the case. As I mentioned above, just because the universe as we know it is not eternal, does not mean that the matter comprising the universe is in some way finite. On what basis would you expect there to be "nothing" here?

The "two" options are not only a false dichotomy -- they are actually saying the same thing. If everything has to come from somewhere, then the "something outside the physical universe" had to come from somewhere. Or else it came from nothing. So if you believe that something outside of the universe created the universe, you're still stating that everything came from nothing, you're just pushing that "nothing" back a step. What's the point of that?

Neither of the two options presented is particularly reasonable, and as a result, I have not "opted for" either one.

What about the third option, that the universe has always existed? That's the answer you would give to "where did God come from," isn't it? "He's always been there." So why can't that answer be true of the universe, and just skip the tacked-on anthropomorphized "cause"?

Well, that was fun. Presumably back to Case for a Creator next week.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Continuing my education: Casablanca

I didn't go to film school. I've stated my thoughts on film school many times -- though never on this blog, so I probably should do a post just to have it on the record -- but the short version is I think it's a vestigial concept that was useful once but is now generally a waste of money, at least in terms of writing or directing. (I think programs for the more technical skills like editing, cinematography, sound and VFX are still useful because there's an element of learning the technology hand-in-hand with the technique, but that's a caveat for another day.)

My point is, for better or worse, what I know about films and filmmaking is largely self-taught. I've always believed that in order to make movies, you have to watch movies, and if there's anything in my life about which I could be considered "religious," it's probably that. I'm fortunate to have been born in the age of the video rental, and my grandparents kept a membership to a Mom & Pop video store through the 80s and 90s, just for me. My late grandfather had two VCRs, so that he could dupe the rental to another tape, and I could watch the movies over and over without having to re-rent them.1

Still, my movie-watching education has been a curriculum of my own devising, and I have many "classic" films yet to check off the list. See, for example, my being so late to the party re: The Godfather. So here's the latest in what I consider the lifelong continuation of my film education: Casablanca.

So what did I learn?

Well, just to have it said: I liked it a lot. A few re-watches and I might even love it. Well-structured, moved along at a good pace without feeling rushed. And my God, the dialogue! No wonder this movie is so oft-quoted. It's pretty theatrical, even corny sometimes -- and according to IMDB and Wikipedia, the screenwriters themselves acknowledged as much -- but somehow it just all works.

Some of the exchanges between Rick and the less scrupulous denizens of Casablanca are particularly sharp and witty, though like most of the Golden Age films, it has a certain quality to it that initially makes it feel like "very good writing" rather than "believable conversation." Part of it is no doubt the fact that every line had to be very carefully constructed to get approved under the Hays Code. Part of it is the fact that film was still fairly new, and most writers were playwrights first and had a more theatrical style.

But part of it, I think, is outside the writing and in the performance. I think part of it is the way that performers were essentially property, loaned out and traded like baseball cards, generally lacking any passion for the projects they did. They just showed up and read the lines for their day, and it has the (pleasantly) odd, workmanlike, even formal feel that I've frankly come to appreciate about the old films.

They're almost like feature-length demonstrations of the Kuleshov effect, in which you're presented with films which give you, as an audience member, very little in the way of emotional inflection; and yet by the things that the characters say and do, it stimulates your own emotions and even causes you to project emotions onto the characters who are otherwise not expressing them.2

There's not a lot of screaming, or sobbing, or contorting of faces, or even moving much faster than a brisk walk. But in that stark simplicity -- whether it was by design, or simply an inevitable result of the assembly-line nature of Golden Era filmmaking (and I suspect the latter) -- they created a canvas with strong outlines, leaving it to the audience to complete the picture. And engaging the audience, as I said just recently, is a crucial factor in whether or not they give a damn about the movie while they're sitting in their seats, to say nothing of when they leave the theatre. I can definitely see why people might prefer this style to the more raw, even if perhaps more "real," style of acting today.

A modern disciple of this style would be David Mamet, from whose book On Directing Films I apprehended "inflection" as a filmmaking term (though I don't know for certain if he coined it). He generally seems to allow a single character a single emotional outburst in his dialogue-heavy films; otherwise the performances are very calm, restrained, and straightforward. Yet in that calm, because of the situations he creates, there is somehow anger; or fear; or arrogance; uncertainty; desperation; triumph -- all created by juxtaposition of the words and images, rather than the actors actively emoting. And because the emotions are not expressed, they are breathtakingly potent, boiling beneath the surface. (I still need to do my review of last year's phenomenal Redbelt, in which I can get into this more deeply.)

This is also, I would venture a guess, why many people of my generation and younger find these kinds of movies "boring." They are not used to having to do part of the storytelling work, are used to taking emotional cues from the actors' faces and tone of voice rather than their choice of words. It is a different kind of movie, a more challenging kind of movie for both the audience and (if he's doing it intentionally) the filmmaker. It relies on both sides of the equation placing a certain degree of trust into the other, and a certain degree of effort into the creation of something that can become intensely personal to everyone who views it. And it keeps the movie alive and relevant, because part of its vibrancy comes from the viewer, not from the screen.

In short, I learned for myself why Casablanca is a classic. I'm glad that I watched this before many other films, because a less-quotable film may not have caught my attention and helped me understand my role in the filmmaking experience -- both expanding it as a viewer, and perhaps contracting it when I'm in the hot seat. I think I will appreciate films of the era more, having experienced Casablanca first, and I do think it will improve my own filmmaking. It deserves its place in the pantheon of great films.

Instead of closing out this post with one of the old standard quotes -- "looking at you, kid," "beautiful friendship," etc. -- I'll go with one that Peter Lorre's character says in his one scene in the film (though I bet they used his name prominently in the advertising).

I use it because I think it relates perfectly to the odd way that the actors' and filmmakers' dispassionate, occasionally even hostile relationship with Golden Age material could sometimes, somehow, produce films of profound, lasting truth and power:

You know, Rick, I have many a friend in Casablanca. But somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.

  1. That's right, my grandfather was pirating movies decades before it was cool. He even duplicated the FBI warning telling you not to do that, the deliciousness of which I appreciated when I got older.

    On a footnote side-note: despite my grandfather being perfectly capable of understanding how to daisy-chain two VCRs together and having one record to another, while still outputting the movie to the television so I could watch and dupe simultaneously, the clocks on both VCRs flashed 12:00 for the entirety of my formative years.

  2. The Kuleshov effect technically only refers to two images juxtaposed, via editing, without inflection, or any sort of visual "editorializing" telling you what to think; and yet their juxtaposition creates an implied statement or emotion. But I would say that this applies equally to two lines of dialogue presented in the same manner.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bale-istic Remixes

Welcome to this wonderful thing we call the web. Within 24 hours of Bale's outburst it has already been remixed several times.

My favorite so far is Christian Bale vs. Bill O'Reilly.

And from master celebrity re-mixer RevoLucian, who during the campaign season brought us Sarah Palin Remixed, we now have Bale Out.

Turn-around is fast on these things.

UPDATE: RevoLucian has put up a link to download a high-quality MP3 of Bale Out. Get it now!

I'm with Bale

Apparently there was a bit of a row on the set of Terminator 4 last summer. Christian Bale blew his top at the DP, apparently for walking onto the set during a take. And now TMZ, that perfect encapsulation of our celebrity-obsessed culture, has the audio.

First impression: that audio is really clean.

Second impression: I'm siding with Bale.

Now, I wasn't there. I don't know what really went on. And I know a lot of people hear that audio and think "Holy shit, what a fucking diva asshole. I would never work with that dick and I've lost a ton of respect for him." But quite honestly, I disagree.

Acting is hard. If you want to do it well, it's hard. You've got to live in the space, you've got to really believe everything you're saying every moment that the camera is on you. Worse yet, in the film world, you have to believe it in five minute chunks, aka takes. You've got to know your lines, take direction, make sure you're made up, make sure you hit your marks, and maneuver around the lumbering apparatus that is a shooting crew -- while simultaneously looking like you aren't doing any of that at all. While looking like the character you're playing a real person in a real situation.

Gary Oldman has lamented the fact that the crew gets to take hours to do their jobs, and yet he's expected to show up, say his lines, get it right the first couple times and move on. Everybody always makes a big thing about how an actor in a biopic -- whether it be Carrey in Man on the Moon or Langella in Frost/Nixon -- never breaks character while on set. The fact is that this is the only way they can be sure they're doing their job properly. If they don't focus themselves wholeheartedly to respectful personification, it is far, far too easy in the staccato world of production to just fall into impersonation. The actor's job is to forget that they are acting, so that you, in turn, can also forget that they are acting. Sometimes, with very complex characters, that means they have to never acknowledge they are acting as long as they are on the set, or else they will not be able to maintain the character's reality before the cameras.

On a big-budget picture, I imagine the pressure is immense. There's an awareness that you are burning cash at a terrifying rate just by standing there. You've only got the brief period between "action" and "cut" to actually focus in and put yourself in the world. You need to use that time to immerse yourself in the fantasy world of the film. Because you care about doing a good job, doing the best job. The quality of your work matters to you no matter what the project, so within the limitations you are going to cast everything out of your mind, and just be in that other world, with everything you've got.

So imagine, that in that brief period between "action" and "cut" that is yours, that moment you need everyone to disappear from your awareness so you can be that character, imagine that the DP goes wandering onto the set, right in your line of sight, right in the middle of the scene. And he thinks it's okay because the camera can't see him.

He's showing total disrespect for your craft, to the extent that he doesn't even seem to acknowledge that your work is important -- doesn't acknowledge that you're even working at all. Listen to his excuse -- he's "checking the light." You can't wait for "cut," guy? You can't just look at the frigging monitor?

If you're an actor that cares about the quality of your work, how do you NOT go apeshit over something like that?

David After Dentist

I saw this kind of behavior more than once at/after parties while I was in college. It's much, much cuter and funnier when it's a seven-year-old tripping out on anaesthesia, though.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Secular Sunday: Day of Rest

No post today, sorry. I've got a bunch of other things I'm in the midst of writing, and some FX work for both Sandrima Rising and another project I'm not allowed to talk about yet. Yesterday's post on evolution will have to suffice in its stead.

I won't make this a habit, and in fact I've discovered the function that lets me write a post but publish it much later; in future I'll do my best to make sure I've got the post written before Sunday.

So for today, enjoy your Superbowl, or your To Catch a Predator marathon, or whatever it is you do today.