Fit For Purpose Diary
Monday 17th June 2013
I imagine (and hope) it is not going to be as grueling as filming with Herzog, but I have decided to keep a diary of my last filmmaking adventure at Robert Smyth in homage to the diary style of Aguirre, God of Wrath. Every year for the last four years Gavin and I, with the help of some very good people, have made a film during the summer exam leave. This is designed to make me better at filmmaking so I can confidently teach it and to create useful resources when teaching filmmaking to the students. I say all that, but really it is a way to have some fun, which we are unbelievably being paid for, during the weeks off teaching and because it really is the most amazing feeling when it goes well. In previous years, we have made a music video, trailers, a horror scene, an example of continuity editing and and arthouse one shot film. They are all available on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/hhurdley/videos
Anyway, this year we have decided to make a short film as it is something we haven’t done and we need one as a resource for the A2 film students. Gavin has also had a bad knee for a while now and I thought I would base it on that. We are looking for it to be three to five minutes long (to be honest, we’ll be lucky to get to three minutes) and we always like using foley in a fun way. Last week I started to plan the story very roughly and today I storyboarded properly. I was feeling a bit funny all morning and I thought a bit of drawing and planning would help my brain focus. I am having problems with the concept of leaving Robert Smyth, even though I know I am ready to go, and doing this will help me have something to remember and concentrate on so I don’t start getting too emotional too early.
I’ve checked it with Gavin (although I don’t think he’s looked at it properly, I bet Klaus Kinski was exactly the same) and he seems fine with it. It is a fairly lo-fi film and I think we should be able to film it within the next few days and then we can start working on foley and editing, which may take longer. We are normally one or two take people and it isn’t going to require a huge amount of props. I am obviously anxious about getting it finished before I leave!
Tuesday 18th June
Today we worked on the production of props and final organisation before we start shooting tomorrow. For some reason I am quite nervous about starting filming, maybe because I know it means I’m closer to going. I have figured out a shooting schedule and that always makes me feel calmer. After work yesterday I went and got some travel cosmetic bottles and they have now turned in to this:
Wednesday 19th June
We started filming! We have done some of the early shots of H Mann opening and receiving the letter and the title sequence. I am having to do the filming, which is not my normal job and I have finally worked out about focus, which is a major breakthrough for me. I just hope I have done it all right. Gavin was not very Kinskiish, but he did seem quite nervous throughout the process. He reckons he is not a good performer, but his acting of Eminem in the Lose Yourself video would disprove this.
Thursday 20th June
Today we made excellent progress. Gavin wasn’t here during period 1 to go to a doctor’s appointment about his knee problem (this film is completely meta) and then I was buying plane and train tickets during period 2, with a whole saga about fraud and HSBC. Anyway. We then realised that we had periods 3 and 4 and lunch to work on it only and Gavin is away doing some community work tomorrow. So, we suddenly shot into action. We filmed the entire rest of the film in three different location, with different costumes and fairly complicated props. At lunch we even managed to start editing, pretty good progress! I honestly don’t know what these proper filmmakers do with their time and money. I also really enjoyed having a white coat on, I felt it imbued me with some extra power.
Next week we need to finish our editing and start work on the sound. I will obviously post results when they are finished.
It was pretty uneventful really, I’m certainly no Herzog, but Gavin does have a few Kinski tendencies… Unfortunately, he has to do some outreach work tomorrow with dementia sufferers, so we can’t get any further. So selfish!
I have to admit that I have been putting off watching Aguirre, Wrath of God. I had only watched Herzog’s documentaries and enjoyed them, but was slightly nervous about watching this from its legendary, should I say notorious, status. I had heard a lot about this film and Fitzcarraldo, especially concerning the volatile relationship between Herzog and Klaus Kinski. I had also heard about the influence it had had on Apocalypse Now in 1979, which didn’t help as I’m not a huge fan of that film, with its bloated storytelling and self-indulgence, so I started watching with trepidation.
As soon as I did, aided by a very old DVD that immediately started the film, I felt plunged in to the incredible landscapes, actually feel slightly anxious for the actors involved, especially watching them come down the rapids on rafts in full armour or carrying a sedan chair through mud. Herzog seems to like making his actors and crew work for their money, almost as if the suffering won’t be genuine if they aren’t experiencing it. I’m not convinced and this kind of realism debate reminds me of the filming of Marathon Man when Dustin Hoffman was jogging around to appear tired and Laurence Olivier suggested he ‘try acting, dear boy’. Although it does clearly works for this film and I’m not surprised that Cecilia Rivera, the actress playing Aguirre’s daughter, never made a film again!
This style mirrors this physicality of production and some shots have water flying in to the lens or obscuring the shot. These are contrasted with very static shots when focusing on the human story or the controlled spiraling around the boat towards the end. Kinski is also frenetic. He never seems to stand upright, but is constantly leaning over or tilted. It reminds me of Olivier’s Richard III, not sure why he is in my mind so much this week… Kinski is also always so close to the other actors. His face is strangely hypnotic, a constantly invading presence.
The story line is actually a very easy diary format, this simple narrative thread allows an episodic structure and gives some coherence for the audience to allow the madness to unfold. That it contains maniacal, egotistical and ambitious men seems suitably matched to the humble diary format, it shows them off and allows their obsessive dreams to be described, rather than prescribed.
A metaphor of the trap of power, money and religion, shown by the ridiculous difference between the emperor and the soldiers.
I question why Herzog wants to punish himself, his actors and his crew so much? I love that Herzog shot it in sequence to show the deterioration.
Love the oneiric qualities of the final scene, the monkeys are amazing.
The soundtrack felt strange and difficult at first, but seemed to make sense by the end.
Landscapes with obscured parts
Too close or tilted images of the world.