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Sergio Cano, Open the box

Sergio Cano / OPEN THE BOX

Sergio Cano is one of the three directors I selected to interview for Filminute 2014.

Sergio Cano

Thank you very much for your time and your short film. I loved the beginning defocused central sequence and its meaning: focusing (his old wedding), defocusing (children and grandchildren) and focusing again (his daughter that we are going to see in the next shot). I suppose it is intentional. :) Could you say something more about that opening sequence?

You are absolutely right. The opening sequence was created with the intention of showing the point of view of the father. He suffers from Altzheimer disease, although it is not stated explicitly. It represents how he is lost in his own memories. When the daughter speaks, he returns to the present and look to a complete stranger.

I also liked a lot the actress and how she changes her look and voice line after line. Could you say a bit more about Mariví Carrillo?

Everyone asks me the same. Finding Mariví was the key to making the film. She is a very talented actress and she has great presence on screen. In a few seconds his performance shows a rollercoaster of emotions and that’s really hard to get (she loves and hates his father at the same time). I am very happy with the work of both actors and how it is appreciated by international audiences despite language barriers. I’ve just released the film and it has already been nominated in other festivals aganist longers films.

Your short is very effective and I love when a director struggles to get be most with a minimal production. It’s clear it is a very low (or no) budget but why didn’t you put on a bit of color grading? I’m talking about that yellow wall on the background. Could you tell me more about the production of your short?

The film is based on the performances of the actors, all the weight is on them and that is why the film is so minimalist (no distractions). I want the audience to focus on the eyes of the characters. The background color is because the wall has that color, in fact it is slightly graded to not confuse the faces of the actors to the background. I like yellow because it is warm and sickening at the same time. We shot the film in an hour with a very small team. When all is clear is easier and faster. I talked a lot with the actors before filming began, it was very interesting to share different points of view on the story and the performances. We talked about how the family tests the memory of patients to know how much they can remember. She uses a game that his father taught him as a child but he does not remember it and he falls into the trap.

Román Reyes, Caracol

Román Reyes / CARACOL

Román Reyes is one of the three directors I selected to interview for Filminute 2014.

Román Reyes by Sergio Lardiez

Thank you very much for your time and your short film. The opening credits are a mask layer over the father and its son. Why did you choose this shot? Is it just about the color of the couch or is it a thin shot/reverse-shot idea (then we have the mother browsing a book)?

Thank you, first. It’s beautiful when someone has interest in something that was born a day in your head.

Honestly it’s a decision that I made during the editing process. I was very interested in the idea of ​​not revealing everything and keeping a bit of mystery. I also think that it’s very interesting to not reveal too much visual information in the beginning because the audio message – with the tender voice of the kid – solved enough as a starting point.

On the other hand, about the location, and how you said well, the color was very important for me. When I was locating, I saw that small and lovely place and I knew that, I had to locate this story there. I knew that a colorful place increases the drama in a natural way as the areas of children’s books are often quite striking.

It’s horrible when their child starts crying: there is something going on about “cuernos” between his parents, he really doesn’t understand the rage of his mother but he feels the tension… Oh Lord, how he really feels it, even though he is just disappointed because his father closed that such pleasuring illustrated book. The baby crying seems SFX but it seems also by the same toddler, while you cleverly added his lines only over black shots. :) How did you get him crying? Just waited for something? Because, being a father, I know that kind of crying. :)

I wanted to make the child comfortable all the time while it was not easy to have him staying still. He was adorable and he wanted me to bring every object that he was interested in: 100% of the location. :) The crying at the end was totally spontaneous and it went gold during editing. I wanted that effect because I knew that it was the key to increase the drama from the perspective of a child crying out for one thing (the truth is that he was tried). I was worried because I thought that cry meant “I’m not comfortable” but his father – also an actor, and I want to thank him very much for his help – told me that very young children cry for almost anything at the powerlessness of not being able to communicate efficiently and that made ​​me click, especially to not feel wrong regarding a child involuntarily acting.

To answer the question bluntly, I think that there is not a specific technique for weeping children: much depends on the age and the “vital functions” of each child. That’s why I think it’s very important to have parents or the like nearby, as long as they don’t understand the audiovisual medium. They know how each kid reacts and they have their daily tricks.

Around 0.18, I heard people chatting in the background: I didn’t get at first they were in a book shop, maybe your sound designer just added them. How did you choose that location?

I said something about that in the first question. It’s funny because we didn’t changed the sound so much. We used the direct sound because, in the moment of the dramatic turn, the place was quiter than when we started shooting: just lucky or good schedule, we took advantage of it. The location is “Ocho y Medio”, a legendary film library in Madrid and we could only narrow an area because they had to continue their business. My decision to choose this library was primarily based on the beautiful natural light coming through the glass, so that place introduced us to a unique atmosphere and also, with no doubt, by how well they treated me when I was looking for a local for that scene. When you find people loving film, you feel in tune, and in this moment, you know that everything will undoubtedly turn out better. ;)

Bauke Brouwer, The trial

Bauke Brouwer / THE TRAIL

Bauke Brouwer is one of the three directors I selected to interview for Filminute 2014.

bauke_brouwer1

Thank you very much for your time and your short film. Putting subtitles in an ususual region is very strong: what did you try to get? A comic effect, perhaps?

Subtitles are an evil necessity when you decide to narrate your film in a foreign language. For me balance in the frame is very important and when framing up the shots on location negative space was important for the placement of the subtitles. Trying to position these titles without your eyes having to break eye contact between the audience and the character was vital and probably the biggest factor in my decision to go with the untraditional approach to subtitles.

IMHO, you have the best DOP of this edition, a very effective editing and (damn!) a real grading! :) Counting out the extreme close ups, you used big, defocused wings in a few counter shots: do you think more directors are going to reconsider 2.39:1 in favor of a more deep, traditional ratio, like 4:3? I’m thinking about features like “Ida” by Pawlikowski: most of the time they put the characters in the low third of their 4:3 frame.

I accept the compliment on behalf of the team. Making a film, even a 60 sec short is only possible because you have a great team around you. The extreme close ups were inspired by Western standoffs, basically The Trail is a 60 sec standoff in a forest. The framing and the ratio both focus the audience to the most important part of the frame, the characters eyes. Without this connection the audience isn’t part of the emotional turmoil that both characters are going through. During the editing, the eye contact between the two characters was even more important as the moment the characters break eye contact the tension of the scene dissipates. This is where Anthony’s background in cutting commercials was very important. He was able to make every second and frame count and structure the story in such a way that eye contact is only broken when either character looks down at the stick increasing this tension.

I know that it’s just a MacGuffin but what did they fight for? A red backpack?

I would love to be able to intellectualize but I can’t. The runner was being mugged for the content of his bag, maybe a mobile or a wallet with cash but in reality it was stuffed with Scot’s wardrobe options.

Filminute 2014 critics

Preface

Filminute is the International One-Minute Film Festival and for its 2014 edition (like for the three previous), I’ve got a deal with them: writing twentyfive “short but tweet” sized reviews, one for each candidate.

My rules to find my candidate are:

  1. Don’t mess with the seven pillars: story, acting, directing, editing, cinematography, sound and music.
  2. Be humble: don’t try to do things your budget can’t afford.
  3. Be original: don’t use third-party works; plot/sound/music/dialogues/whatever must be yours.
  4. Be impressive: writing, directing and editing are the core of Filminute.
  5. (optional) Show me a bit of love: violence is not surprising anymore.

My winner

During the past editions, I always predicted the real winner or a mention: this year I’m not sure because the two shorts impressed me most are too close to my feeling and my ongoing project so I could be very biased. It has been so hard to find a winner among them: they could even be “ex aequo”. Anyhow, my winner is OPEN THE BOX by Sergio Cano, then I want to mention CARACOL by Román Reyes and, for its great production value, THE TRAIL by Bauke Brouwer.

In both Spanish shorts I loved the subtext and how the confident hand of their directors drove us to synchronize with the characters.

Reviews

These are the reviews:

  • BILLY CRYSTAL FILLS THE SILENCE, working on diegetic and extradiegetic, drives us to something we’d like to hide to ourselves.
  • BUSKER: Many shorts are “social” but they’re sycophants. This honest one is about empathy with a simple then not so easy telling.
  • CARACOL makes a couple with GRANDPA, explaining why there are not so many moms around. Yes @Filminute, now I’m swimming in hot water. :)
  • CONFINED: as a short director, I’m conservative about the safety of my cast but here they drilled the subject very… deeply :)
  • CONTRE PLONGEE: of course I didn’t get it was a POV and at 30″ they created a red herring. The audience is the real subject.
  • EARLY: to be honest, when the camera started to tilt under the bed, I was hoping for a babe :) Many twists connected in 60″!
  • EARTH’S LAST HOPE is playing with tools of comedy. In a cruel world, even saving it won’t spare you a regular job interview.
  • ENVOL: his beloved now in Singapore and the airport made me think of “In the Mood for Love” & “La Jetée”. I’d say much more.
  • GRANDPA: his life flows smooth as old rivers do. We don’t see any woman here but he’s lucky enough to have a son and a grandson.
  • HOW TO RECALL WHAT I ALREADY KNEW: are there unwritten rules in @Filminute? Quotes of action, animation and experimental, for example? :)
  • I’M SCARED so I can’t think properly and that makes me quite close to the killer opening this long take short.
  • INTRODUCTION VIDEO OF JANNE ANTTILA: a Jsomething cast&crew, showing an average filmmaker. It seems made around a footage shot.
  • NOT TODAY: it seems they try hard to collect mainstream movement, editing, SFX etc with a light story and a too strong stove. :)
  • ONE NIGHT IN FLORIDA: how could they be so up to date? The sad answer: it’s quite general. Great ideas make a minute longer.
  • OPEN THE BOX has so many good ideas that a tweet is not enough (a few of them, in some way, were already spinning in my mind).
  • PAPOUILLES: the path to be a late honest may be painful. :) I liked the joke about the mirror, a little bit too fast perhaps.
  • SKY IS MINE: war? In a few years we’re going to have trillions of reused tools. Our civilization has gone.
  • SUBSTORY. He checks: alone! They’re young, hoping, deeply feeling the music. An 80s style beat do the rest for this tale. :)
  • TALK TO HIM: maybe the point is talking to Benjamin (“him” in the title?) instead of the “twist” at the end. Creative SFX&VFX.
  • THE FIGHTING. A house must have a proper space to complain: a basic criteria for a well known gender, or even the other one. :)
  • THE INTENT of killing trying to avoid being killed is outside her mind, that’s why he stops answering while remembering so well.
  • THE TRAIL. I loved its close ups and editing: the soul twist was so fast that it reminds me of Revanche by Spielmann.
  • THIS JOB’S A BLAST: it worths watching this short at least to see the seat belt gag. 2014: 2 weird shorts about being employed?
  • TUCK ME IN: I’m sure I’ve already watched that scene but I can’t say it was a film or a déjà vu of mine so it thrilled me twice.
  • WORKERS DO NOT CRY: in a decade, the Iran’s contribution to Cinema has been like Italy 50 years before: a new language.

Basic Mahjong in AngularJS

I’ve added to GitHub mahjong, a basic version of Mahjong written in AngularJS/Bootstrap.

This YouTube video refers to an early version but gives a good idea of the game.

Accelerometer Noise Gauge

I’ve added to GitHub ANG, a small project/exercise to measure the noise of the accelerometer that many smartphones have.

The idea is simple: after having put your mobile on a “quiet” surface, it starts colleting samples of the (x, y, z) acceleration, measuring the 3 axial noise as a max/min percentage.

ANG is build upon Ionic and ngCordova and it has been tested on an Android phone.

ANG - Screenshot

A list of twisting books

A friend asked me to list ten books that changed me in some way.

  1. The Mind’s I – Daniel Dennett, Douglas Hofstadter
  2. Elements – Euclid
  3. The Limits to Growth – Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jørgen Randers & William W. Behrens III
  4. The Lord of the Rings – John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
  5. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
  6. The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories – Ernest Hemingway
  7. Ficciones – Jorge Luis Borges
  8. La Commedia – Dante Alighieri
  9. Il cavaliere e la morte – Leonardo Sciascia
  10. Foundation (series) – Isaac Asimov

Arduino Light (IN) / ServoMotor (OUT)

I prototyped a simple circuit with Arduino One: when light intensity is above 500, every second the engine steps 5° clockwise: it steps anticlockwise the other way round. The temperature is measured too but it is not used at the moment.

(The video refers to a 15° step instead of 5° but it is the same concept of course)

servomotor circuit

Kubrick on abstraction

Kubrick talks on how hard is to learn from history.

People do not react to abstractions, you know, they only react to direct experience. Very few people are even interested in abstractions and even fewer people can be emotionally involved or react to an abstract thing.

(transcribed by me from an old interview about Dr. Strangelove).

Anti reel

While actors and cinematographers can have a showreel, a director can’t because the main duty of a director is, semiotically speaking, keeping straight to the meaning and so just watching some beautiful shots of mine taken here and there you can’t get any meaning at all, and therefore you can’t get an idea of my skills – or of the lack of them – either; nevertheless, after having directed a few shorts, a common pattern emerged from my works… it’s the image of a woman looking out of a window: beside or inside her, so let me show you some of these shots, even though it’s not a real reel. Pun intentional. :)

Alice Lussiana Parente - Hospes

(Alice Lussiana Parente in a still taken from Hospes)