Saturday, September 8, 2007


Two days ago I began sound design on The Collector. This is the short film that Flashpoint shot over the summer as sort of test run of our PRODUCTION-IN-ACTION component of the curriculum. The Collector is directed by Paula Froehle [FP Academic Dean] and produced by Amy Rising [FP Film Faculty]. If you have perused the links of echo 61, you may have visited Peter Hawley's [FP Associate Film Chair] blog. During the shoot, not only was Peter behind the scenes shooting a documentary on the making of The Collector, but he was also teaching the summer FP interns.

I explain this by way of illustrating that my involvement in the film is postproduction, which is ongoing as I write this. By definition, that part of the process comes at the end of making a film. And I can't tell you how good it feels to be working with audio again. It's great to be "doing". For months, all of us at Flashpoint have been completely consumed with planning for September 17, our opening day. We have been planning for the doing. The doing that students will be engaged in from the very beginning. The doing that is part of our mission statement. The doing that sets Flashpoint apart from virtually every other media arts institution in the world. The doing that is the best part of learning. Film, Gaming, Visual Effects, Recording. Flashpoint students will be doing all those things all the time. And I can't wait to get to it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The recent deaths of two important film directors...

...brings to mind the difficulty of art and that some artists ask a lot of us. Or perhaps it's just the opposite, they don't ask anything of us because their art isn't "for us." Maybe their art is nothing more than a public window to their own journey, lacking context.

Past students of mine have described Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni as two of the most boring film directors they had ever been required to study. I really do understand that reaction, but in the end, I don't agree with it.

27 years ago I saw Bergman's Wild Strawberries [1957], Fellini's 8 1/2 [1963], Godard's Breathless [1959], as well as Antonioni's Blow Up [1966] as part a film "appreciation" course. And though Blow Up caught my ear because of its "modern" score [done by a very young Herbie Hancock], and an histroric cameo by The Yardbirds, the film didn't do all that much for me at the time, while Bergman, Fellini, and Godard were flat out unwatchable. Remember, this was 1980, and as a 19 year-old Radio/TV/Film major at a mid-sized University of Wisconsin extension in the middle of the state, I left those screenings thinking: Why on earth would I ever want to subject myself to two hours of that drivel when movies like Star Wars: The Empire Stikes Back are far more entertaining, inceedingly more accessible, and included really great "sound?" The question went unanswered for years.

In 1994, I began teaching audio production and postproduction for visual media at Columbia College. This wasn't anything especially groundbreaking as I had been teaching at Xavier University in Cincinnati since 1989 on the same subjects. But about the same time, I also started to collect first edition literature and read a lot more than I ever had before. I read authors like Carson McCullers, Dorothy Allison, Kaye Gibbons, Cormac McCarthy, Susan Power, William T. Vollmann, Tom Robbins, Jane Hamilton, and John Gregory Brown. I then returned to some of the films I hadn't seen in almost 15 years: Truffaut's 400 Blows, Bergman's The Seventh Seal, and De Sica's Bicycle Thieves. And a funny thing happened, though none of those flms are particularly "sound intensive," my aesthetic sense for sound design became richer, more textured, more "connected" to the narrative. I found myself understanding just a wee bit more that which had eluded me during my undergrad days—the intangible, everchanging, extraordinary fabric of the human condition. To Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, understanding the human condition was a quest. And somehow reading provided me with a new perspective; hard to imagine I know, but the printed page gave me new ideas in sound.

The new energy lead me to other forms of art—oil, watercolor, pastel, and charcoal on canvas, opera, theatre, and musical realms I never thought I'd entertain. It was, and still is, exhausting, trying to grasp something to hold on to. I must constantly remind myself to let the art do all the work. In other words, whenever I surrender the notion of trying to "get it," an amazing amount actually seeps in. And I am a better sound designer and teacher because of it.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Criterion Eclipse Series...

Now in its fifth month, the Criterion Collection Eclipse Series releases Series 5, The First Films of Samuel Fuller, including I Shot Jesse James, The Baron of Arizona, and The Steel Helmet.

The Eclipse Series are small, affordable, and perhaps lesser-known films from many of the directors featured in the main Criterion Collection. The transfer and packaging are not nearly as extensive and the price reflects that.

Series 1 - The Early Films of Ingmar Bergman
Series 2 - The Documentaries of Louis Malle
Series 3 - Late Ozu
Series 4 - Raymond Barnard

For more information about the Criterion Eclipse Series