Monday, July 5, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Right now I'm enthralled with the "Production Design and Art Direction" book in Focal Press's Screencraft series.

It features a number of interviews with leading Production Designers. One major thread that appears throughout the book is the fact that the design of a film should be concerned with distilling a visual concept from the story's thematic, emotional, and psychological concerns.

With that in mind, I thought it would be a good time to do a one page treatment of my film idea as it stands today. I think a weakness of mine is to over-research. The solution, I believe, is to hone in as quickly as possible on the thematic and emotional concerns of the story I want to tell, thus making my research that much more specific.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Garry Winogrand and August Sander

These images speak volumes about the relationships that can exist between humans and animals.

The first three are from photographer Garry Winogrand's "The Animals," and the last three are from German portrait artist August Sander, who incidentally, was the inspiration for the setting and cinematography in Michael Haneke's brilliant film "The White Ribbon."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Woodcuts by H. Eric Bergman

Bergman was a Canadian printmaker most prolific in the 1920's and 30's, of whom it was once said, "he believes in being faithful to his medium, in exploring the wood but never violating its nature. ...The result is that his subjects are chosen for appropriateness to the wood."

He tended to focus on the trees, often suggesting the background with simple shapes and tones. There's a rich metaphor lurking there: a man who cuts pictures of trees into pieces of wood...

Saturday, June 12, 2010


My favorite animated short ever is "Garuda," made by a group of students from the French school Gobelins (and one from Calarts). Despite clocking in at only a minute sixteen - it packs quite punch. I get goosebumps every time I watch it.

Garuda from Andres Salaff on Vimeo.

Students from Gobelins never fail to produce work of a consistently high quality in all facets of production: animation, visual development, art direction, sound design, and music.

Unfortunately story and character can sometimes be a casualty in their films, though in their defense there's only so much you can do in a minute. Perhaps it is due to the film's status as a portfolio piece for five students: showcasing skill and aptitude for the "Wow!" factor seem to win out over quieter, well-observed character moments.

I do feel that Garuda works better than most, so here's a brief list of three things I love about this film, stunning production values aside:

1) The Symbolism

The story of a boy who is transfixed by a great magical bird, and, by chasing it down, ends up becoming one himself, is fascinating. To me it's a powerful metaphor for the life of anyone who constantly pursues greatness, only to one day wake up to realize greatness has unknowingly been achieved.

2) The Transformation

That moment of realization (underscored by masterful sound design) that he has become a bird is magical for me. I'm a bit transfixed with animal transformation; I've found it difficult making it relevant to my story, and here is one place Garuda succeeds masterfully.

3) The Mythological Underpinning

The source material for this film was the character Garuda, a magical bird-man creature of Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
The mining of mythology has continued to prove fruitful for Gobelins. Perhaps the millennia's worth of buildup in our collective unconscious gives these stories a heft that would otherwise be difficult to achieve in one minute's time. Here's another great example, this time using the Norse myth of Fenrir:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What I know so far

Scribbles done during intermission of Ben-Hur last night.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

L'Arbre du Ténéré

"Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them, and visit them as if they were persons. It must have been the scarcity of detail in that tawny landscape that made detail so precious."
Willa Cather in My Antonia

Photo by Peter Kohn

L'Arbre du Ténéré (or Tree of Ténéré) - the most isolated tree on the planet (before it was unceremoniously mowed down by a drunk driver in '73).

Intriguing: Does extreme rarity confer mythic status?

Also interesting if you have time to kill: Wikipedia's Famous Trees Page.