Thursday, April 30, 2009


While there have been many great speakers throughout the semester, I found Benny to be the most inspiration for a rather simple reason. Of course there are the big names like Morgan Spurlock or those that are on the rise such as Bradley Beasley, but Benny stuck out in my mind the most because he felt very real and relatable. I liked not knowing anything about him, versus the other speakers for I felt like he was more "one of us." His goals were the same as everyone in the room. I like hearing from a filmmaker who was just as much "going through the process." It was quite refreshing. I thought it was great as well, that he allowed us to write down input about his film. While many speakers just talk about their own films and about themselves, Benny really wanted US to "talk about him." He very much treated the situation as if were peers and our imput mattered just as much. Becoming a success in film, is made out to be impossible by so many people, but just having heard from Benny, I got the feeling that you just have to do what you love doing.

I also thoroughly enjoyed his creativity. His film about Colombus day and the implications regarding it was very fascinating. It was a unique approach to look at certain social issues. Whether one agrees or not with the either stance, the film was very well shot and executed and flowed with a wonderful story, and I admire all those qualities. All of the characterstics in a young filmmakers that I highly think of, I seemed to find in Benny, and that is why I found him as one of the most inspirational and influential speakers this semester.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Most Inspiring: Brad Beesley

I found Brad Beesley to be the most inspirational guest speaker this semester. After working extensively with one of the most influential psychadelic rock bands of the 80s, 90s, and present, I thought he might act kind of snobby and withdrawn. Like a rock star, I guess. However, he was very down-to-Earth and willing to talk about anything. He is the most inspirational guest speaker to me because he started off like me: a young filmmaker with a greater ambition and a deep love for music. If I had to pick a "dream job", it would be to follow good musicians around with a camera and crew to make documentaries about them. I have never been able to make up my mind about whether I want to pursue my musical or film ambitions, but Brad Beesley showed me that it's possible to combine my two passions into one profession. Brad also showed me the importance of immersing yourself into the characters in your documentary. In Okie Noodling, Brad personally took the time to learn the techniques and form a relationship with the locals. It showed me that as documentarians, it is essential to form a trust between yourself and your subjects, even when that means stepping well outside your comfort zone. As I pursue my film and musical ambitions, I'll always remember that unlikely doesn't mean impossible. I just have to be willing to apply myself and keep my dreams alive.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Most Inspirational: Morgan Spurlock

Picking the most inspirational documentarian of the year is difficult, however Morgan Spurlock left the biggest impression walking away. What I liked most about Spurlock was his story of rising from failure to becoming a national success. Nearly everyone has heard of, if not seen, Supersize Me but few people know of Spurlock's financial struggles before the success of the film. Despite these struggles he decided to take the risk of making the documentary with what little money he could gather and ended up making enough money to pay back all of his debts and those who had helped him throughout the years.

Spurlock's honesty and humbleness over his success and paying back his friends was refreshing and his multiple stories of try try again were inspiration to never give up on something you are passionate about. Even now, Spurlock gets worked up and angry over discussing the fast food industry and McDonald's, showing his heart for the documentary that made him successful. 

Spurlock was funny, down to earth, honest and humble. His visit to UT not only inspired me not to give up on my own documentary projects, it made me want to seek out stories I'm passionate about. His passion for his subjects is so evident in the way he speaks that you can't help but to share in his emotion. His passion shows in his documentaries as well which I think was a necessary key to the success he found in Supersize Me and 30 Days. His visit and success story were definitely worthwhile.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Documentary Doctor: Fernanda Rossi

Hi All,

I found a lecture online with the Documentary Doctor, Fernanda Rossi. She makes a living helping documentary filmmakers solver their structural problems.

Check it out:

Happy Editing!

Friday, April 24, 2009

What the Bleep?

One of my favorite documentaries that I've ever seen in the amusingly titled, "What the Bleep Do We Know?."  This film deals largely with quantum physics and behavioral biology; in essence it is relating current scientific knowledge with spiritual belief, for once showing their amazing similarities in a number of areas.  Although this film deals with a lot of highfalutin' theoretical material, it is presented in layman's terms by the experts consulted.  For easy illustration, there are animated sequences and skits of all sorts.  The film functions as a narrative, wherein these various macro subjects are discussed in relation to events that occur in the life of a deaf woman who continuously encounters unpleasant circumstances.  While the format is a bit odd at first, it serves well enough in linking together the theories, which are amazing.  A particularly favorite segment of mine involves a Japanese scientist who was researching the effects of intent upon ice crystals.  He would get three sets of water filled petri dishes.  One set would be given nice messages such as blessings or "I love you," notes, etc.  One set would get negative messages, and one would get nothing.  When he froze these things, he discovered that all of the dishes that had received positive messages had beautiful patterns in their ice crystals.  The negative messages had far more stark and irregular patterns.  The neutral group looked normal.  As the scientist realized, "if our thoughts can do this to water, imagine what they can do to us."  Cool stuff.
There are a couple of different versions of this film out there, and I know at least one of them is on youtube.  It is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are pondering the meaning of life (or you want to sound really, really smart at the next party you go to.)  See for yourself!

Most Inspiring Speaker

We were very fortunate to have so many talented artists and filmmakers come to talk to us this semester. Out of all of them, I would have to say that Bradley Beesely made the biggest impact on me personally.
Firstly, I thought it was pretty cool that his original goal was not to be in movies.  Film was something that he found in art school while studying something else.  Since I'm constantly trying to figure out what I want to do, I appreciated hearing about someone who found their life's passion by accident - maybe there's hope for the rest of us.
Hearing Beesely's stories about breaking in to the laundromat to get their video shot on such a low budget was pretty neat too.  Making the best of extremely limited resources is a good skill to have.  That such small endeavors ended up rewarding Beesely so tremendously is an encouraging story to hear.
What stuck me the most about Beesely was that more than any of the other speakers we heard this semester, he came across as a true craftsman.  Not an artist necessarily, though he surely is, but rather a professional in his field who applies himself fully to whatever project he's working on, even if it is not a personal project.  Beesely managed to find enjoyment and satisfaction in his reality TV assignments.  Many people would not.  That he could discuss being chased by tornadoes with a grin on his face shows a man with a true passion for his craft.  Beesely has the enthusiasm that I think everyone should cultivate for their own career, whatever it may be.
Beesely's work itself was fantastic.  His Flaming Lips videos, with their animation and unusual montage are tremendously unique visually, the work of an auteur.  And I found that one sequence he showed from Okie Noodling 2 where his star was slowly wading down the river in the late afternoon to be sublime.  The lighting was pefect, and the complete trust his subject had for him allowed him to be there for that odd and amazing moment whereby the fisherman began to speak to himself and sank down into the water, emerging some time later with a big catfish.  Cool.
I was very glad I got the chance to hear Beesely, and would love to have him visit again.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nobody's Business

I loved last night's screening of Alan Berliner's Nobody's Business! At first it was a little confusing trying to figure out what was going on with the pictures and voice over, but in the end I really appreciated how little the interviewees were shown. It brought a really unique perspective on the conversation going on between Alan and his father, as well as forced you to pay much more attention to what was being said in order to figure out how it correlated to the visual elements of the story.

In the beginning I thought this film was just going to be some sort of boring family history, discovering your roots, type of documentary, but even that part of the story became gradually more and more interesting the more we dove into Oscar and his character. He started off as such a crotchety old man, but by the end of the film, going through his entire life, I felt sorry for him. His refusal to care about so many things, his family history, his past, his future, just emphasized what he was refusing to admit the whole time: his loneliness. 

This film was so touching! It started off funny with Oscar's stubbornness but turned into this beautiful portrait of how he came to be the way he is and how despite his stubbornness and loneliness he truly loves his kids more than anything in the world. I also found it interesting how as the film progressed and we got to know Oscar more and more we also saw him more in interviews and b-roll footage.

I also liked the use of archival footage and how b-roll didn't necessarily match up with what was being said but was used metaphorically, such as the constant use of the boxing match to symbolize the fight between Oscar and Alan's mom or Oscar's fight against cancer. This type of b-roll seemed to be used often and made me think a lot more about what was going on with Oscar beneath the surface. For as much as he refused to answer questions or give opinions, I walked away really feeling like I understood his character and actually liking him very much. His stubbornness and bitterness became endearing rather than annoying or comical, and his loneliness became something I pitied rather than felt he deserved. I really really enjoyed this film.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Father Time

The past is a tricky thing. So are fathers. I used to hate my dad for making me listen to talk radio. Now I download and listen to at least three radio podcasts a day. I used to despise the music my dad would choose for our family vacation road trips. Now I am thankful to him for expanding my musical knowledge beyond the 80's and well into the 70's and 60's. In middle school I didn't having anything in common with him, at all. Now, 10 years later, I hope nothing more than just to become half the man he is. This transformation fascinates me. When does the past go from being boring and unimportant to nostalgic, cool, and vital.

When I see the footage of Berliner's father on that date with his soon to be wife I see a time that was simpler. He picked her up from her house wearing his finest clothes. He opens the door for her to the car and...well, thats it. They get married. Part of Oscar's reservation to do the movie is more than just his quirky/angry/hilarious personality. He grew up plain and simple. So what's interesting about that? Berliner does a great job at structuring this movie so that it could be anyone's family. He doesn't want to make his father's life out to be more than it was. Instead, he had me thinking of my family. By telling every detail, no matter how benign, it makes the story more relatable to everyone. What Oscar didn't understand was that Alan was making this movie for himself. He knew he had the talent to dig an interesting story out of anything, so why not learn something about himself along the way.

I got sad looking at Oscar's life now. As I watched it I thought it was a tragedy that Oscar did not realize (at least in the end) that his son was creating something extremely relevant. It also made me sad that they just don't make people like Oscar anymore. Although I can't fully explain why. I just know that with the amount of exposure in our society where anyone can know everything about everyone, its tragic to see a man like Oscar pass out of society. A man who truely saw everything for exactly what it was.

Now with media and movies we can be so meticalously nostalgic. We can turn any moment of old film into something hopelessly romantic. We can make an audience cry using tricks and a good selection of music. We can turn a man like Oscar into a multi layered protagonist of his own epic life story. We have to be careful with this. Alan does a great job of handling this resposibility. He isn't simply a consumer of the past. He makes into something beneficial for himself and us.

Anyway I have too many thoughts on this particuliar topics to fully discuss here. This movie was great!

Life in Grey gardens is.... grey...

Grey Gardens is the story of Edith and Edie Beale, relatives of Jackie Kennedy, who lived in the eponymous run down estate in the seventies. Albert and David Maysles got prtty unlimited access to cover the mother and daughter who inhabited the run-down mansion. These fallen socialites are practically the only characters in this cinema verite expose of their plight - and if I had to use one word to describe their story it would be depressing. Grey Gardens gives me the distinct sense that the color has drained from these womens' lives - hey themselves have become "gray."
The documentary was shot all in cinema verite format, and often I felt like a fly-on-the-wall in the middle of scenes I waned to have no knowledge of - kudos to the directors for gaining enough trust to get these shots - some are quite heartbreaking. The theme of the movie seems to be opportunities and youth lost - Little Edie consistently complains to her mother of how she ruined her opportunities for marriage, and Big Edie evaded comments about her failed marriage. The two women's frequent singing was also painful to watch, with Big Edie (a former professional singer) castigating Little Edie for her technical mistakes and belittling her singing ability while pining for her own lost ability. Nothing was particularly revolutionary on a technical level, but the cinema verite format really helped the Maysles create a sympathy between the viewers and the Beales. It left me feeling down and wishing the women had another chance to find their desires - especially Little Edie, who even in her fifties had a youthful spark and vivaciousness not completely quashed by being a virtual slave to her mother.

Life in Grey gardens is.... grey...

How to Draw a Bunny

John Walter's documentary on Ray Johnson (conceptual, performance, and collage artist fundamental to the Pop Art era) is a look into his mysterious life and death. A contemporary, and friend, of Warhol he was actually overshadowed by him.

Sometimes this film used superfluous techniques to get a point across. For example, when interviewing the policeman who investigated Johnson's death Walter used cheesy "dun dun dun" type police music and made the image black and white. I'm sure this was meant as a sarcastic play on the legitimacy of the police officer as an official, but it came off distracting. Lots of talking heads really bogged down the flow of the film, and the sudden switches to black and white were bothersome. The stock footage of Johnson that Walter was allowed to use is really all that saved this film for me.

In all, I did like the film subject but I struggled to stay focused. It certainly wasn't the information that was boring or those being interviewed, so the blame must go to the filmmaker...maybe the editor (which was actually John Walter anyway). The film seemed to drag on. The hour and a half seemed like two. How to Draw a Bunny did win the Special Jury Prize at Sundance, it just didn't win any awards with me.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

This American Life: TV vs. Radio

What I was most intrigued to learn about the Showtime series was that, according to the show's website, the makers of This American Life - the radio show - were unwilling to make the transition to television at first. What finally convinced them, was that they thought it would be challenging and fun. I applaud them for creating such an intriguing and well-produced show, especially since they had never made a television show before.

The show's roots in radio are present in the episodes, which is what I think makes the show a success. Whereas in another project, narration would be hackneyed and troublesome, Ira Glass carries it off with ease. I think this narration is what makes the show so concise. Each episode follows usually three stories and for a half hour show, the stories could easily be glossed over. Each story, however, is expertly explored. The narration helps tell these stories in an economic fashion and ties them all together, fully explaining the themes of each episode. The fact that the show stems from a radio show is apparent in its style and allows for usual television cliches to be reborn and innovative.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Karen Skloss "Sunshine" at SXSW

Austinite Karen Skloss, who was featured on the cover of last week's Austin Chronicle, premiered her documentary "Sunshine" before a huge audience at the Convention Center. Born out of wedlock and given up for adoption when she was a newborn, Karen seeks to understand her birth and the birth of her own daughter, who also was born out of wedlock. As the main character of the film, Karen talks with those close to her like her adopted parents, biological mother and grandfather and the biological father of her daughter. This personal story highlights the issue of unwed mothers. Decades ago, it was unacceptable and frowned upon, but today, it is more common and acceptable among people.
This documentary was visually stimulating with mixed media and re-enacted scenes to depict Karen's mom's experience years ago. The film starts off at The Parish during a play rehearsal with mom's dressed up in provocative flapper/burlesque outfits and their children dressed the same with plenty of make-up. This play, I'm assuming, is about unwed mothers and their children. At one point the pregnant African-American mother who bares her stomach pretends to have a baby. All the other mothers gather around her pulling out a little baby from under her legs. A very strange and uncomfortable scene, but also a beautiful expressive metaphor for the documentary and Karen's search to understand her biological mother.
I enjoyed seeing the various shots of Austin, specifically the Hyde Park neighborhood where I grew up and live today. The entire neighborhood is represented by a toy model with plastic figurines on swings and the sound of children laughter playing over the image. While panning across this model, intercuts of Hyde Park are shown like the Avenue B deli and Shipe Park. As an Austinite, I know Hyde Park as the "family" neighborhood, but it's also a little "keep Austin weird." This is perfect in showing Karen, this mother and child, a family, but a unique family in that Karen was adopted by two wonderful parents and now has a child out of wedlock.
Overall, I think this was a good documentary with a unique and original storytelling style. As an adopted child by my father, I felt close to the issue presented in the film which is unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock. It highlights current times, in how it is more acceptable now to see single mothers than it was thirty years ago.

"Sunshine" Q&A

Guns on Campus

Hello all my lovely classmates and Ellen and Kim! As mentioned in class, I, along with other filmmakers including Brett and Jordan, filmed the UT walkout and rally on Thursday. It was a great experience filming, editing and rallying. We had two crew teams with two cameras and an interviewer on each team. It was really exhilarating and fun shooting. I felt like a professional video journalist, especially when I pushed myself in front to film the speakers while news cameramen swarmed around and on top of me. And yes, a camera was literally on top of me. I couldn't move or look up because my head would hit his huge camera.
Anyways, to get to the point, we filmed this issue in hopes of getting it nationally aired on Current TV. In order for them to buy the segment, we need your support! So, please help us publicize this critical issue by voting and commenting and telling all your friends to do the same!
Click on the link to VOTE UP!

Thanks so much guys!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

SXSW 2009: Best Worst Movie

In 1990, director Claudio Fragrasso and his wife, screenwriter Rosella Drudi, set out to complete a relatively simple task: create a sequel to the 1986 horror film "Troll". Armed with a crew of non-english speaking Italians, a cast of semi-amateur American actors, and a whole lot of heart, the couple unexpectedly created what has been known in many circles as "the worst movie of all time."

A brief rundown of the plot of "Troll 2": an all-American family takes a summer trip to the quaint little town of Nilbog (astute viewers will not that "Nilbog" is, in fact, "Goblin" spelled backwards). Upon arrival, young Jonathan is a bit put off by the strange townspeople. His suspicions that something is rotten in the state of Nilbog are confirmed when the spirit of his dead Grandpa Seth informs him that the town is actually a stronghold of Goblins, who apparently lure unsuspecting families into town and trick them into eating Nilbog food (all of which is vegetarian). Through some sort of Goblin magic, those who feast on Nilbog cuisine are turned into plants and subsequently devoured by the little bastards. It's up to Jonathan to convince his family and stop the monsters once and for all!

Fast forward to 2009: Jonathan (aka Michael Stephenson) is all grown up, living with his wife and child in Hollywood. With some chagrin, Stephenson has been forced to admit that a certain amount of celebrity has followed him throughout his life as the lead in the worst movie of all time. The child actor turned documentarian sets out reconnect with his fellow cast members, and together they examine the world of rampant "Troll 2" fandom, discovering that the horrible little film they made in 1990 has become the stuff of legend. Interviews with fans, cast members, assorted film buffs and movie experts, and even the father of the film himself, Claudio Fragrasso, help shed some light on what is about bad flicks that bring us all together.

The dedication fans show to a D-level horror film from the early 90s is incredible: there are office parties, conventions and midnight screenings (some fans traveling more than 9 hours to get to them), including one at Austin's very own Alamo Drafthouse, with a line stretching around the block. As they delve deeper into the world of cult cinema celebrity, Stephenson and company are at first bewildered, then amused, then downright loving the adulation heaped upon them by adoring fans. With all of the fun they're having, our heroes have to ask one question: what is it about a crappy movie that brings people such joy?

As one talking head in "Best Worst Movie" proclaims: "Bad books are bad. Bad food is bad. Bad movies are not always bad." Speaking as a lifelong fan of bad movies myself, I have to agree. The clips from "Troll 2" showcased in "Best Worst Movie" were enough to make me run out and rent the flick myself, and I was not disappointed. Echoing a theme present throughout the documentary, the reason "Troll 2" succeeds in spite of itself is due in no small part to the film's unfaltering sincerity. While the cast may have been puzzled by some of the choices Fragrasso made, he was not trying to be cheeky, ironic, or silly in making "Troll 2": everything he did came straight from the heart. As the documentary unfolds, Stephenson's conversations with the film's stars all reveal a similar pattern: while "Troll 2" may have been an unquestionably bad movie, they all had fun making it, made lifelong friends, and like it or not, became a part of cinema history.

One Peace at a Time

Last night's premiere of Turk Pipkin's One Peace at a Time was really interesting. While I did like the film and the topics it covered, it felt like it was all too much. The subjects were all so broad that it was difficult to get a clear sense of the point Pipkin was trying to make. Each individual right presented by the children writing on the blackboard could have been a documentary in and of itself. Instead, we get a brief and broad glimpse of the issue in other countries and not much of an idea of what we can do as citizens to try to help.

What I particularly liked about the film was the editing, at least in the beginning. The introduction was, I thought, fantastic and I really liked the use of transitions. However in the grand scheme of things I think the editing failed in making the film a focused argument. The problems were just too broad and the solutions too big for the audience to really understand or be able to do anything about it. I think the editing could have definitely made Pipkin's points much clearer and focused.

I also liked the film's cinematography. The shots are beautiful and the film as a whole is stunning to watch. Pipkin's journey is amazing to watch however the point of the film isn't supposed to be his journey as much as it is the problems the world is facing. The fact that everything was shot so bright and brilliantly makes the issues that should probably be more sad, easier to watch.

I really did like the film, my main problem with it was really just how it was approached in the editing room because I think that's where the arguments and points got lost. Pipkin's voice over certainly helps out a lot but without it the audience would be completely lost as to what the film is supposed to be about since so much of it is so broad. Each section on the different rights we deserve as human beings was not specific enough for me to think much outside of what I already know about these problems. I think issues could have been narrowed down much much more to make the film's impact that much greater as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Morgan Spurlock

Morgan Spurlock, director of Super Size Me came for yesterday's master class. Spurlock was a very engaging and funny speaker and has a really great story of how hard work and some luck can go a long way.

Spurlock spoke of his days before creating Super Size Me, when he was $250,000 in debt to credit card companies from various endeavors. He and his friends only had $50,000 and decided to use that money toward the making of the film which surprised them with its success at Sundance. From there they had a hard time finding someone to distribute the film because they were afraid to go up against McDonald's. Of course we know the rest of the story: the success of the film and the healthy eating/weight loss movement it sparked in the nation and with McDonald's.

Before Super Size Me, Spurlock was best known as a playwright and creator of the MTV show I Bet You Will. After the success of Super Size Me, Spurlock went on to produce and star in the reality show 30 Days, which involves a premise similar to Super Size Me in that it involves a lifestyle change lasting 30 days. The point of the show was to bring up relevant social issues and make people "think", which Spurlock says is the reason the show was turned down by all the major networks he spoke to. Networks don't want "sad" or "thought-provoking" or "controversial", according to Spurlock. This is what led him to approach FX who has been airing the show since 2005 and is approaching its last season.

Since 2005 Spurlock has filmed/premiered another documentary Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? which received great reviews in test screenings but ultimately disappointed the public at Sundance. The film is about the fight against terrorism and we viewed a clip of the film in the master class which looked pretty interesting. Spurlock still defends the film.

With the final season of 30 Days coming up, Spurlock's next upcoming project is an adaptation of the book Freakonomics. Overall Spurlock's visit was mostly a discussion of his projects and some clips, but what you took away was a sense of accomplishment from Spurlock. He talked about paying back all of his debts and the people he owed who worked for him before Super Size Me. Morgan Spurlock's story of overnight success and what has followed is not only a happy one, but an inspiring one that says documentaries can gain commercial success.

Les Blank films ONLINE -- FREE ! ! !

HI All,

I have not had the opportunity to show any Les Blank films in class but I have discovered that a good portion of them are available for FREE online through the UC Berkeley archives. If you are interested in passionate films about really interesting subcultures, you will love his work:

Les is also very resourceful and has survived and thrived on his documentary work for many decades. Check out his homepage to see how he does it:


Friday, April 10, 2009

Narrative Splendor

American Splendor is a narrative film - a biopic with actors portraying real individuals, telling a true story. Is this documentary? I would argue not, but here are definite chapters of the film that are documentary style. Paul Giamatti plays Harvey Pekar, the author of the American Splendor underground comic, but at times, the story is intruded upon by interviews with the ACTUAL Harvey Pekar and other characters involved. This break in narrative fashion is unusual, but definately something I'd expect from an HBO film - playing with conventions.
Often Pekar is explaing something that just happened in the film, or elaborating on an incident. These intrusions are shot in a style that viewers are meant to read as "documentary" - a classic talking head in a studio recounting an experience. The interview sections of the film are supposed to led a sense of truth to the portrayals going on with Giamatti and Hope Davis, as if their acting is also "docureal." It's an effective device, if disorienting at times. In one sequence, Giamatti walks onstage in a TV interview, then the REAL Pekar's interview is shown (in the same clothes!) and hen when he exits the screen, Giamatti walks back in and asks Davis's character how she liked it.
I am still convinced that this does not constitute documentary in its own right, since Giamatti is still PLAYING Pekar. Unlike Milk, however, American Splendor does not story into the realm of the unknown very much (Like Milk's personal life) - that is to say, it stays more to the documentary realm as narrative films go, instead of elaborating on aspects of Pekar's life for dramatic emphasis. It was entertaining and informative - usually a word I reserve for documentaries, and HBO did a good job of blurring the lines between the doc and the narrative film.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Hey guys! There's a documentary premiering here in Austin next Saturday, April 18th at the Galaxy Theatre called Malatya. This documentary tells the story of the first ever martyrs of the Turkish church, Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tillman Geske, who died April 18th, 2007 for proclaiming Christianity in a Muslim nation.

The film is premiering on the two year anniversary of the martyrs' death and will be screened around the world thanks to the non-profit organization Voice of the Martyrs. It will be screening in Austin next Saturday, April 18th at the Galaxy Theatre at 1, 2 and 3 pm and runs about 70 mins.

This film was made by one of UT's very own rtf undergrads so the fact that this is premiering around the world should prove and inspire us that we can do the same thing!

Tickets will not be sold at the door! You can purchase them here through the Austin Stone Community Church.

For more info on Malatya you can check out their website:
Or you can check out Voice of the Martyrs and the Austin Stone.

Even if you have no other reason than to support a fellow rtf student you should still GO! It's going to be awesome!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Death by Design

As we had seen in class, Death by Design is filled with archive footage of micro-biology to illustrate the ideas presented in the documentary. The expertise of this documentary is its use of visual metaphors. The elements of the documentary are really pretty minimal when you think about it. It has 4-6 interviews each with one set-up (sometimes an over-the-shoulder shoulder if the subject is drawing something) and visual metaphors (archive footage, microscopic-perspective footage, contemporary b-roll, etc.) with synchronized sound. This proves that with careful editing, you can carry a great story with only primary interviews and creative & illustrative b-roll footage.

Despite tapping into footage that already existed, it seems like the documentarians also created there own visual metaphors. In order to illustrate the immune system of an animal, they created animations illustrating the process of how it works as the base interviews narrate. I'm a huge fan of well executed visual metaphors and this documentary is full of them. No point or idea will be missed or misunderstood because you'll hear and see it.

Also, I like how the documentary uses music to heighten emotion. I think we all found ourselves turning sympathetic to the death of cells but quickly realized how ridiculous it was. But! Needless to say, the relationship between music and visuals worked in its intended emotion.

And finally, in the last section of the documentary, they were able to get one of the first scientists to notice the program cell death among cells. Surprisingly, she has a twin who is the more artistic one. Her works illustrate the beautiful and natural relationships between life and death, the central tenant with in the documentary.

Through the addition of b-roll illustration and in-text real life relations, this documentary provides an interesting story without overly elaborate interviews or b-roll. Keeping it simple, creative, and inventive in relation to the ideas of the story will make for an excellent and compelling documentary.