Bret Wood's Efforts and Exploits

An updated guide to film and DVD work.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

All Aboard

I know, I'm long overdue on a follow-up blog regarding last Saturday's staged reading of The Seventh Daughter. I'LL GET TO IT! Just give me time to catch up on my sleep and gather my thoughts.

Meanwhile, check this out. It's part of a project going on in different cities, where arts organizations are presenting a play-a-day, written by Suzan-Lori Parks (who wrote 365 plays in 365 days -- you get the idea).

Friend and filmmaker Niklas Vollmer, with collaborator Ruth Stanford, shot their plays on digital video, using passers-by at downtown Marta stations. That's cool enough, but they then presented the finished works (along with supplemental video of the various participants -- many of whom REFUSE to participate) on a cleverly-conceived multi-video-screen website:


Please check it out and have fun with it. You HAVE to have a high-speed connection, and it takes a while to get the hang of the interface, with the multiple video windows, but once you get it all working, it's like playing with a train set (bells and whistles indeed).

It takes our conventionalized ideas of theatre and explodes them in multiple ways.

Engineer's hats off to Nik and Ruth.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Best Film of 2006!

Forget Little Miss Sunshine and all that crap! The best picture of 2006 is only 30 seconds long.

I've been talking to Michael Orta at the pedestrian safety organization PEDS, about possibly shooting a PSA for their group. He showed me this British PSA and honestly, I think about it more than any movie I saw in 2006. It is amazing.

You think I'm joking, but I'm not. Who says the best movies have to be feature-length? One of my favorite movies of all time is something called Photographing a Female Crook (1904, Biograph Co.). It is jam packed with more technical daring (a dolly shot in 1904!), more thematic complexity, and more dramatic power than anything you can see at the modern-day multiplex... and it's less than one minute long! You look at it once, you think it's one thing, you watch it again, and you see this layer of meaning beneath the surface, you watch it again, and suddenly the film is communicating things you thought were beyond the beyond the abilities of filmmakers of 1904. Dang. I guess I need to find my copy and digitize it and upload it so people will know what I'm talking about.

I recently read Theodore Roszak's Flicker (thanks Genevieve for the tip) and Photographing a Female Crook is one of those films that might have inspired the novel. Something that reveals more meaning the more you look at it... and especially if one is versed in the language of silent film and can watch pre-talkies in the proper mindset. But don't get me started on that issue.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Photographic Evidence

Someone involved in Brave New Works recently asked if the scenes involving the seance cabinet and teleplasmic materialization were an exaggeration. So, I thought I'd post a couple of images taken by Baron Freiherr Albert von Schrenck-Notzing himself. Yes, there was such a person. He documented the cases of mediums in incredible detail, logging the results of hundreds of private seances in his fascinating book Phenomena of Materialisation.

This is a picture of Stanislawa Tomczyk, from whose mouth a teleplasm is emerging. The photo was taken from inside the cabinet.

Below is an image of Eva C., who was a medium of whom Schrenck seemed to be particularly fond. She is holding the folds of the cabinet curtains so her hands remain visible at all times. Upon her head is a teleplastic materialization.

You can't make this stuff up.

Brief bio of Schrenck-Notzing.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cutting Loose

Well... it wasn't exactly a cold read, but it was the first time the script was read aloud by a group of actors. Because of time restraints, we didn't quite make it through to the end... and I'm squirming to get back in there and see the pieces start to knit themselves together.

It's hard to be patient... but I'm learning.

As a writer/director, my experience working with actors is somewhat limited. As an admitted fault, I come from the megalomaniacal approach of "I have a movie in my head and I want it acted and photographed to my precise specifications." Okay, I know that's wrong on so many levels. Foremost is the fact that it would put restraints upon the life that talented actors might breathe into the roles, lifting them above my preconceptions and expectations and taking them in new, potentially more dramatically gratifying directions. I know that. As you can tell, I've read the books. But still, it's hard not to wish one person could speak that line the way the millionaire yells "Oh loverrr!" in The Lady from Shanghai, or the way the cop says, "Why do you make me do it? You know I'm gonna make you talk. I always make you talk," in On Dangerous Ground. And even if I could dig up Everett Sloane, Robert Ryan or the sailor boy from Applause, it wouldn't be fair to chain them to such specific deliveries of their lines.

I'm a control freak, okay? It's called being a director -- even a soft-spoken one. I am just extremely glad that Alexandre Harrington is assuming the role of director because I wouldn't know where to begin to prepare a cast for a feature-length performance with eighteen hours of rehearsal. As the writer, I'm watching and, like I said, learning. But that's what Brave New Works is about, a nerve-wracking swan dive of theatrical, resourceful creativity.

I spoke to Joseph Skibell, whose novel A Blessing on the Moon is being adapted in Brave New Works as a musical/dance performance. And I could see he shared (to some degree) the same mixture of exhilaration and terror that are -- I'm told -- natural at this stage in the process.

But mostly exhilaration.

Just to make myself clear, I'm not complaining about where we stand after the first night's read -- just trying to convey the sense of anxiety of wanting one's script to live up to the potential one imagines it to have. That maddening feeling of watching your child walk into the hall where the SAT's are given... wondering if you've done everything you could to insure his/her/its success at one of life's many make-or-break moments.

By and large, I've got to say I'm very happy with where we are, one foot out of the gate. But clearly, a great distance is yet to be traveled. For one thing, I've got to cut away the bulk of the scene description that weighs down the drama like sandbags tied to the side of a hot air balloon. Because when the actors are given room to breathe and speak -- and react to one another -- the story really comes alive (I've gotta say, scenes 30 and 31 were amazing).

So between now and Tuesday 2/13 (rehearsal #2), we'll cut some of the safety ropes and see where the wind -- and a very ambitious cast of actors -- decide to carry it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Interview link

Just thought I'd post a link to an interview (by John Marrone) that appeared today on a horror film website:

House of Horrors.

It begins:

After recently reviewing Psychopathia Sexualis, I had come across a wide variety of negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes - most of which seemed to ignoranly miss the point of what the filmmaker was presenting to the keener eye. In an age of breast implants and plastic surgery, many were expecting titilating tits and ass and were disappointed upon being turned off by hairy, carnival quality frontal male nudity, and the like. I got in touch with the director Bret Wood and probed the mental poetic licensing behind Psychopathia Sexualis and ended up in a deep conversation about the golden age of early cinema and the qualities of it that fans like ourselves tend to often overlook...
read more.