Bret Wood's Efforts and Exploits

An updated guide to film and DVD work.

Friday, March 30, 2007


If you've been reading, you know that a couple of weeks ago I sujected myself to the weekend-filmmaking challenge again, against my better judgement. Fortunately, the experience was much more rewarding than it has been in the past, and I walked away with a pretty decent film, SECURITY.

So now there's this other aspect to the project -- where they've put everyone's films online and people are supposed to vote to see which ones are shown at the Atlanta Film Festival. That's cool, for the most part, but we're supposed to be out campaigning, getting people to come to the site and vote for their film. Because no one is going to watch every film on the list, the winners will most likely be the team with the largest family. I feel like I'm selling Girl Scout Cookies... or, worse, competing on American Idol.

So listen, here's the link. Watch the movie, vote for it or rate it if you want to, but don't knock yourself out. I want to support the festival but this is not a game I particularly want to play.


Final disclaimer: there is no audio during most of the short.

And be sure and check out some of the other entries.


Some of them are very clever. Some will make your blood run cold.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Pushing Paper

Well, it was a difficult thing to do, but it had to be done.

Over the past couple of months, I've packed up my fairly extensive movie poster collection and shipped it out to an eBay consignment merchant that specializes in movie posters. I'd been collecting posters since high school (The Elephant Man and Breaking Away were the first one-sheets I ever owned) and gobbled up every poster I could afford during college -- as if these precious investments couldn't help but skyrocket in value. I mean everyone loves movie posters, right?


Well, I think movie posters, like classic cinema, are quickly becoming a thing of the past. That is, their audience is shrinking, not growing. The current generation of film enthusiasts look at cinema history differently. They generally have a shallow pool of film knowledge (30 years at the most), and no longer look at films as a precious commodity. I guess because films have been so widely available on DVD that they haven't experienced the feeling of film lust. Those of you over 40 know what I'm talking about... before the days of VCRs and 100-channel cable systems. When the only way you could see a particular classic movie was to hope that it showed up on late-night television or a screening at a film society or repertory house (two institutions that are almost completely obsolete).

When you got to see movies like Shadow of a Doubt or The Lady from Shanghai, you really treasured them, because of their scarcity. No one today can experience what it's like to try and stay awake until 3:00 am in order to catch a late-late show screening of Lolita or Badlands on the CBS late movie. Discovering the hidden, appreciating the arcane was a great feeling. It didn't satisfy one's curiosity about cinema, it fueled it. A cineaste was like a bloodhound catching a scent and then following that faint, elusive trail deep into a forest of discovery, where one would stumble across similar films, films by the same director, constantly building a vocabulary of film, better understanding the context in which these films were made and released.

And movie poster collecting -- at least for me -- went hand in hand with that quest for knowledge and joy of discovery. It signified not only finding the films, but possessing a piece of their history. If you couldn't own a film, you could own an artifact of their original theatrical release. To a kid without much of a life in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that was a pretty special thing.

But now I have more of a life. And a child. And a mortgage. And plans to make more films. So it's time to part with those relics. For one thing, I don't put movie posters up on my wall... so what good are several crates of posters? And secondly, the value of the posters is not really going up. The market for these things is evidently shrinking, because they aren't selling for nearly as much as I would've hoped. Yeah, I've scored some nice sales, but all in all, they aren't going to fund a film or put a kid through college. Curiously, the things that seem to bring the most money are second-rate AIP/Corman films (The Undead, The Bonnie Parker Story, X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes). Odd. Hitchcock and Kubrick are selling well -- as one would expect.

Shipping away the posters, watching them being hawked on eBay, reminds me of the time when I really had a passion for film. I would say "Maybe it's a college-age thing," but having taught Film History at an art college, and seeing the lack of interest first-hand, makes me think it's more of a generational thing. One reason I'm having this flashback to a time when people were passionate about film is because I'm currently working on the reconstruction of a Lettrist film of 1951: Jean-Isidore Isou's Venom and Eternity (Traité de bave et d'éternité). Talk about passion for film! It's jaw-dropping.

...and it will be the topic of my next entry.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Security / Rapid-I

Alright, I'm way behind in my blogging... but I've been busy. If you know me in the real world, you know the nightmare of home renovation we're living through right now. Can we talk about something else, please?

Instead, I'd rather tell you about the short film I made last weekend. It was made for "Rapid-I Movement," sort of like the 48 Hour Film Project, but presented under the auspices of IMAGE Film & Video Center and the Atlanta Film Festival. And you have 50 hours to make a short film, not 48.

The film is being shown Tuesday March 20 at the Plaza Theater in Atlanta, at 9:30 pm.

After last year's 48, I swore I'd never do it again. Because we were really ambitious, and had truckloads of equipment, rented a huge location (a church), with a sizable cast and crew. Hair, makeup, costumes, the whole nine yards. It about wiped me out.

So this year, I was going to avoid the whole weekend-film scene, until Gabe Wardell, the new director of IMAGE encouraged me to enter Rapid-I and use it as an opportunity to just shoot something different -- experiment -- be creative -- rather than spending all the energy on gloss.

So I did, and I'm glad I did. It was a very small crew. We had minimal equipment and a realistic shot list. As a result, I got to spend a lot more time with the actors, brainstorm as we went, and let the movie evolve on the spot.

The unsung hero of the shoot was John Kuhn, who loaned me a black-and-white video camera from the 1970s to shoot with (analog!). Adam K. Thompson, who worked with me on Psychopathia, was the d.p. The camera is seen below, shooting a scene with Daniel May (who contributed so much to the project that he shares writing credit).

The short is called Security. The concept is that the story is told from the perspective of four security cameras mounted throughout a grungy industrial building. The angles are therefore fixed, and the editing is locked into seven-second chunks (as the system is automated to switch from one camera to the next, in the same sequence).

The point of the film was to generate tension and frustration in the viewer without the usual trappings of slick photography, rapid editing and a complicated sound mix. Most of this film is silent. And when I mean silent I mean DEAD silent. The only audio occurs when someone within the film makes a panicked call to the police (all audio for the film was recorded over the phone). Speaking of phone, the rules required that we include a coin-operated machine in the short... so in the middle of the night I had to build a pay-phone kiosk in my driveway, then haul it to the location and install it on a wall (see photo below, featuring Jane Bass, as actors go, one of my personal faves).

I also wanted to explore the idea of TV violence, and play on the audience's expectations. Rather than present a pumped-up spectacle of violence (the way so many 48-hour type films do), I wanted to reduce the violence to a grim experience that is unpleasant to watch. Unpleasant in that it is not glamorous. Unpleasant in that the audio/video quality is wretched. Unpleasant in that the mechanical editing constantly interrupts the action.

To make the image look suitably grungy, we shot it on the outmoded camera (apparently with a broken tube), then I dubbed it off to VHS (six hour speed) and back to DV three times until the image started to distort.

Does it succeed? I haven't watched it since I turned it in. I'm guessing that it functions well as a strange little experiment in filmmaking... but I doubt that it manages to convey all the ideas that I hoped it would (incriminating the audience in the violence by making the culprit associate himself with the viewer: he commits a crime of passion... but then, once he realizes he's being taped on a security camera, decides to "perform" for the camera... so he stages a second crime, just for the benefit of the audience). It's hard to pack that much nuance into a film shot in a single day, written in a few hours... but that's what this project was all about... experimenting... road testing ideas.

Seth Joiner and myself on the set.

Special thanks to Victor Lambert, for gamely rushing to the set in the eleventh hour, then smearing himself with chocolate syrup and crawling around on the floor. No, I'm not joking. Thanks also to Jill Perry, for "phoning one in." No, I'm not being sarcastic.