Monday, March 31, 2008

the fabulous destiny of Hugh McGrory

So this random Irish guy named Hugh McGrory e-mailed me recently, and HOLY GRAVY BOATS he is a splendid filmmaker: experimental, but without giving me a headache, which is a grand feat indeed. Here are his words, and his work:

Just found 2 of my shorts that were somehow not taken offline. Low quality (especially since I have 35mm prints for both) but forgive me. They're only 3 mins each, commissioned as such by an Irish Film Board scheme.


Within Without

The first 'Maze' is shot on Super-8 on a wind-up clockwork Russian military camera. The camera literally stopped when the mechanism did a full spin! It's a film about the empty Maze/Long Kesh Prison outside Belfast, scene of the Hunger Strikes etc. I wasn't doing anything political though, just something about what the empty space has to say in itself about our peace process. The second short is 'Within Without', shot on HD with microscopy images taken at Yale. When it goes inside that stuff is really in there. There is a section of stars which is CGI but the rest is live-action. Anyway, these short pieces should give you a better idea of what I do. Don't think it's just art-nonsense. I have plans to incorporate these techniques into drama, literally go 'into' people etc to show that we're all the same.

. . . .

The music on 'Maze' is an original piece composed by a friend of mine in London - Simon Robinson, who released drum 'n' bass a few years back as 'The Advocate'. He took a very different slant on 'Maze' as you can hear. The music on 'Within Without' was again composed especially for the film by my friend Glenn Marshall . . . Glenn and I ran a company together called Make Films until a few years ago. He's a very good CGI filmmaker. Abstract Buddhist computer art.

Just for the record, Hugh is about to start a project right here in California, and I've been sworn to secrecy, but let's just say it will be FASCINATING, and I'm going to bribe Hugh every which way I can in order to be a part of it. It's interesting, I feel like over the past two weeks I have been awash in exciting film/art things, shooting projects and going to camera workshops and meeting tons of fun folks who are sincere yet ironically hep (cooler than being ironically hip), talking to people across the country and around the world about the nifty things we're all creating.

In other words: I sure love being part of an intellectual art circle. Next thing you know, I'll be quoting Derrida over cups of espresso whilst wearing a beret and setting fire to lawn flamingos because they're, like, So Totally Bourgeois. I can't wait!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You know you're really somebody when....

....somebody searches for your name in Google, and includes the word "nude."

06:51:03 AM / MSIE 7.0 / Windows XP / 800x600 / [LOCATION REDACTED] [IP ADDRESS REDACTED]
&ct=result&cd=1&q=astrid phillips nude

I feel so honored. ::clutches heart, gazes dreamily at horizon::

I find it interesting that you're viewing teh interwebs at such low resolution. I mean, c'mon -- if you're going to look at nude photos of me, at least have the decency to view me at high resolution on a proper monitor. It's the principle of the thing, you know?

Friday, March 7, 2008

stoopid daylight savings

First things first:
THE TAXIDERMY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS: Finding Life in Dead Animals (Spiegel Online International)

Depressing news about bacteria in snow


How can a mime have a record? But hey, as LP Cover Lover says, "Great for parties!"

I love how even the fish is looking at the camera! Gray and bright orange are such a terrific combo.

LOVE THIS. And the song's not half bad, either.

I love this portrait, particularly since I love compositions which show people in settings that say something about their personalities. I've heard a rumor that Terry Gilliam shares this philosophy, which is why he often favors wide angles in his films.

I LOVE photocomics! And the recipe this illustrates is intriguing. (The mix of color temperatures from shot to shot, and even within shots, is bothersome to me -- but only mildly so. The hilarious content/emoting more than makes up for the inconsistencies of lighting. But remember: putting a little daylight-balanced gel on your indoor lights can help make the picture look consistently colored, and don't forget to also balance your camera to daylight! Most still cameras do this automatically.)

Lots of sickly green accents in this convenience store, along with blue-green fluorescent lighting, which gives the colorful zaniness a background of murky, modern wasteland eeriness. Nice.

Garfield Minus Garfield -- almost as awesome as Red Meat by Max Cannon

Pure gorgeousness. Diffused, frontal sources with amber-hued gels are always flattering.

What a view. Looks Photoshopped to me, though -- look at the horizon line where the water ends.

A pretty, live-action version of an anime boy! Isn't he just splendid?

Okay, I'm off to bed -- gotta get up at 5am! BLURGH. And the daylight savings thingie Saturday night/Sunday morning is going to kill me. DOUBLE BLURGH.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

battle of the 'i ro ny' t-shirt

So, here I was, thinking I was being so creative with my I RO NY t-shirt:

  [ available on Cafe Press! ]

But it turns out Jason Mraz had one a few months ahead of my own design!

Now, I'd like to think that mine is more legible, and also much closer to the original, iconic "I [heart] NY" design by Milton Glaser:

But still: GRR ARGH GNASHING OF TEETH. Darn that Jason Mraz for being such an avant garde fashion plate! Irritating bonus: his song is really beautiful.

Cinematography tip for the day: if you're shooting outside on a digital format, try to have your subject NOT wear white. Digital cameras have very little latitude, particularly in their highlights, so anything white or pastel will blow out with near-zero detail, like Jason's shirt in this video. Look closely, and you'll see that his shirt appears to have no folds/texture. If you're purposely going for this effect, then terrific; if not, have your actor wear bold midtones -- strong blues and greens always work best, although cameras are getting better all the time and can handle way more colors these days. Only a few years ago you couldn't even get away with wearing red, because it looked like globby/pixellated red crappiness.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

cinematography wisdom

I've noticed that, every so often, people stumble onto my pocket-sized blog after Googling things related to cinematography. Which got me thinking: why the hell don't I write more about cinematography?

So, without further ado, I'm going to address a few of the Google searches which have lead people to me.

cinematography and visual design in the apartment (1960)
Since I haven't seen The Apartment, I can't help you there -- yet. When my shoot ends (Sunday), I'll rent The Apartment and get back to you on that.

ivy league cinematography major
Don't bother. No Ivy League school has a worthwhile film department, and speaking as a USC grad, I'm not even sure I'd recommend going to the big film duo (USC & NYU), which are ridiculously expensive and don't offer a guaranteed return on your investment. Think about it: unlike business, law, or medicine, there's no guarantee you'll get hired out of school. In fact, the chances of you NOT getting work in film are horribly high. And the debt will crush your soul and make you very, very bitter like all my film school buddies.

Instead, learn filmmaking at a community college in L.A. and then transfer to USC (or do community college in N.Y. and then transfer to NYU) for the last year or two, so you can put USC or NYU on your résumé. This is much cheaper than actually attending USC or NYU for all four years, and you'll probably have some of the same instructors you had at the community college (lots of local faculty crossover). Then -- and this is key -- work on EVERY DANGBLASTED PRODUCTION YOU POSSIBLY CAN as a production assistant. Get coffee, pick up dry cleaning, clap a few slates, and after a while you'll know a whole lot of people who can give you more work, and before much longer you'll be the next George Lucas. You never know.

food cinematography
Always use diffused (soft) lighting, always use lighting which is psychologically warm (think golden tones), and more often than not try shooting fake food, since real food looks congealed and gacky FAST. There are mini tripods on wheels which are specially designed for tabletop cinematography, but since I've never used them myself, I'm not going to bother recommending anything here. Try Googling "tabletop cinematography," and you'll find tons of food-shooting resources.

women wearing jodphurs
Not really related to cinematography, but I couldn't resist including this. Let's face it: chicks are hot in jodhpurs, along with shiny black boots and riding crops. When I'm on set, though, I favor a burlap sack and a tutu.

Actually, I tend to wear jeans or cargo pants with a fitted T-shirt, and maybe a hoodie if it's chilly out. Yeah: I totally tomboy out.

Also: if you're shooting outside for even ten minutes, NEVER FORGET SUNBLOCK, SPF 45! I learned this the hard way.

cinematography secrets blog
Noodle around on and you'll learn some great stuff.

Bear in mind that there aren't really secrets, mostly just mistakes which make you wiser. I'll start sharing those over subsequent postings, but here are a few to start you off:

If you don't want people to mix up their water bottles with yours on set, label yours with a Sharpie. This isn't a cinematography secret per se, but I gotta tell ya, it really makes the shoot go a whole lot easier when you're not swapping cooties and what-have-you.

Here's another bit o' wisdom: never wear open-toed shoes. You'd be amazed how often pointy/heavy equipment will fall on your feet, so I'd even recommend steel-toed boots. Optimally, you'd wear steel-toed boots with comfy gel inserts, because you'll be on your feet for hours on end.

In fact, since we're on the topic of clothes, here's something else: do not wear skirts or kilts. I have seen male crew members wear Utilikilts, which seem like a great idea in theory, but they are horrible. Trust me: horrible. As a camera person, or as a grip or electrician, you often have to squinch (technical term) into odd positions, or even climb up ladders, so...yeah. If you're going to insist upon wearing a skirt or kilt, then PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF LINDSAY LOHAN wear shorts underneath. And I'm not talking roomy boxers, either; fitted shorts will do nicely. Leaving things to our imagination is a good thing, people.

panavision genesis 14-bit
It's an awesome digital camera, but it's also built like a tank, so it's not easy for handheld work if you're a pocket-sized cinematographer. I still love it, though.

pronounce cinematographer
Okey dokey: SIN eh mah TAW grah fer.

Incidentally, a cinematographer is also known as a director of photography, which is frequently shortened to 'DP.' Unless you're a zany European, in which case you say 'DoP.' Some cinematographers hate saying 'DP' because it also stands for 'displaced person,' 'disabled person,' and 'double penetration.' Me being me, I don't give a crap; I'm lazy, so I call myself a DP ('dazzlingly phenomenal').

cinematography lesson plans
I have plenty of those, and I'll be goddamned if I'll post them for free! E-mail me (astridica at yahoo dot com) if you'd like private tutelage, or even if you just have random shooting questions. My consultant rate is $60/hour, billed by the quarter hour.

cinematographer business cards
Mine are hand-drawn, and they are also magnetic so that people have to stick them on their fridge, and then they have no choice but to have a reminder of me every day. Who wouldn't love that?


Carpe diem, folks, seize the day. And remember, there's no reason to be intimidated by cameras -- they're technically just sewing machines with lenses on the front and film instead of thread. No lie.