Indie Corner

INDIE CORNER: CHILLY WINTER 2013

By • Mar 8th, 2013 •

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Making my first films in high school in the late 1970’s was for me, and other student film-makers, a test of patience, and sometimes a study in suspense. The same fragile strip of Super 8mm film that went through your camera was the same piece of film you edited and sent through a projector. Duplicate prints for editing, screening and archiving just didn’t exist. Your only edits in Super 8mm were mostly your final decisions. After about the tenth screening of your film, you had scratches, and projector burns all over your hard work. Your mylar tape splices started to weaken. Every time I showed a film, I held my breath.

My first documentary, HERE MY SILENT DUST, a 10 minute look at cemetery vandalism was lost in the mail heading to a festival. There was no back up copy.

A few months ago, I acted in REDEMPTION, a short film made by teenaged Devon Narine-Singh. REDEMPTION, Devon’s first film, centers on a young actress who gets a break – she is to work with a respected director who has a tainted past – he once molested one of his under-aged actors. The dilemma is – is she “supporting abuse” by acting in this man’s film? Devon intelligently brings about the debate – should the works of directors who have been abusive (such as Hitchcock, Polanski and Woody Allen) still be revered?

Filmed in digital video, Devon had the ability to work faster, more often and more stress-free than how I worked with Super 8mm. This means he has better chances to work out technical bugs that come with low budget film-making, fine-tune the editing, and getting more ideas onto video.

At film school, my teacher, Roy Frumkes, pointed out how cinematographer Oswald Morris had a filter created for his camera which matched the color of a piece of Elizabeth Taylor’s costume to make her pop out in certain scenes in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. We were instructed on the importance of getting your moving images to look their best. But times would change – the grungy, dirty look in indie films would overcome the yearning for beautifully orchestrated cinematography (or videography).

That brings us to ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW, which was shot on pro-consumer level video cameras, and has become the most buzzed about film at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. (It was filmed with the new Canon 5D Mark II Camera, which goes for about $3,500.) ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW follows Jim White, a man vacationing with his wife and kids at Disney World. He finds out he has been fired. While he is at “The Happiest Place in the World”, he descends into madness. The rides, the crowds, the people in weird character costumes begin to look truly demonic to poor Jim.

The problem is, director Randall Moore snuck his cast, crew and his small cameras, which look like the same cameras thousands of other tourists around him were using, into Disney World without permission. He shot for ten days around the Magic Kingdom, posing as a tourist. At Sundance, Moore stated: “We almost got caught once. We were shooting in the entrance of the park and we had to do a few takes…. Disney security pulled my actors aside and demanded to know why we had entered and then re-entered the park within a seven-minute period.” He used the excuse that his “family” entered and then quickly left the park because they needed to reapply sunscreen. According to CNN, Disney’s legal department is debating what their next step should be. Is Moore a trespasser? Is he using trademarked Disney properties for his own profit? Should Disney order an injunction against the film or let the film slide onto the public? Moore claims he went to Disney World as a child and he felt it was an artificial, materialistic fantasy world he was forced to like. Some people on the web debate that Moore is rather hypocritical because he is using ESCAPE FROM TOMORROW to get into Hollywood, which thrives on artificial, materialistic fantasies.

Personally, I don’t see how Disney World can be that traumatizing. I went there with my family as a child. We needed to cut across a passing parade to get to an attraction. My cousin Susan and I ran around the Disney World parade floats and we were momentarily chased by guys in very large chipmunk outfits with fixed, frozen smiles. We got through life okay!

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