Archive for the ‘Film’ Category

my map my summer

So, remember when I submitted footage to Map My Summer, the Australia-wide user-generated film project inspired by Life in a Day? Well, it turned out that two bits of my footage of the bats of Gordon were selected by Amy Gebhardt, the director of the project, and are included in the final Map My Summer film, WE WERE HERE.

That film premiered at a packed screening last Saturday night, before the Australian premiere of Life in a Day, as part of Sydney Film Festival. As a contributor I was an honored guest. Amy and executives from Screen Australia and YouTube introduced the film along with SFF director Clare Stewart. Dr George Miller, the distinguished supervisor of the project, was not there (he is too busy working on Happy Feet 2), but he sent a video greeting. I found myself wondering if at any point the dude who directed The Road Warrior looked at my bat footage.

You can watch the finished product embedded here, or on YouTube’s Map My Summer page, for a few more days at least. (I believe they’ll take it down on Saturday after a week’s run.) It’s about 25 minutes long. My footage occurs twice: once near the beginning, and again about two-thirds of the way through.

 

To tell you the truth, I spent some time being worried that there would be a conflict of interest; I work for Sydney Film Festival- and I just didn’t know what would happen when that came out. So I kept it on the downlow for weeks, while I was waiting for everything to be confirmed. But it turned out that when my colleagues were delighted when they found out about my part in the film, and wondered why I hadn’t boasted about it before.

The whole thing is a bit ironic. Recently I’ve been wanting to get back into film production, and have been planning a couple of different short film projects as a way of challenging myself. I didn’t imagine that footage of bats I shot on my iPhone would end up being the first effort of mine to be screened in public.

But I’m pleased. In general I think community-based filmmaking is one of the directions the industry is going in. I just took a workshop with Joe Lawlor, who has been doing some terrific things with his Civic Life project – collaborating with local communities on financing and producing films in places as diverse as Newcastle, UK and Singapore. User-generated films might be considered the logical extreme of this. At the very least, it’s one positive step towards making sense of the chaos of online video content.

I’m also happy about being included in this project because of being a recent migrant to Australia. I remember seeing a rude comment on one of the posted invitations for Australians to submit footage of what summer means to them: “Better get ready for hundreds of shitty clips of bands playing at the Annandale.” It was funny, but it also highlighted the fact that I haven’t had time to become cynical about anything here yet. I’m still amazed by so many things others take for granted – like seeing flowers blossoming in the winter and parrots hanging out in my front yard. I wanted anything I submitted to reflect that amazement – and it did.

I didn’t have to make many creative decisions – the bats themselves did all the work. Simply pointing the camera at the level of the horizon produces a pretty astonishing image.

Or, maybe all of that is just a roundabout way of saying it really doesn’t have anything to do with filmmaking – it was all pretty random and I’m just lucky. But that works too.

maps

Screen Australia are collaborating with Youtube on an Australia-wide, crowd-sourced film initiative called Map My Summer. It’s similar to and no doubt inspired by Life in a Day, the experimental documentary shot by hundreds of people worldwide on one Saturday last July and fashioned into a feature film by producer Ridley Scott and director Kevin McDonald; the completed film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this month.

The idea of Map My Summer is that thousands of ordinary Aussies will film – well, anything they want to film, as long as it sort of has something to do with summer, and upload it to Youtube by March 31. Selected footage will be fashioned into a short film (not a feature, alas) by an up-and-coming Aussie filmmaker under the supervision of Dr George Miller. I guess Miller is meant to be the Aussie-surrogate Ridley Scott for this undertaking – famous director to give it some clout y’know. But considering he directed the Mad Max films and Babe – four of the finest artifacts ever created by man – that’s all right by me. Anyway, the resulting film will be screened at Sydney Film Festival in June.

I liked the idea of Life in a Day, and I’m pretty psyched about Map My Summer too. Seems like a nice, unforced way to combine experimental and populist filmmaking.

Incidentally, Life in a Day got mixed reviews; some critics say it’s a predictable mishmash, and maybe even a little manipulative. Others call it innovative and uplifting, a Koyaanisqatsi for the new new age. I’ve not seen the film, but I like this take on it by reviewer Kirk Honeycutt in, of all places, the Hollywood Reporter:

The fact that terrible news didn’t dominate the world that day allows the film to concentrate on everyday life. So the film is quite cheerful on the whole. Whether people are skydiving or walking down a chapel aisle with an Elvis impersonator, the film expresses a collective hope in the present and in better days to come.

Onstage, Macdonald and Walker insisted that this mood came about through no editorial nudging by them. The preponderance of the videos submitted was playful, optimistic and positive. Do you suppose our 24/7 news media has gotten this wrong, that much of the world isn’t in the grip of depression, malevolence, cynicism, backstabbing and pessimism?

Exactly. Thank you.

So, I plan to take part in Map My Summer. Here’s a rough sketch of my idea, filmed last night. It’s the famous flying foxes of Gordon – large bats that come out en masse every night like clockwork a few minutes after sundown. Gordon, about ten minutes’ drive from our place, has the largest bat colony on the North Shore of Sydney, and there’s a bridge overlooking a wooded little valley or dell that offers a perfect view of the thousands of bats as they swoop out of their shelters.

I don’t know if you can call lots and lots of big bats cheerful or optimistic – but it’s certainly really cool in my book. Am I creeped out by the bats? Not at all – not even when they come and roost in the trees in our yard in the middle of the night, making weird squeaks and gurgles that we can clearly hear right out the window. I like them. Spiders on the other hand… well, never mind.

I’m tempted just to leave this footage, which was shot on my iPhone, it as is – I love the distorted, hypnotic repetition. (And the time limit on an uploaded clip for the project is three minutes – though it’s true you can upload as many as you like.) But more clarity and more angles to work with might be good too. We’ll see what I come up with – I’ll keep you posted.

Here are the relevant links:

Screen Australia’s Map My Summer homepage, and the press release

Map My Summer’s Youtube page