22 April 2008

Imagination and the Art of Casting

as far back as i can remember, i have always seen my mother with a book in her hands. she generally stays within the mass market area, from romance to pop mystery to john grisham. to this day, she is always reading something. she happily passed this trait along to me. because i was also raised a star wars baby, i naturally gravitated towards science fiction. when i first started grade school, i cut my teeth on the works of arthur c. clarke, ray bradbury and c.j. cherryh. when i got to the seventh grade, i read more mature works such as frank herbert's dune (science fiction as epic saga) and george orwell's 1984 (science fiction as distopia).

in addition to reading, my obsession with film was growing. i dreamt of making my own movies. it became apparent to me that my primary interests, literature and film, weren't mutually exclusive. around the fifth or sixth grade, i read a book called hestia by c.j. cherryh. as i was reading, i imagined a film playing inside my head. this film had an unlimited budget. furthermore, i started casting actors in the roles of the different characters. for instance, i cast dennis quaid (whom i had just seen in the film "dreamscape") in the lead role.

the art of casting the novel continued to grow over the years. sometimes, a novel that i read was already adapted into a film. in this case, the art of casting became an exercise: could i hear the actors that were already cast speaking the dialogue? in a few cases (such as the mid-eighties version of orwell's "1984" starring john hurt and richard burton), i felt that the cast was spot on. in the case of "dune", i was fine with the david lynch cast when i first read it in the seventh grade. however, when i revisited it in 2000 (in preparation for the lacklustre sci-fi channel adaptation), i found that i couldn't hear the voices of the actors that were cast. so, i roamed around in my head for actors who i felt could do the job. at the time, sci-fi channel was showing reruns of j. michael straczynski's "babylon 5". i had a healthy obsession with this show. i thought, how great would it be if straczynski adapted all of the dune novels into an ongoing t.v. series? while i was rereading, i cast all of the actors from "babylon 5" in key roles of the book. and, wouldn't you know it, the casting worked.

this was a watershed moment. not only was i imagining a cast, but i also started to ask myself "what kind of media best serves the story?". this opened up entirely new avenues. the idea of being a filmmaker didn't seem so far away. in many of the documentaries on filmmaking that i've seen, professional filmmakers say that proper casting is at least 50% of making a good film. so, i was already halfway there, right?

casting the novel reached a plateau when i stumbled onto william gibson's neuromancer. gibson challenged my imagination on a level that i didn't think was possible. he is single-handedly responsible for coalescing all of my artistic interests (film, music, literature) into a cohesive whole. neuromancer tells the story of case, an ex-cyberspace hacker who hates the real world and can only feel when he is jacked into the web. he meets molly and his entire world perspective shifts. the novel starts with the following:

"the sky above the port was the colour of television tuned to a dead channel".

this was the proverbial "holy shit" moment for me. how do i visualize this? what does this mean? gibson's philosophy is that science fiction isn't a series of special effects, bells or whistles. it is a metaphor for modern life. when i first read the book, i was heavily influenced by the film "trainspotting". i cast all of the actors from "trainspotting" as the main characters. with crystal clarity, i heard ewan macgregor saying case's dialogue as though he were sitting right across from me.

around this time, i had also seen steven spielberg's "saving private ryan". other than his depiction of the normandy invasion (which is some of the best work that he has ever done), i felt that the film was overrated. however, the one thing that i was very impressed with was the cinematography. spielberg filmed it using desaturated colour. everything looked very dull and gray. i thought to myself, "this is how case sees the real world". i reread the novel with this in mind and my film version clicked into place. all of the scenes that took place in the "real" world would be gray and all of the cyberspace scenes would be in mario bava 70mm candy technicolour. furthermore, the dull and gray of the real world scenes would make the colour of the cyberspace scenes pop even more.

something else that occurred at this time was the expansion of my music horizons. i had discovered brian eno, david bowie, philip glass and aphex twin. i had also rediscovered motown, specifically marvin gaye's "what's going on". i heard music in the scenes of the "neuromancer" film going on inside my head.

to illustrate the coalescence of film, literature and music, let's look at the ending of the novel. gibson ends the book with the following line:

"and case never saw molly again."

by this point, case's emotional headspace has changed. he allowed himself to get close to molly, only to be rejected by her in the end (she leaves him a note explaining "it's not the way i'm wired"). despite this, case doesn't see the world as gray as he used to. i see case reading this note and nodding, understanding molly's decision. he then walks down the street, literally disappearing into the city. marvin gaye's "inner city blues (makes me wanna holler)" is playing as we fade out and go to the end credits. do the lyrics give literal insight into the scene? no. but, somehow, the song gives me an emotional resonance that perfectly captures the feeling of the scene.

over the years, i have probably read "neuromancer" at least four or five times. each time, i change the cast and perfect the film. (the latest cast include cillian murphy as case.) producers have tried many times to bring an adaptation of "neuromancer" to the big screen. thus far, each attempt has been unsuccessful. the latest news is that joseph kahn (director of "torque" and some of the gaudiest music videos known to mankind) is doing to direct "neuromancer" with hayden christensen starring as case. this is not the way to go. i can feel this deep in my bones.

why?

because i have seen this film play out many times. i only need to figure out a way to get it from my imagination onto film.

it's the next logical step.

new acquisitions

i love the fact that, with the macbook pro, i can relax in a coffee shop and update to my heart's content.

this is just a quick update to let you in on my new acquisitions this week. i woke up bright and early at 8:30 this morning because:

1/ it's beautiful out.
2/ i want to take advantage of my time off as much as possible.
3/ it is new release day.

since my injury, i have not been able to go to the movies. this makes new release tuesday special, because i get the chance to catch up on all of the films that i've missed at the movies. today, i picked up "cloverfield" and "there will be blood" (thank you borders for your plethora of 40% off coupons).

after a lovely brunch downtown, i walked to wazoo and picked up the new 10th anniversary special 3-disc edition of air's "moon safari". this is one of my favourite albums and introduced me to french pop music. you might have heard air from the films of sofia coppola. they wrote/recorded the entire soundtrack for "the virgin suicides" and contributed to "lost in translation". please treat yourself and check them out.

after wazoo, i walked across the street to shaman drum books. i was just in the mood to browse and wasn't looking for anything in particular. all of a sudden, something caught my eye: bowie in berlin - a new career in a new town by thomas jerome seabrook. this book chronicles bowie's move to berlin and the recording of "low", "heroes" and "lodger". i have a very personal connection to these albums, as they significantly expanded my horizons on a deep artistic level. they also sparked my obsession with all things brian eno.

later today, i plan to update the blog with another essay, detailing what goes through my head when i read novels.

20 April 2008

MUPPETS!

please allow me to share my undying love of the muppets with you:



comments are welcome and encouraged, so make with the clicky!

12 April 2008

the prequels essay #1: why jedi are the biggest idiots in the universe

this is the first in what will hopefully be a series of essays regarding that bastion of cinematic greatness known as:

the prequels

[cue dramatic orchestral swell]

why the prequels?

[more dramatic orchestral swells]

quite simply, the prequels are rife for analysis and discussion. the prequels introduce us to a wondrous, mystical and magical universe. there is much that we can learn from them, wisdom to be gleaned. this is, after all, the reason that sir george lucas esquire created the prequels, right? hmm?

[crickets]

ok, then, moving right along.

to start this discussion, i will share the first piece of wisdom that we learn in the prequels:

jedis are the biggest idiots in the universe.

to illustrate this, we need only investigate the middle chapter of the prequels, "attack of the clones". at the start of the film, we discover that there is an intricate plot to assassinate senator amidala, former queen of the planet naboo. jedi master obi wan kenobi and his padewan anakin skywalker are sent in to provide security for our troubled senator. channelling the wisdom of the force, master kenobi and padewan skywalker decide that the best way to provide security is to leave senator amidala alone in her bedroom so that she can be attacked again.

after a rousing and pointless chase through the crowded cityscape of coruscant (which looks strikingly similar to 2019 los angeles from "blade runner"), our stalwart jedi knights discover that a bounty hunter is involved with the assassination plot.

at this point in the film, master kenobi, thru the widom and majesty of the force, morphs into sam spade, private eye. during the start of his investigation, master kenobi discovers that someone has tampered with the archives. stumped, master kenobi turns to the wise master yoda for guidance. master yoda is also stumped and needs to seek advice...from the jedi younglings.

yes, you heard right. yoda, arguably the wisest of all jedi, seeks the advice of young children (many of whom have probably never left the cozy confines of coruscant and almost certainly don't know how to speak bachi).

this is our first clue that something amidst the jedi is amiss.

detective kenobi, frustrated and stumped at not getting answers from the wisest of jedi, goes to the next logical source for information:

dexter jettster, a short order cook at the local coruscant 1950s diner.

that deep rumbling that we're feeling at the pit of our stomachs right now? yes, that is our second clue that something amidst the jedi is amiss.

after obtaining valuable information from chef dexter, detective kenobi goes to the cloning planet of kamino. despite acting completely conspicuous, awkward and completely out of place, the cloners conveniently mistake our intrepid detective for their contact and give him all of the information that he is looking for. the most pertinent piece of information that they give him is that the jedi hired the cloners to create a clone army based on the dna of a bounty hunter named jango fett.

(you're probably feeling another bit of rumbling in the pit of your stomach right now.
that's because that last sentence will lead us to the main reason why jedi are the biggest idiots in the universe...but let's not get ahead of ourselves.)

naturally, this leads to a confrontation between detective kenobi and hunter fett. does kenobi immediately take fett into custody? of course not. he wastes time chatting with him, again acting completely conspicuous. when he leaves, kenobi contacts the wise jedi council, asking questions that he already knows the answers to. the council tells him to take fett into custody for questioning.

wise decision. however, hunter fett has decided to leave kamino. why? please see previous paragraph regarding detective kenobi acting conspicuous, awkward and completely out of place.

this leads us to another completely pointless chase sequence. however, this time the scenery has changed to an asteroid field.

wait a tic...wasn't there also an asteroid chase sequence in "the empire strikes back"?

how odd.

anyway, detective kenobi lands on a rocky planet and has enough time to send off a warning message to the jedi council detailing hunter fett's treachery before he is thwarted by the forces of count dracula - i mean dookie - i mean dooku.

i won't bore you with details of poorly written young borderline illegal love (ala anakin and padme), political shenanigans with dark side overtones (ala pope palpatine) or jar jar. let's cut right to the senate scene. the one where pope palpatine creates his grand army. after this, we cut to a scene between wise yoda and his fellow jedi master windu on the senate steps discussing the clones.

are they going to investigate the clones because of their connection to hunter fett, whom they know to be a villain because of detective kenobi's warning?

no.

are they going to apprehend and detain the clones because of their connection to hunter fett, whom they know to be a villain because of detective kenobi's warning?

no.

they are going to use the clones to build the army of the republic.

pause.

let's break this down:

1/ the clones are based on the dna of jango fett, whom we know to be a villain.
2/ at this point in the film, the jedi council (and we the humble audience) know that jango fett was hired by count dooku.
3/ at this point in the film, the jedi council (and we the humble audience) know that count dooku has turned to the dark side of the force.

is it really THAT much of a stretch to surmise that the clones might have been created to spring a trap on the republic?

for the jedi, the answer to that question is a resounding YES! it is that much of a stretch. while it is true that the clones help the wise jedi out of a tight jam at the end of episode II. however, let's cut to the tail end of episode III. pope palpatine shows his true nature as a sith lord (which we, the humble audience, have known all along) , declares himself emperor and reconstructs the republic into the galactic empire.

what's that? where are the jedi, you ask?

oh, they were ambushed by the clone troopers after pope palpatine gives them the order, which was embedded into their dna. the clone troopers almost completely decimate the jedi order.

and the best part? wise yoda and detective kenobi are actually surprised by this turn of events.

and this, ladies and gentleman, is why jedi are the biggest idiots in the universe.

06 April 2008

asgard is up and running

i finally have my wireless network up and running.

since i have this obsession with giving all of my mac related items norse/swedish/icelandic names (my desktop is named alphonse bjorn josephsson, my ipod is named thor bjorn josephsson, my airport external harddrive is named mjolnir bjorn josephsson and my laptop is named odin bjorn josephsson), i thought it appropriate to dub my wireless network asgard.

fitting, eh?

in other news, i have completed the first draft of the film outline. it is now in chris' hands. i am waiting for comments, additions, deletions, etc. from him. the goal is to start the script the week of april 20th (birthday week). i'm taking vacation time for that week it seems appropriate to start then.

other than that, i spent a lovely afternoon with my friends paul and meghann. i hope that we have (knock-on-wood) seen the last of winter for awhile. we need the sun.

the fourth and final season of battlestar galactica has finally started. shame on you if you aren't watching this show.

and, in honour of all of the network crap that i've been dealing with the past week, i give you the wisdom of the IT crowd:

03 April 2008

and now...a moment of zen...

because most of you have probably never heard this one.