Category Archives: Filmy School

I’m Tired and My Head Hurts

Here’s a seldom seen one from my time in Boulder.  Part of that is because I’ve never thought very highly of it, part of it is because it’s completely made up of copyrighted material that I don’t necessarily want to break the copyright on. At any rate, it’s a “Film Essay” that I made about the themes of loneliness and alienation in “Meshes of the Afternoon”, “The Cool World”, “Ornette: Made in America”, and “Jeanne Dielmann 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles”.  Let’s take a look at it and see if I’m right about it being sort of boring:

I’m Tired and My Head Hurts from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

No I’m not.  The disjointed nature of the film not only helps keep something like this interesting (I had never heard of film essays before, since then I’ve seen a few and so I know it’s a thing and something that could be sort of neat), but it also helps convey a lot of the ideas on these films and how they can connect visually and metaphorically in a scattered but understandable approach.  Outside of the realm of Video Essay, though, I also think that if nothing else this is a good study on alienation through information, as I included so many layers of video, audio, and text, that it overwhelms the viewer when they can’t keep up with everything (plus, the minute in complete blackness is a nice touch).  So in the end, I suppose I learned today that one of the films I had previously thought was pointless is actually sort of nice.  What did you learn today?

Vvinni Gagnepain’s “The Shining”

Directing class, 2010.  The assignment was to direct a scene from a film we hadn’t seen, using only the original screenplay and our own ideas.  I chose Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”, and I had about two weeks to get the whole production up and running, three or four weeks to finish it.  The result is below.

Vvinni Gagnepain’s The Shining from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

In my mind I always go back and forth on whether I like my adaptation or not.  I had the most people working under me for this shoot and on top of it I had my directing professor looking over my shoulder the whole time (who was a very kind and non-judgmental person, but it was still terrifying).  I had a limited cast pool and I’m not sure how my actors did with my idea for how the movie went and just generally how they were as actors.  I wondered about my set, I wondered about my decision to use the tracking dolly, I worried about a specific edit that doesn’t work at all.  Mostly, I was worried about living up to this:

Upon this viewing I was pleasantly surprised by how not awful it was.  The dolly track isn’t as obtrusive as I remember it being, Tim Maloney as my Jack Torrance works surprisingly well (Despite it being a line flub, I really enjoy the way he says “I’d like to hear those things”. I also like how the reading and wording of that line only adds to the psycho-sexual feeling of this scene), and I think the sudden re-appearance of the ghost ambiance works well to cover up the terrible edit I was talking about (which was my plan, I’m just never sure how well it works).  In the end I like this scene, and since directing this I have seen Kubrick’s version so I can answer that question that’s burning in your mind: Yes, I do think my version of this movie could be better, and I do think that the general ideas I’m working with are better in this scene (And, to a certain extent, I do think the set design in what I did come up with is better than Kubrick’s).  Now is my scene better than “The Shinning”?  No. Oh my no.

Shrimpocalypse!

I had to make a video exploring the post-apocalyptic landscape.  It also had to have something to do with zombies, maybe?  To top it all off, I was in Boulder with limited resources (I wasn’t an upperclassman, even though I was, and so I didn’t have access to good equipment.  Thanks, University) and I didn’t know many actors around Boulder.  What was I to do? What could I do?  I could create an apocalypse of images. An apocalypse of sound. An apocalypse of Shrimp.

Shrimpocalypse! from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

This is still surprisingly powerful.  It’s connection to the Katrina tragedies (Both before and after the levees broke), it’s connection to the feeling of encroaching doom I had recently experienced (and anyone feels when they’re facing their personal apocalypses), and this is all tied together through image (Mostly photos of water damage acquired through the Wikimedia Commons) and Andrew’s reading which is both simmering in rage and resigned to doom.  I do think the narration and the film goes on a bit too long, and we don’t need much explanation for why or how this happened (also, I don’t think many of us would know or care why the world had ended).  Still, though, I’d say this is another strong entry in the Henceforth filmography.

Once Upon a Time in Wisconsin

I hate Kraft American Singles.  They are not cheese. They are some sort of hideous amalgamation of chemicals that taste horrible, just awful.  So I decided to animate a story on them.  This came form a writing warm-up I did on my own time, I can’t even remember when or what larger piece I was working on at the time, but I remember that I just wrote this quickly in an afternoon.  Later I decided to adapt it for a class on narratives; I’d tell you the exact assignment but I can’t really even remember that anymore.  But I do remember this piece, and I do remember the horrible smell of cheese as I scanned each horrible sliver.  Was it worth the torture?  Let’s take a look:

Once Upon a Time in Wisconsin from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

Yes. Yes it was.  I enjoy this piece immensely, and I’d put this in my “under-appreciated and unseen classics” category.  First I actually enjoy the weird effect the paint on cheese has, as it gives it a strange bit of depth, like acetone sheets if they were yellow blocks of maybe-milk.  I also think the narration adds a nice touch to the story (I have a love-hate relationship with my performances, but this one is alright), adding a menacing twilight-zone-esque feel to the tale of Marty turning into cheese.  I’m not sure if there’s anything I’d change about it , it’s far from perfect, but for a project made for an unknown assignment it turned out just fine. It’s also a style, the photomontage, that I’d like to revisit with another story.  I think it’s a form that could use another go around and certainly something easy to do now that I’m all on my own.  How about you, internet?  How do like this odd little cheese-story?  How do you like Kraft American Singles?  What do you think the title of this piece should have been, because I’ll admit the title is pretty terrible?

Cat Eats Noodles

Some may say I have an obsession with noodles. Others may say I have an obsession with cats.  I say it’s only a problem if it gets in my way.  This piece comes from my Sophomore year of College, before all hell broke loose, where the task was to take the feeling of a piece of stock music given to us and assemble together something using stock footage.  Besides the noodles I shot, I was able to mostly communicate everything through editing and color.  Well, maybe. Let’s take a look:

Cat Eats Noodles from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

Yes. Yes I was able to capture the feeling of the stock music.  What strikes me most now looking back at this piece some five years after making it is how well this acts as a trailer for a movie that will never exist, nor should it as we already know exactly how the movie will go thanks to the music choice, editing, typography, color, in short thanks to everything.  We know there is a cat. The cat is suspicious. And somehow the cat stumbles into a world of murder and intrigue involving noodles.  Cat Eats Noodles: Coming to theaters July 2016.

Clean Garage

It’s strange how often the pieces that were Plan B’s ended up being pieces that I’ve either become known for or have really embraced as personal favorites.  My Name is Ward Armstrong and I Travel Through Time was a bit of a plan B project (and now it’s one of my most popular works) and Clean Garage, embedded below, was a Plan B and it’s one of my favorites.  I can’t remember what the Plan A was or what the exact nature of the assignment was, but basically one afternoon I got together a small crew and one actress and we made ended up making this.

Clean Garage from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I see Clean Garage as one of my unsung classics. It’s got loneliness, claustrophobia, a bit of wackiness, and a some sort of Polish theme song.  I feel it’s a bit difficult to know exactly what’s going on (I chalk that up to not getting enough footage or definition on the little chunk of gum attached to the wires), but the obsession and the confining emptiness of the space really work to create on heck of an eerie atmosphere.  This atmosphere is, of course, thrown in contrast with what might be my most playful title sequence yet which results in an odd and wonderful bit of cognitive dissonance.  Also, as opposed to a whole lot of my other films, the sound mix here isn’t too low or too overpowering (I would say that this is thanks to us shooting in an almost entirely empty garage).  What about you, internet-land? What are your feelings on Clean Garage?  Do you know that’s a piece of gum on the wires? Do you believe that she isn’t able to reach it? WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE PLANNING ON DOING TO THOSE RECEIPTS?

|Square|

One of the last films I made of my sophomore year of college was meant to be a documentary project (I don’t remember the exact assignment, but at that point it didn’t really matter).  Mind you, this was when my school had gone completely bankrupt and had, for all intents and purposes, closed down and so this was also looking like it’d be the last film I’d ever make at CSF.  So I decided to make a documentary on carpet. I also wanted to merge this documentary with my own growing form of non-linear story-telling to create something as scattered as the square patterns on the floor.  Let’s take a look at what I did, shall we:

|Square| from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

So that’s that.  The reason I chose this carpet, if you didn’t catch it, is that it was  not only something unique to the school (the place) but it was also a suitable enough anachronism to fully capture every bit of  my time in New Mexico and at the College of Santa Fe.    To the extent of capturing a time and place, I’d say the film is a success.  To the extent of capturing a bit of what makes this carpet so interesting, I’d say it does half of the job.  Having three people talk somewhat confusedly I’d say sort of captures the confusion of it, and the movement over the carpet was a good idea in theory.  However, once again, my tendency to play fast and loose with color correction sort of ruined the psychedelic  scheme of the flooring, which is one of the things that makes it most interesting (I’m also not sure if I was sold on white balancing yet.  I am now, don’t worry).  The sound also sounds rather muffled, and I’m pretty sure it has to do with my technical lack of understanding (this is just one step in the journey that showed me its better to work with a crew of people who knew what they were doing, rather than alone).  It’s still a neat piece, and currently its the last documentary I made (though there are some others I’d like to make eventually), and after returning to CSF I was told that many people thought this documentary should be required viewing (and I’d also say that the larger and more immersive you can get this piece, the more spectacular it will be).

Disfigurement Man: The Fear Wake

Disfigurement Man originally started out as a writing warm-up from The Ministry of Playwriting, but come Spring of 2009 when I was tasked with creating an animation project I decided it was time to adapt the warm-up into a short film.  The process for the stylistic creation of this piece was in itself a bit involved (like every animation piece I’ve done this was created by hand-drawing each character and background and putting the looping animations through After Effects), and you can find out all about in VATAS Ethisode 11.  But if you’re not in the mood to watch a longish and rather quiet rant about animation, you can instead just watch the final piece:

Disfigurement Man: The Fear Wake from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I still very much enjoy Disfigurement Man, and although in terms of scriptwriting it very much shows its beginnings as a writing warm-up I think the stylistic flourishes make up for it. A little bit, anyways.   The soundtrack composed by William Culbert (who also helped me out with the score to Into the Mainframe), helps set the mood as a Blade Runner/Hill Street Blues dystopia where only the ugly remain (although none as ugly as Disfigurement Man). The animation style, with its roughly composited frames and constant movement,  also helps bring out this feeling of noirish ugliness and evokes a gritty punk sense as well (both which greatly add to the feeling and mood of the piece).  The vocal performances are fine, although I think I’m still trying to figure out how to coax good vocal performance out of people like I can (at least part of the time) with live-action performances.

Also, as far “superhero” origin stories go, getting “Shot by some bullets” is a fantastic one.

About Film, Time, and Pumas

I keep a log of my dreams. Most of them, anyways.  Well, okay, fine, a hefty handful of them.  The number’s not important, what is important is that my obsessive logging proved to be useful for once when I was given the assignment during my time at CU Boulder in 2009 to make a film exploring the dreamscape.  There are so many different styles and types of dreams, and I do think everyone dreams different as dreams are merely firings of electrical synapses (This doesn’t mean they’re meaningless, it just means that they’re not as nice and relevant as sometimes we’re led to believe), so I decided to focus on the filmmaker’s anxiety dream as well as my own experiences in semi-lucid dreams.  The result is below. Let’s watch, and stick with it because it gets pretty great:

About Film, Time, and Pumas from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

What to say about this film?  I still greatly enjoy it, even some three or four years and a lot of technical honing later.  I think it not only provides a good cap to my Basement and Colorado film years, but it also features some of my favorite quotes (“The Key is inside the Puma, here take my knife!” , “Candy Town Forest!”, and “Heidegger fails to incorporate cube time which makes him stupid and false and wrong” all spring to mind. I’d love to hear some of your favorites) and it encapsulates a lot of the vividness and mundanity of our dreams: Both with the candy colored lighting schemes, the strange and often sluggish editing, and especially the minute straight of watching an egg white drip down a sign.

In spite of all of this, there a few issues.  Although the pacing at times works, a lot of the line delivery can fall flat and there are some gaps where actors are searching for lines that could have been edited over.  Some of the filmic gags didn’t come through in part because of my own color correcting and in part because of the lack of light (Mostly I’m speaking about the Greeking gag with the coconut, which no one will ever be able to understand or see), and in general the demeanor of Mike never quite gets through (I blame myself and my directing of Mikhail for this, mostly because Mikhail’s performance as Milk is spot on).

However, in spite of all of the flaws, I do deserve a bit of a break.  After all, this is the movie that ends with a person fighting a puma that’s also themselves that’s also a goat. Oh, and the camera is falling asleep at that point. So, I think that at least helps cover for the lackluster beginning, doesn’t it? DOESN’T IT?!

Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be

Here’s a rather obscure one from my time at CU Boulder.  We were to explore a place through video, and I decided to do an old abandoned pool (although it may not have been abandoned, only out of season).  The result is an eerie exploration of a space outside of its purpose that is filled with sadness and a playful energy. It also ended up being a bit of a precursor to a lot of my experimental work, and you can see bits and pieces of “No!”, “Powerful Magics” and even a little of “In Fridge” spread throughout.

Unauthorized Vehicles Will Be from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I always feel like this is one of my more underrated works.  Its not perfect by any means, and I feel like in a few places I could have used some more aggressive editing .  However the balance between play and melancholy not only captures the feeling of the old pool perfectly, it also communicates a lot of what I was going through during the time of this piece’s creation.  I also think the sound (though some bridges needed to be fixed) adds another layer to help the viewer get fully immersed in the place, and a lot of the visual effects that I played with helped tie together the surreal nature of where I was filming (and the overlay of the zoom shot is still pretty damn cool, even three years of craft-honing later).