Tag Archives: Trial of Terror

Henceblog Expose: THE FUTURE

  1. An Introduction

This is more for me than for any of you out there, but I think that applies to a lot of what I write here. But I’m beginning with an introduction, as one does, a means of letting you know what the deal is with this piece.  So here’s the deal:

I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.

I know that I need to get away from the lowly part-time jobs I’ve been working for the past few years, but I don’t know what.  So I’m figuring that out here.  And maybe you’ll read about it.  Otherwise, there are lots of great shows on television.

 

             2. The Past

This isn’t the first time I’ve been here.  I’ve had a lot of these experiences.  Crossroads.  “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood/and sorry that I could not take both/I decided just to walk in the middle of them and make a new road” something like that. Somehow , though, these decisions keep getting harder. Maybe that’s experience. Maybe that’s neuroses. Probably its both.  In the past these decisions have seemed clear.  I was going to work hard through high school so I could get into a good college.  I would go into film school because that was my dream and I needed to learn about film production if I wanted to pursue it. I wouldn’t look into graduate schools right out of my undergraduate degree so I could learn to freelance as my own filmmaker outside of school. I would move out of Santa Fe to Chicago because Chicago was a larger city with a lot of big productions coming through and a good independent film foundation so I would have no problem getting into the Union and working my way up.

These were all extensions of the central belief I’ve had that if I maintained a laser-focused goal of “Cinema Production” then I would be able to gradually achieve my dream of writing and directing film.  What, exactly, was “Cinema Production”?  That I kept open-ended: Grip, Art Department, Script Supervision, assistant directing, I could do anything so long as they needed it.  The problem is that I honestly don’t know how to get into those positions without Union representation or internships.

There are a lot of things I don’t know.  This is why I will no longer pursue “Cinema Production”

 

             3. Cinema

When I was in film school one thing became abundantly clear: I was an oddball.  The people around me had been making movies since they were three, they lived and worshipped in movie theaters, they had already seen a thousand movies and written critiques for all of them.  I was a theater kid who started making movies so that I could act more.

At least that’s the story I tell.

In truth, maybe I was meant for it.  For one thing, in a market so drenched in cinephelia it was nice to be the person who has still never seen “Jaws” and doesn’t really mind it all that much.  “I’d rather make a movie than watch a movie” was my mantra throughout film school. And film does hold a special place in my heart: I have a fond memory of my mother picking up my sister and I up from school early.
“We’re doing something special today, kids.  Today we’re seeing Star Wars!
It was incredible.  Even more so because we didn’t see movies, especially “new” movies int he theater, all that often.  But we saw all three of the Star Wars re-releases.

When I first began making movies it was also a joyous experience.  Back then it was gathering a bunch of friends together and making something silly.  Back then I didn’t have to worry about script themes, color schemes, character POV, 180 degree rule, 30 degree rule, canted angles, J-cuts, S-cuts, piece length, story flow, sound quality, mic positioning, color grade, and roughly one thousand and fifty-six other things.  It’s not that this greater understanding detracts from my enjoyment of creating a film or from my ideas on film.  In fact, I still very much enjoy making a movie and playing with a lot of these rules.  However all of these worries makes the process much longer, much more complicated, and much more defendant on other people.

But I still want to make movies.

At least that’s the story I tell.

             4. Writing

Before I was a filmmaker, before I was an actor, before I was a depressed waiter, I was a writer.  I was a writer and a storyteller.  I now wonder if I should have stuck with it longer.  For some reason, even in college when most of my friends were in the Creative Writing Program, I didn’t think to pursue writing.  Or rather, all my writing was done in script form.  Now – and for the past five years- I’ve only been able to write, and I’ve expanded beyond scripts.  Now pursuing writing short fiction and novels seems like something at least on par with my other wackadoo plans like continuing to make movies or go into voice acting.  To be clear: I do not expect to be a great author or really any sort of author, but I feel it’s something I should try.

What then of writing?  What then of telling stories?  Answering the second question first: I’ll still tell stories. That’s something that can’t be taken away.  So then that leaves us with writing and Plan B: Teaching.  If I enjoy reading and writing so much, why not teach it?  I was never very good at English during my school days, but what I’ve learned in my limited time as an unlicensed teacher is that not having been good in a subject may help you be a good teacher.  The real question is: Is being an English Teacher something I would be passionate about?  I don’t think so.  Creative writing, and even word and sentence structure is something I’d be interested in.  But reading through countless essays and reports?  That seems like something initially tolerable – fun even- that would get very old very fast.  So writing- my writing- I believe it’s time to expand outward and look for new outlets for publishing and distribution.  Teaching English, though, is a “no”.

             5. Art

My mother is an Artist: Fine arts (always a strange distinction to make) and my Sister and I grew up with a whole bunch of Art projects.  I myself wanted to be a cartoonist for a long time, and why I never pursued it is a whole other story, but now I no longer draw or paint, though I’ve done design work (as is witnessed on this very website) and some multi-media gallery work as well.  So it is that I still consider myself an artist, and like being a storyteller this is something ingrained.  At some point in my life I may have been able to have been swayed away, but that point would have been before I spent 4 years and a lot of heartbreak in Art School.

If I still consider myself an artist, then why don’t I become an Art Teacher?  It’d be K-12, but that’s the [massive] range that I have experience in (OK, K-3 for teaching Minecraft and Lego robotics and 6-8 for teaching math, but….).  Also, once I get a certification I’ll more likely than not be teaching in Chicago, and although it’s a lie that every school in Chicago is full of violence and crime, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of schools in the far west side to fuel my mother’s concern for me going into urban education.  But these horror stories are what keeps me interested in teaching Art, because after all Art is a way to channel energy and communicate ideas and come into self-discovery.  This is something all kids need, in good schools and very much so in bad schools.  And, yes, it will be difficult.  Life is difficult.  I believe this would make the difficulty worth it.  Plus, with a Bachelor’s in Film and a teaching certification in Art I would still be plenty qualified if ever I came across any K-12 classes film classes, and maybe even some Community Colleges.  So, all in all, I’d say that this sounds like a good plan.  For now.

             6. Conclusion

Lot’s has been said and many stories have been written.  That’s why we have conclusions, though, to conclude.  So here it is:

-The best course of action is to go and get my teacher’s certification in Art.  Is it what I thought I’d be doing when I went to film school?  Oh, God no.  But I don’t mind it.  In fact, I think it’ll be a good career.  A trying one, a difficult one, an underfunded one, but a good one.

-I am not quitting making movie.  Nor am I quitting writing, or improv, or voice acting.  I will continue to do my art on the side as I have these past five/six years.  But neither of those options are going to be paying my rent any time soon and it’s due at the first of every month.

– In another 5 years I will be wondering what I’m doing with my life. Again.  After that?  Maybe I’ll start selling used cars.  Or open a Bead and Breakfast in the Upper Michigan Peninsula.

This is the story I tell.

Lincoln Park Zoo 07-16-15

Another Data Bend!  Much like with the previous Grand Island entry I was trying to bend some separate aspects of the original file separate from each other; this time it was Whites, Mids, and Blacks.  After more overlaying, etc. we get to the final file embedded below.

I believe I may have reached the point where I’m bending too much, or at least trying to do too much with all of this.  With the constant overlays and bendings, etc. much of the original file has been lost (not much of a problem), but also much of the chaotic beauty I find in these is being lost and obfuscated (very much a problem).  We’ll see if I’m able to fix this come next bend, or if I’ll move on to another experimental obsession.

Grand Island 07-05-15

 

I’m beginning to move into more exploration with my bends than the bending itself, this Grand Island glitch of a crab being an exploration of bending each color (RGB) separately.  The result is a fascinating bit that evokes a haunted security tape, that by glimpsing this crab on the beach we’ve somehow glimpsed into an extra-dimensional rift that’s destroying the fabric of reality itself.  The smattering of this reality boundary continues to be the thing I’m most interested with in these bends, and it’s something I hope to continue to explore.

The only regret that I have with this bend is that with all of the ensuing pixels, rainbow shatters, and freezes that the footage of the crab itself gets a bit lost.  With most of my other footage this doesn’t matter too much, as the footage for these bends is much like the footage for any other film, merely a tool for exploration and (in more narrative works).  The main difference for this ghost crab then is that I liked the little guy, I thought he was pretty cute.

I Don’t Talk About Music: The Musical

Let’s have a conversation!

Okay!

YOU.

No, YOU.

Okay… me.

For those of you who are following the journey of The Tape, the above was Andrew’s summation of what this “conversation” has been.  For those who have followed my analyses of the past entries, you know that for the most part I’ve been seeing them as a way of visualizing the internet itself.  Well, that is until “Missing“.  With Missing we started a new conversation, marked both by the overwhelming honesty of it and how deeply personal the film was to Andrew.  This was also marked because the old tape, the one with “I Got the Poops” to “Powerful Magics” on it that was inscribed with wacky magical runes and everything was destroyed.

This new conversation took me by surprise.  I had planned for a lot of thing in between Powerful Magics and Missing, but I hadn’t planned on that.  I hadn’t planned on something personal.  How would I respond?  Clearly a lot of the more wacky ideas I had come up with wouldn’t work, clearly I couldn’t just mirror and refract like I did before.  So then how?  By making something personal.

Before you watch the video below, I must warn you that it’s deeply personal and explicit.  For those of you who wish to watch my films and be interested in my genre explorations and digital experimentation that’s perfect and wonderful, but this is not a video for you.  This is a video for anyone who wants to truly know more about me as a human. You may continue at your own choosing and your own risk.


I Don’t Talk About Music: The Musical from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I don’t like talking about myself, and the very idea that you’ve just watched half an hour that’s all about me is something that a part of me finds disgusting.  However to respond any other way but personally would be to disregard Missing, and it would be to disregard Andrew.  That was something I didn’t want.  But IDTAM:TM is more than a simple need to reply to a video that one person will see.  This correspondence, though presumably just between Andrew and I, has always been open and these videos are always available for anyone to see.  So why make a video that I find deeply uncomfortable and whose subject matter deeply bothers me if I know it will be seen?  1) I’m not 100% sure this will be seen; and 2) Because I need to say this.  I needed to make this video.  Now that it’s released I’m not going to lie and say that I’m Okay, but I feel like I can start moving forward.

So now, let’s move into looking at what this film is.  And it’s a bit of a mess.  I have hours and hours of footage related to this project on my computer, enough to probably make an entirely different movie about an entirely different subject matter.  Going into the reply I knew that I’d answer Andrew’s plea for “The Truth”, but for me there’s a reason I don’t like telling the whole truth: It’s painful.  It’s painful because the Truth, so much as it exists (and one of the things I’ve been coming to realize is that truth is something very ill-defined), is that as difficult as these past years have been for Andrew they’ve also been difficult for me.  Going back to CSF, graduating, working several minimum-wage jobs, getting shouted at and demeaned by 12 year-olds — things haven’t been going my way.  I don’t know if this is “true” or “false”, or rather I’m not sure how much of this is out of my control and how much of this is my own attitude towards events that have happened.   So life is messy. Life is complicated. Life is sad,  Life is something I haven’t really ever been prepared for.

So naturally I’ve been thinking about ending life.  This was the truth.  This was what I would look at. This would be my Self-Portrait.

So why the mess?  Part of this is the problem presented in the film itself: I’m tasked with replying to a film, so if I throw out everything about the previous entries and the means of communication that we’ve set up then I wouldn’t be replying to it.  But If I were to just copy the structure of Missing then I wouldn’t be staying true and I would lose the point.  It was a damned if I do, Damned if I don’t scenario, and as always when I come the clearing with two paths I decided to take the road never traveled and make my own.  I decided to do both.  After all, this is a Self-Portrait, and one of the things I can tell you about me, the true me, is that I’m a self-contradictory mess.  There are plenty of nods to “Missing” in this piece, from the very opening mirror (I had a better sync up where my face was exactly half of Andrew’s, but I think it came at the wrong part of the song? Maybe the camera ran out of batteries?), to the shot of Andrew walking around alone with headphones in, to the cinematic montage of exploration, to the very idea of having personal log entries scattered throughout.  This was a reply to Missing.  It’s also a companion piece to Powerful Magics.  Look at it this way: If Powerful Magics is the Great and Powerful Oz, then IDTAM:TM is the Man Behind the Curtain.  Powerful Magics was about, among other things, putting on a show and showing off expertise and- perhaps one of the main things- magic.  IDTAM:TM Mirrors a lot of the segmented nature and jumping around that Powerful Magics did, hell it even has a musical breakdown in the middle of it and an experimental deconstruction.  You can even go all the way back to the first pair of videos in this correspondence for references in IDTAM:TM with the reintroduction of Pokemon and Disney films into the discussion.  There are plenty of cosmetic and structural references to the prior pieces all over IDTAM:TM, to the point where it can very well be argued that I did nothing but remix and regurgitate everything that came before.  Gimmicks abound in this piece.

It’s also one of the most outwardly honest and open pieces I’ve made and probably ever will make.  It’s a half-hour straight of a straightforward discussion of my insecurities as a filmmaker and a person and how those insecurities came to be.  It’s a discussion of the idea of friendship and connection and how it has been a topic of pain for me, especially in these past few years.  This film is where we finally confront the 800 pound gorilla that has always been looming around this discussion (at least for me), which is the closing of CSF and how exactly that effected me, in the short and long term.  The Closing of CSF is something I’m still working through, and it’s not because of the loss of the school.  It’s the loss of friendship I experienced as a side-effect of it.  It’s the painful reality that we all have to face sooner or later: People move on; and for me it seems like people move on a lot more often.  The point of this film is also to explore why this betrayal hit me so hard: because I’ve never felt like I belong in this world, even though by all accounts I should.  To tell the story of my isolation, the school closing, it’s reverberations to this day I had to skip over a few decades worth of explanations as to my actions.  But again, this is meant to be a portrait, not a biography.  But in terms of leading to the climax: my thoughts of suicide and finally going on mood stabilizing medication, the story is very linear and paced out rather well.

But this is also a self-portrait, shaped by individual style and how I see the world.  It’s a world of chaos.  A world where dominoes are carefully set up then stomped on and destroyed, falling in ever more complex patterns.  Mine is a world where I am the video game villain, the mastermind who has little motivation for wanting to ruin everything except for “Thing just didn’t work out”.  Mine is a world where reality can be ripped apart, and throughout the piece the moments of data bending, of sync errors, of dead pixels and duplicating images, they all come together in these moments of stylistic flourish.  They’re also all very deliberate.  True, the sync errors were a constant problem I ran into when exporting this project, but it was something that I could and did fix if needed.  But the dissonance between sound and picture and the removal experienced by the blinks to grey are there to communicate the delicate chaos of our world: One error and we blink to grey.  One blip of code and suddenly what you see as life and what you experience (hear) as life are out of sync, and you do what you can to fix it.  Every moment of pixellation and of bending also serve this point: peeling away layers and exposing these images for the conglomeration of RGB that they are.

Finally, we come to the Jellyfish.  This was come of the most beautiful footage I ever shot, and there’s always an otherworldly elegance to the Jellyfish.  Elegance, danger, and mystery all combine in the nature of the jellyfish in their movement, their sting, and their biology.  They are an ancient creature which has survived through millennia lacking the one organ that I feel defines life: The brain.  So do the jellyfish here represent stupidity, mystery, timelessness, beauty, reaction, survival, or danger?  It’s all that and more depending on where the footage is used and how it’s used, and yes this openness is very much planned.So with all this conflicting structure and conflicting ideas it’s no wonder that the final piece is a mess, and that’s okay.  It’s okay because I think in the end it accomplished all I wanted it to, mainly showing what these six years or so have been like for me in between Powerful Magics and IDTAM:TM.  Because these past few years have been messy.  But I’m starting to be okay with that, and putting this together was a big part in getting here.


So that’s that.  Look forward to a bit of a write-up on how exactly I went about crafting a package for this piece, and I promise that will be a bit closer to my usual analysis of form and how to incorporate references to prior packages and pieces in a meaningful way.  I may also do one final write-up on the state of The Journey of the Tape up until this point.

If you’re interested in Andrew’s thoughts on this piece, I will link to it HERE when it goes live.

As a closing remark, though, I can’t help but feel Andrew got his summation of our conversation wrong.  He’s been ignoring context and a lot of space around the pieces.  Here’s how it’s felt to me:

Are You Okay? (I Got the Poops)

Yeah, Sure! (In Fridge)

Well, Good. Things looked a bit bleak there. (Happy Birthday, Murderer!)

Of Course I’m Okay.  Maybe you’re not Okay! (Powerful Magics)

You’re right. I don’t think I am. (Missing)

Well neither am I.  Sorry. (I Don’t Talk About Music: The Musical)

 

A Study in Brown

This one is an old video, from maybe a year ago so not too old, that I had thought I uploaded here but apparently I didn’t!  So here it is now, A Study in Brown:

A Study in Brown from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

I like to see my data bending work as gradually improving, and this marked the point where I was confident in creating these bent images, and wanted to begin pushing the boundaries further.  So For “A Study in Brown”, I not only had numerous versions of the main chick video on top of each other, but I also had a separate, also brown, video that was overlayed of sand falling (both videos were taken during a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago).  I think it’s a successful experiment and a good mile-marker for me as a growing experimental artist.

As an actual film to be seen online?  Eh, I’d put among my “Cat Video”, as something to watch keeping in mind that it’s an experiment.  A fuller experiment than my other bends, but still an experiment.  I do think the Brazillian Jazz adds a much more relaxed feeling than some other works, and mimics well the sleepiness of the chicks seen beneath the fraying video, and so perhaps this is all a way of visualizing the fraying of reality as a chick goes to sleep and enters the dream world?  Or maybe I’m just reaching too far.  I leave it to you, Comments!

Vanitas

Huh.  Well I’ve realized that I’ve been a bit behind on posting up-to-date films.  Sure, I’ve been putting up all of the short experiments that are on my YouTube Page, but what about all of the more important films on my ever-popular and beginning in a much better letter Vimeo Page?

If it weren’t for every major newspaper covering my life as front-of-page news, none of you would know of the slightly longer, more put-together experimental shorts that I’ve been making!  Well, I’m going to fix that. I’m going to fix that today.  Here,  Watch my latest.  Watch Vanitas:

Vanitas from Vvinni Gagnepain on Vimeo.

Wow, that was fun!  So let’s first take a look at how this was all put together.  Firstly, I wanted to try my hand at time-lapse filming, so for every ten minutes or so for one afternoon I took about 15-30 seconds of video of the same still-life in front of my Cactus: Okonkwo.  Once I put all of the clips together I had about six minutes of video, far too long for an experimental piece, and so I got to work speeding everything up to get it within the typical 1 minute these data bends are (Also: The longer the video, the greater the chance that my Data Bending program, Audacity, will fail to load everything).  After that I took the sped up video and transferred it into Audacity, where you’re able to manipulate the data inside of the video file and get the resulting glitches.  I repeated this about six times, each time exporting a new video file with the already-bent video files in it, sometimes these were overlaid on top of the original file, sometimes there were two bent files overlaid on top of each other, and I would also alternate the speed of the video (sometimes the file would be 1 minute, sometimes 2, sometimes 30 seconds).  Finally I had the completed video, I did a bit of color work (mostly to get the dead grey space resulting from numerous manipulations of data to be something a bit more interesting), and there we go.  The product is above. You should have seen it by now.

BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN? The title, set-up, etc. of this film is based around the Flemish painting style of the renaissance, which features heavy themes of futility, inevitability, and death.  All the fun things.  I wanted to do something a bit more involved than using vacation videos, and I figured the best way to explore this (as well as using it as a focus on light, time, and interactions of form) would be to make a still life, and when I think still lives I think of the Vanitas.  Vanitas also feeds into what I’m exploring through these data bends: Using the essence of a digital video against itself.  There are two large camps of digital filmmakers: Those who use the digital medium and try to make it look “film-like”, and those who don’t try to make the digital video look like film but don’t try to do much to differentiate it from what has come before.  With my data bends I try to look at what makes shooting digital unique and explore the aesthetics of the digital (so pixels, frames bleeding into each other, freezing, etc).  Also, with digital works there is no physical record of what you’ve done.  Instead everything exists in a series of ones and zeroes on a hard drive somewhere.  So, in the end, a lot of what this piece plays with is the transient nature of the digital image and how soon (maybe in a week or so) this piece will be lost to memory and time and, as such, reach its “death”.

Bonne Terre Mines 5/30/14

So this is a data bend from a while ago, but currently the last one I have finished.  It’s from the Bonne Terre Mines in Missouri, the largest man-made underground cave structures (although most of the mines are now underwater).  Back in the day they were lead mines.  Now they’re a tourist attraction. And now it’s also a data bend:

 

Even for a series of experiments, this one is much more abstract than some of the others (due in large part because, surprise surprise, there’s not a lot of light underground).  The shimmering and jumping effect, then, becomes even more noticed, as does each extra pixel and splash of “missing green”.  I like it.  I’m also a big fan of the cameo of my brother-in-law Hector at the end as he turns around and is almost stuck in a pixelized time loop.  It’s like a monster from a J-Horror movie about a monster that attacks video pirates.

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?

Lincoln Park 5/14/14

Another glitch, this one of birds at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

I like this one.  I tried to be a bit more experimental with it by layering two separate glitches of the same video file on top of one another, and I think the colors are a bit brighter and the glitches a bit more pronounced because of it.  Even the glitches themselves worked out much better than ones in the past have, perhaps it was the movement (and lack thereof) of the birds, perhaps it was  the colors or lighting, but I this is the first glitch I’ve done so far that I think could stand on its own.  What do you think?  What’s your favorite so far?

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.