Thursday, June 01, 2006

So I spent last night slathering my body in vegetable oil

"But Uchenna," I hear you ask. "Don't you do that maybe three to four nights a week anyway?"

Yeah, but this time it was for artistic purposes. I was trying to get my Thierry Le Gouès on.

I certainly didn't achieve the effect I was reaching for, but I think I'm getting closer to it. Properly lighting black skin is a challenge that even the best photographers have grappled with for ages, and it's even more formidable when you're dealing with the harsh glare of video. What I'm working on doing is embracing the shortcomings of video rather than fighting them, trying to utilize them for artistic effect.

(I should categorically state at this point that I am not attempting to replicate M. Le Gouès’s stunning work – as if I had either the budget or the expertise to do so even if I wanted to! – I’m just borrowing some of his ideas about how to approach areas of light and dark when photographing black skin. So don’t regard me as a loser when you see the finished product and it looks nothing like Soul; regard me as a loser because I spend hours anointing my flabby flesh with cooking oil and photographing myself.)

Actually, I question the wisdom of making “behind the process” posts like this because

a) I think it would be better for you all to make your own impressions when you finally see the finished work

b) I might end up showing my ass if the finished work falls short of my ambitions

c) I don’t think anybody really fucking cares about this shit

But this is the stuff I do, this is the stuff I think about, and I figured that it was somewhat important to document it in some way. Robert Rodriguez always says one of the keys to low/no-budget filmmaking is pre-visualization. You don't have the time or the money to monkey about on set trying to decide what you want to shoot so you have to have the image clearly envisioned in your head, get to the set and force that image into reality.

(This is why I'm so attached to the idea of storyboarding. Denis, being European-trained in contrast to my mostly American sensibility, thinks storyboards are kinda silly and prefers the shot list. Either way, you've got to know beforehand what shots you need to get in order to tell your story. This doesn't rule out openness to the wonderful developments that often present themselves on set spontaneously, of course. Take advantage of them. But for the love of Astra, prepare your important shots in advance!)

The need for pre-visualization increases tenfold, I think, when you are shooting in the so-called "Third World" where a lot of the materials you might need are not always available. Not easily accessible, anyway. You've got to try to predict what you are going to need, what could go wrong, and find a way to fix the problem before it happens.

So when I'm not shopping for equipment, my nights are mostly occupied with engineering these creative solutions, whether they involve lighting, special effects, costumes, makeup or what have you.

But I kinda worry that my concentration on creative logistics is detracting a bit from some of the time I should be spending on basic administrative issues. Formally, I'm the writer/director in this partnership and Denis and Koko are the producers. But in fact we're all producing, we're all directing, we're all... Well, I wrote the script by myself, though they both gave me some pretty insightful guidance.

I’ve slacked a little on my production tip... I mean, taking care of piddly little matters like properly filing my articles of corporation and even on shipping some of the equipment I don’t want to carry on the plane with me, and I feel a bit guilty about that. But to be honest, part of it is because I’m so cheap I’m constantly looking for low-cost means of getting stuff done, and that doesn’t always translate to the fastest or most efficient means.

Actually, it’s not just that I’m cheap for cheap’s sake. My preproduction fund has been running low and I haven’t even finished acquiring all the stuff on my list, so I had to stall a little bit until I got another paycheck and called in a few debts. But yeah, I’m back on track now… I aborted my low-budget incorporation scheme and just shelled out for the deluxe treatment. Comb & Razor is now officially an “Inc.” (tax benefits, boyeeee!) (now I just need to get a logo).

Alright… This is my second to last day at work. I better get some done!


AFRICAN said...

On this;
c) I don’t think anybody really fucking cares about this shit
I read this blog religously[ditto for Bongo].It's both fascinating and inspiring to me[if that's any consolation.].

AFKAP of Darkness said...

thanks, bro... believe me: it means a LOT.

Seven said...

Nobody cares???.....naw man...
Like my man said above....I read this blog religiously.....You've gotten me hooked
Not only is it inspiring...i'm learning about what it takes to put a film together....
,....and when u guys "make it" i'll be able to say.."hey...i remember when they were just starting out"....

Keep doin what u do man...

FJHR said...

Here is another one who cares.
It's great, being able to follow the whole process of the making of a film. Plus it's inspiring me to get off my ass and, well, maybe not follow my dreams but at least do something i'm passionate about.
I can't wait to go to iffr next year and seeing this film.

Question though, (an maybe you answered this already somwehere on the blog) what language is the film gonna be in?

AFKAP of Darkness said...

thanks a lot, fjhr! i appreciate the support!

anyway, to answer your question: it will be in English. mostly. some of it will be in pidgin English, but by and large it will be in (Nigerian) Standard English.