Category Archives: film

Resfest, Watershed, Bristol 25-29 October

Jarvis Cocker was wrong. The future was never meant to feel like 20,000 people standing in a field. The future of festivals is Resfest. The way the event is rendered, implements giant screens which teleport you from front to back stage, into multi-layered fragmented other dimensions of collapsed time; interior and exterior perspective, personal and collective experiences; portholes to alternate realities. Or movie shorts and music videos. This is the 21st century, even non -VIPs can have flush toilets and plush floors at Resfest. 

Resfest’s ‘shorts’ programmes serve the same purpose as when you circulate around an old fashioned festival in the daytime. You may be blown away by one performance, but very swiftly you move onto the next. No matter how high-quality the fodder is, after a while you begin to suffer from over exposure. The Resfest difference is that your legs don’t ache but your corneas get frazzled! Festival apathy kicks in, you’ve seen so much that your perspective is skewed and no matter how good what you’re watching is, you’re waiting for it to finish. Or you find yourself going “I don’t care whether Gnarls Barkley is playing 200 metres away. I’m enjoying this beer.” 

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Nevertheless there is a buffet of talent. Firstly in the shorts ‘field’ is last year’s stunning ‘Rabbit’ by Run Wrake, a moving collage of children’s naming books given a sinister twist. Stop frame animation is used to stunning effect in ‘I Am (Not) Vangough’ Shot within a film festival park the effect is of the real world flying by, whilst held animated cue cards illustrate a voice over of director David Russo pitching to a funding panel. Stop frame sinks to a childish but satirical level as ‘Food Fight’ by Stefan Nadelman, tells the history of war from World War II onwards with animated food; a more traditional but sharply edited piece is ‘A Perfect Red Snapper Dish’ which tells us the story of a Japanese chef obsessed with creating the perfect dish.  

In the music video ‘field’ there are no bones about the video being the star, except in Gnarls Barkley’s case. ‘Smiley Faces’ tells the history of modern music and how Dangermouse and Ceelo were there at every turn according to Dean Stockwell and Dennis Hopper. Stars are completely absent throughout DJ Uppercut’s ‘What You Standing For’ a continually repainted graffiti piece which constantly morphs and gets rewritten. Adam Freeland is typically absent in ‘Hello I Love You’ with a kitsch Kubrick robot trying to fit in with the perfect nuclear family. Strange white-jump-suited dancers occupy fellow Brightonian, Jamie Lidell’s track for a lo-fi mirror / editing trick in ‘New Me.’ Meanwhile inexplicably Vitalic’s ‘Birds’ features slo-motion dogs shaking themselves dry in the sunshine.   

Rock acts have more ego and charisma, their appearance in this field under the banner ‘videos that rock’ is still characteristically downplayed. Hot Chip’s ‘Over And Over’ video has the band trying to cope whilst some digital compositing and some people dressed in green run about. Even the Beck exclusive for ‘Cell Phone’s Dead’ is on an even par with Michel Gondry’s trademark dream action. Beck spars or gets replaced by an animated robot who in one-turn clicks into the background and furniture in a single-take hotel room.  

Resfest is actually ten years old this year and to celebrate there is what I’ll call the retro field. Here I see such trailblazing shorts, as the first use of Bob Sabiston’s Rotascope technology featuring Ryan – a 13 year old autistic boy who makes a similar cameo in Linklater’s Waking Life. Un-boundless comic doodles are taken to surreal limits in ‘Tongues And Taxis’. Sometimes the simple ideas are the best, five years before mock-documentary’s become mainstream Jon Bon Jovi’s Pool Cleaner, is a simple to-camera interview with one lucky over enthusiastic blue collar. Over on the music stage we have a replay of Hexstatic’s mould breaking Timber. 90’s key design agency Tomato make Underworld look excessively orally fixated in Moaner, where as Alex Gopher graphically replaces objects with words in the text stuffed, The Child. 

As with a normal festival you have to make a special effort to see the headline acts in the evening. Without having to jettison the day-bag or suffer the indignity of paying £7.50 for a greasy polystyrene dished equivalent of a pot noodle (with more cabbage), each evening we wander back down to the Watershed, dressed only in one layer of clothes.  

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Last year Resfest broke from the director worship path and began to focus on musicians who had made a contribution to developing the ‘music video’ via Beck. Radiohead have visually developed along the same lines, even sharing similar directors. Both Michel Gondry (with the trademark fantasy/nightmare Knives Out) and Shynola (with the beautifully epic Pyramid Song and chaotic interspersed Blipverts), put in appearances here. We are also blessed with Jonathan Glazer’s presence, adding drama with slo-mo surreality on Street Spirit and the Duel-head-nodding Karma Police. In many ways these two videos launched Glazer’s career. Other unseen treats come from Chel White’s politically-loaded rendition of Thom Yorke’s politically-loaded Harrowdown Hill and the Monkey Hub website’s version of Creep.   

‘Rock The Bells’ revolves around Californian promoter Chang Weissberg and his company of impassioned blaggards and layabouts, Guerilla Union. By the seat of their collective baggy pants they manage to pull off the unbelievable: getting all 10 members of Wu Tang Clan to perform on the same stage, well almost. The Gimme Shelter style post gig analysis at the beginning of the film lends a feeling of impending doom to the movie so from the start it look like it’s going to collide with chaos. The event’s justification as ‘the hip hop Woodstock’ seems to be mostly due to the fact that the event is massively oversold and crowds keep arriving and the support act’s technical hitches are highlighted. Particularly painfully funny is Sage Francis who dispenses broccoli to the crowd and begins to “dis” just about everyone. Luckily as the day progresses various other members of J5, Dilated People and various solo appearances of  Wu begin to sharpen things up. With a camera tracked on every member of the stage crew and um, ‘crew’ crew, the film succeeds in reflecting multiple angles and much of the delight comes in the juxtaposition of the potential crowd riot, calm backstage chillout, a disintegrating running order and the impending arrival of ODB. He’s nipped to LA to ‘meet family members’ which translates to collecting his own ‘rock’(the bells).  

By contrast loudQUIETloud suppresses its emotions to the point of paralysis. Ever since Charles Thompson aka Frank Black dispersed the Pixies via fax at the height of their success in 1992, the group have been in freefall. Joey Santiago is carving out a career as a session musician and soundtracker, Kim Deal is having varying degrees of success with The Breeders but having trouble dealing (haho!) with addiction, Charles is releasing Nashville records and David Lovering has become a magician. Due to demand and the prospect of making a quick buck, they decide to go back on the road. The live show is where the real magic happens and perfect impassioned renditions of the back catalogue go down a storm with the obsessive and sometimes terrifying fans. On the tour bus(es), though things are very much kept separate with Kim and her twin sister (and co-Breeder) Kelly sharing a separate wagon, Joey is locked into his own soundtrack project and Charles is being typically Black Francis. Events are further compacted when David’s Dad dies mid-tour which puts him on a new spiral of tranquiliser dependency. It seems that now the band has grown apart  – only their onstage chemistry remains strong and by the end, a real reformation is still sketchy but at least it has caused some wounds to at least scab up.  

Saturday night belongs to Coldcut with a sneak preview of footage from the forthcoming Sound Mirrors DVD. The single tracks are assumed to have been pre-viewed but a broad selection is on offer here. From animated invasion with Aid Dealer (Ocean Monsters) to the melancholic mini movie Mr Nichols. Afterwards there is a Q&A with Ninja Tunes Vez about the scale and micro-budgets involved in the project.  

Sunday, the final day, is akin to spending the day in the green ‘field’. We become aware with a series of politically motivated shorts in the style of the Qaatsi series. Then even check out a full length film, Black Gold about the un-fair coffee trade. The film indicates that the situation is more difficult to solve than just ensuring the right logo is on your label. Through the eyes of a co-operative trader we see how logistically the western world always gets the best deal whilst villagers in Ethiopia are on the edge of starvation.

As a sudden assortment of shockwave bed-heads begin to collect in the bar we sidestep having to attend the Vice magazine movie. It would ruin my hippy head to suddenly have to mix with a load of tosspots from Shoreditch. Cross Central this ain’t. 

Resfest is on at the NFT in
London from today until Sunday visit
www.bfi.org,uk  


Mike Gaffiney (Sept 06)

Robot in disguise 

We chat to Mike Gaffiney about the differences between soundtracks and music and the transformation of Robot for TV 

Mike’s been making music since he was a youngster and has been involved with TV production for the last seven years. He set up his own company last year, MKG Soundscape after he identified a need in the soundtrack world.   

“I started off as researcher and camera man, then moved into sound libraries. I know from being behind the camera what film makers want. I’m hoping I’ve spotted a gap in the market where I can make a bit of money.”  

On his address list for invoices, Mike now has the BBC, Channel 4, Maverick TV, a few corporate DVDs and local news programmes. He specialises in three music genres: lounge music, ambient electonica and indie pop. Mike manipulates his MKG sound to for each client, using his portfolio he also lets them take the lead. An important skill to have, is to also prove yourself flexible in your client base, 

“It’s important when you start, to build up your portfolio and take on jobs. You’ll get credit for it and your PRS anyway. Word of mouth is the way the TV industry works. Luckily, I’m at the stage now where I’ve progressed from working for less than I’m worth.”  

Mike works four days a week in the BBC music library. His soundtrack work has meant that he can afford to take a day off. The rest of his free time is soundtracking. It’s fair to say that most soundtrack people are one man bands. Mike Gaffiney is certainly no exception, 

“In Robot I’m the songwriter / singer so I play the songs on acoustic guitar. I grew up playing the organ and learnt to play guitar in bands, my dad was a drummer so I have a rounded view. There’s no real ‘Clapton style’ solos or anything, which I suppose again lends well to soundtracking. I like writing lyrics, but melody comes easiest. That’s what makes the soundtracking easy to do, because it’s loads of  melodic ideas.”  

The next step is to be a one-man producer.  

“I’ve slowly built up a studio and learnt studio craft and production. I no longer need five people in a studio and a producer. Because I’ve got a proper recording studio and a master suite I can do it all by myself. Every night after work or on my days off, I just build stuff.” 

The advantage of producing the Robot tracks in the home studio are also apparent.  

“I have the studio tracks so I can break it down to stings for TV: three and a half  minutes, 30 second, 10 second or five second versions. That’s just a good way of getting a full band sound. It’s great because it’s started to generate income for the band as well.” 

In addition to his own MKG sounds, Robot have got a licensing deal with State Of Independence providing music for anything from computer games to adverts. Using the music in soundtracks is by no means a case of cut and paste. 

“It should enhance your enjoyment of the programme but shouldn’t detract from the narration. You’ve got your work cut out because your natural instinct as a musician is to grab people’s attention, you have to back off melody lines and dynamics.”  

In the long run it just seems to be a case of living life creatively.  Just as Mike’s Robot work has fed into Soundtracking the reverse is also true.  

“I’ve got stuff stacked up which wasn’t appropriate for the client that I might use with the band…As a composer for TV, it’s best to pick your genre and stick to it, I think being in a band gives me a genre straight away.”  

 


Chris Keenan

The following will appear in the forthcoming 4Talent site:

What is Prime Objective? 

It wouldn’t be fair to call Chris Keenan AKA Prime Objective just a VJ. In fact, considering his pseudonym, the man has many objectives. His projects range from photos with Holgas, SLRs and Lomo, to films using digital, stop-motion and Super 8. He’s also a notorious mandolin player.

Check out any of his work or projects he’s involved with and you’ll see that there’s plenty of overlay. Perhaps, most telling is the work he has done with Southern Comfort. Originally invited to New Orleans to take photographs for Blowback magazine, Chris was commissioned by Southern Comfort to extrapolate his film making skills; which in turn led to VJ sets at Southern Comfort’s Fat Tuesday’s tent across some of the best UK festivals.

We’re sitting by the Fat Tuesday Tent at the Big Chill festival, Chris is snapping merrily away – whilst inside his visuals are scrolling out on the screens. It occurs to me that there is a connection to these shots and Chris’ short films. Chris’s Super 8 style, from his first film ventures to Fidget is always about catching snatches, quick glimpses and moments of stillness. Always loosely edited to music.

“The music gives the films a flow and something to edit to. I guess my other work VJing and making music feeds into that. I’m putting an extra layer of myself in there.”

Chris actually began VJing before he had a Super 8. Using his home-made skate videos and youth archive footage, he manipulated the footage through V-Jam software. Chris even managed to convince a local bar: Browns in Coventry to buy some equipment so he could play there

“One of the best times was at Christmas 2003. Me and a friend Mick did a six hour set taking it in turns to DJ and VJ. We spent weeks getting it together, it lots of fun but there was no real money in it.”

I ask him whether the preparation factor is intrinsic to his VJ gigs

“Well you build up an archive. Some VJ’s I see use simple, but effective material; graphical stuff and simple animation. Then for the live version they add effects – through certain bits of software. Video turns out to be a lot more time consuming – especially when it’s original.”

We slurp at our Soco Cocktails; whilst plastic alligators (put there to fit in with the New Orleans theme of the tent), goggle at us open mouthed.

“Sometimes visuals are done really well at big gigs. When it’s more of an event they take on more of a shape,” says Chris “It often works really well at festivals. The Big Chill has had some great work on the main stage this year. Incredible.”

Chris’ favourite gig was for Exposure Film Festival’s closing night at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. He was invited by Rant Magazine to VJ with DJ outfit Iacon.

“There was a long table with 5 decks: MPCs and Kaos pads. Then me stood at the end with a lap top – vision mixer and DVD players. It was amazing.”

Recently, Chris Keenan found himself another objective: to direct an MTV style video for My Alamo.

“I’d helped out on ones before and worked on treatments but this was my first proper music video. I directed a camera man, assistant director and a producer. I worked with a prod company Antidote. I edited it all as well – over several days! We’ve had a really positive response from it which is pushing me to do more.”

It’s Chris’ hope that in future he can develop an array of projects from photographic reportage exploits in the state’s to further Super 8 fun and mandolin madness

“A style and passion for your work is what makes people take notice of you. The small projects you set yourself can often be time consuming and costly but occasionally they snowball and can generate new work and even revenue. This is something I haven’t forgotten and I’ve got a load of other projects planned , you know, seeds to sow… which will hopefully bear fruit as they grow and develop. ” 


Gator Stoked (Blowback June 04)

Still going with the strong thematic links. Issue 8 in June 04 of Blowback was an extreme sports edition. Not bad, considering not a single one of us was very active in anything other than magazine production. With the article I hoped to reflect the way the film worked by dropping the main Gator bomb halfway through the piece.

  —————————————

 Closure 

Helen Stickler is wrapping up Gator’s story for everyone

 

On one level the story of Stoked is the story of Mark Gator Rogowski. On another it is the story of skateboarding.

 

‘Beyond the horrible tragedy of it, it was something that people still had strong feelings about,’ agrees director Helen Stickler. ‘Gator’s experience echoed their feelings with the transition from vert to street skating and the whole economic decline of the late 80s. All the fads and trends changed at once – music went from big haired bands to grunge. There was a real radical shift for people who were Gator’s contemporaries, by bringing us his story they were able to bring some closure to that.’

 

Gator was a real 80s product. When he started out he was earning a few dollars for pulling off moves in abandoned swimming pools, at his peak he was earning millions. Gator oozed star quality and he was bottled up and pushed out, he was the face of Vision, his own skate decks were best sellers and his appearance at vert skate shows, induced hysteria. But when that started to fade he couldn’t deal with his emotions.

 

‘In sports that are male dominated you tend not to have forums for guys to talk openly about their feelings!’ agrees Stickler ‘Which was definitely Gator’s problem, because in the 80s it was taboo to go into therapy or have all of the kind of medication, this was like, pre-Prozac.’

 

‘Anyone from a particular generation can remember the 80s so vividly and Gator’s story seemed to epitomize more than just himself. It was more about the collective experience of a lot of people but his was definitely a lot more extreme.’

 

The beginning of the film encourages the collective experience of those early days. The way it is edited with star wipes and overlays and the Dead Kennedy / Minor Threat soundtrack is reminiscent of those early skating videos.

 

‘I used the video program, Toaster and other technology from back then. To begin with, it was going to be a bit more extreme. At the end of the day, I’m quite happy with what we did. I didn’t want it to be too campy because it is a documentary and a tragic story. Keeping that in mind, I wanted the first third of the film to allow the audience to experience the fun of skateboarding and for them to get excited about it the way that Gator and all the others were excited about it when their careers are started.’

 

‘Although the crime is for-shadowed at the beginning of the film as you hear him [Gator] from prison, there’s actually 40 minutes where I don’t bring his voice in. I wanted people to forget about the fact that he’s gone and live in it real time.’

 

The story keeps rolling by in chronological order. Then the cracks begin to show, in one scene Gator is trying desperately to learn new street moves with two other pros on camera,

 

‘It was shot for Vision and I think what happened is Vision went “Why don’t you do street skating? It’s what the kids are doing now.” Most Vert guys didn’t want to street skate, it’s a radically different discipline for them, it’s not interesting, it didn’t feel good. You can see all these human factors there, he’s embarrassed and angry with himself, he’s being filmed, so he’s under pressure, and it builds and builds, and the two other pros are moving further and further away!’ 

 

Not one thing is blamed for what happened to Mark. It’s never as simple as ‘Vision pushed him too far’ or ‘porn made him do it’ it clearly points out that it is a culmination of events.

 

‘One thing I felt strongly about the film is there is no easy answer, it’s a combination of all these different elements. If you took anyone apart from the others it probably wouldn’t have happened. It wasn’t one thing or another, it’s a lifetime, which is why I wanted to pack 10 years into the film. So it wasn’t just the crime, nothing just happens in one night.

 

The rumours continue though,

 

‘These are the rumours I was trying to squash but they live on because people don’t realize – if it’s not in the film, it probably isn’t true. It is such an urban legend. The other thing about skateboarding is people want to be in the know because it is such a gossipy small world. There is still a lot of stuff flying around, it’s no big deal.’

 

Helen explains her version of events,

 

‘It’s described as cognitive dissonance. He was trying very much to lead this Christ like path, becoming a born again Christian. He’d been on this path for several months, however he was still Gator and the things about his previous lifestyle would come back again and get to him. The night he committed the crime he drank heavily and he’d not been drinking for a quite a while. He hadn’t been hanging out with flirtatious women, which Jessica  was, and he’d hung out with her for the entire day. He told me he took out a lot of hatred of himself on Jessica.. He was going through this severe identity crisis and couldn’t deal with who he was – things he’d done and things he wanted to do. He had anger about his girlfriend leaving him and his career, his friends, frustration of what’s next – it all boiled up at once…poor girl.’

 

At the end of the film all that remains is everyone else, attempting to come to terms with seismic reverberations that Gator left both  in California and the world wide skateboarding community,

 

‘I didn’t want to be the person who came along and picked at the scab. But, to use the cheesy analogy, it obviously was a scab that hadn’t healed. All the raw emotion that I encountered was discouraging in a way but encouraging in another, because I felt there really is something here that could strike a nerve with people and resonate.’