Friday, July 30, 2010

Platypus Undercover #2

This is one mother of an intense learning experience. The art and craft of storytelling with motion pictures is broken-down into digestible bits, and then shoved into your brain at an alarming rate. It's the difference between learning how to read a book and learning how to write a book. PF Bentley has perfected a teaching style that throws you out of your comfy chair and forces you to reassess everything you thought you knew about motion. Both he and Dirck are Masters of Motivation. These guys are good. I think they have done this before.

We are sent out on daily assignments that require successful execution of that day's component. Every component builds on the previous ones. The daily review of our work is a special torture. You are called to the front of the room and your naked footage is screened, dissected, and critiqued with surgical candor. It is humbling but it is also powerfully enlightening. The message is simple - If you want to play in the Big Leagues, then you had better bring your A game to every single frame. As always, Simple does not equal Easy.

We are using the Canon 7D DSLR and a new universe of add-ons to make our films. The resulting footage's quality is astonishing. Extraordinary color, detail, and shallow depth-of-field combine to deliver simply beautiful images. This also means our screw-ups are all-the-more dazzling too. And we are just starting to play with sound and editing, so now the mountain gets steeper.

My cover is almost blown! PF declares he smells a rat and threatens to withhold our rations of grog. Fortunately for me, the real Tiger Woods is suspected, charged with treason, marched out behind the classroom, and summarily shot with an old Betacam. The last we hear of Tiger, he is moaning. Curiously, he does not sound like he is in much pain.

The class is a disparate, motley lot. Bikers, ex cons, a defrocked Jesuit, several loyal-yet-clumsy Cubans, and an entire family of circus midgets. Several fist fights break out the first day when rations are distributed. The Cubans cause a scene today when they are caught hiding secret electronic listening devices in our shotgun microphones - apparently not very clear on the concept.

We are shown superb examples of editing from Hollywood classics. Who knew that Porky's III was such a landmark of innovation? Who knew Tarantino was so tender? Who knew Disney could be so erotic? (I'll never see Dumbo the same way again.)

Tomorrow we are going to delve into the proper way to stage a Hollywood scandal and make a fortune on the celeb circuit.

Tiger Woods

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Platypus Undercover #1

As part of my journey into Motion, I am attending the Platypus Workshop for the next ten days. As a service to my colleagues and a reality-ceck for myself, I offer you these dispatches and observations. In an effort to conceal my true identity, from now on I shall sign these reports as Tiger Woods. Please do not blow my cover!

After almost 30 years in the Stills biz, a convergence of trends, technologies, personal inclinations, and an unpaid mortgage compel me to venture into Motion. After a few sorties convinced me of the possibilities, I plunged into FCP and a hi-def camcorder in January. Having now gotten a firm grasp on what I do not know but need to know, Platypus offers the real-world training I need. Gail and Tom gave it their highest recommendation and one ignores them at your own peril. Dirck Halstead promised it would dramatically improve my love life.

The drive from San Antonio, Texas to Rockport, Maine is long (2,200 miles in 3 days) but uneventful. Great pizza in Carlisle, AR and bad drivers in Pennsylvania. The Maine Media Workshops setting and atmosphere is idyllic, good vibes abound. Excellent food and smart conversation. Orientation last night with Dirck and PF Bentley clarifies the Boot Camp nature of this course. Unlike many of the other concurrent courses, ours is filled with nothing but serious pros looking to elevate and expand our game, no dabblers.

$12,000 tuition made me swallow hard, but I took the plunge. But then came the $27,500 hotel/meal plan. And then came PF's $131,000 must-have gear list. (Gold-plated Sennheiser headphones? Really?) And then you have to get there without dying first. Rockport is populated with folks who like to throw lobsters at each other. This was amusing until a 20 pounder landed in my lap. There ain't enough melted butter in Maine to tame an angry red before spontaneous circumcision, let me tell you! Class begins with magnanimous insults and clever abuse. We are shown terrific footage and then told that this was made by other people, not us. Damn, this going to be harder than I thought!

Tiger Woods