This is a marvellous example of what a single filmmaker can make out of thin air shot with real-world subject matter the film industry would consider “nothing”, using a tool that most pros would think is barely beyond “nothing” too.
I’ve been a fan of Ed’s work after coming to see his regular posts on the EOSHD forum.
This one really hit a chord with me on several levels.
The beautiful cynically accurate portrayal of New York is exactly how I feel about Berlin.
It doesn’t care that I exist and it won’t care when I’m gone! But there’s another level of irony and truth in Ed’s idea that isn’t explicit in his film. “Industry” (be it the filmmaking or camera industry) is also like a big city – it rarely cares that you are there, it certainly doesn’t care when you leave. It doesn’t care if you find love, sometimes doesn’t even care if you’re good or merely plain, you’re there to service mediocrity and the industry itself.
Before you consider sacrificing the rest of your life for your career, consider ALL alternatives.
This is what I did when I began EOSHD and I have not looked back. I never felt any urge or interest to take part in the commercial filmmaking industry and to work my way up through the ridged system and rules it has enforced on all filmmakers, talented or not.
Today we live in stupidly expensive capital cities, focused on our careers, unable to find a slower pace of life that allows anyone to connect let alone to truly fall in love or to settle down and it is killing us.
I absolutely love Ed’s narration in this piece. There are a couple of absolutely superb lines for me, the one about his dog knowing something we’re still trying to figure out got a broad smile from me!! And the final line will stay in my mind for a long time, what a way to wrap it up. Go and watch it. Now.
I also recommend checking out Ed’s recent blog post. Around the same time Ed wrote this article, I had been musing to myself about a similar subject. I believe too much professionalism is killing the soul of the film industry. Too professional a bad thing? Yep. Too homogenised as well.
Because the industry is a well oiled machine, it now has a mind like a machine and for all but a very select few works, its heart is fading.
I think the output of the film industry in the late 70’s was so compelling because it was done with a semi-amateurish approach with some greatly creative workarounds, more experimentation, less drive for sleekness, probably more drink fuelled abandon on set and daredevil attitudes as well.
Also, no other field of the visual arts attracts so much pomposity. In animation you’re an animator from the moment you pick up the pencil or pen and it should be that way for filmmakers but the industry and most of the people in it doesn’t see it that way.
Nobody really thinks twice about the typical animator’s amateur mode of operandi. Sundance award wining animator Don Hertzfeldt is naturally a self taught, one-man operator toiling away for years in his apartment like typical “animators” do.
Our definition of a professional filmmaker is very different to that of other artists. Our typical professional is clutching a huge pay check and commands the awe of high profile clients.
Don is an “animator” yet he has no commercial clients or projects to back up his “professional credentials” as a storyteller.
Rather, he’s having fun. Other animators did not for a moment question that that Hertzfeldt’s work wasn’t animation because he had no clients!! Or that Don wasn’t an “animator” because it took him 5 years to make any money at all from it!! Much more healthy attitude!
The profound thing is – the field of animation (outside the big VFX houses anyway) is less dogmatic, less clinical, so it has a soul and this is borne out in the results.
For me, the field of animation on Vimeo is producing far more creatively inspired and heartfelt films than most professional dramatic filmmakers are.
The film industry needs to question why it has evolved this way of thinking, which allows people creating commercial work as dull as dish water to be called “filmmakers” but not amateurs who create art in a pure form, without clients, without pay and it should really question why most of its output is so insipid and soulless compared to the world of animation.
This, from Ed’s blog:
“My theory is, you are an artist when you create art. So anyone is an artist, if they put pen to paper, dirty finger to keyboard. But in our filmmaking industry my whole life I have felt guilty because I didn’t go to a film school, I didn’t get certified – I went to a liberal arts college and was an anthropology major and almost a film studies minor, as well as one point a music major. I didn’t have the training everyone seemed to be whispering that I needed. I felt so guilty, that I didn’t know how to load a film mag, that I didn’t ever sit down and learn lighting or even lenses. I had no photography background – that was my sister. I didn’t know the difference between a wide angle lens and a telephoto lens, surrounded by many people who did. I didn’t know soft light vs hard light, or the angle of lighting and how it changes on a face in shadows.”
“Everyone who brings a fresh perspective to filmmaking is so needed – we can not just have people do films all the same way. I think more and more there is a gluttony of film set behaviors that rewards the same and bureaucratic method of making “films” – traditional, boring, waiting – not just trying to find moments and capture little tiny ideas and bigger thoughts – but this route system of regimented military-like crew that does things traditional ways that people like Paul Thomas Anderson rally against – no marks – no lets go over here instead – untraditional approaches that open up wonder again.”
In theory, the pinnacle of the film industry if it were about art should represent the pinnacle of the art of filmmaking! Oddly it doesn’t!
It represents the pinnacle of technology, yes, the pinnacle of craft and collaboration, yes, but art? No. The pinnacle of the film industry at present is the summer blockbuster, machine-like mind over soul. Money-taking over risk and creativity. From a top down view, the film industry is now 90% a business and a machine.
The more professional and machine-like the commercial filmmaking industry becomes, the more calculated it is and the less room there is for the kind of risk, experimentation, lack of planning, lack of bureaucracy that is so vital to creativity. The people operating like this commercially are now the exception, when they should be the rule.
Ed’s “The Quiet Escape” is in a practical sense something a talented artist could execute with any means, however simple, all with zero bureaucracy or industry backing. You just need a unique perspective, a personality and a great feel for writing, mood, sound and cinematography. That’s all coming from within your own resources, own life experience, own talent.
No actors, no props, no staging, no money and no industry.
The NX1 helps things to look eye popping. I love 4K for this kind of cinematic semi-documentary style filmmaking. It would not have had the same cinematic feel shot on a soft, moire and aliasing ridden relic of the past which various camera companies are still releasing even in 2015 much, I think, to their utter shame.
The whole point of the NX1 is that it is small and 4K. Stealing shots like that on the NY metro helped make this piece. You could not have done this with a cinema camera. A crew with an FS7 and C300 simply could not have made this film; release forms, permissions, permits, actors – and suddenly you have something that isn’t as natural. There are numerous moments in Ed’s guerrilla shots that would take a very very expensive and high calibre actor to reproduce from a script.
But he’s given it a visual language that screams cinema and transcends documentary.
Here’s what Ed had to say about the NX1 and the shoot:
“This was shot on the Samsung NX1 with Nikon 35mm AIS lens and one shot on the 100mm Leica R lens. The camera is great because it can shoot 4k internally to H.265 which is a brand new codec and has incredibly natural resolution and beautiful skintones and quick changing firmware!
“Shot mostly in UHD mode at 29.97 fps that I slowed down in post. My picture profile is contrast all the way down and saturation minus two. I desaturated in post. I shot before the new firmware that added GAMMA DR settings but I am still very happy with the highlight rolloff. Also the shutter in UHD is not as bad as DCP 4k mode – I’m quite happy with that.
“Graded in Da Vinci resolve using a modified Filmconvert NEO 100 black and white and Fujuifilm Eternal profile along with Gorilla Grain.
“This film was incredibly fascinating to make – it was the first longer more serious project I have made since college. I originally made a cut of the film quickly and removed it from online because I wasn’t happy with it. This piece I took my time. I wrote a long script, read it, say how it worked, changed lines, and rewrote. I reshot many scenes. It was my own artistic journey to make this film the slow, long way. It was not easy – I would constantly procrastinate because I was scared that when it was done – I would release it and it would be horrible – so this film got me to finish my taxes and clean up my whole apartment. Man the courage it takes to make a film – to risk all ridicule and put something out there that is completely your idea. Also it kind of felt selfish to be working on it when I can be doing other things. But hey that’s all part of being trapped in ones head.
“I want to especially thank Andrew Reid and EOSHD for making me aware of this small lightweight 4k camera – it made this film so accessible to make. And also Samuel H who brings his camera knowledge online to the global filmmaking community and people like MacGregor and Hunter also online DPs who help push me to become better. And I want to personally thank Art Adams whose articles online have inspired me so much and Geoff Boyle with his CML that moves me forward and American CInematographer for issue after issue of inspiring information about cinematography, and Roger Deakins for giving back and sharing – and well – everyone – who gives back and shares. It helps me so much.”