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Thursday, 7 October - link

Robin in Wonderland

Another short film, from the second half of the Tokyo Game Show footage.

Experimental, a cavalier evolution of the Kuleshov experiment. Music primarily by Blevin Blectum, with Kevin Blechdom joining her on one track; one track by Wobbly, and one brief bit by LSR - members of Sagan (their new CD/DVD is out this fall - well worth purchasing). The short stars the talented and patient Robin Hunicke, and a lot of expertly arrayed cosplayers.

This is the final-ish draft of the film I turned in for a class assignment; I focused on creating a sense of interaction between Robin and the various characters:

Robin in Wonderland

Robin in Wonderland - three minutes, fifty seconds - 27.2 megabytes Quicktime

This is an earlier draft of the film, which meanders through a greater variety of Tokyo Game Show footage, and feels more like a travel video, and less focused and experimental. Talking to Amy helped me make the cuts between the two versions; this one is the director's cut - suitably bloated:

Robin in Wonderland

Robin in WonderLONG - five minutes, fourteen seconds - 37.8 megabytes Quicktime

Here's my self-critique on the first version posted here:

Filmmaker: Justin Hall - Date: 5 Oct 2004 Title: Robin in Wonderland - Project No: 2


INTENT: (How you want to affect us)

On a trip to Tokyo for a video game conference, searching for a film to shoot, I found these “CosPlayers” (Costume Players) – people who dress in costumes representing favored heroes and villains from comics and video games. They had filled a large area at the Game Show, effectively creating a sort of “zone of virtuality” where common human aesthetics did not apply.

Wandering amidst these elaborately costumed performers, I was joyously having my notions of beauty and physicality challenged. I wanted to create a short film that recreated some of that feeling. Rather than solicit specific, artificial performances out of these actors, however, I thought I might film them in their natural state, as many of them posed for still photographers – assuming positions to convey modes of power from fictional worlds. I was enchanted by the steady gaze in their eyes, and then delighted by the moments when they broke that steadiness - when they giggled at me, or when they bowed and smiled - suddenly breaking the illusion of being a mystical warrior to again become a teenager.

I had a protagonist - my friend Robin Hunicke who was also inspired by this setting. I filmed her photographing and even participating in some of the reality-suspension we saw. Afterwards, I filmed her face close up responding to my directions, gathering reaction shots that could go alongside the close-ups I had of the CosPlayers holding poses.

You could call this an erotic film, in that it's largely plotless; instead there's a sequence of images designed to propel the user into a sensual experience. Here that sensual experience is augmented by radical reconfigurations of beauty - my hope is that the suspension of ordinary rules of attraction augments the viewer's entry into a zone of virtual pleasure.

It was an experiment with techniques used in the Kuleshov experiment - Robin's gaze prompts the viewer to relate, emotionally. It is through her eyes that we see, but at the same time, she is regarding us, or she is regarding something in our world. Through the screen she emotes at us, amidst characters out of context who tread a wavering line between posing and playing. Media, performance, reality, virtuality, truth, beauty, these things are all scrambled. The addition of a soundtrack raised the stakes – all the music in "Robin in Wonderland" is drawn from compositions by Blevin Blectum with some Kevin Blechdom, some Wobbly and a little bit of LSR – all electronic musicians who skillfully wield samples. This added a poignant mixed-up sonic punch, helping me layer recursive media and performance to create sensual overstimulation.

SYNOPSIS: (What we see)

A young woman stumbles into a strange world. Guided by a smiling cherub and a strength-brandishing cat-woman, she meets a series of characters: a contemplative, a fierce guard, a beautiful blue-hair. A filmmaker appears throughout to overstimulate her, but with the help of her eager guides Robin finds her own bliss and becomes ready to engage this new world directly without guidance.

STRENGTHS: (list by priority, one line per item)

• Sense of play
• Synchronization with soundtrack

WEAKNESSES: (list by priority, one line per item)

• Uneven editing - at times, the short can seem unduly jumpy or stuttery.
• What are the motivations of the various characters? Not always easy to tell.
• What are the specific relationships between Robin and the other performers? Not always enough qualitative difference in her reactions to various characters. What’s there is lost in the cuts and the general glee of the project.
• Questionable cultural mixing messages, especially at the end. Does the short promote participation and cross-pollinization? Or does it reinforce distance and exploit easy straight/geek, East/West stereotypes?
• The film actually had more (or different) weaknesses yesterday – it was far longer, with more medium shots of tertiary characters. On the advice of Amy and the star Robin Hunicke, I trimmed out excess footage that made it seem more like a travel video. That cut the film’s length in half, and placed the emphasis on a few characters. Those characters became stronger, in part because I also narrowed my coverage almost entirely to head and eye shots. That deepened my “Kuleshov experiment” intentions and generally produced a more cogent piece. More work should be done in that area, tightening up the emotional-facial exchanges between Robin and the various characters.


• Be more specific about characters and their motivations – only after I finished the first video draft did I write down my loose ideas about the various characters and their motivations. That cohered the narrative enormously, and it would have been better to do between logging and editing, and perhaps even during filming.
• Estimate and capture better footage in the field. Gather more sustained emotional-facial expressions performed before the camera. More fluency with this kind of filmmaking should help me develop characters and stories even amidst spontaneous shoots. This in turn should help me gather more of the footage I need to play with, even as I am unsure of the desired outcome.
• Practice holding the camera steady and pointing it at intended targets for longer periods of time.

Posted on 7 October 2004 : 00:14 (TrackBack)
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