Sunday, May 26, 2013

Creative Minimal Cinema

Recently re-watching Star Trek (Abrams, 2009), and thinking about the use of silence during moments when explosions are going off, led to this brief thought on the use of minimalism to convey narrative content. There was no need for the sound of explosions during those Star Trek scenes (that would sound like: Ka-boomkrrrrkrrrr!!! etc.) because the audience already knows that information and thus recreates it in his or her mind.

Like traditional paratactic Chinese poetry, or Ernest Hemingway and the absence of adverbs in his writing... the audience just needs the minimum detail to understand -- and perhaps ultimately enjoy -- the piece.

Like the absence of a soundtrack in Yang Li's 2003 film Blind Shaft.

Like Aeschylus's play Agamemnon in which the murder is off-stage, or sex scenes in 1950s film noir films that are off-camera, the equation seems to follow that the less detail conveyed, the more the rhetorical/emotional impact, and maybe even at times the following is true: when only the minimum is conveyed, film is at its best.

If too little information is presented, then a specific idea might not be conveyed, and the result could be pure abstraction.

If too much information is conveyed ... the English language has much to say about this: over-embellishment, heavy-handed, unauthentic, perhaps the baroque. The result can be impatience, boredom, eye-rolling.

Certainly, over time the definition of minimum -- "only the minimum is necessary" -- changes; that's what I think appeals to me the most.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sundance and the San Diego Surf Film Festival: A Comparison

In some ways, both Sundance 2013 and SDSFF 2013 were life changing events, definitely unforgettable, and I plan to be a return attendee to both.

But they are far from being the same thing ... I imagine that when Sundance started it had a similar vibe to SDSFF -- on opening night for the SDSFF this year we were sitting on the floor of an art gallery to watch a film ... perhaps in the future the SDSFF will be a red carpet event like Sundance with its long lines, star sightings, and national headlines. For now ...


… here are some of these film festival’s differences:


-- festival pass at Sundance: a lanyard and barcode
-- festival pass at SDSFF: an old Padres baseball card on a string of hemp

-- snow, wearing multiple layers of clothing

-- pleasant, short-sleeves

-- theaters with 1000 person capacity

-- sitting on the floor or on folding chairs

-- all kinds of films

-- all kinds of surf films


... and similarities:

-- cheering crowds when the credits roll

-- stoked directors glad you loved their films

Sundance, 2013
SDSFF, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

San Diego Surf Film Festival 2013, Post 4 (Sun. 5/12)

SDSFF 2013 wrapped up successfully during the 7-10pm set last night (5/12) with music by Leanna May and The Matadors, an informal awards ceremony, well-deserved thanks to all organizers, and a collection of films that didn't need to take themselves too seriously: a comic short entitled: "The Shaper" by Jeremy Joyce, Rich Pearn and Rob Lockyear, even a horror-film called "SHVDE" by Derek Dunfee, and a thoughtful film (another way to not be too serious when done right) from Brazil, Intentio by Loic Wirth:

Thanks SDSFF, looking forward to next year ... some images from the event:

Director George Trimm discusses "Bootleg" (full length link here), SDSFF 2013

Filmmakers after the screening of Isolated at Bird's Surf Shed, SDSFF 2013

Big wave surfer Greg Long takes questions from the audience, SDSFF 2013

SDSFF promo:

SDSFF Trailer 2013 from misfit pictures on Vimeo.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

San Diego Surf Film Festival 2013, Post 3 (Sat. 5/11)

Saturday's events at the San Diego Surf Film Festival were of bucket list quality -- unmissable. In nearly every way categorizable, the music and images were a notch above what came the day before. So while Friday's events were great for the surfing world I would say, Saturday's events were for everyone.

Case in point, the film Isolated, directed by Justin LePera, is an important film: what starts out as -- and in some ways might retain even in spite of itself -- a journey by foreign surfers into the Heart of Darkness of New Guinea in order to "score perfect surf, dude" turns into a proper heroic journey of mythological proportions -- that moment when the heroes recognize that there is something bigger than themselves -- and all of the sudden the film is both an unmistakeably great surf film and a film about human rights abuses and serious ethical dilemmas caused by a complex mix of national concerns and global trade.

-- -- -- -- --

The morning on Saturday started with a beach clean-up and opportunity to ride some alaias and paipos at the Cardiff campgrounds. Good times with my son out in the sun on a beautiful day, even though the surf was small. I missed the 2-4pm set at the festival, but my son and I enjoyed all 7 hours of music and film through three sets, from 4-11pm. He loved the big wave surfing films, and the highlight of the night for him was the film about Greg Long entitled, "Sine Qua Non: The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long," directed by Richard Yelland (full length link here -- my son said it is his favorite film of all time), and to have Greg Long there to graciously take questions at length from the audience afterwards was really cool to experience.

I couldn't believe that the quality of films could move from great to great. From the inspiring surfing of Danielle Burt (see full short by Chris Grant below) to the mind-bending surfing of Jordy Smith in the hyper-modern mode of surfing today in "Bending Colours" by Kai Neville, all of the films on Saturday from 4-11pm were must-sees in their own right, and the jazz-infused music of Montalban Quintet was a solid soundtrack to the day. I'd recommend tracking down "Setting Sunsets," a short set in Peru featuring an impressive story and computer animation by filmmaker Gene Sung.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

San Diego Surf Film Festival 2013, Post 2 (Fri. 5/10)

... I missed the opening night film and festivities on Thursday (5/9), but was at the Friday night events last night at Bird's Surf Shed, San Diego's one and only quonset hut surf shop lined with boards that wrap the walls and ceilings like its a 360 degree IMAX screen. I met my buddy J.R. there and soon after, ran into Greg Noll and was thankful to snap a photo with the surfing legend.

Set 1 included a short film by Andrew Quinn entitled "Stokefest," which is about riding paipos and anything else to keep a smile on the face. Next was a film "TheWaverider" by Karl Lear, about Fijian surfer Isei Tokovou -- it features an impressive cast of surfers and the greatest backdrop on the planet, namely Cloudbreak, but the story itself, which gets stuck in a couple eddies, contains little suspense even though it has a ton of potential -- its the film's potential that I think folks vibe off of the most -- and of course, the dreamlike setting and surf.

The best film of set 1, and the evening as a whole, was the short "Bootleg," by George Trimm and Joel Tudor, a kind of currently-made yet retro-vibe San Diego-west-coast-North-America longboard and alternative surf craft film produced in the same spirit as the brilliant Sundance Film Festival Winner: CATNIP: EGRESS TO OBLIVION?

Set 2 featured an inspiring short that promoted recycling old surf gear, and any form of garbage for that matter, so that it avoids the landfill, entitled, "The Beginning of Something Big" by Doug Walker, and then another brief short.

The evening culminated with the appearance of Peter Townend, briefly interviewed, which was really the highlight of the entire evening, before the screening of Sons of Beaches 72 -- an informative slice of essential early 1970s surf history, but a bit overlong. The story is great, but some of the interviews begin to feel like DVD extras material by the conclusion of the piece. Maybe I was just too tired.

 PT introducing Sons of Beaches 72 which takes place, in part, in San Diego

Looking forward to the events today (Saturday) ... heading down to the beach now.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

San Diego Surf Film Festival 2013, Post 1 (Wed. 5/8)

While tonight (Thursday) is the opening night for the San Diego Surf Film Festival (schedule here), last night an event was held for the festival's filmmakers and folks who bought all festival passes -- aka the Nautilus pass!!! -- at the Surfindian in PB.

Artwork by Matt Beard -- especially his ink on bristols -- Gage Hingeley's photos on canvas stood out the most to me in the Surfindian gallery set-up with a screen (visible in the background of the image above) on which the evening's short film was screened. Happy to see a Tyler Warren piece in the gallery there too.

Next door, the local band The Saline Solutions was playing ... sounded good live, certainly a surf guitar texture to it -- you can hear it on "So Good Now"-- straight forward, never a boring musical interlude between lyrics -- also hear "All the Way," which has a late 1960s feel to it during the chorus, and there's a touch of the Chili Peppers, a touch, in "Sew my Shadow."

Duncan Campbell's short film "Bonzer: The Mothership" was the evening's main event. It was cool to get a chance to get a photo with Taylor Knox there -- he is featured in Campbell's short film -- and to get a picture with filmmaker Duncan Campbell of Campbell Brothers Surfboards whom I had read so much about previously in surf magazines.

A bit over 20 minutes in length, Campbell's "Bonzer: The Mothership" is a signature document that traces the history of the Bonzer, the iconic, singular surfboard design that has inspired innovation and clean surfing lines for over 40 years. As Duncan Campbell stated when he introduced the film: he and his crew started filming their story from day one, and the end result is an homage to capturing their first feeling of stoke -- the feeling that surfers try to re-experience each time they paddle out. Hoots rang out during the footage of 1970s barrels all the way to recent images of Rob Machado and Taylor Knox taking the Bonzer to new spaces.

Monday, May 6, 2013

San Diego Surf Film Festival, 2013

... looking forward to attending, tweeting, and blogging at the San Diego Surf Film Festival this week and weekend, May 8-12.