Wednesday, January 27, 2010

An Edge Detective

So busy. I've hardly had any sleep this week. Multi-task. Go, go. I consistently use two computers now. When I'm busy with one, the other is quietly working; the computer is rendering. It estimates 40 minutes. Maybe I can do some yoga, while I wait. Maybe, check my email just one more time. The other machine is processing a clip or transferring a file. So where to find the time for the Instant Video? I'm busy all week. I'm busy all weekend.

I've been practicing a song, says Tammy. It's "Love File." Last night it was "Sad Kid." But Tammy fell asleep. Serious. Asleep before the camera had a chance to roll. Tonight, I'm so tired, I might be the one to fall asleep. I need some loud music. I need to ramp myself up, clean up the kitchen.

The song is "Love File." And it makes me want to go back to the basement. I want to film the pipes. I want to get damp and dirty. I want to shoot the video in the style of film noir. I want to light the whole thing with a flashlight. I want to shoot the whole thing through a peep hole. Get the overhead projector and draw something on a transparency. Find that fedora.

I don't know.

So I tell Tammy some of this. I detect some kind of edge. I need the time to process this. I need to brainstorm. Figure this out. I'll make some tea. I'll wash the dishes by hand. It's soapy meditation. Agatha Christie even said she plotted her novels this way, wet hands, letting her mind wander standing by the kitchen sink.

Love File... How can I interpret this?

Finally. I'm ready to film. I go upstairs to find that Tammy had changed the song again. I just keep going. Go with the flow.

My Breath Wish
by Tammy Lin Foreman

Wish I could say
But I don't know
I'd like to stay
Maybe I'll go
When I think about it, I suck my breath too fast
Panicking like it might be my
Last nite you were like the stars
Today you are like the sun
I think you're beautiful
Why do I want to run?
Wish I could say
Describe it to you
Stick in the mud
Hold my breath till I turn blue

Now I don't want to be like them
Just coz they're scared of it all
They stop themselves before they start
Catching themselves
Never fall
Breath be easy
Breath be sure / pure
Carry words I need to say
Life lived in fear, life half lived
Where'd I learn this anyway..?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Swamp Thing

On YouTube I find Jon Crawford "Gator Hunter" with flashlit footage of a nighttime alligator ambush in the swamps of the bayou. He's not wrestling zoo alligators here for tourists. This is the real stuff: videotaped for themselves with a handycam. Wow. And then I stumble onto Gus Onebear and his stunts. Then, there's footage from a guided tour of Honey Island Swamp. I think this will work.

Searching the internet with key words like: "alligator," "wrestling" and "swamp," I hunt and gather.

Tammy's hand - caught by the webcamQuickly. I turn these titles into movies I can use. Drop the clips into the video mixer. And hit BLEND.

This creature feeds on video smoothies. What are you? Some kind of swamp thing? Swamp thing! You make my heart sing! This idea brings us down to the basement. I imagine I'm setting up the projector for visuals at a dark warehouse rave. Tammy has the voice, the hair, for the basement. Turn down heat. Just one take. Let's go!

At the turn of the new year, January 1, 2003, Tammy was barefoot and pregnant. As seen in this unedited video, some kind of spirit suddenly took over her exactly at midnight and made her voice growl and sing the words that come out fully formed into a song. Seven years later, the creature is back!

Swamp Thing
Merlin gave his disciple a peculiar, squinting look. "I'm sending you into the swamp, or, as mortals call it, the world. I have kept you out of the swamp for all these years, teaching you something you are not to forget." - The Way of the Wizard by Deepak Chopra

In the Swamp
by Tammy Lin Foreman

In the Swamp,
in the swamp,
in the swamp,
in the big wide swamp
Daddy give,
Daddy give,
Daddy give,
Daddy give a stomp
He said there's nothing to do,
nothing to do,
nothing to do,
the whole day through
but to wrestle alligator,
and make crawdaddy stew
What's a poor girl to do
when she's living in a in a swampland?
What's a poor girl to do
when she's living in a in a swampland?
She's gotta wrestle alligators,
wrestle alligators,
and make crawdaddy stew
In the swamp,
in the swamp,
that's what Daddy says you gotta do.

The Eye of Swamp Thing

Monday, January 11, 2010

Instant Jam: the Ecstatic Truth

We'll shoot for an hour. Let's see what happens. Songs might just magically create themselves... Just jam.

Then. We can later take a clip from the footage and upload that. It's an old idea. We have yet to do it. Now we just have to make it happen.

Keep shooting, I tell myself. Shoot everything. Wait! Get some lights in here. It's too dark. Plug in the Horn of Plenty. This is interfering with reality, I know. But I'm trying to show a greater truth here.

I'm reminded of what Werner Herzog calls the "Ecstatic Truth" - the deeper essential truth of that moment being captured. Truth is: the rice wine with sushi at dinner has gone to my head and our guests have already taken up instruments and have started playing. I pick up my instrument: a video camera. It makes a quiet beep.

"I wish I could jam with you guys musically," I say. "But I've got the camera. And I have an idea." I'll try a few takes.

Tammy with ClapboardI startle the musicians intermittently with the clapboard. (Clap!) "Can you guys do something called 'What's Bred in the Bone'?" The book on the shelf keeps grabbing my eye.

"What's Bread in the Bone?" No. It's B - R - E - D. As in the Robertson Davies novel on my shelf over here. Yeah. Try making something up. Let's see what happens...
Josh Fewings and Michael Morritt
Josh Fewings and Michael MorrittI shoot for over an hour... Tomorrow I'll look at the footage and see if a there's a solid chunk of good stuff in there somewhere. Jamming like this and making up words on the spot is a fun way of discovering a song. A recording becomes a writing tool. The song gets re-written and shaped.

For this video, it's a different story. There's no going back and re-writing anything. In this jam, the video is my instrument, and we all just get one chance to do it, so I must coordinate my camera moves with the flow of the music. I have to tell the "story" in one take.

Morritt on KeysI jump in with blind trust. Yeah. Swing the camera over here: the bookshelf. Look at those titles. Neuromancer by William Gibson. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Wild Goose Jack by Jack Miner. I swing the camera toward Tammy. Close-up on Mike and Josh. Something's happening now. Maybe this could be the take. I keep myself steady and interested.

What's Bred in the Bone
by Tammy Lin Foreman

I want you to know
What is bred in the bone
Will not out of the flesh

I saw at last
and I knew
this time won't last forever
this time will come to an end
more time will come behind to
take over once again

hour turned to the day
it turned to the week
it turned to the month
and said
now this year's
half over
I really love her
and I know she'll tic
talk like the sister before
like the sister before her

How can I make her stand still
She has no want for this
I see this is her beauty
I see this is her will

this time won't last forever
forever and ever...

this time will come to an end
more time will come behind to
take over once again

We have this in the can. Late night. Just like old times. Remember the Duty Free Jam sessions? That was just audio. The video needs a bit more "ecstatic truth" at the end. For good measure.

The Horn of Plenty

Monday, January 4, 2010

Angel at my Table

Georgia with her ViolinGeorgia really really really wants to be in an Instant Video today. She's already got the angel wings on. She's got her violin.

Dad! Dad! I'll sit right here. Do you see me in the shot? I'm ready. When are we going to shoot it? Dad!

Okay. Give me a minute to take this in. Georgia wants to be in the video? Officially, this wouldn't be the first time. She made an appearance even as early as Instant Video #3 - Stars. And she was also seen in Make Believe and Defibrillator.

But for this P.J. Harvey cover of Victory, we had a different plan all set to go.

Georgia in Instant Video #3 - StarsTammy says she's thrilled that Georgia wants to be in it. Georgia is usually upset when it's time for us to make the video-of-the-week. She's always wondering what she will do in the meantime. Is there some way..?

I'm scratching my head. Okay. So. What are we going to do?

I'm out of ideas right now. I just want to set up the cameras and hit Go. Let's see what happens with the hands-off approach.

I keep my head down. I look up once in a while because I realize it makes Georgia smile. She's excited. She's seeing the world through her six-year old eyes. "I can't believe I'm gonna be in an Instant Video!"

Georgia in DefribrillatorTwo hours later, Georgia sneaks up beside me while I'm editing. "Can I see it, Dad?" she says. I hit play and after two seconds Georgia bursts into tears! "Cut me out!" she wails repeatedly, "Cut me out!" She is inconsolable. And I am just stunned.

This worries her and this worries me. I have to talk about it with Tammy when she gets home.

Georgia in Make BelieveGeorgia is snuggled up in bed as I tuck her in for the night and she whispers "Don't put it on YouTube, Dad. Not until you talk to Mom. But you have to tell me what she said first."

Okay, Georgia. Good night.

Yes. I remember the first time I heard my own recorded voice played back to me. I hated the way I sounded. I remember seeing myself on film and noticing not only the way I looked but how I moved and made gestures. It was disturbing. I think almost everybody goes through something like this. It's that first time seeing myself how others truly see me.

Georgia with her Violin (backwards motion blur)"I love the video Georgia. I love the video because of you... I don't like myself in it. Without you, I wouldn't like it," says Tammy.

But Georgia insists. No.

I don't want to go against her personal wishes but I thought she understood that this was going to be published. I don't know what to do. I want her to be happy. I need the blessing of this angel.

Tammy is in charge of this now. I have to move on. So as of publishing this post, the video is still private.

by P.J. Harvey

I stumble and I'm in
You fit me with those angel wings
Set me go
Set me high
Set it up while I'm in the sky
But the storm is gone
And the temperature's high
And Delilah's dining
At my table
I think how lucky we are
Angel at my table, God in my car
Get it at sea
Take a ship
I'd christen her "Victory"
She'd make it


Come on boys
Let's push it hard
You bump down, push your motorcart
Come on boys
You done us proud
The sweat, just mop it right off your brow


So the storm is gone
And the temperature's high
And Delilah's dining
At my table

Till the storm is gone
And the temperature's high
And Delilah's dining
At my table