Monday, February 22, 2016

Three Slates from Hyper-Reality

Here are some slates from my in-progress short film, Hyper-Reality. These pictures are actually frame-grabs from a Betacam SP videotape. Originally, the 35mm film (Eastman Kodak emulsions 5245, 5247, and 5248) was processed and then transferred to tape, bypassing a more expensive positive film print. Unfortunately, especially in today's digital world, the analogue Betacam SP format does not provide for high quality grabs. (More to come, soon. And sans exciting slates!)

The first two pics are from scenes shot in "Corman's Bar", a set I designed in the tradition of a television series' "standing set"; in this case a hangout for Hyper-Reality's main characters. The bottom photo is from a scene shot in the Alien Lair. Someday I will supply a "TV Guide description" of the film's plot.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Toronto City Garbage Striking Images 2009

Back in the summer of 2009 we Torontonians, fiercely proud denizens of the mighty Republic of Toronto, were subjected to a city workers' strike; one which affected garbage removal (the domain of "outside" workers). I'm all for workers' rights, fair wages, etc., but it's funny how overflowing garbage, mixed with the heat of the season, makes one forget about certain issues.

I snapped the pictures above, in front of the TTC's "Spadina" subway station, when the strike was in its infancy. It got a lot worse. (For some reason I took no more photographs of the event. I guess I was afraid to approach mounds of waste.)

On Friday a tentative deal was struck for outside workers, which means the city may be spared a repeat of 2009.. Ongoing negotiations with "inside" workers hopefully will resolve positively before the deadline of 12:01 a.m., Monday.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Directing in the Alien Lair of Hyper-Reality

In anticipation of the completion of my 35mm short film Hyper-Reality, here is another behind-the-scenes photograph. It features a (slightly) younger me directing a scene in the film's "Alien Lair" set.

Tending to the Arriflex BL III camera are Dennis Pike and Gary Blakeley; in the background grip/gaffer Jeff Stern adjusts a light; the ectomorphic thing on the right is asking "craft services" if the coffee is still hot. ("What? You're out of doughnuts already? Oh. Yeah, it was me.")

I had a super crew for that two-day shoot at "23FPS" studios here in Toronto.

(Photo: Jill Cooper)

Friday, February 19, 2016

What Can You Do? Read This....

"Fill out a repair request form."

Anyone who has rented a house or apartment, especially one owned by a large, faceless corporation, knows what a rocky road it can be to get the simplest, and necessary, repair done. Personally speaking I've had good experiences in that area, but the moment friends of mine started to live on their own I began to hear the stories; the stories of toolbox inactivity.

A writer friend of mine penned a short story that will hit home for a lot of readers. I thought I would spread the words: "What Can You Do" is more than simply a tale of a leaky faucet needing fixing. It is about people, and a dead body, which explains why James Guthrie uses more than the ten to twenty words usually required to describe a faulty bit of plumbing.

As published in Volume 5, Issue 1 of "Pithead Chapel - an online journal of gutsy narratives": read here

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Cosmonaut's Special View

Space travellers, Astronauts and Cosmonauts, posses a special appreciation for Planet Earth and all its inhabitants. Having a global view, literally, helps one come up with something like the following profound observation:

"When we look into the sky it seems to us to be endless. We breathe without thinking about it, as is natural... and then you sit aboard a spacecraft, you tear away from Earth, and within ten minutes you have been carried straight through the layer of air, and beyond there is nothing! The 'boundless' blue sky, the ocean which gives us breath and protects us from endless black and death, is but an infinitesimally thin film. How dangerous it is to threaten even the smallest part of this gossamer covering, this conserver of life."

- Cosmonaut Vladimir Shatalov
(Soyuz 4, Soyuz 8, Soyuz 10)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

An Admission 46 Years Later (Emotional Football)

Something has been bugging me lately: I've been prone to tossing and turning at two or three o'clock in the morning, unable to sleep, because I did a certain "bad" almost forty-six years ago.

In June of 1970 my family and I were visiting relatives in Bristol, UK; that month the 1970 FIFA World Cup was being played, or rather, resolved, in Mexico. On the 14th of June, England matched with West Germany as part of the quarter-finals round and I watched this contest on television, live and in colour, with my British cousins. (This was just the year after the Beeb switched to colour broadcasting). All is fine in my admissions thus far.

The problems start now: I was rooting for West Germany. Needless to say, appreciating the Brits' pride for their national football team, I kept my cheers a private matter. Even at such a young age I was hyper-aware that in the interest of self preservation it would be prudent of me to keep any elation to myself: I was contained in a room with British supporters; off-side behaviour of any colour could be bloody dangerous!

West Germany went on to win the match by a score of 3-2 and I was a happy young man.

Shortly after returning to West Germany, a German might have asked me: "Schadenfreude?"

"Me? No. For a reason of which I am not aware, known only to the recesses of my still-developing brain, I chose to support the Germans."

"Du bist ein guter Deutscher."


Knowing the English football fans' predilection for being unwilling or unable to let certain histories "go", and having more than a few British relatives of my own, I decided to withhold this sensitive bit from my past. Only now am I able to come to terms with my Yellow Card.

I doubt – hope – they'll ever stumble upon this posting.

"It's Cold Outside. Really Cold"

The newsreader on 680 News (CFTR, Toronto) just wrote my headline for me. Yes, it is cold out there, indeed. The base temperature -- sans "wind chill" -- right now is minus 23 degrees Celsius. That is cold, all right.

When I was a young one, and would complain about how cold it was outside, my father would say: "You think that's cold... you haven't been to Alert."

The "Alert" he was referring to was the Alert Wireless Station (known as Canadian Forces Station Alert, after unification in 1968). Built in 1957 as part of the Distant Early Warning Line, the so-called "Dew line', the facility is located in Alert, Nunavut – way, way up at the top end of Ellesmere Island.

Back in the late 1950s, servicemen would have been transported to and from the base on a Canadair North Star. When aircraft park up there, shrouds are thrown over the engines and heaters supply warm air through ducts to the four idle blocks of metal -- otherwise, your ride home isn't going to happen.

I have not been to Alert but my feeling is Toronto, this day, is a reasonable approximation.

Post Script: Alert popped into the news back in November of 1991 after a CC-130E "Hercules" crashed while on approach to the base's landing strip. A year later film cameras started rolling on Ordeal in the Arctic, a made-for-television flick recounting the story. While the completed telefilm was entertaining enough, two things read as odd to me:

* Richard Chamberlain, as fine an actor as he is, was too old to be playing the pilot, John Couch. "Herc Drivers" are much younger.

* For the Herc interior, the film's sound effects guys chose to mix in the drone of piston engines. (My guess is they got their audio track from an old sound effects LP record.) During flight the "cabin" of a Hercules is loud; especially on takeoff. As Douglas Adams might have said: "It is loud. Really loud. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly loud it is. I mean, you may think it's noisy riding in a Volkswagen Beetle, but that's just peanuts to a Hercules."  In Ordeal the actors are chatting to one another as though they are sitting in a coffee shop.

Those Allison turboprops are magnificent: a future blog posting....

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

It's Called "Imminent Peril"

Hot off the press:

"It is an incontrovertible truth that the civil institutions of the United States of America have been seriously affected, and that they now stand in imminent peril from the rapid and enormous increase of the body of residents of foreign birth, imbued with foreign feelings, and of an ignorant and immoral character, who receive, under the present lax and unreasonable laws of naturalization, the elective franchise and the right of eligibility to political office."

When was the above written? It was part of a speech given in Philadelphia at the first national convention of the Native American Party; the event was held in the year 1845.

While the quote may give one the impression it comes from the pen of Donald Trump, it reads as a little bit too articulate for The Donald.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Alien Action on the Hyper-Reality Set

Further to my posting from a couple of days ago (here) about my uncompleted short film, Hyper-Reality, here below is another picture taken on the set. This one shows an alien (S.L. Guthrie) being photographed in the "alien lair", a Lost in Space-style set complete with a black limbo background. (Lost in Space was a horrible television series which ran from 1965 to 1968, and entertained a generation of space-race kiddies; like me. It was the kind of show that one quickly grew out of, I hope, but gets revisited when making a certain kind of film.)

As I mentioned in that previous posting, I designed the sets, props, and costumes. The red platform on the bottom right of the photo below is a "stasis pad", a device which showers upwards a beam of energy (done as an "optical" in post production), confining one of the film's stars. The stasis pad's shape, an octagon, and a red-coloured one at that, was an attempt by me to strike a visual gag.  A stop sign. Get it?

Production Assistant Sonia Molina slates a shot for Hyper-Reality.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Aliens of Hyper-Reality

While I was organizing some files on my computer, recently, I came across some folders for my uncompleted -- don't ask -- magnum opus 35mm short film, Hyper-Reality.

Attached below are two photographs that were taken on the set at the former "23 FPS" studios here in Toronto. Soon I will follow up with more material from the project which often elicited the question, "Simon, how is Hyper-Reality coming along?"

I had a lot of fun designing the costumes and the sets. Maybe I should try "crowdfunding" to complete the film; not that a truck load of money would be needed....

Yours truly sets up a shot for Hyper-Reality. The film's co-producer and co-writer, Tim A. Cook, and I decided to cast women as bulbous-headed aliens -- we took our cue from "The Cage", the first pilot from Star Trek. (Photo: Jill Cooper)

Two trouble-making aliens have a laugh before they snap into character for the camera. (Photo: S. St. Laurent)