Technology and ...
Gosh, Episode 006 of the Daughter of Podcast podcast, with your full of himself host, Dan Kelly, writer, director, talent, guru, sexy boy, cat whisperer. We're on iTunes now, and a whole bunch of other podcast accumulators, subscribe via your fav service at dog.movie. If you are already listening via a podcast app, there's all kinds of bonus movies and pix on each episode's transcription at dog.movie. dog.movie dog.movie, how many times can I say that today? We've also got the obligatory Facebook page, Twitter feed, and you can also get updates via Instagram and Linkedin through me, Dan Kelly. You can find all those links at, yep. say it in your head now... hmm hmm hmm hmm.
This is that gentle release I've been talking about. We're feeling our way forward, discovering how to bring this movie to the world and here you are, getting in on the ground floor. We're still way back in 2006 storywise, but going meta for a hot second, your listening is also part of the story of the making of Daughter of God, because just as this podcast is only bunch of magentic swirls on Utah hard drives until you LISTEN, a movie isn't a movie until it finds an audience. So that's cool, right? You're in the story now. Uh oh.
Episode 006, Technology and...
There's effort and then there's knowing. Waking up in the Kingston Ontario Holiday Inn hotel on the morning of April 11, sun streaming in, a big Canadian in the bed next to mine, I knew the game wasn't over. The situation might seem bleak - my crew and gear divided by national borders, my leading man deported, my leading woman's work permit completely snarled, location schedule cut short, my skeleton crew minus a bony arm.
The feeling of knowing is hard to describe. There was going to be a way. I didn't come this far, spend this much money, do all the research, plan... I didn't get this much energy moving just to be thwarted by national borders. There was way too much momentum.
From the classical perspective feelings don't matter, right? I mean classical physics. Feathers and cannon balls. Shit happens, and all that whoo whoo energy talk is just bosh.
Movies about movie making are often documentaries of disaster, heart break and conflict. Heart of Darkness relates the intense turbulence encountered by Francis Ford Copolla and Martin Sheen making Apocalypse Now and Lost in La Mancha details the slow implosion of Terry Gilliams Johnny Depp project, Man from LaMancha. a movie that you'll likely never see, because it utterly failed during production.
So movies with brilliant directors like Gilliam and super stars like Johnny Depp can get all their funding, start production and never get made. How could I imagine my little movie would survive such a significant series of setbacks?
What is luck? Opportunity plus preparation? Maybe. How about a feeling? How about a decision? A decision to feel. I can't say I felt ecstatic, just a steady readiness. Make no mistake, crap had happened, potentially crippling events. Dire though they appeared, circumstances weren't relevant when I opened my eyes at the Holiday Inn, that morning. I just needed my Odyssey to cross the border with what remained of our team, and we could start.
Intuition is fluency with emotion. Another word for that is energy, how a moment feels. I'm looking back with an insight I didn't have then, but I can definitely remember how I felt. I'm clear that decisive buoyant feelings were key to what happened next. Enough bullshit, let's do this.
Sonya Di Mambro eventually called. She had spoken to the officers at the Landsdowne office, and Carmen was cleared for crossing. Ann had already taken Eiji to the bus station.
Our 4 women slipped into Canada without a hitch. And the deficit of schedule and staff? We had what we had. Time to make a movie.
I want to thank Ann for handling the Eiji situation so adroitly. I want to thank Eiji for going home on that bus all by himself, after sharing the excitement of getting started. I want to thank Carmen, Layna and Melonie for being totally unsatisfied with Eiji's explanation, knowing something was amiss but trusting anyway. I want to thank Steve for accidentally throwing away his New York City acting career just to be in my project. I want to thank the cosmos for kicking off my audacious decision to make a movie with a full on roller coaster ride.
Production begins... in Episode 008. What?!
Yeah, that's right. All that planning and research, all that money? You thought you weren't going to have to hear about that, right? But how can we make a movie without sweet gear and the cash to rent or buy it? You've had your little denouement, your fix, your cocaine crisis resolution! My gosh, you know the movie gets made, you're listening to a podcast 11 years after the fact. Who cares about outcomes, we're here for the process! Living it together, moment by sparkling moment.
There's another roller coaster coming up. Before I can let you on tho, you've got to get taller, you've got to be this... high. Remember those signs at the amusement park, you've got to be this tall to ride? By imbibing the critical logistics, you are growing up, and up. Anyway, who's complaining? That's how story telling goes! Peak and lull, peak and lull. I've shown you a good time so far, right? Just hang in there.
Warning, the following episode contains geeky references to outdated and obscure technology at the close of the analog TV epoch. Prolonged listening to this episode could result in dreamy, zoning out sensations and subtle yearning for the ghostly glow of unnumerable flickering phosphor screens; now dusty, dark and forgotten.
Before the global adoption of enhancement transparency in 2020, many of us were a little wary of progress, having experienced first hand the dystopian creep of convenience über alles. Some peeps, ok lots of peeps, were trying to compensate for the lack of real magic in their everyday experience by adopting the freshest gadgets, or whatever they could afford. Back then new technology was the surrogate for really living. Eventually tho, the novelty wore off and the awe leaked out. Then they'd get the urge to kill again, and buy the next miracle, to shoot up with another syringe of gee whiz. Those were the death throes of consumption, when we almost didn't make it.
I was an early skeptic of mediated experience, but I deliberately hitched my creative wagon to the capricious star of technology anyway. My motivation may be slightly atypical, at least that's my conceit. Certainly I am a man of my times, I still enjoy a little surge when acquiring new gear, 2020 is a few years off yet. Here's the story I tell myself that makes it all ok.
We're on a planet where human influence is profound. There's brilliant awakening and deliberate occlusion all at once. Technology contributes to both the sweet and suicidal. The line between people and tools is getting ever fuzzier. So, I've decided to be a deliberate hybrid, all about the juicy human while keeping one paw on the steering wheel. I hug trees with a supercomputer in my pocket and perform modest miracles with my standard issue birth body, sheathed in merino wool from New Zealand. I live to merge my meat with the hot tangle of aluminum and petro plastics of a Honda XR650. Yet, I'm clear that joy isn't about achieving the optimal cyborg mix, rather a choice to be fully here whatever the pedigree of our parts. Getting present in the moment and allowing a great big shit eating grin to manifest across the front of our cognition turret, plasma emoticon projector or flesh and blood head.
The decision to really live, however that looks for you or me, may be scary but so is a roller coaster, and that usually comes out fine in the end. Just don't eat a hot dog right before.
So I hitched my wagon to the star of technology and I'm asserting that I'm not an addict, implying that's it's a spiritual practice and hinting that this might even be serving the greater good. But back in the day, I wasn't so sure what the heck I was doing. Mostly just waiting for the technology to catch up with my dreams.
While getting tugged and occasionally dragged along by that crazy star, I've had many almost launchings of my cinematicality. Like way back in 1985, after psychedelic god play in the east village and a brief winter recovery in Northern Michigan, I explored the idea of designing my own degree at the way out New School for Social Research.
The New School's alleged campus infiltrated most of Manhattan's cultural and academic geography, encouraging studies both esoteric and exotic. I explored the electronic painting system Lumena (15k colors!) with the renowned and rather disheveled Carol Chiani, programmed in C language at Parsons and edited video at the Global Village, which was a sort of grass roots media cooperative. My most vivid Global Village recollection is of the super hot blonde Israeli, Jordan. She and I partnered on cutting a cynical war montage to Glenn Miller's Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree. We were doing archaic AB roll with massive Umatic video decks, using 3/4" tape cassettes each about the size of a box of corn flakes. That was the only partnering I got into with Jordan, alas. And at $10,000 dollars each, these monster editing decks were also beyond my reach, unless I took more classes, or got a job at a production facility.
Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me) (Brown-Tobias-Stept) by Glenn Miller & his Orchestra, vocal by Marion Hutton, Tex Beneke and The Modernaires
I moved to Michigan for real in 1986 posing as an editor, but TV stations in Traverse City weren't hiring. The local Computerland had an opening in sales, on commission, provided I cut my fabulous 80s glam rock hair. I kept editing using glitchy consumer tape formats. With the release of the Macintosh II in 1987, my attention turned towards the promise of digital supremacy, solid state synchronicity.
The internet morphed into the world wide web just a few years later. For those of you who don't know the difference, imagine no web sites. I remember Saskia showing me the Mosiac web browser. A real 'where were you when' moment.
I did eventually work as a 3/4" Umatic editor in the late 90s, just as media savvy personal computers were preparing to push that prehistoric tech into the tarpits. Analog was finished, it was just a matter of time.
Originally developed by the flamboyant genius Marc Cantor's Macromedia, Apple's Final Cut Pro was released in 1999. The second generation of DV or digital video cameras from Sony and Canon followed a year-ish after that.
The DV standard approximated the picture quality of those massive Umatic decks, except the cameras and tapes were much smaller and exact copies could be made of the digital content with no degradation, known back in the bad old analog days as generation loss. A copy of a copy in analog-world looked and sounded nasty.
I waited until the fall of 2002 to buy into the DV revolution and Final Cut Pro. Michael Rubin's Beginner's Final Cut Pro book provided the ultimate jump start. Editing at last! Based on the recommendation of Jeff Gibbs, the composer/producer on Bowling for Columbine and the guy who filmed my arrest back in Episode 002, I acquired a Sony PD-150 in late October. The next month I cinematographed and co-edited Lauren Discipio's parable Toe Socks, starring Lauren, our pal Shoal Southworth and XY the cat.
Shoal gets a special mention because she gave me the lowdown on juried art shows which, domino like, triggered the auspicious failure that tumbled me once and for all into the vortex of full on movie making. Thanks Shoalie!
After moving to NYC in January of 2004, I earned a solid living with my Sony PD-150. I didn't even think about upgrading until a clumsy still photographer backed his fat ass into my tripod at an outside dance performance that November.
My next DV camera was the much hyped and trendy Canon XL2, which looked more like a blaster out of Star Wars than a camera. When I met Michael Aaron, (the Director of Blind Date from episodes 001 and 002) he owned an older Panasonic DVX-100, and when we compared our two cameras, his DVX-100 performed way better in low light. Panasonic's 2 year old technology beat Canon's leading edge. Time to sell the XL2.
By the end of 2005, plenty of indy feature films were being shot in standard DV. Alex Ferrari, host of the Indy Film Hustle Podcast had released his DV project Broken in 2004 and a how to DVD that subsequently inspired hundreds if not thousands of independent film makers. Unfortunately, I was not one of them. I did not get the benefit of his expertise until much later, like say last month. Wah wah.
Daughter of God would push the indy envelope by recording in 720p HD, or 1280 x 720 progressive which is about 2x the resolution of DV. In December 2005, Panasonic released their next generation of camera, capable of several flavors of HD and variable frame rates, the HVX-200. I wanted two.
There's a scene in Amadeus where Salieri (played by F. Murray Abraham) is "helping" the ill and exhausted Mozart (played by Tom Hulce) to write the requiem commissioned by a mysterious stranger. There were two cameras covering that scene, one for each actor, so the entire performance could be filmed at once as opposed to running the scene twice with the camera first pointed at Hulce and then at Abraham. This was a big deal, because two cameras meant doubling the budget, and 35mm film cameras are expensive. The result was an intense connection between the actors and a powerful performance.
I loved this approach, and with the advent of digital, shooting with two cameras was doable. The new HVX-200s had great reviews. Unfortunately, the solid state P2 cards that allowed for higher resolution recording were SUPER expensive and not yet readily available. There was a method for streaming direct to disk over firewire that had been meticulously documented on the forums, and I counting on this hack for Daughter of God.
Less than two weeks before heading to Canada, I assembled dual HVX-200 packages including cameras, mac laptops, extra PCMCIA firewire ports, dedicated hard drives and assorted cables for about $15,000 dollars. Along with my Arri, 4 light kit, I rented a Dedo kit from Martijn Hart for $200. I also bought a glidecam rig, (steadicam clone) for $1900 including vest, gimball and arm. I sold my dual 2000 watt Honda generators and bought a 4500 watt Honda for $2500. A second tripod, matte box, 4x4 filters, sandbags, gaffers tape, gels, Tenba cases, another $10,000. $2100 in production insurance. I was also paying the cast and crew $1000 each for the 10 days of production and providing lodging and food, $3500. There was also the extra van rental, gasoline, tolls, attorney fees, work permits for Canada, on and on. Where did I get $50,000 dollars give or take?
End of Episode 006 Technology and... Next week we'll be getting into Treasure, my creative funding approach. Thanks for listening, I am looking forward to more time together on whatever time perspective you happen to be taking this in on, whether a minute from now or next week.
Stories matter. The stories we adopt/adapt reveal the most relevant data to attend to, help us identify reliable allies, enable rapid recovery from mistakes, on and on. Our entertainment choices are not trivial, they are the basis for whether or not we thrive in a post science fiction, globally catastrophic future. November 29, 2013