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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Pitched an idea for a post-apocalyptic sci-fi mockumentary

The Postgraduation Diploma in Media Production course in Murdoch University is a rather strange course, anyone undertaking this course will have to go through a crash course to learn stuff within a year which normal undergraduate film students have to learn in three years. Basically, the first semester will be me, going through classes like Screen Production 1 and 2 SIMULTANEOUSLY (this shouldn't be done if you were an undergraduate), the Screenwriting unit, and a Directing unit, so that I can produce a short film during the second half of the year.

Including myself, there are only four people (supposedly five, but the guy is perpetually missing, and the other three in the group are 1) Anne, an orange-haired Australian woman who is married and wants to do a documentary 2) Catherine, a girl from Peru who wants to write and direct a gothic, angsty film 3) Pam, a fellow KLian who is into photography and wants to make a documentary too) doing this course, and we all work under one supervisor, whom we have weekly meetings with every Tuesday mornings. And yesterday was the very first meeting/seminar we had, where she showed us the work of last year's Postgrad Dip group.

It was a short film. About an Australian girl who went to live in Toronto (although the film was OBVIOUSLY SHOT IN PERTH), and stayed with a Canadian standup comedian (who performed in empty nightclubs, although I'm sure it wasn't the director's intention for the nightclubs to be empty). Some sort of attraction bloomed between the two, but the girl didn't choose him in the end, and she reconciled with her estranged mom on the phone.

The sound editing and mixing were rather bad (it's a tricky part, that's why I covered my short films with music all the time), the establishing shots were jarring, and unconvincing (shots of some famous Toronto buildings, including the CN Tower, won't make me believe that the film was shot in Toronto, puh-lease, when everything else felt sooooo Perth-like). On paper, this is a story that would've worked, since it was somewhat similar to the classic HK film, An Autumn Story, the leads were reasonably attractive and charismatic, and yes, they could act. It had more to do with the filmmaker herself being unable to make an effective enough short film for me to feel anything (characterization was iffy, some subplots were pretty 'huh?' since you never knew WHY she was in bad terms with her mom, just a scene of her not answering her mom's phone, and then screaming at her mom via the phone etc.)

Thus I was more than motivated when I saw it. I am a twisted human being who is desperate to prove myself better than anybody when it comes to creative works (I picked up writing because a girl who used to be good at writing in primary school snorted at the fact that I was into reading, thus I wanted to 'surpass' her, unfortunately, she gave up writing during secondary school...). Unlike Justin, knowing that I myself was better than my peers will never be enough, I'm too egoistic, too narcissistic, I want MORE people to witness my greatness. And this is my MAIN SOURCE OF ENERGY when it comes to writing and making films (or even maintaining this site, let's face it, my DAILY LINKS which everyone tend to OVERLOOK are actually more up-to-date than many tech sites or popular blogs in Malaysia, I was already introducing EGOSURF more than a month ago before everyone started playing with it today).

Hence, my increasing enthusiasm and motivation had driven me more to make my short films. During Screen Production Lecture, when shown last year's best short film in class, a beautifully shot tale (the film's bathed with golden sunray etc.) that happened to be rather cheesy (poor girl angst about her dead boyfriend, had some flashbacks of him and then killed herself and saw the ghost of her boyfriend taking her away). My main motivation is to do something even better. I'm THAT competitive, why am I always such a relentless self-promoter? It's all for the competition.

And today was the funnest of them all, during the Professional Development In Screen Production, everyone was asked to pitch their film ideas that they want to develop next semester. Not many went out to do so, but I absolutely didn't let go of this opportunity, thus I stepped in front of everyone and delivered my pitch.

The Great Swifty: I want to do a mockumentary that takes place in a post-apocalyptical future, when the Internet is entirely gone, and a girl has to go on a Lord of the Rings-style quest to restore the Internet to the masses (just because she wants to communicate with her boyfriend via Internet again). She'll have a documentary filmmaker and her little brother, who would've been an Internet hacking genius if the Internet had existed accompanying her in the quest. It'll be This Is Spinal Tap meets Alphaville.

Someone: What's the budget?

The Great Swifty: Ah, it's going to be pretty low. I intend to use as little special effects as possible. Just cheesy B-movie style ones, the most I would go with would be something from the old Dr Who shows.

One of the tutors: So, is the boyfriend going to be in the film?

The Great Swifty: Yeap. In one of those generic emotionally-charged endings. (note: I went into details, but I won't reveal it in this site) It's a satire where I make fun of our increasingly profit-driven society, and also people's dependence on the Internet. Oh, and the main girl happens to know kung fu.

And that was it. I earned some applauses and laughter, some people seemed to like the idea, and yes, I will most probably be channeling what I wanted to do with Aisyalam (a noirish Malay-language sci-fi film that had to be shelved) into this project of mine. Hopefully I can do some smaller projects while preparing for this big one.

But being the overambitious mad genius I am, the fact that I wanted to do a mockumentary (a mockumentary is a fake documentary), I even went for a documentary class today. Lots of deep stuff were discussed by the lecturer.

Documentary Lecturer: It is a creative treatment of actuality, according to John Grierson, father of documentary! It is more accurate than merely calling it a factual, realistic approach applied especially to film or literary work, or a reconstruction and reenactment of another time and place for a current audience, a graphing of history through cinematic image and taped sound. But it is mediated reality, not holistic reality!

The Great Swifty: Whoa. Deep.

Documentary Lecturer: According to John Searle, it is a condition of the adequacy of a precise theory of indeterminate phenomenon that should precisely characterize that phenomenon as indeterminate, a distinction is no less a distinction for allowing for family of related, marginal, divergent cases.

The Great Swifty: OMFG. I'm so going to post this on my site today.

Then we were shown 'Hotel Of Dreams', a Senegalese documentary by Danish filmmaker Helle Toft Jensen, a tale of a Europeanized Senegal dude who built a hotel in his village only to suffer when it got poor business, and also unintentionally alienated other villagers. I don't remember watching that many documentaries besides, er, the Michael Moore ones, and Tupac Lives, so it was interesting for me to view something that was, well, lower-budget. Whole thing was only an hour, but I made a mental note on copying whatever I could for this upcoming mockumentary of mine. If you are interested to read more about 'Hotel of Dreams', you may check out this article/review.