Monday, May 26, 2008
Sam Goldwater and "Monad" Premiere
-"Monad" is a final project for one of Sam's college classes. Although he had conceived of the film a year or so ago, he delayed working on the film until a month before the project was due. He was actually composing some music up to 5am on the day he was to submit the work. We talked a bit about the benefits from such "concentrated" work; the accidents that work out in your favor, quick decisions leading to subconscious connections in content and the build up of isolation/passion in your work.
-We all enjoyed the irony of being in a large virtual world as virtual characters watching a film employing virtual characters and telling a story critical of the very activities we were participating in.
-Sam wanted to make a realistic "character" driven film that was distinctly different from typical machinima stories of guns and vehicles and violence. He took many digital photos of the city he lived in (Middlesex? in England), esp at night, and composited them into the shots he filmed in HL2.
-Careful attention to detail gave the film a life of it's own. Sam spent considerable time working on the depth of field shots (see the first bar scene) which took a lot of time to work out in After Effects. He also worked hard on finding the right combinations of HL2 animations (you can layer them to produce variations), a sort of "trial by error" method that produced impressive results.
-Sam was also quick to point out that the sound and the sound mix were not as well done as other parts of the film; he simply didn't have the time, he said. Also, the opening shots that were meant to establish a virtual funeral were not well crafted and resulted in some confusion about what was going on in the story. I'm hoping at some point Sam will consider re-shooting these scenes as it would start the film more clearly.
-Much was made of the effectiveness of the story and the empathy Sam created with his characters. I pointed out two scenes I thought were remarkable: one was the scene right after the protagonist has painted stencils on the wall and remarks to his girlfriend "Do you miss the stars?" - the camera pans up to the sky which is subtly replaced by a spaceship flying in a void; the image becomes something on a computer screen and we realize the game is "Eve" thus re-enforcing the theme of confused realities (games/real life). The second scene comes earlier where the guy (why can't I remember his name?) meets the girl in an internet game bar. The subtle animations and beautifully crafted shots really create a reality all their own; one that is convincing and compelling.
-While Sam was a bit disappointed with the acting of his female lead (Sarah Speak), many of us felt that her work was excellent and wondered why Sam was frustrated. It turned out that Sam wanted certain aspects of the characters personality to come out in performance, but felt he didn't get it and so perhaps missed what the actress actually did in the performance. My respect for Sam here really went up as he was willing to concede that he may have missed something in Sarah's work. I'd also like to say that Dan Jackson, the male lead, was equally as good. And despite a few popping "p's", the recordings were excellent.
-And finally Sam told us that he had received very good feedback on the film and was going to start work on his first really "team" effort for his next, longer film. He hopes to license the rights to make the film from Valve (a notion most of us were not sanguine about) and conceded that they might have to switch to another engine (CryEngine in Far Cry 2 looks fantastic, Sam said) if Valve is uninterested.
Of course, we all retired to the dance floor at the end and let Hathead do his DJ thang. The music was wonderful and HH really has a feel for creating a fun, party atmosphere. Even Sam was dancing away! I love the chat during this time as it's more informal and chaotic. What fun!
My thanks to everyone who attended. Special thanks to Sam for making such a great film and for coming into SL to talk about it with such candor. And also to Hathead, whose continuing support for the Machiniplex Premiere's is much appreciated.
"Monad" by Sam Goldwater is currently streaming at Machiniplex.com. There is also a high quality 800x600 wmv download link just below the main movie screen.