Tuesday, May 13, 2014


While traditional sitcoms typically unabashedly outrageous humor, mocumentary has made the banal funny. The office focuses on an exceedingly drab workplace an almost tragically uneventful town. Ironically what is initially unrealistic about the premise of the show is that a documentary crew would think to film something so seemingly realistic.
The pervasive realism throughout the show makes for much of the humor in it. Many of the jokes are derived from the characters being awkward and clumsy. Physically or metaphorically stumbling throughout their days, in small and large ways. In Gay Witch Hunt, Michel's catastrophic actions are so painful to watch because they feel so real. Each time he makes a point to his boss about the gay community he turns back to the camera in a "am I right" gesture. Only the gesture is a little off, facing just to the left frame. It's gut wrenchingly awkward and hilarious. Character weirdness is present in the small things during the show as well. For whatever reason the shot of Dwight shredding a business card  in the intro is particularly evocative. You almost begin to ask why he is shredding a business card, but don't because it seems like too small of a thing to devote any sort of energy to. I would argue that character weirdness is what makes a lot of the realism in the show. Most people are idiosyncratic to one degree or another.
This is not to say that The Office, or any other mocumentary, never becomes whimsical. At the end of Gay Witch Hunt Jim convinces Dwight that he has made an actual gaydar. In a later episode Dwight builds dozens of snowmen in an incredibly short amount of time. This moments feel real, however. Maybe it is because they are shot so much like a documentary would be, or it could just be the style of acting. So much of traditional sitcom acting (or from what I've seen of it)  is pushed and theatrical, whereas mocumentelivison is downplayed and conversational. Mumbles over projection. Even in the locked down interviews the character's dialogue feels a little confused, a little delusional, very real.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

guerilla promp

Respond to any of these prompts and provide a response to the movie:

How does the setting and environment affect both the subjects of the film as well as the crew? How does this interaction create a new aesthetic/genre?
How does learning that the film was made a guerrilla fashion affect your perception of the film? Were there any parts that took you out of it due to the way it was shot and the budget it had?

Also, something to consider: http://www.roguefilmschool.com/about.asp

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Digital Black and White

The practicality of digital black and white seems to span beyond a budget. As mentioned by Wheatly pointed out, shooting it in black and white meant that all that would be distracting, the colors of the character's shirt for example, were no longer an issue; that everything simply became textures. Art direction and gaffing becomes much simpler. This aesthetic strip down focuses the audience to the shapes on the screen. Black and white gives a film an automatic congruity. Since, at this day and age, black and white is certainly a choice, the audience already sees monochrome as a shift from the norm; one film entirely shot in black and white automatically seems more of a piece than one which might have large shifts in color.

So, this is perfect for guerrilla filmmaking, a technique both Frances Ha and (more notably) Escape from Tomorrow used. When shooting out in the open one has no control of the colors around them. The light can change as well as the objects making color film a challenge. However, when one shoots in black and white, the only thing the cinematographer has to control is the composition of the shots.

By the same logic digital black and white seems like the next logical step for minimalist cinema. Nebraska and Frances Ha certainly went with this style; telling simple stories with simple shot design, and it worked perfectly for both. A Field in England seems like something different entirely but I can't speak to it because I haven't seen it. From the trailer it looks like the aesthetic is something entirely knew. Very excited. But I digress.

Escape is interesting because the black and white almost feels grating. Instead of honing in on a story, like Frances Ha and Nebraska,  Escape is a chaotic film that blasts as much insanity at the audience as humanly possible. The black and white, maybe just out of nature of the subject matter, feels alienating and icky. There is a disparity between what we imagine to be the hyper colorful Disney World and the glossy DSLR black and white cinematography. The audience is left ignorant of the omnipresent but unrevealed colors.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I'm beginning to question whether or not the "mumblehor" genre is real at all. The article seemed to focus much on the distribution of the film, the sort of no budget Cinderella (Shoot it in your house, Steven Spielberg ends up liking it) story that got the film out to so many people. So much of the distribution technique was linked to the visceral fright the film would evoke in the audience, and the whole idea of what one doesn't see is scarier than what we do see. The film also, like all found footage horror, capitalized on the faux reality to truly haunt the audience. Like the director said, the movie is really about the sounds that your house makes in the night. From a mechanical as well as economical standpoint, the film is staggeringly efficient, a door moving six inches makes an entire theatre jump and results in a ridiculously highly grossing film.

I am still struggling to see where the genre intersects with mumblecore. Even aesthetically the two genres only cross observationally; I.E, shaky cameras, realist dialogue, and crappy sound. Again, Paranormal Activity used some of the actors real names, but there was rarely anything mentioned that they were playing themselves.

The most contradictory convention between found footage horror (Which I feel like would be a more appropriate label for the discussed genre) and mumblecore is that the fear in horror is almost always concrete. That is, when the characters are scared, they are really scared, and they know it too, they are conscious of their emotions. The route of mumblecore is the opposite of this; the "mumbled" emotional state; a lack of motives, not knowing what you want and not knowing how you feel. Mumblecore captures the emotional mess of everyday life. Mumblecore is often accused of apathy, both in it's audience, characters and creators. This is because, as is (tragically) the case with most of humanity, mumblecores characters are apathetic.  They're also not sure that they're apathetic, making it impossible to be apathetic about their apathy. This meta emotion is a halmark of slackers; a type of person much more badass than a mumblecore character.

What I would like to see, and I feel will be forever absent in found footage horror, is a mumblecore character thrust into a horror setting, and still maintaining there general ennui and confusion. Someone who is haunted but still maintains their Dunnamesque confusion. A character who lets the "meh" remain in the "AAAAHHHH," creating a "meaaahhhhh" sound as they are torn to shreds by a zombie. I wish this would happen, but I don't think Paranormal Activity does it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Internal mumblecore, a lack of concrete feelings, fleeting and mumbled motives, is really only the natural response to quarter life crises ennui. While Tiny Furniture does not follow the mumblecore aesthetics it certainly captures the meandering confusion and convolution that is so present in the quazi-genre. I think it's really interesting how many people brought up The Graduate as a sort of predecessor to mumblecore. I see a similar confusion and apathy in the protagonists as well as the life circumstances, but the difference lies in the climax. In The Graduate Ben exerts great physical action to abscond with his ex lovers daughter at her (the daughter's) own wedding. Such a grand gesture elates the audience before the bus drives off and the reality begins to set back in. When Ben and Elaine's faces drop on the bus we feel that they are asking "what are we going to do next?" This question is what Ben, like most white 20 something "mumblecore"are perpetually asking throughout the film. Only now the question is put in a direct context. They have done something concrete and are facing the consequences.

The narratively parallel moment in Tiny Furniture is the pipe sex scene. Nothing much leads to it and it isn't some grand like running away with a bride. Instead it is a sort of whimper: a vague attempt at something that nobody, including the characters, is quite sure what it's intent was in the first place. This is much like existence. Everything is messy and tragic and funny.
The Puffy Chair ostensibly climaxes much more like a traditional hollywood film. The goal, getting the chair, is finally destroyed beyond all hope when the protagonist's brother torches it in a motel parking lot. Like The Graduate there is a violent physical motion preformed by the main characters; the tackling. However, the aftermath of the climax is, like life, complicated and doesn't have a not vague meaning. The brothers, as brothers do, seem to go back to being really on okay terms with each other. Any change that occurred within the psyche of the characters is hidden beneath the internal mess that inhabits all of our minds.

It is no coincidence that mumblecore often features white well off people in their twenties. Most things it seems done by these people won't really have any grave or grand consequences. Like someone said in class, Jed is broke and homeless but he is staying in a multi million dollar New York apartment, drinking wine while talking about his blowjob happy ex girlfriend. On a less extreme scale, the Puffy Chair is destroyed and the protagonist looses his girlfriend, but we all know that none of the events are life ruining. Not much is at stake for either of these characters, and they know this. This makes the external conflict, if you will excuse the pretention, a very existential one. Since the characters have nothing to fight against they are in a little bit of a conundrum to find what to fight for.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Going Pro/The Reign of the "Mothership"

Going pro seemed to converge closer and closer to, but never fully reach, a large philosophical discovery on the nature of escapist media as a whole: the reason why controlled fan creation with real life rewards fail, while controlled environments that offer entirely fictional rewards are typically more successful.

Fanlib fell on it's face because of its attempt to bring capitalism into a community routed in an entirely different economy. Videomaker failed because of it acted under a strange, somewhat unspoken rouse; that the fans creating content were employees. They were giving them strict instructions (That included not altering the storyline itself) and in return offered a concrete reward. This fell through when the "boss" failed to treat the "employees" with any respect. No feedback was given, no interaction offered.

Source media should give their fans all the tools necessary to create fan art, but should not try to control or solicit it. The joy of fan art is the exploration of a world through one's own creations. The nerd mentality is one of delving into an alternate reality that is only touched upon by the narrative that introduces it. This is why so many fandoms are linked to science fiction or fantasy. Action figures, as mentioned in "The Reign of the 'Mothership,'" action figures give children the ability to manifest a formerly ethereal narrative into the physical realm. It also promoted the creation of new stories and situations. When source material tries to control fan art they are, metaphorically, telling people how to play with their action figures.

The two consistently successful transmedia ecospheres- non-capitalist circles of fandoms autonomous to their media sources (As found on tumblr, livejournal, ect) and online games which offer entirely virtual rewards- both share a commonality: they both exist entirely separate from the real world. Earning Krave Choc chunks and writing fan fiction rewards you within a specific community. This seems similar to what most of escapist media attempts to do in the first place: transmit it's audience to another world. While these virtual games offer the audience a chance to interact with the media they hold so dear, fanfiction websites create an entirely new community. Producers and marketers often mistake

We can see from the examples given in the readings that fan creation does not fair well when monitored. The joker campaign worked because the amount of real life creativity needed was quite small and the rewards were within a video game. Nobody's real life was claimed to be affected as it was in the Videomaker program. There was no promise of real life fame, only a virtual reward. This is appealing to people because it is why they consumed the media in the first place: to escape into fantasy.

The Reign of the "Mothership" prompted me to think about the Gorillaz. The lure of the band is that the narrative exists entirely within what would normally be considered transmedia. The centerpeice of course, is their music. They were considered a band and the albums hold up on their own, but the concept of the Gorillaz included the persona and story of the musicians as much as the music itself. The band only included two constant members: Damon Albarn, who ran the musical side of the project, and Jamie Hewlett, who ran the visuals. Hewlett was responsible drawing the characters and creating the visual mythology. He created the visuals for a vast and enigmatic narrative that was revealed piece by piece primarily in music videos but also in song lyrics and a massive interactive website. There was never a "Mothership" for the narrative, no one place to find out how the story was unfolding. The fans had to scrounge around the internet, inside CD case booklets, meticulously scrub through music videos, to discover the inner workings of the story at hand. The created mythology built a dedicated fan base that came back over and over again, consuming all they could get their hands on. Leaving so much of the story either unexplained or in the depths of their transmedia made it so that the characters never really disappointed the audience. Murdoc, 2D, Russell and Noodle, while they changed somewhat in appearance (Noodle was a cyborg for a while, Russell became a giant, Murdoc's skin periodically changed colors as did 2D's hair) they always seemed to retain the same energy. When a plot point thrust them into a different location one had to scrounge through every piece of obscure media given to figure out why. The story was not a center piece but a bait to draw you into the universe, the centerpiece of the concept.