A Trip Down Film School’s Memory Lane

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(c) Meikawan

We are now entering the Twilight Zone… the place of no return… in a galaxy far, far away… the last leg of the race… really the last week of the year – the two-year film course that has taught me so much more than what many of my years have done for me.

Yes, we are nearing the last run of our two years here at the International Film School Sydney, and it’s actually daunting to a few of us here (we’re just the types that don’t show it). But I write because over the past weekend, a friend and I decided to re-arrange our hard drives and re-organise our files only to find some of a memorable nature. We just took trips down memory lane over the two years that the both of us stood by the school (a year and a half between the both of us). We watched our first coverage exercises, our most memorable lighting class, a fair few memories that have lasted since forever (like our stunts class), and almost every other sort of thing we’ve recorded on digital film. We even watched some BTS (behind-the-scenes) footage of some of our shoots, back when we were Tier 2′s, Tier 3′s, and even more recently Tier 4…

It was a great way to remember what we’ve all gone through, what we’ve achieved, sadly what we had to put up with, but most of all, all the good times we had and the memories we shared together. I know I’m probably referring back to a few of my old posts about what the future is going to bring for all of us, what paths are we going to take, and where they’ll take us – but I can’t help but linger on the thought that we all survived these two years and created something together – we all created a painting together, a vision, a dream… These past two years have been like a dream – one that is neverending and constantly on my mind. I’ve personally changed so much over the years, maybe not as much as I wished, but I think back to my two-year younger self – a much softer, quieter, shier maybe, version of myself – and I look at who I am now… slightly more aware, and now able to look out for myself (some of the time). Compared to how I used to be, I’ve grown so much and now I have plans to make for the future ahead of me.

Truth be told, I only have a rough idea of how to go about things. There are a few obstacles in the way, that I’m sure, but I know that I’ll get by and take things one step at a time. It only makes it harder to think about these things when a lot of people have asked me, on a career-basis, how I’m going to take my first steps out of film school. I’d like to think of things from a different perspective – I know a career is important, but I’m thinking of myself mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, how I’m going to tackle the next six months of my life from here. I’ve even considered (and been advised) to take a gap half-year or less just to get things together. That’s actually not a bad idea for now. But I digress…

Though a lot of these things are brewing in my mind, deliverables being one of them to be handed in for our diploma, watching back old footage, remembering the “good old days” and thinking about the future was a great reminder of how much we’ve all changed, and how much we’re all going to strive to do better for ourselves. It’s a hard step, probably harder than admitting ourselves into the school (yeah right!) but at the end of the day, our time has come to make this step. So, where are you heading?

When will sleep come for me?

With film school graduation creeping closer, I’ve seen a lot of people making use of their time while we still have access to school utilities and facilities. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to sleep, it’s turning into a commodity that I have to save. I’ve moved out of home to live closer to the school for the past few months, and though I am a walking distance away, it’s the school’s working environment that keeps me here. And here I thought a drive away was bad enough, now I feel real lazy having to walk less than three minutes away (considering I have to walk up a hill to get to my apartment…) True, I’m faring better now that I live closer to the school. I have more time for sleep, but now it’s a matter of using that time wisely.

Granted I’m a nocturnal being in nature. I seem to work better in the “twilight” hours of the night (I believe a friend of mine had mentioned these times as “vampire hours” to me) and maybe because it’s the only time during the night where I can truly be myself and concentrate on things better. This, however, is counter-productive when you’re a species that is diurnal by evolution. Falling asleep in class is not a good sign of good health and well-being. My body only runs when there’s something engaging with my mind and makes me focus on a task. Maybe that’s why during the shoot weeks that I had succumbed to running around collecting things behind the scenes. Keep me engaged and I won’t fall asleep. Keep me idle and you’ll guarantee that my head will nod off to who knows where.

I’m not sure. It is a mentality of mine. I need something to feed off of in order to keep running. If my mind gets bored, I’ll shut off. What do you think? Do you work better during different times of the day? I only wonder this because I realise I have a lot on my plate for the next two weeks and a bit.

Now that the seven weeks are over (in regards to the film shoots for school), I’ve focused on my rough edit and had it screened at school. I’ve been given helpful criticism and feedback, a few of them that I’ll take into my next cut of the film. I’m extremely grateful for the feedback on the shots of the film, thanks to my talented D.O.P! Still I’ll need to give this film justice and really fine-tune the structure of the film. Even with this edit, I still have things to do. I had failed miserably in my Directing Performance Examination last semester and need to make up for it (yes, I’ll admit that it wasn’t the most glorifying and satisfying experience to date). In doing so, I need to plan an afternoon of shooting a two-hander. People had put their hands up to help and I’ve been blessed for such a reception. :)

Otherwise, not much has been going on but heading for that finish line down the road. Everyone in Tier 4 can see it, but we do have our own obstacles, such as the Deliverables list… :/

Time flies by (when you’re running)

Hello again! Long time no post! It’s been officially, well roughly, seven weeks since my last postage and it’s come down to this realisation that I’ve gone through seven weeks straight of film shoots and over twenty locations (including built sets). I could think of a myriad of things to talk about, but just like everybody says, what goes on on set, stays on set. Never want to give away all of our shenanigans now do we?

But yes, its an official WRAP of over thirty films produced, directed, and shot within seven weeks. Everyone’s tired, everyone’s buggered, but we all persevered. We have our triumphs, and our horror stories, some better or worse than others. But at the end of the day, we’ve all gone on a journey of epic proportions and lived to tell about it. I know I have a few scars… physical, mental, emotional even… but I know mine aren’t as great as many others who work harder. They are our camera operators, our DOPs, our drivers, our runners, every pair of hands count on a production, and I’ve learnt my share over these past seven weeks.

Over these shooting weeks, I’ve learnt how I manage to work better (perhaps) on set. Or is it rather off set? People may call the jobs that I’ve taken up to be the bottom rung of the ladder… you’ve got your directors, 1st ADs, DOPs, camera assistants, etc. But I’ve realised that I work better behind the scenes, preparing everything to be shipped out onto set – people have given the role of Production Manager to me, which over the seven weeks constituted the label of Runner as well. If ever I was on set, I’d be the Sound Recordist, still the bottom rung but at least able to be “on set” (if no one catches me sleeping on the job that is… I can never get rid of that reputation). Still, the seven weeks have consisted of driving, running, resupplying, catering, and also data wrangling. That’s right, I have also been given the role of Data Wrangler from time to time, which I don’t mind. I’m someone that loves to be surrounded by tech. Maybe after all of this time, I’m someone that prefers to help others and lift their projects up, rather than looking out for my own… but that doesn’t mean I’m neglecting my own creativity. I’ll be making something that I want to do – involving hours at a computer screen, the ADR room, and a lot of time and storyboarding in my head… I’ll be finding people soon to help me out as well! I know who y’all are…

I’ve had good and bad experiences, met great people on set (whether that is cast, crew, or additional personnel), and above all, became a part of something special – became a part of someone else’s film. Even on my own film, I had a crew that backed me up when I floundered, something that I do need to look into and really focus on what happened and how I can better myself from it… How to work a little more efficiently on set, and also what to do in situations a little quicker than before were gems during these past seven weeks… I still can’t believe it’s been seven weeks! The most I’ve ever worked on, considering my small size, and my not-so-quick pace. Not only was I on MP2 shoots (i.e., Tier 4 shoots), but I jumped on board a couple of C&C (Coffee and Cigarettes) shoots during the past week, just as an extra hand. It made me nostalgic that it was only around this time last year that I embarked on my own C&C shoot. It felt great being a part of something, even if it was a small thing, and it made me think that all of this was going to be over…

But that aside, on the homefront, I only visited my family once over these seven weeks, on a Saturday. It was good to catch up for a while, but only for a short while. It was back onto shoots once again after a fairly good three-hour stay at the family home. My youngest sister even made a quip about the tone of my arms, wondering how that happened… (Apparently my upper arms have toned slightly since she last saw me). I guess all of the carrying of the gear and lifting them in and out of places over the seven weeks paid off, even if I wasn’t aware of it. Also, it wasn’t only just these shoots that kept me busy, I also had work on the side. Thanks to Christian from ICE (Information and Cultural Exchange), I was able to be a part of a community initiative by designing the DVD fold-out for their hard work. Last I heard, their launch was a success! So I tip my hat to you, Christian…

On other news on the grapevine, during these weeks there has been talk about the future. Yep, that inevitable time when we ask ourselves “what now?”. A lot of us had been thinking about this before the MP2s even started, but it picked up quite a bit as the weeks went by. Even I had been posed this question numerous times, once with my family when I came to visit. Truth be told… I still don’t know what to do yet. There are many ways to go about figuring out what and how you can achieve what you want. For me, as much as this is a blase answer to any cynics perhaps, I want to achieve as close to my happiness as possible. I can’t really label my future as a job, occupation, title, etc. (Although, it would be good to produce something once in my life). All I want to do is make dreams come to life, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. And as vague as that is, I just want to be happy. I’ll go about with my graphic design on the side for income and I’ll probably try to make use of my bachelors degree and this diploma as best I can, I may even go into retail as a staple income to get me by… All I know is that if I ever achieve to write and/or produce my own animated film, I’d die a peaceful death (unlike the cough and splutter I’ve been going around for the past week). I love film, but I love animation more. I plan on a future project just for it, and already have ideas on how to achieve it. At the end of the day, that’s what I want to do, work with voice actors in the ADR room.

But who knows? Maybe that’ll change too…

Well, now it’s onto a re-shoot (yes, a re-shoot and helping to build a set for IFSS’s Open Day), and then it’ll be “officially” over. It’ll be time to wake up from Wonderland, travel back through Middle Earth and return to the face of True Earth. Reality’s kicked in. We only have a month left until graduation…

No more shoots.

Just edits.

Everything comes together like clockwork (or a re-read)

I’ve been re-reading through my blog, and though I admit that some of these blogs aren’t the greatest events in the world (*cough*self-plugging*coughsplutter*), I’ve come across an old post when I attended a seminar at AFTRS. I believe this was last year (*checks date*)… yep, last year having just started the two-year journey that was film school. Thanks to a friend, I got to attend a seminar held by Richard Walter, UCLA Professor and Screenwriting Chairman. I had another read through the notes I collected on the day, and some, if not all, clicked with me… again. It’s amazing how much you learn and how much you forget. It’s even more amazing what you forget just clicks back instantaneously. Or you have an epiphany and it makes sense all of a sudden, and you just wonder “why didn’t I think of that?”, “where have I been living under?”, “I feel like an idiot. Of course it works like that!” And things like that.

Here’s the link to that old post: http://mariesetiawan.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/aftrs-screenwriting-seminar-w-richard-walter/

Yes, I’m procrastinating. I know. I’ve been going on and off with all the paperwork, all the plans, and all the freelancing I have on my plate. But it’s a nostalgic feeling to come back to writing in this blog again. I don’t know, maybe my hands have something to say. They’ve been thinking way too much with nowhere to go to vent or rant or ramble. Even re-reading a long post I’ve written, I’ve come to realise how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve grown from the Tier 1 I was last year (except for the sleeping in class thing. That hasn’t changed, haha…). I guess I’m still on the whole “leaving the nest” high I wrote last night, and all of this is just the remnants of that rant in this form.

Still, so much has happened and I’m still being a reminiscing mess over it. Ah, you big sap! Otherwise, despite the productivity in my procrastination, all my paperwork isn’t done yet. I’m still waiting on a fee that is close to its due date (to all the Tier 4s, I missed Duncan’s class because of it; to all the Tier 2s, that’s why I was slaving away in the White Labs for two-to-three days straight…), and only have the realisation that everything is coming together all too quickly. It’s crunch time!

… I’d best be off in getting my details signed off.