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Instructor - Norman Hollyn

Lesson #14

November 25, 2003

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Lesson for This Week


'Experimental' Films

Tonight we are going to devote some time to a discussion of filmmaking of the type that I have been ignoring for this entire semester (with one exception) -- what is commonly called "experimental film" (though that is a designation with which Stan Brakhage would strongly disagree).

The first film, a nine minute short by Charles and Ray Eames is POWERS OF TEN. It is a lyrical and interesting study of relative size. Created in 1968 it is one of a large number of architecturally interesting film that the Eames created for the IBM Corporation in the 50s and 60s which tried to take abstract concepts and make them live for the average human being. As usual, they combined still photographs and live action, a score by Elmer Bernstein and a narrator to explain concepts in an entertaining way. This footage is all about contrast. Another Eames film which bears watching is SX-70,, a film created to publicize the then-new Polaroid SX-70 camera. The two montage sequences use dissolves and a straightforward organization of material to show the myriad of uses that people in all walks of life could have for the camera.

Here is a quote about POWERS OF TEN from an article written by D.T. Max, from the short-lived first issue of FUSE magazine.

The film shows, among other things, how scale can be used to organize information and experience. The visual result is pure poetry. Powers of Ten is also a way of thinking about connections. It makes you realize the relation between the very small and the very large, the microscopic and the cosmic -- what we cannot see because it is too small and what we cannot understand because it is too large. Ultimately, the film is an enactment of our ceaseless quest to relate other scales to the human scale.

These films are very hard to get rent. Try Vidiots or, if you'd like to order the DVD from, click on the film's picture to get to their order page for this title. The DVD includes several other films besides POWERS OF TEN. They also have several other Eames collections.

If there is time we will take a look at MK12's short film about Brazilian machismo MACHO BOX..

At various times, while teaching the lesson on Experimental films, I've used different films as examples than the two films I used this year. I've also used Stan Brakhage's seminal DOG STAR MAN and Mark Gustafson's MR. RESISTOR. Click here to see the discussions on those two films.


This is the same 17 page PDF file that was handed out two weeks ago. Note that this is a early version of the script, so it varies from the footage that you have, which was rewritten on set.
CRIMSON TIDE Additional Material
This is a list of the additional material -- both picture, sound effects, and music that you will be receiving this and next week in order to complete your final CRIMSON TIDE project.
POWERS OF TEN script/planning chart
This is the sheet that Ray and Charles Eames used to plan out the first part of their film POWERS OF TEN, which we might see tonight. It is as organized as a script. In fact, it is a script. This is how the Library of Congress catalog describes the film.

Powers of Ten: A Film Dealing with the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero. The ultimate Eamesian expression of systems and connections, Powers of Ten (1977, first version 1968) explores the relative size of things from the microscopic to the cosmic. With the camera pulling back at the rate of 10/10 meters per second, the film travels from an aerial view of a man in a Chicago park to the outer limits of the universe directly above him and back down into the microscopic world contained in the man's hand. Powers of Ten illustrates the universe as an arena of both continuity and change, of everyday picnics and cosmic mystery. Powers of Ten also demonstrates the Eameses' ability to make science both fascinating and accessible to the lay person.

Sally Potter talks about Hervé Schneid's work on THE TANGO LESSON
Potter appreciates certain things about what Schneid brings to the process. She is by no means alone in what she likes in an editor.
The Psychology of the Cutting Room
The internal dynamics of an editing room are discussed in this article from the ACE magazine by Edgar Burcksen, who sounds like he was a bit too feisty for a long while at the start of his career.


Cut Scene 113 from CRIMSON TIDE
This is a new scene from our final project. In fact, it is the final scene in the sequence that you will be editing. As such, it is the culmination of the tension that has been unfolding between our two lead players -- Bear (Gene Hackman) and Hunter (Denzel Washington). Next week, in addition to a new scene, you will also be receiving all of the interstitial scenes, precut as they exist in the finished film. This week, you are also getting a CD with sound effects and music (four cues from the actual soundtrack to CRIMSON TIDE, as written by Hans Zimmer). You do not need to use sound effects this week, but I would like you to start working the music into the scene. Note that the four music cuts are long. Click here to see the contents of the disk.
Study for the quiz next week
The test, made up of 25 short questions -- either multiple choice, fill-in, or short answers -- will be based primarily on our textbook, thought there will be a few questions that anyone who's been paying attention in class should be able to figure out. One thing you should consider, in addition to reviewing all of the text, is looking over the glossary for the book. Some of the questions will test your knowledge of terminology and you'll find pretty much everything you need to know there. In fact it's a damned good glossary, if I must say so myself. As for the quiz itself, I'm going to try doing it open book this year.

Added Material

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Writings On Avant-Garde Film
Fred Camper, who compiled the Stan Brakhage Sites On The Web below, has a number of his writings on various Avant Garde filmmakers on the web. They are all in reference to particular filmmakers, but are fascinating nonetheless. There are also links to the webring for avant garde filmmaking. Webrings are collections of web sites devoted to the same topic -- in this case avant garde film -- that are all linked together.
Stan Brakhage Sites On The Web
Stan Brankhage was a seminal filmmaker (he died on March 9, 2003) without whom there would probably be no MTV, as we know it today. Articles on his works, as well as a large number of obituaries, can be found on this site.
Interview with Ken Jacobs, film artist
Ken Jacobs, a long time experimental filmmaker, sat down at UC Berkeley in 1999 for an interview on his thought processes and techniques. Interesting reading.
What's Happening This Week In Avant-Garde Cinema
A rather comprehensive list of avant garde/experimental films screening that week. It's cool that it's still happening out there -- in this packaged cinema world.
A Short Film By Maya Deren and Sasha Hamid
A clip from "Meshes of the Afternoon", a short film by experimental film legend Maya Deren and Alexander Hamid, who later moved into making sponsored and exposition films with Francis Thompson. If this loads too slowly, there is a link to a smaller version of the film.
Flicker, A Web Site For Experimental Filmmakers
This site is a link for many experimental filmmakers, with places for them to advertise their works and display images from them.
Filmsite's List Of Musical and Dance Films
Filmsite, as the last page of a three-page survey of film musicals put together this list of influential and worth musical and dance films. This is part of a larger site with surveys divided into 25 major genres (very well divided up, if I may say so). They also have accumulated a number of Greatest lists, including the Greatest Films, Greatest Directors (and their films), Greatest Film Moments (they include for instance, the subjective point-of-view camera angles in the stalking of Jamie Lee Curtis in HALLOWEEN, and the sequence of the ticking clocks in HIGH NOON that we looked at several weeks ago), and my personal favorite -- the 100 Most Influential People In The History Of Movies (number one is WK Laurie Dickson, the inventor of the Kinetophonograph, called the true "Father" of film). Their list of favorite scenes from recent films, 1970s-1990s, includes some wonderful choices.

Though I've tried to accomodate other browsers THIS SITE IS DESIGNED FOR BEST USE WITH IE for the PC, SAFARI for the Mac, and FIREFOX for both the PC and the Mac. It also looks reasonably good on the iPhone. Lucked out on that!

All material, except where noted, ©1999-2008 by Norman Hollyn. Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Send me an e-mail at my office
Last Modified - September 30, 2008