Juan Carlos Oganes' film-making and work blog.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Utopía - finished and ready

At last...finally the new video complete.
Just done editing and it's up and ready to show!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Media Bullshit

The other time I was talking to a good old friend of mine from my theater school days. I have always admired him for his talent to transform onstage but also for his ability to impersonate people. His gift of mimicking with all gestures, voice, and body moves was so amazing that he would defintely win any contest of impersonations on TV or elsewhere.

We lost contact for quite a long time and happened to talk again thru a common friend. Catching up on our own lives I discovered he wasnt into acting anymore, and although his passion was that, he couldnt get enough gigs to live and support his daughter and family. It was a sad thing to learn and after asking him how much he tried and waht doors he knocked I realized it was the very same idiosincracy and complex this fucking TV and media has: racism.

My good friend happens to be dark-skin indian type looking, and though standing no more than 5.5 ft he just doesnt make the cut for a leading man, no matter how good his talents. He would merely get roles as chouffer, robber, drug junkie or one of the yes man of the bad guys. Nothing higher than that. I feel sorry not for him but for this stupid peruvian and worldwide media ways who relies on looks more than in talent.

Time ago, when at production meetings with PR and A&R media executives, I always had to play the part and of course play the game as everybody does, and although I -a personal hater of the "system"- needed to play the cards well and not be soaked in media bullshit, it was hard at the same time stay afloat and make a living. In other words, be good while getting my hands dirty. That's why I chose since day one to lead my own life with my company and be able to make my own decisions from investment to casting and themes. Independent productions give you a freedom that Chollywood (our own peruvian Hollywood in slang) doesn't give. Of course you have tighter budgets but the freedom of expression is the good price you receive. You then make a name of yourself and people just call you.

In my own work I have always chosen not only friends that do their parts well but also the people that have what it takes to bring life to the character, regardless of looks or race. Yes, it's true that some races are associated with certain attitudes and doings but typecasting is to me a live animal left open wound waiting for it to die and not doing something about it. The real delicious feeling of seeing a story come to life is much better than just putting a good looking guy or a curvy model and expeting it to sell. Of course it sells in a way, but the creative process and trascendence requiered to leave a good message in the audiences mind is lost for a more inmediate bubble-gum pop seudo-called expressionism where feeding beauty ego is more important than giving a good teaching message to the public. Sadly, the public has learned wrong so then...expects more "wrong" from the media producers. It's a vicious circle.

Media meetings we had between executives were essentially deals on how to push a project alive and see a good thing come out of it not only money wise of course but also message wise. Most of meetings in the media are not done that way. Most are real-time deals of making the connections, getting a story together with know faces in it and walking at the end of the month to the bank to reclaim your money. Usually the way to talk business with top TV or film executives is to speak their lingo, and their lingo is definetly legal and financial. Sad but true.

The success of a film or TV series relies soley on the damn rating and people hate messages or be told soemthing valuable or to see reality and media executives know that. That's why they "feed" people with what they ask for: entertainment that makes them escape their damn reality with supernatural heroes, over the top digital effects and cheap sentimental moments put there just for the sake of not being told that it wasnt human. Sex sells says the saying. It does because it feeds one of the main basic needs of humans but it also degrades the message if not done in style. Executives dont care, thats why we get to see so much crap on the screen. The power of money distorts the real intention of what communication sciences (where film and TV rests upon) are all about: sending a message. That's why TV or film executives are 99.9% lawyers or administrators and none or little of them have a communications background or media degree.
Our ability to make a good damn film with a good script is basically the main drive for the independent filmmaker, but if you send the script or try to pitch it to one of those executives you simply wasting your time or looking for rejection easily. And that's because the TV stations or film studios dont make stories much anymore.....they make money deals (with a facade of the fakest slogan ever of "supporting national values").

So, scripts or screenplays are reviewed not by art people or filmmakers but by lawyers or corporate magement persons (MBA's so to speak). They dont understand what doesnt bring them money so they reject them. As typical as retarded people: they reject what they dont understand. They are not capable of comprehending deep interpersonal relations between humans. They see artmaking thru their distorted filters. Sadly, they run the show and they are the decision makers of what the whole wide world sees on TV or on the big screen. They measure success not on how many lives can be touched but on how many numbers can it bring to their pockets.

The "playin'-safe" attitude of those people has really made the media world what it is today and has given us a bad reputation of being cold, egocentric and pleasure-driven, when that's actually a choice not a fact of many involved in this beautiful field. They rely on "proven formulas" that will sell and that's why we get to see the same faces again adn again and I'm persoanlly tired of that. Like if those faces were the ONLY ones around. There are more....much more....they just don;t take the time to dig deep or be around.

That's where independent filmmaking enters the picture. We might not have sometimes those exorbitant budgets Hollywood (or Chollywood) has but at least we have integrity and a voice to make ourselves be listened. Yes, of course we care about money also and we expect our film to win us enough to make a living out of it, but it's NOT our main goal if really genuine on our craft and field. Success is just a result and should not be a goal. The process of making art is valuable by itself. Entertaining is soemthign inherent in any film, but should not rely solely on scandals or cheap filthy stuff just to sell because those cliches are what actually bring not only us filmmakers down, but our society as well. The audience needs to re-learn what they need to watch. Until then, top executives will always fall into the trap of formulaic untasteful stuff just because uneducated people likes it.

So, until we, as an audience learn to wacth quality stuff, a lot of talented people will just pass and pass and die unheard of, uncknown and ungiven of a chance to show or teach us soemthing with their talents regardless of looks or race.

I feel sorry for the media, for my country and for all the assholes who insist on feeding the monster of ignorance as long as it brings money in.

In the meantime, Peru is losing one of the best actors we can have. I will play my part at least and with me I know he can always have a medium to show his talents and above all....make his life dream come true.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Utopia last shooting day

Finally, we shot the second part of the videoclip was shot yesterday. It was gonna be a long drive to the deserts of San Bartolo and do some off-raoding.Started with some problems as usually every production has but was fixed quickly.

I was glad the location appealed everyone as it was a bit far but it was worth it. The results were awesome and the sky and sun was there with the precise position, the precise intensity, the wind was blowing not too fast, not to slow and the whole day was filled with fun and laugher and Toño Valero documenting all the behind the scenes with pictures and his little camcorder.The hawk and the trainer couldn't make it today but I'll do pick up shots of it probably on monday if possible as it has to be done way south outside of Lima. Maybe I'll arrange another nearby day.

We did a shot where a cape was used on top of a huge rock to to mimick a hawk and the wish to fly. We did it in sillohuette against the sun and the results were quite good. I loved the theatricality of the shot showing not an explicit but a more implied-artistic representation of the bird. Maybe if while editing I see this shot works better I'll just keep it and discard the real hawk shot....no matter if it's easy now to obtain it. I love those birds but the whole video idea is more important than bird.

For the long shots, the Nikon 80-200mm zoom was used and I think this was the best testing of it....now looking at the footage with the pro monitor at the studio it shows very clear, crisp and no color aberrations. Edge to edge sharpness was achieved and with the Canon 18-35mm there was no vignetting either. The Letus showed an incredible sweet bokeh and like I said...all the lighting and sun was perfect. Like if we paid it big bucks!

Hued the camera colors to the blues and cyans to jump one step in color correction in post.

So far, this HD footage takes quite long hours to render.At night we went to my good friend Jean Pierre Vismara's house. Although a bit far from the desert location (he lives in La Punta-Callao) and somewhat delayed in schedule, we finished fast.It was good to see him after almost two years. He was kind enough to lend me his house for the shooting. I shot there another videoclip in 2006 for Big Mike as a return of favors and he delivered. His house lends itself to lots of visuals as you can see on that video. And Rodolfo here stressed by the long hours of set up. He simply is not acustomed to audiovisual production scenarios and times. Impatient as he is it was such an ordeal to him to wait so long hours for shots that took actually minutes to do. You can see in his face his uneasiness....he is such a great guy. Very funny. Good old friend for the last 17 years!
It was a good day.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hawks & Deserts

I have always digged hawks.

Since a child myself I have always admired the royal elegance of such a beautiful strong bird. It's typical silverish tone of the first one I saw in my life made it look like shining metal and so magestic it look soft and respected at the same time.

In psychology class back in college days I found out why I happened to relate myself to those birds, for its elegance and for its ability to soar high and away and always protect its bird family as they are very territorial and protective of what it considers its own. As corny as it sounds to some, I relate to that much.
Now, years later, I wanted to say such a strong image in the song "Utopia" while writing the lyrics and now, for this shot I have tried to get in contact with people that breed and train hawks and pray birds, and I finally got one!

Im just waiting to confirm for the hour they can get the falcon to our location in the deserts south of Lima. I went location scouting today and found a place close to what I had in mind with that dried-soil look to it.

So now....sunday is the day. It will be awesome to have finally a hawk for the takes.
Later that night, the pick up takes for the middle part of the song.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Color test of the "Utopía" videoclip

Here is the first color timing test of random clips from the video.
So far, so good.

UTOPIA videoclip color test from Juan Carlos Oganes on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Filming the Alter Ego video

So finally....the Utopía videoclip was shot on monday.
The day was packed with details that made it a frenzy one in production anecdotes.

Lighting took quite a while as the place was big and the main power box was a bit far from the shooting sets. We had a late start and had to push my singing shots to the end of the day and overrun our schedule ending time by three and a half hours. We wrapped for the day early morning the next day. Besides of that, it was good to see all the band together after years of being apart.

Establishing shots were done in 720p at 24fps using a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM, medium and tight tele shots were done with the Tamron SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD and Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF zoom lenses all using the Letus Extreme.
The HVX200 delivered beautiful colors and details but had to lower the V-detail a bit to get rid of the "video" sharpness and get closer to film edge-quality.
Tried far to hue the colors in-camera as not to overload post-production and rendering times. So far, on today's tests, it's giving me five hours per minute of video.
The Jib-arm bringed those floating shots I so love and raising up to 12 feet, it sure brought production value to the shots.
As always, my good old friend Aguinaga was with me on the lights and it was a good thing to work once again together after so many years and like on every job, he is quite ready for light directions I might have. Most of my latter work was done with him under and I must say he is not only a great professional but a great friend.

Here are some pics of the shooting.
The second day of shooting will be on the weekend.

Here below is a first color grading test of random clips from the video.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Utopía wardrobes

We went to pick up the wardrobes for the videoclip. The wardrobe maker is Emilio Montero, excellent professional and good friend. He makes costumes for the Lima Prolírica Opera and also the Zarzuela. I chose him not only because he is so talented in his craft, but also as HD captures every nuance in fabric and texture that we need to be very picky on things like this and he is the guy for it. Toño Valero also came with me, his guitar riffs are gonna look cool with wardrobes like this.

So far, this is what he has. I'm liking it!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Utopía" videoclip getting close

Now as the day for the Alter Ego videoclip shooting comes close, I'm making visual examples to aid on the look style I want for it so I show my gaffers and crew. I always loved medieval, ancient, castle-like structures kinda like in the gothic arquictecture and for interiors the classy candle light ambiences. The song "Utopía" is dark and heavy so this bloomy and contrasty light/dark atmospehere need to resemble it. From wardrobe to make up, from scenography to lighting. All needs to be thought of well Tomorrow I'm checking for the type of cloth each band member fits to.

Here are some pics that exposes in a way the look I want to achieve for the clip.
The widescreen pictures are from Aaron Hobson that I happened to stumble on the net. Excellent work he does.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nikon zoom fixed again

I took the Nikon zoom lens for repair and the guy did well. He dismantled the whole lens in parts and found that the problem was the the Manual/Automatic switch: it wasn't clamping well enough and it became loose, leaving the focus ring to spin freely without engaging the focusing internal motors.
This was the ofending part: The switch that didn't clamp well.
I have another Canon 35mm f/2.0 Prime lens that the focus ring didn't work as well. Dismantled the whole thing also.
It seems that it has the internal spining mechanism broken. I bought it refurbished in the US and I still have the warranty but it's too much hassle having it sent there, paying shipping and waiting for weeks to have it fixed, so just went ahead and took care of business myself. The guy sure seems to know what he's doing. Gotta pick it tomorrow though.
I just hope the Nikon lens doesn't become broken again and this time its fixed for good.

UPDATE: Went to pick up my Canon 35mm Prime and it works fine at last. The Nikon zoom lens is not giving me any problems either. Hope it stays that way.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Got the Nikon zoom lens

Finally...the Letus Nikon Lens Mount has arrived. Customs agents gave it clearance today but it was to be delivered tomorrow. I couldn't wait so I drove like 60km to Fedex's main office to pick it up. Then, off to get the Nikon lens. The guy was just finishing cleaning it up for the sell and it looked good. Now the focus barrel was better (but not smooth yet). I tried it a couple of times on the camera kit with the Letus Extreme and it worked pretty well: no vignetting on wide apertures, nice beautiful bokeh at 2.8, sharp, no scrathes and good contrast. But the focus ring got stuck once so the dealer gave it to me for some days to test it without buying it yet to see if it worked for me. So far, already installed with my HVX200 kit at home, the focus ring got stuck and doesn't move.
Tomorrow I'm taking it back for repair. This time it has to work. It is the best bargain ever and this Nikon zoom is quite solid and rigid and together with the Tamron 28-75mm, I really have a good range from wide to tele. I really dont want to let this lens go.