Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wardrobe Controversy on Project Runway

Okay, so for once I can weigh in with at least a very finite amount of first-hand experience on the DRAMA that is going on with the Models of the Runway.

To sum up, one model accused another of using double-sided tape with her garment, and that's against the show's rules.

Earlier this summer, I was the set costumer on a feature film. One of my jobs was to do "last looks" which means checking everybody over seconds before the camera rolls to make sure they look good (or at the least, look the way they're supposed to). Which means that I was the girl on set with the handful of double-sided tape.

And let me tell you, we used a lot of it sometimes. These actresses would look absolutely gorgeous in these costumes, but you had to be certain that it wasn't going to slip or shift and that it was going to look gorgeous every second you were recording. But it doesn't really change the look or feel of the garment, it just ensures that it stays put if you're going to be moving around a lot.

Which is why I'm completely surprised that the PR staff doesn't allow it on the runways. I'm sure if you went to Fashion Week you'd find quite a lot of it floating around. Heck, I'm sure a lot of women use it just for going out. It was pretty darn handy for a million reasons.

But, in the end, the rules are the rules. So they told Kalyn that she can't use the double-sided tape. Okay, to be honest, I believe that she knew when she put it on the first time that she wasn't allowed to use it and she was going to try to get away with it. There's no way they've made it that far into the show without this becoming a topic of discussion. So I do think there was a little bit of scheming there.

HOWEVER, Katie's insistence that she saw the tape was still on just before the runway show bothered me. She said that it was because she saw a red strip on what should have been flesh toned (at least, that's what I heard) and that proves it.

It doesn't, and Katie should know that. I don't know what's going on in her mind, I don't know why she's upset. I forgive her for bringing it up in front of everyone the way she did because she was being egged on to discuss what was bothering her even after saying she didn't want to. She caved and said how she felt, I don't fault her for that.

I fault her for the completely wrong logic it took to get to that conclusion. If there is one thing you learn about double-stick tape after using it repeatedly, it's that the stuff is REALLY sticky. Sometimes we used stuff that was actually wig tape, so it was designed to keep people's hair on. That's some powerful adhesive.

Irina's dress in this challenge was made out of a particular type of brocade. A type of brocade that quite frankly, sheds easily. It is completely conceivable that the residue from the tape that was left on Kalyn's skin and the fabric worked together to leave a line of fuzz where it had previously been.

Not to mention the fact that if Kalyn was actually using the tape, then how would Katie have witnessed it? Unless she was doing it wrong, it would be hidden by the fabric, or if it stopped working and the dress slipped anyway, in which case it didn't actually do any good or change any results, so why be so upset about it?

I know there are going to be people out there defending Katie's point of view and saying "She saw it there! What did she see if it wasn't the tape?" Well, I can tell you it's entirely possible, indeed plausible, that she saw the remains of the residue and adhesive that the stuff leaves behind.

I think Kalyn handled the whole situation with a lot of class, also. Good for her. Though to be completely honest, my favorite model got eliminated this week so I'm not entirely happy anyway. I'll continue rooting for Matar I guess, since I like her as well.

I know that I've stopped recapping the episodes like I used to. That's a mix of two things. First, that this semester has killed me and I haven't had time to think or sleep in months. Second, that I'm still upset about Ra'mon being auf'ed and Nicolas winning in that challenge and I still can't write about it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

DVD rentals vs. sales

Remember, way back in the day, back in the 80's, when a movie was only available for rental for the first few weeks or months of it's release?

Rental stores had to pay hundreds of dollars for each copy of the movie that they purchased, and if you wanted to see that movie the day it came out you had to get it from your local video store.

That changed around the time I was in high school I think, maybe a little earlier, when they basically made movies available to rent and buy retail at the same time.

Now, with the popularity of Redbox and Netflix rising every day, studios are apparently thinking of reversing the old system. Basically a DVD would be available only for retail purchase for the first few weeks and then to rent after that.

So here's my response to that:

Are they thick?

Did somebody smack them upside the head when they were supposed to be studying economics and business and it rattled their brain into perennial opposite mode?

This will not bolster or help the DVD sales market. The DVD sales market is dying for a few reasons, none of which are entirely the rental markets fault.

Reason #1? THE ECONOMY. It's bad. People aren't buying luxuries and one of the first luxuries to go is often entertainment like movies and books. I know it's the first thing that gets cut out of my budget and I'm a filmmaker.

Reason #2? Pricing and special editions. This is the same problem studio execs found with CDs and they still haven't woken up to the truth. If a DVD is too expensive people won't buy it. Think about this: say you make $10 profit off of a DVD sale at a $20 pricepoint.

If you lowered the price to $15, you would only make $5 profit, seeming to cut your profit margin in half. But if that price drop made twice as many people buy the DVD, then your profits would stay the same. I know that this is all fuzzy and conjecture, but with all the people talking about sales and the economy, can't somebody do the studies and show that lower priced DVDs would equal higher sales and higher profits for the company?

And while they're at it, could they show that releasing a movie twelve times with different sets of special features is irritating the consumer? Not to mention when you have exclusive content depending on what store you buy your disc at? That's just uncalled for.

There's even more stuff involved than that, but in the end, even if the studios do go and make films delayed on the rental market, all it will do is serve to cause me to purchase LESS films.

I have a very specific set of questions I ask myself before I buy a movie. Have I seen it? Did I like it? Will I want to watch it over and over again? Unless all THREE questions get a yes answer, I will not buy the movie.

I know, that isn't the typical thing you'll hear from a film major or filmmaker. Most of the people I know have overflowing stacks and shelves of DVDs. And that's great. But the thing is, those people are buying the DVDs instead of renting them anyway.

Basically all this plan is doing is setting out a sign from the film studios that says, "Hey, all you people who are budget conscious and like to live uncluttered lifestyles, who prefer to think about their purchases and give their money to only the best artists and people they truly love: we don't like you and we think you deserve to be punished."

I can't think of a single person I know who would say "I can't see this movie for two weeks unless I shell out $20??? I MUST HAVE IT!"

Heck, I don't watch new releases sometimes for months or years because my Netflix queue is so full of classics and television shows I want to catch up on from the years when I didn't have cable (I'm still eight seasons behind on CSI). The only reason I rented Transformers 2 this week was because my husband wanted to see it and asked me to. Otherwise my next disc is an anime from the 1980's that I haven't managed to see before, and after that is the Dawn of the Dead remake just in time for Halloween.

What I'm saying here is that this plan will not make an impact on DVD sales, probably not even a dent. But it WILL serve to make the studios look bad, and insult a subset of their audience. So why do something that won't help and might harm? If I can't rent the DVD in the first few weeks, I'll just throw it to the bottom of my queue and forget about it, not renting it for YEARS, which certainly helps nobody's bottom line.

Movie studios are starting to sound as stupid and out of touch with modern times as record executives.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Thoughts on Film Writing

I'll catch up with my recaps sometime this week. But the thing is that I'm snowed under with my grad school homework.

Which includes a lot of reading, which has gotten me thinking.

You see, I like film as an art form and as a storytelling device for one main reason: the way it resonates with so many people. A good film is one that crosses gender, racial, and social lines to appeal to a large number of people. Not in the same way, of course, but people of all shapes and sizes pull something from the film. It relates to my personal answer to the question "what is art."

I believe that when an artist takes something of themselves, some truth they're trying to attain, some piece of their own puzzle, something about their life or belief, and they put that into the work, then they are a "real artist." And I believe that when someone, anyone, other than that artist looks at that work and takes something from their own lives, some piece of their own truth, and they pull that FROM the work, when they see something of themselves in that piece created by a person they likely did not know, then that is art.

In other words, art is something that speaks. But the important thing here is that the piece itself speaks to the audience, not the creator. If a writer, artist, or filmmaker must explain their work, or they feel that the only "real" interpretation is the one they provide and anyone who doesn't see that doesn't "get it" then it no longer really inhabits the real of "art" and it's just a recitation. Art must live on it's own, and it only lives with an audience.

To me, the beauty of filmmaking is that it is so far reaching. I attribute that to the fact that filmmaking is really art by committee. I consider this a great thing, before you get upset. Filmmaking is an art where each person is taking something from their lives, from their beliefs, and they are putting it into their part of the film. Yes, the writer, director, editor, lead actors, and producers are all known to be putting their vision to film. But at the same time, so is the art director, the wardrobe designer, the extras (if they're good), and everyone else involved. When everyone really believes in a film and puts at least a part of themselves into that film, then that means there are a hundred little truths sprinkled throughout, and those truths all have the potential to reach someone in the audience. Perhaps I don't agree with or buy into the director's truth. But I might believe in the art director's vision and that might draw me in and make me think of the film in my own way, thus elevating it to art.

Which leaves me with a very unpopular opinion that is going to get me into trouble soon. I believe that one of the worst things that you can do with film is write about it in the "academic" vernacular. To take a film or set of films and create a work where you explore it in a way that is inaccessible to most people is against the very nature of the process. I have read so many essays and papers about film that could easily have proposed the same ideas, the same thoughts, the same conclusions, but in a more easily read and accessible way, but because of the strict standards of academia and "higher learning" they're written in a way that most of the American population can't begin to understand or care about.

Film is not an art form that is about being selective, exclusive, or that has anything to do with an ivory tower. Exploring film in that way is counter to what I believe, to what I feel, and I'm tired of being expected to write about it that way myself. I can't write that way because it's not true to myself and how I feel.

You can disagree with me, that's the point of this blog having the word "opinion" in the title. In fact, I think it's important to note that for some people who are steeped in academia they likely don't know any other way to write. If they are indeed scientists or philosophers, that will just be the way they express themselves. But I think that in the places where we're teaching people to think critically about film, teaching them how to really write about film in order to leave their observations for future generations, perhaps we should be teaching them a way to write that is both persuasive and understandable for a much larger segment of the population.

As they say in one of my favorite films, "an ounce of pretension is worth a pound of manure."