Buzzworthy Wednesday’s have been resurrected! In an effort to keep them simple and easier for me to stay up to date with a weekly post I will be keeping my comments and background on whatever the Buzzworthy Wednesday content is quick and to the point.
This week’s Buzzworthy Wednesday is “Space Chimp” with a sad but poignant environmental message. The video was a collaboration between the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF…not the wrestling organization), ad agency Leo Burnett which has one of my favorite interactive websites ever designed and singer / songwriter Ben Lee for his track, “Song for the Divine Mother of the Universe”.
There is a new podcast called NomX3 – a brilliant idea where two guys (Mike Lankford and Jeff Cutler) go to lunch and discuss interesting topics as well as the great food they are eating at different restaurants. NomX3 (or nom, nom, nom best pronounced as if you were a Muppet) i’s a great way to spend your lunch as a viewer at your desk (if you eat lunch like I do) and have a good laugh. It also reminds you that lunch is a great opportunity to get out there and meet some new people or reconnect with old friends.
Recently I created an intro for the podcast and they invited me on to the show to talk briefly about short form online video versus podcasting. Then they profiled the Telly Award winning video we created through JCSI for OpenPages as an example of what we do. The lunch at Burton’s Grill was absolutely amazing and the conversation was great. Enjoy this while you eat your lunch…I know I did.
If I deemed you worthy enough to pass this glorious honor on to you, and put its continued existence in your very hands (you! have! the! power!), please follow these care and feeding guidelines:
Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
Let them know they’ve been tagged
All right here we go…
I split my head open jumping over hurdles – but not the way you may think. We had to do plyometric bounding drills over hurdles set closely together my freshman year of college (few people even know that I ran track in college). Well I clipped my heel on a hurdle and fell. So the first thing you do when you fall is jump back up and hope nobody saw you, right? Well what I didn’t realize is that when I fell on the hurdle it had sprung up and was spinning in the air…and I stoop up into it leaving a gash over my left eye near my temple. It took 7 internal stiches and 9 external stiches to close it up. Now I just have a barely noticeable scar line over my eyebrow.
I was a history minor in college – when I started college I didn’t have a firm knowledge of what I wanted to do, but who really does? That’s the type A number crunching part of my personality. So I took a bunch of history classes as well as my art & design classes. Come senior year I learned I only needed to take a history survey class so I figured why not?
I don’t like football – I know sacrilege to some. I actually played football in high school for a couple of years…just didn’t have the passion for it. I can sit & watch parts of a game, just not in a group with a bunch of people yelling at the TV. Also after watching Tim Krumrie’s leg get sickeningly crumpled over and over again during the Super Bowl XXIII in slow motion I stopped watching. The only sports I follow religiously now are baseball & cycling.
I once had a giant dyed blond Mohawk haircut – That’s right. I also had my head shaved and my hair long & dyed black as well. What can I tell you…I was in art school! While no photos exist of the Mohawk here’s a funny one of me with my head shaved.
Once I was stalked by a Nile Crocodile – I was doing a graphics installation at the New England Aquarium after they were closed on an African lake exhibit. While installing some information card turrets in front of the Nile Crocodile exhibit I noticed that the 16′ Nile Crocodile slipped into the water in his tank and was gliding toward me. When I turned to look at the crocodile…it stopped completely still. So then I turned back to my work and noticed out of the corner of my eye that the crocodile was gliding towards me again! Not trusting the 3″ thick Lexan to keep the crocodile away from me I sped through the rest of my installations and got the heck out of there.
I developed photos for Ben Affleck before he was BEN AFFLECK – well he was still Ben Affleck and had been in a couple decent movies already but it was before Good Will Hunting was released. He used to go into a little boutique photo store I used to work at on Newbury Street and get his film developed. I also helped him find where to buy a Hasselblad Medium Format Camera and he invited us all to go to the Boston Premiere of Good Will Hunting which I unfortunately turned down.
This is the first time I have ever returned a chain mail of any form – I normally get a bunch of these emails and prior to email actual snail mail letters which promise good luck or a horrible curse and they usually all get deleted. I thought this one sounded fun and Mike is a good egg so I decided to do this one for fun.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of useless knowledge about me & my life and now the poor souls I am passing the baton to with their Twitter handles:
Usually my blog posts are about social media and using online video for your business. But as you know I occasionally take a break to talk about pop culture. Well there is no better reason than when two friends put out a really cool graphic novel that is tied in to a big motion picture release.
The story is about a misfit mouse who prefers reading books to eating them, an unhappy rat and a servant girl – whose stories all are tied with that of the castle’s princess. If you have kids, they will love it. Even if you don’t have kids…you will love it.
Graphic novels are an amazing way of seeing a visual interpretation of a great story. Definitely check out the graphic novel before you see the movie.
One of the people I follow on Twitter is Marc Lougee (or @luge if you are a Twitter user) who is a director and film producer based in Toronto. I am a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe AND stop motion animation so when I saw that he had created a short film of The Pit and the Pendulum I was intrigued. When it came out on DVD I ordered it immediately and was completely blown away. The stop motion animated short feature itself was completely amazing and the addition of the interviews and the many special features really made this DVD special. I asked Marc on Twitter if I could interview him for my blog and he kindly obliged:
EG: Can you give a brief synopsis of The Pit & the Pendulum (for those who aren’t familiar with the work by Poe) and what inspired you about this story to interpret it into a short film?
ML: In the film, as in the original story, a lone prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition is tried and condemned to a horrible fate, which he can only imagine based on the rumors of the Inquisitor’s particular brand of awful. While he’s locked up in the dark, he wrestles with hope and faith as his captors ratchet up their efforts to unhinge him.
I was inspired to do the film, initially, with a phone call from Ray Harryhausen’s agent! I was literally just wrapping up a series gig, and looking at a break of a few months (over the summer!) so making a short wasn’t really on the plan. Until I got “The Call”.
Ray was keen to see a small-scale production of The Fall of the House of Usher (a classic Poe story well worth a film, surely), but Susan Ma (Producer on the Pit & Pendulum, and my lovely wife) and I worked out some numbers and had to break the news to Ray this was just too massive a thing to wrangle with the time and available resources. So, I pitched The Pit and the Pendulum, thinking it’s only a few walls, rats, a large Pit and some flaming fireboxes…what could go wrong? Two plus years later, we finally wrestled the beast onto a DVD with a lot of extras.
EG: That’s amazing that Ray Harryhausen was involved in the production of the film! I grew up loving his movies and being a huge fan of his work. What was it like having him as the producer of The Pit & The Pendulum and how much involvement did he have in your process?
ML: Working with Ray Harryhausen on The Pit and the Pendulum was literally a dream come true. If someone had told me with a degree of seriousness this might be coming down the road, I’d have fallen off my chair laughing. It’s like winning the lottery, for me; and considering I haven’t bought tickets, it’s that much more astounding.
Ray’s involvement was very much on the creative side; he had approval on everything, as one might imagine. If the stuff was lacking, in his eyes, we didn’t move forward until we got his blessing. Susan and I wouldn’t have it any other way, really. Ray cleared the designs, script, even the crew; we sent him bios and demo reels of the folks we were planning to work with on the project, a lot of the folks I’d been working on other series and films with in the past. It was a pretty amazing bunch of folks hooked up for this, so I was totally confident this thing would look and sound great, regardless of how badly I did my job! Ray was definitely hands on, in the sense he had final say over everything we did on the production end.
EG: The animation used in the piece is traditional stop motion animation and your style, set design and color scheme perfectly captured the impending doom that Poe so accurately describes in his story. Why did you choose to utilize this method to tell the story rather than computer animation?
ML: I’m a huge fan of stop motion animation, and the illusion of the human eye that’s inherent in the process- visual trickery is a blast to pull off when done well. I thought the medium, theme; story and style would all play nicely together on this particular project. Thankfully, there are lots of folks that agree (Ray included), and it worked out. As much as I like working on CG projects (and I’ve done a few- series, films, commercial spots, etc, as both animator and director), I see the various techniques as tools, as a method of getting the most important part told, the story. Without a strong story, and strong characters, there really isn’t much that will save the project. Of course one can polish a brick to high degree of shine, but it’ll always be a brick. So, the way we wanted to tell the story and Ray’s involvement, really dictated how we approached the film and the use of stop motion animation. Truth be told, my angle, and part of my pitch to Ray, was to add certain CG elements and cutting-edge digital visual effects techniques to the film, adding a level of mystery, or ‘how did they do that?” to the mix. There are a few elements in the film that are completely CG animated, but produced to be seamless, so to tell the story and not bring attention to technique itself. I feel various techniques and tools, used properly, will enable viewers to forget about the fact they’re watching an animated film and allow them to become invested in the characters and story. Stop motion animation and CG visual effects can work brilliantly together, giving us a huge range of possibilities. Mixing the traditional, old school with the new; that’s where some very cool stuff happens.
EG: I know that the musical score was done almost completely virtually over the internet. How much of the film collaboration was done on site at your studio in Toronto and how much was done virtually using the internet? What was that process like?
ML: Thankfully, we had the great fortune of having an excellent composer, Philip Stanger, who is the bomb. He’s extremely talented, has many years of experience and is the most amazing musician. When I had first met with Philip, I showed him the rough cut of the film, and almost instantly, he had the basic tune. This was before I had even got my coffee cup to my lips! Amazing. He was attuned to what we were looking for, and is a huge fan of Poe and Gothic music already, that it was literally instantaneous for him. Really, the process couldn’t have been easier, from that point on.
Philip, aside from being a brilliant composer, is also extremely tech savvy; so as he was in London scoring The Pit and the Pendulum music sending digital files to Toronto for work by our mixer, John, who then would resend them back to Philip for further work. With the time delay between London & Toronto, they were essentially flip-flopping day to night, so there was no real ‘down time’ in the process. Things went very smoothly with the system, so we had the music quite quickly.
I didn’t get the final files until I was in the final mix session for the film, where I heard everything layered in properly. I was totally blown away. The entire score was produced using digital technology, sampling, etc, as we had a very limited budget, so there was no ‘live performance’ recording. All digital, all the time. Philip just worked magic.
EG: One of the unique things you did for marketing and promoting the film was you were very active on social media networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. How did you utilize some of these social media networking sites for the promotion of The Pit & the Pendulum?
ML: My experience with promoting stuff I’ve worked on was primarily the festival route, or sending a lot of emails to friends and colleagues. This being fairly limited in scope and breadth, I got very interested in seeing what all that I might be able to do with social networking, Web 2.0, etc. I looked around for resources and eventually found filmmakers using the latest online gadgets, tools and techniques to promote their projects. Some of these folks were doing brilliant things, really thinking outside of the box, and I was totally intrigued. I looked at their approaches, modified and adapted them for my own ideas, and went bananas teaching myself how this worked. Dealing with the various tools, sites, gadgets, widgets, etc, I managed to see what was working or not working, and re-prioritized to using just what I thought was getting the most response. Hence, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, et al. Of course these are like saying social networking is ice cream, and the above mentioned venues are like flavors, so I choose to use what I liked, found easy to work with, etc. By focusing on the various sites I can handle technically (and with the shallowest learning curve), I spent more time learning the ins and outs, and how to maximize the potential of each. This might sound abstract, but it really comes down to my finding tools I liked to use, learning how to use them to maximum benefit, and going bananas working them to promote the film. One of the best aspects is they are all free, have huge audience potential, and allow a back & forth between the filmmaker and audience. Sharing, forums, feedback, it’s all there, so it’s quite a cool way to push your film project along to a global audience. One great resource has been Lance Weiler’s workbookproject.com. Lance is a genius with this stuff, and has a track record to prove it. Once he started up the ‘Project, he’s also been attracting other like-minded folks from all over the indie film sphere, all of whom have been using social networking to benefit the promotion of their films. If Web 2.0 is on your mind as a filmmaker: run…don’t walk over there- you’ll be happy you did.
Growing up…the movies of Ray Harryhausen were a huge influence on me. I was an imaginative kid…always making up stories, having imaginary friends pretending I was on fantastic adventures. When I grew up I wanted to be the captain of a sailing ship so I could go on adventures like in Jason and the Argonauts or the Sinbad movies that Harryhausen created. I didn’t realize that when I was a kid in the 1970’s sailing ships had long since become floating museums and not a realistic means of transportation or exploration. Exploring the seven seas by sailing ship as a swashbuckling adventurer seemed like a realistic career path for me. I watched most of Harryhausen’s movies on a little television with “rabbit ears” we had growing up. I remember seeing Jason and the Argonauts and being amazed when the gigantic statue of Talos came to life or in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers because I thought the flying saucers were real. Mostly I remember the Sinbad movies on television. When I would see a commercial that one was coming on I would get insanely excited. The monsters he created seemed so life like armies of battling skeletons, a fight between a dragon and a cyclops…it was the stuff little boys dream of.
The only movie I saw on it’s original release on a big screen was Clash of the Titans in 1981. I remember seeing it at a Drive-In Movie Theater along with two other movies. We used to pop our own popcorn at home and bring it in a big paper bag in our station wagon. I don’t remember the other two movies that played but I will never forget Clash of the Titans. I was amazed at Pegasus the flying horse, completely frightened by Medusa and I admit I secretly wished that I had a golden mechanical owl named Bubo.
When I was in college I came to admire Ray Harryhausen even more because growing up…I just thought it was normal to go on a sailing trip and get attacked by a giant squid. I went to school for graphic design and I worked on an animation that was only a few seconds but the drawing of 30 pictures to get 1 second of animation left me in awe of Harryhausen’s stop motion animation he used to bring all of these monsters he created to life. If you needed a creature or monster created for a movie in the 50s through the 70s – Ray was the man. His stop motion animation and movies entertained and inspired the likes of future fantasy story directors like George Lucas, Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg all of whose work were also great influences on me. Once I realized that sailing the seven seas as an adventurer wasn’t really a career choice…Harryhausen’s movies provided me an inspirational direction for me to get involved in doing creative design work in print, online and with video.
As I write this blog post…it’s making me want to go back and watch all of his movies again because they are still that good. In the coming weeks I am honored to include an interview with Marc Lougee who directed an amazing short stop-motion animation film called “The Pit and The Pendulum” based on the Edgar Allan Poe story which was produced by Ray Harryhausen. Marc utilized stop-motion animation for the creation of his film and utilized social networking sites such as Twitter and YouTube to do some of his film promotion online. Stay tuned!
The title of this blog post also happens to be one of my favorite movie quotes of all time. Because it’s said by Alexandra Paul when she finds out that Kevin Costner has a cerebral aneurysm in the movie American Flyers. It’s always struck me as an odd and funny thing to say in such a situation. You might say “Why is Eric sharing this?” Well, because you see…I have a dirty little secret. I am a huge fan of bicycle racing.
I grew up in Fitchburg which annually held the Longsjo Classic Cycling Race – little known fact – it’s the second oldest bike race in the United States. Every year as a kid I remember getting excited to go see the racers fly at superhuman speed through the downtown of Fitchburg. I even saw Lance Armstrong ride and win the race pre-cancer in 1992. The speed, the crashes…I was hooked for life.
July brought the Tour de France – held annually where all the world’s most talented cyclists fall on France for a month long bicycle race. As a kid I didn’t have the internet or a million television channels (I know I sound like Statler from the Muppets) I would eagerly anticipate the Wide World of Sports coverage every Sunday for 1 hour recapping everything that happened over the course of the previous week. Now of course you can get LIVE coverage on the Versus Network everyday or can listen to any number of live feeds online.
So to curb my thirst for cycling, I would watch movies…and there have been some good ones…and I admit a few bad ones too. So here without further ado are my favorites of all time in alphabetical order:
American Flyers(1985) ◊◊◊◊◊
Kevin Costner & David Grant play brothers estranged after their fathers death. Costner plays a bike racer that convinces Grant to compete with him in a cycling race called The Hell of the West to repair their relationship. Great bike racing footage & great quotes.
Bicycle Thief(1948) ◊◊◊◊◊◊ Also known as Ladri di Biciclette – This was directed by Vittorio De Sica. It’s a touching story with a moving portrait of after-war life in Italy. A workman spends a whole day looking in vain in the streets of Rome for the bicycle someone has stolen from him. Truly a masterpiece.
Breaking Away (1979) ◊◊◊◊◊ Coming of age film about 4 friends try to break away from their townie, reputation while fighting with nearby college snobs. Stars a young Dennis Quaid, Daniel Stern and Dennis Christopher. If you have not seen this, rent it right now. Seriously. Jump on your bicycle and ride to the rental store or get it on your NetFlix list because it’s that good.
Quicksilver (1986) ◊◊◊◊◊ Kevin Bacon plays a yuppie who loses his job and becomes a bike courier in San Francisco. Also stars “Larry” Fishburne (before he became Laurence Fishburne and Louie Anderson (who does NOT ride a bike…just thought I would point that out). Add this to your 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon repertoire.
Sunday in Hell(1976) ◊◊◊◊◊
Also known as Forårsdag i Helvede, En – Documentary filmmaker Jorgen Leth delivers an amazing view of Paris-Roubaix the one day stage race over cobblestones commonly referred to as the Hell of the North (not to be confused with the fictional Hell of the West in American Flyers). A masterpiece of cycling cinematography in a study of the dramatic battle that ensues.
The Triplets of Belleville (2003) ◊◊◊◊◊ This animated feature, directed by Sylvain Chomet concerns a cyclist named Champion who enters the Tour de France and is kidnapped during the race. The woman who raised him, Madame Souza and her faithful dog set out to rescue him. There isn’t one word of dialogue spoken in the entire film yet the story is compelling and truly draws you in.
There have been others – honorable mentions go to fantastic documentaries like the Road to Paris, The Tour Baby and The Hard Road. All definitely worth checking out but I could go on forever on this subject.
So the what is the moral to this story? These movies and documentaries all have great cinematography – but what makes them great is their story. Every year when watching the Tour de France there is a cyclist who comes out of nowhere to surprise everyone usually on a single day or stage. He probably won’t win the overall title but for ONE DAY he is watched by millions cheering him on hoping he can stay clear of the engulfing peleton – made up of hundreds of riders on different teams all working together to chase him down. Most are caught in the final kilometers before the finish but once in a while he succeeds in escaping. The classic underdog story we all enjoy cheering for. So check these movies out when you get a chance and vive le tour!