March 28, 2010

Counting the days to quit my job

Besides the homestay issue, I haven't been able to study for my trip. I'm worried about that. I've just started to read "The Five C's of Cinematography". It's great. Really helpful.

I hope I'll have more time when I quit my job. I'll work until this Thursday (Apr2). After that, I'll be completely devoted to my studies. That's a deal.

Homestay soap opera - Episode 3

That friend of a friend has a vacant room in Van Nuys. That's a good possibility although this city isn't in my list. At least I would be living with people familiar to where I come from.

Let's wait and see what the homestay company's got to me. I guess they'll send me news till the end of this week.

March 25, 2010

Homestay soap opera - Episode 2

(or Are aliens all the same?)

If an ordinary citizen treats all aliens as the same, ok. I can understand that but I disagree, of course. But what about a company tailored to welcome foreigners?

As I told you in my last post, there's been a huge misunderstanding about my stay in US. They've put me with a Phillipine family with a roomate called Roberta. (Who the heck is Roberta?) Now the mistery is solved. "It seems your application was confused with another Brazilian student who requested a roommate", they said. All right. One Brazilian, two Brazilians... What's the difference? Put them together and colect the money!

Of course that's nothing I asked for. My special requests were completely neglected. Still, I insist with USH.

Let's give them another chance. Why not? I'm fair enough to do that. But I won't give up on my cities list! Or my private room! Neither make a fool of myself if my host family starts to speak Tagalog among them in my face knowing that I can't understand a word of that. And then USH replied:

Please be aware that homestay is based on availability which means that hosts must be able to accommodate you in their schedule and based on your profile information, agree to host you. So the locations that you indicated in your file will be based on availability. Regarding your preference for an "American family," we'll be happy to place you with one of our many diverse, American hosts. Since we do not indicate host's ethnicity in their file, we can only ensure you that they are American, have been visited and interviewed by the Director of USH, have undergone a criminal background check and thus, determined as quality homestay hosts for our students.

Why do I have the feeling they're really saying "stop complaining and be happy with what we get you, alien"? Maybe because those are the standard excuses from Brazilian companies on any subject. They always say they'll do everything possible -- and then offer the only thing they actually want to provide (preferably with no effort and great profits). Humpf...

Let me tell you a naked truth about Brazilian culture: Brazilian means survivor. We never ever give up. We always find a way -- with or without the system.

I've got the contact of a friend's friend that is living in L.A. for years. I guess he's "majored" in American way of life. I'll start with that. Maybe he has some good tips. I'll find the best place to stay. That's a promisse.

March 24, 2010

Homestay soap opera - Episode 1

(Or who the heck is Roberta?)

My Goodness! I thought that kind of thing only happened in 3rd world countries. I was deadly wrong. I've signed for a homestay by USH. They've sent me six messages at once confirming the applying. And you know, I must confess I'm kind of lazy to read all that.

But when I finally read them I found that was the smallest of my problems. I wrote on my application that I would stay until July 6th. They've sent me a nice confirmation:

Welcome to the US and to sunny California! We are pleased to have chosen a homestay for you while attending New York Film Academy. Your 4 Weeks 5 Days stay will be from 04/25/2010 to 05/27/2010.

Are they kidding me? I'll stay for almost three months! So I've sent them a message warning about the slightly little mistake. They replied just to be sure:

Thank you for your email. So I understand that you will be staying until July 6th, not May 27th. Will Roberta, your roommate, also be staying until July 6th and sharing the bedroom with you? If she is moving out May 27th, then you will be charged for private room from May 28th until July 6th. Please confirm if that is correct. Thank you!

I beg your pardon, but who the f... is Roberta?

After that, I decided to read all the information really really carefully. And I notice that my family speaks Tagalog. What's that? Never heard of it! Thanks to Google now I know they speak it in Phillipines. And thanks to Wikipedia I know Philippines is a country in Southeast Asia.

As if it wasn't already too much for me, they live in North Hollywood, and this city wasn't in my list of special requests. (Read here)

What do I do? Couldn't help myself. Had a serious talk to them. Now I'm really worried about where I'll sleep when I arrive in LA.

Is that just because I'm Latin American? Is this the way I'll be treated during all my stay in US? Do they think I'm stupid? Can't they care about offering a good service? Do they think I'll accept anything just because I'm a foreigner? Nobody's doing me a favor, I'm paying for all and it's a lot. Really expensive. I'll take nothing but what I asked for. Period.

PS: When I started this blog I thought of telling my adventures. Should've remembered: be careful what you wish for!

March 11, 2010

Finding a place to stay

Although I've signed for, I've decided to go for a home-stay. Costs are almost the same and a company will help me to find a place. It's better than just search one-on-one. And safer!

Suprisingly, I've been contacted through the site, but potential roomates asked me to come by and see the place, wich I won't be able to do 'cause I'll arrive just a week from the classes start. So I guess it wouldn't be wise if I let that to solve in just seven days. I'm eliminating problems before they even begin.

NYFA's LA Housing provided me a huge list of apartments, condos - even motels - and home-stay services. I've chosen Universal Student Housing. Seems good and it's the cheapest among companies alike. I'll tell you later if it meets my standards.

There's a special requests item on the application form. I thought of what would really bother me: the family mustn't be military neither have strong religious beliefs, preferably Democrats and I'll accept dogs only if it's a house. I don't oppose to kids except if they're spoiled little brats.

I've chosen some cities as well, according to a little research I did. I guess it's always wise to do that. When I moved to Sao Paulo (Brazil) I've done the same. Looked for researches mainly about ethnicity (avoiding places with a low percentage of white people 'cause I want to live in America not just in L.A. territory); income (above $50,000 median household at least) and education (almost always attached to income). You can find that information by neighborhood in Mapping L.A., a Los Angeles Times project. Those data are closely linked to violence statistics. The higher they are the lower's the violence. Haven't you ever consider that when choosing a place to live? You'd better!

So I came to this list of suitable cities within 5 miles from NYFA: Burbank, West Hollywood, Studio City (and Universal City), Toluca Lake (and West Toluka Lake), Sherman Oaks, Valley Village. I don't know if I guessed right. Maybe's pure bullshit. But doing that makes me feel secure in a hostile environment.

March 09, 2010

Got my visa!

Today, I received my passport with an american visa valid through 4 years. Great! My trip's closer. Counting the days left.

March 04, 2010

Oscar nominees in drops

Avatar (James Cameron and Jon Landau) - I've been inside the film (Imax 3D). Amazing team work. Script could be better, but the "we all are one" theme is wonderfully explored. Cameron has an artist timing to find out trends. The winner without doubt. (I'm truly sorry that coleague's recognition hasn't come with the audience's worldwide success. But that's how history is. You can't please them all!)

The Blind Side (Gil Netter, Andrew A. Kosove and Broderick Johnson)- It's a sweet film with a lot of tears effect. Sandra Bullock's impeccable, no doubt. Since I've never heard of the player they based the story on, Bullock's character takes over control. Ok, it's a little bit fairy tale. Who wouldn't love to be a part of a perfect family?

District 9 (Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham) - Good direction. To mix documentary and drama isn't new. Characters are shallow. Hated the protagonist. Story's inconsistent to adress a unique theme. Follows several directions to get nowhere at the end. Disappointing.

An Education (Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey) - It's an interesting portrait of adolescence... Fair nomination to Actress in a Leading Role. I'd say the highlights of the script are the well constructed dialogues. It's not an extraordinary film, but it's well done. Alfred Molina's brilliant. How come he wasn't nominated? What a shame, Academy...

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro) - Good direction. But I guess it's making more success 'cause it's a boy's film directed by a woman. So what? Film didn't catch me - maybe just in some tension moments. War's stupid and boring. A bunch of imatures trying to prove to others they're men. Give me a break! (Congratulations, "womankind"! But my sixth sense tells me that that was more an anti-Cameron move than a Bigelow recognition. And what a revenge to give it to his ex! Am I wrong? Wasn't film industry somewhat envious of his worldwide smashing success?)

Inglourious Basterds (Lawrence Bender) - Smart and funny, a creative contribution to the genre. Great direction. Very Tarantino, whatever that means...

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness) - It's a punch in the stomach. Simple, rich and profound. A film as films should all be. I loved. It'll be really unfair if Mo'Nique (supporting role of the mother) doesn't win. (Yes! She won! Film deserved all the prizes and more!)

A Serious Man (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) - I guess if I were jewish I would understand this film. But I'm not. Too many private jokes. Or life is a meaningless joke that you must accept without look for a meaning? Is that the point? The protagonist has no power over his life! How's that supposed to be drama? Foolish. All right, the Coen brothers can afford that kind of supposedly artistic production at this point of their carreer.

Up (Jonas Rivera) - The clip sequence from the beggining, presenting the characters til that moment is a lesson for all moviemakers. Sometimes tender and cute, sometimes just slapstick action. Film couldn't decide wich audience it would address. The last part of the film is pure cliche.

Up in the Air (Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman) - A pleasant surprise. Clever and a little bit critical to the system, I guess. Does Clooney plays himself?

March 02, 2010

That's what I'm going to study (assignments)

NYFA designed a series of film exercises as building blocks for the final film project. They are intended to instill in each student a degree of confidence in visual storytelling and to provide a foundation in basic film craft.

Those new to filmmaking begin to understand how the disciplines of writing, cinematography, sound, and editing work together, while those with experience can practice and refine specific craft skills. All students should seize this opportunity to experiment freely in order to develop their ability to engage and entertain an audience. Films are shot on 16mm black and white reversal film stock and edited digitally. For their final films, students have the option of shooting in color. Six and eight week students may shoot their final films in digital video.

In their first film, students are introduced to mise-en-scène, or directing a shot to visually tell a story. Once they create a dramatic moment, they concentrate on the dynamics of the shot that will best express it. This project teaches students how the relationship of the subject and the camera creates drama. Each student designs and shoots a scene which has a beginning, middle, and end. Students learn to pay close attention to the choice of lenses, distances, and angles. Since the story must be told in no more than three shots, each shot must be staged to express as much as possible about the characters and their actions. Students should rehearse the shot for blocking of actors and camera until the scene works without needing to stop; only then should they roll film. Students each shoot one roll of black and white reversal film, then edit and screen their films for critique and discussion.

• Allotted shooting time: 3 hours
• Editing time: One 4-hour slot
• Screening time: 30 seconds to 2 minutes

Continuity is one of the fundamental principles of modern filmmaking. By making a "continuity film," students learn the way cuts can advance the story while sustaining the reality of the scene. They learn the difference between "film time" and "real time".

Students are challenged to make a film that maintains continuity in story, time, and space. The action in these films unfolds utilizing a variety of shots (10-15) in a continuous sequence (no perceptible jumps in time or action). Students must produce a clear, visual scene while maintaining the truthfulness of the moment. It is essential that the audience believes in the reality of the scene. Students write, direct, shoot, edit, and screen a film of up to three minutes.

Students must thoroughly organize and preproduce their projects by completing the following elements:
• Script
• Location Scout
• Breakdown
• Floor Plan
• Storyboard
• Schedule of shots
Students shoot two rolls of film then edit digitally and screen their films for critique and discussion.

• Allotted Shooting Time: 4 hours
• Screening Time: Up to 3 minutes
• Editing Time: Two 4-hour slots

The third project introduces students to the relationship between sound and film, as well as to narrative tools like montage and jump cuts. In this project, students are encouraged to explore a more personal form of visual storytelling.

Students choose a short continuous selection of music. In the editing room they cut their images to work in concert with, or in counterpoint to, the music. Students should experiment with rhythm and pacing. Each student writes, directs and shoots his or her project on film, edits digitally, and screens a completed Music Film of up to four minutes.

In addition to storyboards, students may use a still camera to plan their films. This assists them in their choice of locations, distances, angles, and lighting.
• Allotted Shooting Time: 5 hours
• Screening Time: Up to 3 minutes
• Editing Time: Three 4-hour slots

This projects challenges students to explore the relationship between dialogue and dramatic action. It serves as the students' first foray into directing a film with dialogue recorded on set. Students are provided with short dialogue-only scripts with no description of physical detail or action. The student director determines the "who, what, where, when, and why" of the story. Above all, each student director identifies the character objectives and dramatic beats of the scene.

Students will find that these elements determine the meaning of the dialogue and should deepen their understanding of text versus subtext.

When the finished projects are screened in class for critique, students will discover how different directorial interpretations of the same scene reveal the characters and the impact and meaning of the story.

• Allotted Shooting Time: Four hours
• Editing Time: Two 4-hour slots
• Screening Time: 1 to 3 minutes

This final film is more ambitious in scope than the previous exercises. It builds upon the foundation of skills and knowledge gained in the first half of the workshop. There is a five-day pre-production period during which students meet with faculty for consultation. The shooting period is two days for each film.

There are two weeks of post-production in which each student may edit from 50-100 hours. Students may use sound effects, music, voice-over and ambient sound to help tell their stories. They apply the lessons learned through editing the first three projects as they utilize the many transition tools, special effects, and sound design options that digital editing allows.

The final project may be up to ten minutes in the eight-week and one-year program. Keep in mind, "less is more." Films may be shot on 16mm film or 24p digital video.

Films may be of any genre, and can be narrative, documentary, or experimental. In past years, many of these films have been selected and won awards at film festivals, both in this country and abroad.

Each film project is screened in class for discussion and critique. These screenings are an important part of the learning process and help students improve on their next projects. There is a group screening celebrating all final films open to cast, crew, friends, and family.

• Allotted shooting time: 2 days
• Editing time: 40-80 hours
• Screening time: Up to 10 minutes

NYFA strongly recommends that students come to the workshop with written ideas for their films. These ideas will be developed and honed in writing class.