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Mark 008 00:01 Did you notice in your department influences from documentary filmmaking?
00:11 My department is much more from a narrative standpoint, the whole grip electric scene, because you are setting up all these huge lights and you are really specific about where the lights need to be, how its falling on Aspects of the set up: drawings versus someone’s face, how it is flagged off in the foreground so it is not too hot on the physical place the ground. It is an extremely narrative way of working with film or shall we say video in this case. More documentary set ups are much less extreme: you don’t set up for 8 hours just to shoot 5 minutes of documentary. Maybe sometimes, but a lot of more documentary approach is not centred around this perfect lighting, you know with blue circles on the ground. So in my department I can’t see a whole lot of relevance with the documentary approach. For some things, sure, in docs you are putting up gels on the window to light an interview, sure you need some grip assistance. You sometimes need a flag or two, here and there, but not a 10.000Watt light, generally, with this huge grip truck like in this film. You can make documentaries with a station wagon.
documentaries with a station wagon.
02:11 And what about the improvisational aspects on the set up?
02:32 It is something else, you know. Some of her improvisational ideas using non professional actors and things like that, like Sherman coming up with lines on top of his head, it didn’t really work that great, I think. For us, in grip and lighting, with Jean-Paul’s lighting schemes there was not a lot of room for improvisation, like he wanted things exactly how he wanted them. And Power flow: different roles versus group that ‘s how we tried to make them. That was our job, to do what he wants. dynamics or information flow 03:20 How did you treat Jean-Paul’s drawings for the set up of the scene?
03:22: I never looked at them. Why? They made no sense, and they always changed. You look at them and you go out to where the shot is and things look totally different as far as where the blocking is and where people are going to be, the logistics,.. Cause Jean-Paul never thought of logistics that was part of the problem with him: he had these grant lightings ideas and some of them were just unrealistic. And then he get mad, no not really mad, Creativity versus flow of power frustrated at us, because things weren’t ready when he wanted to be ready.
But you can’t just plug a 10.000watt light into a normal socket. You have to do a lot of electrical things to make sure everything run smoothly. And he didn’t ever understand that. So I didn’t even bother to look at the damned drawings. I looked at them a couple of times but it is better if you just go to the space where you are shooting and then talk about it.
04:31: Did you feel the need to have meetings about the grip, the scene, the set up, or where you happy with the way information was flowing?
05:13 I would have preferred to have more meetings. Just quick things with Jean-Paul, Kathleen, Edwin, Jaek and myself, maybe Minh-ha, Brent. Rather then you show up somewhere, and maybe if I looked at the stupid drawings I would know more, or if I read the script I would know what the hell what was going on. But it is easier for me to be in the three-dimensional space, and to physically see and to talk to people what needs to be done and then do it.
Sometimes that happened sometimes not.
06:06 Why do you think there were no meetings?
06:15 I don’t know, I think for one thing Minh-ha didn’t seem like really that strong of a vocal presence that she wanted to have meetings and really talk to people and make sure everything was running smoothly. She seemed to prefer that Jean-Paul dealt with that kind of things. And Jean-Paul seemed in his own sort of programmed space of what he decided things should look like and he let us in on that, sure, we talked about was what going to happen.
strong of a vocal presence that she wanted to have meetings and really talk to people and make sure everything was running smoothly. She seemed to prefer that Jean-Paul dealt with that kind of things. And Jean-Paul seemed in his own sort of programmed space of what he decided things should look like and he let us in on that, sure, we talked about was what going to happen.
But it was not a meeting, it just evolved as the shot progressed. And talking with him and Kathleen and Edwin separately, we figured out what needed to be done.
07:20 Is this more organic, spontaneous evolution of the set encouraging to you? Did you feel a creative flow?
07:35 Yeah sometimes, I could say ‘This light would look better over here’ or logistically, ‘This light needs to be here’ and that was possible. But when you go to set something up, and then you needed to remove it then you were all bent out of shape, disappointed, mad or frustrated. But sometimes these were minor communication problems. After I talked to the three different people from whom the info needed to come, mainly Kathleen, Jean-Paul and Edwin, then you finally figured it out. Because sometimes you got different things from different people.
08:43 Do you think that this open spirit towards things on the set, in the sense that they really let the set talk to them, was this challenging for you in comparison with your work on other sets?
09:12 Yeah, it was challenging although it was not always agreeable challenging. Sometimes I wanted them to have their shit together a little bit more, that they knew exactly what they wanted, that would make my job a lot more easy. And that would make things go faster, that would mean that JeanPaul would be less stressed out that the lights weren’t done in time. So that’s sort of an evolving circle of communication..
09:50 Do you feel with this openness on the set, this possibility to change stuff on the spot, that people of the grip department were the scapegoat of the directors’ own frustration ?
10:33 Fuck yeah! They had some moderately complex lightings schemes and sometimes we just didn’t have what we needed: no money or they didn’t plan ahead. If they wanted to have a blue circle on the ground, then they should have a Leico-light. And they didn’t, so I had to set up this huge fucking rig, to have this stupid circle on the ground.
ahead. If they wanted to have a blue circle on the ground, then they should Interculturality versus artistic have a Leico-light. And they didn’t, so I had to set up this huge fucking rig, differences to have this stupid circle on the ground.
11:23 The blue circle seems a trauma for you, no?
11:23 Yeah, and then, Jean-Paul have this big grant lighting schemes and number one we didn’t have enough people, number two we didn’t have the right equipment and number three: Jean-Paul was after our ass because it was taking too long. And its not really our fault and Edwin is getting the blame for it and sometimes that was totally unfair.
11:56 Do you think they know what was inside the grip truck?
11:56 Hell no! They didn’t know what the fuck was in there, they didn’t know anything about that truck. I don’t think they ever went inside the truck. Or ask. No, they didn’t know what was going on, they didn’t know any of that stuff. But that’s not their job, right. And it seems like this was the biggest production they ever did. I don’t know what “Tale of love” was like.. That was a 35mm Film. Yeah, which is different. I don’t know what sort of set ups they had. I haven’t seen the film. I wish we were shooting 35mm on this film.
Why? Because I like film better than video. But no, by virtue of the people in charge, like Kathleen, she knows about the grip truck. She has never been a grip but she knows what all the lights are, she has been on tons of shoots, she knows how long things need to be set up and the limitations. She knew that we needed a special light for these blue circles and lines, but we didn’t have it. She also worked with big crews. And big budgets which Jean-Paul and Minh-ha haven’t.
Mark 009 00:00 Did you have the feeling that there was something intercultural going on?
00:06 So we had the Vietnamese director, the French partner, the Belgian AD, and lots of gringo’s, there was a black man, Asian and American talents,..
00:30 Did you encounter problems of communication?
00:36 No I don’t think so, there was no language barrier: everyone speaks English fine. People came from different cultural backgrounds but..
English fine. People came from different cultural backgrounds but..
00:58 Did you feel that these different backgrounds influenced the group dynamics?
01:15 Well, Minh-ha is quite, subdued and she is not really saying a lot, which made it rather hard to figer out what she wanted. And Jean-Paul being sort of the flamboyant Frenchman who is running around with his hair sticking out all of the place. Being the arty French style man. But that could have been similar with an all American crew: a quiet subdued director with a flamboyant weirdo.
02:09 So if you compare it with other experiences, you don’t notice real differences?
02:18 Well, there are definitely some differences, but then in comparison with Flow of power: different roles “professional” sets where people have more experience doing narrative films, or like doing docs or industrial videos or whatever.. this film is really heavy on art and lighting direction. But that’s Minh-ha’s style so that was.. not so much a cultural difference but an artistic difference. Other sets are much more straight forward, I don’t want to say professional, but not so linear and specific. You know with Brent and Jean-Paul coming from architecture, rather than from other types of artistic background. Architecture can be very linear Feedback versus flow of power with distinct lines which are very precise and need to be in specific spots.
And you can see how this definitely crossed over to this film. And that there were very specific camera frame lines and very specific lighting and specific movements within the frame of the talents and actors and such. Which was sometimes rather hard to make it happen,..
04:26 Would you say that intercultural differences are less apparent than the difference in the artistic background?
04:40 Yeah, I would not necessarily say French, but French architect. So its more the professional.. Yeah, their creative background and how they brought that to the set. And also the independent way of filmmaking, versus classical film? Yeah, this is a more experimental than the average feature film.
05:08 Did you feel that there were gender issues at play? You can raise issues differentiating Minh-ha and Jean-Paul but you can also go into issues on the set where women are doing particular jobs and men too?
05:35 Well, some things are just often very gender specific like production: a lot of females are producing: organizing, making phone calls, location scouting,.. all that stuff. Men are usually sound, grip electric. That’s just how it -not always is, but often is. Just like in construction where there are not many women, there are sure, but not many, and I am sure there are tons of men in production. But in this shoot, well the DP is a woman, that’s a less common thing, but she is entirely competent. In between Jean-Paul and Minh-ha : I have never interacted with Min-ha in any other way than on the set. I heard her speeches, read a couple of her books, watched some films, but I don’t know if she is more upfront and vibrant when she is not around Jean-Paul. Because he is vibrant and always talking and always trying to direct things and to be in charge. So I wonder how they are hanging out at home.
Maybe Minh-ha is ordering Jean-Paul around: ‘Do the dishes Jean-Paul!’ ‘Take out the trash!’ 07:50 Do you feel there was a clear cut division between their responsibilities on the set?
07:58 I don’t know about clear cut but it seems that Minh-ha was sort of the creative force behind things and she had always the final say. And Jean-Paul was much more active but he would bow down for Minh-ha if she would not change things. So she had the final say.
08:55 There was this moment in the wrap up party when Minh-ha showed footage of the film. How did you find that moment?
09:11 I thought it was really tense and embarrassing; frankly, because the footage was so bad and the sound was so bad. And it went on way too long and it was,.. I think people wanted to see it, but we wanted to see something
better than what was shown. I thought it was all bad, it just didn’t look good:
the projector was a little dim, the sound was just taken from the camera but that was really not made as clear as it should have been made. So you thought it was not well organized? No it was not well organized at all. You felt footage was so bad and the sound was so bad. And it went on way too long and it was,.. I think people wanted to see it, but we wanted to see something
better than what was shown. I thought it was all bad, it just didn’t look good:
the projector was a little dim, the sound was just taken from the camera but that was really not made as clear as it should have been made. So you thought it was not well organized? No it was not well organized at all. You felt like you could comment on those things? Well, all the footage was way too dark, and.. But could you raise those issues? At that point? No, that was not really the time or place: Minh-ha was in charge there and I don’t know whether she was waiting for something better to happen on the screen and it was just not happening.. Sometimes she fasted forward, but I think she should have.. I mean, it went on for more than half an hour, a long time. At home, she should have edited it, she didn’t have time probably, but to your own cast and crew it is important that you show something which is really good, that’s important, that you give them a feeling that they worked on a really good project and she showed all the stuff that really wasn’t good, it was bad takes.. She probably viewed it on her computer screen or on her LCD-screen on the camera and you then can’t really tell. But she just should have shown a few minutes and if it is no good, then just turn it off. It just went on and on and on.. And I don’t know whether she wanted to show clips of shots with people of the crew were on, people in front of the frame, but it just looked bad. And that kind of demoralized people, frankly.
12:24 Was that your personal feeling too?