The Whopper Strategies is due out this Fall from Ellipsis. Please pick up a copy and spread the word. Hopefully, this will lead to publication in the book form as well. I am open to all possibilities. I am a butterfly. I've got wings. I move things in China. Korea too.
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This came to me on a lonely night walking down Hollywood Boulevard. I sang it as a prayer. I sang it over and over. I am so grateful. It helped me through a tough night. May it bring the same for all of you.
You know I'm down on my knees, and I'm begging, "Oh, Lord, please. Have mercy..."
I may sing this again tonight. Let us sing it together. Thank you. Thank you, spirit.
My Father sent me your poem. Thank you, Rumi. Thank you, father.
Love is reckless; not reason. Reason seeks a profit. Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.
Yet, in the midst of suffering, Love proceeds like a millstone, hard surfaced and straightforward.
Having died of self-interest, she risks everything and asks for nothing. Love gambles away every gift God bestows.
Without cause God gave us Being; without cause, give it back again.
Pirooz: Yesterday you said that Gus Van Sant could have taken LAST DAYS and ELEPHANT as far as he took JERRY, but that he had stopped short of the possibility. I am fascinated by that statement. In it, I hear a director dancing with an idea. How do you plan on utilizing Van Sant's real-time-moments on your current or future projects? Why is this sense of "husking corn for 15 minutes" so appealing to you?
Derek Huang: Well, right now, I'm at the point in my life where I'm still trying to build something resembling a career, and I suppose I don't feel like I've earned the right or acquired the skills necessary to make those types of films. Instead, I find myself attempting to cater to the needs of a more traditional audience, trying to prove that I can meet most other people's needs before my own.
In film school, I experimented with my shorts, single-mindedly focusing on a single, stylistic, visual strategy for each student project, almost always to the point of error. I probably obsessed a little too much on the scientific connotations of each artistic experiment, making the resulting films perhaps a little too controlled, a little too specifically regulated to successfully function as art. They simply weren't whole works. I mean, they were completed from start to finish, but they were never fully realized or well rounded enough to evoke and encapsulate human experience. They were simply exercises pursued for the sake of personal curiosity and obsession.
Now that I'm out of school, I've taken a less methodical approach to my filmmaking, and though I find myself consciously attempting to make films that deliver on more conventional terms, I can't seem to prevent myself (for worse or better) from at least partially utilizing this more meditative mode of filmmaking that you've brought up. Right now, I'm working on a short, and though it's fairly conventional in its overall structure, the beginning of the film, with the introduction of the protagonist to the audience, has developed into a stark meditation on the mundane daily activities of one man's life. The first quarter of the film almost solely consists of this character coming home from work, putting away clothes that lie on the bed, heating a can of soup, eating his dinner by himself, and staring at spiders in the corners of the ceiling. These are all very mundane things, and yet, to turn the camera on them and portray them as honestly and as directly as one possibly can -- you've found a different way of evoking the texture of life.
Some might argue a filmmaker is being lazy when using this method, aiming the lens at a reality that's already there and calling it art, but it simply isn't that easy. There's an extremely delicate visual grace required in filmmaking to capture the mundane in a compelling way. To enumerate the factors that contribute to achieving that grace successfully would be self defeating because anything that could be succinctly enumerated without being witnessed first hand would automatically be disqualified as a contributing factor. If I can say what IT is, then IT is not achieved in the film using this meditative technique. When this stylistic technique is utilized successfully, the film's literal and figurative content, though plain, mundane, and perhaps even nonexistent at times, fade to the background, and all the subtle textures of the film's form reveal a beauty in life that can't be arrived at through traditional narrative means.
I loved the use of this technique in Gerry, more so than in Last Days or Elephant. And to tell you the truth, I'm not really sure why. I suppose it has something to do with the mise en scene of the latter two films. I found it a little too conventionally orchestrated. At times, those films seemed a little too preoccupied with functioning on a more conventional narrative level. Yes, in regards to form, the camera's eye is used in similar ways, but it feels superficially tied to the content. The characters and situations are a little too concrete and simplified (though by conventional standards, not concrete or condensed at all) to evoke that elusive third meaning.
In films like these, the mise en scene must hold up to absolute scrutiny. Any abstraction or distillation for the sake of brevity or convenience undercuts its effectiveness. Gerry is the only film of Van Sant's "trilogy" that takes its stylistic intentions far enough to achieve its goals. A film like that doesn't hide behind the sparks and fireworks of a conventional narrative. It comfortably disregards those manipulative strategies and effortlessly renders the truth and texture of life. Isn't that the fundamental goal for which all artists strive? To render as accurately as possible that ephemeral yet extremely familiar quality of being? I'm sorry. I'm starting to get a little too general and abstract. I think I need another question. Hit me.
P: I hear you. Enumerating on the IT factor of capturing the mundane spider will be a self-defeating act. I am also curious. What does that feel like in film? How do you know when you are capturing that wholeness of the mundane, without mapping certain aesthetic elements to navigate? Don’t you start thinking about lighting? An actor’s expression? The quality of the film being used? Isn't it a blend between the technological and magical? Doesn't every artist poet, painter, filmmaker, actor, dancer, etc., use tools and logical process in unison with instinctual triggers?
Huang: You should probably be asking a master filmmaker that question, because I am in no position to explain such things. But that doesn't mean I can't try, right? I suppose, for me it's all a matter of inspiration: ideas, images, and forms that simply occur to an artist and then can be placed in the larger context of a complete work. How do I know the shot of the mundane spider in my short will work? Well, first off, I'm not sure it'll work at all. Remember, I'm still an untested novice. That being said, I wouldn't have though of putting it in my film if I didn't have my reasons for thinking it would somehow evoke something necessary to the overall film. My justification for inserting that spider element into the film comes from the plain and simple fact that it naturally occurred to me to put it in there.
The creative method I've come up with for myself is, at it's essence, my watching my own film as I create them. I suppose you could call it pre-visualization but with both a passive and an active functionality where I imagine myself sitting in a theatre watching a movie as I put it together in my mind. If I come up with an idea, I project it up on my imaginary screen and watch it, judging it as I would any other film. If I find that it makes sense, that it evokes a specific emotion, that it holds my attention or intrigues me, I keep it and do all I can to commit it to celluloid. I know this sounds overly simplistic, but it's the only way I can describe my creative process for filmmaking. And it's not easy. Judging from my own personal experience, it's a lot harder to do in practice than it sounds.
Although, it may be, at its heart, a mental state that we are all innately born with as children, the process of being socialized into adult life can stifle these natural, imaginative states, which is why I think most young artists become obsessed with technique and method, to the point where they lose sight of the inspired thoughts that are the foundation of any artistic pursuit. Technology and craft, I feel, should, for the most part, serve inspiration. I think all art is born spontaneously as fragments that linger in the mind, and technique serves to organize these fragments into a focused communication while at the same time translating them into a real-world medium that can be appreciated by others, the end result being the piece of art itself.
The specific thought of a lonely man watching a spider occurred to me. I placed it in my film and viewed it in my minds eye. I enjoyed it in the same way I enjoy any successful part of a film I've ever seen, even if I can't necessarily explain why. And now it's time to use all the concrete knowledge I have of filmmaking technology (lighting, camera placement, camera movement, sound, performance, editing, etc.) and translate the vision in my head, which already thoroughly indicates numerous objectives for each aspect of the craft, to an actual motion picture that I play for you on the screen. So much of what makes art beautiful lies in that inexplicable flash of inspiration that occurs in the mind, and while technique is vital and requires much study and practice, it will always be secondary to those mysterious moments of inspiration that, for whatever reason, indicate the most fundamental elements of our shared humanity.Derek Huang was born and raised in Santa Clarita, CA. He studied film production at the UCLA School of Film and Television and is currently pursuing a film career in Los Angeles.
This is my scientology exam. I took it online. I have no idea what they are about. I have heard some nasty things about them. Things I don't want to repeat, and have my blog documented by the Scientology Headquarters, and end up in some Martian aqueduct with green goo being spread on my belly.
Well, actually, I don't mind. I like Mars. I like goo too. That might be fun. Anyway, I heard that they charge their members to reach certain levels of awareness. 20$ AND YOU ARE YODA! This along with the fact that they do not accept homosexuals into their faith, makes me sad.
I have searched for a cool faith to hang with. There really isn't anything. I dig sitting at The Dharma Center. That is nice. I like bowing to the Buddha. That is fun. I get it now. Before it made me mad. Now I see. I bow to BuddhaMe.
The truth is I like all religions. They all have good mustard. I don't think I can dance with any though. Especially not Scientology. That is not smart tennis.
I can't stop listening to the new Beck album though. I don't care if he is part of a cult. This is the best album I have heard in a while. He is beautiful.
"Don't you like hierarchies?" a voice asks.
"I don't believe in them," I say.
I dip my hand into the ocean. It feels like faith. It is home.
"Can we go together?" the voice asks.
"Get your swim trunks," I say.
It's good to ask questions. It's nice to swim with Beck.
"...The overall sound is that of a spacy gamelon orchestra, but as producer Lair's lively notes make clear, the elephant players were not just banging randomly. There is a spaciousness that immediately reflects awareness of the group interplay, and many specific examples of discrete care and discovery on the part of the elephants. Luuk Kob, the "Buddy Rich of elephant percussionists", redeemed a failed slit drum by discovering its one sweet spot and learning to strike it at the precise angle that would yield an optimum sound. Meanwhile, harmonicas became "the first elephant music fad", with the animals wandering the forest playing through the tips of their trunks..."
P: Yesterday we were riffing on “Kick” from INXS, would this be a track that makes your top ten?
Michelangelo: Maybe back in the eighties, but I like the new stuff these days. I remember buying that album though because of the gator skateboard they feature on the cassettes sleeve. Around 86/87 skateboarding was gaining mainstream popularity and it was so dope to see it associated with a band that cool, seemingly outta nowhere.
P: Are you planning on bringing the skating world into your music? Is skating or the attitude behind skating present in your music today?
Michelangelo: Well when I skate I’m always rappin or singin songs and it really gets me focused and less worried about spraining an ankle or something like that so yeah, there are plenty of companies out there I support that are underground, and if my success can garner them success, then let’s be successful together. Synergy you know, and yeah, skating, you’re a loner, rapping, it’s me against the world. It’s all about self progression. I got beef with my self, I gotta be better than me - that’s the biggest battle there is.
P: What do you mean by being “better than you?” Is that a spiritual tip in line with the half pipe?
Michelangelo: I’m street skater from dusk till dawn – Love Park r.i.p. – so I don’t know much about half pipes, but every show I play I want to be better than the last. Every song I write, better than the last, that’s what I’m talking about, a constant progression. It has more to do with skill, motivation and determination than spirituality. I mostly pray for my family, friends, enemies, and forgiveness.
P: I feel you. Tell me more about your first project “Art Life.”
Michelangelo: Call and response!! Back in 99 MC Escher and I wrote rhymes and made beats sampling whatever soundbytes we could, developed a theory behind our group “The Starving Artists” and about a year later finished the ten song album. We made it for ourselves and our friends primarily. The ideas of not spending any money on the album or “starving the art”
I was just visiting this Ron Silliman weblog that all of you talk about so frequently. It was interesting. It is evident he loves poetry. He is looking for writers and inspiration daily. That is great. It is also kind of a 'who is on my list' sort of thing. "This is what I think about Breathing Fire 2!" And then going in, and ripping on poets to say: 'this one will be good if they "loosen up here" or that will be "good in 10 years." ' I find that talk really unappealing. This idea of what is 'good' talk is rooted in personal taste. I feel that by placing categories on poets, or dealing with artists as 'good' or 'bad' pushes artists away from true innovation, or better put, reality.*
I don't know. These days I'll read anything. It's not what is published in magazines though. I have been digging hand-written-notes. I like things that are heartfelt and really, really simple. Just phrases put together. There is no messing. Just a truth. The writer's heartbeat on my retina. That's what I like. I respect very much the writers on Ron's site, as well as Ron, himself. It is wonderful to have so many writers to read there.
I feel so outside of this though. So outside, it's ridiculous. It's like poetry is about notches in a bedpost, rather than words anymore. I was reading on K. Silem Mohammad's Limetree, that he has been checking out poetry.com, and some guy is reviewing these pieces that are "bad." He tears them a new asshole, or whatever. (I am seriously paraphrasing here) Silem then talks about how he digs some of these poems that are not considered "poetry." 'That's a Sapphic fragment if I ever read one,' he says shit like that.
I dig that. I dig that he digs these poems. The things is, I really dig those poems. They are so much more tangible to me. They feel more like reality to me. I want to write like that. This is what I feel. To create characters who moan and groan in monosylablles. How fun! None of this really big talk or disjointed texts. That is what I like. I like it like a romance novel. I like it dripping with sentimentality. I like it touching the experimental. I like it humping the fantastical. This is the poetry I like. My taste. That doesn't mean I don't like poets like Ron Silliman or poets from this school or that school. I like them very much. I love their moving hearts. I love their intelligence. I love their effort to be out in the world. I also like poems that are muddy. I like it in the dirt.
I like characters in poetry. That doesn't mean I like to read narrative poetry or whateever they are calling it now. I like it to be true. I just like it to be true. The heartspeak. The giant thump. That is all. I think HEARTSPEAK needs to be taught in every school in America. I think it needs to be a global revolution. Just listen. Just go when you're ready. This is HEARTSPEAK.**
I don't think much of craft. I don't think much of schooling. Not in the poetry I like now. I threw it all away. I just dumped it on a lawn in Lone Pine, Egypt. The crows came for the little bits. They visit me on occasion. They sing it back to me in a new song. That's the way it throws down for me.
I don't like that Ron is judging poets as if he knows the future, as if he is God. You do not know. I do not know either. That is reality. I would rather you talk about what inspires you. I would rather it be personal to what you like. But the whole, this person will be a great poet in 10 years. This is not smart tennis. This is not reality. This is personal taste.
I do not know any of the poets in Breathing Fire 2, except Shane Book. He is a wonderful person. I like his intelligence and his poetry very much. Just magical, really. I am sure the others are as well, in their own way. I just wanted to put it out there to the world. I wanted to let you know here. Dirty is okay too. HEARTSPEAK is a nice path to fiddle. I will read, on occasion, these very intellectual pieces, even from a friend like Shane - I will respect this circle. These thoughts. These words. They are beautiful. I just wonder if there is anyone pushing the otherside of poetry. The one without fanfare. The romantic sparse. This golden hearse. These walking totems.
I don't want anyone to think I don't respect and like poetry that is not simple andd sparse. I respeect it all. I think people write in the modes they feel most comfortable. Whatever this might be for you, go and do it. I am not being on one side or the other. I just wanted to voice how I felt about Ron's blog on Breathing Fire 2. I just wanted to let the few poeple who read my blog to know that there is no good or bad. That because you write in the forms or styles that are going to be accepted in magazines, or thought of as a great poet by someone else, does not mean anything in comparison to the way you feel about the poems you have written in magazines, and how willing you aare to place public opinion aside and rely on your heart to acknowledge what you have created.
There is no good or bad, my friends. There is none of that. It's just creating. It's having fun. It's finding the language that is right for you. It's being clear about what you like - and how that is not a qualifier for what is good or bad - simply a marker for the moment you are in.*
Take or leave what I have to say. I had to say it though.
* I have marked SHORTSPEAK in purple for those who dig it shorter. ** I have marked HEARTSPEAK in red because I like that color.