Category Archives: Inspirations and Muses

Artwork for Sale!

Seth Tyler Black is now selling replicas of Body canvases and prints of photographs!

Check out the items for sale at http://travellingcatalogue.wordpress.com/.

Much more artwork to go on sale in the future! Stay tuned!

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400 Blows meets Alice in Wonderland

I hope that it does not come as surprise that I pull references from many many sources when I write my screenplays, take my pictures, and display my canvases. Two of the most prominent references that I use to convey my message, seem to be, Carroll’s “Adventures of Alice and Wonderland” (with all adaptations) and Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows”.

Through all of the trippy images and disdain for any authority figure, lies a pure and liberating message of freedom and autonomy. These two themes are central to all of my work, and are the questions that I strive to answer and deliver to an audience.

Check out how I used these two artistic keystones within profile photography:

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Sound Innovation (a critique on Bande à Part)

Grand themes, wall-to-wall  scoring, and subtle leitmotifs. These are all techniques that could be considered quite common in studio-era Hollywood, and even silent film, productions. Up until the sixties, film scores showed little, to no, innovation from its operatic predecessors when it came to the use of sound within a film. Even through the jazz era in film scoring, sound did almost nothing other than raise the tension and depict a character’s love through a melody. Like writing, filmmaking, and painting, it took film composers a little while to come up with different uses for their medium. Jean Luc Godard’s 1964 film Band of Outsiders (Bande à Part) takes film scoring and brings it to the avant-garde in order to redefine the role of sound within film. Band of Outsiders takes the role of musical scoring from being grand and objective, to being subtle, individual, and subjective.

Band of Outsiders is a 1964 French New Wave film that used innovation in nearly every aspect of the film. With a French name that literally translates to “doing something apart from the group” (Wiki), it is not a far stretch to understand why the sound department decided to follow no one else’s lead but their own. One of the first sound tricks that Band of Outsiders used were short music cues. Like the composers that preceded him, Michel Legrand, composer for Band of Outsiders, used the leitmotif to describe implicit situations, such as the short ragtime cue in the beginning, which symbolizes the intertwined emotion dance that the main characters, Franz, Odile, and Arthur, metaphorically went on, with each other, before the start of the diegesis. A simple emotion that one would feel, described through the first musical cue of the film.

Most of the musical cues are very short and minimalist, using repeated notes and patterns. However, instead of attaching these cues to the main action in the diegesis, Legrand uses the cues as a mimetic look of the individual character’s emotion at a given time. One of the most used cues within the film is the slow and hypnotizing  ¾ cue that closely resembles a waltz. Whenever this phrase is played, the characters are acting in a repetitive, been-there way. The cue is used during times of car driving, as well as just walking into a house. Any instance where the action was apathetic and automatic, or slow and socially influenced, the ¾ cue can be heard. This particular cue could be considered a leitmotif for this emotion of repetition.

Another one of the short cues that is very present throughout the film is the swing themed spy-like cue, which is used during the scenes that take place where, and when, the robbery happens. This cue is centered around the individual thoughts of Odile going through with being an accomplice to a robbery. Diegetically in her mind, Odile hears this repetitive swing beat that entices her into performing her role in the heist to her best. The cue is not longer than five bars, repeated, suggesting that it is under the social influence and not the notion of faire bande à part (to be discussed later). If the process was entirely influenced by Odile’s own actions, the cue would be non repeating, suggesting that it is an action that is entirely individual and not a repeated measure from another character or previous action.

The individualistic nature of cue use comes to the forefront with another cue, one that shows up in chapter 9, after Odile finds the stash of cash and she is running to Franz and Arthur to tell them about it. The scene cuts between the stream, where Franz and Arthur are waiting, and Odile running to the stream to tell Franz and Arthur about the hidden money. Cuts of Odile, who is now feeling on top of the world after her find, feature a cue that is fast paced and jazz influenced, mimicking how Odile must be feeling, fast and upbeat and accomplished. The cuts of Franz and Arthur depict them talking about the news, having no relation to what Odile just saw and is now feeling, with no soundtrack backing the dialogue of the characters. This combination of cutting back and forth, through both the image and soundtrack, depicts the individual nature of the leitmotifs that Legrand was trying to accomplish.

Besides in the cues within the score for Band of Outsiders, the dialogue track uses innovative techniques in order to further illustrate the implicit thoughts and nature of a particular character. One of the first scenes that this could be seen that depicts this innovation within the dialogue track is the “Minute of Silence” scene, found approximately in the middle of the film in chapter 11. The three partners are sitting at a café table. In order to capitalize on a moment where no one has something to say, Franz suggests a minute of silence in order to organize their thoughts and motives. During this “minute of silence”, all sound on the soundtrack are muted. There is absolutely no diegetic sound or accompanying cue, where in actuality there would be the clanging of dishes and ambient conversations within the diegesis. This “actual” diegetic noise can be heard before and after the moment of silence, but not during.

This innovative use of the soundtrack helps the argument of the sound being used as a malleable medium in order to help describe the individualistic nature of one’s own thoughts, the notion of faire bande à part which the entire film is based off of. The absence of any soundtrack during the minute of silence symbolizes the thought process without outside influence, or a faire bande à part. Franz’s decision to take a moment of silence in order to gather and concentrate one’s own thoughts, is extracted from the film’s diegesis and put onto the laps of the viewing audience by the non-use of any diegetic or non-diegetic sound. The minute of silence is not only for Franz, Odile, and Arthur, but also for the audience to realize what unmediated thought feels like. Both Godard and Legrand must have collaborated in this effort to unveil a feeling that was never seen, or necessarily tangible, within the films prior to 1964.  This is a large innovation within the use of sound in film, since the soundtrack used to be meant as a mediation, and method of diegetic interpretation, between the image track and the viewer.

The minute of silence is not the only instance where this innovation in sound is utilized. For similar effects, the scene immediately following the moment of silence, “The Madison” scene where the trio dance to a song that is playing on the jukebox, also uses the absence of sound in order to express feelings that are nearly intangible to the much of the viewing audience.  Obviously, the diegetic sound from this part includes the music cue that resonates from the jukebox, as well as the sound of the clapping, snapping, and dance steps that are involved in the dance that goes along with this scored musical cue. However, like this scene’s predecessor, the minute of silence, the diegetic sound does not stay constant throughout the whole scene. The soundtrack for this section of the film is also cut, this time intertwining the diegeitic Madison song with the mentally diegetic thought process of Franz.

However, unlike its sister scene, the soundtrack cuts in this scene only cut out the music score and  ambient noise, leaving the diegetic sound of the dance steps and Franz’s voice-over, which is used sporadically throughout the film to convey his thought, in the soundtrack.  This method not only opens up the conversation to intangible emotions, like the minute of silence, but also helps to depict the individualistic nature of one’s own thoughts, as discussed earlier. True, logically there is much sound in the diegesis, but cuts within the soundtrack help to extend Franz’s minute of silence, as he is still alone within his mind, still sorting over his thoughts with no mediation, other than the dance which becomes rather repetitive. The repetitive nature of the cut up musical cue, added to Franz’s thought voiceover, added to the silent cuts, makes a philosophical stance that individual thought is separate from the semi-forced, automatic actions that are influenced by groups, or society. Once again, Godard is throwing around the idea of faire bande à part, the main theme of the film, through the use of sound innovations.

Band of Outsiders is really a work of its own individual accord. This film takes its namesake, faire bande à part (notion of acting outside of the group), and utilizes the theme within every aspect of the film, especially within sound. Before Godard filmed Band of Outsiders, almost every film soundtrack either mimicked Sunset Boulevard’s score, or the score aspirations of Laura. It is safe to say that the main interest in the studio era, even though Band of Outsiders is unaffiliated to Hollywood film at that time, was to gain money. It is not a far stretch that a French New Wave would take up the notion of faire bande à part and express it through, not necessarily the plot, but the sound.

Band of Outsiders’ soundtrack shows little to no resemblance to its Hollywood counterparts. The notion of faire bande à part is this film’s platform to act outside of other films, or to act away from the group which could be considered Hollywood film. The soundtrack did just that by using short and minimalist cues that are repetitive in times of repetitive or influenced action. Also, the non-use of the diegetic soundtrack within the minute of silence, as well as the depiction of the individualistic thought process seen in the Madison scene.

Film composer Legrand made certain not to follow the standard when it came to scoring this film. Instead of matching cues to actions, he matched them up to individual thoughts and mindsets. Faire bande à part. It is interesting to note that in the beginning of the film, there is a caption that advertises Legrand’s film score for Band of Outsiders as the “last (?) film score”. This could mean a variety of things. This film was made in the early 60’s where film scoring was on the down and out as jazz scores and pop tunes took over. Even though the score for this film was jazz influenced, it was completely original and did not nearly take to the same form as the scores for earlier mentioned films. Also, one might be hard pressed to even consider Legrand’s score as an actual score for a film, since it is so sparse, minimalistic, and hidden. If one were to listen to Band of Outsiders soundtrack record, you would probably only hear about five songs at two minutes a piece. So it is very legitimate to consider Legrand’s score as the “last (?) score for film”. In the year 1964, the film scores were on their way out, and if Godard got his vision of faire bande à part across to everyone in the audience, social influence would also be on the down and out. If his thesis held true, there would no longer be a “film score” or classical way of creating one. There would just many ways to add sound and music to film, none of which would be following a theory of music, but rather creating to the beat of a single drum.

When it comes to film scoring, almost all scores are composed of flowing themes and obvious leitmotifs. However, taking the spirit of the film’s thesis, faire bande à part, Legrand achieved innovation within the use of sound within a film’s soundtrack. From the individualistic nature of short cues, to the non-use of diegetic sound, Band of Outsiders seems to defy the rules of film scoring and still succeed at conveying a strong and dominant message. Faire bande à part, longue vit.

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Step 2…

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Remodernist Film Manifesto-by Jesse Richards

Remodernist Film Manifesto

1. Art manifestos, despite the good intentions of the writer should always “be taken with a grain of salt” as the cliché goes, because they are subject to the ego, pretensions, and plain old ignorance and stupidity of their authors. This goes all the way back to the Die Brücke manifesto of 1906, and continues through time to this one that you’re reading now. A healthy wariness of manifestos is understood and encouraged. However, the ideas put forth here are meant sincerely and with the hope of bringing inspiration and change to others, as well as to myself.

2. Remodernism seeks a new spirituality in art. Therefore, remodernist film seeks a new spirituality in cinema. Spiritual film does not mean films about Jesus or the Buddha. Spiritual film is not about religion. It is cinema concerned with humanity and an understanding of the simple truths and moments of humanity. Spiritual film is really ALL about these moments.

3. Cinema could be one of the perfect methods of creative expression, due to the ability of the filmmaker to sculpt with image, sound and the feeling of time. For the most part, the creative possibilities of cinema have been squandered. Cinema is not a painting, a novel, a play, or a still photograph. The rules and methods used to create cinema should not be tied to these other creative endeavors. Cinema should NOT be thought of as being “all about telling a story”. Story is a convention of writing, and should not necessarily be considered a convention of filmmaking.

4. The Japanese ideas of wabi-sabi (the beauty of imperfection) and mono no aware (the awareness of the transience of things and the bittersweet feelings that accompany their passing), have the ability to show the truth of existence, and should always be considered when making the remodernist film.

5. An artificial sense of “perfection” should never be imposed on a remodernist film. Flaws should be accepted and even encouraged. To that end, a remodernist filmmaker should consider the use of film, and particularly film like Super-8mm and 16mm because these mediums entail more of a risk and a requirement to leave things up to chance, as opposed to digital video. Digital video is for people who are afraid of, and unwilling to make mistakes—. Video leads to a boring and sterile cinema. Mistakes and failures make your work honest and human.

6. Film, particularly Super-8mm film, has a rawness, and an ability to capture the poetic essence of life, that video has never been able to accomplish.

7. Intuition is a powerful tool for honest communication. Your intuition will always tell you if you are making something honest, so use of intuition is key in all stages of remodernist filmmaking.

8. Any product or result of human creativity is inherently subjective, due to the beliefs, biases and knowledge of the person creating the work. Work that attempts to be objective will always be subjective, only instead it will be subjective in a dishonest way. Objective films are inherently dishonest. Stanley Kubrick, who desperately and pathetically tried to make objective films, instead made dishonest and boring films.

9. The remodernist film is always subjective and never aspires to be objective.

10. Remodernist film is not Dogme ’95. We do not have a pretentious checklist that must be followed precisely. This manifesto should be viewed only as a collection of ideas and hints whose author may be mocked and insulted at will.

11. The remodernist filmmaker must always have the courage to fail, even hoping to fail, and to find the honesty, beauty and humanity in failure.

12. The remodernist filmmaker should never expect to be thanked or congratulated. Instead, insults and criticism should be welcomed. You must be willing to go ignored and overlooked.

13. The remodernist filmmaker should be accepting of their influences, and should have the bravery to copy from them in their quest for understanding of themselves.

14. Remodernist film should be a stripped down, minimal, lyrical, punk kind of filmmaking, and is a close relative to the No-Wave Cinema that came out of New York’s Lower East Side in the 1970’s.

15. Remodernist film is for the young, and for those who are older but still have the courage to look at the world through eyes as if they are children.

—The only exceptions to Point 5 about video are Harris Smith and Peter Rinaldi; to my mind they are the only people who have made honest and worthwhile use of this medium.

This manifesto may be appended/added to in the future, as further ideas develop.

The following is for further study for those interested in what has influenced remodernist film philosophy.

Honorary remodernist filmmakers

Amos Poe, and all of the No-Wave filmmakers
Andrei Tarkovsky
Jean Vigo
Kenji Mizoguchi
Maurice Pialat
Yasujiro Ozu
Wolf Howard
Billy Childish

Other influential artists/art groups/ideas

Die Brücke
Les Fauves
Stuckism
The Defastenists
Vincent Van Gogh
Edvard Munch
Mono no aware
Wabi-sabi

Some Films That Influenced and Lead To Remodernist Film

“The Foreigner”- Amos Poe

“Zerkalo”- Andrei Tarkovsky

“Andrei Rublev”- Andrei Tarkovsky

“Zéro de conduite”- Jean Vigo

“L’Atalante”- Jean Vigo

“Ugetsu Monogatari”- Kenji Mizoguchi

“A Nos Amours”- Maurice Pialat

“Tokyo Story”- Yasujiro Ozu

-Jesse Richards, August 27, 2008

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“A Portrait of a Young Artist” is Accepted into the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival

“A Portrait of a Young Artist” has been selected for the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival!

Thank you so much to those of you who believed in me, those of you who have helped and pushed me, and those of you who doubted me. Without any of your help, I would not be able to start realizing my dream. I can’t believe that I got into my first festival! Thank you thank you so much!

More information to come in the future!

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Buffalo Niagara Film Festival (updated)/Project Update

“A Portrait of a Young Artist” has been officially edited, and submitted to the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival. Wish it luck! The dates of the festival are April 16-25. This is Seth Tyler Black’s first feature length screenplay that he has submitted to a festival.

Update:”A Portrait of a Young Artist” has also been submitted to Rhode Island International, Toronto Independent, and Nantucket, Film Festivals.

Instead of waiting for the “Portrait”‘s success, Seth Tyler Black is working on his next feature length screenplay: “The Madder the Hatter”. It is an adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, but from the mad hatter’s perspective and 150 years later. This will not be a retelling of Carroll’s legendary tale, but a different angle and position reguarding a character from his novel, the Mad Hatter. Why is he mad? How long has he been in Wonderland? What does he do? Does he like being in Wonderland? All of this, and more, will be answered in the new screenplay, “The Madder the Hatter”. Keep your eyes peeled for a more definitive logline and preview excerpts in the near future.

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