Films for the Forest

posted May 20, 2011, 6:59 AM by Steve N Bradford   [ updated May 31, 2011, 11:38 AM ]
I promised an update on the film I am producing to send down to Texas, and here it is.  It is for something called "Films for the Forest".  They are looking for a film between 30 seconds and three minutes in length which revolves around the theme 'Breath of the Planet'.  (Fortunately, this film will also be able to be submitted to the DC Environmental Film Festival at the same time as they are currently open for submissions.)

So what I have come up with is a brief visual exploration and contrast of how we share our breath with the plant life that surrounds us.  But not just that cycle, I wanted to contrast life in the city with life in the wilderness.  So through the narrative device of a girl going out for her morning jog and coming home I wanted to show the kind of undue stress a plant in the city has to put up with in order to try to keep up with all of the CO2 production there.  And also the difficulties it gives us as people trying to live there.

Shooting for this started before writing oddly enough.  Sunday the 22nd I went to the Aquatic Gardens in Washington DC to shoot some stock video of the plant and animal life in a beautiful environment.  Combining that nature videography with the narrative form of this project I feel should give a very interesting visually impactful short.

I have seen this tidbit of advice come up over and over again from some of the greatest film makers out there.  But I always feel it bears repeating.  "If the sound cuts out on your film, and no one can hear your dialogue, everyone should still know what is happening based on what they can see, if they can't you wrote a play, not a film."  I am having an uphill battle doing that in this.  How does one show a plant breathing in CO2 and exhaling Oxygen?  Going through my first round of footage has been extremely interesting for this and trying to find a rhythm of in and out throughout the film has been a great challenge.

However, I couldn't help but go through the footage AND edit it together into something.  So I have ended up double dipping a bit.  Although the footage was shot for the purposes of this 'Breath of the Planet' short for the Films for the Forest film festival, I could not help but make a short nature videography collection.  I was really pleased with how a lot of the footage turned out, and rather disappointed that I am not really able to use all of it.  As always, editing is where I learn the most about my shooting and find my flaws.  The newest lesson learned is to leave a bit more of a handle on all of my clips between camera motions.  There were a few places where I had to cut footage not how I would have liked ideally to overcome a change of camera inertia.  Watch it here.

Writing a short poem also proved more difficult than I had hoped it would be.  My scientific background makes me want to use a lot of terms which simply put, don't play well in poetry.  Carbon Dioxide does not exactly roll off the tongue my friends.  But thats a whole other set of challenges, and again, isn't it challenges that make this worth doing?  If it was easy I wouldn't bother to do it.

So.... Films for the Forest... part two.

I began writing this entry during the week leading up to when I did the lionshare of work on the film which has become 'Wisp'.  After I find out about its inclusion in the festival I will have more information about when and where you can see it.  It is also being submitted to the DC Environmental Film Festival this fall (which actually runs and shows films in March) and potentially also to the Alexandria Film Festival just down the road from DC.  Because of those it might be a little while before its easy to track down.  But I will keep you up to date.

As far as how the film evolved.  Well, it took on a new direction.  I realized that comparing and contrasting like I had planned was rather a massive undertaking.  But the bigger issue it held, was that it offered a poor narrative structure. To boot, it had one undeveloped and relatively boring character.  Just a woman going on a morning run.  There were no stakes, there was no interest.  It was at best cute and visually interesting.  That could also be the description of a Shitzu with a bad hair day.  I did not want to make that film.

Fortunately I realized that what was important to me in the film was the air itself.  The jogger was a vehicle and not the focus.  It was about the way we treat our air.  So changing tack slightly I decided to make the invisible and nearly imperceptible air into my main character.  It became a journey with lessons learned and obstacles and all those things that a story needs to be interesting.  I am much happier with what it has become.

Assuming 'Wisp' is accepted to the festival, it will be streamed along with all of the other accepted entries on June 16th.  On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to live in Texas and can make it there to see it, you should.  Although my big interest in them is film, the work that does and that this festival aims to bring attention to is really good stuff.  Please support their efforts both by watching, and more importantly, by listening to what they have to say.