DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran at DVinfo.net

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Old September 9th, 2012, 03:50 PM   #1
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DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Hey, all... not sure why my video didn't embed itself into the 'DVC22 Films' post, but hopefully it does here:

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Old September 9th, 2012, 04:12 PM   #2
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Ok, so there it is, up above. I'm about to hop on a plane, so I'll talk about as much as I can for now and add additional details later.

I have been, and still currently am, neck deep with shows for my fall college tour. Consequently I only had about 3 days or so to shoot and edit the piece. Thanks again, all, for pushing me to finish! Luckily, I've been spending so much time in airports and airplanes that I had time to write the script, create my shot lists, and wrangle some people together before I even got home.

I like narratives, I like character journeys, and I like the challenge of creating that kind of storyline within a constrained amount of time. "Glass" left me with virtually no ideas until I decided on a "One Man's Trash" story with a slight twist at the end. This time, the additional challenge was how to make an inanimate object -- the bottle -- a character in its own right. The other big challenge was figuring out how to make the bottle, the Young Man, and the Old Man intersect, especially in a short amount of time!

By the way, the Old Man is my grandpa -- he's like 95 years old! I asked him to be a part of my last short film, and he loved the experience so much, he was giddy to be in another! Speaking of which, this short is a loosely connected sequel to my last short film. The last one was an entirely silent piece. This time, I wanted to go half and half -- use sounds and dialogue when it was really needed (usually from the bottle's POV), and leave it out when I just wanted to concentrate on the imagery.

Dylan Couper is always pushing me to take my sound and lighting further, so I also tried to concentrate on improving the quality and dimensions of both. I shot this on whatever I could get my hands on -- I borrowed a 5D Mk III from our wedding shoot (that happened the same weekend as our film shoot), used my own T3i, and also experimented with my friend James' (one of my regular collaborators) GoPro on the last day of our shoot.

Overall, it was, as always, a thrill to put something together in such a short amount of time. I'm very happy with the experience and outcome, and I hope you enjoyed, "THE ROAD TO SYMPHONY".
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Old September 9th, 2012, 04:13 PM   #3
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

That was really....beautiful.

I don't know why but it really struck a nerve with me. Brilliant handling of movement, and slow touching scenes at the end. It really worked well on many levels.

Great cinematography, especially the those scenes of movement.

The image of the bottle with the cigarette rolling down the road was quite brilliant. The fact that you have the hottest arty/unemployed (homeless?) couple didn't hurt either (instant production value with those two faces!).

There have been a number of shorts on display in this competition with amazing production value and wow factor - but I'm calling this as the dark-horse in the race.

Most enjoyable!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 04:15 PM   #4
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Wel done to gramps too; he's a natural!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 04:55 PM   #5
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

What a cool journey! Great story.

The shots of the bottle's journey were great, I was really wondering where it was headed, it was as if it had a mind of it's own.

The transition at 1:16 was shocking! The music was relaxing, and the bottle was on a road trip; perhaps just a nice crossfade could have done the trick there.

Grandpa was awesome. There was some impressive nonverbal communication going on in his expressions and eyes. Bravo to him.

Nice “golden hour” shooting. Especially at the water 2:35.

Nice twist to the story, unexpected, but felt good to watch it unwind. Nice “retro” footage too.

(Did say you filmed this while getting ready for a wedding? That sounds impossible!)

Excellent!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 05:24 PM   #6
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

The journey of a glass bottle!

Very nicely done. I thought that your film was shot beautifully and had a very sweet message. You never really knew were the journey was going to take you next but you enjoyed every step. I love what you did with the memory section, as the slight change in color tones and so forth really made those moments feel like the past and very easy to follow.

Well done!
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Old September 9th, 2012, 05:45 PM   #7
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

I am very impressed with how grandiose this film is for how little time you had to work on it! That bottle went everywhere and there were so many locations and characters! Amazing you pulled that all together, bravo. The pacing flows very nicely too.

There was one aspect of the story that I found a little confusing, and upon rewatching I am still unclear about. I am not sure how the boyfriend / husband could have known how important that bottle was to his girlfriend / wife. I know he heard it and his reaction made me realize it was important, but if it was something from her childhood I don't know how he could have known the exact tone of the bottle and how much it meant to her? Maybe you could elaborate.

Also, one more little thing, is I think there might have been other ways to express their financial situation without putting dirt on the main couple's faces. I think there are many different kinds of people who struggle financially and may or may not live on the streets or out of cars, but depicting homelessness through being dirty devalues lots of people who are poor for myriads of reasons.

All in all really strong work and I can't believe how efficiently you can make a short film! You should bust one out every weekend! Great work, I'm glad you pushed through to stay off the wall.
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Old September 9th, 2012, 06:21 PM   #8
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Hi Joseph
There was a really nice overall feel to your film, some lovely photography and a great central premise. The texture was so nice, your characters good and situations interesting.

I did feel there was 2-3 films going on simultaneously. They linked together of course and were enjoyable to watch but somehow felt different. I loved the idea of making this bottle a precious item with a personal history and value to someone, but the premise felt somewhat forced to me. Like it was being built from blocks that weren't really meant to be put together. I hope this makes sense, if not I'll be happy to explain further.

I really liked the photography in memory scene, the loose feel and grade worked a treat. Overall this was a lovely piece and I found it washed over me very easily.

Great stuff
Mat
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Old September 9th, 2012, 09:04 PM   #9
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Joseph,

Way to get it done! I totally followed the storyline and thought it was well-told and concise. The couple of cool camera shots- the water with the GoPro and the one perspective of the bottle spinning really stood out for me. How did you do that shot of the interior bottle spin?

The golden-hour shots at the beach were beautiful!

The cello soundtrack really added to the aesthetic.

The finale of the movie left me wanting for me. I wanted to hear her play a bottle symphony:)

Great job!

Toni
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Old September 9th, 2012, 11:21 PM   #10
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

So very nice and sweet. Loved this film. Another great film from you Joseph.
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Old September 10th, 2012, 05:11 AM   #11
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Wow! How many more time can I type Wow! The standard of work is excellent and you are up there with them two Joseph. This was magical, top quality and loved the flash back effect.. Loved the beach shots. A well polished film.
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Old September 10th, 2012, 03:38 PM   #12
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Many thanks, everyone, for your comments, critiques, and compliments! I'm always learning something new here, so your time is much appreciated!

The goal was, indeed, to give the bottle seemingly a mind of its own. That was certainly a challenge because the sturdiness of that bottle is actually an illusion in itself! I ended up using four bottles for the shoot: The first one smashed into a million pieces when it got run over by a car... while I was filming a low angle! I may post that footage later, but for now, I can't watch that again. The second bottle just cracked from all the rolling on the street. The third was reserved for shots with all the dirt and grime, and the fourth was the clean bottle.

As I mentioned, I had the chance to write the script and plan my shots with all the hours spent on the plane. Things always change, as we all know, so we also were improvising on a lot of shots. The golden hour shots happened almost by accident. Basically, it took me all day to film the other segments, and I didn't get to those glowy beach shots til that time of day. Also the script called for the Young Man to wash the bottle at a random spigot, but it was a busy day at the beach and everyone was waiting for the shower spigots. I slapped myself on the forehead when I (finally) noticed all that ocean water! Duh!

The other golden hour moment happened with the flashback at the park. That's actually my nephew, Edward, playing the part of Baby Shelley (our leading lady). His hair was so long that he just coincidentally looked like Shelley, so we put him in a little dress! Haha, his mom (my cousin) can't wait 'til he grows up so he can embarrass him with this footage!

@ Mitchell - I can certainly elaborate. I always like to leave some room open for interpretation with my characters. You're right about them being a couple. They're both struggling artists, musically inclined. So, the Young Man would be able to pick up and recognize the tonality of the bottle, or anything else for that matter. Also, by making the two a couple (and adding in the anniversary element), I've left some opportunity for some assumed backstory -- as a couple, they would've undoubtedly shared some very personal stories with each other, and finding this minute bottle that connects with her childhood would certainly be included. I originally had him say, "Happy Birthday", but I had a thought similar to yours. By changing it to, "Happy Anniversary", it would give him more reason to know her deepest thoughts in detail. Finally, by having an empty spot in the group of bottles at the end, it would show that she's been saving that spot for the "perfect" sounding bottle. He would've picked up on this.

I agree with you regarding the 'dirt' on the actors. In fact, it was a bit of a debate between my girlfriend and I, and I'm glad to continue the discussion here. We didn't want to spell out "homeless" with these two characters. We wanted to say, "down on their luck". That's a really fine line to walk, because yes, we were concerned about, as you said, "devaluing the poor". Without enough time to illustrate the back story, I had to make some compromises. Ultimately, I decided on not "dirty", but "sunburnt", and then I added the car to subtly let the audience know that they're not just living on the sidewalk.

@ Mat - I understand what you are trying to say with your building blocks example, and you bring up a good point. Many books, stories, and movies, however, do occur by a seemingly random series of events that never would've been otherwise connected. If "this" didn't happen, then "that" would not have happened either. If a baby alien didn't fall into Earth -- who happens to coincidentally fall into the hands of good-natured farmers from Kansas -- we wouldn't have Superman.

It's also a technique that I've been trying to keep in mind for a time now. A while back, I had the good fortune to perform a show for Trey Parker and then pick his brain afterwards. He told me that one of the ways he creates a storyline for South Park is to take two absolutely, positively random events, and somehow link them and give the meaning to one another. I've been experimenting with that process ever since.

@ Toni - To create the spinning bottle scene from the bottle's POV, I originally cut open a 2-liter soda bottle, stuffed inside a Canon HF S200 wrapped with a face towel, and kicked it down the hill. However, in all of my experiments, the shot always looked like it was just spinning in place. There's a science to explain why that was, I'm sure, but it just didn't work well enough for me. When my buddy brought his GoPro over, we taped it to an electric drill. I figured we had to offset the spin of the camera (an elliptical spin versus a circular spin) to create the illusion that the bottle's rolling was spanning a larger area. So, I put him in a wheelchair and pushed him down the street really fast while he spun the camera with the drill really slowly. I then sped it up in post, and luckily it worked! Here's a fun tidbit for ya: In the youtube version, the bottle POV is spinning the wrong way. Since the vimeo version was uploaded after the youtube version, it correctly spins the right way.

I totally agree with you with wanting to hear her play a bottle symphony. I started to experiment with some synthesized effects, but I soon realized that by putting that in the film, the film would become about her. Instead, I wanted to keep the film about the bottle. Time also played a factor in this (both with the length of the film as well as available shooting time). Bit of a bummer too, cause I worked a bit to get all the bottles to ring correctly!

@ Everyone - again thanks for taking the time to post! I'm really happy you enjoyed the piece! I also always enjoy these discussions, your thoughts, your feedback, so please keep 'em coming!
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Old September 10th, 2012, 09:16 PM   #13
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Joseph,

Your first DV challenge entry was perhaps my favorite ever. The magician behind the curtain. And you have always had a great visual eye. The POV shots from the bottle, the shot of the bottle rolling down the hill, taken from the camera rolling in front of it. You are a gifted storyteller. But now you are adding more and more significant relationships to your stories. The bottle being the perfect gift because it completes the musical scale. Your grandfather is wonderful. too Just a beautiful story, well told.
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Old September 11th, 2012, 01:56 AM   #14
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Well I will add wow also!

I enjoyed this very much. You touched my heart and I believe that is the goal of us all. To have someone watch your film and forget they are watching a film to become involved in it personally. Well you did it!
Nice work!
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Old September 11th, 2012, 09:56 AM   #15
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Re: DVC22 - The Road to Symphony - Joseph Tran

Hey Joseph I just want to say thank you so much for your thoughtful and articulate responses here! I really appreciate your comment and am glad to hear you and your girlfriend had a big discussion about it! Filmmaking is tough because it is all about how do I express X by showing it and not saying it? Showing someone as down on their luck is definitely tricky, let alone in a 5 minute short when you have other things to convey!

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks, for your comments to this and all films, and for your piece!
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