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Old January 13th, 2010, 03:59 AM   #1
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True Gifts

True Gifts (short film) By Andris Krastins On ExposureRoom

A spoon-fed madam comes head to head with the ugly truth that not only nobody loves her, but that she herself doesn’t love herself. A psychedelic tale of glamour, suspense and the inner reaches of human psyche.

The film deals with various personae and energy centres that occupy the human mind and shows them in relationship with each other.

The woman in black is the energy centre of the human psyche that corresponds with the wish of self betterment and annihilation of unsatisfactory personality traits. But, alas, as Nietzsche said: “Be careful in casting out your devil ‘lest you cast out the best thing about you”, and so we have to continue this jihad or be left with an undeveloped or a degraded personality, in this case - a drunkard only is left.

The true gift is the gift of self betterment, and also the gift of truth about the person.

Shot in 2 evenings with (unfortunately) no rehearsals and edited in 24h.

Done entirely in hand-held, because I've grown to dislike the tripod, except where it is absolutely necessary. Not only it is heavy to lug around, but it also increases the total shooting time a lot, because it takes a lot time to set up the shot.

So I went for interesting angles and motion and started to explore the freedom and flexibility of shooting hand-held, also understood that I have to train my hands with the camera more, so that there is less shake.

This is also a short with the intention to explore a personal style and something in the way in which I'd like to shoot future projects, at the same time understanding that such a style may not be something that most people would prefer.

The strong English accent in the film is deliberate and is intended to fit with the personality of the main character.
Also the music at the end is deliberately very loud. Sorry. :)

There are a few places which I'd like to improve, but because it's already published I'm just already thinking about a new short.

The film is licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA license and also downloadable at Archive.org.
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Last edited by Andris Krastins; January 13th, 2010 at 08:03 AM.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 08:31 AM   #2
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Andris,

It was an entertaining watch and you certainly have a unique style here!!! I think your actress did a fine job too!! The jam and bread at the end was a good touch. I know you use camera movement as part of your "Look" and I do not mind a bit of it but to much to me is just plain distracting. Some of your camera angles were put to good effect.
I liked the dark exposures and in fact they were great throughout. (How did you do that without getting excessive noise?)

I Must say that if you had not explained the story a bit prior to my watching it I aould have not fully understood the story. As is I enjoyed it and I will go back and watch it once more to be sure.


Thanks for taking the time and sharing!!!
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Old January 13th, 2010, 10:09 AM   #3
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Andris,

Very interesting short film. I liked trying to figure out what is going on. It was a mystery.

I loved the music at the opening and closing credits. Reminded me of some Tarantino soundtrack with the handclaps. Great sound throughout. The woman's voice sounded distorted like from a well. Great Foley with the footsteps, creaking door and humming. Sounded like a major motion picture. A lot of attention to sound was apparent.

Love the visuals as well. The closeup on the eye, the switch from Black and White to highly saturated colors. Your actress was great as well.

I thought the writing on the note would be a film credit. The worthless cow comment kind of threw me off a bit. Great use of gift as a theme. The gift was the subject of the film. Didn't understand the ending entirely, but who doesn't like jelly toast?

I think you have a very interesting visual style. Have you ever made music videos? You would be quite good at that I believe.

You might want to try using this zero dollar steadycam technique. I think a little steadier handheld would help.

YouTube - Zero-cost Steadicam!
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Old January 13th, 2010, 10:30 AM   #4
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Hi Andris,
You have an interesting shooting style. I like it. Nice camera movements and angles, and the dark exposure was a good choice for your video.
A few of the shots were a little too shaky for me.

It seems like you used the exact same outdoors shots in the beginning and also in the end of the video. Personally I would prefer using unique shots. Artistic choice to do it this way?

Thank you for sharing.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 11:03 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dale Guthormsen View Post
Andris,
I know you use camera movement as part of your "Look" and I do not mind a bit of it but to much to me is just plain distracting.
Dick here suggested I make a cheapo steady-cam and your critique is sound, so I'll invest my time in making a steady-cam.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dale Guthormsen View Post
Thanks for your review, Dale!

I liked the dark exposures and in fact they were great throughout. (How did you do that without getting excessive noise?)
Thanks! My gain was 0 at all times (so as to lessen grain, I always suffer when use +6 gain), I had a small LED light on the cam and I kept the cam close to the shooting surface. And I used the "Washed out" film look (I think) effect from NewBlueFX on Sony Vegas.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dale Guthormsen View Post
I Must say that if you had not explained the story a bit prior to my watching it I aould have not fully understood the story. As is I enjoyed it and I will go back and watch it once more to be sure.
I like such stories that have to be pondered out - I enjoy that experience in films greatly. For me they feel richer and I don't like everything given on a plate. Some of my favourite directors are Maya Deren and David Lynch.
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Originally Posted by Dale Guthormsen View Post
Thanks for taking the time and sharing!!!
My pleasure!


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Originally Posted by Dick Mays View Post
Andris,
I thought the writing on the note would be a film credit. The worthless cow comment kind of threw me off a bit. Great use of gift as a theme. The gift was the subject of the film. Didn't understand the ending entirely, but who doesn't like jelly toast?
Sorry about that. The note was as to give a WTF? moment - because at first we see a gift and we usually assume that the gift is for someone that the person likes, but not in this case. So when we meet the host, we already know that something is not right.

Jelly toast :)) It had several functions. 1) To show the knife (a killing instrument previously) used casually, as to signal - nothing too serious happened, just business. 2) Also the jelly itself was intended to link to blood - and the wiping off of the blood from the knife. 3) The scene was to shot that the knife was again put in the box and carried to someone else.[/QUOTE]
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Mays View Post
I think you have a very interesting visual style. Have you ever made music videos? You would be quite good at that I believe.
Thanks! :) It's something that I have thought about. I've made two from my friend, who has a band. And I'd like to make more in the future
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dick Mays View Post
You might want to try using this zero dollar steadycam technique. I think a little steadier handheld would help.

YouTube - Zero-cost Steadicam!
Thanks a lot for that! I'll try to build one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trond Saetre View Post
It seems like you used the exact same outdoors shots in the beginning and also in the end of the video. Personally I would prefer using unique shots. Artistic choice to do it this way?
Thanks, Trond!
That was a deliberate choice to show the history repeat - it's all happening again, now just with another murder subject.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 12:57 PM   #6
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Yikes! It creeped me out a bit, but I guess those dames had it coming, eh? Mean girls & Great actresses. Or were they really acting? Seemed like they delivered those lines too easy...as though they've said them before... The stairway shots, were menacing scary, the eyeball (we both had eyeball shots) creepy, like a reptilian. I think you could use your cast for an indie film in the future.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 01:09 PM   #7
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Thanks, Bill! :) They eyeball was done by the girl holding a mganifying glass in front of her eye, and I zoomed in on it.
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Last edited by Andris Krastins; January 13th, 2010 at 03:21 PM.
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Old January 13th, 2010, 07:17 PM   #8
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Andris:

I became disoriented in this film, which is exactly what I think you were trying to do. The first thing that puts me into disorientation is the high speed effect at the beginning, then the writing on the note of a strange line, and then entering the building, except, instead of going up stairs, you seem to be going down, like an accent into hell, or something... I think your use of camera movement here was great, and the images and framing were terrific. Everything is strange and kinky about this film which was the effect I am sure you were looking for. Kind of reminded me of the strangeness and kinkiness of a film like "Blue Velvet". This film shows a lot of imagination and creativity ! Even an old guy like me can appreciate it..
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Old January 14th, 2010, 03:51 AM   #9
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Excellent film, Andris. From the concept to the writing, the shot choices, the lighting, the sound and editing—I just can’t say enough. And this type of film is generally not my cup of tea! Yet, there is so much depth to it I have to appreciate it.

You said early on you were going to try something crazy and you did…and it worked beautifully. Your psychedelic film is about as artistic as it gets.
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Old January 14th, 2010, 01:46 PM   #10
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Andris,

I guess this is what happens when UWOL Challenge meets DV Challenge. We go from serene nature to murderous noir with the click of a mouse.

IMHO, This is an excellent piece of short film-making. Normally I'm not in favor of handheld work but the use in this piece gave it a sense of gritty reality that even a steadicam wouldn't have. The rich textures - the descent in the stairwell, the padded door, the eyeball... The audio mix of false upbeat tempo to disturbing and eery.

I really would have loved to see this shot with a 5d2 or a dSLR. Although don't take that as a negative critique. I just like the use of shallow dof to accentuate the focus on close-ups of the tea-cup and lips etc. Kind of Baz Luhrman meets the Cohen Bros.

Great Job! Good Luck and keep shooting.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 12:13 AM   #11
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Andris... I can only echo what others have said. The opening up until the door opened was brilliant .... everything worked for me.

After that it was a little difficult to understand, but nonetheless very interesting to watch... it still had me thinking the next day after I watched it, and that is a good sign for me. For the film noir genre style you went for, you hit it out of the park.

You have a lot of talent and it is always interesting to see what you will come up with.

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Old January 15th, 2010, 08:08 PM   #12
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Andris, very impressive and emotional piece, I see a lot in your video style (angle, visuals, and lighting) which worked will with this short. I was a bit confused on the story line (likely as it started off so fast) as to who the person in black was and their role in the story.

Your explanation afterwards was great, but an audience seeing the film without explanation may not fully grasp the hard emotional concepts your film pushes.
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Old January 15th, 2010, 11:12 PM   #13
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Thanks, Graeme!

Yes, I know what you're saying and it has a very good point. But, as I said earlier, I myself most like the films which have to be interpreted, where nothing is absolutely clear, but the original story may be found out through exploration and thinking about the images, or maybe just with feelings. Films like those by Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren, David Lynch, Jan Švankmajer, Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí (Un Chien Andalou).

So, if most of the audience does not grasp, then more rewarding for those who do - at least the general idea. Imho, there are plenty of clues scattered in the film.
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Last edited by Andris Krastins; January 16th, 2010 at 12:14 AM.
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