From Here To There

Posted Saturday, March 28, 2009, 11:03 PM

The other day I called my new Estate Agent for the new place I'm moving to, and checked to make sure everything was on track for moving in on Monday.

And she said "Oh. No, I don't think the current tenants have moved out yet, and won't until Tuesday! Hmm. I'll call them and check."


Luckily she called back a couple of hours later to say all was fine, they are moving out over the weekend, and I can continue my plans as normal.

Tomorrow is officially my last full day in my current apartment, and I move to my new place on Monday. I am 75% packed, I just have to pack up the larger items that I have still been using each day, like my TV and computers and the bed. Once they're packed, I'm pretty much done.

It's been a bit of a stressful situation really; nobody likes moving house. But I must say I'm looking forward to a new environment, a nicer home, away from noisy neighbours and apartment living, into a cottage with some privacy and independence.

Last time I had to move, it was from Sydney to Melbourne, and most of it was organised by my Boss, as it was a work-motivated move. This time it's all down to me, and I am a little nervous that I have missed something, and it will all fall apart. But I think I've got things sorted.

I just hope I haven't forgotten something.

A Gut Feeling

Posted Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 1:01 PM

Around 15 years ago, when coming home from a visit with my sister, I suffered unexpected and persistent acute pain in my gut. My Mum, who was driving me at the time, saw me writhing in pain, asked me if I wanted to go to the A&E, and I said "Yes." She told me afterwards that my saying that, from a guy who was normally reluctant to visit even a Doctor, meant this was serious.

The diagnosis was not very successful. The X-Ray didn't tell the Doctor anything, and further tests left them confused. I was kept overnight, though the pain had long subsided, and a couple of experts were called in, but they didn't know what was wrong, so I was sent home.

About three weeks later it happened again. I went to A&E in an ambulance, and if I had been seen by the Doc on duty straight away, while still in pain, I would've been rushed into surgery and my gallbladder removed, as that was what it was - he recognised it as gallstones immediately. That would've been free surgery, as it was an emergency.

But that was not to be. Because a serious and tragic car accident had happened that same night (interestingly enough, to a family I knew from my school days) and had occupied the emergency services exclusively during that time, the diagnosis wasn't made until late the next morning, and by then the pain had subsided, and therefore was no longer considered an emergency.

Gallstones, though extremely uncomfortable, are not usually considered a life risk. Gallstones form in the gallbladder, and are made up of calcified cholesterol. When the gallbladder injects bile into the stomach to help break down fats, the stones sometimes get caught in the ducts, causing intense aching pain as the stone makes it way through the tube.

There is no cure. You're either genetically inclined to create these stones or you're not. There is surgery, where the gallbladder is removed, but that's not a cure, that's removing the problem area entirely, a different concept altogether. Surgery is safe enough, the gallbladder is not an essential bit of your innards, but it can mean that any fatty or cholesterol-laden thing you eat afterwards can do some amount of jiggery pokery to your gut.

Also you can reduce the likelihood of occurrence by changing your diet, by reducing your fat intake, or combining foods that assist in bile's job of breaking down fats, but even that isn't a guarantee, and eventually it will likely happen again.

This morning, after some seven or eight years since my last, I had another gallstone attack. It lasted around two hours, as they normally seem to do, and there was no alleviation of the pain during it. Knowing what it is and that relief is inevitable helps lower the stress, but it's still no fun rolling around in literally gut-wrenching agony.

There is no way to stop the pain, either. Normally, with other kinds of damage to your body, there are ways you can sit or contort your body parts where the pain is lessened somewhat, a case of "If it hurts when I do that, then I don't do that." But not so with gallstones (and probably similarly with kidney stones). When the pain starts, you just have to ride it to the end - there's no way to alleviate the pain, not even with painkillers. Suffering is your only option.

Gallstones, therefore, are not recommended.

Checkpoint: Operation Big Ba Da Boom

Posted Sunday, March 22, 2009, 3:30 PM

This weekend was supposed to be when I was shooting my first short film. But it was not to be, I cancelled the shoot when it all fell apart before my very eyes. As I have mentioned before, I have few regrets, and it is possible I'll revisit it later in the year.

But as the camera and dolly tracks were already booked, Rob thought he might take advantage of the opportunity of a weekend where a team were available to assist. We had gotten a review of the edit of Checkpoint so far, and there was one suggestion that it was a shame there wasn't a single cutaway shot of one of the other British Soldiers. At the time of the original shoot, no other British soldier was in the cast, so it wouldn't have happened even if we'd deemed it necessary. But it is glaring in its absence, in the current cut.

Well, a single shot isn't enough for a big hassle - we probably could've done that with a simpler camera and a quick dash outside with a mate in a tin hat. But Rob and I detected another feeling of absence in the film, which is the whole back-story of the mission our main Brit character was on.

Originally we were going to gloss over it entirely, and then meet the Soldier properly later in the film where he describes that it all went wrong. The problem is, we didn't really show what their mission even was - it was implied, but only in a single shot that gave away very little. We as creators knew it all, but an audience coming in cold would not be satisfied by this. It needed just a few additional details to fill in the blanks.

So we sat down and went over a few things that we both wanted to see. I wanted them to run amongst the trains. Rob wanted them to attack a couple of German soldiers. We also wanted to build up the similarities between the British soldier, Finn, and the Germans at the Checkpoint, Kleine and Weiss.

We have recently learned a lot about what we were capable of with greenscreen keying and motion tracking, and my 3D rendering is getting to be quite realistic. We set ourselves a few really fun challenges with these shots, including following the soldiers along as they dash between the trains, soldiers marching up to the C-47 plane and climbing in, a brief burst of gunfire as the Germans discover them, and an overhead shot of Finn sneaking up behind and disposing of a Guard.

Every one of the shots we did, and there were at least 30 of them, will have some kind of greenscreen keying and background elements added. Many of the backgrounds will be digital mattes, pieced together from photographs, and many will be 3D graphics, especially the shots with the planes and trains in them.

We have basically put another six months of work on our plates. Though I have made the train and plane already, they don't stand up to extremely close scrutiny, so some parts of the trains will need to be rebuilt in higher resolution. And there are new things to make, such as a suitable period car and a German army truck that drives up a road.

Wow, it's not going to be easy!

But then, that's what makes it fun to do.

In The Mood To Write

Posted Sunday, March 15, 2009, 8:24 PM

I am sure this is a human trait, and is common amongst most of us, but sometimes I get all "creative'd out".

I generally spend a lot of my free time pursuing some kind of creative or artistic endeavour, be it reading (email, articles, novels), drawing (sketching, website art, 3D graphics, storyboards), writing (emails, scripts, ideas), or something movie related (compositing, visual effects, animation, editing). And sometimes after spending a few hours, or concentrating a few days in a row, on one specific kind of creative idea, I find it hard to shift focus onto a new creative idea.

So, for example, I might be working so much on a sequence of greenscreen keying for the short film First Floor that by the time that's over, the thought of returning to the screenplay I was working on is less appealing than it might have been, because I have spent so much of my mental energies on creative thinking and artistic imagery already. And even though the disciplines of compositing and writing are very different walks of life, they still crossover enough to interfere with my mental exhaustion.

Thus I have not been in a writing mood for so long that I haven't touched the first draft of my Viking screenplay in about three weeks, which I am most disappointed in myself over. I can make excuses (I've been packing, planning the move, and working on other creative ideas) but really I should've found a couple of hours each day to devote to writing. It's not like I have a lot of big decisions to make for the first draft, most of them are sorted out and I'm just fleshing them out and connecting them together to see what develops, so I really shouldn't be using the "creative'd out" excuse.

But there you go, I am using it anyway.

What I've also noticed is I haven't read a book in about three months. I don't know what's up with that, but my normal reading time, which is when I head to bed, has been without any notion of grabbing a book ever since the heatwave fried my brain. Most unusual. But then, I haven't got a compelling new book to read anyway; all the books I've bought recently have been quite uninspiring.

So, no writing, no reading. It feels like there's an empty spot in me that I ought to be filling, but even after writing all this blog post I'm not that enthused to continue writing or reading anytime soon.

Checkpoint: Pickup Shots

Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 6:59 PM

After feeling the need to abandon my short film, and reschedule it for much later in the year when I regain my confidence, the production stops going off the rails, and the weather is less of an unpredictable bastard, it freed up the weekend I had originally planned for the shoot. So my mate Rob leapt on the day and the previously booked video camera to use it for pickup shots for his film, Checkpoint.

One of the reasons I was happy to leave my film was because I am singularly unsuited to organising things. I have always been this way, I am a complete fuck up when it comes to being in charge and making sure things get done. I tend to feel much more comfortable when other people are dealing with that stuff. Decision making, contributing creative ideas, and post production work is a doddle and I love it, but phoning people, and ordering stuff, and scheduling workdays, and getting a crew together and on my side - forget about it.

And I don't mind admitting it, either. Rob mentioned today that he did wonder if I would feel bad about the fact that he had organised an entire new shoot and all the pickup shots, using my shoot weekend, all figured out and actioned within a week, while I embarrassingly struggled with my own shoot after six entire months. But in fact I don't care about that at all, it reaffirms my suspicions of where my limitations lie, and I'm happy to see someone who actually has an affinity and an energy for it do all the hard work, while all I have to do is agree a lot and draw a few sketches.

The main reason why most of my life I have created half-begun projects that never get completed is because I only do the bits I like; I tend to abandon them just before the parts of a production I don't like to do happen. I'd feel a lot more comfortable if someone else was in charge of those parts, so all I had to do is write it, tell the crew where to point the camera, and tell the actors how to say the words properly. That would be bliss!

I have intimated a few times that I'd rather be a co-director, or even just a creative consultant, than be in charge of a full-blown production, even when it's my own film, and I think this proves it. I am best placed in that role, and the sooner I find myself there, the better I'll feel.

Horizon: Fail

Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2009, 10:03 PM


Wherever I Lay My Hat

Posted Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 5:59 PM

I have been asked to leave my current apartment. Not through any fault of my own, but because the owner wants his son, who is moving to Melbourne, to live here instead of me. Not the greatest piece of news I could have gotten.

So since that bombshell, I've been looking for somewhere new to live. Two problems with this - one is that the time limit is stressful. Two months sounds like plenty, until you realise that the standard practice is to wait for inspection days, send in an application, then wait for a response, and if you are not successful, you have to then do it all again. If you do many simultaneously, you risk getting four approvals, or four denials, or any number of other obstacles you have to negotiate.

The other problem is that I am currently unemployed. I would much rather have moved in a more secure and trustworthy financial situation than I have found myself in, indeed that was my very plan. But no, forced to move when I'm not ready means you have to take me as I am, and that does not put me at the top of anybody's approval pile.

The answer is to hope, to be charming, and to project an air of confidence and trust. I absolutely have enough funds to handle at least six to twelve months of rent, even if I didn't get a job in between. But I am anticipating getting a job in between, that was the point of this time off - to re-skill myself - so it shouldn't get that bad.

I had no expectation, at this short notice, of getting an ideal place. Compromise is the name of the game in a situation like this. I had a few possible wants that I hoped for, though, including a private area like a balcony or yard, and hopefully separation from neighbours so I don't have to share a wall with household noise anymore. I wanted to stay living in my current suburb, as it's really nice and I love it here, but it became clear very quickly that the rent would be too high to get that, especially with my other desires, so I ranged my search out a little further.

Well, I have just learned today that I have been successful in finding a new place to live. And it's perfect.

It's in a beautiful quiet suburb.
It's close to shops and transport.
It's a separate cottage.
The living area and kitchen are both bigger.
It has a separate laundry.
It has a private back yard.
The shower and bath are separate.
It's got a second bedroom, which I can use for storage/ my DVD library.

I could not ask for somewhere any more ideal. Everything I wanted, and more. It's a dream!

I hope living there is as good as it first appears.

Now I just have to pack and relocate.