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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Monday, March 26, 2012
Blog post written by Colleen Ryan, Television-Radio '12, Anthropology Minor, Lansing, NY
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris White, an extremely talented musician, and one of FLEFF's returning performers.
White is classically trained on the cello, and also plays the guitar and harmonica.
It was Dr. Patricia Zimmerman's (co-director of FLEFF) idea to bring together the three musicians for FLEFF several years ago, and the trio has been doing live improv film scores ever since. "It was easy from the get-go," he said. "We just flowed so easily. We each have our own bag of tricks, but a common vision and language that works well together."
White told me that the trio watches the films by themselves, and then together practice improvising. They converse about the mood of the film and its transitions. Each time the score is played differently. The trio doesn't practice too much so the day of the performance is fresh and well, improvised!
"Every experience with FLEFF has been great," he said. To him, playing and improvising with a film is a much different experience as a musician. "It's liberating," he remarked.
Although the trio has only performed for FLEFF, and one other event for the Ithaca Motion Picture Project, White revealed to me that the trio is considering putting out a CD of their scores, perhaps in time for next year's FLEFF. (I've heard samples from their work, and believe me, it's a must have!)
To listen to Chris's personal work with the Cayuga Jazz Ensemble, you can click here.
Although I, personally, could never fathom a career in professional music, to young musicians who wish to dip their toes into improvising, Chris's greatest advice is to listen to a favorite genre of music and imitate it. Practice the style, and put a lot of time into it. "It happens more naturally than you might think," he said.
With that being said, I'm excited to watch White and his cohorts perform. It's something that indeed comes extremely naturally to them, while enjoying and appreciating their talent, is something that comes naturally to me.
If I had longer arms I'd save you all seats, so get there early, it's going to be a happy and full house. See you Sunday night!
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Top 5 Movies to see at Cinemapolis
1. Cotton Road- Systems thinking fascinates me. The idea of globalization and the connectedness of everything together is something I cannot wait to learn more about- especially when I am learning from Ithaca College alum Laura Kissel!
2. Arlit: Deuxieme Paris- This film about uranium mining and environmental racism in Niger completely embodies the beat I hope to cover in my future of journalism: social justice and environmental issues. I am specifically interested in how these issues apply to Africa so this documentary will be super interesting for me! I am also thrilled to introduce myself to filmmaker Idrissou Mora-Kpaï. I want to learn what inspired him to investigate into this topic and her experiences while filming.
3. Veins of the Gulf- I believe we need to acknowledge social justice and environmental justice issues domestically. I think many try to pretend it is not happening in our own backyard, but we need a more local mindset. I am interested to see how this film portrays Hurricane Katrina, an event I have seen covered extensively in media but not through an environmental lens.
4. Bejing Besieged by Waste- Currently, there has been such a focus on China as a growing global economical power. Yet, we don’t think of the impacts this has on the impoverished Chinese people every time we look at a “made in china” sticker. I am excited to see the questions and discussion this unknown narrative provokes at the after parties at the Wine Center.
What movie are you most excited for and why?
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Blog posting written by Chloe Wilson, Television-Radio ’14, FLEFF Intern, Ashland, Massachusetts.
I love movies. Seriously, I am absolutely crazy about them. So when FLEFF posted the FLEFF 2012 Film Descriptions and Trailers, I geeked out.
I recommend checking out the entire list, but here are five FLEFF 2012 films that are giving me that warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
1. Nanook of the North
I know I already talked about this in an earlier post, but Robby Aceto, Peter Dodge, and Chris White will be improvising live music to the film. Nanook of the North is considered the world's first documentary and it was also one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. It's considered to be one of the most culturally and historically relevant films of all time. I can't wait to see it!
2. Art and Copy
A film from 2009, this film discusses the history of the advertising industry and its relationship to inspiration. Art Copy introduces audiences to some of the most influential creative minds of our time, which I'm especially excited for because the geniuses behind advertising campaigns are hardly ever publicly praised. As somebody who doesn't know much about advertising but loves Mad Men, I'm stoked.
3. Gay Games
To be honest, I'm immediately a fan of anything that promotes equality, and Gay Games is no exception. The film documents a sports competition that lacks customary rules, encouraging all participants to focus on respecting each other for their differences. The film highlights the coming together over over ten thousand people in Köln, Germany, known to Americans as Cologne, Germany. (Sidenote: Germany is a beautiful country and Cologne is a beautiful city. I hope there's some great scenic shots!)
4. One Water
You know what's crazy about this film? It was filmed in fourteen different countries. That's so many! One Water addresses the global freshwater crisis and is a result of collaboration between individual schools within the University of Miami. Having clean drinking water is a serious global issue, but I'm excited to see the results of a project that was the result of college students!
Documentarian Ian Cheney filmed his adventure that started with him planting a garden in his grandfather's old pickup truck and that follows his discovery of some of the world's coolest urban gardens. Personally, my family and I tried gardening once and I got food poisoning from one of the few edible products (which wasn't so edible, I guess) so I'm jealous of Cheney's gardening skills. I can't wait to learn about urban gardening though! Maybe I'll get some pointers.
What about you, FLEFFers? Anything you're excited to see at FLEFF?
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Fellow blogger Meagan McGinnes asked guest Robby Aceto last night at the FLEFF intern meeting how his improvisational music trio, Cloud Chamber Orchestra, forms a cohesive sound, despite having a different take on the film they score.
“The baseline is respect,” he said. “Even though you can have completely different views, they can still work together as long as you have respect.”
And there it is. Collaboration. Adaptation. Appreciation. Microtopias.
“[When performing live music you must] Embrace accidents, figure out ways to utilize them, and not allow them to cause disaster, which waits at every moment,” Aceto said.
“You have to be in control of the environment. Not making sound is just as crucial as making sound. Embrace the silence.”
Even though just speaking about improvisational music, I believe Robby really captured the essence of FLEFF, and I felt very touched and inspired by his words.
Flaherty’s portrayal of Nanook and his family, although slightly fabricated, is a beautiful romanticized film about the life of the Inuit people, and I’ve never watched it with any sort of accompaniment – just dimmed buzzing classroom fluorescents.
Aceto stated that most of his trio’s scores are pretty modern, yet “vocative of place and time.”
He told the FLEFF interns that his trio inhibits the mindset of the filmmaker. They take into consideration what his wishes might be, and what the filmmaker achieved with his film at the time of its creation.
Although a child of the technological age, I sometimes feel as if I was born in the wrong era. I wish I could have witnessed life in a simpler time, without the instant gratification of technology.
From the vantage point of a 21st century citizen, technology we have today was just pure fantasy to those at the time of “Nanook of the North.”
Aceto also told the interns, “In a way now, we can feel superior to [the filmmakers then], but they were making it up as they went along, and they had to think much more creatively than a filmmaker now. “
“We’ve narrowed our expectations of what a film experience should be,” he said, and I agree.
The trio’s performance on the closing night of FLEFF will be the first silent film I've ever experienced with a live score, and I personally think that it’s a tradition that although seemingly archaic, is a lost and under appreciated art form!
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I am sure everyone has heard of a little silent movie called The Artist. The musical score in this film brought the picture to life. The growing popularity of this film within mainstream culture has expanded the somewhat limited view we have about what qualifies as a good movie. For most, a “quality” film means explosions, a good love story and some 3D glasses. FLEFF, with the help of improvisational musician Robby Aceto, is bringing back the idea of beauty within simplicity. And even though there may be no explosions, simple does not mean boring. Because there is nothing boring about improvisational live music to a silent film.
Improvisation is all about evoking a response from the audience. It is interesting to think that improvisation could be considered the utopia for music—if we are applying the definition of utopia as a state of being without guidelines or restrictions. And this is not the only way in which the idea of a utopia, or better yet a microtopia, applies to improvisational music and its process. Aceto states in his improvisational trio, the first thing they need to do is establish a common base for their understanding of the film. There has to be a respect for the wish and intent of the director. Once that communication has taken place and once that basic understanding is met, all factors will work together, even if perspectives and interpretations between the musicians are different. Because differences create a textural sound-scape that allows the pictures to come to life off the screen (and without 3D glasses, imagine that!). As I have said before, FLEFF is all about the texture. In the microtopia FLEFF creates, communication is key. Though we may all be attending FLEFF for different reasons and with different viewpoints, we all have one thing in common: a basic respect for environmental advocacy and art through film. All the other differences, the unexpected interpretations of our minds—or even of the music—add texture, interest and excitement. Something you can’t get from your standard, explosion-filled blockbuster film.
What do you think of the idea that the category of improvisation is a musical microtopia?
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tonight at our weekly FLEFF meeting, us interns got the amazing chance to hear electronic composer Robby Aceto share some information about the scores he has recently created and took some questions from the audience. You can get a chance to hear him as he will be improvising live music during the screening of the ninety-year-old documentary, Nanook of the North at Cinemapolis.
"We are so sophisticated in our technologies, and a hundred years ago these things were just fantasy." He begins by speaking about the way sound in film has evolved over the past hundred years from live music accompanying each screening to revolutionary technology that made synchronous sound possible. Does the Jazz Singer ring a bell for all you film scholars out there? After that, he took some questions from the audience:
7:12 PM - Aceto informs us that the electric guitar has become a ubiquitous instrument in today's musical world, but as a "color guitarist," he deviates from this typical sound and offers a truly unique sound.
7:14 PM - "It's not the easiest thing to do." Striking, but true. Aceto talks about being a freelance musician and the negatives that come with it when it comes to getting gigs and finding your niche. However, he gives some optimistic advice: "be available and try to make a name for yourself." And let's be honest because this is true despite what field you are working in.
7:22 PM - Working in a group is kind of like duking it out. The baseline is respectable material and there is a sense of collaboration that goes into perfecting the piece.
7:30 PM - We get to hear one of his pieces! As an outrageous and bizarre silent film appears onscreen (through an excessive use of vignetting), the music resonates with a sense of respectability and relevance. This proves that despite how ridiculous the visual may be, the power of sound in film is incredible and truly influential.
7:45 PM - Yet another piece comes on and the sound is remarkable. Through a myriad of instruments, including a toy piano, a cello, a mandolin and an open-air mic, a harmonious final result is achieved. No wonder the FLEFF co-directors Thomas Shevory & Patricia Zimmerman asked him to return to the festival for a fourth time.
7:52 PM - What is composing you may ask? "The idea is that you're not there to comment on what's going on. You're there to interpret and try to be a part of it."
I think leaving off on these last words is appropriate. Although in context he happened to be talking about scoring music for film, I believe his words have the ability to speak on a much stronger level. By integrating yourself with what is surrounding you rather than take note of it exemplifies the interactive nature of FLEFF. Do you agree that actions speak louder than words?
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Blog posting by Isabel Galupo, Cinema and Photography '14, FLEFF Intern, Towson, MD
Aceto is an internationally recognized "color" guitarist. He explained that the term "color guitarist" allows him to signal that he uses his instrument in unexpected, non-traditional ways.
He explained, "there's an expectation of what you hear from a guitar, especially an electric guitar...it's used in very narrow ways...[but] the capabilities of the instrument are really much broader than that."
This year will mark his fourth year performing at FLEFF.
Aceto will be performing on the closing night of the festival at Cinemapolis, the local independent art cinema and long-time FLEFF partner.
He will be scoring the silent film "Nanook of the North," which is considered the first feature-length documentary film. 2012 marks the 90th anniversary of the release of the film.
Scoring silent films is a crucial part of film history. Before synchronous sound technology was developed, it was very typical for orchestras to accompany the screening of silent films in theaters.
In explaining the integrity of scoring silent films in modern times, Aceto also stressed the importance of active audience attendance and participation in these performances:
"Being there, you have an effect on the outcome."
Many interns inquired about the process and technique behind improvisational film scoring. Some of his tips included:
"Embrace the accidents that occur."
Ask yourself: "What did the filmmaker want? If he was here now, what would he think?"
"You've got to embrace the silence, as well as the noise."
And, above all, "You've got to make it happen."
The one thing that struck me the most about Aceto's presentation is the almost cautionary statement he made as soon as he stood up before us:
"I'm not an academic. I'm a person who is always doing things."
The nature of Aceto's improvisational work for FLEFF is doing. He does not glue himself in front of his television watching and re-watching films, completing hours and hours of preliminary research before he performs. He sees, experiences, and feels the film, and then translates those raw emotions into uncensored musical language.
In today's society, are we encouraged to process information by doing as Robby Aceto does?
How does FLEFF create a safe space for artists and academics alike to explore ideas through action, through doing?
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Blog posting written by Chloe Wilson, Television-Radio ’14, FLEFF Intern, Ashland, Massachusetts.
Back for his fourth year, Robby Aceto is at FLEFF once again!
I got the chance to listen to Acteo speak about his work. This year, he'll be performing live music to accompany the silent, 90-year-old documentary film Nanook of the North (he's part of an improvisational trio, how cool is that?).
Here are some choice quotes from Aceto's talk, ranging from live music to film festivals itself to contributing to the microtopia of FLEFF. Hopefully this helps you become a part of the moment, FLEFFers!
"A big part of FLEFF has always been the pairing of live music with silent film. Why do we do that? It's a tradition that's just as much a part of film history as anything."
"There's a tendency to feel superior to people who created things hundreds of years ago... These guys were making films and they were making it up as they go along. They didn't have a lexicon of technology to choose from. They had to figure out as they went along how they were gonna do this. In a way, they had to work and think more creatively than a filmmaker does now. I think that, as an improviser, that really speaks to me."
"First time at FLEFF, I was hired to be a guitar player for an ensemble that was playing a commissioned work. There was some spoken word and it was a great experience, it was great fun, and then Patty said 'We want to do something again.' So get involved in as many things as you can. It's a crapshoot, being a musician, but it's worth it."
"Not making a sound is just as much action as making a sound."
That last quote was my personal favorite; it held a lot of weight to me. It really reminded me about how the difference that each person can make, no matter if it's intentional or not. Every person's action (or lack of action) contributes to something, whether we notice it directly or not.
Aceto played some of his clips for us, and I can't wait to hear more! Aceto calls himself a "color guitarist," but his music has clearly been influenced by his previous collaborations with musicians who specialize in other instruments. You can check out some of his work here.
Lean back, pop on some headphones, close your eyes, and listen to Aceto's work. Do you have a favorite piece? Are you looking forward to hearing him perform at FLEFF?
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Blog posting written by Ian Carsia, Cinema & Photography '14, FLEFF Intern, Hamilton, NJ
6:51 p.m. Blogging live with Robby Aceto. Aceto will be performing in a live musical accompaniment of "Nanook of the North" for FLEFF 2012.
6:53 p.m. FLEFF T-SHIRTS ARE IN!
6:57 p.m. This will be the fourth time Robby and his co-conspirators have performed at FLEFF.
"Who has heard of Nanook of the North?"
100% of hands shoot up.
"Who has seen Nanook of the North?"
90% of hands go down.
WE ARE HERE TO LEARN!
7:02 p.m. Robby Aceto: "Right now, you don't have to convince anyone. You can just do it."
7:05 p.m. Robby Aceto: "The biggest problem that a group [of artists] has to overcome...is connecting with the mindset of someone 100 years ago making a film."
7:08 p.m. Robby Aceto: "We've narrowed our expectation of what a film is supposed to be."
7:11 p.m. Robby Aceto: "My approach to an instrument is to use it in a textural way."
7:17 p.m. Robby Aceto: "First, we try to get into the mindset of the filmmaker: What would he want?...Even if it looks silly to you, you have to remind yourself 'This guy was deadly serious' about whatever it was...And as far as doing it differently...just as a matter of course, it's going to be different."
7:43 p.m. Screening clips of accompanyment with Ernst Lubitsch's 1921 film The Wild Cat (Dr. Zimmermann: "The only German expressionist comedy.")
7:50 p.m. Robby Aceto: "Once you step into the realm of "This is what is happening on screen," you take it away from the audience."
7:54 p.m. About to screen a clip from 1925's Grass.
7:56 p.m. Robby Aceto: "None of the musicians know what the other's going to do...Not so much "call-and-response," more like...reaction..."
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Blog posting written by Kaley Belval, Documentary Studies and Production '15, FLEFF Intern, Woodbury, CT
In 1922, the film considered to be the first true feature length documentary was produced: Nanook of the North.
This year, the film is being shown at FLEFF for its 90th anniversary, with an orchestra playing its score. And it is probably one of the things I am most excited about for the festival.
This isn't just because I am a Documentary Studies major, either.
Last summer, I went to a book signing event in Sharon, Connecticut, where my father works. One of the board members of the library where it was held, oddly enough, is Brian Ross, the senior investigative correspondent for ABC News.
I told him what my major was, and we discussed the difference between journalism, what I originally thought I was going to major in, and documentary. He explained it like this: in broadcast journalism, you only have time to tell the essence of the story, not all of it. That is why he wrote a whole book on his investigation of the Madoffs. But there's a trade-off, because you can tell the majority of the story in documentaries, with less of an audience.
Here's the interesting part. He talked about how he watched Nanook of the North in college, and since then I have always wanted to watch it but never had the opportunity.
With a film with this much history, including how the director, Rob Flaherty, caught the whole original footage on fire, why wouldn't you go to watch it at FLEFF?