Saturday, January 19, 2008

103. Greenscreen: A Day of Filming at Goleta Beach, California

Check out all the images in the link above (photobucket)!

I have been participating in Greenscreen for so long at UCSB, I feel ashamed that I have no tangible product for the experiences I have gone through thus far. Therefore, I decided to write a first blog. For all of those who do not know what Greenscreen is... it's not just a "green screen," or your neon Christmas wrapping paper slapped against a wall to make some whacko student film. Greenscreen is actually a new program at UCSB funded by the Coastal Fund (and perhaps a few other agencies) to produce student films in concern of regional environmental issues. There are three films going on: a mocumentary on development in the Gaviota coast, a "feature film short" about a student who goes psychotic after being brainwashed with global warming media, so psychotic that he starts to interact with talking fish (that, I think is a good plot to work with on such a film), and me? I am a part of the Goleta Beach project, which in part, when thinking about it, you can go a bit psychotic. Why? The situation is that Goleta Beach is a heavily recreated Santa Barbara County beach, but there are huge problems on how to manage it since the beach is chronically retreating. There are some folks who want to see "managed retreat" and other folks who are into more human-imposed visions of a landscape: dredge sand and create structures to keep the beach in place. It's kind of liking maintaining one giant backyard. One way or another, as Cheryl Chen (on the board of Coastal Fund) states, "it's a lose-lose situation." All possible outcomes will be costly and someone will get hurt. It's just a matter of who. So, it sucks. And those who want to do "managed retreat"--a more "natural" coastal geomorphological process--also give me a head ache, because the beach was in part MANMADE in the first place (after World War II, I believe). So, as I had to explain to the manager of the Java Jones coffeeshop this morning, I have to maintain a "healthy" interaction with the project, and not get too involved, otherwise I will go nuts and start seeing talking fish. Maybe in this case, the retreating sand will take me on a "magic carpet ride." I'm just going to enjoy the "circus" of perspectives, so to speak. What I am interested in all of this is the underlying logic structures and "cognitive mapping" systems of people involved in Goleta Beach. In addition, I need a social pill, and I need to maintain my camera skills... AND I need to take breaks from being in a room all day... so this is a superb outlet for me. In addition to that, it's also a huge learning curve for me in terms of the process on how to collaborate with a larger group of people. Production groups are like microcosmal government systems, and it's very interesting how the dynamics of individuals play out. As of now, I'm a field videographer... and quasi-responsible for sound. I'm slowly participating a bit more than I have before. My role is malleable and I can be happy placed anywhere, just as long as I am outdoors. But it came to a point today where I thought, geez... I've been following this for a whole quarter. You would think I'd have some "tangible product" to reflect upon my experiences thus far? Nothing really. So, today, since I had to leave around noon and would have been of no use for an interview that would have extended beyond noon... I decided to whip out my Nikon D80 and take pictures. I felt like, though I was part of a group, I had a sense of individualism and control, that I was observing and manipulating rather than being under the gun, all through occupying a cinematic niche space no one else was assuming responsibility for: photography. There I went, a fleeting happiness and spontaneity to document in still shots things you couldn't necessarily see or notice when making a film. Earlier there were some dolphins coming out close to shore, and Matt--a new, enthusiastic member of the team--came out with me to frantically prep my camera and take some shots. Though I had a quasi-telephoto lens, it was as close as I could get. That was a ticklish experience. In the images above, I took pictures of the crew at work, Ace and Matt working on setting up the steady cam, Alexios and Aaron filming, and typical beach sites: tractors by the pier, a more generic collage, and the grand finale collage: "Collision and Coexistence: the Boy, the Tractor, the Restaurant, and the Beach." Sounds like a title for an environmental soap opera, eh? I just made it up on the fly. After creating this collage and collection of photographs, I feel a little better about myself... that I have dumped some ideas from my brain, though it's loaded with so many more. It's a heavy weight for sure.

I wanted to say sorry to the crew if I was a stiff butthead this morning. Though I may be a scientist, I am a human, and I am entitled to emotions, and though school and personal life should be divorced, ultimately they interfere. I'll briefly go through a list of mental and physiological disclaimers right now: (1) I lost 1450 to internet fraud, but there is a good chance I will get the money back, (2) I'm going through crisis trying to apply to graduate school, and (3) I found two "C"s on my report card that need explaining--both parties will write a letter describing that the C reflects some other criteria and does not reflect the product of the work turned in, intellectual and creative capabilities, nor drive or motivation. I am flipping out because of this, and I need to talk to a few profs next week. So, since my life is pretty drab right now, I'm partly in panic mode, and I am sure it reflected on the beach.

Ace brought the materials from Keith, but unfortunately we were missing one piece: the adapter that connects the microphone plug of the camera to the XLR cable of the boom mic. Since I am a field scientist, I am entitled to exclaim, "Shxt!!!" I said to Lauren and Alexios, "If we don't have good audio, we have nothing." So I flipped out under the regime of my own words, and instantly decided not to shoot. Instead, I went foraging for the missing part. I ended up going in circles for a while, finally encountered a Circuit City, had to wait ten minutes for the store to open (at 10am), ended up talking to a cool landscaper guy named Kerry, and we breezed about technology and the downhill of society (which passed the time quickly), got pissed because Circuit City didn't carry the part I needed, zipped back to RadioShack off Fairview (they also opened at 10am), found the part (which was in awkward form, no need to explain...) and zipped back to the beach. By then I probably wasted 10 bucks of gas and the interview in the Beachhouse Cafe was about over. I felt detached and useless by that point, but Matt came along, and we started assembling equipment again. Lauren came back with more equipment (it turned out that she went foraging for sound equipment as well), and we further assembled a fully functional audio-video unit. By then, I felt like I was getting somewhere in life, but we had to wait for a while for Ace to assemble steadycam, which I do not know how to use. I am not against Ace or anyone, but I told Matt, "I'm a technological minimalist. I use what I need and nothing more." Implication: just hold the camera in my hands and hope that the basal "balancing" neuron structure in my brain is in good operation. As Dr. Legrady (an art professor at UCSB) quoted Einstein: "Reduce systems to simplicity, but nothing simpler." So, this morning, when we had no adapter, the system was too simple: it wouldn't work. When we had a steadycam, I felt we reached a threshold of technological excessiveness. It's a phenomenon I call "overtechnologization." Typical of human society. It's like we humans are ornate with technological make up. We could scrap quite a bit of it and still function. People can just shoot me in my mouth, but it's just what I think. But what I think doesn't matter, so I'll just shut up, but no one will read this anyway because I'm just one in six billion humans so in the end it doesn't matter so I'll just say what I want. So, whatever, okay?

I left around noon, in frustration, feeling like I got nothing done, didn't help too much except print out three papers for the interview questions, try to buy equipment that we never ended up using, assemble a camera-audio system I never got to operate, and then... 11:30 hits, I'm no longer good for the interview, so I just take pictures. I wanted tangibility really bad, so I photoshopped some images and wrote a blog. I feel in a better state of zen.

As for my previous experiences in Greenscreen, that is a blog of its own. I've been invovled in two or three other interviews or filming events (some indoors and some outdoors), and have attended the good chunk of meetings, in addition to participating in a course called Films of the Human and Natural Environment (with Dr. Janet Walker and Dr. Melinda Szaloky). At first, my existence in the group had been rocky and I didn't feel too wanted around, but things are smoothing out, and things are starting to have rewarding meaning. It takes time to develop meaning in things. As I have said before, being a part of a production team is a human experiment in designing micro-government regimes. It's like experimental modern tribalism, or something like that :-). Nicole (the head of Greenscreen) philosophically tweaked in the beginning of this quarter, changing it from authoritative style to decentralized and more malleable in terms of roleplay and say. I don't have enough energy to describe everyone on the team at this time. Each person is an interesting character with his or her own unique properties and background. As of this moment, I think I have exhausted my writing attention span.

So, if anyone reads this, and this person happens to be on Greenscreen Goleta Beach, sorry if I was a pessimistic tightwad (what does tightwad mean? I hope it's something bad) today. My life condition overall is not so good, and it reflected in my attitude. Nevertheless, this kind of experience can help snap me out of my ruts too. Help me slowly dust off my knees and move on.

P.S. I really enjoyed working with Matt today, with the audio and photography. He's the main person I interacted with. Matt has a super positive attitude and is very attentive and sharp. Superb qualities that are indicators of great success!

No comments: