Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Art For Art's Sake?

I mentioned in passing to someone that I managed to needle some money to make short films for my students. I didn't think that I would get it, mind you. I figured that it's one way to teach kids what to do and how to do it. When it comes to filmmaking, there's many who still dismiss it as a form of fancy. What would you do with a film degree? That question is, I would argue, linked with what would you do with yourself after you finish your university education. Through filmmaking, the stakes are relatively high, and it does help to weed out certain aspects of your character. It does force you to become more organised, more disciplined, more efficient...just a little bit more of everything.

I still make mistakes, for I'm not perfect of course, but I am glad I made those mistakes, because...well, imagine what I would've been like otherwise. Maybe even worse.

Anyways, because of that, I figured that the making of films would serve to improve Monash's standing a little bit more, but it would also be undoubtedly be very useful to the students as well.

"I'm going to help my kids make some films," I said, somewhat proudly. Perhaps I am entitled to that; you guys have no idea how difficult it is to get money from Monash. "I managed to get some money from Monash to make them."

"How much?"

I was a little surprised, though in retrospect I shouldn't be. It was linked to the last statement I made, but I had expected him to ask me what kind of films I'll be making. In fact, there will be four short films; I'll be directing one, but that's one of the earlier ones, to help my students be involved, so that they would have some idea about what to do for their own productions. It's not about me; I don't need to be making short films anymore.

"Well, there's some money, but the stories should be interesting." I tried to shift the focus back to the story, because some of the ones I have been pitched really were interesting. Others were crap, but some had potential to be worthy short films.

"How much will you be getting?" Actually, I won't be getting any. Since I'm already paid by Monash as the filmmaker in residence, I had stated even from the very first proposal that I do not wish to be paid. It annoys me that in subsequent emails and discussions, the issue of me not being paid was raised twice. 'You won't get be getting paid for this film, ah' was the caveat. I felt like throwing a tight slap at them. I got another email from them a few days ago, shifting the ground and rules of engagement as we go along. Red tape. Damned administrative red tape.

But that's another story.

"Well, there's money involved, but it's not really..." It was the tone that caught me off guard, the feeling that the money at stake here is far more important than the work I'm trying to do. I realise two things here. First, the non-film people I talk to about this project appear to be very interested about the stories and project itself. Some of them are Monash alumni members, and they expressed their wish that something like this had been put in place previously. I had thought of the same myself; in fact, the things I do at Monash, I do them from a student's point of view. I still see myself as one, mind you. Lecturing is not something that comes all that easily for me.

Secondly, if you talk to film people, the first thing that they will concern themselves with is the technicalities. Which camera are you shooting with? What kind of actors will you get? Where will the shoot be done? Oh, at that studio? Ah, the lighting equipment from that company is not that great, I can get you cheaper. And yes, the money. How much will it cost. Even if it doesn't get into the specifics (we still don't discuss wages, mainly because they vary, and partly because for some, it can be obscene), but the generics such as big budget, low budget, commercial or indie applies. If it's indie, you know you'll be shooting with digital. If it's a TV commercial, you know you'll be eating catered food all day. Logistics, money, the technical equipments. The story? The art? I was surprised, because I still think of myself as someone who looks at the artistic aspects, but upon further reflection, I realise that I do fall into that trap myself sometimes. Nevertheless, the fact that this person, a respected filmmaker, pressed me not about the purpose or story of the project (which is, in some ways, ground breaking), but about the money, it makes me think less of some of the people in my line of work, less of myself even, but even more disappointingly, less of the people I do respect.

Funny. Many whose job it is to create art do not care about it very much, if at all.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Galaxy: Red Mist

Kye stepped off the ramp almost as it finished its descent, touching the red earth. The winds of the valley swept up the dust and sand, making it nearly impossible for him to see with his own eyes. He had wrapped a shawl around his head, the turban-like concoction looking like an onion plonked on top of his head. A white onion that will get very red, very soon.

Kye had on his Nari-V goggles, designed specifically to help military members see under almost any condition. The makers were very meticulous with the design and the make of the goggles, claiming that it will work under any condition. Obviously, they did not do their field testing in Loues. A barren, dusty planet located somewhere near the Outer Regions, it's testing weather conditions, remote location, and the lack of life makes this the kind of place that only the blind would be able to see.

A perfect hideout for someone who's looking to keep away from prying eyes. Kye, however, doesn't give up easily.

As his feet trudged through, stomping the ground, the ramp on his fighter pulled up, and shut with a resounding hiss. Some of the sand had gotten in, and it would be there for a while yet. If all goes well, Kye won't be returning to his ship for some time. He has a personal mission to accomplish here, a very personal one, one that he hoped would help to quell the unease he feels within his heart.


He had been walking for hours, going against the stream. The red dust swirls around him again, with reckless abandon; at one point, he was nearly slammed off the ground into the ridge next to him. It took all his might and energy to ground himself without having to truly crawl on his belly.

He felt the red earth crumble from between his fingers. Grasping unto to something, only to have it slip away. Isn't that the very definition of despair? To have been so close, and yet so far? Letting it slip would have meant torture for his soul, because of the knowledge that what he wants is so close to being a reality. Most beings in the galaxy do not find themselves in such situations. They do not aspire to be more than they truly are. The items that they do stretch and grasp for are no more than mere shelves above their head. Forever they shall remain that way, forever they shall remain nameless. They will not have played a significant role in the changing of lives, and the galaxy will not know and care for them. If acknowledgement is truly the first condition of existence, then they do not exist.

Kye wants to exist. He wants to change the galaxy. He wants to bring peace and stability to worlds beyond his own, to be more than just a fighter the confederation has trained him to be. To die a lonely existence like the many and those before him is out of the question. To leave without leaving marks...what is the point of your existence, then?


He had read of how the old masters of the past had conquered this world, but this is ridiculous. His once-smooth skin now seemed to take on a permanent red sheen, while his throat felt rougher bit by bit, almost by the minute. His water supply had run out some clicks back, while the food he had left dropped into the ravine as he tried to cross the bridge. He had not seen that the small gap in the bridge was covered by caked dirt and dust; the small amount of pressure his foot applied to it gave way instantly. His heart felt like it's about to burst forth from his throat, such was the change in gravity. It was also gravity that claimed his food, leaving him to curse as he sees it swirled by the wind all the way to the bottom.

This is too much. Now he is indeed crawling on his belly. Or rather, he is dragging himself across on his belly, clawing his way forward. Thankfully he still had his sensors; without that he would have been truly lost.

Perhaps he was already lost to begin with. It was keyed in with information that he had gathered during his research and investigation. Perhaps those information had been wrong to begin with; maybe one should have sought for more beyond books on unconfirmed legends? Maybe. Then again, that was all he had to work with. What if they were all wrong? What if Kye had keyed in the wrong coordinates? As he continued to move, one grip after another, he wondered...what if...

His hand felt something cold and metallic. Immediately, he perked up, his senses alert. His body screamed in agony at the sudden change in state, but as he stood up, it also complied with the training it had gone through.

He stepped closer towards the source of the surprise. He rubbed the metal lightly and gently, and realising that more could be seen, scrubbed the dirt furiously from the metal plate. It bore a certain graphic, a sign of some sort...

He took out his sensor, and glided his way through several docs. His heart beating faster and faster, he came to the right one, a doc with a roughly drawn picture. One could almost compare it to a picture drawn by a child, but one would not do so knowing that it was a written by a tough Napaj who also happened to be drunk at the time.

The drawing and the sign on the plate was identical. One could sense the sigh of relief that he exhaled. It was a mistake, because by naturally inhaling, Kye accidentally breathed in more of the red dust than he had wanted, and coughed, each one killing his throat and abdomen as it is.

Nevertheless, the sense of hunger and exhaustion was momentarily forgotten. His gloved finger comes up adjust the setting on his goggles. His eyes sharpened, scanning the horizon for...there.

A dark, triangular structure in the distance. There's still some clicks to be covered, but his heart whooped with joy nevertheless, strengthening the blood flow with excitement. He felt it reenergise his body, and this time he stood up defiantly, against the wind. The second wind comes as the goal, however distant it may be, is in sight. He smiled, and started walking.

So far, and yet so near.

*Read Galaxy: Room With A View.
*Read Galaxy: Revelations.
*Read Galaxy: Masks.
*Read Galaxy: Goodbye Darling.
*Read Galaxy: Love Letter.
*Read Galaxy: The Last Stand.
*Read Galaxy: The Sixth Sense.
*Read Galaxy: Homecoming.
*Read Galaxy: Vs.
*Read Galaxy: The Journey.
*Read Galaxy: Tears of the Son.
*Read Galaxy: Across The Stars.
*Read Galaxy: The Prodigal's Return.