Documentary Films

Sound of Vision.

In the last 5 years film making has undergone a revolution. Camera technologies have improved. Editing and compositing software has gotten so good and so easy to use that anyone with a good eye and design sensibility can produce a pretty solid film with a digital camera, and a laptop. This is something that would have been really hard to do a few years back. I’m not saying that everyone can do this. There is plenty of junk on the internet, but when the right tools are in the right hands, magic happens.

A great example of this is from Konstantin Syomin and “20Coop”. Their documentary film, “Sound of Vision” was shot entirely on a Panasonic GH2 micro four-thirds camera. The film won the International Documentary Challenge in Toronto. I tried to embed the video below but couldn’t instead click on the image below to be taken to the film page. Here you can see this wonderful film, plus the rest of the finalist.

The film won

— Best Film
— PBS’ POV award
— Best cinematography
— Best editing
— Best use of Genre

Monday Morning Inspiration. “The Watchmaker” by Dustin Cohen.

I work with pixels, with digital content on a daily basis. The things I create have no physical form, they are simply a display of numbers represented as images on a screen. This doesn’t diminish the creativity that goes into what I do, but over the years it has made me yearn for things made by hand. When I started my career as a designer, everything was done by hand. Even the photo processes used to create a printed page was analog. That longing for the mechanical, the analog, the hands on, has led me in recent years to a greater appreciation of finely crafted items, especially things like watches, clocks, vintage radios and stereo gear, etc.

Last night while perusing the “Made in Brooklyn” series on Vimeo I came across “The Watchmaker”. This is a short film by Dustin Cohen about David Sokosh, a watch maker in Brooklyn New York. Cohen’s short film captures that feeling about the hands on craftsmanship that surrounds the creation of a fine time piece. It captures Sokosh’s passion, and patience that is needed to produce a bespoke Brooklyn Watch. Perhaps it is my longing to spend time creating with my hands instead of a computer that drew me to this film. Then again it could also be the masterful way the short film was shot and edited.

The ironic part is, the film is all pixels, and I am equally drawn to the pixel craft went into making this film.

Be sure and check out the photo essay about the film here.

“You do it right or you don’t do it.” The City Exposed.

The San Francisco Chronicle posted a short video by Mike Kepka on Vimeo about a week ago. I have been meaning to re-post it but just haven’t had time until now. It is a film about 80 year old Lewis Mitchell who has been working as a Monotype setter for 62 years. The film is a beautiful vignette into the life of a man who loves his job, the craft associated with it, and why he keeps on working well past age 65. Truly inspiring. Below the film is the editorial from the Chronicle’s Vimeo post. It worth reading as well.

A recent Thursday at 10:23 a.m.: In the basement of Arion Press, where they still print books the old-fashioned way, Lewis Mitchell slid open a box of parts used to change the font size on the Monotype casting machines he has maintained for 62 years.

“I thoroughly enjoy the sound of the machines turning, and seeing the type come out is a joy,” Mitchell said.

He can tell by the sound of the moving springs and levers if something is awry with his machines — a skill he said all good technicians should have. Four different owners have run the business since Mitchell walked through the doors at age 18, and he has had several opportunities to leave, including a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that he declined.

Now 80, Mitchell can’t imagine retiring from the job he loves so much. When Mitchell started making this kind of type, it was really the only way to print things, and now he doesn’t know how many books he’s helped print over the decades. There were once type-casting operations in most major U.S. cities, but now the practice is almost extinct.

There are only two companies left in the world that cast type for printing presses, and Arion is by far the largest. Mitchell has four grown children and nine grandchildren, but he calls the 20 type-casting machines his “babies.” “I treat them with kindness. I don’t use a hammer on them or an oversized screwdriver.” The first machine, which started the company during 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, is still its best machine — proof that Mitchell’s methods work.

“My dad taught me from square one if you going to do something, you’re going to do it right or you don’t do it.”

“Sunshine”, Selling McDonald’s in Shanghai.

About a week back American Buffalo posted “Sunshine” on Vimeo. It is a documentary short about advertising, and specifically about advertising McDonald’s in Shanghai. The film has a really nice look to it, and it gives a bit of insight into the world of modern day advertising. It’s not all glamor, girls, drinks and cigarettes like Mad Men.

Struck by Lightning a Jägermeister Documentary.

I’m going to say this up front, I think this ad is pure bullshit. I’m saying this for a number of reasons. First off it promotes something extremely dangerous, second I think it’s fake, third I guarantee some jackass is going to try and reproduce this and end up dead.

From a video production perspective its a really nice piece of film work. It has a great look, nice editing, and the story line is solid. But what the hell was Jägermeister thinking when they produced this? Yes it will probably go viral. Yes their name is on the end of it. No it has nothing to do with their product or brand, and more over it promotes something totally stupid and dangerous.

Wait a sec… totally stupid and dangerous… I guess that does work with their target audience.

A new Film from Made by Hand. “The Knife Maker”

Each new Vimeo short from the “Made by Hand” crew just blows me away. The look is absolutely fantastic, and the quality of the finished product is outstanding. The second film in the series “The Knife Maker” not only has a really solid narrative, but the look,editing, post production, music, and audio come together to really sell this.

Do yourself a favor and watch this full screen on Vimeo if you get a chance.

Serious hat tip to, director-producers KEEF, and JOSHUA KRASZEWSKI, editor-composer MATT SHAPIRO, music MICHAEL TRAINOR & NATHAN ROSENBERG, sound recordist ROBERT ALBRECHT, re-recording mixer NICHOLAS MONTGOMERY, assistant re-recording mixer JOHN GUMAER, gaffer ADAM ORELLANA, and title designer MANDY BROWN.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter. A Documentary.

Onr of the things I miss about living in a much larger city like LA is the fact that they get films mid-sized cities like KC hardly ever get. Case in point, “Eames: The Architect and the Painter” which will be opening in select cities on November 18th”.

The film looks inside the lives of the famous designers Charles and Ray Eames, exploring their lives through interviews with family members, design historians and archival material. The documentary contains never before seen behind the scenes footage of the designers at work as well as interviews.

The film is Narrated by actor James Franco, this is the first film to be made about Charles and Ray since their deaths. The documentary takes an in-depth look into their personal relationship as well as their artistic collaboration.

A full review of the film can be found here at  The Hollywood Reporter or here at Variety.

Eames: The Architect and the Painter will open at the IFC Center in New York and the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles on November 18, and at the Balboa Theatre in San Francisco on December 2. Other dates in select cities around the country will follow. If you are like me, you can also catch it on PBS on December 19 as part of the PBS American Masters series.