I've decided to make this section a little more interesting and a lot less theoretical. But the theory behind Seven Swans is still here, down a little farther.
Seven Swans is many years in the making, and I am so glad that we can finally give it out to the world! We have a lot of stuff here on the site for you to take a look at, including trailers, bios, blurbs about the effects and sound, and even a bunch of photos from the shoot (on the right >).
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and other inspirational images
12/25/06: Merry Christmas: We won the Deffie for Best Student HD Film, and second place for Best Visual Effects and Best Experimental Film!
11/28/06: We've been accepted into HDFest LA, which is pretty cool because they don't accept many films and it's a pretty well-known fest. We're even up for six awards! My favorite part, though, is that I've been asked to be on a panel on HD on Saturday that includes the DP from Sky Captain and the VFX Supervisor from SIn City. Links to the events can be found here.
5/15/06: We've moved on to new projects, so I'm not updating this site much anymore. I'm so thrilled that we've had this opportunity - but also that it's done. The Hat-Maker's Song is moving forward, and Seven Swans has been a very important part of making that happen. So come on over to the Hatmaker site and follow the news there!
2/27/06: Wow, more distribution: we've been selected by Tanakavideo, an independent distributor in the US, as part of a new series they're pushing for HDTV. No news on if they've sold it to anyone yet, but we're rooting for them!
2/8/06: Great news! We've been selected for distribution by Imaginities, an Australian distibution company. It will show in Australia on a national television network, and possibly in the US as well.
11/1/05: We've had some fantastic meetings with distributors and production companies, but the hilight was definitely meeting with Samuel Goldwyn Films. They're very interested in our work, but are looking at The Hat-Maker's Song for possible production!
9/28/05: First Look has come and gone, and we're flying high! We had a great screening, and have gotten good exposure from our great time slot - the closing screening of the festival.
7/20/05: Nika has finished her new feature script, The Hat-Maker's Song, and now has it on the market. So we're spending our time getting ready for our industry screening in September - First Look!
5/23/05: Congrats to Leon and T.J.! They've won the Gaia Award for Best Score at the Moondance Film Festival!
7/20/05: Lots of interesting stuff happening these days!
3/9/05: That's it. All the premieres are done... at least until we do an East Coast premiere, a European premiere, etc. 10.2 really is such an amazing format. I dislike the 5.1 mix so much because it just can't match the presence the 10.2 has. Oh, how I wish it would be adopted in a really large theater! Leon and Joe did such an amazing job on the design and mix. The audience last night - we ended up with three screenings - included a lot of sound designers from CalArts. I think we have a new generation pretty excited by the possiblities of 10.2 - and, hopefully, of Matterworks!
3/8/05: The Premiere was a great success! We had a pretty good turnout, all of whom were extremely gracious with their praise. And I think most of them meant it! I even got lauded for my after-showing speech. How often does that happen? We met a few really interesting people, and some Industry folks showed up and were amazingly positive. Let's hope it turns into some more work for the cast, crew, or even us! Tonight is the 10.2 premiere. I think it'll be easier to fill the theater - it only seats 20!
3/6/05: Wow. Tomorrow... I can't believe it's almost time for the premiere. I just hope we get a good crowd of students so there's great support for all the actors and crew!
2/28/05: Starting our big push for the Premiere. Sending out a big mailing to agencies and production companies. If we're really lucky, we'll hook a couple of interns who are into special effects and give us good reviews!
2/27/05: Final update of credits. I spent the day in the RZC dealing with stupid technical problems rather than just rendering. Waste of a day.
2/22/05: Postcards have arrived. They look great. Why didn't I put anything about the movie on them, though? I just listed the creators' names, which is about as useless as handing a blind man the OED. Posters have also arrived... They look OK. The printer didn't tell me they need gripper room, so there's white strips at the top and bottom. Ugh. And the blacks aren't rich enough for some reason... Did I give them an RGB file?
2/18/05: Chris Kyriakakis, Tom Holman and I tested out the new 10.2 theater in Tutor Hall with Seven Swans. Wow. Even though the projector is LCD, it still has decent blacks and is fairly sharp, for 720p. But the sound... God, I forget just how ugly 5.1 is after watching a movie in 10.2. Amazing.
2/12/05: The trailer looked amazing at the Big Shorts screening on Thursday night. The premiere is the next big screening... I'm so excited!
2/8/05: I've updated the web site with a second, shorter trailer and much better encodings! I've even figured out an arcane way to use Quicktime to double the size of the movies. Very handy!
2/7/05: Revised credits. Sigh. That means the D5 will have Corey Benninger's name spelled wrong...
2/6/05: I spent the weekend in RZC using a borrowed D5 deck (thank you Absolute Rentals!) to output our trailer and two other classmates' films for a special screening, Big Shorts, going on this week.
1/22/05: New website. Finally... That old one was getting a big stale.
12/6/04: After watching the premiere of Elephant's Egg, made by a classmate (Sam Yousefian), I realized I'd better get to scheduling ours before the next semester fills up. So we've set the date: Monday, March 7, 2005 at the Norris Cinema Theater on USC's main campus! See the screenings section for details.
11/11/04: Revised credits. Again.
11/3/04: Revised credits... again.
11/2/04: Revised credits again.
10/20/04: Revised credits.
9/25/04: We've moved! Uprooting from our Silverlake house, we've shifted our home and office to a nice West Hollywood neighborhood with a great park nearby for Maia.
9/19/04: That is. The last shot is done. Seven Swans is finished!
8/28/04: Finished the 5.1 downmix.
8/25/04: We've finished mixing the 10.2 audio with Joe Dzuban in Tom Holman and Chris Kyriakakis' lab in the Engineering school. I've never heard anything like this!
7/3/04: Back in RZC again, after a month of laying in bed with headaches. I guess I needed a vacation after all...
6/24/04: Maia Eilonwy Serras born at 3:02 AM, at our house in Silverlake. Wow.
6/14/04. Home from the hopsital (meningitis). That wasn't fun.
5/18/04. Tim Carras' last "official" day as Lead Compsitor and all-around fantastic FX guy.
I'll update going backwards as I have time...
Eye Candy-Coated Soul Food
With Seven Swans, I hope to show the world that a movie does not have to look exactly like life in order to enwrap, entertain, and, inspire. Why, you may ask, is that important? There are lots of movies that are doing extremely well on the same formulas that have worked since Edison first made a negative move... Or are they?
I believe the future popularity of cinema - large-scale, two-dimensional, linear stories - is not as reliable as it has been in the past. We are rapidly approaching a nexus point: digital filmmaking is expanding the pool of participants to anyone with an idea and willpower, ending the exclusive club of the Studios; nonlinear storytelling (mostly video games right now) is outselling movies more and more every year; and cable television has usurped cinema as the place for simple, character-driven stories. Even the concept of "movie" has changed utterly, no longer meaning "shot on film" and "seen in a theater".
So where is the cinema going? Right now, swept along in a flood of new technology, it’s... blowing up the earth. This is one area where the cinema can still excel the spectacle of dinosaurs, volcanoes, meteors or Martians destroying some city or other. But how much longer will people pay for that? Can changes in technology keep it going indefinitely? And how much artistic or historic value can it contain? George Lucas and Steven Spielberg changed cinema forever in the 70s by using special effects to bring us to extravagant new worlds, but the well of FX movies is beginning to run dry.
The future, to me, is to look in another direction entirely at the track record of other popular entertainments. Whenever an art form has been challenged by a new medium how theatre was by film at the beginning of the 20th century, or painting by photography fifty years before it tends to go in two directions. One is to increase the spectacle i.e. to use the latest technology to keep audiences interested. Paradoxically, however, that hastens the audience's boredom as new eye candy become scarcer, and they fly to the new, more interesting medium. The other, more successful direction is to vary the storytelling techniques themselves, thus inspiring audiences with new ways of telling stories.
I believe we can learn from artists like Chekhov, Hugo, Picasso or The Beatles in their own genres. Along with their contemporaries, they reinvigorated their popular arts - theatre, novels, painting and music. By using techniques the mainstream was not familiar with -- tied to resonant themes -- they invited the masses to participate in their visions.
The future of cinema should be to bring the audiences in with new storytelling approaches, not just new technology. To harness the tools of The Matrix and Star Wars to plow new fields: popular movies that give the audience the amazement they crave, but in the service of an unseen reality. Thus seeding the fertile ground between pure spectacle and the invisible.
In other words, eye-candy-coated soul food.
Seven Swans is one such attempt. No one, that we know of, has ever tried what we are doing: to tell an entire 1/2 hour narrative with collage. I believe the audience's instinctive, emotional reactions to the spectacle will heighten the tension of the scenes. The beauty of the visuals will entrance them, gently holding them in their seats as the story works its magic. The stylistic choice will bring the audience far deeper into the story than they would otherwise. They'll leave the theater talking about the visuals but thinking about the moral choices our heroine must make.
And, I hope, entice them to look with a more critical eye at the films made by our contemporaries. We can, if we choose, inspire current film audiences to become hungry consumers of a lively, vibrant cinema that coexists with newer media. Or we can let the movie audiences move on to new places, looking at cinema with the nostalgia of childhood memories. But I, for one, am looking forward to the coming battle for the audience's sophisticated wallet and the wonderful, inspired work that will win it.
November, 2003 (updated January, 2005)
Original Collages & Inspiration
collage by Pascale Nyby
collage by Pascale Nyby